Saturday, December 25, 2010

What Do We Really Have?

My 16th Christmas was one of the best I had ever had. I didn't get that "one" gift this year, such as the one Christmas when I got my brand new scooter, or the other one when I get a stereo set. But that's exactly what I want this year. This year, I simply had a few books, CDs, DVDs, and two video games on my list. I got a few things of my last, and many things that weren't on my list.

For me, Christmas day can be one of the more stressful days of the year. It's a day spent with only my family, and where I'm obligated to spend every waking minute with my family and any guests we have. Sometimes, that's works out really well, and it's fun! But other time, it's just plain horrible.

This Christmas morning was good. I slept in and awoke as breakfast was on the table. I rushed down and we ate, then opened gifts. I admit, I was disappointed that a few gifts were clothes (clothes? on Christmas? really?). To me, clothes scream, "We don't care about you enough to buy you things off your list, so we got you an ugly shirt or bad lounge pants." Nonetheless, it left me very thoughtful.

One of my good friends has had the worst year of his life in 2010. Besides getting his ex-girlfriend pregnant, he's had to deal with girl-drama, a new job, basketball, school, and his relationship with God. His year's been nothing but drama, pain, and regretful shame. In addition, his family is tight on money, and he's a 17 year old without even his permit. Because of some mistakes, his options are very limited right now. As a teenager, that's incredibly frustrating. For his birthday last week, he only got one gift: new shoes. For Christmas, he didn't get much more. I thought about all this as I sat amidst a living room stacked high with torn wrapping paper and dozens of opened Christmas gifts. I got the new Madden, Call of Duty: Black Ops, the new Hillsong Chapel and Chris Tomlin CDs, 24: Season 3 (Go Jack Bauer!!!),To Save A Life, Toy Story 3, my great-uncle's expensive .22 (with a new Nikon scope), a throw blanket, candy and jelly beans, an iTunes gift card, five or six books, and I'm ticked off at some clothes? Really?

I have always had the trait of focusing on the negative. Sometimes, it helps because I am good at critiquing things. But it's also bad because I pout or whine when I should be encouraging or grateful or happy. It took me sixteen years to get that. Even if I'm mad because my last two gifts were Coc-a-cola and hideous smiley face lounge pants, I should've been focusing on all the ridiculously awesome stuff I got! I look at my Christmas compared to my friend's. Mine blew his out of the water, but I still walked away in a bad mood. Sure, car keys symbolizing my first car would've sent my dancing in the streets, and maybe clothes weren't a good gift for me, but look at what I did get.

I think as Americans, us as a whole country are the same way. We have a lot, and get more, and get even more, but we get foul and ungrateful moods. It's amazing how seeing someone with a not-so-great lifestyle can really open your own eyes to how good your life really is.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Do Bad Guys Win?

Life feels empty, dry, dull with God. There is a God-shaped hole in our hearts that only God can fill. The emptiness we feel can only be filled with God's love.

Have you ever wondered why some very poor Christians in Africa have more joy than American millionaires? Have you ever wondered why Christians living slums in India are more grateful than the average American? The answer is that people who have Christ will be content, joyful, and happy because of Jesus. People who may "have it all" really have nothing. Life is but a breath. It's meaningless, irrelevant, and worthless, according to the writer of Ecclesiastes. With God, there is no guarantee the things in life will be great, but there is a guarantee that we won't disappointed with Jesus in our lives. In fact, our minds will be blown by the love He freely gives us!

It's all too easy to envy LeBron, Kobe, Donald Trump, Taylor Swift, etc. Big name celebrities have multiple houses, house-hold names, millions of dollars, and world-wide fame. But what's the point? Life will end soon anyway. It's not like they can take all of their things with them. Psalm 37:35-36 says, "I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its native soil, but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found." Death will take the rich or poor, famous or unknown, smart or unintelligent, successful or unsuccessful. So why not make life count? Why not spend our time here living with a passion? Why not give ourselves to a cause that will last eternally?

This summer, a song came out that, to me, sings the perfect tune of a lost soul wanting more. It's called Airplanes by B.o.B. feating Hayley Williams from Paramore. In this song, B.o.B. (real name of Bobby Ray) talks about how he wishes he could go back to the days when he was rapping for the fun of it, and when he didn't have to deal with the rap politics and pressures. He wishes away the glam and fashion and pandemoniom and misses the days when rap was fun, not a job. He proclaims that the music industry is too complicated. When he talks about the loneliness after a party, you can just sense the pain, darkness, and utter emptiness coming from his heart. Then he asks, "What would you wish for if you had one chance?" He just wishes he could just go back to the days when life was fun and without pressures. Don't we all?

Click here to check the music video out! I warn you that he says two bad words. He says "back when I was rapping for the helluva it" and "so can I get a wish to end the politics? and get back to the music that started this shit." Please don't leap out of your chair that a non-Christian rapper would actually cuss (GASP!). Really? With God in his life, you can expect nothing but ungodliness. And don't freak out that I posted this song with those words. I'm not supporting those words or that lifestyle but rather using them to show the emptiness of a godless life. But listen to the lyrics. See what an ungodly life will lead to. It seems great to have money and be a rap star and sing with Hayley Williams and party like crazy. But even B.o.B. could see it lead to nothing but emptiness and loneliness.

Take heart and know that that lifestyle is only reserved for the ungodly. Lean on God for strength when the going gets tough. Understand He exists outside of time and invented the idea. You should feel comfortable knowing that. Learn from the terrible life of the wicked and evil. They have to wish on airplanes in the night sky for comfort. We talk straight to the Dude who breathes stars.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What Will I Be Known For?

From reading Psalms to Chazown by Craig Groeschel, I've realized that each person has individual gifts and talents that God has a specific purpose for. Some people have gifts that direct them to being evangelists. Other people have gifts than show them how to care for homeless or disabled people. God gives gifts and talents to other people so they can lead church congregations, or teach God's word in foreign countries. Or some are gifted to simply be outstanding Sunday School teachers, or magnificent leaders of small groups. This led me to ask: what are my core values? What do I want my life based on? Who do I want to be? What will I be known for?

Through Chazown, I've come to learn that my core values are: servant leadership, personal growth, passion, learning, discovery, and confidence. Allow me to explain what these mean to me.

One of my core values is servant leadership. This matters to me because I believe you cannot be a leader unless you are first a servant. Jesus illustrated this by washing His disciples feet and by saying "The first will be last." I enjoy doing the small things no one else does, like washing dishes, being a gofer, doing behind-the-scenes work, and picking up someone else's messes (okay, I don't enjoy that last one, but I still do it). I believe that makes me a servant leader, because a true leader is one who leads by example.

Personal growth is definitely one of my core values. I love it when God teaches me things! When I grow spiritually, everyone can tell. It's pretty obvious because it's all over my face and body language. You can feel a sparkling energy from me because I'm excited about what God's been teaching me and I can't wait to tell people about it and other stuff I've learned from God. This year has been a year filled with personal growth from me. You must be constantly growing and changing into who God wants you to be. That may sound tiring and boring, but it's such a thrilling, exciting journey! I will never skip out on growing closer to God. I believe that if you don't grow hotter for God, the only other thing that happens is you grow colder; thus, personal growth is an absolute necessity.

Passion. Ah, this one is easy! Passion, enthusiasm, excitement, energy, hunger. That describes me perfectly when I'm on fire for God. To put it simply, I want more. More God, more wisdom, more purity, more integrity, more knowledge, more righteousness. And I'll do anything to get it! To explain my passion better, I advise you read a recent post titled Get The Rush. I believe that if you aren't passionate about God, you should strongly reconsider whether or not you know and love Him.

Discovery sort of fits in with learning. I enjoy discovering things about God's word that I didn't know before. I like to see what the Bible has to say on certian topics. I love the adventure and thrill of finding new things, of unearthing astounding, mind-boggling, faith-shattering, or humbling, quiet, still, soft verses in the Bible. When I find something new that I like, I underline it with my pencil. If it's really special, I put a dot at the beginning and end of the verse or passage to highlight it and show that I loved that section. I believe that without discovery, God's word and God Himself become bland, boring, and irrelevant, but with the passion of discovery, He becomes an adrenaline-rush packed full of joyous, unending surprises!

Last but certainly not least is Confidence. This core value is one that I feel most personal with. It's been a part of me since I was born. Arrogance, cockiness, and pride are the negative cousins of confidence. Those are the three qualities that defined me when I was younger. It wasn't until this past summer that they morphed into confidence, extreme confidence. Part of it is the teenage guy false reality that "nothing bad would ever happen to me; I'm invincible!", but part of it is just plain ole' confidence. I have the attitude of "Why wouldn't I skydive without a parachute and try to land in a swimming pool and survive, Mom? If I die, I go to heaven!" That's just me. I love to be bold, say bold things, act boldly. Confidence enables me to take pride in my King and have the bravery, bravado, and boldness to fight for Him. I don't fear death, I don't fear pain, I don't fear failure. I only fear losing my passion and thus my confidence in myself and in Him. I believe that without confidence, life is lived in a self-made prison; you must be confident to live life, to fail, to do extraordinary things.

So those are my core values. Those are the principles that I live and fight for. God's teaching me to be kind, compassionate, and pure. I plan on adding those to my list soon enough. I need to be able to confront someone without being judgemental. I need to be able to feel for someone else's pain or understanding of their situation, even when I don't care about them or don't know them. I need to learn how to rid my body and mind of sexual impurity. That's what God's teaching me now. What are your core values?

Epically Changed!

At the start of this year, I read all of the Psalms from Christmas to March. I stumbled, bumbled, and stuttered through Psalms, not truly paying attention to what was written. Parts stuck out to me, but I didn't walk away epically changed. Last week, I committed to reading through Psalms by reading eleven psalms a day until I finished the book.

Today is the seventh day of my reading, and tonight I will finished reading through chapter 77. Psalms feels different to read now. It feels alive, as if the words leaped off the page and into my heart and mind. I love to underline special or important or revolutionary verses in my Bible, and I have underlined dozens and dozens of verses in the first 66 chapters. When I sit and just read and meditate and underline, I feel God's presence. No matter what my day or morning has been like, I can sit down, open my Bible, and forget it all. I remember why I live for God. I remember why I choose purity, righteousness, integrity, and holiness. I remember why I shouldn't be jealous of non-Christians who get their own ways and get rich and are popular and cool and get the girl: "People who have wealth but lack understanding are like the beasts that perish." When I read Psalms, I am faithfully reminded why I choose to save my soul and lose my place in this world.

I particularly love the psalms written by King David. His passion, his righteousness, his utmost desire to be in God's presence humble me. His core values and life's dreams were intimacy with God, righteousness, holiness, integrity, worship, and justice. These qualities shaped him into the man he was. His life was based on being close to God and worshipping Him, having integrity and righteousness and holiness, and making sure the bad guys got what they deserved. It thrills me to read writings of Davis such as "Judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High" or "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." Just six days in, I am beginning to be epically changed just by reading and paying attention to the writings and wisdom of Psalms.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Finding Your Chazown

Craig Groeschel is the pastor of, a multi-campus church that uses live streaming to broadcast sermons around the country. He has been the pastor of Life Church since 1996, when he started it. With many written books and hundreds of online video sermons under his belt, I love to listen to him. When I hear him, I can just feel God using him to speak to me.

This last week, I have watched many videos and read parts from most of his books. In Groeschel's book Chazown, he talks about a how people and individuals need a Chazown, which is Hebrew for vision, or dream. He quotes Proverbs 29:18, which says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." The point and theme of the book is to show readers what their life's purpose is. It's a book that shows you your core values, spiritual gifts, mission statement, life's purpose, and what you need to be doing in your life right now. I particularly enjoyed when Craig helped me find my core values, which led to me discovering what my spiritual gifts are. The best part is the online helper. There's an entire website for this book, complete with a six-step process designed to discovery your Chazown. I absolutely loved the online experience because through the six steps, I slowly became to realize what career God may be calling me to pursue. At the very least, I realized what my core values were and what truly, deeply, really makes me tick.

Pick up his book at your local Christian book store or go to to do the study for yourself. (you don't need to read the book before doing this study, I didn't, but reading the book helps).  I suggest you check it out! It's changed my perception of myself.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Then School Happened...

This past year, the dice rolled my way and I slowly caught fire for God. I was singing praise songs all the time, reading my Bible multiple times a day, learning how to pray, writing on my blog, and stepping into a leadership role at church, all at the age of 15. Life was great! I even had a best friend who was as on fire as I was, if not more. It's amazing how much that helped! Ecclesiastes 4 says, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up." When two close friends are both on fire for God, everyone notices. On the other hand, when two close friends lose their fire for God, everyone notices. This summer was one of the greatest times of my life, even though it had its low points. But then school happened.

Looking back on the 2010 Fall semester, I wasted most of it. I had a few high moments, but most moments were low. A good friend made a life-shattering decision, the youth ministry at church has slowly choked itself to death, and things seemed to have been darker, slower, and more frustrating in my life. Life just hasn't been upbeat, awesome, sunny, and unbelievably awesome, like this summer. And I hate that. I miss the summer days filled with great worship music, catchy pop music, staying up till 1 AM reading my Bible, and talking nonstop about God. I miss staying up all night at campfires discussing life with my best friend, or staying up till 3 AM at sleepovers discussing what we've been reading in the Bible lately. Life isn't the same since I lost fire for God. I love having integrity, righteousness, and a pure desire for God's presence so much more than anything else. I just wish I could remember that when it's critical to know that.

So in order to coax the fire back, I'm stretching my limits to read eleven Psalms a day until December 29th, the date I leave for Winter Camp. I started yesterday, and have read some Psalms today. I can already feel the fire beginning to kindle! I love reading of David's righteous anger towards wicked men, and of his pure desire to be in His presence, or of his integrity and holiness. Eleven Psalms a day is a huge task to undertake, but since school is over, I aim to hit this target. I need get back to the place where I'm so into God's word that I stay up till 2 AM. I need to talk with my best friend more about God so we can both get fired up again. I need to get back to place where all I care about is Him.

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Be Like Forest Gump

I bet you've never heard that before. "Be like Forest Gump." You have to have seen the movie to know what I mean. But there's a reason, a entirely spiritual reason to why we all need to be like Forest. But before I explain this, I'd like to first share with you part of my past. As Leonardo DeCaprio said numerous times in Inception, "There's something you must understand about me." When I was ten years old, I unwittingly stumbled across pornography. It twisted, changed, skewered, and morphed my young and innocent mind into a sick and lewd mind. You have to go through what I did to understand precisely what I mean. What I've done is in the past, and I'm trying to recover from it. I still slip up, but that's part of the recovering process. Unfortunately, those images are burned into my mind. I just have to simply try to think of them, and I can instantly think about almost every single image I ever saw online. I'm sure I spent hundreds of hours surfing webpage after webpage, and I can recall nearly every image. That's just the way guys are wired, and I know two dozen more young men who can vouch for what I'm saying. It's just how it is.

Sexual immorality is like an injury. I know injury can be an awkward word often reserves for big boo-boos or athletes, but sexal sin is like an injury. Picture yourself with a skull fracture. You have a head injury, and you desperately need recovery and healing, otherwise you'll die. A key step to healing is to protect that head injury. You must guard it, keeping infection and bad things away from it. If you guard it and look after it long enough, that fracture heals and it is better than new! Dealing with sexual sin is the exact same thing. When you become introduced to sexual immorality, your mind has been injury. If you want healing, you must guard youself, protect your mind, stay away from impurities lest you become infected with disease. How? How can you keep yourself from looking, doing, wishing, thinking?

Philippains 4:8 says, "Whatever is true... noble... right... pure... lovely... admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." That's saying to think about pure things, things that aren't lewd or impure. If you train yourself over time to focus on pure things, you'll become trained to not have sinful thoughts. There are a few good techniques to train yourself. First, you must be trained to bounce your eyes. This simply means to avoid looking. But why not look? After all, it's only window-shopping, I'm not buying! I'm only looking at the menu, I'm not ordering! Jesus said in Matthew 5:29, "If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away." Kind of gross, right? I hope He wasn't being literal, otherwise I would be eye-less. He was encouraging us to not even look, because looking is the start of a downward spiral. The second is to replace evil thoughts with good ones. Jesus stated, "I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

Here is where we must be like Forest. Paul wrote that we should "flee from sexual imorality." Flee! Run, get away, take a walk, clear your head, turn off the TV, unplug the computer, sit at a different table. Do whatever it takes to stay away from sexual immorality. Run, Christians, run.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sin Isn't Real

God is a pretty cool guy. You know, if it weren't for Him, we literally wouldn't even exist. Nothing would. But for some reason beyond human comprehension, God did create us. The problem began when sin became a concept. What is sin? My friend Matt explains sin not as "something", but a lack of Something. Sin isn't real. Sin is the result of a lack of connection with God. Now everyone suffers from an epidemic, a sinful nature that isn't connected to God.

How can this be fixed? Is there a way to be connected to God? The great news is yes, there is! Thankfully, God came down and took on a human form and sacrificed Himself so that we can finally be connected to Him. The bad news is that sin still exists. The really bad news is that many people in the American church have lost a sense as to how they can be connected to God. Does going to church make you a Christian? Are you a Christian if you live a basically good life? If I do the ABCs, will that make me a Christian? Can you accept Christ and then live life however you want to?

Paul explained it pretty simply. In Romans 2:6-8, he wrote, "God 'will repay each person according to what they have done.' To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger."

It's pretty simple. Die to self, accept truth, follow Jesus, do good, seek glory, seek honor, and seek immorality. To top it off, Jesus also said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself." So there you go! This is how to be connected to God. I suggest with every fiber of my being that you follow these commands, dear brethren!

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Lesbian Coach

In Nashville, a hot topic is the previous women’s soccer coach of Belmont University. It recently came out that she was a lesbian, and the couple was expecting a child. The university and the coach both came to a mutual agreement that she should step down from her coaching position. This decision has been met with waves of opposition and protests. Students are demanding their coach back. Many people are crying out against the removal of the coach, not wanting her to be "judged" because of her sexual orientation. Even a member of the school board heavily criticized the school, saying the school should  "act like Christians." He also said, "Belmont has to decide whether they want to be a national recognized university -- particularly with their school of music business -- or they want to be a church." Opposition is coming from everywhere. Students, gays and lesbians, a man on the school board, and the news are all speaking out against the school's decision. I am not writing to simply report this, or even air my own opinions, but to find out what the right decision was for Belmont.
In dozens of places, the Bible says to stay away from perversion, shun sexually impure people, and expel the immoral brother. God explained that we need to stay away from people like this not because we are better holier than them, but so that their evil lifestyles don't impair our walk with Jesus. There's a reason why we shouldn't listen to atheists on philosophical matters: if we listen to their reasoning long enough, we begin to question our own reasoning. In the same way, we should avoid, even run away, from people who live such lewd lifestyles as gays or lesbians. When I was in middle school, I hung out with many perverted guy friends who enjoyed lusting, cursing, drugs, and overall badness. The more I spent time with them, the more I did the things they did. When a good child is mixed in with many bad children, the bad children don't change. Who changes? The one good kid changes almost every single time.
Imagine this headline: A Christian private school has a lesbian coach. While it seems that it would be tolerant of Christians to do this, I think it'd be a sin to let this happen. If a school really is a Christian school, it ought to be run in a Christian way, with Christian leaders, with Christian principles and morals and standards. Just as a church wouldn't hire a gay pastor, worship leader, Sunday School teacher, so a Christian school should not hire a gay coach. The goal of a Christian school should be to provide opportunities for students to learn and grow in the ways of Jesus. That means the leaders of the school should be prepared for this and ready to shine the light of God to the students of the school. Someone may counter by saying, "Just because it's a Christian school doesn't mean everyone's a Christian." I agree. But shouldn't the leaders? The people with power, control, influence? It isn't right for a school with a specific goal to hire a person who's personal goals and lifestyle directly conflict the goals of the school. The school might as well hire a painter to teach a class on mathematics. The school would be hiring a teacher who's personal goals and lifestyle conflict with the purpose of the class. That's crazy! It makes no sense at all. So why would a Christian university hire or retain a lesbian coach? That too would be crazy.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

When A Church's Focus Is Off

Let's be honest, most churches in America are really trying to do what God wants, but go about it in the wrong way. It's obvious that it is important to have people in the church, and and as a result, many churches fall into the trap of prioritizing "more people." The thought process becomes, "If we just had a new sign (or youth pastor, or music minister, or church building), people would come!" Soon enough, the priority becomes doing whatever it takes to get more people to come, because that's what God wants, right? Right??

A common sin here is compromise. We make small, sublte changes in the way we preach, sing, teach, talk, love, just because we think more people will come if we change enough to satisfy their tastes. This has been a common trend throughout the ages. I think the "ABCs of becoming a Christian" were created as a result of this. People wanted a simple way to get into heaven, so the church made up the ABCs to make Christianity sound easy and painless. But it's not. In fact, it's hard, bloody, tempting, painful, and oh so worth it. It's like if a professional football team wanted more players, and advertised that playing in the NFL was super easy, painless, required no training or dedication, and you got paid handsomely, and they did this to draw people off the streets. It's silly! It would never work! Playing pro football demands hundreds of man hours of dedication, pints of blood, and gallons of sweat. It's so hard, so challenging. Not everyone can do it. In fact, most people can't.

Most people can't be Christians either. Jesus told us this. He stated that most would miss the path that leads to eternal life. So why do churches make it so important to focus on "everyone"? The focus should be on mentoring, discipling, teaching those who care, who are there and ready to learn, those who want to be there. The church would be better off if we stopped worrying so much about those who aren't there and made it a priority to love on those who are. Please don't misread this post and walk away thinking that I said to stop caring about the lost, those who haven't heard the Good News. I'm saying that the church has the tendancy to place focus on those they cannot help and neglect those who are there and willing to be helped. Focus on those ready and willing and help them! Love them! Mentor them! Disciple them! Tell them about the love they can find in God! Do it without regret or hesitation and give your all for them!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ever Read Leviticus?

Christians love to read their Bibles. Some of the most loved books in the Bible are Genesis, Psalms, Proverbs, John, James, 1 Peter, Revelation, and most of Paul's letters. Just as there are preferred books, there are also books in the Bible that most people either dislike to read or have never read them. Up until last Spring, I didn't want to read any of the Old Testament. I guess it was just part of my rebellious spirit to not like the Old Testament, which I viewed as old, cliche, and boring.

A flaw in my thinking was that the Old Testament was unhelpful and inconsequential to me, a sixteen year old boy in high school. Again, I was proven wrong by reading it for myself. Recently, a friend mentioned that Leviticus was a very "interesting" book to read. My curiosity instantly spiked, and I began to read it. Parts of the book were very cool and fun to read (at least for a teenage boy), a few parts were very boring, and a few parts made me cringe with disgust. Then I read through chapter 19 yesterday morning.

In this chapter, God speaks through Moses to the entire assembly of Israel. God tells His people various laws that they must follow. Some laws are irrelevant to us today, but some are quite powerful. Verse 11 says, "Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another." Verse 12 tells the Israelites not to swear falsely by God's name. Verse 13 says not to defraud or rob your neighbor.  The following verse says to have mercy and respect for the deaf and blind, and treat them kindly. After this, God says, "Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favortism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly." Next, God says to not spread slander or gossip, and to do nothing that would endanger the life of your neighbor. Verse 17 says, "Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt." The next verse commands, "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself."

While it's obvious that some parts of Leviticus are rather irrelevant to us today, such as what to do with bad slaves, why to not sacrifice children to Molech, and how we're to purify ourselves by sacrificing animals. But it's still important to read boring old books of the Bible like this one so we can know the history of Israel, learn from their mistakes and successes, and see how God led them.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Time To Tell!

Evangelism is an essential part of being a Christian. It's as important as recruitment is to the military. Without new recruits, the Army couldn't continue it's operations. While God would not simply stop existing because people stopped believing in Him (He isn't like Santa), one of Jesus' last commands was to recruit soldiers for God's army from all nations.

Last summer, my youth ministry-to-be traveled to New Smyrna Beach for a mission trip. It was our summer camp, and the theme was extemporaneous evangelism. We set out in small groups to evangelize to anyone we saw on the beach. I'll never forget walking up to those people and asking them if I could talk to them about Jesus. For a fourteen-year-old, it is heart-pounding to walk to a middle-aged lady and ask her on the spot about her spiritual beliefs. I had two friends with me for this particular conversation, but they were too timid to speak, so I felt as if the pressure was entirely on me to make sure this lady knew Jesus. The adrenaline pumping through my body, blood flushing my cheeks and ears, I stuttered, "Ma'am, may I ask you a few questions about your spiritual beliefs?" Luckily, she replied, "Of course, son, what is it?"  I stumbled through my partially memorized Way of the Master evangelism technique. Fortunately for me, this particular lady claimed to already be a Christian and to have followed Jesus for years. She helped calm my fears by adding, "I'm so proud of you kids for doing this! I wish I was brave enough to do this sometimes."

My youth pastor repeatedly made this conversation an example to us. He argued against this lady's belief system, that we should always look for opportunities to recruit soldiers for God's army. Unfortunately, the American church has become too much like the recruitment staff of the military. Maybe you've seen the military's adds on TV. Perhaps you've even seen their billboards beside the highway, or their adds in the local paper. There's a chance you've even noticed their stores in shopping centers. Those stores are their local recruitment centers; they're where you go to apply to defend our great country's freedom. Much to my dismay, the American church has adopted this system of recruitment. We'll advertise on TV, beside the highway, and in the paper, and we'll even go as far as to be at our church building. But we rarely go any further. We sit in our churches and wait for the world to come to us. But why would the world come to church if they think the church is a scam, filled with hypocrytes, a bunch of disillusioned dreamers, or no different than they are?

If we think that we can convert to the military's form of recruitment and obey Jesus at the same time, we are miserably incorrect. We can only help people if we go out and help them! Take action and tell the world that Jesus lives!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Where Is Beauty?

As Americans, we live in a country immersed in narcissism, greed, and lust. Television, magazines, internet, music, billboards, and movie screens all agree that beauty is found in the skin. The American media portrays the perfect person to be skinny, muscular, attractive, and sexy. But is this really what beauty is? To find the answer, we must turn to the Truth and ask Him. In 1 Samuel 16, Samuel the judge was searching for Israel’s new king. With the Lord’s guidance, he went to the house of Jesse. It says, “When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.’ But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” As we all know, Samuel anointed David as king, and David went on to become “a man after God’s own heart.” David had true beauty because his beauty was found within.

The book of Proverbs states that women who were beautiful inside were to be valued more. In chapter 31, verse 30, the writer declares, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Even if a woman was outwardly unattractive, as long as she feared the Lord and devoted her entire life to God, she was more praiseworthy and worth loving. A very wise person once said, “You don't love a woman because she is beautiful, but she is beautiful because you love her.”

Even Jesus, the Son of God, Savior of mankind, Creator of the universe, was not outwardly beautiful. In Isaiah chapter 53, the prophet Isaiah foretold, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him Perhaps you have heard of David Crowder Band. The lead singer, David Crowder, has a reputation for being a magnificent wordsmith and wonderful orchestrator of worship. He is one of the most likeable and well-known individuals in the Christian music industry. Have you ever seen him? He is notorious for being very unappealing on the outside. But does this change who he is? No. He is who he is because his beauty is found within.

As humans, we have the penchant to believe false perceptions. God knew this about us, and warned us when he came in the form of Jesus. John 7:24 quotes Jesus to say, “’Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.’” Outward beauty changes and evolves through time. It is unreliable. You cannot marry someone simply because they look good, because eventually, old age will snatch their beauty away. We must love people for who they are on the inside. Otherwise, it is impossible to truly love them. If what you see with the eye doesn’t please you, then close your eyes and see with the heart, because the heart can see beauty and love more than the eyes can ever wonder. True beauty is found within.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Stepping Out or Closing In

Every been inspired to do something great, but then chickened out? Me too. It happens all the time. When I get that feeling that I should do something, like tell someone about a problem I've been having, or tell someone about Jesus, seeds of doubt form. What pursues is a battle between good and evil. Will I follow what can only be God's leading hand, or succumb to fear and do nothing?

Nelson Mandela once said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

It's hard for me to follow up after this quote, for this is such a powerfully riveting quote. Mandela tells us that our playing small helps nobody. In other words, when we give in to fear and don't believe in ourselves, we're actually hurting people and ourselves. He also said that when we let our own light shine, we unconcsciously give other people persmission to do the same. In my youth ministry, it often happens that my youth pastor will ask a question and no one will answer... until one brave soul meekly gives his answer. Then another, encouraged by his brother in Christ, is able to speak up and answer. The snow ball effect soon begins to roll, and many students want to share their answers. It all started with one who decided to let his own light shine.

Who are you not to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, or famous? Don't give in to the sterotypes that restrict you from becoming you God wants you to be. Step out, and don't let yourself close in. So stand up! Use your voice! Be strong! And you'll release your own light, and in the process, allow those around you do to the same.

We're Just a Bunch of Freaks

Sunday afternoon, I was home by myself. I had eight or so hours to myself, and I spent that all my time watching TV. Please don't think I'm lazy; my family had spent every day this past week except Thanksgiving day remodeling our youth room. It's exhausting, disgusting work since no one has cleaned the youth room in three years, and haven't done anything to fix the place up in five or six years. So while my lunatic family went down Sunday to work (yes, they worked seven of eight days), I opted to stay home, work on schoolwork, and watch TV.

One of the movies I watched was the last part of the latest installment in the Bring It On series. I have long mocked that movie series for being stupid cheerleader movies. But a new girl at church often quotes these movies, and just so I could understand what she meant when quoting them, I decided to watch one. Certain parts made me regret it, but one scene stood out to me. For those who haven't seen this movie, two arch-rival cheer squads have to combine in order to compete in the championship cheer competitions. These male and female cheer squads hate each other, but combine simply out of desire to win. They try to mix and work together, but the chemistry isn't there and they are about to give up. But then, the cheer captain for one the squads, a firey girl with outstanding leadership qualities, whose name was Carson, confessed she was afraid to compete. It was her idea to combine the two squads, and most looked to her as the leader and bravest one there. But she was afraid? Yeah, she was. Then someone else stood up and confessed something huge. Then another. And another. And another. Because of some awkward things that were confessed, one girl commented, "Man, we're just a bunch of freaks." Carson, however, viewed things differently. She said that they were all actually alike. They weren't really that different from each other. As this dawned on the large group of cheerleaders, they decided to win the championship with each other, no matter how much they disliked each other. In the end, they won, and they all became best friends. Typical movie ending.

So this left me thinking, I wish the church was like this. No, not that I want the church to be a bunch of foul-mouthed, scantily-clad cheerleaders. But I wish we could all confess things to each other. In the movie, once everyone's cat was out of the bag, they could get to know each other for who they really were and appreciate each person in a way they couldn't before. In all my time at church, nothing like this has ever happened. There have been smaller cases, where we went around the room and all shared some sin with each other, but nothing reputation-shattering or absolutely outstanding. What happened if we all did that, though? Yeah, we'd all be a bunch of freaks. So what? What if in youth this Sunday, something like the scene in the movie happened? What if you found out someone in your youth was once raped, or once stole a car, or is addicted to masturbation, or has been drunk before?  I'm sure it'd be awkward to know this. I picture myself sitting awkwardly, staring at the floor. What would we do? How could we respond?

I think this is what it means to be real. To be open. If we allowed ourselves to be vulnerable and confess ourselves to our friends and youth groups, hopefully we wouldn't be dubbed "freaks", but instead people could know us better. The mask would be ripped off, and we could be us for the first time.


My church has collectively read through the book of Acts together. We read a chapter a day for the month of November, or we read it in bits and pieces, but the point is we all read it. Many people, myself included, had never read Acts as if it were a story. We were all happily surprised to find out that Acts was actually fun, fast-paced, and page-turning (if you think I'm crazy, you probably haven't read Acts like it was a story). This was baffling to me, because when I had read random snip-it's and chapters of Acts in the past, it was all just okay and somewhat boring. I experienced this same enigma last summer when I was challenged to read three chapters of John a day for three weeks. I had no idea how interesting, fun, and page-turning John was! It was also the first time I had faithfully read, I mean really read, my Bible. But it wasn't the last. Except for a few week-long dry spells, it's been hard to not read my Bible each day. Once I realized how powerful, exhilarating, and influential the Words of God were to my life, I couldn't help but read them.

Through my reading-based studies of sections of the Bible, I have realized something. When you read a specific section of the Bible as it were written instead of in random, broken pieces, it becomes even more alive. In the past, I had read all of John, but not in order. Sure, parts of John were fun to read, but it was all a giant bore. But once I had read all of John in order in a short amount of time, it leaped off the page. What happens is we read a specific verse, take John 3:16 for example, without the supporting verses to support it. When I see John 3:16 on a poster or billboard, it seems lifeless. But what happens when I read the first two chapers, the previous 15 verses, then the rest of chapter 3? John 3:16 leaps off the page. I love it when this happens! When something leaps off the page, it tens to slap me in the face, or numb me with stark realization, or shake me to pieces. The impression left upon you from the verses and chapters surrounding that one verse elevate that verse's meaning and importance in an incredible fashion that only God can have a hand in.

When you listen to the radio, you'll hear songs called "singles." These are songs that come from an album, which carries around a dozen songs on average. Let's say you've heard three or four radio singles by one specific band over the years, and think you know that band. But when you pick up that band's last album, the music is totally different than on the radio. Why? Because the radio singles were the only songs on that album that were "radio songs."

It's the same with the Bible. We can read a verse or a chapter and think we know it, but until we've read the few chapters before and after, we really don't know. We have to read and study the Bible in it's entirety, or we can't know the Bible.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Brave Young Boy in Acts

I recently read through all of Acts. As I read through it, I realized there were parts of Acts that I had not ever read. The first thing was that I had not read through Acts in sequence. Reading a book of the Bible in chapteral order makes it an entirely different experience than if you read it in broken sections. I also read Stephen's speech for the first time. In times past, I had simpley skimmed or skipped it. I was amazed at the powerful truth behind the martyr-to-be's words. I also noted for the first time that Stephen was one of the seven men in charge of food distribution. Luke, the writer of Acts, spoke highly of Stephen's faith when listing the seven men. In chapter 23, when Paul is inprisoned, I learned of a young boy who saved Paul's life. Paul's nephew, the son of his sister, heard the plot and saved Paul's life. If this little boy didn't have the bravery to go and tell Paul and later the centurion, Paul would have been assassinated, and would never have written letters to many churches while in prison. Think about that. Because a young boy happened to overhear a plot on Paul's life, Paul was able to write half of the New Testament. Is that God or what?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Random Videos is what I want!

Hey guys, as you may have seen, my buddy TheDudeWhoLikesCake happened sit down at my computer, only to find I had left my Blogger profile up, so he helped himself to promote his own blog. His blog, titled Random Videos of Randomness, is a blog created for the purpose of showing home made videos. They're hilarious videos that make you laugh with the actors and at the actors. I myself have been in a few videos. Please take the time to explore this awesome blog!

P.S., to those who wonder why I haven't blogged in such a long time, the answer is I've been grounded from the computer for a while. I'm not grounded anymore, so I will be back on here!

Monday, November 8, 2010


"Remember, it's not 10 Suggestions; it's 10 Commandments."

So reads the sign in front of a church close to my house. The way this message is presented makes me feel as if I ought to keep the Ten Commandments... or else. But should I? I do not believe we should follow the Ten Commandments, just because they are the famous and iconic "Ten Comandments." I think we should follow the teachings of Jesus because we love Him and because He loves us.

When Jesus died and rose, God rewrote the rules to life. In the Old Testament, the only way to know God was to follow His rules. Now, however, it is very different. While we still have rules and guidelines that God gives us, we are commanded to win souls for Jesus and make disciples in all nations. The two supreme rules Jesus told us were to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, also that we should love our neighbors as much as ourselves. Basically, Jesus said we should give God everything we have and love Him with everything we are and fight for Him with everything we can. Also, we should love others just as much as we love ourselves.

The rules have changed. For example, one of the Ten Commandments was to not murder. Now, however, commonsence declares that followerse of Jesus should not kill anyone, under any circumstances. Why not kill a non-Christian? Because that's the same as preventing them from having any future opportunities to know Jesus. Why not kill a Christian? Because you'd be slaying the Bride of Jesus.

I think we should follow the rules, as Jesus declares them. Should we murder? No, that's a sin. Adultry? That's definately a sin, too. And you cannot use the excuse that you slept with someone to try to win them for Christ, or that you broke in to someone's house with them to spend quality time with them and to start a relationship where you could eventually tell them about Jesus' love. That doesn't cut it, and also introduces the sin called lying. But what about the gray areas, like keeping the Sabbath or honoring our parents? The problem here is that sometimes God calls us to do things that we may think contradicts something that He told us to do previously. In one incident, God may say, "Listen to your parents; it's what I want you to do right now", but in another situation, He may say, "Listen to me on this one; I've got a special plan that your parents cannot see yet." I think following the direct voice of God, which sometimes comes as a strong desire or gut feeling or maybe even a whisper in the wind.

I am not saying to disregard the Old Testament; not at all. Nor am I saying in any form or fashion to view the New Testament as books that supercede, or override, the Old Testament books. That'd be highly foolish. I love the Old Testament with all my heart and try to read part of it every day, or at least every other day. I think that maybe the New Testament is a fulfilled prophesy as to what the Old Testament foresaw.

Yesterday, I listened to a snip-it of a message by Francis Chan. He taught about how we are not held to a list of rules or regulations about how to do this, or how to do that. He said the grace of God frees us in His name. I think the two ultimate commands Jesus gave us (Love the Lord your God with all your heart... etc, and love your neighbor as yourself) are the code followers of Jesus should live and breathe. Everything we do needs to be first, for God, then second, out of selfless love for others. I believe if we do that, everything else falls into line. Francis talked about how some church-goers in America do not approve of jeans in church because that's "too causual" and "not showing respect" for God. He countered this belief by saying he wanted to be himself every day of the week, and he proved his point by wearing jeans for that message. Why? Because he wears jeans every other day, so why dress differently on that day? He even decided to wear the pair of jeans that had holes in them, and then joked he was preaching with his fly down, just to prove that you won't make it into heaven just for wearing a suit to church. The same principle applies to everything we do.

(P.S., this posted was edited 12:08PM, 11/10/2010)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Get The Rush

Skydiving. Flying. Skating. Riding an ostrich. Swim in a shark tank. Climb Mount Everest. White water rafting. Parasailing. These are all some of the most exciting things to do. But what's the most exciting thing? What can we do every single time that will give us a rush of excitement or emotion? It's true; some people can skydive a thousand times before that high gets old. And swimming in a shark tank is sure to usher in a heart attack quicker than anything else. But if you do something so many times, it will certainly get old. Just ask the Super Bowl quarterbacks who win the big one, then never even get close again. Why? Because their hunger was quelled by winning it all. They won it once, and didn't have to win it the same way a ring-less quarterback would chase after one.

Then what's the most dependable rush of excitement? It may sound weird, but the answer is a book. Sixty-six books, to be exact. These books compile to make the Bible. As weird as it may sound, it's true. There has to be a reason it's the most-sold book of all time. God loves to speak to us in quiet, still ways, and what is more stationary than words? The Word of God never moves, in the sense of true movement, as in they never hop up and walk off the page the same way a bug might. But the Word moves its readers in a way nothing ever has. No book has ever cried me to cry more, shout more, scream more, or jump more.

It's the rush, the urge, the energy that floods my veins that makes me desire God to no end. Of course, this particular high will ebb when I choose to neglect God's Word. But I always come back. Why? Because I remember God's promises written to me in the Bible. I remember how powerful and life-giving and radical God's words are. The feeling I get when I read what God wrote to me is unlike anything else. It's better than being a start on the team. It's better than knowing the cute girl likes me. It's better than being loved by everyone at school or church. It's better than drowning myself in a world of music. It's better than anything! Reading of God's love is just simply the best thing to do.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Why Church?

The American church has many great positives. Church is great for sociality, entertainment, and spiritual growth. Church is a good place to see friends, hang out, see a good concert, experience a great worship service, hear sermons from preachers, discuss godly things with friends, getting fit at the gym (if the church has one), and finding a place to work or volunteer. However, the church has its negatives. Apathy, deception, fraud, sex scandals, splits, betrayals, and misguided intentions can plague churches and destroy them. 

A question many high-school and collegiate students are asking sounds like, Why should I go to church? What point does it have? When they cannot find a suitable and satisfactory answer, they no longer go to church. 

So what is causing this great dropout amongst students from this age range? Why don't the youth of today's America attend church anymore? They claim they don't need to go to church to be "spiritual." They think they can worship God and not have a church home, which, in essence, is true. But not for teenagers in America who have at least church every city block. There are many churches in America who are living for God, though not as many as in other countries, such as Russia or China. This, however, is another matter.

Perhaps youth do not attend church because they have found it to be a bland experience of God. Perhaps the church or churches they have attended in the past weren't part of the true Church, and their impressions of God and Jesus have been morphed as a result. I know many young adults or teenagers who dislike church is because a previous one mistreated them or didn't meet their expectations.

It is easy to blame the church leaders for these blunders. But this is not a new problem. It is a centuries old dilemma. The modern day church leaders have just inherited an ancient evil. This evil was described in the first paragraph. It is human nature to fall into sinful traps, so we must not blame church leaders. Nor must we blame the youth, for they can only live as they have been taught, or as they desire. We must not even look for a place to place blame. Why? Because that isn't what Jesus wanted. Jesus wanted His followers to tell every country, every person about Him. So we must not fret or place blame concerning the dropout of youths. We must focus solely on ministering to them, loving them, and making sure they knew the truth about Jesus. We must make sure to give them a reason to come to church. We must make church relevant, addressing the needs of today's society, and doing what we can to love and teach the youth of today's America.

Why Should I Go?

Through all the ups and downs of church, one key factor that somehow ties everything together is the aspect of friends. Friends have an enormous impact on the individual person, especially in the teenage years. Friends can make or break a person. Friends effect decisions. They effect a person's attitude towards God, and what type of relationship a person should have with the church. What type of friends you have can change everything. When your friends love church, attend consistently, and volunteer their time to help, so will you. But if your friends text during service, mock the preacher, and never help out, chances are you won't either.

So what happens if your friends stop coming to church? In my experience, when a clique forms at church and then most of its members stop coming, the remaining few do as well. Its sad to have known a teenager or group of teens for so long and have poured so much into them to have them drop out of church. When a group of teens declines in attendance, others will follow. My youth group has seen this. At the start of February, we ranged from twenty to thirty students. But in February, many stopped coming, even those who has proclaimed to be Christians and had leadership positions. These teenagers, when recently asked why they rarely came, replied that their friends stopped coming, so they were discouraged and asked, If my friends stopped coming, why should I go?

Those of us left wondered what happened to our friends. Attendance was so low that ten students became unnaturally high. This urged a period of discouragement and disappointment on the youth pastor and his wife, and the leaders in the youth group. We wondered why we had worked so hard to just have them spit in our faces. And I do not say that lightly, for it is how it was. It was not a happy time for us, and those who left didn't care they had hurt us.

So I had to ask myself, What went wrong? Did the youth pastor did something to offend them, did I not talk to them enough, did they decide to ditch God? Or perhaps they never truly cared in the first place. I happen to think that if a person stops coming to church altogether, maybe they never loved church, or Jesus, in the first place. I am not saying you must attend church to be a Christian. I'm saying if you don't care about church, God's bride, you cannot care about God. The problem with many teenagers in today's society is that they simply want church to match their opinions and desires, and when or if it fails, they bail out. They never attempt to change anything.

The bottom line is that the majority of those who spend a fair amount of church and then drop out never really cared about the church or God. They attended church only for their friends, and when their friends stopped coming, they stopped coming.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What Is Your Fire?

Everyone has that little calling in ministry, whether it's a heart for homeless people, a passion to teach children, or a zeal for maintaining the church property. A striving Christian will recognize this gift in his or her heart. Where is yours? I recognize where my fire is directed to. I have a strong passion for martyrs and the Underground Church. I love to read of Richard Wurmbrand, or other heroic believers who were willing to, or who did, surrender their physical lives for Christ.

In my small but striving inter-city church, I recognize many pursued passions from fellow brethren. One couple started a computer lab, which is open to teach people in the community how to use computers, which is handy for job applications, among other tasks. Two men has a combined passion for homeless people, and have started a ministry that feeds fifty to sixty homeless or poverty-stricken people on Mondays. One young woman, a close friend of mine, has a passion for worship that usually leads her to other churches to lead their worship services. One elderly man has such a heart of servitude that he voluntarily painted the entire second floor of church, by hand, and by himself. Another friend, my closest, has a strong passion for evangelism, and is a skilled apologist, whom I have seen communicate clearly and effectively with lost people. I myself have witnessed this friend lead six or seven people to Christ. One lady used to be on staff, but the church could not afford to pay her for her many long hours and hard dedication, and yet she still continues to volunteer her time to be the children's ministry leader! My pastor, even with all the long, hard hours he puts into working at church, started a photography ministry, an area he is very skilled in and has a passion for.

I am surrounded by strong brothers and sisters in Christ! My church, though it may only have a hundred attendees, is filled with active Jesus Freaks who lead their own ministries. A special attribute of my church is the rule that if you have an idea for a ministry, event, or anything else, you are in charge of it. This is a spectacular way to get the church body involved. If you want to do something, you don't have to wait. You can start doing it!

So what about you? What can you do for God? If you are skilled with bicycles and live in a city dominated by university students, perhaps you can start a bicycle repair shop to minister to the students in your city. Or if you have a passion for sewing and live in a northern state, perhaps you can start a ministry to clothe the homeless people when winter comes. Or if you have art skills, why not volunteer to make posters for church events, or even paint rooms with a beautiful design? And if you enjoy to spend hours upon hours online or playing video games, it may be time to ask someone at church if you can run sound or EasyWorship (the slide show system) at church.

There are an endless amount of possibilities out there, and each church has needs. Find out where to plug in and get active! When Paul wrote about spiritual gifts, he wasn't only saying Christians would have emotional or spiritual skills; he meant we would have physical skills, too. So figure out what you are good at (or could be good at, with a little practice), and start working!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Keep Your Head On

Forgiveness. It can be viewed either as a weakness, or the key to release. Forgiving others their sins against me can be very hard. When I am wronged, or feel wronged, by someone, my first response is not to forgive that person. I usually react with anger, insolence, or a vengeful attitude. I react even stronger when someone I care about hurts me. I have had to learn this lesson recently as two close friends spurned my friend and I. We felt as if they "left us out to dry", if you know what I mean. I went to these two people Friday and admitted I was angry and needed forgiveness, and was forgiven by one.

What I've learned this weekend about forgiving others is that forgiveness, like everything else, is part of spiritual warfare. If I were to be in a sword fight with an enemy, there is a strong chance I will, at the least, get cut. Now if it were so to happen that my opponent slashed my arm, would I stop to cry, or pout, or cry foul, or be put off? No, because these options would lower my defenses, and then my opponent would wack my head off. I would have to stay strong and fight back with my own weapon, which, in the world of spiritual warfare, could be forgiveness.

It is the same with us. When a friend hurts me, I cannot get bent out of shape about it, or I give Satan an opportunity to do even more damage. The apostle Paul addressed this with encouragement to rejoice in persecution. He foretold that Christians everywhere would suffer persecution, but we should not fear because God would be with us.

In conclusion, we should forgive anyone who has wronged us. Some would ask why we ought to forgive those who wronged us. They would wonder why we should do something nice for them when they did nothing but hurt us. We should because it releases us. If we chose to not forgive, then we hold ourselves hostage in an unbarred prison in which we can choose to walk out of, if we could only forgive. Chose to forgive, and you chose to be free.

PS, my apologies for not blogging recently. I went on vacation, and my blog lost it's appeal up until now. I'm back on, full force.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Who Jesus wants us to be

This past week, I neglected my daily Bible reading. I deferred, instead, to read fantasy novels by Bryan Davis and Ted Dekker. It seemed like an easy trade: boring Bible chapters I had already read, or the mind-stimulating books of these two writers. But I learned that I cave into sin much faster when I shun God's Word. I quickly learned this lesson when a bad attitude and the temptation to lust entered my heart, once again. Of course, without reading God's letters to me, I failed to remember or care about His will.

So two days ago, I decided I should read my Bible. I flipped to Romans 12, a new favorite, and just read. I read the first eight verses and decided it was enough. I later returned and continued reading. I wasn't truly prepared for what would happen next. Verses 9-21 seemed to jump out of the page. It was a moment where God clearly said, "You haven't been properly motivated. Here is a mission statement to get you excited for Me again." Here is what God told me to base my life on:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

It's a lengthy passage, yes, but it's word ring with a burning truth. Everything about this passage says to no longer conform with the world, but fall in love with Jesus and fight for Him. To me, this passage informs how to love, how to work, how to respond to enemies, how to act behind closed doors, what attitude to have, how to respond to others' emotions, what type of personal character and integrity to possess, and how to treat those around me. I'm am trying to memorize this passage and burn it into my memory. This mission statement, whether at work, school, church, or elsewhere, describes what and who Jesus wants us to be.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Memento Mori

After the Flyleaf concert at the new location of Rocketown, my friends and I went out back to get autographs. My friend Derek got me this enormous poster of the cover of Memento Mori, their latest album. Lacey signed it, and I got a picture with her. I had heard she was short, but had no clue how short she really is. She may have been 4'5". But anyway, the reason for this post is that today is my sixteenth birthday! Woot woot! While I can't get my license till December, I feel  free already!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Why Did I Kiss Dating Good-bye?

A dating relationship can be a wonderful thing. A boy and a girl share crushes, and the two become inseparable lovebirds. I have been in two of these relationships. In each one, I fell in love with the girl. Perhaps, though, an advanced crush would explain my emotions better. In the first relationship, the girl flat out told me she didn't ever want to be my friend again. This came after three months of a wonderful friendship that, although we weren't "dating", we were very close and went on many family "dates." In the second relationship, we mutually broke up to focus on friendship and grow closer as friends, not lovers. However, because of her veiled actions, we no longer talk and she has yet to explain why she doesn't care anymore. 

The second relationship came nine months after the first ended, and the second relationship ended eight months ago. In each circumstance, the girl decided to no longer want any form of relationship with me. On top of this, neither bother to explain this detail. How convenient! I went on for months after each disbanding with no clue why the break up happened or why my previous best friend now seemingly hated me. 

Through the pain and hurt I experienced in these relationships, I have realized that Biblical courtship is a much better plan than traditional teen dating. I had a firsthand experience in the reality of teenage dating relationships, and now I don’t agree with them or support them. Courtship is the path I choose to find my future wife. I'm waiting until I am old enough for marriage to do so. I chose to wise up and live a life higher than the average teenager. Because of my tarnished relationships, I realized that I wasn’t living completely for Jesus, and that I had other things ahead of Him in my priority list. Now I choose to live completely for Jesus. I decided to kiss dating good-bye because of the pain, drama, and distaste it has given me. 

Looking back, I realize that I could have foreseen my relationship issues and avoided them. The pain I went through was my fault, in some ways. Both situations were avoidable, but I let it happen. I had not the wisdom to foresee what troubles I allowed myself into. I won’t make the same mistake twice. I love romance, but I won’t allow myself to fall into another predictable and pointless dating relationship again. I’ve set up defenses in order to guard my heart from more pain, and I’m able to control myself when I do have a crush. My friend David and I are holding each other accountable to not date. I personally know that dating turns me into a reprobate person, someone I choose to not be. While many pretty girls have taken a liking to either of us, David and I recognize the squalid results of dating and choose to refrain from it's precarious ways. 

One day, I will meet a girl who will break down my defenses and win my heart. I can’t wait to fall in love, and am waiting for that day to come!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sink or Swim

I'd just like to share with you an article in my Bible. This is the testimony of a man (I'll rename him Frank) who was raised in Thailand and was a Buddhist for twenty years.

"When I was a Buddhist, I felt like I was in the middle of a large lake. I was drowning and I didn't know how to swim. As I struggled to keep my head above water, I looked toward the shore and saw Buddha walk up to the edge of the lake. Buddha began shouting instructions to me, telling me how to swim. He shouted, "Kick your legs and paddle your arms. But then Buddha said, "Frank, you must make it to shore yourself." As I struggled to follow Buddha's instructions, I looked toward the shore again. This time I saw Jesus walk up to the lake. Unlike Buddha, Jesus didn't stop at the shoreline. Instead, He dove into the lake and swam out to rescue me! Once He had brought me safely to shore, He taught me how to swim so I could go back and rescue others!"

This is a powerful statement! Since I've never been a Buddhist, I substituted the names of my sins, struggles, and weak areas where "Buddhism" or "Buddha" was written. I know all too well what it's like to have the sinking feeling of the world come crashing down. I know what it's like to be drowning, but trying to learn how to swim all by my own strength. I've also ignorantly shoved Jesus away, even while He was in the water trying to haul my worthless self to shore. Jesus is so worth it, though. It's worth letting go and trusting in Him. There's nothing for important than that.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Songs- I Will Follow

I Will Follow by Chris Tomlin

I have never been a big fan of Chris Tomlin. I think he is overplayed, annoying, and too popular. But when it comes down to it, his songs are exceptional. And this is my favorite. This song sounds nothing like his previous tracks; it is more radio-friendly. It has a sweet and driving tune.

I also love the theological foundation to the song. "Where you go, I'll go. Where you stay, I'll stay. Where you love, I'll love. Where you serve, I'll serve. I will follow you." This song perfectly describes the attitude of servanthood that Jesus exemplified. It is the profession of total surrender, from which we submit ourselves to God's authority and control.

This song has personal value, too. My family has followed God from Missouri (my parents origination) to Texas (my birthplace), to Indiana, and then to Tennessee. I have tried to make a lifestyle of following Jesus, even when it's hard, uncomfortable, or when I just don't want to. I Will Follow is a song that exclaims Tomlin's dedication to follow Jesus wherever He leads, and I pray this will be my battle cry as well.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Eye Of The Beholder

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." However, what we see may deceive us; the skin may be deceptive. But there has to be one truth, right? One beauty? It can't just be a jumble of perceptions. So what really exists out there, beyond what we can see? We are so dependent on the surfaces of what we see. All we care about is appearances and perceptions. But what if we could see past the skin of this world? What if we could see past each other's skin and into the heart? If we could see beyond all the outward looks and glimpse the character, quality, heart, and the morality of the person, then we would see the true nature of the person. 

Beauty, then, is not in the eye of any human beholder. So, then, where is it found? True beauty, the beauty worth chasing after, is in the heart, just as true ugliness, the ugliness worth running from, is in the heart. It is all about the heart. The world judges by outward beauty, but perceptions can change. What is beautiful can be made ugly. But God judges by a man's heart, his soul, the pith of a man. The only perception that matters is God’s, because His opinion is ultimate truth. God sees all things. He will shine light on the dark and reveal all things kept secret, including the true quality of the human heart. He is the only One worth impressing.

It makes me wonder. Who is really beautiful and who is not? How can one group of people look at the world and see one thing, and another looks at the same thing and sees something completely different? One sees beauty and responds with admiration; another sees ugliness and responds with distaste. The truth is, we are either beautiful or ugly inside. There is no middle line. We are either chosen by God and made beautiful, or refuse God's love and remain ugly. 

This is an old article I wrote in writing class. I made some slight changes. Please don't withhold any opinions, negative or positive!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Letters From God

When I was thirteen years old, my youth pastor preached a Wednesday night series about spending time with God. He preached that if we students called ourselves, we absolutely had to spend time studying God's Word and talking to Him. If not, then we were either not serious about our faiths, or we had none. In each unfortunate case, we weren't true followers of Jesus. He then preceded to give us an example of how to spend time with God. He taught that we simply needed to spend seven minutes a day with God, with that time divided between prayer and His Word. I was then provided with a very cool journal in which I could record prayers or take notes from my Bible studies. For the next few weeks, I read my Bible rather regularly, though not daily. After some time, apathy took over and I no longer cared to read my Bible.

A year and a half later, I was a fourteen year old at Life Action family camp in Michigan. I would be at the secluded Christian camp for three weeks. It was a gladly accepted break from my life. My best friend had recently taken herself out of my life for reasons I still do not know, and my priorities in life were sadly misplaced. The speaker for the first two weeks at camp was a splendid speaker who preached about the power of prayer and the importance of reading the Bible. He challenged those who weren't reading their Bibles to read three chapters of John for seven days. I committed myself to reading my Bible. It took my nearly two weeks to finish John, but I did. Through my reading of John, I was enamored with how wonderful the Bible truly was. It was as if for the first time, God had opened my eyes to how sweetly majestic His Word was. Even though I had "walked down the aisle" and "accepted Jesus into my heart" as an eight year old, I never knew or loved Jesus, yet alone give my life and undying love to Him.

It is extraordinary how God' Word has impacted my life. I can tell a definite difference between days I do and  days I don't read my Bible. When I sit down to read my Bible, life just becomes clear. Even though I may be burdened down with something, simply reading God's letters to me makes me feel good.

There are so many wonderful things about the Bible! I love how some verses or passages seem to jump off the page and slap me between my eyes. I love the gut-wrenching, heart-revealing verses that cry out to God for help or ask why it feels like He doesn't care. I love Paul's revolutionary letters to churches that describe a Christlike life in such a plain and simple way.

On days when I just don't really care about God but I still read my Bible, there's always something that stirs up within that makes me want to live that day for God and do every little thing for Him. And when I read God's Word on days when I do want to live for Him, it makes the day more pleasant and it makes the harder things easier to endure. There is nothing that energizes me so greatly or fires me up so immensely than God's Word.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Second Movie

Last night, my church showed the movie To Save A Life. We had less people attend than Friday, and less interest than we had on Friday. There were many people there who I know needed to see it, but on Friday, at least eight people surrendered their lives to Christ. I don't believe anyone did on Saturday night. So while there weren't any great results, seeds were planted. A couple dozen people attended, and we showed them a film that could change their lives. As they said in Facing The Giants, "We've prepared our fields for rain." Now, we have to wait on God to send it, or to not send it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

"To Save A Life" Aftermath

My church is showing the movie To Save A Life. We showed it tonight, and will show it again tomorrow night. The movie was targeted for today's generation of youth. It deals with many heavy topics, from cutting, teenage sex and pregnancy, adultery, bullying, alcohol, teen suicide, and hypocrisy. I have seen the movie eight times now. This movie never fails to make me feel numb at the end.

Anyway, tonight, after showing the movie, my youth pastor explained to the audience what the Gospel was really about. He asked anyone who wanted to make their lives right to go to one of the counselors in the back. It is important to add that I was a counselor. About eight people stood and walked toward us. One guy walked right up to me. I recognized him as a teenage guy who was from the Methodist church next door. I had talked with him about Christianity before, and knew he didn't really "get it" even though he claimed to. So he and I went into a side room, and he explained that he wanted to start treating people better and let God change him. How cool is that! I told him that a prayer wouldn't change anything, in the sense that a simple prayer won't give him entrance to heaven, but I explained that asking God for help to change is where to start. So right there, he prayed that. Again, how cool is that! Even though I've been a Christian since I was nine years, I had never led anyone to Christ. But this guy came up to me out of twenty counselors. Can anyone say "God thing"?

Love for Him

This may sound really simple, but I don’t think that you can get into heaven without being fully in love with Jesus. I have yet to find anywhere in the Bible where it says that I can love Jesus with anything less than 100% of me and still make it to heaven. In the past three months, my eyes have been opened to this revolutionary idea. I discovered that I absolutely have to love Jesus above ALL else… or else I’m going to Hell. I can’t value myself, girls, sports, music, family, friends, high school, money, or anything above God. If I do, I cannot make it into heaven. It may sound harsh, but the Bible makes this clear.

Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." 

Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” The seed thrown on any other place other than the good soil never really grew. Only the seed that fell on good soil was considered a crop. So it is with when you follow Jesus. The Holy Spirit will only move in good soil. It won't dwell in any other soil, or type of person. But when the Gospel lands amongst those who are seeking for truth (those who strive to follow Jesus), it grows fruitfully and produces a wonderful harvest.

Then a teacher of the law came to Him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Another disciple said to Him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."

Jesus demands that we give up everything to follow Him. He won't accept any other option. He demands ultimate surrender or He'll give us the ultimate punishment. We have to be willing to surrender every part of our lives to God. There is no other option that will allow us to truly love Jesus.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why mercy?

When the Law was first read to 21-year-old King Josiah, he tore his robes. This was considered an act of great anxiety and remorse. Now that King Josiah had God's Word, he wanted to know more about God. So some priests went to a prophetess. She declared that God would destroy Judah because of the country's disobedience. Yet God did not forget King Josiah's response to hearing His World. He told Josiah, "Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the LORD... your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place." 

To put this story in modern terms, perhaps you have heard of the University of Southern California's legal problems. Four or five years ago, they broke several NCAA regulations. The NCAA found out this year, and placed sanctions on USC for the next four years. So why punish the students enrolled now instead of the students enrolled then? The previous students committed the wrong, so why leave them unpunished and punish the next generation of USC students?

Why didn't God punished King Josiah and Judah right away? Why punish the next generation?

Perhaps because God knew He could still use His people. Let's look at God's two options. One, he could wipe out Judah. That would be that. Two, he could delay the punishment. This would extend the lives on the current generation and allow another generation to rise up. If God went with option two, He could still use Judah for His glory and purposes. The second generation, then, would be obligated to follow God since they existed truly only because of God's mercy. They wouldn't exist if God hadn't taken mercy upon the previous generation. It would also give God more opportunities to grow closer to His people. It allowed more room for intimacy in His relationship with His people.

Maybe this is why God had mercy. Maybe because He knew that if He extended the punishment, a whole new generation would rise up, which whom He would woo and love. This is, after all, all God cares about. He only wants to love us, not destroy us. Maybe this is why God had mercy.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Passion for God

Since I started truly living for Jesus in the past year, my relationship with Him has been increasingly intimate. I have learned to be completely real with Him. To tell Him everything. To not withhold any information, secrets, struggles, burdens, concerns, or hopes. My prayers are more open and bold. I can tell God pretty much everything. To me, Jesus was my Savior, Lord, Lover, Giver, Helper, Counselor, and Adviser.

Yet my understanding of God was too small to see that there were other types of relationships we can share with Him. In Crazy Love, author Francis Chan explained his understanding of relationships with God. He said that our relationships with God can be connected to one of two things: intimacy or reverence. The more sensitive people lean towards being intimate with God, as they call Him their Lover, Friend, Helper, Counselor, and Companion. Those who are more reverent with God tend to view Him as the Savior, Perfect Judge, the One to be feared, and the Great and Holy God sitting upon His heavenly throne.

For the last few weeks, I started to see God more reverently than intimately. I've had more respect and an unapproachable feeling about Him. I felt disconnected as a result. My Bible didn't jump out at me. Worship had grown tiresome since it was the same thirty songs over and over and over again. My prayer life seemed shallow and like I was just praying for the sake of prayer, not to talk to God.

But now I've grown to love God with an intimate passion again. God wired me to love with intimacy and not respect. While it's good to have a conscience fear, awe, and respect of God, I value God more when I can tell Him about my struggles, dreams, and desires more so than when God feels unapproachable. Who wants a Creator that can never be approached? I want a relationship with a God who will hold me in His arms, cry with me, and never let me go.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pray for Pete

Please pray for my elderly friend Mr. Pete. His daughter passed away from a disease that took her very quickly. The only family member Pete now has is his grandson, who is in his mid-twenties. My younger brother runs a ministry where he goes once a week and plays Wii bowling with elderly people at a retirement center. Pete has found a new passion is Wii bowling, and his average score is much higher than my own. Pray Pete won't feel lonely and he'll find many loving and caring friends!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Test Of Love

In American, one of Satan's biggest advantages is we are easily fooled. American culture places heavy value on appearance. "Image is all that matters." Our vision is easily veiled and clouded, while we do not know it. This is proven by how many people attend church, thinking this will earn their salvation. This is proven by the children's curriculum that teaches the ABC's of becoming a Christian, along with encouraging children to simply pray a prayer that would magically invite Jesus into their hearts.

The Bible repeatedly says Christians should evaluate and test themselves regularly (2 Corin. 13:5). This can be done in many ways. One way I learned helped place love in a whole new light. It is found in 1 Corinthians 13. 

I'm sure you've read this passage before, right? It's one of the most well-known in the Bible, which is why it is so effective. I cannot recall the dozens upon dozens of times I have read or heard this passage. But it wasn't until Francis Chan used this passage to open my eyes that I saw it for what it truly is. You see, we have come to view this passage in a cloudy way; we don't see it as it was intended. Allow me to explain. The first thing you must do is read the passage: 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Chances are you probably skimmed through most of this. But backtrack for a moment and ask yourself, What does this really mean? Often, this is our definition of love. It describes a selfless love that focuses on the other person(s). After reading this passage, the reader might think, If only this is how love worked in marriages today. Then the divorce rate would go down. Sorry, but that's the wrong idea here. Now, go back and read the passage again, but replace where love is referenced with your name. For example, "LoVizzle is patient, LoVizzle is kind..."

I do not know about you, but when I first did this, I felt dirty and rotten. I felt so wrong! I'm a child of God, but I'm impatient, unkind, envious of those richer, easily angered, I keep record of those who wrong me, etc. I realized I am not love! I think I am a loving, kind, friendly person, but after reading this, I am convinced that I am not. The more I think about it, the cliche "I'll scratch your back if you scratch my back" comes to mind. I really only care about the people who can in some way benefit me, whether it's through friendship, learning from them, or earning their respect, approval, or praise. I rarely do something knowing that I will get absolutely nothing in return.

"Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." 

How counter-cultural is this! I can't think of one time where we invited someone over for dinner, not expecting to have them over again or go to their house eventually or benefit from them in some way. I act in one way; Jesus taught another. There is only one word for this: sin. While I am guilty and shamed of my disobedience, I pray that God will teach and mold me to become more like Him. After all, God is love.