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.