Friday, January 28, 2011

We Offer All

I love to worship. I love to sing, sometimes even dance. On Sunday mornings at church, worship tends to bore me, but when there's a big youth worship service, it is so much fun to worship and praise God! My friend David's older sister, Danya, has her own band and when they lead worship, it is such an awesome experience! I love to listen to Hillsong, because their albums always bring peace, contentment, and such joy into me that I can't help but worship Jesus! Recently, a new Hillsong band formed, called Hillsong Chapel. Their first album, Yahweh, is a collection of some of Hillsong's most prominent songs turned acoustic. The fun electric guitars are replaced by acoustic guitars and soft, worshipful music.

Worship, though, is not confined to singing. I worship through prayer, through my thoughts and action, through reading my Bible, through being involved at church, through this blog. For me, singing is just a passionate vocalization of my faith, love, and trust in God. I love to sing as loud as I can to songs that I feel in my heart. I can't think of anything better to do than worship God! I love a good, passionate worship service. Why? Because God wants me to worship. God designed me to worship. Worship makes me feel close to him. I feel loved and wanted when I worship. I feel valuable and like His son when I worship. Worship is a beautiful reminder of the freedom, forgiveness, and redemption God gave me at the cross.

The reason I love Hillsong is their lyrics are so simple, so powerful that I cannot ignore them. They remind me of Psalms. See why in the chorus of the One Who Saves, "We have found our home, we have found our peace, we have found our rest, in the One who loves, He will light the way, He will lead us home, as we offer all, to the One who saves us."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Freedom to Dream

This past week, I've really felt close to God. I've been reading Chazown by Craig Groeschel. As many times as I have praised this book before, I cannot help but repeat my love for it. I've been reading the section where Craig describes how to find my Chazown. To give a short review, Craig has already had me match up my past experiences (good and bad), core values, and spiritual gifts to see what Chazown (vision, dream) God created me to live out. One of my favorite parts is when Craig wrote, "So give yourself freedom to dream! Let your dream overtake you. You were created one of a kind by God to show His love in a one-of-a-kind way to this world." God's given me a dream. Because of this book, I've discovered the vision God created me to accomplish. It blows me away to think that God predestined me for a specific, detailed dream, a dream that He created me specifically to live out, a dream that is mine to fulfill or ruin. I remember what Lady Galadrael told Frodo in Return of the King, "This is your burden to bear, Frodo Baggins. If you can't carry it, no one can."

My Chazown is mine, and God has fully equiped me to carry it out. My past experiences, my spiritual gifts, my core values, and the Holy Spirit are my weapons of warfare to daily live out my God-ordained dream.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Now, It's About Me

From the moment I started going to Madison First Baptist, I was a leader. I was one of the few students who had been a Christian for more than a few years, and consequentially, I had the potential to be a very good leader. After several months and hard lessons learned later, I grew into my role. Last year, 2010, was a year of significant growth for me. In the winter and spring, I began to change and even though I was still arrogant and a little foolish, Christ was really working on me. Christ was shaping me into a leader and a mature Christian, and it was one of the most exciting times of my life.

That growth period spilled over into the summer, where Christ worked on my inappropriate behavior and communication skills. Up until last summer, I was almost constantly scolded by friends and family for my bad jokes, rudeness, and pervertedness. I hardly knew how to communicate without tearing others down or making fun of people. Last summer, that began to change. I joked less, communicated maturely, and matured all around.

Up until this Christmas break, my entire mentality towards the youth group was about everyone else. Since I was one of the few strong Christians, I for some reason thought most of the lessons, parties, conversations were driven towards the other students. I'm not saying I am one of those people who thinks everything is for other people, but I also believed the purpose of the youth ministry was to convert the non-Christians in the group to Christ. Since I was a Christian and since most lessons or sermons seemed directed towards people who never do anything, I assumed the point was to help the kids off the street, or the group of middle school girls, or the lost high school students. Unfortunately, most kids from these three groups don;t come anymore.

So what do we do? For my youth pastor and his wife and the other Christians in the group, it's hard to know the purpose when teenagers don't come back. It's so disheartening to plan events and have only the same four students show up. Slowly, I think, the focus may switch to us. When I say us, I mean my brother and I and our two best friends. The four of us see each other nearly every day of the week. We're an almost inseparable group of friends who do almost everything together. We are the only four guaranteed to show up for a youth event, the only four consistently at church, and, unfortunately, the only four who really seem to care about church or God. So why shouldn't the focus be on the students who care, who'll willingly learn, who will grow, who will grow up to be godly young men?

I'm writing this to put my thoughts down on paper and to wrap my head around this huge change. It feels weird to have the focus be on me and my relationship with Christ. My, how times are changing.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"Don't Fret: It'll Only Lead To Evil"

Have you ever it happen when something's been going on in your life and it's all you can focus on, and then you open your Bible and read something that seems completely written for you in that exact moment on time? I don't know about you, but when that happens to me, it just plain old rocks! This morning, I'd been very angry and agitated with a friend and basketball teammate. Lately, he's been cocky, arrogant, and disrespectful to me. I'm sort of an unofficial team captain, and so I expect respect when I call a play on the court. Sometimes, a player or two will disrespect my leadership, but I didn't expect the first friend I made in Tennessee to begin to compete with my leadership position and disregard my play calls. To put it bluntly, I wanted to give him a piece of my mind, and a face load of fist.

This morning, I opened my Bible. Deciding to read Psalms, I thumbed to one of my favorites areas of the Bible: the 30s chapters in Psalms. I read a few random sections of 34-36, and was unimpressed and bored. Then I read 37. Psalm 37 always gets me excited, but my eyes grew wide with amazement when I read the first dozen verses this morning. The first several verses are incredibly profound and at the same time, very plain, but I won't quote them for time's sake, but I advise you to look them up. Here's what caught my attention:

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.

Do you see that?! King David advised that we shouldn't get put out when people get their way or when their evil schemes succeed. I love that he simply says, "Do not fret- it leads only to evil". Fretting was all I was doing. My mindset was a "righteous pouting", but it was still sinful and selfish.

This particular chapter makes me feel that if I remain quiet, live in His presence, wait for His guidance, and trust that He will deliver, that will be the place God wants me to be and won't forget about my obedience. But anyway, it's obvious in the Bible that the evil people will succeed on earth. It's also obvious that evil people won't succeed in eternal life. It's also obvious if Christians put our hope in Him, wait for Him, and keep our eyes off the successful evil people, we'll be delivered into a glorious relationship with Jesus.

King David also wrote in Psalm 37, "Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun." I honestly cannot say it any better than David here. Commit to God and trust in Him and this is the guaranteed result: He'll make your righteousness shine like the dawn and the justice of your cause will be as obvious as the sun. In other words, trust in God, and not only will He keep you safe and secure, He'll even raise you up in glorious victory over your enemies!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Character and Perseverance

Last night, my basketball team played a rival school. After the first few minutes of the game, we were tied 10-10. A few bad plays later, we were down 40-15 at half time. It's so depressing, so crushing, so will-breaking when that happens. I had every intention of winning that game, and we narrowed the final margin to 61-44. Our team had a lot of positives that night. We scored more than we had in a game. I got my groove back. We hustled like never before. But we still make some very bad mistakes and forget our coaching. We've played around 15 games already, and won only two. We're getting better, we're playing harder, we're scoring more, and yet we're still losing badly. I wanted to quit and cry at halftime over the misery, but then I realized something: this is where character and perseverance are built.

When you have character, you won't sweat a loss so much. When you have character, you won't cuss the other team out, or rant on your own team's mistakes. Perseverance enables you to keep going after a tough loss. It'll help you accept your losses and focus on how to win next time. These two core values combined will help you focus on the game and not the score. They'll make you realize it's not worth having a rotten attitude.

I could whine or bemoan myself. Sure, but what'll that do? If nothing else, it'd be sinful. I realized last night that a real man wouldn't have a bad attitude after a game. I've seen teammates explode on teammates, and coaches cuss players out, and players walk out on coaches, all because of bad attitudes. With a good attitude and heavenly mindset, you won't have a stinky attitude or even think about cussing anyone out or quitting.

Those are two core values I want because I want to keep my cool through hard circumstances and to stand strong amidst terrible loses, on or off the court. I don't want to be so emotionally weak that I blame everyone except myself, or get angry with a teammate, or argue with my coach. It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"Crap, I Said A Bad Word!"

The controversial topic of inappropriate language has been on my mind a lot. The Bible clearly states is several places to not use foul or perverted language, and to not take the Lord's name in vein (a.k.a., don't cuss). It's pretty easy to not cuss. They're words easily withheld from the spoken vocabulary. Not using foul or perverted language? That's tough. For those in the habit of it, it's almost impossible to not tell that bathroom joke or call your annoying brother a butthead. Up until an adult friend at church reprimanded me two summers ago, I would tell any kind of joke there was. Blonde joke, lame joke, sexual joke, racist joke, homeschooler joke, your momma joke, etc. There's nothing wrong with humor; God has a pretty enormous sense of it. But it's when we allow that humor to become dirty and degrading that it becomes sinful. The Bible is clear-cut on that issue. It isn't appropriate of His ambassadors to degrade black people with humor or tell a lame joke about sex. That's plain and simple.

But there's an area that isn't exactly clear. What about the substitute words? Is it okay to say crap, freakin, dang, darn, etc.? I assume by now that you're pretty surprised that I would ask that. After all, there's nothing wrong with saying those words, right? They don't mean anything bad, do they? They actually may mean something bad. For example, crap has the same literal, word-for-word definition as shit. At my previous homeschool co-op, crap was used every other word. My mom, as the director, publically asked everyone if they would say shit instead of crap, and if they wouldn't because "shit is a bad word", then we shouldn't say "crap" because they mean the same thing." Crap was scarcely said after that. Unfortuantely, I picked the word up from some bad friends two years and still say it a lot. I also say things like "that was freakin awesome!" or "dangit" or "crap, I missed".

This isn't a post where I communicate my firm beliefs. I actually don't know what to believe here. My youth pastor, however, is firm in his decision to not say those kinds of words. He explained it to me once, but I cannot remember what his exact reasoning was. I believe that it was since he didn't know if the words were okay to say or not, he just wouldn't say them. He wants to air on the side of caution and integrity. Better safe than sorry. The Bible also says we'll have to give an account for every idle word we speak. If these words are idle, if we can say what we mean to say without these words, then maybe it's better to not say them. Then again, I could just as easily say there's nothing wrong with it. Since I'm not sure, I want to know what my readers think. Do you think these words are okay or not okay to use?

If you're trying to decide whether or not something is wrong, ask yourself instead of it's right, and then make your decision.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Put Some Clothes On!

Some girls say that the reason they dress modestly is to not tempt Christian brothers. Others say it's because they don't want to look slutty. Others want to dress modestly to look their best for God. For some reason, none of these reasons seems exactly correct to me. Sure, they are good reasons to not show off your body, but for some reason, those reaons don't sit well with me. The most common reason I hear the most is the temptation one. Whenever I hear that reason, albeit it's very thoughtful of us guys, I cannot help but wonder if a girl who says that dresses immodestly when she's alone at home without any boys around. That raises an entirely separate issue of whether or not it is okay to dress inappropraitely in privacy. However, tackling that issue would take too much time, and I prefer to keep my posts as short as possible.

So to put it simply, what is true modesty? Is modesty dressing appropriately when in public? Is modesty attainable by concealing cleavage or wearing longer shorts? Or is it when a girl has such outstanding purity in her heart and mind that in the way she dressed, speaks, and controls her body, she directs her Christian brothers to pure thoughts and conversations?

I have seen girls who only wear t-shirts and jeans but are still immodest by the way they talk to boys and move their bodies. There's a particular girl I know who prides herself by claiming to not dress "like a slut", as she says. It's true that she doesn't always wear tight shirts with plunging necklines or booty shorts. Occassionally, she will don a revealing top or just-too-short skirt or shorts. But what I notice is while her clothing doesn't always promote her sexuality, her actions and body language tend to be suggestive.

On the other hand, I have also seen girls advertise their bodies in a very sexual manner, but they are so innocent and childlike that they don't realize how their actions impact young men. I love to hear my youth pastor tell the story of how he had to deal with a young lady at the first church he was youth pastor at. There was one particular teenage girl at the church that was an absolute beauty, with a gorgeous face, lovely features, and desirable feminine shape. The problem was, he said, she didn't realize the impact her body had on men.

And this isn't just for girls; boys can be immodest too. Don't believe me? What about the guys who show off their abs or flaunt their pecks? I'm pretty sure that would make Christian girls lust (depending on how hardcore the guy's muscles are).  

In conclusion, it all comes down to how your heart. Modesty is so much more than simply wearing proper clothing. It's about your principles, your purity, your steadfastness to remain pure. How you dress reflects your heart, and it's all about your heart. The way you dress is a result of the purity, integrity, and character in your heat. I advise you, brothers and sisters, to dress well.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bad Clothes

Last summer, I went to Ichthus Music Festival in Kentucky. It had almost every big Christian band out there: Casting Crowns, Swiftfoot, RED, Lecrae, Thousand Foot Krutch, Aaron Gillespie, Disciple, The Afters, Addison Road, Skillet, The Devil Wears Prada, Philmont, tobyMac, Newsboys, Barlowgirl, and scores more. Since music is such a huge obsession of mine, this was naturally a heaven-on-earth experience. The only downside is it an's outside event, so it was very hot, day and night. Tempurature never fell below 90. Everyone was sweaty, stinky, and desperate for shade or water. Nevertheless, it was a great experience. The festival is held at a farm with seven stages, at which artists perform from noon to 2 AM. Twenty-five thousand people attend the festival last summer, most of them teenagers. I went with some friends, among them being my best friend David. As we walked around the festival, it felt as if we were at a small town. It had skating parks, showerhouses, merch tents, food vendors, autograph tents, radio tents, seven stages, and hundreds of camp sites, overfilling with RVs and tents. It was surreal!

It's a Christian event with scores and scores of popular and unknown Christian bands. Chick-Fil-A was there, along with many big name speakers, and several well-known Christian radio stations were there as sponsors. So naturally, my friend David and I believed that many people there would be Christians. Right? Not exactly. David and I were surprised at the many teenage couples there. Not everybody was a couple, but there were far more pairs or threes than I expected. But that wasn't what really caught my eye. What truly shocked us was the immodesty of the girls. I only saw a few of girls wearing modest shorts. Only a handful of teenage girls wore long shorts or jeans. Granted, it was very hot, but I had a feeling it wasn't simply the heat to blame for the incredible amount of skin shown. The shirts were not as immodest, but there was still an very surprising amount of cleavage revealed. The countless number of short shorts and diving necklines that the young women clad themselves in worried me. As David and I discussed the issue, we were very surprised at the lack of integrity or modest at a Christian event. The Bible makes it clear Christians should "flee from sexual immorality", and these girls were literally dressing in sexual temptation!

If these girls dressed that way at a hot festival away from home, they likely dressed that way when it was hot at home, too. What did that mean? While I won't jump to conclusions and say that girls who dress poorly aren't Christians, I am saying that girls who dress poorly are sinning. And while I'm not saying that simply attending Christian festivals makes you a Christians, I'm saying that around 90% of the teenage girls at this Christian festival (a festival with 25,000 people) were not dressed like a strong Christian girl would. And while I certainly don't want to judge anyone based on their clothes, I do dare oppose the young women who call themselves lovers of God but willingly dress as prostitutes. If you feel like I'm stepping on your toes here, think about it this way. If 90% percent of the young men at a Christian festival or conference were cussing, or getting into fights, or being handsy with girls, wouldn't you say they would be acting like non-Christians?

I expected a few immodestly dressed girls, and I wouldn't be upset if a few scantily clad girls showed up at church. But what if almost every teenage girl at your church dressed poorly? How could that reflect on the church, or the youth ministry, or even the young girls' relationship with God? It'd be wrong to say that wearing skimpy clothing makes you a non-Christian. But it'd be incorrect to say that racy clothing isn't harmful or appropriate or that it doesn't tempt.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Christian John Conner

Have you ever had a dream that changed your life? I've read in the Old Testament in many different situations where God spoke to someone through a dream, and it changed their life. The best example is the dreams that Joseph had. He had some crazy dreams about wheat and cows. But have you ever had a life-changing dream? I often hear from religious people that God doesn't speak through dreams anymore, but I dare to say different. Why? Because I had one epic dream last night.

I didn't have a crazy dream about aliens, or the rapture, or who I'll marry. An angel didn't speak to me and tell me what college to go to, or how to invest my money. I didn't have a prophetic dream about a major event in world history. In my dream, something far more rattling happened: I died.

Like most dreams, my memory starts partway through the dream. My earliest memory in the dream is that I was having a good time, laughing. Then, I was taken away by men in suits to a room with a table. I was told by a man in a suit that I had some sort of disease. A fatal disease. I would be dead within a day, and they would sedate me so it wouldn't hurt. My memory is scattered from then on, but I distinctly remembered being allowed to go home and say goodbye to my cat, which caused me to cry (that sounds girly, but hey, I love my cat). The only people who knew about my eventual death was my family, and I was too scared to let anyone else know. I remember holding my cell phone, knowing I needed to call a few friends to get right with them, but I was too scared. I remember thinking about what I wished I had done differently, and what mistakes I wished I had not made. To compile my shaky and weepy emotions into one word, I felt regret. I remember that I didn't want to die. Then, I remember being strapped down by people in white coats. I remember seeing my life pass before me. I can remember a pure white clouding my vision... then nothing.

I'm not sure why I felt regret. Sure, I've made enough mistakes in my life for two people, but when I die, I doubt that I'll be feeling regret. I'm pretty sure my mind will be on where I'm about to be and Who I'm about to be with. In addition to this bewildering dream, I watched Left Behind 2 tonight. This movie turned my thoughts and focus on post-rapture life. I thought about illegally living for Christ. I thought about what it would be like to follow God, knowing that doing so would surely be signing my death sentence.

To top off these two thought-provoking events, something else happened last night: I felt God's spirit telling me to become a pastor. I thought about my believed calling to being a spiritual leader. I have some very interesting desires and wants. I have a thirst for God's word. A passion for martyrdom. A desire for Christianity to become illegal in America. A desire to become a Christian version of John Conner. This is pure speculation, but assuming things will soon get rough for Christians in America, or around the world, I can't help but wonder if God has a specific purpose for me to become a known Christian and leader. Who knows? I sense the same mindset and desires in my youth pastor.

I have no clue what will happen in the near future, or in my lifetime. But I know that I will serve God with an undying passion, just like Buck Williams in Left Behind. Maybe it's time for me to stop behaving like a Christian teenager, put childish things behind me, and be the man God wants me to be.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Basketball and Eternity

Losing is not fun. It hurts to lose basketball games, and it especially hurts to lose watching from the bench. But I was used to the bench, since I've never been a starter. That changed this season, when I became a starter and unofficial team captain. So why was I on the bench? I wish I could say. I don't know why. I was not played as much as normal last night, and I was not played as much in two of three tournament games today. After losing the last game to finish in third place, I wasn't happy. I didn't like many of the coach's decisions. I knew two guys playing for the other team, and really wanted to beat them. The team was rewarded with a very tall and shiny 3rd place trophy, but I muttered under my breath, "In what kinda tournament do you go 1-2 and still win 3rd place?" All of this to say, I had a bad attitude. I didn't wanna talk to anyone, and needed to blow some steam.

On the way home, I played Hillsong Chapel's new album on my iPod. As I focused on the lyrics, it hit me: losing is irrelevant. I realized that there's really only two important things: that God defeated evil and the war is already over, and that the only thing I can do now is keep up the good fight until King Jesus comes to eliminate all evil with epic finality. I am offered immense and incomprehensible hope in Jesus' name because He has done everything for us, and simply asks us to follow Him, train ourselves to fight for Him, and trust in His promises.

It seems so simple! When you really think about it, we have it so easy. Look at how the Old Testament people had to live. They pretty much were told to do an endless list of painstaking rules and regulations. But us, here, today? We're in good Hands, as long as we follow God with everything we have and never lose faith, hope, or love. God will reign forever and ever, and what we do with our life here will decide whether or not we'll reign with Him.

So while I may still be upset about my lack of playing time, I have to look at the situation through God's eyes. Even though there's only eight of us Junior Varsity players, and even though we've only won two games, and even though we're not a very good team, and even though the plan was to get a job and dual-enroll and not play, God wants me to play basketball this year. It's hard to accept that, because since this isn't a worldly success, it seems wasteful. But God sees it very differently. Through playing this year, I've learned irreplaceable leadership qualities, I've become good friends with some nice young men and a fun and energetic coach, and I've matured greatly. Of course I hate playing only Varsity teams (and getting crushed by them). Of course I don't like being a Junior on JV. Of course a job and college credits seem like a "better" plan for my future. But it obviously isn't what God wants, so even though it feels wasteful and like a painful failure, God wants me to play basketball. Why? Because this is just another step in training myself to be a better soldier in my King's army.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Drain My Dross

When I think of purity, the image of a teenage girl who wants to save herself for her future husband pops into my head. Purity seems to be something only "good Christian girls" should care about. It's inconsequential, or renamed, for the rest of us.

Many girls that I know have purity rings. Only a few guy friends have one. I always thought that I didn't need a purity ring because a metal circle on my finger was inconsequential to my purity."Whether or not I have a ring," I reasoned, "I'm going to keep my virginity." It wasn't until recently that I realized that the purpose of a purity ring has nothing to do with your actual purity. A purity ring is much like baptism. Baptism doesn't save you. It won't earn you a place in heaven, nor does it guarantee your relationship with Jesus. Faith and actions, along with God's love, faithfulness, and grace, do that. Baptism is a herald publicizing your recent commitment to God. It is the same with purity rings. Purity rings are small, silver heralds proclaiming your decision to save your virginity and sexuality for your future spouse. These rings indicate that you have high standards for your spouse. Constantly wearing your ring symbolizes your on-going selfless loyalty to your spouse.

Purity, like baptism, is utterly pointless the ring is as far as your purity goes. Simply wearing a ring will not and cannot make you decide to be chaste, or save your kisses. Wearing one will not stop you from slipping into a girlfriend's bed, or sneaking around online. The ring is only relevant if you are unwavering in your commitment to keep your virginity. It only matters if you truly desire to be sexually pure. Baptism means nothing if you haven't committed to following Christ, and the ring doesn't matter if you refuse to be pure with your body or mind.

Purity and innocence are synonyms. They are interchangeable words with the same dictionary definition. They mean being free from guilt, being blameless, pure from waste or dross or anything that contaminates, or freedom from foreign or inappropriate elements. When you are pure, you have been and are being careful to be correct in your innocence.

King David wrote, "Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart— they do no wrong but follow his ways." These are the blessings that I want for my life! I want to be blessed for my blamelessness, my walk with God, for keeping his statutes and seeking Him, for not doing wrong. These blessings are so much more valuable and fulfilling than the "blessings" of sex before marriage.

But how can I be pure? King David answers, "How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."

I want to stand at the wedding altar and know that I saved myself from her, my first kiss and virginity and even my mind. What better wedding gift to give my wife than to give her the knowledge and security that I've saved myself for her!

Monday, January 3, 2011

So why choose integrity?

Integrity. It's something we all should desire. Integrity means you can be trusted. It means that you will have the benefit-of-the-doubt. It means that you can be counted on to do what you're asked to do, or not to do. It means when you are behind closed doors, you won't succumb to temptation, but rather continue to live a holy life.

The word integrity instantly reminds me of Tony Dungy. I'm sure he needs no introduction. Throughout his career, Tony Dungy was known for his faith, honesty, integrity, and righteousness. Even non-Christians and people from other religions were able to respect him. No matter who interviewed him or who he talked to, people were able to see that he was a man of God and meant serious business. The American people were able to see how he reacted when his son Jamie committed suicide. They were able to watch as he began to work with male prisoners and begin mentorship and discipleship of prisonmates, of which included Michael Vick. They could see the humble love and respect he had for his family when he retired from coaching the Indianapolis Colts to simply be a father and husband. The people could trust him and respect him because of his integrity. That is the type of integrity that I want for myself.

In Psalms 7, King David cried out, "Vindicate me, LORD, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High." I want to be at a place in my life where I can challange God like that. I want to be able to have such confidence in my blamelessness that I want people to look into my life, anywhere they wish, and see that I have been trustworthy and pure in my conversations, thoughts, and actions.

Proverbs 10:9 says that "whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out." Another verse in Proverbs declares that righteousness is side-by-side with integrity by saying, "Righteousness guards the person of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner."

So why choose integrity? Why choose a very hard life of self-sacrifice, devotion to purity, and "boredom"? Why not sneak around online, kiss a few girls, smoke a little here and there, take a few dollars out of the offering plate, or get high while at a friend's house? King David explains it very simply. In one simple verse, he's able to capture the blatant honesty and everlasting promise that God gives us if we choose integrity. He wrote, "Because of my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever." This verse is so powerful, so fulfilling, so hopeful, I have to repeat it! "Because of my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever." Can it get any better than that? God will be close to us, lift us up, and ensure our salvation and place in the Book of Life! But only if we choose integrity. So what sounds better to you? Sneaking around, secret fun, getting drunk and getting high? Or intimacy with the Creator, righteousness and purity, and an eternal place in the presence of God?