Sunday, February 27, 2011

Handling Instruction

When a person has an unteachable spirit, they're arrogant, prideful, and conceited. Have you ever been around an unteachable person? I've played basketball with two people who couldn't take instruction. The coaches couldn't stand them. Most teammates wanted to vote them off the team. Because these two guys thought they knew more, could play better, and deserved more praise, nobody liked them.

A coach will love a player more if the player obeys the coach more than for anything else. I know some players that aren't very good, but the coach just loves them. Why? They do what the coach asks. On the other hand, I know some very skilled players who no longer play with a school or who sit the bench because they refuse to be coached.

I learned a few years ago to do what I'm asked. Most of the time, it's just easier to not ask questions or make suggestions or complain. When I"m corrected or disciplined, I will realize what I did wrong and make the necessary adjustments. That is the best way to do it. I have a teachable spirit. When I'm wrong, I'll admit it. I'll be ready for the next time.

Proverbs 10:17 says, "He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray." A Christian should heed discipline to set the example. What kind of Christ-follower would I look like if I argued and whined everytime I was corrected? But not only will heeding discipline set the Christian example, it may also save your life. This verse is clear that if we ignore correction, we'll also lead others astray. In other words, if we don't take correction, those who look up to us or are watching us will see that and follow our lead. The last thing I want on my conscience is the fact I led someone astray! I don't want someone to make a mistake that could negatively impact his life because he saw me reject correction. It's my goal to lead others to Christ and be His light, not deceive others and disobey my coach, teacher, or boss.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Me vs. the World

One of the most dangerous mentalities a Christian can have is "me vs. the world." I know Christians with this mindset. They put too much focus and energy on themselves. They are deceived into believing they are the only Christians or that they are the only ones making a difference. They believe they are “God's gift to the world.” The irony is that they are unwittingly working for the devil.

I used to think it was “me vs. the world.” I knew other Christians, but I felt like I was the only one “making a difference.” I thought I was a super-Christian. Pride blocked me from seeing the contributions other Christians made to the cause. Arrogance led me to judge who was and wasn’t a Christian. I thought I could do everything and that I would never do anything wrong. As I aspired to be one of the "best" Christians, I thought I knew it all. I was wrong.

Arrogance and pride deceived me, and I am ashamed of that. I am humbled by the lessons I learned. Godly friends mean more to me now than ever before. No longer do I take relationships for granted. I know that I cannot face the pressures of the world on my own. I need others in my life to encourage me, fight with me, help me grow, and to love me. I need others to keep me accountable, to teach me, to show me how to live. I

It's impossible to survive in this world without each other. Please don’t waste your life believing the lie. You cannot do it on your own.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Wise Man Fears the Lord

The "good kids" in the body of believers are a big problem. In my homeschool umbrella program, there is a large number of "good kids." I'm talking about the type of kids who don't do drugs, keep their rooms clean, do their homework, and don't have sex. The first impression is that most kids in my school are Christians. But these "good kids" are spiritually shallow. They may not disobey school rules, or they may not be trouble-makers or rebel-rousers, but that's as far as it goes. I only have a few friends with whom I can discuss spiritual matters or theological foundations. My other friends only talk about music, movies, each other, or homework. Where is the spiritual meat?

I am a Junior and have attended my umbrella school's tutorial program for three years. Being one of the most-liked and popular kids at school, I've got a lot of friends. Some are bad eggs. But others are really nice people. Some are fun to be around. Others are hilarious and never boring to be around. Still others are always smiling and seem to love life. But I can count the strong Christians on two hands. I can tell who loves Jesus. I can see who reads their Bibles each morning. I notice who draws the line. I notice who doesn't. I can tell who enjoys to serve and learn at church. And what is worse is I can count the number of strong Christian high school students at church on one hand.

Proverbs 13:20 says, "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm." A few verses following, Proverbs 14:16 says, "A wise man fears the Lord." I don't want to say that these "good kids" at school and church are fools. The Bible says it for me. According to God's Word, unless we are children of God, unless we have a relationship with Christ, unless we accept His gift of grace and love and redemption, we are lost. We enter this world spiritually blind and naked and only Christ can give us sight to see and clothes of righteousness. Being a "good kid" or "better than the rest" doesn't cut it. I do not want to be known as a "good kid" or a "very nice young man." I want to be admired for my dedication to Christ. I want His love for me to be my reputation, not my "good" deeds. I want my indentity to be Christ and Christ alone. And I want my friends to lead the same lives. I wish to walk with the wise so that I may grow wise.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"...Everyone knows that..."

Everyone has thought this. I most often think this in Sunday School or when in deep discussion with friends. When someone expresses an opinion about Christianity that I don't agree with, sometimes I'll keep quite. I won't offer my opinion unless they believe a totally unintelligent ideal. Usually, my excuse is "Why say what I believe? Everyone knows that viewpoint..." That thought is such a trap! When a belief is expressed by a friend and I don't agree with it, I think of my belief but don't share it. I think, "If they believe that way, they surely have considered the other options and chosen the one that makes most sense to them. Disagreeing would just make me look foolish." This type of thinking is simply not good. When I think that thought, it keeps me from speaking up and saying what I believe.

Many people don't grow up in church. Many people don't read the Bible. Since many people don't spend a lot of time with strong believers or in God's Word, they wouldn't know many Biblical or godly beliefs or foundations. Without that knowledge, they will believe something else. If nobody tells them something different, how can they ever know? Don't be afraid to share your beliefs. Without you expressing your beliefs, that belief may never be voiced.

Recently, a fellow blogger wrote about her interpretation of a verse. She thought it meant one thing; I always thought it meant another. I suggested my thought and she quickly and readily agreed with me, saying my interpretation made more sense. Voice your beliefs. Don't shrug it off. What if your belief changes a life? Speak up!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What Exactly Is A Prudent Wife?

A friend and fellow blogger, Ashley, author of Striving for a Crown, is posting a series about what it means to be a P31W (Proverbs 31 woman). What's really great is that her posts are derived straight from Proverbs; they're not just her opinions, they're Biblical facts! Her posts have directed a lot of my recent thinking to love and marriage. While flipping through Proverbs last night, a single verse seemed to just leap off the page. Proverbs 19:14 says, "Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord."

How awesome is that! That verse basically says, "God's the only One who can give you the wife you really want." Other people can give us other things, but no one besides God can really give us a wife. But wait a minute. What exactly is a prudent wife? My dictionary defines prudence as "cautious or discreet; provident or frugal." Prudence makes me think of a thoughtful planner. A prudent wife considers all options and makes the wisest and best decisions based on her expert and careful analysis.

Did you know there are a lot of Proverbs about prudence? Time for some rapid-fire Proverbs!

"A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps."

"Every prudent man acts out of knowledge, but a fool exposes his folly."

"The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception."

(See a pattern yet?)...

"The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge."

"A fool spurns his father’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.

There's an obvious pattern here. The prudent are smart, discerning, wise people. The fools are deceived, unintelligent, stupid people. Obviously, God wants us to be prudent rather than foolish. God values prudence because prudence shows wisdom, knowledge, patience, and discernment.

Fools rush into things without thinking about them, get burned, and die. That's pretty much the theme of Proverbs. The wicked, the evil, the foolish, the selfish man always die or have something bad happen to them. Proverbs 17:12 says it is "better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly." I don't know about you, but I don't ever want to meet a mama bear robbed of her cubs. Yet this verse says that'd be better that meeting a fool in his folly.
So Proverbs 12:4 says that "a wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones." Prudence is a very noble character! A prudent wife will know the best house cleaning supplies and groceries to buy. A prudent wife will know which moms are bad news and which to be friends with. A prudent wife recognizes when her husband has had a bad day and does what she can to cheer him up. A prudent wife can be trusted in all areas of family and house, and will excel in her wisdom, love, and kindness.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fools Blurt Out Folly

Communication is key. Good communication skills are necessary to be successful in live. I couldn't explain my struggles to my youth pastor if I couldn't articulate my problems well. I couldn't blog if I didn't know how to put thoughts on paper. I couldn't enjoy conversations with people of all ages if I didn't know how to simply talk and listen. I couldn't get a job if I didn't know how to promulgate myself in a positive manner.

In the book of Proverbs, there are dozens of verses about good, and bad, communication. Here's some of my favorites:

With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors, but through knowledge the righteous escape.

Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.

A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.

The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the speech of the upright rescues them.

Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk, and so the innocent escape trouble.

An honest witness tells the truth, but a false witness tells lies.

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.

The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool’s heart blurts out folly.

It's pretty obvious that good communication skills are imperitive. Here's what I learned from Proverbs: Always tell the truth, don't say bad words, be kind and uplifting, and hold my tongue when necessary.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Stuck In the Singles

There's a specific time in everyone's life where they have an exclusive opportunity to serve God without restraint. These years are set aside as a time of serving, of learning, of growing. Those who use their time wisely during these years grow up ready for life. Those who squander their time become lazy, weak, and unskilled. Needless to say, these years can be some of the best. But they can also become of the loneliest and most confusing. Ah, the single years. Gotta love em! Or maybe not...

The Harris brothers are pretty big on not wasting time. Bret and Alex wrote two books just on doing hard things! And Josh loves to write about how to use your single years as preparation for life and marriage. When I read their books two years ago, I agreed that dating would be a pretty big waste of time. I didn't see much value or return for my work in the dating scene. Actually, I saw drama, pain, temptation, and distractions more than anything. There's one teenage couple I know who've dated for just over two years. All the other couples I've seen get together and disband only lasted a few months at the most.

Dating is temporary and ineffective, at least in the teen years. I've also seen more pain, whining, and drama on Facebook because of dating than any other issue. Broken relationships leave awkward friendships, broken hearts, bitter enemies. Of course, the temptation is much higher in a relationship, as well.

The one that got me, more than the other three, was the distraction. My mind is wired to focus intensely on one thing. The times when I focus too much on a crush or get a girlfriend, life becomes less and less on God. My focus becomes on the girl, and God gets pushed to the back burner.

I'm a really romantic guy. I love love movies. Yes, I love the Notebook, Sense and Sensibility, the Princess Diaries, A Cinderella Story, Another Cinderella Story, Beauty and the Beast, and all the other greats! That's what's so hard to grasp. I love romance, and would give my right arm to fall in love. But I just don't have room in my heart yet for a woman and my God. I don't know how to fit both in. So I choose only God. And while that may sound degrading of my view of God, it's not! God created man and woman to fall in love and have kids and live our lives together. I just struggle with loving two things that much and keeping my primary focus on God and not her.

So for now, I'm stuck in the dreadful "single years". Que dramatic, creepy piano. But it's not as bad as it seems. Being single has hundreds of benefits I'm sure I'll miss when I'm married. It stinks to feel lonely all the time. It'd be nice to have a pretty little lady be head over heals for me. But one thing I know for sure is I don't want to waste these single years. I might as well make use of these years by doing things only single people can do!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

It's Annoying.

We all know these people. Everyone probably has one in their family, or in their class, or at work. Maybe you're one yourself. I used to be one; now I've cut back. These people get under your skin. They annoy the daylights out of you! Nobody likes them. I try to stay away from them; they are so unattractive and repel everyone. Who am I talking about? I'm talking about complainers. Complainers are never satisfied. Nothing is ever quite right around them. Whiners just see the negative in everything. It's annoying.

The book of Proverbs is riddled with verses about the negatives of a nagging, complaining wife. God grew tired of the Israelites' complaints and kicked them out of the holy land. 

So what should we do about whiners? The best advice I have to offer is "simply walk away." That's what I have to do. Sometimes, like when I'm in a car, I can't get away from it. But the best way to curb complaining is to change the subject or to wisely reprimand the whiner without whining in the process. If I told a complaining friend, "Dude, shut up and stop whining! You're so annoying!", that probably wouldn't be as effect as saying, "Hey man, can you please stop whining?". He would passionately point out how he wasn't whining, just "telling the truth" or "telling it like it is". Or he might call me "judgemental". But at least I tried to peaceably end the whines. If the complainer refused to stop complaining, I'd either leave or tell an adult.

Whining annoys everyone. Complainers won't be abundant in friends. Whiners can't enjoy life. Complainers drag others down with nagging comments. Whiners will never get the "Best Sportsmanship" or "Most Christlike" award. Complainers never have fun or enjoy themselves because they'd rather see the negative or downside. Whiners are never quite satisfied. Complainers focus on what they don't have rather than on what they have. Whiners see themselves as intelligent when everyone sees them as immature.

Nobody likes a whiner.

Friday, February 4, 2011

What Will I Be When I Grow Up?

Last night, I met my pastor at Starbucks. We spent just over an hour talking about what it means to be called to the ministry. See, in the past few months, I've felt a strong calling to ministry. I envision myself right now as becoming a pastor, but God hasn't given me a clear, without-a-doubt dream. I'm very comfortable on stage and I thoroughly enjoy public speaking. I'm a very skilled writer, as surely you see on this blog. I absolutely love to read my Bible. I'm so passionate about the church. I have a huge heart for the persecuted church. I desperately want to work with a group of strong Christians all fighting for the same purpose. I spend hours each day listening to Christian music, from rock to pop to praise to rap to screamo. I love football and basketball, and really enjoy watching sports on TV. These are the obvious attributes about me right now. But I don't know what how that translates for the rest of my life. How can I know what I'll be when I "grow up" when I have so many areas of interest and skill! I could become a ESPN the Magazine writer, pastor, beat writer for a newspaper, missionary, youth pastor, music reviewer, ESPN blogger, anything! But how do I know which choice is right for me?

Charles Spurgeon, the late great preacher, said, "Do not enter the ministry if you can help it... But, if he cannot help it, and he must preach or die, then he is the man." I think that's how it works for all godly callings. If God wants me to preach, then I must preach or I'll die! If God wants me to become a missionary, then I must travel abroad and deliver the Good News or I'll die. If God wants me to become the sports or religion or music writer for a newspaper, then I have to write or I'll die. If I have that intense, all-absorbing desire to do a specific work, then that's what God wants me to do. So many people waste their talents and dreams because they chose a different career. I know of people who chose a different career because of money, and it ruined them. They became unhappy because they weren't doing what they were born to do.

I don't want to miss my dream. But I can't focus on finding my dream. If I worry or stress about it, I could actually miss it. If I just follow God step-by-step and trust in His guidance, I'm sure He will lead and direct me to the career I was born to have.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Feed The Machine

Yesterday, popular Christian rock band Red released their highly anticipated third album Until We Have Faces. The theme of the album title is finding your identity.The first song of the album, Feed the Machine, is a song riddled with twisted irony. It's about a person who directs all energy towards fitting in with society, but ends up depressed and desperate. The song talks about how striving to fit in or to be cool leaves you dry, desensitized, and internally dead.

My favorite part of the song (besides when Barnes screams Wake up! repeatedly) are the introductions to the choruses. Lead singer Michael Barnes sings, "You need the danger just to feel your heart beat, you need to die just to find your identity, you need the knife just to know that you can bleed, you need the pain now just to feel anything... you need another death just to save a life, you need a master just so you can beg, you need a light just because you're afraid, now bow and learn to be a good slave."

Today, most teenagers are living to be popular. The popular kids tend to have the latest things. Students want the latest iPhone, the newest Mac, the best car, the latest fashion fad. We want nothing more than to be popular, for people to want to hang out with us and be our friends. The "machine" in the song is the trap of selfish materialism and egotistical narcissism. It's time to wake up and kill the machine. It's time to rise about the knife and adrenaline rush of crime. It's time to find indentity in Christ so pain isn't required to feel anything. It's time to walk away from masters and serve the King. We'll be nameless, we'll be hopeless, until we have faces. Find your face, find your identity in Christ and not the machine.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What is Chazown?

Chazown. It's a book by pastor/founder Craig Groeschel. There's a Lifechurch in Hendersonville, but that isn't where I go. I read his book recently, finishing it last week. Chazown is the Hebrew word for a "dream" or "vision". Proverbs 29:18 says. "Where there is no vision, the people perish."

The point of the book is to help people realize their God-given dreams for life. The book first asks you to look at your past. What are some major events in your life? How do your hardships and good times correlate? Do you see a pattern in the people, things, and events that were a part of what made you who you are? Second, the book takes you through a process to discover what you're core values are. What makes you righteously angry? What motivates you through life? What do you love, really LOVE, to do? You're then asked to select core values. Then, the book helps you discover your spiritual gifts. There's a survey you take that will show you what gifts you have. Through 110+ questions, you'll find out a little more about yourself.

I don't mind sharing my results as an example. In my past experiences, I can see how certain events, such as being burned in dating or attending a "dead" church, have lead to my commitment to purity and God's timing and my passion for an alive, evolving, ever-growing church. I can see how working at Life Action has prepared me for hard work, responsibility, and a passion for being around a godly, fun, and down-to-earth set of friends, co-workers, and leaders. Moving on, let's look at my core values. Several of my recent posts have involved core values, and that's because I've been so excited to know what I really care about. My core values are servant leadership, personal growth, passion, learning, knowing God, excellence, discovery, confidence, and worship. My spiritual gifts are pastoring/shepherding, prophesy, music, knowledge, and discernment. To be quite honest, I have no clue how administration wasn't a gift. I also don't know exactly what prophesy means. I think it's like discernment, but since discernment was a different gift, I'm really at a loss.

The book then pits your past experiences, core values, and spiritual gifts to find your Chazown. In other words, you should be able to see your God-given dream based on what you've gone through, what you've learned and how you've learned it, who has been influential in your life and in what ways, and what natural abilities, gifts, and desires you have. Think of it like this. Your past experiences, your core values, and your spiritual gifts are each individual circles. These three circles overlap, like this:

Picture your past experiences as the purple circle, your core values as the yellow circle, and your spiritual gifts as the baby blue circle. These three circles overlap to create the black area, which is your Chazown. Please don't picture your Chazown as black, because black is associated with sin. This is just a Google image. The book pictures it as dark green. Do you see how these three circles create your Chazown?

The next step is to write your mission statement. When I was told I had to write down the mission statement for my life, I was frozen with fear. How could I write down my entire life's purpose into one tiny, concise sentence? But after some serious thought on my three circles, I was able to write it down. Here it is: My mission statement is to use the talents, values, and past experiences God has given me to teach others to grow closer to God, create a godly community, and to spread my attitude of pure passion, desire, and love for God. It's long-winded and it isn't precise. To put it concisely, I believe my mission statement is to become a pastor. The book describes mission statements as evolving. It will change over the years, and as time goes by, I'll see my mission with greater clarity.

The book goes on to discuss a few other issues, such as keeping your life firm and on solid ground, and also by setting goals and finding an accountability partner to help you stay committed. But this is all I will explain right now.

This is my Chazown. This is what the book is about. The book helped me discover more about myself than any other book ever has. Even if my mission statement or vision drastically change, this book has prepared me to look at my past, my values, and my gifts and see how God has prepared me to work and live for Him.