Friday, April 29, 2011

Replacing the Trash, Part 3: Identity

This is my identity. This is the well that my very longing for life is drawn from. In this post, you'll read about the real LoVizzle, a.k.a. Logan Vaughan. Who am I? I'm someone passionaley loved by a Lover who is way out of my league. I'm loved by the Guy who breathes stars and holds the universe in His hands. I'm cherished by the One who created the universe. I'm obsessed over by I AM, who's resume is too long, too great, too powerful for me to even deserve to know. And this same God bled and died for me. I am now His, purchased by the pure blood of the Lamb. This is who I am. This is my identity. Welcome to the real me.


I'm trapped. I'm torn in my mind between a love for fun and a hyper-active conscience that pushes, beats, and shoves the life out of me. I feel trapped in my own mind. Allow me to explain how this started. This school year, in many aspects, has been my favorite year of high school. But in just as many aspects, it's been either a letdown or forgettable. I'm glad it's at an end. I almost wish to forget it completely. School is either very boring or very stressful, never in between; things at youth at church have been rather sluggish and frustratingly slow spiritually; my friendship with my bestfriend has seemed to grow cold and not the thriving, open friendship it was last summer.

There's a new FM Static song that says, "I'm not one to grow cold in the winter." But that's exactly what I've done. Hindsight shows this whole school year has been mostly routine, perfunctory. Last summer was the last time I was hot for God, and not just regular hot, super steaming piping hot. I was on fire for God last summer. It was the result of a year-long growth period, and everything blossomed at the right time and life was excellent. I don't know how, but around September, life got dry and gray. It's been that way ever since. Compared to last summer, life stinks.

And the result is a dissatisfied mind torn between freedom and captivity. I want freedom. But I keep crawling back to the gutter. I can't help but sin and it's killing me! "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing " I relate to you, Paul. I feel so sick, so guilty, so undeserving of the grace and love and forgiveness and redemption Christ gave me! I lie, sometimes, if it helps me. I lust more than I thought possible, simply to please myself. I use sarcasm out of fear of being nice. I get angry because that's easier than being patient and holding my tongue. I cuss in my head because I let go of my morals in anger. "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do."

I don't understand how a God so perfect, so wholly, so righteous, so magnificent, so beautiful, so wise, so awesome, so feared, so full of love can love a pitiful, wretched, sick, twisted, nasty, deceitful, conceited, lewd, worthless, broken, imperfect, sinful man as me. There's a theological name for it, but I call it grace. I call it true love. I call it ultimate forgiveness. I don't understand it. I can't wrap my head around it or ponder the ramificiations of a grace this pure. I just know there's this really awesome God and He loves me. I  can't imagine how or why, but He does. That's the simple, beautiful truth. I don't deserve it, but He doesn't consider that. He looks at me and doesn't see the sin. He doesn't see my lust, my impurity, my pride, my mistakes. He only sees His child. He sees me as one of His beloved children, a child He would do anything for. A child He died for. I didn't ask for this grace, didn't even know it existed, but He still died for me while I was still a sinner. I'm so grateful He didn't come for perfect people. Christ came to heal the sick and lame, not the healthy. I'm not ashamed to say that I'm sick. I'm in need of help. I need a Doctor! "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Do you realize what this means? No?! Okay, here's the kicker: If God loved us that much while we were still sinners, how much more so through our reconciliation and redemption! If He loved us enough to die for us while we were sinners, then I can't imagine the love He has for us as His forgiven, His purchased, His beloved children! He paid the price with His own blood. That was while we were sinners. Just try to imagine the expansive, the extreme, the joyous love He has for us now. I am a child loved by God. I'm His. Nothing can ever change that. If His love for me was strong enough to lead Him to be crucified before I was His, then how great His love for me now that I am His, purchased by His blood! I may fail my own standards, but God's love transcends all. I find my identity, my value, my worth in Him; any other identity will self destruct.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Special Death

What went through His mind? What could He possibly be thinking as His creation killed Him? He was beaten with fists, flayed with whips, pieced with thorns, and hammered through with nails. And yet the pain of his physical agony could not compare to the heartache of having His creation reject Him in such a flagrant way. The blood of Christ dripped off His face and poured freely from the wounds on His back and shoulders. The misery of enduring such an ultimate beating was surely horrible. Yet Jesus was conscience through it all; He never passed out. I wonder what was going through His mind. What could He have been thinking? Do you think Jesus have spent that time thinking about the many songs and poems dedicated to His crucifixion, or the many Easter Sundays centered with Easter eggs and chocolates and bunnies?

Or do you think He thought of you and me? Could He have thought about each and every individual human that would ever be born? As liters of precious blood flowed from His shredded and mangled body, is it possible He thought nothing of the pain and everything about the rewards that would come from His sacrificial death? Could He have thought of the joyous moments that He would have for the first time with His creation? He must have thought of the ecstasy He would experience with His children once He could live in them. His thoughts must have revolved solely around you, and me.

I mean, here's the God of the universe, dying on a cross! This God created the world, created all life and the sun and stars and the millions of other galaxies; the God who breathes stars and knows them by name. And when man needed Him most, after over 400 years of silence, He came. The great I AM came in human form, in our nature, the form He created in His own image!  We didn't deserve it; we don't now and never will deserve it. But that didn't stop Him from exchanging His life for ours. How is it that I AM, the perfect God, the God of love, of justice, of holiness, of righteousness. And He died. For us.

But He didn't just die. He was beaten to a pulp. His back was flayed by whips. His head was pierced by long, sharp thorns. And long, rusty nails were driven into his hands and feet. Can you hear it? The ominous thump... thump.... thump... of nails driving home through the Creator's hands and feet. The first thump followed by a piercing scream- the scream by the man on the cross- the other thumps followed by strained moaning and weeping. But that wasn't the worst. The worst is after they planted the cross into the ground, gravity caused Jesus to either suffer from suffocation or by standing on a nail, a nail that was pierced through his feet. Can you imagine using the raw, swollen, bleeding flesh to stand on a skinny nail? The only other option was to release the leg muscles, which caused immense pressure on both the hands and also the lungs. So one way, you were driven nearly unconscious by pain in your feet; the other way, the nails were ripping through your hands and you could not breathe.

And yet, this is precisely the way Jesus chose to die. He chose this for us. He chose it because it was the only way for Him to have an initmate relationship with us. He chose that death because He chose life with us. Perhaps the joy, ecstasy, and pleasure He knew He would have with us greatly outweighs the price of the most brutal death in history. Doesn't that make you feel special?

(This post was previously written and posted on 10/6/10, but has been edited, extended, and revised by me for this special Easter Sunday)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Replacing the Trash, Part 2: Dating vs. Waiting

Is it just me, or is the teenage dating scene continuously getting worse? Maybe it's just where I live, but it seems everyone is in and out of relationships like clockwork. Of all my friends and all their relationships, only two are still intact and have survived over two years. Both are flourishing, and both couples are each over eighteen. On the other hand, there's all my other friends. Their stories are all the same: crush turns to dating, dating turns to hating, hating turns to annoying Facebook updates filled with hate and complaining and regret. The pattern is so predictable and so far removed from what God wants that it isn't even funny.

I can't help but think of a former friend. This guy started going to church at thirteen and he started to understand what this whole God thing was. The problem is that he's a gotta-have-a-girl guy, so on top of his numerous relationships previous to church, he dated three girls in the youth group. I talked a lot with him about purity and lust, and I once asked him if he had ever kissed a girl. He said, "Oh yeah, and I've regretted it every single time." Since that conversation, he's had at least three girlfriends, and dropped out of church. Each relationship ends bitterly, with drama and pain and regret. And yet he still goes back to relationships.


If something doesn't work the first twenty times, why try again?

Let me share some of my story. If you've been a faithful reader for a while, you know that I've been in two hard relationships. The first one, I became great friends with a girl. We did everything together, and our moms and younger siblings were good friends, so it just clicked. An actual relationship was never established, but, I assumed, after seeing each other at least four times a week for two months, we had to be more than regular friends. We were peas in a pod, and emailed each other several times a day, and went everywhere together. I helped out with their garden and yard work sometimes, and we all went to the movies together and played at parks and hung out at each others' houses. Then I noticed she was giving me the cold shoulder. After two weeks of this, I couldn't take it anymore and asked her in an email what was going on. Her reply stabbed me in the heart. Summarized, it said, "I don't want to be your friend anymore, and we shouldn't hang out at all." I had no clue what was going on. The only reason she ever gave was that she believed I wanted more out of our relationship than she wanted to give. As far as I was concerned, that was big fat bologna. If it was true she never wanted anything more than friendship with me, then she performed the best act of leading-someone-on that I've ever seen. We still never talk and even though I've forgiven her and moved on, I'm still lost as to why it ended.

The second relationship was similar. This one was official. We were a couple. Only we saw each other at church and rarely did anything outside of church. After a month, she began to give me the cold shoulder. I was getting tired of it, so I asked. After a text conversation, we both agreed we liked each other better as friends, which was true. We were good friends before the dumb relationship and both wished it was like that again. So the relationship ended. And apparently, our friendship did too. Since that relationship ended over fifteen months ago, I can count the times on both hands where she initiated contact with me or even looked me in the eye. In her mind, "ending the relationship to be friends again" apparently meant the friendship was over too. I tried to be friends; boy, I tried harder than anything. But she didn't care. I still don't really know why she did that to me.

A few months after the second girl kicked our friendship to the curb, I  had a revelation:

dating isn't for me.

I tried finding the one, oh I tried. And it wasn't working out. My dream of marrying a high-school sweetheart had failed bitterly. After all, it's hard to marry a high-school sweetheart without the sweetheart. And I have pretty bad luck finding a loyal, loving, dedicated sweetheart. So I adopted a revolutionary mindset: I'm leaving it up to God. I believe that I don't need to try to find her myself. If God has a woman picked out for me, then I'm trusting Him to introduce her to me. God had the perfect match for me, and I'm the perfect match for that woman. I don't think God would create us and place us in the right time, the right place, just to let us miss each other. I serve a God much more loving and faithful than that. So my trust is in His timing. When I'm ready for my wife and she's ready for me and when He is pleased with the timing, He'll introduce us. Or if we're already friends or know of each other, He'll reveal His glorious plan. I don't doubt it.

Are my lustful wishes for a relationship still there? Do I desire the intimacy and love of a relationship? Yeah, but then I sober up. I remember my trust in God and know that if I try anything on my own, I'll only mess up what He's got planned for me. The next relationship that I'll be in unfortunately won't be my first, but if I stayed dedicated to God's plan, it will be my last.

If you're on the fence about what you want, I encourage you to read I Kissed Dating Goodbye and then read Boy Meets Girl, both by Joshua Harris. Both books are written from a Christian perspective by a guy who, like me, got fed up with the unproductive ways of dating. Josh Harris wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye as a single, and he wrote Boy Meets Girl several years after he got married. I Kissed Dating Goodbye shows you what Scripture has to say about the dating methods of today's society and why you may want to consider not dating. Boy Meets Girl tells you what real romance is about, and how to find it (hint: trusting God and letting Him write your love story).

So please, decide what you want to do. Whatever you choose, dating or waiting, failure is guaranteed if you don't have a plan of attack. Decide which road you want to take, and then prepare to be assaulted by our enemy. If you commit to dating, then you've already been warned by me as to what you will face. If you choose to wait, you'll be tempted with relationships, a misguided sense of loneliness, and a desire to stray from the path. Don't give in. I daily fight the sexual desires, the wishes to have a girlfriend, and impatience for marriage. It's all a part of daily dying to my own desires, killing my flesh. Arm yourselves with purity, prayer, hope, patience, and trust. The only way to make it is to rely fully on God. Any other way is like building a house on shifting sand.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Replacing the Trash, Part 1:The best bands of Christian music

So many of my friends are addicted to just plain ole' evil music. They fill their minds with Lil' Wayne, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Kesha, Kayne West, Eminem, Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry. I used to listen to that kind of music. I was hooked on the infectious tunes and catchy lyrics. I didn't care about sin. "I was only listening to the music." But once I slowly began to let God change me, He burdened me with a guilt when I listened to that music. I knew that I couldn't aim for purity and Godliness if I was listening to music with explicit lyrics and references to sex.

James 3:10-12 says,  "Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water." It's not possible for sin and God to flow into or out of the same heart. It has to be One, or the other. This carries over into every part of our lives, especially music. There's no way a Christian should listen to immoral music. (This is where I usually here the arguments). "All Christian music sounds the same." "Christian music stinks." "There's no good Christian rapper!" I know enough about Christian music to call all these bluffs. Christian music is so good, so diverse, so improved that there's no longer a excuse that holds any water.

(And just a head' up, this is a long post, so feel free to skim or skip to your preferred genre.)

You like Lil' Wayne, Eminem, Sean Kingston, Iyaz, Kanye West? There's some pretty good Christian rappers out there now. I admit, no one is quite as good musically as some of these secular artists; and no one is even half as fast and smooth as Eminem. The genre Christian rap genre has the most room to improve. But the powerful lyrics usually make up for it. Check out Flame, Lecrae, Tedashii, Shonlock, Pro, Trip Lee, or 116 Clique. You can even throw in the two white guys: John Reuben and KJ-52, although I'm not quite sure what genre they fall into. Lecrae is easy the big one to listen to. He's the most refined musically and gifted lyrically. Nobody's as good as Lecrae, especially his albums Rebel and Rehab.

Now what about Metallica, AC/DC, or Slipnot? Christian music has its share of awesome hard core metal bands. Try Demon Hunter, Gwen Stacy, Haste the Day, The Devil Wears Prada, Underoath, or August Burns Red. Demon Hunter and Underoath are the most popular, and very popular even amongst non-Christians. I personally love Gwen Stacy because of their guitars and screamer; and if you're curious, yes, they named themselves after the blonde girl in Spider-Man 3.

Since we're talking about rock, maybe you love hard rock, but not full-time screamo. Perhaps you like Linkin Park, Breaking Benjamin, Disturbed, etc. If so, check out Disciple, Fireflight, Flyleaf, the Letter Black, Red, Skillet, and Thousand Foot Krutch. Disciple's latest album, Horseshoes & Handgrenades, is very well done. Fireflight, Flyleaf, and the Letter Black are all led by female vocalists. Fireflight has a little bit of pop rock in their sound. Flyleaf is dark, edgy, and hardcore. Red is quickly amassing an enormous fan base, and are known to be dark and almost angry in their music. Skillet is easily the most popular, and for good reasons. But in my opinion, Thousand Foot Krutch (a.k.a., TFK) is the best. Lead singer Trevor McNevon is such an awesome vocalist, and writes and performs all the guitars on the albums. TFK has the best guitars of any band. Their music is compelling, pounding, addicting, catchy, and unlike any other band. The best part is they make great albums, not just great songs. The Flame in All of Us, Welcome to the Masquerade, and Phenomenon are incredibly great albums, from the first to last track.

Maybe pop rock is your thing. Christian music abounds in this. There some Christian pop rock artists that are just pure fun. Try FM Static, Hawk Nelson, Me in Motion, Philmont, and Stellar Kart. FM Static is comprised of two of the three members of TFK, including Trevor McNevon, so I love FM Static. Their music is fun, driven, catchy, sometimes bubbly, and just pure fun. Look up Definitely Maybe, Tonight, The Unavoidable Feeling of Being on the Inside, Take Me As I Am, The Voyage of Beliefs, Sometimes My Brain Says No But My Heart Says Yes, F.M.S.T.A.T.I.C., and Last Train Home. Hawk Nelson and Stellar Kart are very popular bands on Christian radio, but they've sort of lost their identity as bands. Stellar Kart used to be pop rock but have not gone mostly pop. Hawk Nelson would've been an amazing alternative punk band but have travled the road of wanna-be pop artists. Still, their older albums have some great tracks, and if you don't mind pop, they're new stuff is pretty good. Philmont definitely is a fun pop punk band with traces of bubbly techno. It's hard to sit still when listening to any of these bands.

Unfortunately, Christian music doesn't have an artist with the sound of Lady Gaga or Katy Perry or Brittany Spears. Nobody, their beat gets in your head and makes you dance. Britt Nicole comes closest. Britt's music is usually not quite as fast-paced, but it's catchy and fun and makes you feel good. Group 1 Crew has molded their sound after the Black Eyed Peas. They're not my style but pretty good.

A few good pop/light rock bands include Addison Road, Brandon Heath, The Afters, Sarah Reeves, Sidewalk Prophets, and Danya. Addison Road is a very good inspirational band; I definitely suggest them to anyone. Brandon Heath, well, pretty much everyone knows this guy from his hit song Give Me Your Eyes. His new album has a slight country flavor but mostly pop and is pretty decent, though I haven't heart much of it. The Afters are so very good. In spite of a clunker for latest album, their first two were very good. They've got some amazing harmonic beats and great choruses. Sarah Reeves is an upcoming artist who performs worship music with a pop sound. She's lead worship for my small youth group and has a phenomenally pure voice. And most people know Sidewalk Prophets from their many radio hits in the past year. They simply sing the Word and deliver it with an exciting and contagious passion. Haven't heard of Danya? I'm not surprised. They are a fun yet serious upcoming punk rock band. They're on iTunes and are working on a new EP now. They're definitely worth looking up. Do it!

It's time to discuss the giants of Christian music: tobyMac, Casting Crowns, MercyMe, Sanctus Real, and David Crowder Band. tobyMac started out nearly as a crunk-rapper. His first three albums were very fun and fast-paced with catchy rhymes and driving music. His latest album, however, is mostly pop. With a caribbean flair, I'm reminded of Sean Kingston, but at a much slower pace. Yet he remains one of the most, if not the most, popular Christian artist. Casting Crowns may very well be the most famous on the radio. They're all youth pastors, so their music is particularly reaching and passionate. They aren't my style of music, but they still are very good. MercyMe is known mostly for their insanely famous song I Can Only Imagine. But their album Coming Up To Breathe and The Generous Mr. Lovewell are both very good albums and both fun and serious, both dedicated to God through and through. Sanctus Real has gotten better with each album. I really like their vocals and feel-good guitars. David Crowder Band combimes worship with an insanely catchy techno/pop sound. Many comtemporary churches sing their songs in church. They're one of my favorite bands.

Now for the techno/punk-rock genre. The best two are Capital Lights and Eleventyseven. Fun, infectious, and bubbly, these two bands are so good at what they do. Unfortunately, Capital Lights made one great album but then broke up. That album, This is an Outrage!, was really, really good. My brother likes Mile Away, but I find it too pop-y. Let the Little Lady Talk, Outrage, and The Night of Your Life is When You'll Die are my favorite. Eleventyseven's last two albums are pretty good, and they have such a unique sound. They're known for Love in Your Arms, Evil Genius, and How It Feels (To Be With You). Check them out!

One of the most unique is crunk-rock. There's really only one band that fits here: Family Force 5. What more should I say? These five guys can rock. If you've never heard of these guys, check out Love Addict, Kountry Gentleman, Earthquake, Put Ur Hands Up, Dance or Die, Get Your Back Off the Wall, Fever, Wake the Dead, Radiator, Keep the Party Alive, and Whatcha Gonna Do With It. I beg of you to check Family Force 5 out. They're in their own genre!

With a somewhat similar sound to Family Force 5, Manafest combines rap, rock, and crunk to make a sometimes corny but usually awesome sound. Manafest's song So Beautiful is my favorite song of all-time, amassing nearly 400 plays in just over two years. Also look up 4321, Impossible, Bounce, Renegade, Every Time You Run, No Plan B (feat. Koie of Cross Faith), and Fire in the Kitchen.

Now for alternative. Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Yellowcard, and 30 Seconds to Mars fans, you'll love The Almost, the Classic Crime, House of Heroes, Relient K, and Search the City. The Almost, man, what a band! They're latest album is so good. Check out Hands, Monster Monster, No I Don't, Books and Books, and Souls on Ten, Say this Sooner, Southern Weather, and their cover of Free Fallin'. The Classic Crime: not my favorite band, by any means. But many friends like them a lot. House of Heroes is an awesome band with three awesome albums. With a sound sort of like Queen mixed with punk rock, these musical geniuses rock out with In the Valley of the Dying Sun, Lose Control, God Save Us Foolish Kings, Relentless, Love is For the Middle Class, Independence Day For A Petty Thief, She Mighty Mighty, Serial Sleepers, and Buckets for Bullet Wounds. Relient K. Almost everyone knows these guys. I can't fit a list of their best songs on here. Just look them up on iTunes. Search the City is a little-known band who made an almost perfect album, but then broke up. On their only album, A Fire So Big the Heavens Can See It, the best songs are Son of a Gun, To the Moon For All I Care, Detroit Was Built on Secrets, Ambulance Chasers, The Rescue, Bigger Scars Make Better Stories, In This Scene You're Just An Extra, and Clocks and Time Pieces. If you can't tell, it's best to just but the whole album. It's worth every penny!

What about music that isn't Christian? Hmm. I've often wondered about this. I like to listen to A Day to Remember, Story of the Year, and Yellowcard. Neither band is Christian, and I have to make sure each song has clean lyrics, but these three guys are so great. My belief is that if the individual song is okay, then it's okay to listen to that song. Don't shun every song because the band themselves or majority of songs are bad. I judge each song by each song. If a song cusses, is about sex or drugs, if a band only sings about parties and girls (like Forever the Sickest Kids), or if it makes me want something I know I shouldn't have (like Taylor Swift making me want to fall in love) I generally won't listen. That's my personal boundary. 

So there you have it. The first post of Replacing the Trash. This was certainly longer than I expected but it's my hope that someone will read this and check these bands out and finally give up bad music. It's my prayer that you will have read this with an open mind, willing to try out new music. Just know that simply switching to Christian music won't help unless it's a heart change, too. You shouldn't switch to look cooler at church, to fit in with your Christian friends, or for any reason other than a change of heart. But if you do have a heart change and surrender your music to God, I guarantee you won't be disappointed with Christian music.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New Series!!!

Hey guys! I know it's completely out-of-character for me to write a post like this, but I had to tell you guys that I'm so excited to announce that I'm going to be writing a new series titled, Replacing the Trash. In my last post, Captivating Yet Corruptive Trash, I wrote that what goes in your heart will come out. Thus, if you put trash in your heart, trash comes out. And vice versa with good: if you put good in your heart, good will come out.

But I realized that while I wrote about the concept of trash in, trash out, I never really talked about what we should do about it. So I am going to write a four part series about removing the trash with God. So while it may be true that you need to stop listening to explicit music, you can't just altogether stop listening to music. You need to replace the evil that you take out with good, or else you'll go back to the evil. Replacing the Trash will talk about replacing bad music with Christian music (I'll talk about the best Christian bands of each genre of music), waiting verses teen dating (why teen dating can be dangerous and how to fill the romance hole in your heart with God), identity (how to find our identity, beauty, and worth in God), and friends (who you should surround yourself with).

Are you excited?? I know I am! I can't wait to write the first post and hope to have that done by the end of the weekend. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Captivating Yet Corruptive Trash

Trash in, trash out. Ever heard of the concept? No, it has nothing to do with guilting people into recycling. It's a Christian ideal that says if you put trash in your heart or mind, trash comes out of your hear or mind. In layman's terms: If you listen to music or movies or friends that use bad words, eventually you begin to use those same bad words. Or if you watch pornography, you'll probably eventually lose your virginity (or at least be sexually impure). If you put trash in, trash comes out. Get the idea?

The opposite is always true: if you spend your time listening to Christian music or studying the Bible, you're more likely to grow spiritually from that. If you let God in, God's going to shine through you.

But the reason I'm writing is because I overheard a conversation yesterday between co-workers about trash in, trash out. Two people believed in the concept; another said it was too legalistic. I didn't get a chance to share my opinion; I was too busy taking orders.

So here, I wanted to say that I believe wholeheartedly in the concept. While I'm no physcology genius, I know from experience that the music, movies, and friends I surround myself with determine what goes in my heart and thus out of my mouth. I know this because in middle school, I hung out with kids who cussed. I hung out with kids who dated different people weekly for fun. I listened to the popular songs, which were usually about drugs, pre-maritial sex, adultery, parties, or some other godless theme. I watched a few raunchy or horror movies. And some of the effects of that trash are still stuck with me today, as I'm almost done with my Junior year of high school. Three years later and I can still remember the scenes, lyrics, and messages of those captivating yet corruptive things.

I think those who don't believe in trash in, trash out are only kidding themselves. Don't be deceived! Jesus Himself said, "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." (Luke 6:45). What you put in will come out. Jesus also said, "The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart" (Matt. 15:18).

Trash in, trash out. God in, God out.

What do you think?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Sin (and Guilt) of Conceit

Lately, I've been struggling with my pride, entitlement, and selfishness. If you read my post Really Really Small (which I highly doubt, since, though I consider it one of my best posts, has received only three views so far), then you understand. Up until recently, I had the wrong definition of "pride." I always thought pride is another way to say "cocky." I believed it was the I'm-better-than-you attitude; a sense of entitlement. Additionally, I thought pride was assimilated with selfishness, the I'm-too-important-to-serve attitude.

Yes, these are different parts of pride. But I've learned that isn't all that pride means. The prideful are those who inflate their talent or value. I have this attitude. It's the conceited attitude of I'm-so-important-this-church-would-fail-without-me. Yeah, as if I could be the cornerstone of the church, the infallible portion the church is built on. (That's Jesus, by the way. Luke 20:17) It's conceit, plain and simple.

Have you ever felt the same way? I've often felt like I'm Kobe. Whether I'm the smartest in the class or when I feel too important in church, conceit rarely fails to find me in my moments of weakness. It hits especially when I'm dissatisfied. I think, "I could preach so much better than that." Or maybe, "I could teach this class so much better than my teacher." Sinful, right? Right. Talk about stuck on myself. You're probably as surprised as me that God hasn't blasted me with lightning after some of the conceitful thoughts I've had.

I know, I know. I need to work on it. And I am. I've realized that I'm not as big or important as I thought. Check out Really Really Small if you want to see how small, petty, and insignificant we all really are. I've spent a lot of time broken in His presence. I now know what David experienced when he realized his sin and competely humbled Himself before God. I can't stop thinking about how big and wonderful He is.

I'm trading in pride, entitlement, selfishness, and pride for humility, meekness, and a gratefulness for God's everlasting grace.

How has your pride been lately?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Caked Up In Make Up

In light of the Lecrae concert last night, I just really felt led to share a verse from his song Identity. 

"Got her hair done, toes and nails, is that her? Well it's hard to tell, cause she's so caked up in all that make up, it's like she's tryin' make up for what she ain't, but she's a saint but so confused, cause she's been rejected by all these dudes, that tell her on a scale of 10 she's a two, but that ain't true if she only knew, in Christ she is loved she secure and accepted, she'll never be rejected by God who's elected her, her beauty is her Godliness, and she ain't gotta try to flaunt it cause it's obvious, identity is found in the God we trust, Any other identity will self destruct."

It's really hard for me to add anything to words of such incredible wisdom. Since most of my followers are girls, I feel this post is particularly important. I know most of my followers are Christian girls, with blogs of their own, but that doesn't mean they, you, aren't apt to fall. Summer is right around the corner. Short shorts, skimpy tank tops, obvious bras... okay, okay. Maybe my followers don't dress like that. Maybe your problem is that your identity is more in your body than your Lord. Maybe you're caked up in all that make up because you're trying to make up for what you ain't.

Many of my friends wouldn't dare leave the house without make up. Furthermore, I know some girls that actually wear so much make up, they are repulsive. Who wants to date a clown, anyway? There really is such a thing as "too pretty." I'd rather be friends with or date a girl who wears make up in modesty because her beauty is her Godliness. If any other identity will self destruct, I want my wife's identity to be in Christ, not her face or body.

So with summer coming, look at your clothes and how much make up you use and ask yourself why you do it. There's nothing wrong with looking cute or pretty (or handsome or good), but if it's your identity, if you can't go without make up, if you have to wear immodest clothes, your identity may be in the wrong place. And even us guys need an identity check. But that's a post for next time.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Really really small

For years, my dream was to attend a major university, do something important, and become a household name. I didn’t care too much the money; I just wanted the prestige, pride, the popularity. I wanted to make my name in the world. I’ve always wanted to be the best. I’ve dreamed of playing pro football and basketball. I’ve dreamed of starting a church as famous as Lifechurch. I’ve dreamed of becoming as influential and revered as Billy Graham. Have you ever felt the same way? But there’s a problem.

I am really, really small.

Do you know how small I am? Assume I live the average American life span (seventy-five years). And assume that the world is 6,000 years old. You can also assume that the world will end the same year I die. If so, I will have lived .0125% of time. Now that there’s 99.9875% of time that I’ve never lived. Wow. I feel pretty small. But wait a minute. Some people say that the world is much older than 6,000 years. Let’s assume they’re right. So let’s say that the earth is really one million years old. I would’ve lived .00075% of time. That’s a long time! Imagine how long I haven’t lived on earth. I haven’t lived 99.99925%. I’m starting to get that shrinking feeling again. Why?

Because I’m small. Really, really small.

But guess what? You are small too.

God has always been and always will be. He had no beginning; He will never end. But neither will we. Yes, our earthly lives will end. And, looking at the grand scheme of things, our lives will end very soon. But then eternity begins, either in heaven or hell. Our acceptance or rejection of Christ’s gift here on earth will determine our eternal dwelling place. We could spend eternity, always, separated from God, burning in hell, with no relief, no comfort, no solace. Or we could spend eternity in heaven with Him, worshipping Him, seeing Him, spending eternity with Him.

What do you feel like when you think of eternity? Can you imagine a place without time? A city with no sun, moon, or stars, with a King that is our Light? With streets of gold and gates of pearls and precious jewels? A city with every single Christ-follower who ever lived, and also with all the God-followers of the Old Testament? A city where we’ll be more spirits than bodies, where we won’t have physical limitations?

We are small. We’ll live somewhere between .0125% to .00075% of life. Our story is that short. We’re that irrelevant, inconsequential, insignificant. My story is so tiny and puny that it only needs .0125% to .00075% of time to play out. But what about God’s story?

His story is so big, it takes all of eternity to play out.

Wow. Do you feel as small as I do?

Now back when I was younger, whenever I read something like this post and then felt very small, I wasn’t too happy about it. I didn’t like feeling small, insignificant. I wanted to be as big as Billy Graham, remember? I was set on going to the University of Texas. I wanted the whole world to know my name. Naturally, feeling small felt contrary to my being. Maybe you feel the same way. Perhaps you’re thinking, “LoVizzle, stop it. You’re making me feel small!” Well, I’m not trying to. I don’t want to make you feel small. I want you to realize that you are small.

You’re really, really small.

So have you figured out how little time you really have on earth? Have you thought about how important it is to live every moment for Him? Is it lost on you that the God who is eternal, who exists always, came to earth? I mean, what’s a God like Him doing in our block of the neighborhood? We’re small, petty, miniscule. What do we matter to Him?


That same eternal God died for us, too. The One who created us came in the form of a man. He had the same physical limitations we do. Can you imagine having the power and being to breathe stars or create a world in six days, and then being stuck in a human body? There's no way it was fun or cool. I cannot fathom I AM, the creator, star-breather, the everlasting, the source of all power, love, and, well, everything, coming to meet us on our planet in our form and bridging the gap between us and Him by sacrificing Himself; all for love. I am too small, too human, too insignificant to really understand the mind-blowing love God has for us.

Now I may be small, but I know what love is. My God? The everlasting? The all-powerful? The self-sacrificing One? The star-breather? My God is love. That’s my God. He is big. He’s really big.

He’s really, really, really big!

And I’m really, really, really small.

After all God has done for me, is doing, will do, how can I reject Him? How can I let anything stand between me and Him? I can’t wait for heaven, where there won’t be any pain, any troubles, anything to worry about. I can’t wait to live on those gold streets, to walk with Christians from every time and every tribe and nation, and to do absolutely nothing but worship, praise, glorify Him with every small fiber of my being for all of eternity.

What about you?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Failure to Pray

I know people who pray for everything. They pray for the president, senators, local schools, friends, entertainment icons, family members, friends, their church, their pastor, everything!

I've got a confession: I'm an awful prayer warrior. But I usually only pray for one person: me. Sure, I pray sometimes for others, when I remember. But I only faithfully pray for me. And in my embarrasement, I shrug it off. After all, God didn't gift me in that area. My excuse was always, "It just isn't my gift." And that's true: God hasn't blessed me with the gift and memory to pray. I'm sure there are some people who have probably prayer warriors since pre-k. But not me. But God did give me the potential to become a prayer warrior.

But first, what is a prayer warrior? Seems to me that it's a church cliche thrown around a lot. I'm not totally sure. I've got a feeling it (obviously) has something to do with prayer, but the word warrior means that a prayer warrior prays quite often and quite deeply. To be honest, I have no clue what a prayer warrior is. At least, I didn't until this morning.

This morning at church, I read something that gave goose bumps. It seemed just for me. In Samuel's farewell address to Israel, he said, "As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you." I think that says it all. "Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you." Wow. That sets the standard. There's the line in the sand. This is the mindset of a prayer warrior. To be a prayer warrior, I have to think like that.

Now I know being a prayer warrior may never be my identity. I don't think God made me to be one. I'm wired for action. Prayer is talking to God, and that in itself is the most effective weapon a Christian has. But maybe I will be like that sometime. Only God knows. I want to be better at praying. Too often, my prayer is awkward, incomplete, misintentioned. And unfortunately, my prayer is too focused on me, or on my schedule and what I have to do today. But my prayers are getting better. I'm learning to just be honest with God and say exactly what I mean. I'm remembering to pray more often, and about more things.

"Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." Paul-Ephesians 6:18

P.S., sorry for the lapse in blogging! I've been uninspired this week, and I'm not even satisfied with this post; I just don't know what to write about anymore. I'm downed because of a lack of comments and followers. Plus, the power was out for over 12 hours yesterday and today because of a storm so the internet hasn't been accessible. Thanks for reading!