Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Don't just treat the symptoms.

I was driving home from work today and at a stop light and I noticed the car in front of me had an all too common bumper sticker. There in front of me was the "Keep Christ in Christmas" bumper sticker. It was just sitting there in it's lovely oval shape and stereotypical Christmas red. Then a thought hit me, "Isn't it July?" Well two thoughts actually, "Shouldn't that be a seasonal sticker?" Nay even three thoughts, "Why do we get so worked up about this?"

You might be thinking isn't that a noble cause. I mean Christ is the center of Christmas, is he not? The answer to that question is of course Christ is the center of Christmas. Christ is the center of everything. But why do we get so frustrated when a world full of unbelievers refuses to acknowledge it. Think about it. We, as a whole, tend to get very frustrated about these "minor" things.

Think about the uproar when we stopped praying in school or when they wanted to remove the Ten Commandments from court houses. The ferocity when we read about a young christian student being mistreated by an atheist professor in his/her ethics class. Imagine the terror if/when they remove "In God We Trust" from our currency or the "Under God" stanza in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Then we have what I deem to be "real" issues. The ever increasing numbness to the mass genocide we are committing against our own children in the form of legalized and popularized abortion. All in the name of convenience and rights. Then the new rulings concerning DOMA open up a whole new section of Pandora's box.

Why do we get so frustrated and moved by these things? Should we get so motivated by these things?

Imagine you wake up one morning and your chest feels a little tight, you are wheezing and coughing a little. You are a sensible human-being so you grab some Delsym (because it is honestly the best cough medicine ever), a couple Halls, a cup of some Calm tea by Tazo and curl up on the couch for a Lord of the Rings marathon. (Isn't that what everyone does?)

A couple days pass and you just seem to be getting worse. So you dig that silly insurance card out of the desk drawer, make a comment about how your copay is too expensive and drag your sorry self to the doctor. The doctor runs some tests and sends you home. Two days pass and you are still getting worse. The doctor's office calls and asks you to come in. The doctor sits you down in his office and informs you that you don't have a cold, you have lung cancer. You don't quite know what to say but the doctor starts laying out some treatment options for the cancer and sends you home again.

Three weeks pass and you are still griping about your cough that keeps getting worse. Now you have shortness of breath too but all you do is keeping taking your Delsym and drinking your tea. You complain about the problems but only treat the symptoms, then your situation just keeps getting more and more desperate. Finally after two months the cough stops. "VICTORY!!" you scream, "I'm finally not coughing anymore." But in all honesty you still have cancer. Sure you are a little more presentable on the outside but your insides are worse than ever.

This is what I believe we Christians are doing in America. We see these little rebellious acts against the God in which our nation supposedly trust and we freak out. For the most part we only seem concerned about our neighbors, friends, co-workers, leaders, and nation when they stop being presentable. We see them day in and day out and they are all dying from lung cancer and we just keep shoving more cough medicine down their throats to stifle the noisy, annoying coughs.

Sin is the real problem in America. All these other things are merely little symptoms of the infectious cancer that will not only takes our bodies, but our souls. Sin is why we want to remove God from our schools, legal system and holidays. Sin is why we are so calloused to murder that it seems no worse than pulling a tooth. Sin is why marriage as God designed has been marred and challenged. Sin is why a lot of American churches care more about attenders than they do about honest members. Sin is what is destroying our country, our churches and ourselves.

There is only one cure for this cancer and the good news is it's free. Jesus came to earth and was born as a man for us. He lived the life we could never live, died the death we all deserved, and was raised again so that we could be made right before God. So that our cancer could be cured. That is what we need, what our churches need and what our country needs. So pray for our country but don't simply pray for our symptoms to go away. Pray for the spiritual revival our country so desperately needs. Pray for our President because no matter what your political affiliation, he is who God has leading us right now. Pray for your neighbors and coworkers. Pray for your pastors and elders. Pray for your family and friends. Pray for yourself. But don't just pray that we stop coughing, pray that our cancer is healed. Then the coughing will stop all on it own.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Not what you expected...

As I sat in my room tonight I began to look through my memory book from my high school graduation. Pictures from birth through 18 years old. My whole life up to that point neatly contained in one hard cover book. Then I got to the end. After the pictures of the Pomp and Circumstance and the notes from family and friends, I got to the blank pages.

Multiple blank pages fill the end of my book and as I sat there and looked at them I remembered all the things that I had planned. I planned on finishing up my nursing pre-reqs, applying to FGCU, and continuing my formal education. I dreamed of friendships that would continue, relationships that would grow, and plans that would come to fruition.

Well things didn't go according to plan. :) I'm not even sure if 18 year old me would recognize me now. Those weeks and months following my graduation would prove to be some of the most challenging to date.  A good portion of my world was turned upside-down.

But it wasn't all sad. Those times of tension and turmoil enabled me to grow closer to my Savior. They forced me to grow up in ways that I didn't even know were possible.

So everything didn't end up like I planned. I don't have my Bachelors (some days I am not even sure that I have my Associates :D ). A career in nursing is not where I am headed. Those times of trials uncovered faux friendships and drew me closer to those who really care. Sure things haven't been what I expected... they instead have been so much more.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve my church in numerous ways, from making coffee to leading volunteer groups and assisting in teaching classes. Two years ago I never imagined I would have co-authored a Vacation Bible School curriculum, let alone helped lead it and then be insane enough to do it again.

I may have not received a "formal" education over the last two years but I have informally learned in ways that have far more eternal significance. Through the suggestions of elders and parents who love me, I have gained far more useful knowledge.

This may read like ramblings (those who know me, know that it past my bedtime :) ) but all of this to say... hold your plans loosely. As men we make plans and we scheme but in the end only God knows what will happen to us tomorrow. To be honest, I rather like it that way.

So men, and women, don't stop planning. Don't stop dreaming. Don't even stop strategizing. Just do all those things while keeping the gospel in the center of your thinking. Rest on the one thing in life that will forever be your sure foundation. God has provided surety, an anchor, for us in His son.

Sure these last two years were nothing like I expected... but they have taught me one lesson I will never forget. That no matter the pain, no matter the change, no matter the circumstances... we have been given a rock on which we can forever rest.

The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.
      (Proverbs 16:9)
Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
      (Proverbs 19:21)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Golden Boy & The Prodigal

Some of you may recognize the title of this post as the title of a song by Jason Gray, that is because it was this very song that caused the "wheels" in my head to start turning. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the song you can listen to it here. It basically describes what most people would call a "church face." It talks about how we, as Christians, tend to put on a front. We like to make ourselves look like what we think we should look like. We put on our nice clothes, make sure they are ironed, and prepare ourselves to march around in our "parade."

I was struck today with just how hypocritical this type of attitude is. God has given us a plethora of great men and women to learn from in the bible. But it hit me today that there is a very common thread throughout all of them, they are sinners. "Well duh," you are saying. Everyone is a sinner, it says so in the bible. Yeah it does, but there is a difference in knowing it and understanding it. I think that is what I got today, an understanding. Here are some of the great christian leaders I am talking about. 

1) Abraham.
He is a great example of a man who lived "by faith." He is remembered as the man who God made his covenant with and who had so much faith in God that he was willing to sacrifice his only son because God told him to do it. These are most assuredly some of the highlights of Abraham's life, but what about the time he lied about his wife in order to protect himself. 

2) Moses. 
Moses was the man God chose to lead His people out of Egypt and into the promised land. But Moses killed a man in his youth, and disobeyed God's direct word which led to his exclusion from entering the promised land. 

3) David. 
The greatest king of Israel. Led his people to multiple military victories, slew Goliath as a boy, and is responsible for writing a large portion of the book of Psalms. But he struggled with lust, so much so that he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband murdered in order to cover his tracks. 

4) Peter. 
The head of all the disciples, was with Jesus for many of his miracles, heard Jesus preach multiple times, and had a close, personal relationship with Jesus. Surely, if anyone would be a "model christian" it would be Peter. Well even Peter stumbled and audibly denied Jesus three times, even after being warned by Jesus

5) Paul. 
"Man, Paul, now there is a model christian if I have ever seen one," you might say. Well yes Paul was a great man, but before he was Paul, he was Saul. Saul was responsible for the arrest and death of many Christians and was there watching when Stephen was stoned. 

Unfortunately, we live in a world forever marred by sin. 
"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23 ESV).
and because we are all sinful we are all doomed to go to hell.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. "(Romans 6:23 ESV) (emphasis added)
"But." That is probably my favorite word. We were dead and without hope BUT. We were on the fast track to eternal damnation, BUT. My favorite passage of scripture is:
 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even  when we were dead in our trespasses,  made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and  seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable  riches of his grace in  kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For  by grace you have been saved  through faith. And this is  not your own doing;  it is the gift of God, 9  not a result of works,  so that no one may boast. 10 For  we are his workmanship,  created in Christ Jesus  for good works, iwhich God prepared beforehand,  that we should walk in them. Eph 2:4-9
 It is because of that "but" that we don't have to live a life full of facades and masquerades. We are all pretending that we have already arrived, that we are perfect already. We act as though what Christ did, was at best nice and at worst completely unnecessary, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

We are all sinners, and we should never be proud of our sin; however, we also have a great savior to cover our great sins with his never-ending, matchless, infinite, amazing grace. God, through the life, death and resurrection of his Son, has provided us with a reason to rejoice in our weakness. We are all going to stumble, we are all going to sin, we are all going to sin but God. God has rescued His people from ending there. He gives us the strength, through the power of his gospel, to get up and keep fighting, to realize that we never need to feel alone or overwhelmed because he is always there for us. He has covered our naked, beaten down, dirty, dead bodies with a garment that shines like the sun and it is because of that fact that we never need to pretend that we have it all together on our own. We should instead exude the grace that God has bestowed upon us!

6 years ago today, my older sister married a man. I was never to sure of this guy, I mean sure he was a great guy, but how sure can you be? He was kind of a goof ball, rapping in Chinese and long stories about Ralf, but how was he gonna treat my sister? He was my Wednesday Night teacher one year, and though he might not know it, had an impact on me that year. He was always kind of a quiet guy, when he was in groups at least, and being a quiet guy myself I never really sought to draw him out.

Well the day came and they got married and though everyone had their own opinion of how they should have acted during their "courtship," their wedding was extremely different. There was a purity in it, that even though I was only 13, actually moved me to tears. Well time passed and they moved into the backyard and then my room when the trailer was too smelly for my pregnant sister. I spent countless hours with them, probably more than they cared for, watching "Little People, Big World" and volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and the more time I spent with them the more I began to realize that I wanted what they have. I watched as they raised their first son, dealt with tragedy, and now as they as raise their two boys. I see them at home raising John boy and Matthew "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." I watch as they handle bad attitudes, train them to pray, and help them memorize more catechism and scripture verses than most adults know.

They have been there for me through many hard times. I can always count on them to be there whenever I need them, to point me back to the cross and tell me how stupid I am being if necessary. They are a great example of a gospel-saturated couple, not perfect but striving to live as the bible has instructed them to do. I look forward to getting much more advice from them over the coming years and to continue to learn from their example as I move into these next phases of life. They are some of my favorite people in the world and have been some of the most influential people in my life. I love you guys.

John & Boof! 

Monday, June 20, 2011

"Rebelutionary" Problems

I feel that I should start this out by saying how much of a fan I was of the Harris brothers books, especially Do Hard Things, I have also enjoyed, their second book Start Here. However it struck me while finishing the last few chapters of Start Here that there are, in my opinion, some possible dangers in being a rebelutionary.

In order to avoid some of the dangers that I see, we must ALWAYS keep focused on why you are doing hard things. Our Motives must always be directed toward God.

"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Though that fact is very obviously important to the authors of the books and the glory of God is a major theme in the books themselves, I think that many times we can easily start doing hard things for the right reasons and then quickly spiral into a self-serving, prideful, arrogant service that speaks more to our "awesomeness" then it does to our mighty God.

The other problem that I see that could arise from this "rebelutionary" movement is just that, it might become a "rebelutionary" movement and not a Gospel movement. The term rebel by definition means to defy authority, or tradition. Though we usually associate rebel with negative connotations, it simply means to go against the grain. I believe that it is for this reason that the term, rebel, is now used by many Christians. The Harris brothers use a spin off of it with their own rebelutionary term and even Lecrae has used the word, rebel, as the title for one of his albums.

So I can see some of you saying, "why is this term a bad thing?" And the only answer I have is that it isn't. Yet, it struck me how easy it would be not only create a culture of rebels for Jesus, a good thing, but for it to become a clique.

Several years back my church did a youth camp, whose theme was, "We aren't the youth group, we are the church." I found that idea, and camp, very helpful to remind me that I am not going to church to just have fun and be socialable with people my age. We try to foster an atmosphere that we are a church family made up of families, not a church body made up of youth groups, young adults classes, etc...

Though those things are not wrong in-and-of themselves, they can lead to a divided attitude among the body of Christ and I am afraid that this same thing could happen with "rebelutionary." We must remember that we are Christians first. If we don't remember to put God first and to strive to bring glory and honor to Him and Him alone then we will be "rebels without a cause."

Once again I thoroughly enjoyed both of the books and would recommend all young people out there to read them and realize that we are expected to be underachievers, slackers and outright sinful and to fight against that. Outlive the worlds' expectations of teenagers, they aren't very high. Go out serve in your home, your church, your community. Go out and Do Hard Things, be a rebelutionary. But be a rebel with a cause, a cause greater than all other causes... Be a rebel for God and the magnification of His glory.