Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Good Sermon (Part 1)

    This is one of the most powerful sermons by John Piper I've ever heard. It hits right at the heart of the pain and the suffering that all followers of Christ (and honestly, all human beings) come to face in their lives.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

In the World, Not of the World

     Oh... how many times was that club used to realign your behavior! :) Anytime we dared point to other people or other ways of doing things than how we did it in our conservative circles, the answer was always the same... "We are to be in the world, but not of the world." That trumped dating, dressing casually or even non-formally at church, rock music (even Christian rock), alcohol, and in some of the more extreme cases, playing cards.

     Perhaps the clearest example of this phrase's roots is in John 17:16 where Jesus says, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" in reference to the disciples. It's very clear here that Jesus is saying that He is not of this world, and His desire is that His disciples will not be either... so we can at least take that as a fact. Jesus is not of the world, and His aim for His disciples is that we won't be either. Okay, got it.

     But! The question then becomes, "What was Jesus' intention with these words?" Quite frankly, I don't care if an American wants to interpret them this way or that way, but I am definitely interested in the intentions of Jesus in His statement. So did Jesus intend this verse to mean that though we are in the world, we are not to act as the world acts? I believe yes He does... but not in the way that many conservative Christians read Him to mean. More specifically, is Jesus intending with this verse to give us a broad, overarching decree that we are to be noticeably different from the world in our dress and behavior patterns?

     That is a difficult question to answer specifically, because yes, the Bible is clear that we are to be noticeably different. The real question lies in that admission though. How different? Different in what ways? Because this is a question that Christians seem to enjoy answering in certain ways and ignoring in others. I mean, you can say that we are being different from the world by not using playing cards, and you'd be right... but is it the kind of different that Jesus meant? You could dance naked on a pogo stick down main street and be "different", but that's clearly not what Jesus meant. You could wear a head covering and wear sandals instead of tennis shoes in order to be like Christ and wear a far Eastern style robe and be "different", but I don't see conservatives lining up to do those things.

     It would seem that even we realize that Jesus' goal was not just that we would be different, but that we would be meaningfully different in this world, not different for the sake of being different or sounding holy. This becomes even clearer when we examine what Jesus followed these words with. He says in v. 18, "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world."

     So we're not different for the sake of being different. Simply quoting "in the world, but not of the world", as the popular Christian adage goes, is no more a satisfactory argument against Christian rock music than it would be against wearing tennis shoes. Both uses of John 17 completely miss Jesus' point; we are different in our behavior because we are on a mission... just as Christ Himself was on a mission. It's not that we're advertising to the world through our dress, bright faces, or long hair if you're a girl or short hair if you're a guy that you're Christ's disciple as so many have implied. Jesus grew up in Nazareth and the people of His home town laughed at the idea that He might be something special... He was just an ordinary boy. It was not His appearance or cultural rebellion that stood out.

     What is it that Jesus says will mark us as His, mark us as different? Is it our dress standards? Maybe, maybe someone will notice a girl in a modest swimsuit is different from the girls in bikinis on the beach. Is it a guy's short hair? Possibly, someone might think it's a Christian thing to be clean cut, though I can name you a number of clean cut, nice looking young guys who have no desire to follow Jesus at all. That's certainly not a Christian distinctive.

     Just four chapters earlier in John, Jesus tells us what it is that truly marks us as His and different from the world: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." Ah! Notice, Jesus did not say our spouse finding tactics would tell all people that we are His disciples. He didn't say our music would. He didn't say our clothes would or our refusal to drink alcohol. What sets us apart distinctly from the world is our love.

     In taekwondo, we're famous for one thing particularly: high aerial kicks. Nobody kicks like we do. We do spinning kicks, 360 degree kicks, multiple spin kicks in a row, three kicks in the air off a single jump... nobody kicks like we do. We do a lot of the same moves and adaptations that other martial arts do, but what sets us apart is our kicks.

     We are like other religions and other people in the world in a myriad of ways. We believe that sex our of marriage is wrong like Muslims... we believe in self-defense, just like many atheists do... I happen to enjoy hamburgers, like many cultists do. These things don't mark us as different from the world! What truly marks the disciples of Jesus Christ is our love, the crazy love our Savior showed to us.

     If you want to show the world you're different, refusing to play "Spades" or refusing to hold the opposite gender's hand at a game in youth group isn't the most effective way to do that. Jesus outlined a very different module for us; love. First, love Him, wildly and above all else, and secondly, love your neighbor as yourself. Love is what truly marks us as his, not our standards.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Good Quotes

     “Let us not glide through this world and then slip quietly into heaven, without having blown the trumpet loud and long for our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Let us see to it that the devil will hold a thanksgiving service in hell, when he gets the news of our departure from the field of battle.”

      “We are frittering away our time and money in a multiplicity of conventions, conferences, and retreats, when the real need is to go straight and full steam into battle, with the signal for 'close action' flying.”

      “God's real people have always been called fanatics.”
                                                          -C. T. Studd

Friday, May 13, 2016


    This week began with the three most stressful days of my life. Without going into details, those three days probably crippled me mentally and emotionally more than anything I've ever experienced. Until Thursday, I had eaten precisely two meals this week and hadn't fallen asleep before two in the morning. Most of the day I spent pacing, praying, and sitting worrying.

     Toward the end of one of those days (which are kind of muddled in my head now), I sat down to write for a minute. I just closed my eyes and took a moment to think. What did I want? What was my hope during all this? I thought for a minute, and I wrote one simple sentence, "I long for peace."

     As your world rocks around you, when life cuts like a knife and you feel the pain more keenly than any physical pain you've ever felt, I beg you, hold on! There is peace, against all odds, against what you think and what your mind tells you, there is a peace. When the knife twists and you look back and wonder how you got where you are and why you chose to fight, don't give up!

     "Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly at heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Rest. I don't think about these verses too much at this season of life, because as a young guy, part of my excitement at the coming life ahead is the conflicts and the situations that lie ahead. There feels like there is purpose in it.

     But there's also pain in it. There's exhaustion, there's fear, there's stress, and those are the times I look at Jesus and cry out, "Where is your rest? Where is this rest you promised?" In the middle of the pain, it's hard to feel the rest.

     People, listen to me! Whether you feel it or not, Jesus promises peace. He promises rest in Him... peace in the middle of a battle, and rest in the middle of raging seas. That rest and that peace doesn't mean a touchy, constantly hugged feeling or an ethereal, flying feeling. No, here is the voice of experience saying that you can be loved relentlessly and still feel the knife twist.

     The joy in Christ that I know exists is a knowledge, not necessarily a feeling. The unchangeable truth is that when your world is falling apart, a sovereign God is holding you up, whether you feel that or not. That's the pivotal part. You won't always feel it. Some days, the pain out weighs every other feeling... but the truth doesn't change! The truth remains through all of it, that Christ's love is completely relentless, never ending, never changing, never quitting, never tiring.

     "Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, not any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

    "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."

    "...All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth... lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Same Yesterday, Today, and...

     It's 12:20 in the morning, my mind is still processing things from today, and the debate on the resurrection that I'm listening to isn't totally tuning out the other thoughts floating through my brain (yes, listening to a debate is relaxing to me. I'm weird...). It's been a rough couple of days, a couple days I've hardly eaten, hardly slept, stressed myself into (comparatively) mild insanity and I'm getting sick.

     So what do you do during a week like this? We all know the weeks, the weeks when you look at the mistakes you've made and you can't change anything now, but you can feel the cold, hard pain staring you in the face? The weeks where you don't see the truth of who God is... or who you are in Him? The weeks where you wonder what precisely God's planning?

     I don't have many words tonight. I'm tired, but my mind doesn't want to sleep. When all you see is darkness and when our feelings tell us one thing, the thing we have to do, against all odds and against our flesh, we must cleave to the truth! And what is the truth?

     God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. What does that mean in simple English? In a simple sentence, God is faithful. Yesterday, as in the past... today, as in the future... forever, all eternity... God never changes. Jesus Christ remains the same, my Father, my Lover, my Lord. And His character remains the same.

     Jesus loves me... yesterday, today, and forever.
     Jesus justified me, made me right with Him... yesterday, today, and forever.
    God has forgiven me... yesterday, today, and forever.
     I am covered in the grace of God...yesterday, today, and forever.
     I have been made new in Christ, again, yes, again... yesterday, today, and forever.
     I am an accepted child of God... yesterday, today, and forever.
     I am no longer a slave... yesterday, today, and forever.
     I am wholly free in Jesus Christ... yesterday, today, and forever.
     The love of my Savior destroys my fear... yesterday, today, and forever.
     There is no dirt or impurity left to me... yesterday, today, and forever.
     There is no iota of disgust on the face of Jesus when He looks at me... yesterday, today, and forever.  
     There is no reservation in the love of my Father... yesterday, today, and forever.

     I am His... yesterday, today, and forever. Not grudgingly His, but delightedly His. He is my Father, my Abba, the One who knows my heart and sees me as His child and His love. I am His... yesterday, today, and forever.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

His Grace is Always Sufficient

    When life is hard...
           ...his grace is sufficient.

    When a friend is in pain...
           ...his grace is sufficient.

     When you don't understand...
           ...his grace is sufficient.

     When things don't make sense...
           ...his grace is sufficient.

     When you don't feel His love...
           ...his grace is sufficient.

     When you don't know how long the storm lasts...
           ...his grace is sufficient.

     When the struggle is hard...
           ...his grace is sufficient. 

     When faith feels impossible...
           ...his grace is sufficient.

     When the future is uncertain...
           ...his grace is sufficient.

      In everything this world, the devil, or all hell can bring about...
           ...his grace is sufficient.

      His grace is always sufficient. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

I am Not Ashamed

    I struggle with my own critical mindedness. In many ways, it's a blessing. I can find fallacies rather quickly, I have learned to think things through quickly and critically, and I've learned to appreciate the truth greatly. I am truly grateful to God that He gave me that part of my personality. However, it comes with certain negative side effects too. My critical mindedness puts me at odds with the vast majority of people I know because as is common when two people think through an issue: I may arrive at a separate conclusion. When the person I arrive at a separate conclusion from is an authority figure or adult in my life, friction develops, and I wind up causing myself a lot of stress because I do question nearly everything (I'm working on eliminating the "nearly" from that sentence).

     The largest issue I see around me that throws me into fits (figuratively speaking, at least I hope...) is that of works vs grace in regard to our status with God. Over and over again, after a hard day or a particular trying incident, I want to pull back and shut up. Other times, I've prayed and in frustration, questioned God as to why He gave me the tendencies He has that put me in opposition against other people I know. The personality I have makes life in many ways harder than it could be if I were not so dead set on questioning constantly.

     But a verse I read tonight from Romans 1 really hit me. "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." No eloquent thoughts, I'm afraid, but Paul is pretty straight up.

     The gospel he preached was extremely unpopular in his day, particular among the people he had been well-respected by, the Pharisees and his own family. Knowing that his own father was a Pharisees and his mentor was Gamaliel, when Paul stubbornly held fast to the gospel, he did so in direct contradiction to his own family, his upbringing, his nation, his former friends, and his mentor. Following the gospel, holding true, and determining to publicize the truth of who Jesus was at all costs did indeed cost him everything.

      But he tells us why here. The gospel is worth fighting for! The truth of who God is and what He says is a fight worth having... and it's a fight we shouldn't be ashamed of. Even when it's hard or it means taking a different stance than an authority figure or a friend you've known a long time, the gospel is truth worth standing for.

     I wonder... I don't do this as the application after a sermon time. I truly wonder... am I unashamed of the gospel of Christ? Am I unashamed to stand up and proclaim to the world that I am, in fact, a follower of Christ? Am I unashamed to stand up and identify before other Christians with the truth of what the gospel is and who Christ is, maybe when that means popular dismissal?

     There are days I seriously do wish I had a different personality, one that didn't so furiously pursue questions or demand answers. But at the end of the day, I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, not before the world or my Christian peers. The truth is worth standing up for, unashamedly.

Monday, May 2, 2016


    I don't typically post a single link and leave it at that, but tonight... this was a very thought-provoking article for those of you who grew up, like me, in conservative, evangelical (particularly homeschooler) circles. I'm interested in opinions too, so I want some comments. Yes, people, read it, think it through, and leave some thoughts!