Christian Speaking

Hello, it has been a long while since I have posted. It seems appropriate to give some sort of greetings to whomever read or follows my writing for whatever reason. The reason for my absence is because I noticed an influx of “college-age-Christian-bloggers-who-have-ideas-that-change-the-world,” and I did not desire to be a part of a trend or movement. I decided that I would rather take my ideas and what I’ve learn to the real world with real people. Albeit, there have been times where I’ve commented on something on Facebook because I think, perhaps, my input could be helpful. Now that I’ve explained my leave of absence, I digress.

This post comes from a rumbling of raw thought that has been trying to find a more precise and refined verbiage that appropriately expresses the thought. The idea in mind and of the current topic is sensitivity.

Growing up, I was always very sensitive to what others said about me, God, my friends, or really anything dear to me. It was not uncommon that I would find myself crying and being hurt at what a person might say. I always thought this was a good thing because it showed that my heart had not grown hard in a sinful and broken world.

As I got older, though, I noticed that there were things that I didn’t feel like I should be hurt or offended by, but I just was. I shrugged off the feeling under the thought and assumption that being sensitive is a good thing and I shouldn’t worry if I’m too easily hurt or offended. In fact, being sensitive is an incredibly good thing and something desperately needed in a cold world in which it is easy to grow apathetic and indifferent. However, I’ve realized that my “sensitivity” was really just a way to guard myself from growing and becoming a different, more mature person.

I recently, very recently in fact, just experienced this in a conversation I had with my wife. I made a comment that hurt her and made her feel as if I was attacking her. Granted, I’ve given her reason before to think this way unfortunately (something that God is currently working in me). This time, however, I simply made a comment to help her see something perhaps she couldn’t see and to help her grow.

If you’re reading this and you’re completely lost, perhaps an example will help. Maybe you have or heard of a friend who is in a relationship with a guy who just isn’t good for her, but she is happy and likes him a lot. If you were to confront this girl and say, “Hey, I think this guy is not who you think he is and he does not have sincere intentions in dating you,” often times that girl will react by explaining his behavior, or flat out rejecting what you said. Perhaps we’ve had similar moments happen to us. A friend confronts us with something that isn’t particularly pleasant and we either defend ourselves with explanations, or we simply can’t see or understand what they are saying.

When we hear things that are hurtful to us, we should ask ourselves two questions: (1) what is the source of this hurtful thing (i.e., does it come from someone I trust or someone who desires to hurt me/be malicious)? (2) Why would this person say this to me (i.e., do they want to hurt me, or do they want to help me)?

It might help to take these questions to the scenario stated above. If the girl dating this terrible guy asked herself these two questions she might come to something like this: (1) this person who is telling me this is my friend (2) she is probably saying this to help me. After evaluating the hurtful feelings through these questions, the girl can see clearly that her friend has no malicious intent and only desires good for her life.

We often do not ask ourselves these questions when we’re hurt. We immediately feel hurt and assume that it is bad and that this person is trying to hurt us. But we must realize the role that pain has in making us more like Christ. In understanding that this hurt or pain comes from a sinful desire to continue in my sinfulness instead of becoming more like Christ, we will more quickly begin to trust people and grow in wisdom and maturity. We will no longer be like a small boat in storm tossed by every wind of hurtfulness and sunk by every word that passes through our hears.

I am reminded of Paul’s concluding exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 where he simply states:

Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast to what is good.

-ESV

In the NIV, it says “do not treat prophecies with contempt.” I imagine this was speaking against an attitude that says, “Eh, all prophecies are garbage and I don’t really need to listen to them. I just gotta listen to Paul.” This might not be the context, but I do think, applicationally, it holds us. Essentially, we should mature believers and respected leaders and friends the benefit of the doubt when they speak something that may come as a shock or maybe hurtful to us.

An example that I think of right off the bat that may help wrapping your mind around this abstract idea is this:

There was on Facebook a post that included a picture of Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”. Of course, it garnered a lot of attention and some people listed their opinions of this book without having read it. Others commented saying that they cannot rightfully have an opinion without first reading the book. Generally, this is a good principle and we should follow it. However, in this case, we have seen many leaders (John Piper for example) condemn this book as heresy. Some may roll their eyes when they read that John Piper condemns this, but I think we need to give him the benefit of a doubt. He is a mature Christian and respected leader who has given no reason to think poorly of his opinion. In fact, we should regard his opinion highly because of who he has made himself to be. This is not to say we should not read this book, but simply that it is not foolish to form an opinion based on mature and respected leaders’ opinions about such a book.

All this to say, there is a level of sensitivity that must exist today to empathize with the hurting, lost, and broken. However, there also needs to be understanding that hurtful words do not necessitate malicious intent. As a family in Christ, we should always give each other the benefit of the doubt that each of us has good intentions for one another and that we are helping one another grow closer to Christ. A difficult task to be sure because of our experience in this world that people are generally self-centered, mean, and unkind. But isn’t this exactly what Christ is seeking to undue in His people, and thus our trust and disposition towards other Christians should be that of love and humility?

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A Gracious Response

This blog or article or opinion piece or whatever you may call it is prompted by a few popular articles floating around regarding the issue of lust, leggings, and “the greater problem”. My hope and desire to reply graciously (as the title implies) instead of pumping out a reactionary response. With this reply, I hope that it provides new insights and provides correction where needed and, ultimately, bring unity to our faith as our Lord has desired (John 17:20-23). This is primarily in response to two specific articles namely “Not a dick: a man’s perspective on modesty” and “Ten Things We Should Get Angry About Before Yoga Pants.

With all that here are some thoughts:

My initial thoughts about these two articles is that they are trying to avoid a real issue by saying it isn’t important or that we’re better than these low accusations of being animals.

To address the first one, I think Ashley has completely missed the point with her argument. She absolutely brings up some great points that should be heard. Christians (including myself) have a tendency to get hooked on matters that are of little or no significance (i.e. republicans should be in office, styles of worship music, etc.). However, I do not think that the topic or discussion of leggings is one of little significance.

Before I share why I think these two writers have erred in their recent writings, I would like to establish a Biblical background that, I think, is essential to being involved in this conversation.

Throughout the New Testament (and even the Old Testament) sexual immorality is shown as a snare to men. There is the example of Israel in Numbers 25 when it mentions that the people “began to whore after the daughters of Moab” and as a result “they yoked themselves to the Baals of Peor”. The Israelites were swayed to follow idols because they women had seduced them. Of course, the focus here is that Israel yoked themselves to Baals and thus the Lord was faithful in fulfilling the covenant curses. Moses comments on this issue later in Numbers 31:15-16 saying:

“Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live? Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord”

So, sexual immorality was a means to “act treacherously against the Lord”, which was the idolatry of Israel of the Baals.

Another OT book that talks about the deadliness of sexual immorality (specifically adultery) is Proverbs, specifically chapter 5 and 6:20-7:27.

The Old Testament makes a pretty good case against sexual immorality, but let’s take a look at what the New Testament has to say because it is much more internal. Two passages in particular come to mind 1 Corinthians 6:9-20 and 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

What’s interesting in the first passage is the first few verses (9-11) Paul talks about the “unrighteous” and how they will not inherit the kingdom of God. Sexual immorality is a part of this list. Of course, this refers to those who steep themselves in these activities. Wouldn’t this be surprising, though? Why wouldn’t people such as murderers, rapists, tyrannical leaders, and the like be listed as those who do not inherit the kingdom of God. Surely having sexual relations isn’t that bad, and most certainly not lusting after a woman? Paul continues on in verses 12 and 13 essentially saying that just because everything is permissible doesn’t mean everything is beneficial, and that the body is made for the Lord, not for sexual immorality. From there, Paul builds his argument that sexual immorality is bad.

The things I’d like to point out in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 is that 1.) Paul says that it is God’s will that we abstain from sexual immorality, and 2.) verse 7, “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”

So, with all this in mind, I would like to say that I think Ashely errs in her argument by essentially saying, “Look, yoga pants aren’t a big deal. Worry about these other issues”. This type of argumentation is employing a red herring, which is one of many logical fallacies that exist. Essentially, this person is arguing that we shouldn’t worry about A because B, but B has nothing to do with A. There isn’t a valid argument as to why one shouldn’t worry about yoga pants.

Argumentation aside, I think it is worth mentioning that so many people want to champion social justice over, well, everything. This is a great thing! I want to affirm that this (my) generation’s concern for social justice is so good and Ashley is right that the things she mentioned we should be concerned about. Before you send out the troops, you’ve got to train them. There is no different with Christians.

On the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had a lot of “You have heard it said…but I say to you” moments. What he was doing here was internalizing these sins, not necessarily equalizing them. What I mean is this: Jesus wasn’t equating lusting after a woman with adultery. He was simply pointing to the fact that these sins aren’t merely external, they are internal, and, in fact, that is where the begin. No one just commits adultery, it is a progression. It starts with an internal desire to view women and sex as yours to please you. Then, it fleshes itself out in different ways, perhaps it goes to adultery, but usually it begins in “small” ways like masturbation and pornography. Soon, those are not enough to satisfy this addiction that has developed and thrill and the rush is not enough.

My point here is that the internal is equally as deadly, if not more deadly. So, here is why I think both Ashley and Hannah’s (and her friend Austin) arguments are not quite accurate.

It is factual that human beings are visual creatures. It is perhaps our strongest sense. It logically follows that it is difficult for men in particular to look away from something that pleases and satisfies them visually. As well, I think Austin (from Hannah’s blog) gives to much credit to humanity. We have to remember that humanity is born with sin and inherently evil (Romans 1). Our tendency is always toward sin, so arguments such as:

“That my hormones and sexual instincts control my life on a day-to-day basis and I am constantly resisting the urge to mate with anything that moves.”

aren’t too far from the truth. It is only by the grace of God and the Holy Spirit that we can resist sin and temptation. Romans 6 describes an unbelieving person as a slave to sinfulness. St. Augustine described the state of humanity after the fall using the Latin phrase non posse non peccare, which simply means we are not able to not sin.

With all that said, yes, the way that women dress is an issue. However, I will never say the responsibility is fully on women. Men have a responsibility as well to pursue purity. It is interesting to me that, from my experience, men have, for the most part, embraced that their impurity and sexual immorality is a problem that needs to be fixed. Perhaps sometimes there is an overemphasis on females’ dressing.

I have, however, seen a very small percentage of women accept responsibility for what they wear. At this time, I would like to bring up my fiancée as an example. For me personally, it’s never been an issue for me to look lustfully at her because she doesn’t expose or emphasis certain areas of her body with her clothing. Sometimes she just wears a regular T-Shirt and some workout pants (the non-form-fitting kind). This is her graciousness towards me, and quite frankly it gives me more of an opportunity to love her and not just her body. As well, she doesn’t draw attention to herself with her clothing and I never worry about other guys looking at her, which is even more grace on her part to me.

Sex is a good example of this. Being close to marriage, I’ve learned more about it and its purposes. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that sex is all about the other person’s pleasure, denying themselves so that the other can have the most enjoyment. They lift each other up above themselves to satisfy the other. This is most certainly not the attitude of today’s culture on either side of this conversation. In fact, I think we should take our cue from 1 Corinthians 7: that love is our guiding principle, and that, even though you know something isn’t inherently wrong, you still go without that thing if it causes the other to stumble.

I hope this is informative and that it has been communicated graciously. My desire is to see needless conversations like this to happen and that we would come together men and women and be willing to die to ourselves for the betterment of the body.

Know God Now.

Once again, it has been a while since I’ve posted. This time, it has been due to some serious thought. Thought about why I post: is it so I can shine in my “high spirituality”? Or to communicate ideas that will strengthen and encourage the body of Christ? I’ve learned how much selfishness and arrogance can rule my life. It is a battle indeed. However, even writing this now, I realize how I have neglected a passion of mine. How good it feels to combine words to create sentences and have those sentences communicate ideas and thoughts. It was good to take a break and take a good look at my heart, but now it feels wonderful to write again! 

My main inspiration for writing this post is because I have seen more and more where this generation is going. It is interesting for me to look at high schoolers now and then look at who I was in high school. They look very similar. A lot of my high schools years were spent chasing my pleasures be it girls, skateboarding, or video games. You name it. If it was something that I enjoyed and brought entertainment to my life, I pursued it. In the midst of those pursuits, I look back and see how very confused I was. Because the things I pursued (mainly women and relationships) ruled over my heart, I did everything to attain it: lying about who I am physically and as a person, changing parts of me to seem more appealing to whomever I was trying to impress, and ANYTHING I could do to have a girl like me or be in a relationship. 

Thankfully, most of my plans failed and I was continually humbled to the point where I was frustrated. Granted, there were other times when my scheming succeeded and I regretfully got what I wanted. If God had not frustrated my plans over and over I do not think I would have been led to Him, and would be, to this very day, seating my desires on the throne of my heart and doing everything I could to satisfy them. I praise the Lord that He pointed out the idolatry in my life, which was an incredibly painful process. 

Anyway, my point is that when I look at this society in which we live, I begin fear and lose hope. I cannot imagine raising a child in this day in age. All the things that kids (children mind you) are exposed to today. I could list them all, but that would digress from my point. In spite of all this, I am reminded of a God who redeemed me from a similar culture. If I had to offer any piece of advice to the youth of today (meaning high school and younger) I would say to pursue God now. Too common is it thought that, “I will have fun while I am young, and then do the ‘Christian thing’ later on in life.” Or sometimes, perhaps not consciously, there is a thought that says, “Sexual pleasure, partying, alcohol, drugs is the best thing I can get in this life.” 

I, too, have erroneously thought this, but that was before I had tasted the sweetness of the fellowship I have with God. I think C.S Lewis said it right when he said that our desires are not too strong, but too weak. We desire these things, which are good sometimes. Our flaw, though, is thinking that they can bring any satisfaction to our lives. And I would distinguish pleasure from satisfaction by saying that pleasure brings excitement while satisfaction brings rest. So then, let us take heed to this word:

 

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

-Hebrews 12:14-15

 

A Season of Change

Fall (or Autumn as some prefer) is said to be the season of change. It makes sense that this is the season of change. A new school year, new seasons of New Girl, and sometimes even new jobs. Well, this season has been quite the change indeed.

I just recently turned 20 years old which is quite strange to think about. As I look back on the last 10 years of my life I see a tremendous amount of work that has been done in my heart. I’ve been the “Jesus is my homeboy” guy to a disciple of the risen Christ declaring that Jesus is my life.

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Anyway, that’s really crazy and I’m excited for what God has in store the next 10 years of my life. One thing that is constant in my learning and that continues to deepen as I age is this understanding that nothing matters except God. 

That is quite a bold statement to the rest of the world. Really? Family, friends, and even one who might be your wife aren’t important? Okay, obviously I care much for those things, but, in the end, whom will have I have? I think Psalms 73:25 states it quite well:

“Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.”

I am reading through a book called Justification by N.T. Wright and he says this:

But we are not the center of the universe. God is not circling around us. We are circling around him. It may look, from our point of view, as though “me and my salvation” are the be-all and end-all of Christianity…But the real point is, I believe, that the salvation of human beings, is part of a larger purpose. God is rescuing us from the shipwreck of the world, not so that we can sit back and put our feet up in his company, but so that we can be part of his plan to remake the world. We are in orbit around God and his purposes, not the other way around.”

-N.T. Wright, Justification

As I read this, I wholly agreed with him. I know that, personally, a lot of my life has been about me. I’m starting to see the real picture of what life is about.

This would be comical if there wasn’t so much at stake, but we use God. We use God to get his stuff. We use God as a means to an end be it marriage (“just keep waiting”), a successful life (job, family, etc.) or for anything else in this world.

We hear that God loves us and that all he wants to do is make our life better. Well, that is true he does love us, but ultimately he wants to glorify himself. Is that our thought as we go throughout the day? I know for me it hasn’t been that way at all. I realized about a month ago that I was really living for God to get his stuff and cared nothing for him.

I surrendered his stuff for him, not solely because he will satisfy me more, but so that he would glorified in me and that people would look at him when they see me.

It was a very freeing and joyous moment knowing that I have Christ in me and that’s all I need:

“The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”

-Psalm 34:10

I would challenge you, thoughtful reader, to consider what is the end goal of your life. What is that one (or maybe multiple) thing that you want? A good way of figuring that out is by looking back at your day and asking yourself this question: what was I pursuing the whole day?

For some, it may be a relationship pursuing any girl or guy that gives even the slightest hint of interest. Maybe it’s a 4.0 so you lock yourself away from anyone who might distract you from that. Whatever it is, it holds you back from true life:

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

-Jesus Christ of Nazareth (John 17:3)

Worship-less worship

Very recently, I was talking to a couple of good friends (Clint Harper and Elliott George) and they were talking about how sometimes people sing things they don’t understand. They commented that it’s becoming more common that the time of worship by singing has become equal to the amount of time the pastor speaks. Because of this, it is also becoming more important to correctly worship God. In the same way you wouldn’t have a theologically unsound pastor preach a church, why would we allow theologically incorrect worship leaders lead worship?

I completely agree with them. It hit me a little bit harder this week at the gathering (Tuesday night worship service on campus). I sincerely want to sing praises unto God Most High! It’s the words of truth that stir my soul, not just emotional feel-good lyrics. When we sing songs that speak of who God is in a way that mimics what the Bible says…oh the desire in my heart to pour out song and praise and fill the room with loud music.

A song entitled “What Do I Know Of Holy” by the band Addison Road is a great example of a song that pierces the heart. Here is a sample of the lyrics:

“I guess I thought that I had figured You out
I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about
How You were mighty to save
Those were only empty words on a page
Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be
The slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees”

This is so true! Look at all the times in the Bible that God appeared to people! They weren’t all happy and smiley! They were terrified:

Isaiah 6:5

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

Job 42:5-6:

“My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”

And even the Apostle John, who had seen Jesus before, saw Jesus again in His Heavenly form (Revelation 1):

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.”

God is terrifyingly holy. Yes, He is our Father and Friend, but He is God. Jesus Himself says this in John 4:24:

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

If we are not worshiping in truth, then what are we doing? The idea of worship is to bring worth to our object of worship, hence it’s appropriate to call it worthship. Next time you are singing in church or any place for that matter, consider what you are about to proclaim.