What I Have Learned About Pain.

I am cut to the core. Recently, a lot of pain has entered my life that has led me towards unfaithfulness in my relationship with Christ. Instead of allowing myself to experience the pain and have it be a reminder that this is not home and strengthen my dependence on Him and the Body, I tried to end the pain to end by running to things that would numb the pain. In doing so, I have numbed not only the pain, but also any joy I may have experienced from receiving grace from God. I was reminded of this verse recently and it makes so much more sense to me now:

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

-2 Corinthians 7:10

Now I have seen the foolishness of my mistakes. Through the caring kindness of God through several friends, I have seen the light. As a result, I feel the pain of remorse along with the pain I felt originally. If anything this has been a reminder of my weakness, selfishness and frailty. Instead of running from this pain this time, I am going to allow myself to experience it and have it push me closer to God. I will hold on to this hope because, to be honest, I have nothing else to run to. With the following verse in mind, I will humbly accept the gift I do not deserve:

The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

-Romans 13:12-14

Singleness: That Infectious Disease

So I must preface this post with two things: First, this will be a long post. Secondly, these are simply thoughts and ideas I have discovered as a single, 20 year old male in college who pursues Jesus by His grace and love alone. 

I am writing about the idea of singleness because I have realized how big of a topic it is in America (not just in Christian circles). However, singleness is treated as a disease that needs to be cured. So often I have been asked “are you dating anyone right now?” as if there is an expectation that I have to or should be. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely have a desire to be married one day, but I have found that a lot of Christians’ views of singleness is quite skewed. We always have these cliché (and might I add stupid) quotes related to dating within Christianity. Here are two for example:

“Run fast as you can toward God and if someone keeps up, introduce yourself.”

“Remember God will never take something away from you without the intention of replacing it with something better.” 

There’s always a “cure” for singleness. You just have to wait long enough, trust God enough, pursue God harder. It’s never enough though because singleness was never a disease to be cured. Let me briefly share my experience with this in all of my 20 years of living in this “ring before spring” culture.

My entire life, until very recently around the middle of September, I had structure my life like this: 

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I had centered my life around girls and finding a relationship. Everything I did orbited around finding a relationship. Each day I would wake up and try to find someone that could make me feel loved, who gave me affection, made me feel special, and ultimately I just wanted to feel comfortable and to feel good. My whole reason for following Jesus was to impress a Christian girl. My prayers were that I would become a godly man so that I could find a godly girl. Going to school, church, and my job was like fishing for the best girlfriend. I had realized this destructive tendency in my life and surrendered to God saying “I don’t want anything to distract or get in the way of my relationship with you, O God, ever again.” 

That night, I never felt so free and joyous. I had been freed. The reason I say freed is because with my life looking like that, I was under slavery to relationships. It was a heavy yoke that brought only disappointment, hurt, and sadness. 

There were many repercussions to this view that I am still dealing with today. I do admit I am not perfect and I sometimes still strive for a girl’s heart rather than the heart of God, but I can honestly say my whole life has changed since that night.

What I’ve realized since then is that there is so much emphasis on how to date properly, how to figure out if this person is worth dating, figuring out if this person is a part of God’s will for your life, etc. These can be fine and I’ve actually found some material that is quite excellent about this stuff. All that excellent material, though, centers around Jesus Christ and not relationships. 

We all have a desire to be loved and shown affection and that’s not a bad thing. If we find that desire is being “satisfied” by anything other than Jesus, it just becomes a cyclical mechanism that destroys your life. Trust God. Trust Him that He is good and that He alone satisfies you. To chase after anything else to be satisfied is an act of unbelief and distrust in God. You will be shown love, affection and be cared for through Christ. Has He not already? 

I may have said this in previous posts, but I will gladly repeat it: love has to be followed by an action. You cannot simply tell a person each and every single day that you love them and do nothing about it. Love is also measure by the depth of that action. Want to know how much God loves you? Read Romans 5:8 then read John 15:13. That’s how much God loves you. The perfect and holy God who needs nothing loves you that much. 

So to those who are single: Seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness. Trust Him. Love others the way you want to be loved.

To those who aren’t single: Please help us out and (for those of you who do this) quit asking about our love life. If we are seeing someone you will know. 

Everything Is Meaningless.

I am writing this at 1:29AM Mountain Standard Time because I cannot sleep. The reason for my not sleeping is because life has hit me with a couple different problems that just won’t let me sleep. Granted, they are no where near what the people in the Philippines are facing. I could not imagine what it must be like to be in a situation like that especially at night. Your home destroyed. Perhaps loved ones gone or missing. You are literally sleeping on the ground and you only sleep because your body needs it, not because it’s comfortable.

But I digress (not to lessen the situation in the Philippines). In thinking about my problems, I’ve come to realize everything is meaningless.

One of the problems I’m facing now is that I’ve acquired a decent amount of debt because of my injury in the midst of having no job. While I was thinking about that, I thought “why was I given life?” I thought about how often I fail, how insanely selfish I am and how I couldn’t even imagine having a career in vocational ministry; the very thing the degree I’m working towards is preparing me for.

Even deeper, I thought about how Paul and the Disciples lived life. It must have been incredibly difficult, but their lives were wholly focused on Christ and sharing the gospel. It wasn’t focused on making enough money to live, on finding a spouse, and not on anything else that would focus on them. I desire so much for my life to be like that and not have an American life that is centered on making money, paying bills and obtaining luxuries.

Everything I’m doing is for me and my comfort. When I got that bill in the mail and opened it up, I became very anxious and stressed. This is because it meant an end for my comfort. It meant an end to see movies, be with friends, and just be carefree. I began to think of how pointless everything is in view of eternity with the Creator of the universe. But, I think what I’m truly realizing is that these things aren’t necessarily meaningless, they just aren’t truly satisfying in any way.

The author of Ecclesiastes realized this as well. Everything the author of this book calls “meaningless” is actually referring to the “reward” they bring. Wisdom is meaningless because “For with wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief” (Ecclesiastes 1:18). Pleasures are meaningless:

“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was my reward for all my labor.”

-Ecclesiastes 2:10

This author experiences every pleasure and comfort a human being could have experienced and found them all meaningless. However, the way he concludes all this is interesting:

“Now all has been heard;

Here is the conclusion of the matter:

Fear God and keep his commandments,

For this is the whole duty of man.

For God will bring every deed into judgment,

including every hidden thing,

whether it is good or evil.”

-Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Really? This person experiences anything and everything a person could want while on earth (wives [multiple so he had sexual pleasure], money, popularity, built things with his own hands, etc.). Anything you can think about that you think would enhance life, this guy had it and he concludes that we should fear God and obey his commandments? That’s the best thing to do in this life?

This life is meant to be a worshipful (bring worth too –> worthship) expression by sacrificially loving others while supremely loving our Creator in a heart that overflows with gratefulness and the Spirit of Christ. So, my life can be like Paul’s.

I will love like Christ did and share about what He did for my life to everyone I know. I will experience suffering, like Paul, but in a different way be it bills, relational pain (either romantic or brotherly) or whatever else life may throw at me. Paul worked hard and experienced suffering just like many will in America today. However, he realized something about his life and about all the pain that would come his way:

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

-Romans 8:18

An attitude like that brings joy like this:

“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of know Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I’ve lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

-Philippians 3:8-11

My brothers and sisters, if you are reading this with a heart that does not consider the value of knowing Christ deeply and fully or even at all I urge you to consider the worth or value of whatever you may be pursuing in light of eternity. If you are reading this considering everything is meaningless like I have, be encouraged that all things were meant for us to honor and glorify God. Also in the midst of hurt, pain, and sorrow, our God will be honored in our perseverance and there will be a day when we will be in His loving embrace and presence.

Grace and peace be to whomever reads this.

Free To Struggle

“Hallelujah we are free to struggle, we’re not struggling to be free.” This is a line from the song The Struggle by Tenth Avenue North. When I first heard this song, I didn’t understand what it meant. Now, it is a beautiful phrase that describes my life in this world with Jesus as my savior.

I’ve been learning a lot these past couples weeks, hence the constant posting. I learned one very interesting thing from a counselor I went to yesterday. He was telling me that the most people who become sex addicts are CEOs, big wigs, and people who are highly decorated. He further explained that the reason for this is because they are searching for relational intimacy and they try to find that in a place that people don’t get to see: the bedroom. 

As I heard that, my heart broke and I started to cry because I thought about how God loves us so much and wants intimacy with us, and specifically how He loves me. Since yesterday, I’ve seen how my desire for relational intimacy has impacted me. I so strongly seek relationships with people to have that intimacy. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to seek intimacy with people, but they can’t be my source of it nor can they be where I find validation.

I’m always fighting this desire to run to people and I have to keep reminding myself of the promises and truths that God has given to me. It’s a constant battle against the flesh. The flesh desires to be in relationship with people, but my inner being needs to be intimate with God. I understand that I will never be done fighting sin, temptation, the flesh or the world until Jesus returns and calls us home. Until then, it is a struggle, but it is a holy struggle. Praise God that I struggle because that means His Spirit is in me. If I wasn’t in a relationship with Him and didn’t have His Spirit, I wouldn’t be able to struggle I would just submit to sin (Romans 8:5-8). A verse after that (Romans 8:9a) says “You, however, are not controlled by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you…”

If you are struggling with anything right now, praise God because without Him you wouldn’t be able to.

So once again “Hallelujah! We are free to struggle, we’re not struggling to be free!” 

Grace Like A River

Are there any wounded hearts present tonight? Of course there are. We are all wounded and deeply afflicted. Afflicted by sin which leaves the deepest scar of separation from our perfect, holy and loving God. There is not a soul on earth that is not impacted by this tragedy, yet there is an answer to it all which redeems sinfulness and turns it into life: grace.

I don’t think you can write too much about this topic especially when talking about God’s grace. It is so deep that the Apostle Paul describes it in this way:

“But where sin increased, grace increased all the more”

-Romans 5:20b

It doesn’t matter how deeply sin runs because you can’t out-sin His grace. We know that we are loved because “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

This tragic separation is now repaired and leads to a beautiful marriage of wicked people to a holy God:

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”

-Romans 8:14-16

So we have this saving grace and the Holy Spirit in us that testifies with our spirit that we are His children, but the world still hurts and we are impacted by the sinfulness that is still left to ravage the world. We are justified (declared righteous) before God because of Christ’s work on the cross. Now, the Spirit is in us to continually work in us the process of sanctification (making us holy). It is a process that is why Paul has prayers like Ephesians 1:17-19a, Ephesians 3:14-21, and Colossians 1:9-14. There are many more, but look at what Paul is asking God to give to these churches (seriously go read it). Paul asks that Ephesians church would know God and the hope they’ve been given better. He asks that the Colossian church would know His will through all wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.

While we have been given redemption, we haven’t fully received it yet (1 Peter 1:4b-5; starting with “This inheritance…”). Continually, we are called by God to rely on His grace and love when we sin (1 John 1:9; Psalm 51; Psalm 32) and when this world causes us pain (Hebrews 12:7-13; 1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 62:5-8).

So when your heart is hurt, lean and press into Him because He can handle it and He will surely care for you (Matthew 6:25-34). Does He not receive glory when you run to Him? When you proclaim that God has healed you in your hurt and brokenness, does He not receive praise? Go to Him in your brokenness the same way a child goes to his parents in helpless surrender. Do not hold anything back because Jesus Himself said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

Just run. Run as fast as you can into the river of grace that flows from Calvary. There is no need to cleanse yourself beforehand because the purpose of the river is to heal. In your brokenness, despair, anguish, hurtfulness, and sinfulness go to Him in total abandonment of self and repentance and drink deeply from that river of grace. This, too, is how God receives glory: not only when we serve and obey and sacrificially love, but also when we surrender and confess and repent and turn to Him. So if you are hurting, glorify God this day by running to Him and drinking from the wonderful river of grace.

In Christ Alone.

There is one thing I see constantly repeated throughout this life: it’s all about God. Marriage, driving, eating, friendships, fishing, baking, creating art, reading, listening, doing homework, sitting, breathing, living. It is all about God. There is nothing in this life that you can separate from God. Even sin plays its part for without it we would not have grace and the wonderful declaration of reality found in Romans 5:8.

Today has been a particularly difficult day. Words that describe this day are stressful, anxious, worry, confusion, pain. I’m sure that sounds familiar to everyone because everyone has days, weeks or even seasons like these. While my troubles are not of the caliber of a loved one dying or being diagnosed with cancer, they still bring tension to my life. All I wanted today was for someone to care. To ask how my day went and be genuinely concerned with my life.

I experienced something that isn’t new to me: people fail. I sought to be comforted by human hands and they failed. I’m not upset, mad or even slightly annoyed by those people because of two reasons. First, because people will always fail and I can’t expect them to be my savior in any manner. Secondly, It was a confirmation that I need to look to Christ to be my justifier and comforter. I love the image of Christ’s supremacy in Colossians 1:15-19:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Though everything was given to Him, He cares for us deeply and loves us and that is beautifully displayed in Romans 5:8, but also in Revelation 21:1-5:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

That is beautiful and that is the hope I have to look forward to! Today, this is how I saw that it is all about God: humans (me) fail and cannot be where I lean and press into when I’m hurting or where I find my ultimate source of love. So I will daily surrender any hope I might find in what the world offers and in Christ alone will I find love, attention, satisfaction, validation and care.

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)