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

 

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Jesus, Here Is My Heart

My heart feels like bursting
nothing can truly express it’s cry
It groans as it recognizes the hurt
The pain is a signal
that I am not truly home
The sinful nature looks to this world and persuades me to find comfort there
I’ve been there too many times
No true satisfaction can be found
Not in relationships
Not in pleasure
Not in happiness
These things only last a moment
In their wake they leave hurt or even depression
People think that love is the center of life
But life is at the center of Love
To go outside of it
Or to stray away means to abandon hope and true comfort
That is why, like a fetter, bind my wand’ring heart to thee
My heart aches and groans for the Almighty, the Eternal, the King
No thing can possibly replace such joy
Nor can no thing last

Praise the One who made me alive
The very day that He died

I can't live a single day without you     
I don't even want to try                                      
And I won't take another step without your light           
I need your light
-Phil Wickham

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
-Psalm 73:25

A Kingdom Perspective

I started a tradition that, every year on the 1st of January, I read last year’s entry in my journal and reflect upon the past year. I, then, write about the upcoming year and speculations as to how the year will unfold. So this year, I wrote about what I think this year will bring and such, but another thing I decided to do was add a passage as a theme for this year.

I decided on Colossians 3:1-3 which says,

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
-Colossians 3:1-3D

I have many reasons as to why I chose this passage. My primary reason, though, is that I realized something in 2013: I focused a lot on earthly things (relationships, marriage, future careers, etc.). None of these things are inherently bad, but I made these things my highest pursuit and they ruled my life. I know that I will never escape sin this side of death, so I don’t expect to be perfect in anything I do. However, I do want this year to be more focused on the eternal and I want to have a kingdom perspective because, as I’ve read through Matthew, Jesus is ALWAYS focused on the Father and His kingdom. You can see that kind of mindset and attitude in literally everything He does. It would be annoying how often He is focused on just the Father and His kingdom if it weren’t exactly what we’re supposed to do.

This year, I want to be driven by the hope that God has given me. He knows what I need and so I need to surrender and trust that He will meet those needs. There will most certainly be pain, struggle, and temptation. Even though I will experience all of that, I want to see God’s glory in the face of Christ and see His loftiness and surrender to a great God who cares and loves. For there is no higher pursuit than the pursuit of God.

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: 

Image

 

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!”