Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jesus Under House Arrest

For a long time, people thought the earth was the center of the universe. They thought this for two reasons: The stars, sun, and planets seem to revolve around the earth each day, and also, the earth does not seem to move when your standing on it. Pretty simple. I mean, any 8 year old could tell you that.

The church was especially adamant about this claim. After all, they felt they had scriptures to support it (Ps. 93:1, 1 Chron. 16:30, Ecc. 1:5). They were so adamant, in fact, that those who proposed theories or ideas that contradicted geocentrism were considered heretics. Many of these "heretics" were imprisoned and even executed.

This is why Galileo was put under house arrest... for life.

Heliocentrism--the model of the solar system in which the sun is at the center and not the earth--had been around for a while but the church had done everything it could to thwart it. Galileo pleaded with the church, claiming that heliocentrism was not contrary to scripture and that the church may not be interpreting the scriptures correctly. However, they still ordered him not to discuss or defend the possibility that everything revolved around the sun.

A few years later, Galileo wrote about heliocentrism in a book that really ticked the Pope off. He stood trial in 1633 and he was found guilty of heresy for making claims that the earth was not in a central, favored position. The Inquisition forced Galileo to "abjure, curse, and detest" his recent claims. All of his works--past, present, and future--were banned and Galileo was sentenced to spend the remainder of his life under house arrest.

A few days ago, I read something that Jesus said and it has echoed in my head ever since:

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me" - Luke 9:23

Let's be brutally honest with ourselves for a moment...

Think about how we live everyday. If we were honest, we would admit that our days are spent trying to do things that we think will satisfy us. We want to do certain things, so we do them. We want to watch certain things, so we watch them. We want to have certain things, so we buy them. We want to say certain things, so we say them. We want to eat certain things, so we eat them. Truthfully, we are selfish, self-centered, self-consumed, self-absorbed, self-interested, self-seeking, and self-serving. Maybe, just maybe, there are moments in which we are altruistic and benevolent, but upon honest, longitudinal examination we see ourselves for what we truly are: narcissistic.

This presents a major problem: Jesus says that if we want to follow him, WE MUST DENY OURSELVES. If you want to follow Jesus you must forsake your possessions (Matthew 19:16-30). If you want to follow Jesus you must forsake your family (Luke 9:59-62). If you want to follow Jesus you must forsake your career (Matthew 4:19-20). If you want to follow Jesus you must forsake your desires (Phillipians 3:8). If you want to follow Jesus you must forsake EVERYTHING.

I can't do, say, buy, watch, and eat whatever I want! It's that simple AND that practical. I have to sacrifice my plans, relationships, dreams, and desires. I must choose to put Jesus first. I must choose to put others first. "I" no longer matters. "Me" is no longer my concern. When I choose to follow Jesus, I must wake up and choose to deny myself everyday.

A friend recently asked me what I thought it meant to "walk and live in the spirit." The answer is simple: it is to deny yourself. You can't say it any better than Paul did when he penned to the Galations, "Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galations 5:16). Not gratifying your desires IS walking in the spirit. Walking in the spirit is not gratifying your desires. Too bad we don't always walk the walk.

Instead, we go over our heads in debt. We destroy relationships with greed and envy. We are prideful and arrogant. We make a habit of eating food that we know is not good for us because we like it. We don't want to sit in the backseat, so we yell "shotgun" before our friend does so we can sit up front, without even considering what our friend wants. We stand outside at a store, all night, in the cold, on Black Friday so we can buy new stuff for ourselves. We spend our days doing whatever we can to make ourselves happy, comfortable, and fulfilled. We don't deny ourselves of anything that we desire. We treat ourselves like we're in some sort of central, favored position.

I feel that Jesus is doing today, what Galileo did almost 400 years ago. He is is standing before the church, pleading with us to see that our model of the universe is inaccurate. That everything does not revolve around us. That we are not the center of the universe.

He is not calling us to be in a central, favored position. However, we have scriptures to support this view of the universe, so anything else is heresy! After all, Malachi 3:10 says that God will pour out blessings on us until they are overflowing and 3 John says that we may prosper in all things. So we use these scriptures as excuses for getting what we want, for setting ourselves in the middle of everything. We take a few scriptures about blessings and prosperity out of context and use them as ammunition against the many things that Jesus says about sacrifice and surrender. We wage war against our very own savior. We are no different than the church Galileo was dealing with almost 400 years ago: we use scripture to justify our beliefs, as opposed to using scripture to construct our beliefs.

We put Jesus under house arrest.

We keep him confined in a place we don't really have to deal with him. Now, we can stay comfortable, but if we ever do need him, we know where he is.


As cheesy as this is, the Son needs to be the center of your universe. If you claim to be his follower, you have no other choice. If he is not the center of everything that you do, every single day, then you are not following. Period. You have to choose every day to follow him. In big and little things. It may not be comfortable or satisfying to your flesh, but thats what sacrifice is. He sacrificed for you, its your turn.

Every morning you must choose to take up your cross and follow Jesus. You must choose all day long to deny yourself. Why not start today? If you believe that nothing is better than knowing Christ, what's holding you back? "Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded EVERYTHING else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ." (Phillipians 3:8)

It took a while for science to convince the church that the earth was not the center of the universe. Actually, the Vatican didn't officially acquit Galileo of heresy until 1993--360 years after his trial, 354 years after his death.

How long is it going to take for you to realize you're not the center of the universe?

Hopefully, not 360 years.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Who's your daddy?

Kids can be ruthless. Look around,our schools, daycares, and sunday school rooms are filled with cruel, merciless, relentless, vicious animals. Elementary school students come home from school and tell some of the craziest stories. You ask them how their day was and then begin to tell the story of some irate demon-child that punched a nerd, choked a kitten, and kicked an old lady, all during recess--and then they say it was a good day. I haven't seen anyone get punched, kicked, or choked in a long time. Elementary school kids see it at least five times a week.

Not only do they kick and punch, but they say some of the most terrible things. When you're in elementary school, you can be made fun of for just about anything. Those mean kids are creative. They see you with your mom and for the next week they taunt you to the tune of "Nanni-nanni-boo-boo" singing, "Jeremy loves his mom! Jeremy loves his mom!" And if you're fat, just forget about it. The chubby kids get it the worse. Been there, done that.

When I was younger, we had a name for these physically, emotionally, and verbally abusive children. They were "meanies." They were meanies because they were mean. It's fairly simple.

I have noticed however, that when in the presence of a parent, even the most notorious and ruthless meanies act like perfect little angels. Meanies are only meanies when the other kid's mom or dad isn't there. You probably experienced this when you were a kid. Your friend would be really soft-spoken and respectful when you both were in the car with your parents but when you got out of the car and went to the backyard to play while your parents were inside, all of a sudden the demons in your friend resurfaced. When your parents weren't around he'd fight over toys, call you names, yell, levitate, perform the Exorcist headspin, and smother you with standard childhood threats like the classic, "I'm not gonna be your friend anymore!"

But not even the meanest meanie would treat you badly while your father was watching!

I sometimes wonder why God chose to call Himself our 'Father.' Many of us didn't have good relationships with our father. For over 10 million families in America, a father isn't even present. Some people live their entire lives and never even know who their father is. Fathers get drunk and beat their wives. Fathers abandon children. Fathers cause a lot of hurt and pain.

In his book Blue Like Jazz, Donal Miller says, "Today I wonder why it is that God refers to Himself as ‘Father’ at all. This, to me, in light of the earthly representation of the role, seems a marketing mistake." So, why would God, who could have chosen to relate to us in any way, choose to call himself 'Father'? Why would he want to be associated with such a group?

The most obvious reason is the fact that fathers are very important to us. We all long to be taught, protected, and loved by a father. Some of us have been. Others of us have not. If you've had a great father, God as 'Father' makes sense. You enjoy and understand a relationship with your heavenly father, because you've enjoyed the relationship with your earthly father. But even better, if you haven't had a great relationship with your earthly father or have never even known him, God offers something to you that you have always longed for. He offers to teach you, protect you, and most importantly, love you. God calls himself 'Father' because humans have a deep inner longing for a relationship with a father.

But there's another, perhaps, more important reason

God isn't only worried with how we relate to him, but he's very concerned with how we relate to others. A Pharisee asked what the two most important things for a Christian to do were and Jesus answered, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself." Love God, love people. According to Jesus, both are equally important. I find it unlikely that Jesus would say anything is as important as loving God, but he did--love people.

What Jesus just said shows how concerned God really is with how we treat each other. Why is God so concerned with how you treat your neighbor? Because God is 'Father'.

Sometimes we don't reaize that the guy that we want to hit in the face is actually God's son. We thoughtlessly slander girls who God considers to be his daughter. We fight, argue, threaten, gossip, taunt, and ridicule. We hurt people, physically, and more often and even worse, emotionally. Even after we've grown up, we still act like grade school meanies.

We do this because we forget. We forget that the people around us have a father, and he is watching. You see, God didn't just call himself 'Father' so it will change the way we act towards him, but he calls himself 'Father' so it will change the way we treat his sons and daughters around us. You would never insult or hurt a friend while their earthly father was watching, so why do we do it while their heavenly father is?

Sure, you are God's child and you mean a lot to him, but you're not an only child! You can't forget the fact that the person sitting across from you is God's child too. You're surrounded by God's children. And he is watching you! Treat people the same way you would as if God were standing right in front of you--because, he is.

So, stop talking bad about God's child. Stop insulting his son. Stop alienating his daughter. Stop arguing. Stop making threats. Stop being selfish. Stop bullying God's children!

Just be nice…

You big meanie.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Talk doesn't cook rice.

Recently I heard someone tell this story:

Imagine a gymnast about to perform in the Olympics. The millions watching on TV, the thousands filling the stadium, and the prestigious judges are all waiting for the gymnast's performance. She enters the arena and walks up to the balance beam. A hush rushes over the stadium. In silence, the gymnast climbs on top of the beam and raises her arms. Everyone is expecting to see a inspiring display of skill and athleticism, but instead, she does something strange; she kneels down and wraps her arms around the balance beam. She lays down directly on top of it and just holds on. And she does so for about a minute. After the longest 60 seconds that any audience has ever experienced, she gets off the balance beam, raises her hands in the air, and smiles.

The crowd is silent. Then, out of the silence a few claps and cheers emerge. However, the only ones clapping and cheering are the people that are closest to her-- the gymnast's parents, friends, and coaches. The rest of the crowd is not impressed. They are more confused, some even angry. Feeling good about herself, the gymnast continues to smile.

The judges begin to display their scores. The first judge reveals his score: 0. The second judge: 0. The third also gives the gymnast a 0. All the way down the line, every judge gives her a 0.

She's shocked. "A zero? But I didn't fall off! I didn't mess up!" Her smile quickly disappears and her family's cheers fade. With a look of confusion and disappointment she walks out of sight.

Here's the thing... sadly, many Christians are just like this gymnast.

Many people who call themselves Christians have taken a step of faith--we have gotten on the balance beam--but just like the gymnast, we don't do anything once we get on it. Getting on a balance beam and doing flips, and turns (and all the other things gymnasts do on balance beams) involves risk. Standing on a beam and twirling about isn't a very comfortable thing to do. Jumping and flipping while trying to land on a surface thats just a few inches wide is not easy. There's a chance of injury and failure. Laying down and hugging it is much safer and a lot more comfortable. The problem with many of us Christians: there is no performance, no action. Its like we are scared of injury, afraid of failure. We'd rather avoid the negative possibilities and get in a more comfortable position. Our faith, like the balance beam, is not being used correctly. There's no action! Our feet never leave the beam.

And the audience is not impressed.

Who is the audience? The world. For the most part, the world hates, ridicules, and frowns upon Christians. No one in the world is applauding the church, there is no one cheering us on. No one except the one's closest to us--our fellow Christians. But the world is not fooled. Anyone can put themselves on a balance beam. I can do that! But I am no gymnast (don't let this strong, athletic, picturesque physique fool you!). In order for me to be considered a gymnast, I must do more than be seen on a balance beam; I must perform. I must prove with my action that I am a gymnast. Anyone can say they have faith and call themselves a Christian. Anyone can be seen in a church. But our performance, our action, shows the world what we really are. "A person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone." (James 2:24)

G.K. Chesterton once said, "Just going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car." Its not about where you stand, its about what you do.

Like the gymnast, many of us feel we can climb up on the balance beam and just get comfortable. I guess we think that will be enough to get our judge, being God, to just clap and cheer for us. We expect to be comfortable our whole lives, do nothing, and get to heaven and still hear God say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." But how surprised we will be when God holds up our scorecard and it reads, "0." After all, we did nothing. The audience was watching, and we did not perform. We claimed to be gymnast, but we didn't offer any proof to the judge that we were what we claimed to be. Sure, we didn't fall off and we didn't mess up, but thats not good enough.

I feel like we spend so much time worrying about the things we shouldn't do, we forget that there are things that we should do. We're all about "don'ts" and not so much about "do's." But If you claim to be a Christian, you have to perform! And a Christian performance looks like this: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts, share your food with the hungry, invite the homeless poor into your homes, clothe those that are cold, and be available to your own families (Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25). It is to perform tangible, real actions. Not just praying for people, talking about how you have compassion for them, and worrying for their spiritual well-being, but meeting their physical, tangible needs. We are commanded to love, and this is love! Love is not just a feeling or emotion. Where true love is, action will be also. Consequently, where there is no action, there is no love. Period. End of story. Some of us need to dust off that old DC Talk record and listen to "Love is a Verb" again. Some of us also need to dust off our Bibles and read John 13:35 and Matthew 22:36-40.

Check out what James said: "Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?" (James 2:14-17, The Message). James said it: "Talk without acts is outrageous nonsense."

I just read this and it blew my mind. There's an old Chinese proverb that says, "Talk doesn't cook rice." Wow. It's so simple. But If you love rice as much as I do, that just changed your life.

Actions do speak louder than words. I've often heard of married women who are frustrated with husbands who say "I love you" but never show "I love you." Likewise, I've often heard of a world that is frustrated with Christians for the same reason. We're real good at talk, not so much at action. We know a whole lot of scriptures, parables, and theology. And I truly believe we are willing to give our lives for our faith. But in the words of Leonardo da Vinci, "Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do."

I hope those three words echo in our heads for the rest of our lives--we must do.

The world is hungry. And talk doesn't cook rice.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

People are not peas...

Pretty much everything we buy has a label on it. Can you imagine going to the canned vegetable isle at the grocery store and finding that none of the cans were labelled? There are hundreds of cans and every can is identical. You really want some peas but you have no idea which cans have peas in them. You don't want to risk buying a can and taking it home and opening it only to find something you don't want--like lima beans. There's got to be a label, a way to classify and describe each can. The label tells you if you want or like the contents of the can. Labels make finding what you want easier. We like labels.

The funny thing is we like labels so much that we put them on people. Think about the labels we give people. Someone who plays multiple instruments is "talented." Someone who doesn't say much is labeled "shy." A person lies to us and we label them a "liar." A person interrupts us and from then on they are "rude." We label virtually everyone.

I guess we label people for a lot of the same reasons we label cans. It makes finding what we want easier. Like the cans, we label people so there's no need for us to "buy" them and "open" them ourselves. This is especially true when it comes to the negative labels. We go about calling people annoying, rude, two-faced and other things we don't like so we don't have to invest in them. There's no risk involved. And it makes things much easier. The only problem; people are not peas.

These simplistic labels are insufficient and misleading. Who a person is cannot be defined in a word. However, so many times we label someone a "jerk" and because we avoid jerks we never learn that they're also funny, lonely, caring, and smart. Some of my favorite people now are people that I once thought were rude, mean, and conceited. I found that they weren't those things at all, but only because I really got to know them myself.

Labeling people gives us grounds to avoid and despise people. We like nice, not mean. We like fun, not boring. We like peas, not lima beans. So, everyone that we label "lima beans" we alienate and talk badly about. "Ewww," we say, "they're gross. I don't like them." We place less value on certain people and leave them on the shelf. Doesn't sound very Christ-like to me.

Jesus was probably the best example of someone who paid no attention to labels. Everywhere he went people criticized him for eating with 'tax collectors', hanging out with 'lepers', and defending 'adulterous women'. Jesus didn't care what they were labelled, as a matter of fact, Jesus didn't even seem to have a preference. He didn't pick and choose people based on their looks, occupation, or reputation. Jesus didn't alienate people because of past experiences. He was loving, accepting, and eager to know people and for people to know him. And it changed peoples lives. Remember the woman at the well?

Moses was more like us. He accepted and used labels. We can see this clearly in Exodus 3. God tells Moses to go to Egypt, and while he's there, tell Pharaoh what to do. Moses thinks this is a little crazy and responds to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Essentially, Moses labelled himself. He basically told God, "In case you can't see my label, I'll just tell you. I am 'inadequate', 'incapable', and 'unqualified.'" However, God saw through that simplistic, insufficient, and misleading label.

Moses, like us, was so caught up with labels he even asked God what his was! Moses asked God, "What should I tell them if they ask me Your name?" He thought the Israelites would want a label, and he wanted to be able to give them one. He essentially asked, "God, what is your label?" God's answer shows how He really feels about labels. God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Wow. "I AM WHO I AM."

God didn't say he was omnipotent, omniscience, omnipresent. He didn't list his qualities. He didn't say he was truthful, caring, and loving. He didn't want Moses to give the Israelites a list of traits and characteristics. He didn't say "I am this" and "I am that." He didn't give Moses a label. Why? Because He is so much more!

God said, "I AM WHO I AM." He did not say, "I AM WHAT I DO," "I AM WHAT I SAY," "I AM WHAT I LOOK LIKE," or "I AM WHAT YOU ASSUME I AM." And the same can be said of people. We shouldn't give people labels because they are so much more than what they say, what they do, what they look like, and what we assume they are. People are people.

We should be more like Christ and not so much like Moses. Remember, we're Christians, not Mosestians. We should be loving, accepting, and eager to know others and for others to know us. After all, people label you too.

We should treat people how Christ treats us. Christ doesn't love us because of what we do. He doesn't have compassion on us because of what we say. He doesn't measure our worth by what we look like. Jesus doesn't love labels. He loves people. He loves us because we are. And no label, quality, trait, or characteristic will ever change that.

It's amazing... He doesn't love me because I am this or that. He loves me, simply because, I am.

God, help me to love people like this.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Sometimes when I read the Bible, I assume that the people who wrote it had everything figured out. They seem so smart. I read their words and their stories and I am amazed at the things they do and say. These men killed giants with stones and parted seas with sticks. They built massive sea vessels without power tools and left entire buildings in piles of rubble with brute strength. They were swallowed by giant fish and lived to tell about it. They ate locusts. They endured years of exile in deserts. They survived lion’s dens. They walked through fire. They walked on water. I mean, Bear Grylls had nothing on these guys!

So many times I have read these stories and they’ve left me with a feeling of inferiority. I’ve never done anything that even compares to what these guys did. Seriously, I think the most amazing thing that I’ve done thus far in my life is… not die. These men outdid anything any guy on Discovery channel has ever done, and those Discovery channel guys make most guys look like as much of a man as Clay Aiken. That being said, these men were remarkable. These men were incredible. They were spectacular.

However, there is something else that I notice about a lot of these men. In the midst of their awesomeness and everything they did right, they still made mistakes. No matter how hard we try to make them seem like heroes, they were not invincible. Outside of God, they had no power. They were not super human, they were simply human.

David killed lions and bears, battled and defeated Goliath, became king as a young man, was called “a man after God’s own heart”, and yet he committed lust, adultery, and murder. Jonah converted an entire city but only after he tried to run away from God and was thrown in the ocean and eaten by a gargantuan marine animal. Noah built this awesome boat and saved all of mankind, but then, just a few verses later he throws down some wine, lays around naked, and curses his son. Moses doubted God. Job questioned God. Samson disobeyed God. Peter denied God. Wait a minute, these guys don’t seem so amazing anymore. Honestly, they seem a lot more like ME.

This is my favorite thing about the Bible. All the bad stuff could have been left out, but it wasn’t. All of the mistakes and blunders these guys made could have been edited and removed, but they weren’t. I am so thankful for this. Now, instead of reading stories about perfect, angelic robots that seem to be controlled with some sort of heavenly remote control, I get to read about guys that can do amazing things and still be like me--flawed, doubtful, and human. They made mistakes--like me. They had questions--like me. They didn’t have it all figured out and I’m so glad! This gives me hope! This gives us all hope!

One of my favorite men of the Bible is Paul; the man who wrote a huge portion of the New Testament. He is quoted more than any other author of the Bible. In fact, most of the song lyrics that are sung in churches today are actually taken right out of Paul‘s writings. He is the most notable of early Christian leaders. Since the beginnings of the church, Christians have looked to his letters to guide their religious practice. His writings are encouraging, informative, and full of wisdom. He was beaten, imprisoned, and ridiculed. yet he remained faithful and strong. However, just like all the other men I mentioned, he was still human.

I love Paul because he was honest. He wasn’t trying to prove anything, instead, he was always transparent. In 2 Corinthians 11, he even admits to talking like a fool and says that he “must be a mad man to be talking like this.” He even sheds a little humility in order to boast about his sufferings for Christ. Saying that he has been beaten worse than Rodney King on several occasions, arrested more than Michael Irvin and Mel Gibson combined, and exposed to death more than Rosie O‘Donnel’s leapfrog partner. He even says that because of this he is more of a servant of Christ than any others! That’s pretty bold. Frequently, Paul showed frustration and even anger. He didn’t know everything, and he admitted it. He had no problem confessing his flaws and weaknesses. He was undeniably and admittedly human. And for these reasons, I love the guy.

After reading all of Paul’s writings, there is one statement he made in particular that stands out to me. In what I consider to be one of the most beautiful of all the scriptures in the Bible, Paul again exposes his imperfection and humanness in Romans 7:15 when he says, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.” Read that again and remember this is the Apostle Paul! “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.” Wow... It’s so simple, but yet so profound. It’s so honest. It’s so… ME.

Paul helped me see that life really can be seen as being comprised of two things: things I want to do, and things I don’t want to do. I want to do make the right decisions. I want to succeed. I want to be prosperous. But, I don’t want to make mistakes, I don’t want to fail, and I don’t want to struggle. These are things that we all can agree on.

Paul was speaking of his struggles with sin when he wrote these words. He knew there was things he shouldn’t do, but he did them anyway. And the things he knew that he should do, he didn’t. I’ve always read this scripture and accepted it for what it was, but a couple of days ago I read it in a completely different way. I realized something for the first time. And it blew my mind.

Before, I have read this verse in context and attached the negative message to it, but there is another way of looking at it. Sometimes when you do what you don’t want to do, you’re actually doing what is right. The same words that Paul used to describe his sin can easily be applied to a person that is doing the right thing. Allow me to explain.

Have you ever wanted something so bad, I mean really bad, wanted it with all of your heart but you knew that it was not what God wanted, so you gave it up for His sake? That’s doing what you don’t want to do and still doing what is right. Have you ever wanted to be with someone so much that it hurts thinking about not having them, but you think that God doesn’t want you in that relationship right now, so you reluctantly let it go? That’s doing what you hate. Truthfully, it sucks. But if you really think it’s the right thing to do, do it. Even when it leaves you hurt. Even when it leaves you lonely. Even when your criticized. Bodie Thoene once said, “What is right is often forgotten by what is convenient.” A truth that I am constantly trying to avoid.

Most of the time, these blogs are me preaching to myself. I write about it, because I am living it. This one is no different. Recently, I have had to make some tough decisions. Decisions that I did not want to make and that have left me feeling empty. I have been struggling with thoughts of doubt, thinking that I have made a mistake. I feel bad. I am worried. I did not do what I wanted to do, but I think it was a good thing. I hate the decision I made, but I hope so desperately that it is really what God wanted. I like to call these “Grown Man Decisions.” Decisions not led by emotion or desire, but wisdom.

Most of us just want to do what is right, but the frightening thing is, many times we’re not even sure what that is. Just like the people in the Bible, we don’t have all the answers and we will make mistakes. But apparently, that’s OK.

Making a wrong decision is understandable, but not trying to make a good decision is not.

And I think I’ll leave it at that.

This blog was not quit as encouraging and funny as some of my others, I know. But I needed to write it, because I needed to read it. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Relationships are like glass...

I have condensed an entire books worth of material into this blog. Its long, I know.

Ladies, there are some great guys out there. Guys that would do anything to make you happy. Guys that would give up everything for an opportunity to spend time with you. Guys that would not just say they love you, but that would show you every day. Guys who wouldn't lie to you. Guys who wouldn't cheat on you. Guys who aren't immature. Guys who wouldn't manipulate and control you. Guys who would care about you as much as you care about them. Guys who would take you seriously. There is a guy out there who would care more about your needs and feelings, than his need to feel you up. Guys who would appreciate your personality and talents, and not just your boobs. Now, I know what your thinking; "He just said boobs!" Yeah, but besides that, you're probably thinking that a guy like that is too good to be true. Well, you're wrong. Not all guys are liars, cheaters, manipulators, immature, and controlling.

There's only one thing that I can't stand more than guys who treat their girlfriends like crap, and thats the girls who put up with them. The girls who get lied to over and over again, but continually forgive their compulsively lying boyfriends. Girls who are constantly disrespected and controlled but never stick up for themselves. Girls who get cheated on, but just make excuses for the the guy. If this is you, I'm going to be completely straightforward and tell you that you are pathetic. Ouch... I know.

The thing is, you deserve better. You should have so much more. You deserve to be happy and free from that pompous moron. You are intelligent, beautiful, and amazing, but you let an immature, uncaring guy bring you down. He makes you feel bad about yourself and you keep him. Why? He hurts you over and over again and you let him. Why? He gives you so many reasons to leave him but you stay. Why? He does you wrong repeatedly and you continue to make excuses for him. Why?

To me, it seems that if you started dating a guy and he began to repeatedly lie, cheat, or just simply disrespect you, that you would... I don't know... leave him! I would think that you would take control and stand up for yourself, tell him to go find a girl that'll put up with his crap because that girl is not you. But instead, I find there's a lot of girls that let guys trample all over them. The thing that I hate the most though, is when girls make excuses for these worthless idiots. I have heard plenty of these excuses and I'm going to share some of these excuses with you and then tell you what I think about them.

1. "But I love him..." - This one makes me sick. It literally disgusts me, like sushi and Al Gore, or even worse--Al Gore sushi. The guy treats you with about as much respect as a slave owner treats a slave, and you "love him"? He persistently gives you reasons to think he doesn't care about you at all, and you "love him"? He does nothing to make you or anyone else think that he loves you, but you "love him"? He hurts you over and over again, and you "love him"? Well, you are either truly in love in a way that is beyond comprehension, or you are just an idiot--I tend to think the latter. Forget how much you love him and start loving yourself! You're not in a healthy relationship, and even though you may think you love him, you are slowly letting yourself die inside. Would you rather be in love and hate yourself, be miserable, and controlled or not in love and be content, think highly of yourself, and free? Seems obvious to me, but it's your decision. Does he really love you the way you love him? I'll answer for you. No.

2. "He's changed..." - I can't help but laugh at this one. Mainly because 99.99999% of the time, its not true. How can you catch a guy talking to other girls behind your back, lying to you, and cheating on you but believe him a week later when he says he's changed? How could you possibly trust a guy like that when he says he's "different now"? How can you be so naive? I don't get it. He's been telling other girls that they are beautiful and that he would date them if he wasn't in a relationship with you. He's been secretly going out with other girls when you're out of town. And if he's done all that, you can safely guess that he's kissed someone else besides you, and if he hasn't you can bet he would. But still, you let him get away with it. You give him the privilege of being with you, even though he doesn't deserve that privilege at all! You give him a second chance because you think that he has "really changed." NO HE HASN'T.

And I know some of you are thinking, "how can you say that? People can change!" Maybe they can. But in EVERY instance I have seen, they don't. Why give that lying, cheating dog that doesn't care about you a second chance? From what I've seen you're setting yourself up to get hurt again. Besides, if he really loved you and cared about continuing a relationship with you he wouldn't have said what he said, or done what he did the first time. Stop lying to yourself and saying that he "made a mistake." No sweetie, he made a decision. And he made that decision long before he ever touched that other girl. When he first looked at her, he made a decision. When he first talked to her, he made a decision, and it took a lot more little decisions to get to that big one. It wasn't a mistake, it was a series of conscious choices that he made despite you and your relationship. He doesn't deserve to be with you. You can find someone so much better! He had his chance, be strong and take control, don't let him run all over you. Tell him to hit the road, especially if his name is Jack, because that would be very appropriate.

3. "But we've been together such a long time." - I understand that when you're with someone for a while, you grow very close to that person. I understand its hard to end long relationships. But if you're not happy, you have to do whats best for you. Every once in a while, we have to think selfishly, its not always a bad thing. Don't worry about how that guy is going to feel, or what he's going to do after you split up. That's not your responsibility. Stop saying that you're the one who keeps in him line, and that he needs you to stay out of trouble! Bull crap! He's going to do what he wants to do, and you are not responsible for any of that. Saying you don't want to end a relationship because you've been together a long time is like saying you don't want to lose weight because you've been fat for so long. Or like saying you shouldn't shower because you've been dirty for such a long time. I was going to end this by saying, "Ladies, its time to take a shower," but I thought that would be a little weird. But you get the point.

4. "It's hard. Every time I want to leave, it hurts and I miss him more than I can stand. I feel lonely and empty without him, I just love him so much." - You may have made it through a lot with this guy. There may have been good and really bad times that you went through together. You may have poured yourself into this relationship to the point you have nothing left. You might actually love this guy. You might REALLY love this guy. But if the guy is treating you wrong and the relationship it tearing you down, you can't let it continue. Even though you may love this guy, if he's killing your self-esteem and hurting you (emotionally, mentally, or physically... or spiritually) help yourself. You're going to have to make a grown woman decision. A decision not made with your heart, but your head.

I know its going to hurt. I know you may spend months feeling lonely and crying. I know you may have to be without a boyfriend for a few months. I know you won't be happy for a while. But you've got to grow up! The problem is, your happiness is totally dependent on someone else. You have not learned to be your own, strong person. You are only happy when a guy makes you happy. You only love yourself when you think a guy loves you. This is not a good thing. Its not a healthy way to live at all. You've got to learn to be happy with yourself. You've got to learn to be content with yourself as an individual. You got to break free from your dependance upon other people. You will never be happy living like you are, because people will always let you down. So, even though it may hurt and you may get lonely, those times will make you stronger, and more independent. Those times will make you more resistant to getting hurt in the future. Those lonely, painful times will make you a better person. I feel so deeply about this, because I went through the same thing. I know how it feels to get out of a relationship and feel lonely, worthless, and hurt. But now, years later, I know how it feels to love myself, and be happy with life and who I am. I don't need someone else to make me happy, I'm happy. I don't need someone else to make me feel good about myself, I think I'm awesome. I don't need someone else to enjoy life, I love it already. It took time and heartache, but learning to be independent was worth it. Trust me!

Don't stay with someone that treats you like crap, because you are so much more than crap, you are a future wife and mother. You are beautiful, smart, and awesome; find a guy that can appreciate that. There's a guy out there who will treat you like you're the most important thing on earth, so why not let him? Why stay with the guy who makes every other day miserable? Its time to make that grown woman decision.

Some of you may not agree with a lot of what I said, but I don't care. Neither did the girls that I have said all these things to in the past. Now, they all have to admit that I was right, and I love it. If you don't want to take my advice, thats cool. I hope you are an exception and everything works out. However, "Relationships are like glass: sometimes it's better to leave them broken, rather than hurt yourself trying to put them back together."

Whatever happens remember that you deserve nothing less than the best. Don't settle for anything else.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dr. Seuss

Today, one of my friends conducted an experiment in class. It was a simple experiment, where he was observing the reactions he got by breaking a social norm. In order to do this, he had to deliberately do something out of the ordinary. He decided to place himself in front of every classroom he was in that day and remain standing the entire class. While everyone else was seated around him, he just stood, innocently and unashamedly. You should have seen how people responded, it was great. The pointing, giggling, and confused looks were priceless. One girl sitting next to me whispered to her friend, “Maybe he broke his tailbone.” I, knowing what he was doing, enjoyed the whole act. At one point, he started talking on his cell phone, right there in front of the class, while the teacher was lecturing. He paced back and forth, mumbling to whoever was on the other end (if anyone), then nonchalantly hung up and went back to his spot to continue standing.

While observing his experiment, I realized something: in my class, he was the center of attention. People were watching him and talking about him. He got people to think. He was noticed. He had an effect on those around him.

There are many of us who want to be noticed. We want to have an effect on those around us. We feel like we have something important to say and we want to be heard. We want our music to inspire people. We want our artwork to amaze people. We want our message to change people. So, how do you get the attention you need to do this? How do you get noticed? It’s simple: be different, original, and even weird. Do something that no one else is doing. People are known and remembered, not because they were like everyone else, but because they did something worth remembering. They did something new, unique, and abnormal. Nobody will notice you if you’re doing the exact same thing as everyone around you, you’ll just be another person in the crowd.

Pablo Picasso isn’t remembered because he painted, he’s remembered because his paintings were different from everyone else’s. Mozart didn’t get attention just because he was a composer, he received attention because his compositions were unlike anything anyone had ever heard. Michael Jordan isn’t remembered because he played basketball, he’s remembered because he did things no one else did on the court. There are thousands of composers, artists, and athletes you’ve never heard of. The ones you do remember all had one thing in common: they were different from their peers. They were unusual and exceptional.

You have the ability to do something no one else could ever do, because no one else is you. No one ever has been. No one ever will be. You’re only given one chance, only one life, so do something with it. Don’t be afraid of failure, just be you. Many times when your being yourself, people appreciate it and they like what your doing--even if it sucks. If you don’t believe me, check out a painting by Jackson Pollock and keep in mind he’s considered to be an influential American painter and a major figure in an artistic movement. Another example of someone being themselves and it sucking but people still liking it is Lil’ Wayne. Yet another example would be Jimmy Fallon. So, even if what you want to do and how you want to do it may really suck… you still have hope!

When I look back through history and think about people who stand out, no one stands out more than Jesus. He was the first of his kind. No one had ever said the things He said. No one ever did the things He did. No one ever acted, loved, or lived the way He did. Everything about Him was so unexpected, so backwards. You can’t name anyone that has left a more lasting, profound impression on humanity.

Stop being so shy and worrying what people think about you. Don’t let something so small, keep you from something so big. Don’t spend your time trying to be someone else and trying to make other people happy. Don’t spend your whole life being something other than you. EXIST.

You know someone is being themselves when you can look at something they did or said, and know immediately that it was them without any doubt. Its like picking up a Dr. Seuss book. You can pick up a book you’ve never heard of, read one line or see one picture and know that its Dr. Seuss. His books are among the weirdest. The green eggs, the Whos, the Diffendoofers, the floob-boober-bab-boober-bubs; what in the world was this guy smoking? Whatever it was, the Seuss obviously got the good stuff. And what about the whole “Dr.” thing. If I need surgery, there's no way I'm going to get it from Dr. Seuss--he’ll be using flunnels and wumbus and wockets, by the end of the surgery you’ll be looking like something out of Whoville. I highly doubt that he’s a licensed medical practitioner. But if he is, I’d like to hear his views on the healthcare reforms. But that’s beside the point. When it comes to him being an author, there’s no denying that he is famous because of his unique imagination. There’s no doubt that his books became popular because they were so one of a kind. If he wrote children’s books like everyone else, I wouldn’t be writing about him right now.

If you feel like you’re not accomplishing anything, if you feel like you’re going unnoticed, if you feel like you‘re not making a difference, you don’t need Dr. Seuss to give a diagnosis. The cure is simple: be different, be original, and be weird. Be yourself, you’ll find that it’s a great feeling. Seuss rhymed a bit of wisdom for us when he said, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” Don’t disregard those words just because he might have been strung out on hallucinogens when he wrote them.He's telling us to be ourselves, and we can trust him--he’s a doctor… or is he?

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Well, well, well... how the turntables."

Kids are great. Have you ever told a story to a kid and noticed how they listen? They are so attentive, so involved. You can tell by the unconscious, wide-eyed look on their faces that their imagination is working overtime. It seems that some kids can even remove themselves from reality and get completely consumed in the story you‘re telling them. They have an uncanny ability to make even the most farfetched stories seem real and believable.

I think its funny how we use this against them. How many of us were told, “If you keep making that face its going to get stuck like that”? Then we have the classic stories that we use to deceive those poor, innocent children. For example, the idea of Santa Claus. The story is absolutely ridiculous, highly implausible, and blatantly creepy but kids spend the first 6 or 7 years of their life writing him letters and leaving him cookies--one of which he takes a big bite out of and puts back on the plate for whatever reason. Also, there’s the Easter Bunny; he brings you gifts, like Santa, but his gifts all fit in eggs and then you have to find them yourself. What a jerk. And then there’s the Tooth Fairy… really?

Kids can potentially believe anything you can think to tell them. This could be due to the fact that they have a lack of wisdom and an abundance of trust; the recipe for gullible. However, as we grow and learn more, and as we find out through experience that people cannot always be trusted, we begin to believe less and less. We begin questioning and fact checking. We no longer let our imaginations run wild and believe everything we hear, instead we are skeptical.

We realize as we get older that everything we’re told is not always true, and we don’t want to believe in something that is not true. We don’t want to run around making claims that are false because that would just make us look like idiots, and nobody--except for apparently Lady Gaga--wants to look like an idiot. Basically, we’ve grown up. The gullible, na├»ve side of us is no longer here. Things have changed since we were 6 and we’ve realized that many things we were told as a kid just aren’t true.

One day I was thinking about this and a gang of ideas bombarded my brain like an overzealous SWAT team. I was thinking about all the years I spent as a child sitting in Sunday school. I pictured 6 year old Jeremy, innocent and cute as he was, being told that Jesus was the savior and that He was the only way. I pictured myself sitting there, watching in amazement as my teacher placed those magnificent paper characters on that mysterious fuzzy board, as my teacher told me that Jesus was a real man and that He died but rose from the dead. That’s when it hit me: as a child, I was indoctrinated.

I know that’s uncomfortable to think about, but that’s exactly what it is. Do I only believe in God because I was told he was real when I was a child? Do believe in Jesus for the same reasons I believed in Santa? It’s a frightening thought, but honestly, one that I have had frequently.

Like everyone else, I’ve had my doubts. When I became more independent, in life and thought, I began to question a lot and I still do. What if Jesus is just like Santa and the Easter Bunny, the only difference being that no one has admitted the truth to me? Even worse, what if no one knows the truth? What if we are all deceived by fairy tales that have been passed down for hundreds of years? We’ve been told what to believe since we were children, no wonder we believe it. Right?

To me, this was a kind of scary and unpleasant thought, but then I realized something: God asked us to believe (John 3:16). We are saved by grace, but through faith! We don’t have to have it all figured out and we don’t have to prove God to ourselves, we just have to believe. There may always be doubt or uncertainty, but if there wasn’t, then we wouldn’t need faith and how could we not need what God requires of us to be saved? Simply put: we must choose to believe.

In Mark 10:15 Jesus says, “Anyone who does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will not enter it.” I feel like He wants me to put aside all the knowledge and wisdom I think that I have, and just abundantly trust in Him. His desire is to be as real to me as possible. God wants me to believe in Him like I believed in Santa when I was 6. I use to write Santa letters; God wants to be so real to me that I expect Him to acknowledge what I say. I would give Santa my cookies; God wants to be so real to me that I know its worth making sacrifices. I would change my behavior because I heard Santa knew when I had been bad; God wants to be so real to me that I fear Him. Kind of cheesy? Sure… but you’ll get over it. Truthfully, He wants to be so real to me that I don’t just say I believe, but that I live and act like I believe.

My nephews still leave cookies out for Santa ever year… I eat them. So, I suppose if Santa does exist he doesn’t like me very much. I don’t drink milk, so I usually dump that in the sink, and that’s just added insult. But you know, I wanted a Super Nintendo and he didn’t give it to me. So, now that he wants cookies, I’ll see to it that they are all eaten when he arrives--all except the one that I’ll continue to bite once and put back on the plate. You reap what you sow, Mr. Kringle. You reap what you sow.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Silencio, por favor.

Life is good. I feel as if there’s no other person on earth that feels as good about life as I do in this moment. The past few hours have been great. Me and my family made the trip down to my grandparent’s house. I ate a good dinner and laughed with the family about things that happened years ago. I hid Easter eggs for the nephews on my grandparent’s country property. Then, me and the two little dudes went to the park.

Before we went, I grabbed a big ‘ol glass of grandma’s sweet tea with those big ‘ol ice cubes she’s had ever since I can remember. I also brought along the Donald Miller book I’m reading right now. We were the only ones at the park. The boys ran around while I sat on a park bench, reading and slowly enjoying that sweet drank goodness. The weather was ridiculously perfect: bright, setting sun that felt perfect on the skin, a few clouds, and absolutely no wind. There was a man cutting grass in the distance and every once in a while I caught a wiff of that freshly cut grass smell that I love. Sublime, I tell you. Sublime.

So, here I am: big sweet tea, good book, perfect weather, and tranquility (one thing that I am definitely not use to). At one point, I sat the book down at my side and just looked around. The sun was just about to start its disappearing act behind the mountains. The valley was peaceful, and as close to perfect in every way that it could ever possibly be. It was stunning.

I cherish moments like these. They don’t come often, and when they do, sometimes we don’t stop to appreciate or even recognize them. But today I did, and as hippie and fruity this may sound; I feel like I have been rejuvenated. I feel fresh. I feel… good.

Life can be so stressful and exhausting. Work, school, church, family, and relationships have a tendency to beat the crap out of us until we stumble around, exhausted like a heavy weight boxer in the tenth round. Every once in a while, I’ll have a period of two or three days that are just hard. Everything is a chore. Nothing is really enjoyable. I have so much to do, but yet I’m too tired to accomplish anything within the ridiculously short days. But then, we get moments like the one I just had at the park.

It’s in these moments that God is the most real to me. More than any altar call, prayer service, or church service. To be completely honest, I don’t feel God in these places much anymore. Many people do, and that’s real and awesome, but I guess I’m just weird. I feel God the most in peace. I feel Him when I’m alone. When it’s quiet. God is more real to me in silence. Not in the midst of music and crowds, but silence.

It’s amazing how months of stress can so quickly disappear in a single moment with God. All the anxiety, worry, and all those burdens that I was carrying around with me are gone. I feel like God distracted me with His brilliant display so I would forget to pick that baggage back up when I left the park. And it worked.

I was God’s captive audience of one today. I stopped at one point and whispered a simple, “thank you.” I’d love to say I heard some grand, heavenly response… but I didn’t. Then again, God knows when He is most real to me, and perhaps, He just didn’t want to break the silence.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hulk Jesus

You remember in the bible when Jesus gets mad and completely wrecks the temple? Man, I love that part.

When I picture Jesus stomping through the temple, flipping tables and throwing stuff; it makes me happy. I mean this was one of the kindest, gentlest men that ever walked the face of the earth. He offered forgiveness to tax collectors, adulterers, and thieves. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and raised the dead. However, when provoked, He would leave you with a big mess to clean up.

This is one of my favorite stories in the Bible because of the scene that plays out in my head. I see Jesus tossing tables, chucking chairs, kicking pigeons, and smashing baskets. I picture Jesus crushing everything and looking like The Undertaker or Kimbo Slice while He does it. Sometimes I even imagine Him getting so angry He turns into a big, green superhuman. Then I have this awesome mental picture of a long-haired, bearded Hulk Jesus stomping around. He’s demolishing everything and the whole time Underoath is blasting in the background. And I love it.

I think its important to know what provokes Jesus to go on King Kong mode. So, what caused this beastly metamorphosis? Simply put, the temple had become a marketplace used for business and making money. Instead of being a house of prayer, Jesus said it was a “den of thieves.” Basically, the temple was now about something other than God, and He couldn’t stand it.

This isn’t the only time temples or churches have strayed from their purpose. Look at the 15th and 16th century Catholic church. Before Martin Luther went all “fight the man” on them, the Catholic church was absurd. They were charging people to enter cathedrals to see shrines of saints. They said pilgrimages were necessary for salvation, then of course, you had to pay the church to complete one. My personal favorite was the forgiveness of sins through indulgences. Basically, if you wanted to be forgiven of your sins, the church decided an amount of money, and you had to pay them that amount to be forgiven! Good business? Sure. Biblical? Not quit. Once again, God was pushed aside, and “religious men” tainted the church and its purpose.

So, here we are now in the 21st century. We can’t do anything about the way churches in the past were managed, but we can do something about the way they are now and the way they will be in the future. It’s up to us to make sure our churches have their priorities straight. We have to ensure that our churches money, time, and effort go to worthy causes. Is your church using its money to reach those who need help and need the gospel, or is it going to unnecessary furnishings and equipment? Is your church spending time making a difference in the community, or is it only concerned with the property it sits on? Is your church making an effort to “go into all the world” or is it waiting for the world to come to it? Is your church a house of prayer or a den of thieves?

The church will never be perfect. After all, it is operated by humans. But this is the key: if things aren’t right, do something about it. Be the rebel, the revolutionary, the Martin Luther. Sure, the religious people may not like it, but that’s okay. Jesus was a revolutionary and the Pharisees could not stand Him. They even wanted Him dead.

Arnold Bennett once said, “Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.” People will always resist change but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. It’s a job dirty enough to send Mike Rowe into early retirement but somebody’s got to do it. And you’re on the clock, so get to work.

We also have to remember: the church cannot be changed until we all first change as individuals. We can’t just sit here and blame “the church,” essentially, WE are “the church.” We need to get our priorities straight. We can’t get it right as a group, until we get it right as individuals. One of my favorite quotes is by Gandhi. He said, “We must become the change we wish to see.” Its so much more than just talking about the church changing, its about changing yourself.

If things aren’t right, be a part of the solution, not the problem. Don’t bow to needless traditions, break away from the nonsense. Become the change you want to see. It’s our responsibility and our duty to do so. How would Jesus react if He walked in a 21st century church? Would He be pleased or would He show off his therianthropy skills? How would He react if He walked in your church? Would He go on Hulk mode? Jesus clearly showed us that when the church becomes about something other than God, He gets angry…

"And you won’t like Him when He’s angry."