Archive for August, 2009

Christian Love

What does it mean to Love?   John 3:16 comes to mind for a lot of us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” 

There are plenty of verses in the Bible that talk about Love.  Galatians 2:20, Deuteronomy 7:9, Psalm 37:28, Proverbs 8:7, and many more.  One of my favorites is John 15:12-13, “My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.”

God gives us a perfect example of love.  So why is it that we toss the word around carelessly?  We say that we love things, like art, coffee, or money.  If we look at the word Biblically, would you be willing to lay down your life for a piece of art?  Or how ’bout another sip of a drink?  Or for something that will not last in eternity?

It pains me to hear people talk like that.  It is great that we can enjoy these things, but do we really love them? 

Something that i noticed here at school, that really scares me, is how loosely we throw this same word around in relation to other people.  I am scared that we have forgotten how to love one another as Christians, that the world’s view of love has infiltrated how we live according to the gospel. 

There are to many young couples that ‘love’ one another, but dont know what the word means.  There are guys and girls that use a relationship for worldly desires, from status to favors and pleasures of this world.  Even here on a Southern Baptist, Christian campus, it is hard to find a couple that really knows how to love one another.

With that note, i will point out that there are some amazing couples on this campus also.  There are some Godly men and women that know that to  love, one must put another persons life above their own. 

I may not be the best person to talk about relationships, since i have been single for almost 6 years, but in those six years i have observed the world and those around me. 

To say that we love one another, we must be willing to sacrifice yourself (it may be your life, or it may be your time, focus, efforts) for this person.  Are we willing to live out the Gospel when we say that we love one another?  or are we going to submit the the worlds view of love?

Soemthing to think about.

God Bless and PEACE

Armed Christians

I was wondering the other day about what people think about gun / weapon control and how it applies to Christians.  To give a little bit of background, I carry a pocket knife almost everywhere I go, especially at school.  I know its not considered a ‘deadly weapon’, but in the right hands, anything can be lethal.

So, i posed the question to some solid Christian guys and girls around campus and asked people what they  thought about weapons and Christianity.  Not surprisingly, most people brought up Ephesians, saying things like “Never leave home without the Sword of the Spirit” and “I carry one with me everywhere I go, its called a Bible.”  While at first, i laughed, then i got serious and began thinking about it.

Throughout history, Christianity is associated with violence (the Crusades of the middle ages and the Persecutions of and from both Catholics and Protestants are two that people constantly remind me of).  After being adopted as the ‘official’ Roman religion, Christianity became served on a sword. 

But did Jesus ever preach about weapons and violence?  What about his followers?  What examples can we find in the Bible, through the testimonies of the disciples?

One of the guys pointed out that Paul, one of the leaders of the early church, carried a sword.  He even drew it out, striking the high priest’s servant (Malchus) and hacking off his ear (John 18:10, Luke 22:50, Mark 14:47).  Jesus rebukes him, as we see in Matthew 26:52 when he tells him “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” 

I think there were plenty of disciples and followers of Jesus who thought that drawing a weapon to defend the Messiah was a better idea than allowing Him to die.  He was surrounded by Zealots and people that were unsavory in nature (aka: sinners).  I’m sure many of his followers carried weapons at their sides.

Another translation of Jesus’ rebuke states “Those that live by the sword, die by the sword.”  So, what does this mean to Christians that live in a world where a lot of us still carry a weapon of some type by our side (or in our pockets)?  Does Christianity condone violence?  What about defending those weaker than you? 

In the ‘Midevil Age’, Knights were a select class of warriors that pledged their allegance to a code of valour.  They lived to defend those that could not defend themselves, to fight only when necessary, and if you look at the process of pledging oneself into knighthood, the pledge was to God first, the lord of the land second. 

When I asked, I got a response back from a police officer and a member of the armed forces, both of whom are Christian men.  They said that a weapon is a tool, only to be used in extreme cases.  As a new Police Officer, my friend hopes that he will never have to fire his gun, but knows that one day he might have to to defend himself, his fellow officers and all the people that he serves. 

I do not see anything wrong with Christians carrying weapons, as long as they understand that it is not a toy, but a tool of death.  Simply put, all weapons are designed to kill.  But i must ask, why do you want or need to carry a weapon?

It is my belief that if you carry a weapon, be it a simple pocket knife or a sophisticated handgun, you must know how to use it effectively.  If you do not know how to wield what you carry, then you are just another accident waiting to happen. 

I also believe that if you are willing to carry one, you must be willing to use it.  This is in extreme cases only.  The only reason i would ever pull my pocket knife is in the defense of another, after all other avenues have been exausted. 

Jesus didnt call his followers to be pacifists, not defending themselves (he constantly slipped out of situations without violence, thus avoiding bloodshed).  He doesnt call us to stand asside while injustice happens right in front of our eyes.  He calls us into action. 

A weapon, like all tools, should only be used if you know how to use it, and only when necessary. 

Just a thought…

God Bless and PEACE

What you put into worship…

Last night, I headed out with a group of amazing people to Radius Church in Greenville.  Included in the four carloads that made up our caravan was a good friend who had asked to join us.  The service (if you’ve ever been, you know) was a meal together, worship and communion.

It was amazing to sit with friends and family from school and the community and catch up with one another over some amazing food. 

One of the main reasons i have fallen in love with Radius is the community aspect.  Everyone there genuinely cares and loves one another.  It is something that took me off guard the first time i journeyed there last semester, but i cannot see a church or body of believers without it now. 

As we talked and sang worship and praise, I realized something.  My good friend sat there in silence, not talking, not singing, not joining in the community that makes Radius what it is. 

We all worship in different ways.  Some sing while others dance.  Some soak it all in while others pour it all out from their hearts.  I worship differently than the rest of my family and friends.  But as a whole, if you pour your heart into worship, you will come out satisfied.

If you walk away from worship not satisfied, ask yourself why?

Every time I do, i find that my heart was not in the right place to worship my Savior fully. 

I have heard people blame the praise and worship bands, that the music wasnt how it was supposed to be.  To tell the truth, the band doesnt matter.  Simple fact.  If you enter worship more concerned about the music, your heart isnt in the right place to worship.

I’ve heard people complain about the way others worship around them, or they dont feel comfortable worshiping the way they want to.  In the grand scheme of things, the only thing that matters is you and God, no one else.  If you are more concerned with what other people are doing or how they view you, is your heart ready to fully worship the God of all nations?

If you are not free to worship with your full heart, moving with the spirit in song and dance, then find a place where you can.  Find a community of believers that you feel comfortable around and join them in communion of the spirit.  Not every church is right for every person, i understand that, but the church shouldnt matter when it’s just you and God.

I know that the spirit is moving, and moves through each of us in different ways, but one thing is true about all of us.  The Spirit of God does not call us to sit in silence, it calls us to Worship God with all our heart. 

Just some things to think about…

God Bless and PEACE

When it doesn’t feel right…

The past couple weeks and days have been a struggle.  There are a couple things that have bothering me since I’ve gotten back to school.  They may be ‘small’ things, but especially in the past couple days, there have been some things that just havn’t felt right. 

I know this may sound like a rant (which it kind of is) but some of these need to be brought to the table and discussed.

1st struggle: I’ve come back from Uganda and I know that the trip has changed me.  What I didnt know was how much it has affected my heart and desire to be closer to God.  I’m finding it difficult to interact with people in a moments notice.  I have a desire to be alone with Him, dive into the word, spend quiet hours in His presence, but as a leader in the eyes of many here on campus, I feel like I must be engaged with people. 

On a similar note, I’m finding it difficult to interact with certain people because I dont want to be around them.  Close friends are being pushed away because I havn’t been able to deal witheverything in my head to begin dealing with their ‘problems’ also. 

As a Christian leader, this bothers me greatly.  We need to be there for one another to support.  I may be one of the worst people in accepting a willing hand, but I feel like dealing with the emotions and chaos of questions and thoughts brought forth from my experience in Uganda is something that i must come to terms with on my own.

2nd struggle:  Now that i am back at school, I am constantly being bombarded by religion and legalistic faith.  I feel as if people are looking for a set of rules in their Christian walk so that they can find loopholes and still live in a life of sin. 

3rd struggle:  Communicating Faith.  I have been struggling for a while now about putting my faith into words.  To describe everything that I feel in my heart, through both words and images (painting and drawing classes). 

4th struggle:  I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place.  I have distinct groups of friends andI feel like I’m being torn between the two, like I have to choose on or the other, but I’m not connecting fully with either.  I noticed this when, in a conversation, I didnt know what was going on with people personally.

This disturbs me greatly because I feel for the people greatly, each group has a special place in my heart, but if I choose one over the other, the second will cut ties and fade away. 

5th and last struggle:  Something that I want to expand upon on a later date, the use of the word ‘love’, especially the phrase ‘I love you.’  I’ve had personal issues with it’s usage for a while now, but just recently, I’ve had a good (female) friend start saying that every time we part ways, and each time it strikes a chord in me that doesnt feel right. 

I rarely use those words because they are so powerful.  They mean something, to me, that I have not found yet outside of God. 

Again, sorry for the rant, but I needed to just write…

God Bless and PEACE

No Justice in Words…

I’m finding it more and more difficult to explain this past summer’s mission trip to Uganda. 

At home, I tell people that I went on a medical missions trip, serving the staff and patients at the Agule Community Health Center and helping with construction of the Maternity Ward, and they look at me like I have two heads.

Here at school, I tell people the same things, and they ask me how many people were saved or if I shared the Gospel with thousands.

I dont think people understand what the purpose of our trip was about.  We didnt go over to Pallisa, Uganda with a Bible in each hand preaching to the people.  We didnt go to count how many people were saved by a rehearsed message of forgiveness and long life.  We didnt go over to Uganda with the intention of selling the Gospel to the people. 

Our purpose was simply to serve to the best of our ability.  We took the Gospel over in our hearts, trying to live it out as we struggled with health and sickness around us each and every day.  We couldnt keep count of the lives that were changed because of our presence, we were more concerned with loving each and every person in our path to count.  We were giving our lives as a testament to the written words of God. 

Missions trips our too often misunderstood by Religion.  Our society is obsessed with immediate results, that we often times forget what it means to live fully for God. 

As Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, we must learn to stop thinking as the world thinks and start seeing what it’s like to live.  Missions work should not be about numbers, but about the people you serve and the community that you interact with. 

If we really believe and want to live out the Gospel that we preach, we need to turn our backs to the world that we live in.  This may mean changing the way you think or the way you act.  This may mean turning your back on what your friends say (or worse, what your parents teach you). 

God is calling us to be above the numbers and the petty things of this world.  He has called us to a higher standard of living, and a higher standard of evaluating effectiveness. 

God Bless and PEACE

Where the Heart is…

There are times in life and places in the world where you can feel that this is where you belong.

In the four weeks that i spent at Agule Community Health Center in Pallisa, Uganda this summer, each and every day I felt like this is where I belong.  Each day, I woke with an unexplainable joy because i felt Gods presence there.  I felt his hand resting on my heart, telling me that, in those moments, this is exactly where he wanted me. 

We dont always feel that.  To many times do we tell God that His plans will not work because our plans our different.  We may think we have big plans for life, but God’s plan is ultimately bigger than we can imagine.  He doesnt want us to be content in life, he wants us to be filled with adventure and burning passion for him, every moment of every day.

Yesterday, i moved back into college for my last year of schooling (unless i realize that God is calling me to Graduate School).  It is always an adventure watching the new freshmen move in. 

This morning, we had a Family Worship Service, where we packed in hundreds, if not a couple thousand, of people into the auditorium to worship and hear Clayton King speak about the joys and struggles that we all face in College.  As we sang along to worship songs, I knew that this was where God wanted me to be. 

Again tonight, as i journeyed with a group to Radius (a small church in Greenville), i felt the peace and joy that comes with knowing that God was and is smiling upon us.  I knew that this was another place that God specifically put in my life. 

I didnt find these places by living contently.  It would be easy to hang up the missionary hat and sit down at a steady desk job for the rest of life.  It would be easy to get a job and get paid and repeat until im retired and living in an assistant living center.  I didnt find these places by being ok with the mediocracy that surrounded me.

To find these places where we individually find the presence of God, you must be willing to risk everything.  You must live dangerously in the presence of God, and learn what it feels like to fear. 

God is calling us to jump.  He is calling us to put our trust in him, to either give us soft ground to land on or give us wings and teach us to fly. 

You wont find God by being content with living, you will find Him when you take the heart he gave you and ran with it.

Just a thought

God Bless and PEACE

How We See Atheists

As Christians, we often hold our heads high, looking down on anyone that doesnt see eye to eye with us, even other Christians of different denominations.  As a student at a Southern Baptist college, i have seen and heard views, like this one (the article under discussion), that call Atheists unAmerican and call for either an exodus or ‘clensing’ of Atheists from America. 

(This isnt just an American thing, it goes on all around the world in Christian nations and nations of other religious practices.)

Yes, our nation was built upon Christian values.  America is also a melting pot of thousands of cultures and ethnicites.  If we were to say all Atheists should leave, what makes us different than Nazi Germany saying the Jews and Gypsies are inferior?  If we force all those who dont believe in the God that we do to leave, then wont we be the only ones here? 

We wouldnt stop at Atheists.  We’d go to the extreme and kick out all the Muslims and all the Jews and the Agnostics.  Then we would get into the argumentof which Christian denomination was the nation founded on (which would be different for each original colony) and then kick out everyone who isnt Protestant.  And it would be a continuous battle over who is right and who is wrong.

And in this process, we (America) would loose who we are. 

I know people who would argue against me on this issue, but America is the land of the Free.  We have the freedom to choose to worship any God or no God at all.  We have the right to speak out against what we see as wrong and defend what we see as right.  As long as we respect each other (Christians respecting Atheists and all other Religions and views of Faith, and vice versa) then we will keep our nation the land of the free.

In saying all of this, I may not agree with other peoples views and i might voice my opinions about the views in question, but i try to be respectful of others as well.

God Bless and PEACE

Heaven and Hell

I ran across an article that posed the question “What if [Athiests] are wrong?”  It’s an interesting article and brings up some tough questions, but I’m not going to discuss everything that was written.  Something bothered me when the author, theBEattitude, simply asked Christians if we were more excited about heaven, or more terrified of hell.

I find that question hard to answer.  I have been asked this before.  Are we Christians because we fear what may come after death?  For a lot of people, I believe that they do.  But if you are looking forward to heaven after you die, you may have already missed what it means to be a Christian.

The Kingdom of God is present.  It is here and now.  We live in it, because the kingdom resides in each of us.  The Spirit of God resides in every heart that is willing to accept it unconditionally.  In doing so, you become part of Gods Kingdom. 

If you are a Christian because you want to party with Jesus after you die, you’ve missed the point.  He didnt call us to serve him in heaven, he called us to serve him where we presently are, in this broken world. 

Just something for both Christians and non-Christians to think over.  The Way (as it was called by the early believers) isnt about death, it’s about living. 

God Bless and PEACE

Christianity and Alcohol

I recently read an articlefrom RELEVANT Magazine about Christianity and Drinking.  It is an amazing article that lays everything out fairly well.  It talks about the ups and downs and all the fun grey areas in the continual argument of whither Christians should abstain from alcohol all together to joining in on the party.

Personally, i have my own code that i live by.  I have personally chosen not to partake in any alcoholic beverage.  Its a personal choice.  I am the only person in my family that doesn’t drink, and they respect that (it’s taken a couple years, but they respect it). 

I do not have any problems with people that drink socially.  I do not find anyone at fault (or sin) at having a beer or two over dinner.  It wouldnt bother me if a priest or pastor sat down at the table or chair next to me and ordered a drink. 

Growing up in a Catholic household, both my parents and almost all their friends would drink.  My parents would have cookouts and jam sessions where alcohol would flow and the nights were lovely.  We had Catholic Priests and Lutheran Pastors join us and enjoy themselves.

I see no problem with it.  But on the other hand, i see the reasoning behind alternatives (more specifically the Communion Wine or Grape Juice).  A good friend that i spent the month with in Uganda said that the reasoning behind Grape Juice is so that those who are struggling  with alcohol are not tempted each week when they go to church. 

I see how consuming to much alcohol is extremely dangerous.  Just watch freshmen ruin their first couple weeks at school, even at a Southern Baptist school like Anderson.  I have seen friends and family drink to much.  There is a fine line that must not be crossed. 

Once one is drunk (past “a little fuzzy”) then there is a problem.  Personally, the problem starts when one feels fuzzy to begin with.  We are told by our pastors and by our families, do not get drunk, but there is never a definition of drunk.  Thats how we see it, anyways.

When alcohol has taken its effect, and you start to act differently, then, in my mind, you are drunk.  If you are tipsey, fuzzy, giggly put the glass down. 

I dont drink, partially for fear of loosing control, but because i do not want to put myself in a position that compromises my own integrity; physically, mentally or spiritually.  I dont want to look back and say, i wish i hadnt done that.  I’ve already done that enough times in life. 

We each live by a code.  Like the knights of the medieval ages, we must hold true to what we believe, or we can no longer call us ourselves.  Once we bend or break the rules of these codes we live by, we continue on. 

This is how i live, abstaining from alcohol.  I do not expect everyone or anyone to hold the same values as i do, but i do expect people to respect them. 

Just a couple of thoughts, God Bless and PEACE

Searching For Words

It’s been almost two weeks since we’ve returned from our travels in Uganda and the journey at the Agule Community Health Center.  I find comfort in the routine of life and in being surrounded by family and friends, but i know that i have been forever changed.  I have scanned through photographs and read through journal entries, but there are things that i have yet to come to terms with. 

I lay in bed at night, trying to sleep, but i am haunted by the sights and sounds that will not fade now that they have een burned into my memory.  I see and hear things that cause my skin to crawl with emotions.  I wander during the day and experience things that bring back memories, sights and smells, sounds and feelings.  I am reminded of this place that has stolen my heart and I cannot help but to feel emotion coursing through my veins, more powerful than blood.

I sort through pictures and see kids faces stairing up at me, each one filled with joy.  I see the eyes of patients gazing through the lens and feel them searching my soul, each on filled with a hope that brings me to my knees.  I no longer see pictures, but people.  Faces of ones that i have come to love and my heart aches to be with them.

I can tell family and friends stories of this place, of what happened while we were here, but I have yet to find words that can begin to describe the emotion that rests on my heart.  I try to write, but words do not flow forth.  I try to explain, but raw emotion overtakes me.  I sit there, longing to share what is on my heart, but words are foreign to the feelings of the heart. 

I am still processing this journey, this adventure.  Even as the world goes rushing by, I am stilled by my own thoughts.  I sit for hours, just thinking about this place and the people that have captured my heart and made it part of their own. 

I fear that somehow, i may never find the words to share, but at the same time am glad that the emotions are too powerful to comprehend them.  I am caught in an emotional wirlwind of chaos and confusion.

Once i finally comprehend and process everything that has happened, that i have seen and experienced, maybe then will words find their way into conversations and writings.  Until then i will continue to search for them and attempt to explain the feelings of the heart.

God Bless and PEACE

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