Thursday, March 27, 2014

What are we doing?!?!?!?!?!?

I should probably explain something about this blog. If you haven't figured it out yet, my facebook is where I share all the dumb stuff I do, my twitter ends up being my venting page, and my pinterest shows how random and ADD I am. My blog is how I try to figure out my thoughts. I write it and share it in hopes it will help someone else and point them to Christ. But really, it's just me working through whatever is going on at the time. So if it seems weird or odd, or if I'm wrong, I don't have it all figured out yet. Please feel free to tell me what you think. But this is just me thinking. So if this post sounds a little disjointed, it is. This is kind of how my brain works. I'm sorry.

That being said, I've been thinking (again). And though it sounds morbid, I've been dwelling a lot on death. I guess part of getting older means that I'm more aware of it's part in our lives. Not that I'm old. But supposedly, I'm getting more mature (bahahaha, whatever).

I have heard so many stories the last couple weeks about people who have passed away. A friend had a close family member die this morning. I heard about a baby that died of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) last week. Another close friend has a friend that was given weeks to live. A student's dad died last week. One of my friends knew a lady who was in the morning service, then in heaven in the evening service. And I don't know very many people on this campus--I'm sure there are many stories you could share that I could add.

I read once that "Death is the only certainty in life". Someone else said, "We are all part of the ultimate statistic. 10 out of 10 die". Or "eat right, stay fit, die anyway".

None of the people I mentioned above are old. I'm sure they all thought they had years left in their lives. They planned to spend the rest of their lives serving God (well, except the baby--but he was a part of a Christian family).

My point is this: life is short. You don't have much time. Christian, what are you doing that makes your life count? And I'm not just talking about long-term plans. Like, "After I graduate, I'll make my life count for God. I'll get involved in a church then."

I've heard a lot of young people, people my age, say "Right now, it's about just hanging out, having fun, etc. I need to learn more before I can serve God. I need to develop my talents. I'll serve later." What? What in the world? Why are we doing this?

You don't know how long you have. I know you've heard this before, and you'll hear it again. I wrote this post, Don't Waste Your Life last year after a co-worker died suddenly. She was 42, and had a heart attack.

Don't Waste Your Life.

If you were to enter heaven tonight, would you want to tell God about what you spent your last day on earth doing? I mean, He already knows. But if He were to ask you, "What did you do to serve Me today?", what would you say?

Approximately 2 people die every second around the world. 11% of the world's population identifies with Protestantism of some denomination. So of the 172,800 people who die every day, almost 90% of those are probably in hell. Does that not bother you?

Why are we so worried about judging people? Why are we so surprised that sinners sin? I was thinking about this in the service Monday night (it's Bible Conference here), and the speaker was talking about how big of a deal homosexuality is and stuff, and how it's taking over everything. Yes, homosexuality is a big deal. Yes, I believe it's a sin. But, why is that the first thing we worry about?

Why do we say "oh, he's gay. He needs Jesus."? We should say, "He's a sinner. God loves him. He needs Jesus. Let me be the one to reach out to him." You were a sinner. I was a sinner. I still am one. Maybe I wasn't murdering people (I was 6 when I got saved), but I was a liar. I had rejected God.

What are we doing??? Why do we judge??? When you say "I'm a Christian" to a co-worker, they should not think "Oh, this one is someone I can't talk to, because they will look down on me." Love them. Reach out to them. Show them Christ's love. Christ talked to prostitutes. The one woman in John 8, who is referred to as "a woman taken in adultery. You remember her? The religious leaders brought her to Christ, telling Him all the things she had done. She broke God's law. According to the law, she should have been stoned. But Christ showed grace to her. Mercy.



John 8:10-11 "When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?
She said, no man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: Go, and sin no more."

I'm not saying that we should overlook sin. But when we are talking to someone who is unsaved, we shouldn't focus on their sin. We should focus on God's grace and forgiveness. He's forgiven them; why can't we?

As Dr. Bob likes to say "The most sobering reality in the world today is that people are dying and going to hell today". I never really thought much about this. If anything, it was kind of one of those "is he really saying that again?" things that felt overused.

I stopped and thought about it. I want that thought to change my life. I am not responsible to judge another person. My job is to share the love of Christ.

John 8:12, right after the above passage, talks about Christ being the Light of the World. My job is to reflect that light.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Remove the Mask: Why Won't We Be Transparent?

My sophomore year of college, I had the privilege of attending the graduate speech recital of my freshman speech teacher. She is someone that I look up to and greatly respect, and when I look back at all my favorite classes and teachers, she stands out in many respects. She didn't just teach freshmen--she touched lives. At her recital, she tackled the idea of transparency. Mostly the idea of why we aren't transparent. And she shared a lot of personal stuff. To an audience of 700 people, some of whom were friends, but many of whom were total strangers. She got a standing ovation (which doesn't happen at recitals here), and people walked out changed. I still occasionally hear people talking about it, and it's been 2 years. It changed me and the way I think. I've pondered transparency off and on for the past 2 years. It's a tricky idea. I mean, the idea of sharing stuff with people and knowing when you're being transparent and when you're just complaining. Being honest without sharing too much or finding the right person who will really care about you and pray for you can be hard. Finding a balance can be hard. Unfortunately, we don't even try most of the time.

I don't know if you go to a CHristian school. I do--a Christian university. I'm assuming you go to a church with fellow believers. In our Christian environments, we say "Be transparent. Be real. Talk to people. Share. We care. We love you. We won't judge you."

We create an atmosphere that says "If you tell me you're struggling, I'll look down on you. I'll probably share it as a 'prayer request' with 3 or 4 people, and we'll talk about you. You aren't allowed to have problems or struggles, and if you do, tell Jesus, but don't tell us."

At her recital, my former teacher shared the poem "We Wear the Mask" by Paul Laurence Dunbar. The first 2 stanzas are as follows:

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,--
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask. 

Did anyone ask you, "How are you doing?" today? I got asked that. What was your response? "Fine, thanks!" "I'm doing well." "Hanging in there, keeping busy, but you know, God is good so it's all good."

Really? Are you really doing ok? All the time? Every time you answer that question with a "fine", are you really doing "fine"? I'm not always. It's our go-to answer.

It's a lie.

We teach children, "Thou shalt not lie". It's the 9th commandment. When did lying about how we are doing become ok? When did hiding what's going on become not only ok, but really expected?

Why do you wear a mask? Why do I wear a mask? Well, here's my excuse (the one I use most often).
"If people don't know, they can't judge or hurt me. If I get close to people, they may expect something I can'd do, and I'll let them down."

What does your mask look like? There are a lot of different ones, and we all personalize our mask to fit what we need. They all look a little different, which is part of the reason I think it is so hard to recognize someone else's for what it really is--a disguise hiding what's really going on in their life. I tend to be one of those people who always has to have it together. I'm that annoying person no one else in the class likes, because I turn stuff in 2 weeks early. I have to be on top of stuff and always prepared. I am always ready to go, and hate surprises or changes in my plans. I'm also a very hyperactive, sarcastic person. When I don't know what I'm doing, or if I'm in a new situation and am nervous, I hide it by being weird and obnoxious (in a good way, I'm sure). People don't know the difference between my "life is good and I've had Mountain Dew" hyper and my "I'm stressing out and worried about what is happening" hyper. When I'm not in control of a situation, I get either really hyper or weird or shy. Both of them are a mask. I wear them to protect myself.

What mask do you wear? What masks do you put on to cover what you are really thinking, feeling, or struggling with?

It can be hard to peel off our mask. I think it is harder to be the one being open and sharing than the person to whom we are talking. When we are transparent, we are vulnerable. That is a scary place to be. I don't want to go there, so I put on a mask. I hide it and no one knows. We have on  so many layers of masks, I don't know if we are really able to be honest with ourselves. We have a hard time even getting real with God. We've convinced ourselves that the mask needs to be there.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

To each other?

Why are we not willing to share? To get real? To be honest? Transparent?

May I suggest that we have been lied too? Has Satan whispered any of these in your ear (or screamed them in your face)?

No one would believe you if you told them that you _________?
You say you're a Christian, and you struggle with ______? Really?
God won't keep forgive you.
People look up to you, you know. They watch you. If they know you are dealing with _______, your testimony will be ruined.
Everyone deals with that. It's not a big deal.
You're in leadership. You teach Sunday School. You can't have struggles like that.
No one cares.
People come to help. They need you to be strong for them. They aren't able to help you, because they need you to help them. 

These are lies, friends. Satan knows that if he can get us to live an isolated life, we won't have access to the full potential of power found in the body of Christ. Once we start getting honest with each other and really working together, the church and Christians could do amazing things for God. We could change the world in huge ways. Satan doesn't want that. So he seeks to keep us isolated.

I want to build iron-sharpening-iron relationships.

I want my friends and i to have a closeness that allows us to be real with each other. That's going to take work. Being transparent ends 2 people--the person being transparent, and the person listening. And both of these people need to be willing to take both roles. 

Be transparent. In small areas--like "I am so exhausted, I'm struggling with staying awake to do my devotions. Will you pray for me and keep me accountable?" "I'm struggling with my thoughts towards a particular person."

Be transparent. In big areas--like "I don't know if God exists, and if He does, I don't know if he really cares about me personally." "I don't know if I even am in the right religion. I don't know if I'm believing the right things, and I don't want to miss out because I was taught wrong."

Be willing to listen. Look around at work, school, church, or wherever you are. Watch people. There are people everywhere who are hurting, but have a mask on and aren't willing to admit it. Take time to show them you care. Pray for them. And don't be discouraged if they won't open up to you right away. Removing a mask takes time. It takes knowing that someone honestly cares about you. And if you are going to ask someone to be transparent, be willing to be transparent yourself. 

Watch out for the people who are "rocks". You know who I mean--those people who have it all together all the time. They are usually the people that get asked for help or advice. Sometimes, they are the people who really need help and prayer the most. Those are the people we forget about, because they seem to be so put-together. Everyone needs someone who will come along and say, "I'm praying for you."

Paul Dunbar wrote a final stanza for his poem, "We Wear the Mask".

We smile, but O great Christ, our cries
To Thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

I want to be part of the generation that changes the world. But (and here's me being transparent), I can't do it alone. I need friends to help me out, support me, and point me to Jesus. We aren't called to go the Christian life solo. God has given us each other. Serve Him together.

If you need something, anything, even someone to talk to, please find someone. A friend, a person at church, a teacher, pastor, anyone. Don't live life hurt and alone because you can't trust anyone. If you can't find someone, email me. Message me. Comment below. That's why God created me. To serve Him, and minister to the body of Christ.

Remove the mask.

Practice transparency. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I Will Build MY Church

On Thursday, March 6th, 2014, the Washington Times reported this headline: "Kim Jong-Un calls for execution of 33 Christians". Basically, 33 North Korean Christians and a missionary from South Korea were arrested and sentenced to death for starting over 500 house churches in North Korea. Has the execution happened yet? I don't know. Is the report completely and totally accurate, without fabrication and/or hidden information? I don't know. But I do know that God is in control. He holds each Christian in the palm of His hand. He sees the future, and He has a  perfect plan for each person individually, as well as for the collective body of Christ. I can rest in that.
I don't know what He's doing. I don't understand. I look at what's happening in North Korea, and to Christians around the world. If I am not careful, I may wonder:

"What is God doing?"
"Is God still good?"
Why doesn't God stop this?"
Why does evil exist?"
Is God still even there?"

Do you find yourself thinking this? Please tell me I'm not alone in my thoughts. In my doubts. I know God is good. I know God is in control. But when you see headlines like the one above, you stop and question what's going on. What God's doing. Or at least, I do.

What is God doing?

In Matthew 16, we see a lot going on in the ministry of Christ. At the beginning of the chapter, the religious leaders are there testing Christ. Trying to get Him to slip up.
Then we see Christ talking to the disciples. He asks them who people say He is.
"13--When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whome do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?
14--And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
15--He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16--And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
17--And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my father which is in heaven.
18--And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19--And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
It's a pretty familiar passage. One I've referenced before.I've studied this passage (both personally and in classes and church). A lot of times, we talk about verse 18 and talk about the phrase "upon this rock". What did Christ mean there? People and denominations debate this. But I want to look at the next phrase for a second.


MY Church

It's Christ's church. He has promised us that He will build it. No North Korean dictator can stop Him. No American bashing God on YouTube will stop the spread of the Gospel. Nothing you can do will stop what God is going to do.

Isn't that encouraging? We can look at the world and see what's going on. We see the political turmoil in Ukraine. We see the atrocities committed in North Korea. We see the unrest around the globe. We wonder where God is. What He's doing. But nothing that Putin or Kim Jong-Un can or will do will stop God from doing what He has planned.

Isn't that cool?

I just think that's so encouraging.

I serve a God that is bigger than all the politics in the world. Literally.

He's above it all. He controls it all. And works it together for His good. For His glory.

In the death of these 33 Christians, He will be glorified.

I pray that in my life, however long He has planned for me, that He will be glorified.

Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA, spoke about persecuted Christians around the world. He said this: "They don't ask us to pray that persecution would stop. They pray, instead, that they would be strong in the midst of persecution, and to empower them to be bold witnesses despite the obvious persecution in many places."

This is a huge rebuke to me. I have a low pain tolerance. I'm sure I'd be begging for them to stop the second they looked at me. I'd like to think that I would stand fast and never give in, never renounce Christ, but I don't know. How can any of us know how we'd respond in a situation like what these Christians face on a daily basis?

All throughout history, the persecuted church grew quickly. It spread like wildfire. And those Christians that faced persecution often had the strongest faith. From the early church up until the present day, those that face persecution know what it means to really depend on God.

Please join me in praying for the persecuted church around the world. Pray with me for our brothers and sisters in Christ as they press on through the trials God has allowed into their lives. Pray, not the persecution would end, but that God would be glorified. That the Gospel would be spread throughout the world. That the church would not be stamped out, but that God would build His church. Like He's promised. He will build it.

He will be glorified.

I can rest in that.

(Here's a sermon that was preached here on campus last year about this topic by Chris Anderson. If you have time, may I suggest and recommend you listen to it? It's highly encouraging.)