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A Long Distance Relationship…with God November 24, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity, life, relationships.
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Long distance relationships. Nearly everyone has attempted one before, which leads nearly everyone to have a strong opinion on them. The constant being that they are extremely difficult and that most people would rather not have to be in one. But, the heart often leads us passed the point when our heads tell us to stop, so we endure things we don’t want to, all in the name of love. Because when it comes down to it, distance means very little when someone means so much to us.

I can’t think about love without thinking about God. That’s just the way I’m wired. So, the more I thought about this long distance relationship I’m in, I began to notice certain similarities about it and my relationship with God. Here are some ways that being in a relationship with God is a lot like a long distance relationship:

1. Invisibility.

We can’t see God. We’re devoted to a God that we cannot see. In a long distance relationship (LDR), you devote yourself to a person that you often can’t see either.

2. There has to be communication to be successful.

Prayer is essential to a successful relationship with God. We will never reach our full potential if we don’t communicate with our Savior on a frequent basis. While this goes for all romantic relationships, it is especially true for LDRs because being that people in them don’t have as many shared experiences, there has to be plenty of phone calls, texts, and Skype sessions (my girlfriend thinks Skype is lame lol)to make the relationship work.

3. Trust is key.

Without trust in God, you probably wouldn’t have a relationship with Him in the first place. While trust is another important part in any relationship, it is once again even more important in an LDR simply because it is easier to fall into infidelity. People rarely see you with your partner, so a lot of people assume that you aren’t with anyone and will either try to fix you up with someone, or even hit on you more often than they would someone they knew was in a relationship. If you don’t trust the person you are in a LDR with, this knowledge can drive you crazy. This is why you must have an exorbitant amount of trust in the person you are with.

4. Retreats/visits.

Christians, especially younger Christians, go on at least one or two “retreats” a year to get away from the routine of life to spend time focusing solely on God in order to learn more about Him and fall in love with Him more. People usually return from these retreats feeling refreshed and ready to get back to doing life again knowing that they are closer to God. People in LDRs thrive on having occasional visits whenever possible until they can be together for longer periods of time.

5. Anticipation of being together forever.

Christians anticipate that one day Jesus will return, restore the world to the way it should be, and be with them forever. Similarly, people in LDRs anticipate the distance between them being closed for good at some point in the future. There would be no point in being in an LDR if was going to be long distance forever. People in LDRs know that the distance is just for a season, and they will one day be able to walk across the room to be with their loved one as opposed to traveling across country.

Have you ever been in a long distance relationship before? What’s your opinion on them?

What are some other ways a long distance relationship is like our relationship with God?

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The Problem of Prayer: An Experiment November 9, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Bible, books, Christianity, confession, Greg Boyd, hearing God, life, Peter Lord, Philip Yancey, prayer.
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Prayer is one of those things that is fundamental to following Christ. Most Christians would agree that prayer, along with Bible reading and going to church, is one of the most essential things to living a successful Christian life. The interesting thing is that while it is considered essential, not many people actually do it that often (the same could be said for the other two), and even when people do pray, they often don’t think they are very good at it. I’m one of the latter. Now, I might pray a line or two throughout the day when something enters my mind that I know I need to pray for. Also, I meet with a small group to pray for about an hour each week before my church’s young adults service, and I actually surprise myself at how well I pray out loud. My problem is sitting down and having focused, intentional, personal prayer time with God. I have no problems spending a lot of time reading the Bible, but when it comes to really pouring my heart out to God in a time of  concentrated personal worship, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication, I feel that I lack. This really bothers me because I believe that prayer changes circumstances, people (the person praying most of all), events, at sometimes can even change God’s mind and will cause Him to act in a way that He would not of acted if no prayer was prayed otherwise. With this view of the power of prayer,  not only is prayer a privilege and a right but also a great responsibility. Therefore, there is no excuse for me to not pray.

I have had knowledge of this problem of prayer in my life for awhile now, so I was excited when the young adults ministry at my church started a three week series on the topic of prayer. The more we studied about it the more I realized that I needed to make a change. I started re-reading two books that have influenced my views of prayer the most, Hearing God by Peter Lord and God of the Possible by Greg Boyd, and picked up  Philip Yancey’s Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?  These books and the series at church have helped motivate me greatly, and I feel that God is leading me to try the experiment that I’m about to share with you. Some people may think that this is too small but I think it’s a good way to jump-start my prayer life.

The experiment is this: for the next thirty days I’m going to spend at least one hour in concentrated prayer everyday. Through these thirty days I’m going to try different techniques, formulas, and models. Sometimes I will follow the formula I learned in seventh grade called the ACTS model (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). Other times I will open the Bible and pray the through the Scriptures, mostly the Psalms, but this will not be a time of Bible study. I will also pray the prayers in books such as The Book of Common Prayer. I’ll try these multiple methods to try and determine which I find to be the most helpful for me to maintain a consistent time with God. Some time over the next 30 days I will also try to take a 3 day personal prayer retreat where I leave to go stay somewhere and leave all forms of technology behind and spend all 3 days in prayer, fasting, and Bible study. I will attempt to blog about my experiences as much as possible. Hopefully, this experiment will enhance both my prayer life and yours as well. I challenge you to try this experiment yourself and we can dialogue about what we’re going through together here on the blog.

UPDATE: As soon as I posted this blog, Greg Boyd also posted one on the same subject. I strongly recommend it. http://www.gregboyd.org/blog/my-car-crash-and-the-open-view/

Are there any prayer models like the ACTS model that you know of that you can share with me?

What are some books that have helped your prayer life?

Will you be trying the prayer experiment with me?

Like a King in a Cave October 13, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in anointing, calling, Christianity, fear, future, Judah Smith, King David, life, promises.
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What do you think about when you think about King David? There’s so many great stories about him in the Bible. Different stories resonate with different people. Most people, especially kids, think about his battle with Goliath. Others think about his affair with Bathsheba. Still others immediately think of some of his beautifully written Psalms. But, everyone has a distinct story or image they associate him with. I usually associate him with caves.

I’ve been trying lately to read the Bible differently than I have in the past. A few months ago I decided to try to read the Bible chronologically. I decided to try to really put myself in the Bible character’s shoes as I read it this way. For many of us who have grown up in church, I think we often lose empathy with what the characters are going through because we know the outcome, and sometimes we forget that the characters didn’t know it. They really didn’t know if God was going to come through or not. Remembering this fact as I read the story of David makes it so much more enlightening.

For the past year and a half, my life has not gone the way I thought it would. I graduated college in May 2009 with my degree in Religion. I was confident that I would be working in a church or ministry organization by the end of the summer. As it turns out, I didn’t get my first interview with a church until a few short months ago. When I got it, I felt revived because I thought the Lord was finally coming through on his promises to me. But, despite my confidence that the Lord had just prepared me for this specific church, they did not hire me. This has left me confused about what the Lord is doing, and has even caused some of my family members to question if I am even called into the ministry. More than that, the idea of failure haunts me. The realization that I’m almost 27 and still dependent on my parents for survival is humiliating. I’m scared that I’ll never become what I feel the Lord wants me to be, and beyond that I’m scared I’ll never have enough to provide for a family, should I ever get a family. To say the least, this is difficult to deal with when you feel called by God to be something great.

Which brings me back to David. After King Saul sinned against against Him, God told Samuel to anoint a new king. That new king was a shepherd named David. So Samuel came to David’s father, Jesse, found and anointed David king over Israel. After David was anointed king, he went back to tend to his sheep, and Samuel went back to doing whatever prophets do. Not exactly what we think of when we think about a royal coronation. It wasn’t until the giant Goliath had Saul and the rest of the Israelite army trembling that David flashed a glimpse of his greatness. The Bible tells us that after David killed Goliath he became a national hero and found favor with King Saul, until Saul heard the women singing songs declaring that David was greater than he was. In an emotional story in 1 Samuel 20, we see Saul’s son and David’s best friend, Jonathan, in a tearful goodbye as Jonathan tells David he must leave or Saul will kill him. The end of the chapter sees the true King of Israel fleeing his kingdom, scared, confused, and alone. For the next several years of his reign, he spends hiding in caves in fear for his life. 

We see some of David’s anguish through the Psalms he wrote during this time. In Psalm 59, David wonders where God is. Even going so far as to speculate that God has fallen asleep on him (Psalm 59:4-5).  David knows God has called him to be a king, but doesn’t understand why he has to live in a cave. Kings are not supposed to live in caves. Kings should not have to be scared and lonely. We know the end of the story. We know how God eventually exalts David and places him majestically on his throne. But, that’s just the point. We know that. David did not.

I don’t know how my story will end. I do know what God has called me to do. But, I don’t know how I will get there. I’m like a king in a cave. At times, I am scared, lonely, and confused. You might feel the same way. You might be the king of your own cave. You may not understand why God anointed you just to leave you there in that damp, smelly, cold hole-in-the-wall. But, David was there. And we know how his story ends. David’s God is our God. I believe with all my heart that God did not anoint us just to leave us in a cave. We will emerge victorious, ultimately, because not only has God promised us victory, He has already declared us to be victorious because of the cross.

This is a clip from a message from Judah Smith. While David was hiding in caves, Abraham was hiding in tents. Enjoy.

My Other god September 30, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Bible, confession, life, sin.
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The first of the Ten Commandments always struck me as odd. In case you haven’t seen the movie recently (because isn’t that where we all first learned them? I can never read any story about Moses without picturing Charlton Heston), the first commandment as in Exodus 20: 3-6 says,

  You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,  but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (ESV)

It’s always been hard of me to think of God as being “jealous,” being that jealousy is usually seen as a negative trait. Even one of Paul’s most popular New Testament passages says that, “Love is not jealous” (1 Corinthians 13:4).  But, that’s what God says about Himself. He is jealous. He loves us so much, and wants our love in return, that He experiences the emotion that we call jealousy when we give the love that should be His and His alone to another god. I think most of us dismiss this verse as more speaking to the Israelites in those days and not su much to us, because we don’t have “carved images” or idols, that we bow down, serve, and pray to. At least not in the most literal sense. But, I’ve come to realize in my own life, that I probably break this commandment more than any other commandment in the entire Bible. Though I don’t bow down or pray to any little statue or anything like that, I do turn to other things when I should turn to God.

I turn to the god of food when I’m in need of comfort.

Food makes me feel better about my situation, if only for a few minutes. At times, I feel like I don’t even have a choice in the matter. After leaving the church on Wednesdays after youth service, I have to go through the Taco Bell drive-thru, even when I’m not that hungry. It’s like a ritual or sacrament. While eating three chicken quesdillas at ten o’clock at night might sound like it’s bad only for my physical health, it’s also detrimental to my spiritual health, because I’m looking at the food to fulfill an area in my life that only God can. I’ve often argued that God is not concerned about this as much as my other sins. I’ve said things to myself like, “I need to overcome this lust issue, before I focus of this gluttony issue.” When truth be told, God wants me to turn all my sin over to Him, and they are all destructive. In some ways, serving the god of food is worse than serving the god of pornography. Every Christian peer I have would call me out if they saw me buying an adult movie from the mall, not one of them would think anything of it if they saw me buying a triple from Wendy’s. But, this addiction to food (and it is an addiction, let’s call it what it is) has me in just as much bondage as an addiction drugs or sex. It’s bad for my body and it’s bad for my spirit. That’s exactly what worshiping idols do to you, they leave you with a broken body and spirit.

Slowly but surely, I’ve heard God’s call to me to lay down my idols, to turn my back of my other gods, and to worship Him only. To only find fulfillment in my relationship with Him and Him alone.

What are some of your idols? How can we help each other turn our backs on them and only worship God?

The Truth About Being a Socially Awkward Christian September 24, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity, confession, Danny Jones, extroverted, introverted, life, socially awkward, The Church.
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I get  a lot of compliments about the title of this blog. Most people think it’s cute at worst, funny at best, and the people who know me think it fits me well. I’m glad that people enjoy it, but honestly being a socially awkward person, much less a socially awkward Christian, in today’s culture is anything but cute or funny. Let me set up a little bit of what being this way is like. I can think of no better scenario than this past Sunday night.

Recently, my church started a new young adults ministry led by my friend, B.J. This ministry has two services a week; one for the young adults in Picayune on Mondays, another for the young adults living about an hour north in the college town of Hattiesburg on Sundays. This past Sunday, a small group of the “leaders” from the Picayune campus traveled with B.J. to Hattiesburg to both help set up as well as get connected with some of the students at that campus. I know the people that traveled there, but not that well except for B.J., who was driving the 15-passenger van with his wife riding shotgun. I sat in the very back, without saying one word the entire drive, at one point even causing B.J. to say “Brandon, you sure are quiet back there.” I really didn’t know how to respond, so I just smiled and nodded. The fact is trying to say something witty that turns out to not be so witty in front of the people I was with was absolutely terrifying.

We finally got to our destination and started setting up for the service. This went well enough for me, I can make small talk at times when everyone is working on an equal task. The big problems began when people started showing up. I knew some of them, but again not that well, and the majority I did not know at all. I don’t think it’s easy for anyone to introduce themselves, but for introverted people, I think it’s only slightly better than chemotherapy. I see new people and I lock up. I can’t make eye contact, my palms become sweaty, I become cottonmouth with no amount of liquid able to wet my dry throat. Thank God for my Blackberry. I start scrolling up and down, looking at nothing in particular, but at least the appearance of me texting someone will convince these people that I’m not a loser, and maybe even sway them from trying to talk to me. It doesn’t work though, some guy does try to make small talk, asking how I’ve been. I say good, and ask the same of him, he says good as well, and then just stands there, obviously waiting for one of us to say something that could start an actual conversation. If meeting someone new is like chemotherapy, this is like being tortured by shoving bamboo sticks under my fingernails. Eventually, I just look back to the safety of my smartphone and he walks away.

After a awhile, I talk myself up reminding myself that I’m a leader and am not supposed to be afraid of people. I see a group of people standing in a circle and laughing, I decide to try and go enter the conversation. The circle doesn’t open to let me in, so I stand on the outside looking in, as if I’m the only kid on the fieldtrip to Disneyland that forgot to get my parents to sign the permission slip and have to stay at school. Somebody then forgets what movie a certain line he’s referencing is found in, and I know it so I speak up. My answer is correct and he says, “That’s it!” and continues with his conversation, once again leaving me on the outside of the circle. I thank God when it’s time for the service to start. On the ride home, I’m more involved with the conversation, thanks to a lucky joke I made that was actually funny. Then I start to overdo it because of my excitement of being involved and try to think of more funny stories or witty statements, but I’m not that funny or that witty so I start to use other people’s stories or jokes and claim them as my own, but unfortunately, they only work for the people who actually own the rights to them. The agony only ends when I’m back in my truck, graciously alone.

They say the Christian life isn’t meant to be done alone. We need community to survive. I believe this is true. But, for people like me, the thing that’s supposed to keep you alive causes you so much pain and anxiety. It’s like drinking water that tastes and smells like gasoline. You know you need it to live, but drinking it can be vomit-inducing. I get jealous of people that others naturally gravitate toward. My friend, Danny, is like this. People naturally like him; and he’s just naturally good with people. I watch him when he’s dealing with the people in our church and I’m amazed. He might as well be wearing a cape and a big “S” on his chest. It’s unbelieveable to me. How is he that comfortable with people? How are people that attracted to him and others like him? It’s strange. We have even discussed the dichotomy of how people react to him and to me. He can make a certain joke and people will think it’s hilarious. I could make the same exact joke and people will think I’m just creepy. It all goes back to the fact that I’m socially awkward and he’s not. I’m introverted, and he’s extroverted. These are just common personality types. Being one way is not better than the other way, it’s just the way we’re built. Sometimes, though, being introverted can feel less like a personality type and more like a disorder or a condition. This is magnified in the Church, which is an extroverted culture. Introverts have a much harder time with it than people think they do. We often get the label of “weird” because they think we don’t like people, which is not the case. Introverts like people just as much as anyone. It’s just that we want to be liked and to be seen as “cool” so bad that we have a hard time socializing. People will say that’s shallow and that we should just be ourselves, but they don’t understand that we are.

One of the things I have noticed about social media networks like Facebook and Twitter is that introverts don’t exist on them. I don’t know what it is but introverts thrive online. I realized on Sunday night, that I would have a much easier time talking to these people through a screen than I do face-to-face. Through this blog and through my Twitter, I feel closer to my online “community” of people that I have never met than I do to some of my peers in my own church. I am not saying this is right or even healthy, I’m just saying this is what being socially awkward is like. It’s a prison. It’s not cute and it’s not funny. It’s lonely. It’s painful.

Where do we introverts, we socially awkward, fit within our Christian communities? Social awkwardness is not sin. Let me make that clear. I don’t think the problem is within us, though I do think that there are some things about our personalities that we need to overcome. However, there are also some things that extroverts, or people who are not socially awkward need to understand. Namely, we are not weird. We are not creepy. We are just nervous. We like you, and we want you to like us. We have wisdom to offer, if you will just allow us to say it when we finally work up the courage to say it. Be patient with us and continue to reach out to us, though understand that sometimes we will need more space than you might.

To others who are socially awkward like me I want to say this: God has given us callings and dreams, too. We can lead just as well as extroverts, God did not limit us to be followers. We can be pastors, teachers, prophets, artists, entertainers, worship leaders, and anything God has called us to be. We can do “all things through Christ who gives us strength” just like people who aren’t socially awkward can. We can overcome the aspects of our personalities that would hold us back. We can overcome the fear that often paralyzes us. I think we can even have an advantage over our extroverted brothers and sisters. The way we are forces us to rely solely on Jesus. We aren’t tempted to use our personalities nearly as often as extroverts do. When we find the courage to do what God has called us to do, we can have the confidence that we are not working at all in our own power, but in the strength of the One who loves us unconditionally, as we are. Our strength and hope is found in the One who at the sound of His Name, every knee will bow, socially awkward or not. Never forget this.

Gideon: “My clan is the weakest…I am the least.”

God: “But, I will be with you.”

Judges 6:15-16

My Take on Shane’s Take August 27, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity, life, The Church, Uncategorized.
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This is a response to my friend Shane’s recently posted blog called “Can You Handle the Truth?” You should definitely go to http://www.ShanesTake.com and read it.

As a wannabe pastor, writer, and blogger it’s one of my daily habits to read through the Christian blogosphere to get my spiritual, intellectual, and creative juices flowing. I read everything from Matthew Paul Turner’s irreverent http://www.jesusneedsnewpr.net to Rachel Held Evans endless questions at http://www.rachelheldevans.com to Jon Acuff’s hilarious observations at http://www.stuffchristianslike.net and every thing in between. I’ve read a lot of posts that have a certain amount of sting in them but the one I read tonight from my friend Shane tonight really cut deep. Maybe it hurt so bad because I know Shane and know some of his history, or maybe it was because I know there is a fair amount of truth in his accusations of the Church.

Part of me gets offended when people call out the Church so harshly, as Shane does, because I am apart of it and I feel a certain amount of responsibility to defend Christ’s Bride. But, when I read over Shane’s blog again, I can’t find much that I can argue with because I have seen many of the things that he has brought up, though I do see it from a different angle than he does.

You see, Shane and I had two very different upbringings. All things considered, I had an almost fairy-tale type of childhood. My sister and I got pretty much everything we ever wanted. Our parents were happy, healthy, and had a good marriage. Shane and his sister, however, tragically lost their mother at a young age, which sent Shane and his family into a tailspin. I met Shane a couple years after this when he came to visit his grandparents who lived in Mississippi (Shane was from Texas).  I remember being pretty apprehensive about meeting him due to my socially awkward tendencies. But, it turned out we got along fairly easily, mostly due to Shane’s sense of humor and easy going nature. He wasn’t without his own idiosyncrasies, though. He had an odd fascination with Tom Cruise on account that he thought he looked like him. I never saw it, but who was I to argue?

Shane would come down for a few weeks every summer and as we often talked about his past. He would ask me questions about God and the Bible and I would answer them the best I could. We both knew that Shane needed to fill a hole in his life and that whole looked a lot like Jesus. I remember on one night before he was about to leave to go back to Texas we were having an interesting conversation about his lifestyle when he picked up my Bible and said, “Well, believe it or not, I really want to get into this stuff.” I told him I wished he would, but in the back of my mind I didn’t see him doing it. I thought he desire for sex and alcohol would easily trump his desire for God.

The next time I saw him, he wasn’t the same person. He knew more about the Bible than I did, and even the way he carried himself was different. To this day, I’ve never seen such a change in anyone. This time instead of going to the skating rink or to the water park to try and make out with random girls, we actually went “street witnessing” at Wal-Mart. I absolutely loathe this practice now as it is easily the most ineffective for of evangelism know to man, especially in America. The last thing anybody wants is for someone to stick a tract in their face while they’re trying to find ripe tomatoes. But, we didn’t care. We just wanted to tell people about Jesus. In all honesty, seeing Shane change the way he did was a catalyst for my own faith. Knowing that God could do that kind of a work in someone whom I thought was beyond hope made me realize that God can do anything and that no one was out of His reach.

That was the last time I saw Shane, if memory serves, but his grandparents and his sister who moved here, did keep me updated on how he was doing. He married his girlfriend, Nicole, who was just as passionate about God as he was, when he was 19 and became a youth pastor. A few years later, I even saw him on a webshow called The Shimmy Show. It was hilarious and I can’t tell you how much it excited me to see my friend enjoying his life and having a successful ministry and family life. A few months later, though, I heard awful news. Shane and Nicole got divorced and Shane left the ministry. My heart broke. I heard lots of rumors about what happened, and I don’t know if any of them were true, but even if they weren’t through the modern marvels of Facebook and Twitter, I could tell my friend was hurting, even if he wouldn’t admit it.

That leads us to tonight. Shane has posted a couple of blogs revealing a little bit about what led to his leaving the ministry and the reasons he’s revealing are downright scary. Frankly, I really don’t know if Shane had enough time to see the ugly side of the Church before he got into ministry, which is currently making me thankful that God has delayed my starting time in it. Shane talks about how Christians cover up their struggles, because if they truly were to reveal them, most people in the Church would isolate them if not try to kick them out, or at the very least give them a bunch of cliched answers on what they need to do better. I realized this a long time ago when I went through something very painful in my own life that caused me to lose a lot of friends. But, even though I lost a lot of friends in that time, I did discover that I did a few (and I do stress a few), that really did love me were willing to stand beside me and even defend me. Reading Shane’s blog made me wonder where those people were for him? Did he even realize they were there? Did he really not have any? There was no one in his faith community that he could confess his struggles too and not judge him but love him through them? That’s hard for me to believe, but at the same time I can see how those few could get lost in the mob of the stone throwers. So much of what Shane says rings true. That’s why I really want us to take a long, cold, hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves as Shane asks, “Can I handle the truth?”

The key to answering that question honestly is to remember the truth about ourselves. I need grace. I need grace so bad. How could I not show grace to another? How could I be shocked at another’s sin and struggles when I know all of the shocking atrocities that I have commited?

Shane, I love you. Thank you for motivating me with your transparency, your grace, and even your pain.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. – 1 John 4:20

 

My Greatest Sin July 20, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Heaven, Hell, life, sin, universalism.
4 comments

I don’t want everyone to go to Heaven. I want some people to burn in Hell for the rest of eternity. I could play this off as wanting to see God’s justice prevail, but that’s not the case. The truth is: I just want to be right. This is my greatest sin. I read certain blogs by some people who might be categorized as “universalists.” A term meaning they believe that everyone will get to Heaven one way or the other. Some of these universalists just believe all religious paths lead to Heaven, others are Christians who believe that Jesus died for everyone and will bring all to Heaven based on what he did on the cross. I think that these universalist Christians believe this not primarily on any biblical doctrine, but on the fact that they love people and can’t bear the thought of anyone suffering in Hell forever. This makes me jealous of them, because I don’t share that same love for people. Do I want people to go to Heaven? Of course I do, but not before they admit they were wrong about some things and turn their lives around. I don’t like the thought of murderers and rapists, or even Muslims and homosexuals entering Heaven totally on the mercy of God’s grace before they bow the knee to Jesus on earth. And I should want that. I read something by Shane Claiborne one time that said something along the lines of, “You don’t have to believe that God will save everyone, but you should hope he does.” That statement floored me. That’s when I realized my greatest sin is not loving people enough. I wanted to be right about them going to Hell, more than I wanted to see them in Heaven. Even if I don’t believe that people will go to Heaven without first surrendering to Jesus on earth, I should want Jesus to bring them to Heaven anyways.

The fact is Jesus said the second greatest commandment was to love others. If I truly loved others, I would want them to go to Heaven no matter what. This is why many Christians put a priority on evangelism. They witness because they believe, like I do, that the only way to Heaven is through Jesus, and that means turning your life over to him here on earth. However, for many evangelism  turns from being a sincere love for one who is lost, but an argument or battle to determine who is wrong or right. Even the term “apologetics” conveys a fight, as it means defense of faith. Now, I enjoy a good debate. I like the intellectual stimulation it brings, but I’ve come to realize that sound arguments will very rarely change someone’s mind, much less their heart.

I was eating at Outback Steakhouse with my mom last week. We saw a friend of my dad’s there and he stopped to talk to us. They talked about how they felt about the direction of the country was going in the wrong direction, to which made my mom bring up Charles Stanley’s July 4th sermon, in which he basically called President Obama wicked, without ever saying Obama’s name. I stated that I really didn’t think pastors should talk politics in the pulpit, to which they disagreed. That started a verbal war at the table which got quite loud and a bit angry. Afterwards, I felt pretty convicted. I should have just let that argument slide. For one thing, I’m not sure if our server was a Christian or not, and seeing three Christians squabble like that is never good for a non-believer to witness. That’s when I realized that my desire to be right was a sin. It violates the second greatest commandment. It’s not loving of others.

There is only one thing that I’m really sure of, and that’s when I get to Heaven, I’m gonna find out that I was wrong on some things. That being the case, why am I so worried about being right all the time down here? I hope I am wrong and that my universalist Christian friends are right. I hope everyone does make it to Heaven. Even though I doubt that is the case, I’m asking God to change my heart toward people who disagree with me. I’m asking him to help me to love others and not to be afraid of being wrong. Because loving others has nothing to do with being right or wrong, but it has everything to do with trusting Jesus.

Wait, You’re Single…and Happy?! June 30, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity, family, life, singles, The Church.
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The Church is a family-friendly place, as it should be. Every preacher in America has preached sermons on family, on having healthy marriages, and on how to be a better parent; most pastors preach on these topics several times throughout the year, some the majority of the year. In churches such as mine, where the majority of the congregation are married and have families, this makes sense. Sermons on building healthy families are needed, and needed often. The sad part is for single people, like me, is that we usually have to put up with the old, “You singles listen up! You’re going to need this one day when you have a family!” While this statement may indeed be true, I usually take it as a slap in the face. 

Now, I know some of you might think that I’m being too harsh because several churches have good singles ministries. In this you are correct, there are some excellent singles ministries out there. But, I’m talking about corporate worship services and the interactions we get from our married brothers and sisters.

First of all, singles are not guaranteed that we will ever get married. The old idea that “God has someone picked out for everybody” is proven untrue every time that a lonely single dies unmarried. This being the case, I may not need the sermon on how to build a healthy family, because we can’t be sure that I ever will get married. I’m hopeful I will, and I even think that’s it’s probable that I will, but it is far from guaranteed.

But, the thing that bothers me most about the Church’s focus on the family (I hope I don’t have to pay James Dobson royalties for using that phrase), is that it seems like most married people with families view the single person as lacking something.  The last time my pastor preached a sermon series on the family, one of his points was that, “being in a family adds value to your life.” So, my life as a single is less valuable that someone who is married? I understand what he was saying, and while there may be truth to it, that statement didn’t exactly edify me.

In addition to that, when singles tell married people they’re single we usually get this line: “Aw, you’ll find somebody. The right person is out there.”  The connotation there is that being that we are not married, we must not be happy. Granted, I know a lot of singles that are indeed unhappy and lonely, but sometimes I wonder if they are like that because those feelings have been willed onto us by our church family, because again, they make it seem like we are lacking something. 

Let me just say that if you are single, you are not lacking anything. It is well noted that even Paul thought it was better to be single than to be married (1 Corinthians 7:25-35). My request to the Church is that we get shown some love. Yes, a lot of us singles are lonely. Yes, a lot of us singles are sad. Yes, a lot of us singles do have dreams of being married and in a family one day. But, we are not lacking anything. Instead of constantly teaching us about how to build a healthy family or to find a godly mate. Teach us how to be content in our singleness, and how to best serve the Lord while we are single. Please do not just assume that because we are single that we are unhappy. Ask us if we are! If we are, please minister to us! If we are not, then laugh with us! Whatever you do, just don’t make us feel like we are lacking something!

Do you think that churches put too much emphasis on ministering to families and not enough on singles?

Have you ever felt like you were lacking something because you’re not married?

What are some ways the divide between married people and single people in the Church can be bridged?

Transitions & Changes May 24, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Bible, changes, family, Holy Spirit, life, The Church.
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I had an emotional day yesterday. I got up and headed north to Hattiesburg, MS to visit a church that is showing some interest in my services as a youth pastor. I was excited and nervous at the same time. Since I was 15, working in a church and having a ministry has been both a calling and a dream. Now, I was standing on that dream becoming a reality. Few people get to say that in their lives. I was shown around the church building. Everything was beautiful and sparkling clean. The worship was a good and the message was great. I ate lunch with the pastor and his wife who both were very gracious and nice. They invited me back to hang out with the youth in a few weeks.

I left feeling good about the meeting and looking forward to going to meet the youth. It wasn’t until I looked at my phone did I realize something was wrong. I had received a text from m, y dad about 45 minutes prior. All it said was, “If I call, can u talk?” I replied, “Now you can.” My phone rang immediately.

You see, my dad’s sod company has been slow lately, a victim of the economy, so he found a job working offshore. We had expected for him to leave for training some time around midnight last night, and then be back by the end of the week and leave for his regular six week rotation a couple of weeks from now. But, when I answered the phone and asked him where he was, I was surprised to hear that he was already in the Gulfport Airport, and wouldn’t be back for another 8 weeks.

Me and my family are quickly entering into major changes. We’re excited about the possibilities of new adventures, but nervous and scared about how the transitions will effect us. Personally, I worry if I’m ready to lead my own youth ministry, even though I know that I’ve had the appropriate training, and learned a lot of hard lessons through working underneath the youth pastors at the Journey.  But, the doubts still creep in. Will the youth like me? How will I mesh with the staff? Can the church feed me spiritually? Then I worry about my dad and my mom being lonely if and when I inevitably have to move.

Transitioning into changes is never easy,  but we do have the Holy Spirit to help us through them. I think about the disciples after Jesus died, and about how they were terrified. The Bible says that they locked themselves in a room because they were afraid that the Jews would come after them. But, then Jesus appeared to them and granted them both the peace and power of the Holy Spirit (John 20:19-23).  Later, after they had received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, these same disciples were no longer afraid, but bold when they were challenged. The Bible says that Peter, along with the rest of the apostles, stood up and addressed those that were persecuting, and 3000 of them got saved. Pretty good for eleven guys that were terrified to go outside a couple weeks before. The same Spirit that empowered the disciples through times of change, is the same Spirit who empowers us through times of change.

What are some big transitions or changes that you’ve had to go through?

How did you deal with them?

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