"He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." ~Jim Elliot

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Friday, October 17, 2014

(My) Battle Against Pornongraphy

My life's biggest secret is my struggle with porn. There it is. It's out now.

So why now? We live in an age, the digital age, where more men (and women) than ever are addicted to pornography. As of the writing of this post, 1.77 million marks the number of searches for pornography since the beginning of the year (source: Covenant Eyes). Porn is a huge money-maker and a seemingly natural part of life for the modern person. Alarmingly, 50% of professing Christian males admit addiction to pornography and a surprising 20% of all Christian females. This is unacceptable.

These are just some numbers on a page, but sexual sin strikes close to home in the real world. I know because I've experienced it. It is not harmless; it is not disconnected from other areas of life. Porn serves as a promoter of violence, physical aggression, and physical and verbal abuse. It portrays something that should never be portrayed, and it lies to its viewers (addicts) with an inaccurate depiction of reality. More importantly, it is sin against our own souls, our families, our coworkers, our friends, our neighbors, our churches - and our Maker who is holy and pure. God hates pornography.

It is for this very reason that we should too. I know for a fact that I have many close friends who have, in the past, struggled against pornography or even struggle with it still. I do too. The struggle is okay. Turning our backs on God is not. He has created us to be holy before Him in His own image through Christ (Eph. 1:4; 2 Cor. 4:6). He has redeemed His church to be zealous for good works (Eph. 2:10; Tit. 2:11-14).

I am not saying that we won't ever fail or that we can't be forgiven. We can. We are never beyond the reach of our loving Father. But the grace He gives us for forgiveness is the grace He gives us for freedom. We are no longer dead in our sin; we are alive by, for, and to the righteousness of God (Eph. 2:1; 2 Cor. 5:21). We walk by faith in the newness of life that He has given us (2 Cor. 5:7; Rom. 6:1-6). This doesn't happen on January 1. It happens on January 1, 2, 3, days, nights, weeks, weekends, and in every hour. Every day, we wake up fighting and free - fighting for righteousness, free from our sin.

Monday, September 22, 2014

What My Life is Spent Seeking

Psalm 143:6
I stretch out my hands to You;
My soul longs for You, as a parched land. 

People who grow up in church often have a harder time growing spiritually than those who come to Christ at an older age. We tend to have a basic idea of how to study the Bible; most of us have read the New Testament and (some of) the Old Testament. We know a lot of Bible verses. Don't tell us the story of David and Goliath - that's getting kind of old for us. We know pretty much all of the major doctrines and a good deal of lesser ones. We are fluent in Christianese; we can name ten different catchphrases our churches use. Anything that is remotely spiritual and "Christian" we have heard of - been there, done that.

When you grow up hearing for the thousandth time what visitors may be hearing for the first time, it is easy to lose the initial shock and wonder of Christianity. And it is because of this that I am realizing that my life cannot be built on church activity. Church activity as a foundation is sand. My only hope, my only rock is Jesus. No matter how many times I go over the character and person of God, the sinfulness of my soul, and the grace of Christ, the story is amazing. The gospel is a timeless treasure.

Because of it, I want to spend my life living a new way. Days don't have to be mundane because I hear the same truth. They should be filled with joy because of that truth. "Jesus loves me, this I know," and because of it I love Him deeply. I seek the satisfaction that only He can give. I want to want Him. I desire to seek Him. He is the water in my desert, the light in my darkness, the hope in my fear. He is my longing.

Monday, September 15, 2014

God's Love > My Life

Psalm 63:3
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.

This week I was brought back once again to the realization of what this verse means. So often we forget the "breadth and length and depth" of God's love and what it implies for us (Eph. 3:18). It bids us forsake all the world - even deny our own lives - to follow Christ (Ps. 63:3; Luke 14:33; Matt. 16:24). Why? Because having Jesus and nothing else is better than having everything else but not Jesus. "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36).

God's love is better than my life. Lately it has been increasingly difficult to live in light of this truth, but by God's power I have come to a new resolve. I will fight all my sin to believe this and to experience the satisfaction that His grace alone can bring. And not only will my mind believe it - my life will show it to a world who needs it. God is the only-wise, all-satisfying treasure no possession, pride, or pleasure in this life can give us. I will lay down everything to have Christ (Php. 3:7).

God's love is better than my life.



Saturday, September 13, 2014

I Want to Live

I want to live my life for You
To show that You are great -
To show the world all of my love
And show sin all my hate.

I want to live my life for You
And worship You the most -
To count my own life as my shame
And Jesus as my boast.

I want to live my life for You
To show that Christ is all -
To tell the lowly You are great
And show that I am small.

I want to live my life for You
Counting all as loss -
To die every day to myself
Boasting in the cross.

I want to live my life for You
And taste You as my good -
To hold sin as my void and lack
And Your word as my food.

I want to live my life for You
With all I have to give.
I want to live my life for You -
O God, I want to live!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Gray Day Mayday

I was informed today by a faithful follower that the posts have been far and few between. Part of me wants to say that that is because of little writing content. Sometimes I feel like there are words that need to be said (written); others, not so much. Perhaps this is one of those not-so-much seasons. On the other hand, working, attending interviews, leading ministries, and taking 16 credit hours doesn't leave me a world of time. But here's something I've been sitting on.

Some days we can tell exactly what bothers us. Things go wrong down the line, the tiredness and stress of busyness kick in, and a person says a thing here or there that hits us the wrong way. Sometimes we blow it. There is a person we offend, a situation we don't handle correctly, a test we fail, a game we lose.

While it is true that things like these are typically the cause of the everyday downs, some days are different. Some days are not every day. Some days cannot be traced back to one pattern. What I am trying to say is this: some days are bad for no evident reason at all. There are days when things aren't as black and white as we'd like. Sometimes there is a gray area that cannot be decoded.

On days like these, cliches and inspirational statements typically don't do much for me. The older I grow in Christ, the more I realize that my perseverance in Him must be rooted not in empty words or catchphrases but in the living and abiding truth of God. If I live by shallow sayings, I have a shallow faith - nothing more than a seed straining from a stone. But when God's promises are the fuel for my faith, there is power to press on through one more day.

And sometimes, just pressing on through one more day has to be good enough.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Shadow

Shadows are a strange concept. Mainly they are thought of as something that looms in the darkness. That is true. But in order for shadows to exist, there must first be light. Another strange thing about shadows - by their appearance, they are not darker in different light; they are more defined in broad daylight, but the actual brightness does truly appear to be different.

Shadows are the place where all the monsters are. Shadows haunt men. In the shadows of the night, my inmost being hates anything I can think about. The planet is defined by objects on it, but the only backdrop is shadow. We see the sun, the sun sees everything, everything sees shadow. It is the starkness between light and dark, warm and cold, good and evil.

Shadows exist. Shadows creep. Shadows plague.

And for as long as I am here, my canvas will contain - in some places, in some way -

shadow.




Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Learning Summer Lessons Again

July has come. It is a sunny day in Phoenix; high, 112. As the summer rolls on, I continue to think on all the lessons learned in Indiana in June. It has been only a week and a half since I boarded my return flight to the Valley of the Sun. But my venture to Arizona this time has been much different than last year's. Someone was waiting. The house in which I live has now been held by my family for over a year.

The distraction of it all is diminished. As I feel the affections that so defined me, and think the thoughts that were my identity last summer, God reminds me that His kingdom is to come first. It is not simply a duty - it is a delight, my everything. As these things keep rolling through my mind, I pray that God will make me fruitful for His service and work. May my life realize and reflect His power and grace as He draws me to my knees in His fellowship.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Thanksgivings and Requests from CYIA

Thank You, Father, for the days we shared at CYIA.
Thank You, God, for those You placed into my care.
Thank You for making me strong enough for this trip and seeing me through to the very last day.
Thank You that I was never alone.
Thank You so much for the time we had together.
Thank You for the people who blessed me here and for those who are a blessing all year long.
Thank You for renewing my heart for ministry.
Thank You for kindling my desire for Your kingdom, Your power, and Your glory.

Keep me from the temptations of this world, and continue to drive me into the light of Your glorious presence, O God. Protect me from the deception of my own heart and the schemes of the devil. Never allow me to forget the joy and the deep longings for You I experienced here. By Your Holy Spirit, allow me to pour into others the same power and grace You have poured into me.

O God, let my ways be intimately acquainted with Yours as You are with mine. My soul thirsts for You.

Thank You for all that happened here.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Learning and Loving; Serving and Seeking

It is hard to believe that I have not yet been in Indiana for even one week. The flight seemed like it was such a long time ago. This week has served as a reminder to me just how long CYIA really is. But I am also re-learning several things that I forget every year. Through the examples and fellowship of others, my heart has been encouraged and driven to prayer and worship.

So often in the monotony and the mundane I forget that God desires me to love Him with everything I am inside and all I hold on the outside. He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, so that I would live for Him forever. He desires my heart, not just the outside of my cup. When we as believers are surrounded by others who speak God's word to us and pray with us and encourage us in Christ and serve us, we grow closer to our Savior. As we seek the Lord in His word, we grow in the knowledge of our great Savior (2 Pet. 3:18).

The worst thing I can imagine for any life is a profession of faith and actions that deny it. I want my life to be totally abandoned to the work and service of Jesus Christ. My desire is to seek His will in everything and share His name with everyone. Wherever I am, I want to read His word and speak His truth into others' lives. Everywhere I go, I want to serve Him and others with all my heart -

because I love Him.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Two Weeks in Indiana

10:55 AM Indianapolis time

This week and next I have the opportunity to serve in Indiana at CYIA. On Saturday I flew from Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport to Indianapolis where I was picked up by a friend. This morning I will be travelling from Carmel, IN to Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion where the training will be held - pray for wisdom and guidance at this time as I will be serving many missionaries. Also, pray that God will be glorified in the time there.

Throughout my stay in Indiana I hope to write and send a few updates.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Albuquerque Pictures

Over Memorial Day weekend, I had the chance to take a trip with Megan and her family to Albuquerque. Enjoy some photos of the scenery:

This Catholic church in Old Town Albuquerque, 
San Felipe de Neri, is over 300 years old.



A view of Albuquerque from 10,000 feet high. We were 
transported by the world's longest off-ground tram.







Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Majesty

Turn the pages of the timeless masterpiece. The wind blows left and right until the right one slowly descends to reveal a college student - young and capricious: one life but hardly a sentence in the scope of the magnitude of existence. A line. A breath. A thought in the wind of God. One soul bound to the vessel of dust into which God has blown the breath of life.

There is, on this particular page, a walk through the neighborhood. This is a rare occurrence in the book. The grandeur is too marvelous to resist. Something is different about today. Or is there? The sky is cloudless - typical for a Phoenix early afternoon. The sun blasts its white hot rays onto everything beneath it. But the highlighted words - the flowers, the sky itself, the wind, the palm trees, the cacti - these are the difference.

Of course, they are there telling their story daily. The difference is in the man, for today he is listening. A strange metamorphosis has taken place, and the insensitive character early in the story has flown as dust in the wind and given way to a new man. The grass, the water, the hummingbirds, and the fragrance of it all. Majesty!

And if this is but one small scope of a minuscule sphere in one galaxy among billions, what must be in the heavens? What lies beyond Arizona? What lies abroad the universe to our small home? How the angels must stand and fall in wonder of the rotation of the radiant stars, the magnificent eclipses, the faithful seasons. And who is there to worship but the God behind it all?

We are but one breath. We live for a moment in the pages, then we fly away. We are gone. Most are not remembered, and even those who are have but a minimum impact. No one will remember your name in 200 years. No one will even know you existed.

No, it is not about us.

It is Him.


Psalm 8:3-5
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than God,

And You crown him with glory and majesty!

Job 42:5
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;

But now my eye sees You.



Monday, April 21, 2014

Worship is the Answer

Job 1:21
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Sometimes life isn't just what we make of it. Even though a positive attitude can help our perspective, good thinking doesn't take away problems. In Arizona, I have been learning that there are things beyond my control. No matter how hard I pray or how many good thoughts I think or how hard I try, trouble still comes. It is the reason I have spent two months of almost ten here unemployed. It's the reason that it's still hard to go to work some days.

Job was an example of this far beyond my sphere or scope. He wasn't a man who lost a job - he lost everything. The above words are his response. But until today there was something I failed to notice or realize about the proper response to worship. In the preceding verse in Job 1 after Job has received the tragic news of his losses of possessions and family members, something crucial takes place that reveals the heart of this still imperfect but godly man: "Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped" (Job 1:20).

God will always hear His children when they call to Him for help. He will always give us the grace we need to live here on the earth. But along with our prayers for His glory and our deliverance, He wants one thing from us: He wants our worship.  I truly believe that it is His design and our satisfaction. We were made to honor Him, and even in hardship He is still the Sovereign God deserving of our love and praise.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Good Friday Meditation

Ever Mine
11/12/2012

Was it for my guilty hands
That Yours were pierced by nails?
Is it for my dying love
Yours for me never fails?
Was it for my darkened heart
That Your blood was shed?
And was it for my wretched mind
Those thorns were on Your head?

Love of Jesus, love so free,
Love of God divine -
Because Your blood was shed for me,
Your love is ever mine.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Getting Serious About Sin



We have far too light a view of sin. You and I do not realize what sin is or what consequences come with it. We fail to see it because we have it - sin prevents us from seeing God for who He is, and a failure to see God for who He is is a failure to see sin for what it is. Even as I type these words, the concept that even one of my hundreds and thousands of daily sinful deeds is deserving of an eternity separated from the love of God is as foreign to me as Mandarin. It is a concept I cannot grasp.

God did not save us so that we would live passively - He saved us to be holy. This is our ultimately and impossible task because God's holiness by definition means that we are not like Him; we can't be. That is why our holiness is completely dependent on His grace.

Lately I have come - again - to the realization that I cannot resist sin and live in holiness without His Spirit and His word. The more I dig into the Bible, the more I see my need for it.

And the more I see my need for it, the more I love Him.

Friday, April 11, 2014

What is the Value of This Book?


How much do you value this book? Recently in a sermon the same question was directed to me, and lately several other things have come in to play that have shown me how little I value God's word. The question each of us must answer in our lifetimes about this book is - do you believe it's just another book, or is it truly words from the mouth of God as it says it is?

Do you believe that the words on the pages of the Bible are sweeter than honey? Are they sharper than swords? Do you believe that the Bible is able to make you wise unto salvation? Can it change your life? Can it change your day today? Can it change your marriage, your family, your workplace? Do you believe that the words of Scripture give life? Is this a history book? A science book? A book of good stories? A book of myths? A book of God?

And if you do indeed believe that this is a book of God, there is one more question -

Does your life show it?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Whole Heart




Psalm 86:11-12
Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
    and I will glorify your name forever.


A few days ago as I skimmed through my Bible trying to find some source of hope, my eyes found this passage. The past several months have held a great deal of difficulty for me spiritually as I try to balance school, work, study, and seeking God. It's one of the hardest tasks I have been given. And for the most part, I have failed. It had been so long since I experienced the spiritual hunger and thirst for righteousness Jesus preached about in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:6).

There used to be days I could say with David, "O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you" (Ps. 63:1). But lately those experiences have been mere memory:
These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival (Ps. 42:4).

Needless to say, I have no desire for memories.

But I am finally seeing what I have been missing all this time. In an act of grace last week, God revealed it to me through His word. He does not desire external actions or dead religion (Joel 2:12-13; Rm. 2:29). He wants my heart. And not just a portion of it or most of it - He wants all of it. So often my efforts to please Him are only half-hearted. I will open His word and skim a few pages or go to church and take good notes, but the hunger and thirst are not fully there.

Only He can restore me to that hunger and thirst for righteousness I find so easy to go without. May we (believers) never settle for mediocrity in our fellowship with one another or with Christ. May we never rest on the mundane or be content to simply walk through life as a set of rules and rituals. Rather, let us hunger and thirst for our Savior, Jesus Christ - our Treasure.

And let us give thanks to Him with a whole heart.

Monday, March 3, 2014

When the Worst

What will be said on this blog is nothing new or original. If it were, it would not work. We get through life not by whimsically shooting at abstract new concepts but by relying on ancient ones (in the word of God). Because I am feeling a little down, I thought it would be beneficial for any readers to hear a brief statement on getting through hardship.

All I have to say is something C.S. Lewis has already said (which accounts for most Christian literature anyway). But here it is: when the worst happens, just press on. No matter how hard or how meaningless or pointless - just press on. The only alternative is suicide, which is ludicrously selfish. Stay in the game. Choose to believe that some day - somehow - things will get better.

That is all my mind has the capacity to think right now. I wish it could be more, and more substantial. But for now, this will suffice. God desires faith.

Trust Him. Keep moving.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Feeling and Being Alone

Alone. That is a word I loathe with a passion. It is so distant and even, in many ways in fact, deceptive. The truth is, those who are in Christ never have to suffer true isolation. God is always with us, and He promises never to leave us, forsake us, condemn us, or let any true harm come upon us. That is great news.

Holding onto those truths gives us comfort (even though it can be a little scary sometimes). And yet we so often forget or feel another way. This and that happened, he lost his job, somebody got cancer, another tragedy struck today, and so on. In our darkest moments, we feel alone. So often I think mentioning the solution only makes it worse because it attempts to quick-fix and eliminate. Sometimes that doesn't happen.

Keep your head up. Stay in the game. Some days are better survived than fought.

You are never alone.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Best Thing

Nothing too long here, just a quick thought.

This season of life has been a trying one for me, especially with my job situation. Before I quit my last job, I told my GM that it was the second to last thing I wanted to do: the last thing I could ever do was stay there. But now I am realizing that this truth sometimes applies to more than one area of life. In an imperfect world, sometimes there is no "good" thing to do. In a place bound to friction, sometimes the best thing to do is the second worse thing you could possibly do. I am seeing that in a few areas now.

It's easy to be discouraged. Don't. Don't give up. That is what all the demons against you - and worse, your flesh - want. "Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Php. 3:14). Continue to do what God has revealed as right, what He has prepared for you. Sometimes it's the second worse thing, but it can still be the best thing.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ten Things I Learned About Pizza

After working in the pizza world for a year, I decided to make some general observations that are extremely important to the preservation of mankind:

1. There is no such thing as an "Artesian" pizza (unless it's French pizza or pizza that comes from the Artesian Well). It's Artisan ("ar-ti-sin").
2. Pizzas are not made with tomato sauce. Never! It's pizza sauce.
3. The crust is not the fluffy outer portion of the pizza - that's the rim. The crust is the whole piece of dough under the toppings.
4. It's all about metabolism. In the year that I worked in pizza places, I ate approximately 65 whole pizzas. I'm six feet tall and weigh less than 150 lbs.
5. Always tip delivery drivers. If you don't want to tip, don't get delivery. They will hate you. FOREVER!!
6. If you want it on time on a weekend, place a timed order. Pizza people aren't superheroes.
7. When calling Domino's, don't ask for a "meat-lovers" or "stuffed crust." When you choose Pizza Hut or Papa John's, avoid "lava cakes," "parm bites," "cinnastix," and "stuffed cheesy bread."
8. Don't even think about using counterfeit money. We see it. Oh, we see it.
9. Please let the workers just make and deliver your pizza. If you have questions, Google them.
10. Avoid general stupidities and rudenesses people are prone to. Order, pay, tip, and eat. Thank you very much.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Reason for the World

I must confess that lately I have been focusing on everything but the most important thing. My faith has, as of late, seemed rather weak and my hope, dim. A new semester loaded with information and demands has come down on me. Six months of stress is culminating in a job change. Some days it's hard just to get out of bed.



So I complain, I pray, I doubt, I ask for help - humble desperation mixed with sinful exasperation.



God,

Take my imperfect obedience and my failing strength - replace it with the perfection and power found only in your Son who died to give a reason for the world.





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