Hear Me Out

You May Like What I Have To Say

Plank Eyed Saints

As I make my 20 minute (more or less) drive to the UCF campus every morning, I tune my car’s radio to Z88.3, my city’s Christian Radio. This daily routine seems to set a tone for my day, and helps to ease my mind for whatever I may have to tackle that day.

Music has always gripped me in a way nothing else can, so naturally, worship music is my best outlet for praise and connecting with the Lord.
Anyway, it seems as of late I can almost expect the song “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns to come on at some point throughout the day. As Z88 loves to overplay songs until all of Orlando knows every word, this song has grown on me over the course of a week.

This song essentially addresses something I have previously advertised my struggle with, as I’m positive others do as well, an that is judgement. While others may be more blatant about it, passing judgement is equally sinful regardless of how it’s channeled.

The opening to this song has lyrics that go:

“The world is on their way to You, but they’re tripping over me. Always looking around but never looking up I’m so double minded.”

I couldn’t help but stop the song here, an replay the beginning. How can I possibly be leading people to Christ, when I may be the one stopping them from giving Him their life? Our friends, family, classmates, and even coworkers who have not yet been saved constantly look to us as embodiments of Christianity, yet they see lying, cheating, dirty people! How can people come to Christ, when they “trip” over us? We as Christians need to work more on becoming more like Him before we go to others with dirty hands and high expectations.

We are always “looking around but never looking up”. We are always quicker to post a Facebook status, or tweet about ‘what girl looks slutty today’ or ‘how stupid someone is’, than to look UP and pray. PRAY that girl who dresses provocatively finds the strength and security in Him she needs to be comfortable in her own image. PRAY that kid in your class who seeks every opportunity to spout out snide remarks in class finds comfort in the Lord to where he doesn’t need to seek man’s approval to know his worth. PRAY the ones who go and party every weekend find Christ’s mercy to forgive them their sins an work towards shaping themselves in His image.

hate the sin, not the sinner.

This song asks Jesus to “open the eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers”. This makes me think of Luke 6:41

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

How can we point out flaws in others, without regarding our own?

We’re all ‘plank eyed saints’, it just takes a small dose of humility and a large helping of the Gospel to see it.

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I Do Not Know What I Do

I cannot begin to tell to you how many nights I’ve spent brooding over the severity of my sins. Should I give no second thought to my transgressions because God loves me anyway?
Am I in “better standings” with Him because my sins are far less “severe”?

Throughout the past couple weeks, for whatever reason, these questions seem to be making themselves more and more apparent in my life; whether it be from my own thoughts, or those of my friends. These trying times are when I’m thankful that I can turn to the Gospel for guidance.

“If God’s passion is to forgive us our sins, why not have our way every now and again?”
THIS is the voice of the enemy himself! Romans 6:15 says this:

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!

Salvation in itself is quite a simple concept, yet we cloud it by trying to “master” sin. As humans, we cannot master sin as it is more powerful than we are. Because of this, we can only fall subject to sin and the enemy, Satan himself. This is why God’s grace and mercies are so amazing. We never “conquer” sins mastery over us, but, rather switch masters in our Lord Jesus Christ.

In knowing that sin hath no control over our lives under Christ, we also realize that we are not expected to never sin again, because it is in our human nature (blame Adam and Eve for that one). Romans addresses this topic again in chapter 7 verse 15-17.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.”
Whoa. That’s a lot to take in, right? At least those are my initial thoughts. But, this paints a perfect picture of how sin unknowingly controls our lives with its power. This is where the difference between Christians and non Christians comes into play. We know sin is evil, yet continue to do it anyway. The difference, simply put, we care. We care that our sin is leading us away from Him. We care that our addictions and hidden actions and thoughts cause us to turn our backs on the Gospel.

Upon this realization, some Christians may think, “well my sins are significantly smaller than someone who isn’t a Christian or doesn’t care, so I’m better off on the road to Heaven.”
….yes and no.
Yes in the worldly sense. If you were to murder someone, you will face far greater punishment by law than if you were to call someone a crude name.
No in God’s eyes. Calling someone that crude name, and killing someone are both saying NO to God. Turning your back on Him, and coming back to sin happens no matter how severe the sin.

Once we come to grips with all this: we cannot conquer sin alone, sin is inevitable, our love for God sanctifies us, we can learn to turn to Him instead of sin by judging others.

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“A Second Chance is Heaven’s Heart”

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Music has always been one of the easiest ways that I can praise God, and as of late, I cannot get enough of worship music. There is a Rend Collective Experiment song called “Second Chance” (link below), that I heard at a summer camp this past year. I had never heard of RCE before this, and honestly, had no idea what to expect.Song after song, goosebump after goosebump, this band portrayed such a strong message with every lyric in every one of their songs, so naturally I instantly fell in love. This song in particular, though, had caught my attention. One set of lyrics I especially loved, and began to play again and again in my head throughout the following months:

A second chance is Heaven’s heart / Countless second chances we’ve been given at the Cross”

Before I had become a Christian, or consciously at least, I had always struggled with the constant question of. “Does Jesus still love me because of ____?”, or even “I messed up, so now there’s definitely no point in trying.” Man if I could have known what I know now, then! Now you still may be wondering, “Well? What IS the answer to that question?” It is not an uncommon feeling to wonder if your past, present, or even future (yes He knows them) screw ups will change your image in the eyes of God. It still takes some work on my part to remind myself that we are never any further from the foot of the Cross than when He died for us.

I turned to scripture for reassurance on the matter, and John 8 tells a story of an adulterous woman who was caught “fooling around” with a married man. The Pharisees brought this woman to Jesus, and tried everything in their power to provoke Him to say something suggestive, something they could “use against him.” When they brought her to Jesus, they told him she deserved to be stoned for her actions.

“They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, ‘All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!'”

-John 8:7

Now after Jesus said this, everyone left the place, leaving only the woman and Jesus. Jesus asked her where all the accusers had gone, and did any of them condemn her. She responded no, and He said “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” – John 8:11

I don’t know about you, but that’s reassurance if I’ve ever seen it! Second chances. Jesus paid the ultimate price so that we could live our life in Him. Still not convinced?

Romans 8:29-30 says “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”

A Youth Pastor of mine coined this verse “The Chain”. God already knew you and I would become his sons and daughters, it was only a matter of time for US to realize it and accept Him into our lives. He determined this before we were even thought of by our parents, or their parents, or their parents, parents. And because He knew this, he also placed us at the foot of Jesus’ cross. I said it before, but I just love the thought of this image, you are never any further from the foot of the cross than you were in the beginning.

So next time you think to yourself, “Will Jesus forgive me?”, you ought to know: He already has before you even formed that question.

Who do I think I am?

I think, scratch that, I know that one of my biggest problems is putting myself above people. We all do it, whether it be in sports, academics, music, video games, whatever! Regardless. The fact of the matter is, no single one of us is better than the other. Now obviously, I can’t go challenge LeBron James to a game and expect to have a shot at beating him because “I’m a person just like he is!”. No. There’s a monumental difference in saying that we’re all equal in that we have equal rights and opportunities, and we’re all equal in everything we do. It just wont happen!

Let’s shift focus to what I’m actually getting at here.

Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you?

                                                                                                                                                                                       Romans 2:3-4

Going through my Bible, I came across a folded up sheet of paper that fell out. Now, and I’ll  be honest here, I hadn’t opened my Bible in 2(ish) months. Horrible, I know, I’m trying! Anyway, it just so happened that this paper was wedged in to the chapter of Romans. Romans 2 to be exact (probably one of the most self-humbling passages I’ve read yet). On the paper was my chicken scratch notes that I took while reading this as sort of an “assignment” from one of my Youth Leaders. This really brought a smile to my face, and I laughed as well. You know that laugh you get when you read anything you wrote in the past, like those little time capsule letters we all did back in elementary school, that laugh. Of course I read over it, and the first thing I saw was “2:1-4) We are not to judge others, regardless of their sins…” That was just my shorthand interpretation of it, but I opened to Romans anyway and reread.

the "notes" i spoke of

I couldn’t help but have one of those disheartening moments where every bad thing you’ve EVER done shoots through your head. Every curse word, every put down, every fight, so on and so forth. Like I said. Disheartening. If God made us all equal, and there’s no reason for me to do these things, why do I do it? To be funny? Probably. To fit in? Maybe. Bad habit? Definitely. Then, my mind wandered to all my bad habits. Crazy thing scripture is… has a way of making you have some pretty self incriminating thoughts. If you take it the wrong way.

Now, had I not attended my summer Student Life camp at Daytona with my YG (Jesus Camp we liked to call it), I would probably be feeling pretty crappy right now. All my “junk”, so to speak, is flowing through my thoughts, invading my head. But as I kept reading, I saw verse four- “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you?” There’s the comfort we’re all looking for! In no way am I condoning being a jerk to everyone you come across, and being okay with it because God is “kind, tolerant, and patient” with you, but it sure helps break the habits slowly! Because that’s exactly what they are. Bad, nasty, evil habits. The kind of stuff each and every one of us faces every day.

On a more personal level, and I’ll wrap this up (starting to remind myself of my newspaper class days with my word count at nearly 600), I do realize I am quite a harsh person at times. Ignorance is bliss, and as you can see after all this venting…I’m not wallowing in bliss! I fully accept the fact that I need to look at things and people differently, but like any habit: it takes time. I encourage you all, whoever reads this, to take up this challenge with me. Who knows, maybe I’ll stop reading so many tweets and statuses about how much y’all “hate this place and wanna get out”.

“For God does not show favoritism.”

Romans 2:11

 

 

I’m a mess, and I’m okay with that!

One of the most eye opening things my youth pastor could have ever told me was also one of the most simple: we’re all one giant mess. I’ll never forget just how defensive I first was, but also how happy I was for him to say that.

Romans 6:22-23 says “But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death,  but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I came across that verse, as well as Romans 5:15 (the only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!) and couldn’t help but start looking at my “messy” life and what my YP meant by that. Of course, he told us God loved us anyway, but I needed to figure out why.

Why should He love me when going to church was World War III every Sunday? Why should He love me when I denied His existence for nearly two years? Why should He love me when I can’t help myself from daily sin? This, and this alone, is what boggled my mind.

Now I’m not one to beat you over the head with religion, but Romans 8:39 says “No power in the sky  above or in the earth below-indeed, nothing in all creation will ever separate it’s from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

I don’t know about you, but that seems like quite the hefty promise for such a mess like me. At the same time, that promise is what made me realize God doesn’t use death, sickness, sorrow, or anything like that to knock us down, but to build us up! To build a bond that gets stronger and stronger not only through trials and tribulations, but joy and success as well!

Our God is one of forgiveness and understanding. All He asks is thanks, praise, and that if we truly accept that He is our Lord and Savior, everything else is in His hands. And the sooner you realize that, the sooner you realize the same thing I did:

I’m a mess, but I’m okay with that.

Jesus is listening, all you need to do is start talking.

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