A Recovering Christian

The other day I was listening to a podcast while driving back from Dallas when I started to think about Christianity today. What do we see Christianity as? How do we view faith today? To answer the question, simply put is that Christianity has become commercialized. When we think about commercials, infomercials specifically, what do they portray? Well they are meant to portray first, that you(the consumer) have a need. Think about it, “Do you have a problem with such and such? WELL… Buy our product and that problem will be a thing of the past!” So the salesmen make us feel like we have a problem and their product can instantly make our problem subside.

Definition of Christianity today? YES!!! (unfortunately)

Think about it, we have made God and faith in Jesus into something that if you have a problem in life God is the “quick fix,” God is the “miracle product.” Give it to Jesus and He will make your troubles go away! Think about the common phrase we here: “You have a God shaped hole in your heart that only He can fill.” I feel like I have heard that phrase a gazillion times growing up in the Bible belt!

That analogy is… Well, honestly awful. It implies that as soon as we accept Christ that hole is filled and problems are gone. It also implies that God only whats a “hole” in our life, but my question is this:

What about the rest of our lives!?

The main problem with this analogy is that if we are ONLY worried about that ONE place that needs filled in our lives how will we EVER give our ENTIRE life to Jesus Christ? When God comes into our lives He should be not only in EVERY aspect of our life but He should BE every aspect of life!! Did you hear that, (speaking to myself hear) BE EVERY ASPECT

Ask anyone who has been a Christian for more than… let’s say… a month, “Is Christianity always happy go lucky?” And I guarantee that 100% of the time the answer is NO! NO! NO! We are painting this commercial picture of Christ today that He can come in and give you this fairy tale lifestyle with no worries. Because of this, many people at the first sign of trouble decide that Jesus isn’t really for them because they are still having the same problems!! The only difference is now they know it is wrong and feel guilty… No wonder they run away as quickly as possible!

In our culture it is easy to jump from “miracle product” to “miracle product” so why not in faith and religion, right? WRONG! Looking at Psalms 1 the Word says, “He is like a tree planted beside streams of water…” (He is just referring to someone whose delight is in The Lord). Think about a tree though, it takes TIME to grow. It’s growth is a PROCESS! The tree still gets rained on and storms still come! The tree may lose some branches here and there and take a beating, but because the trees root system is firmly in the ground it stays standing strong!

This is why I challenge everyone today to not let God fill a void in your life, but better yet start that process of letting God be the foundation of your life. LET HIM BE YOUR LIFE! A life of following Jesus is not going to be easy, the Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:12, “In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Notice it says “WILL BE PERSECUTED.”

Think about it, if your going against the ways of the world then the world will try to persecute you. And if you are living for Christ you will be going against the ways of the world… The world tells us that “nice guys finish last.” Jesus tells us that “many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

So, do you want to be living for this world and finish first by worldly standards or would you like to be a “nice guy” and maybe end up last on earth, bottom of the barrel, a SERVANT, but end up first in the Kingdom of God? The choice is yours, and honestly, the choice is easy. The execution is the hard part, but you can do… Without a doubt, with Christ, you can do it.

“For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.” Galations 1:10

“Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:3

Love you guys.

-A Recovering Christian

Line of Sight.

I feel like tonight God is giving me a message that someone needs. A message that I’m not even sure at 22 years of age I can adequately wrap my mind around, but I literally feel restless every time I close my computer and try to step away so here goes nothing.

I read a verse tonight and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Lately, I feel as thought I have seen a lot of people I know going through a lot of very tough situations. Just today I was at lunch and a student happened to be at the same restaurant, as I walked by and wondered to myself why she was out of school, she turned around and stopped me to say hey. I asked her how she had been and her response was, “My grandfather passed away.” Earlier today I read a text from one of my best friends, “Lost my great aunt last night.” Just yesterday I was at the funeral for the father of some of my good friends and key student ministry volunteers.

I feel as though every time I turn around someone is experiencing tragedy, and not just deaths, those are just examples fresh on my heart. The truth is this: I’M TERRIBLE AT DEALING WITH THIS!! 

I really am. I have no clue how to respond when people are upset, I don’t know the words to say when someone is grieving. To be honest, I sometimes ignore phone calls if I think bad news is on the other end of the call. I know that is terrible but it’s true! I feel bad even admitting it.

You are probably wondering where I am getting with this, aren’t you? 

Here’s where I feel God leading me right now:

“We live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

I read this tonight and it honestly almost brought me to tears. I look around right now and I don’t understand everything going on in the world, everything going on in the country, and definitely not all that is going on in the lives of so many people I care deeply about.

I look around at the culture that today’s youth are growing up in and how the things that defile God are the things that culture promotes and encourages. I look around and see where marriages are being broken all over. I look around and see where many children have little to no parental guidance.

I look around and find myself questioning, “How, God? How are You going to use ANY, much less ALL, of this for good?”

I find myself at times questioning Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

See, I find myself in the same situation as Peter in Matthew 14, at the point where I have already asked Jesus to let me step out in faith onto a journey with Him, but then as soon as I do storms come up. I picture this scene with Peter where he stepped out and then a wave comes up right between him and Jesus, a wave breaks his line of sight to Jesus, and that’s when he loses faith and begins to sink. I see this happening also in our lives.

Satan wants each one of us to focus on what storms are going on around us and to get us to focus on them he will put them directly in our line of sight if he has to. Satan will put things that we used to just hear about happening in our friends lives and put them right in our laps.

The good news is that the Jesus that took Peter the first few steps on the water is the same Jesus that didn’t wait on the other side of the wave but instead broke through the wave and reached out His hand to Peter, and He is reaching out His hand to you.

 Jesus didn’t wait on the other side of the waves for Peter and He won’t for you either, He wants to flood your current situation with His love. Jesus wants you to experience the Holy Spirit who He referred to as “the Comforter.” Jesus wants you to walk by faith in Him, not by your own sight.

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1

Love you guys,

-Recovering Sightseer.

Racism Today. From a Recovering Racist.

I have been toying with the idea of this post all day and struggling with how to appropriately speak on the issue. This is a very candid subject for me but it is something I believe in addressing. Racism.

I was born and raised in a small southern town, a town with 2 stop lights to it’s name. A town with hayfields lining the highway as you drove in. A town where a train drove through and stopped everything momentarily because it’s horn blows pierced through every wall within the city limits. A town where the local diner, Country Junction, was full every morning at 6 am with groups of older men drinking coffee and discussing the weather. Growing up in this environment racism was a very real issue, an issue that I am not even sure I knew existed until I got out of this small town.

Growing up I played sports, this is where I was first exposed to racism. It was the classic small town scene, my dad was always on the coaching staff, the same group of boys playing football, basketball, and baseball together, the same dads coaching all three sports. I always loved sports as a kid and to this day remain friends with many of the guys I first met on these teams.  The friendships that were made on these teams were the friendships that shaped my childhood, but the friendships that were halted also shaped my childhood. We always had black kids on our teams, the same kids year in and year out. I still cherish my friendships with these guys but I also remember something different about them.

I remember having friends stay the night at my house as a child, something I looked forward to weekly during the school year, something that kept me out of trouble as it could be revoked as punishment, and something that exposed racism to me.

As I look back at my childhood I only remember the white kids staying at my house, and I only remember staying at the house of my white friends. But it’s strange to look back on, strange because I remember it being an unspoken understanding. During practice we were all one team, one unit, but after practice the white kids would go back to their homes and the black kids would go their way. I remember certain days where my dad would give rides to the black kids while I would have 2 or 3 white kids in the car to come stay the night at my house, and we would just drop of the black kids and never extend the same invitation to them.

I remember my dad telling me stories of when he was younger, stories of segregation. Stories where the school attendance was based on the color of your skin. My dad would tell me stories of when schools first began to integrate, the harsh separation that existed on sports teams and the daily fights that incurred based solely on race. I remember hearing these stories and thinking of how awful that must have been because I loved my black friends, I loved the black guys I got to go to school and play sports with, they were truly my friends.

Everybody would agree that racism was very prevalent and very much a problem when my dad was in school. The problem is that everyone would not agree on this from when I was in school. 

Racism was a silent killer in my childhood. Racism was something that was so deeply engrained in my small town ways that I was honestly racist without even realizing it. I would say “the N word” growing up nonchalantly, throwing it around as if it held no weight, using it as just any other adjective in the english language.

Racism was something that effected my close friendships, my decisions, the places I went, the words I spoke and many other parts of my life. The worst thing racism affected? My judgement. 

I judged people before I met them, I judged places before I visited them, and I chose my close friendships before getting to know people. The biggest problem was that I never knew it, I was completely unaware of how jaded my worldview was. I think this happens a lot in our world today. I think this is a HUGE problem.

A problem we are aware of can be fixed, a problem that we are unaware of goes unfixed and slowly causes deeper and deeper damage. I relate this to a problem with a car. If you know that there is something wrong with your car you will normally avoid driving it until you can fix the problem or have someone fix it for you. Now, take that same car problem and make yourself unaware that it exists. When you are unaware the problem exists it will slowly become worse and worse, eventually the car will entirely breakdown. The same happened to me.

I was fresh into my job as the high school pastor at my church and at summer camp with a small group of students when my breakdown occurred. I was listening to the pastor speak as I glanced to my left and saw one of my students bolting out of the room, one of my black students. I immediately thought I should run out after him, but I was scared. I was scared because I didn’t know if I could relate with him, if our backgrounds would line up at all. After about a minute I left the auditorium to go find this student, I found him sitting at a table alone and in tears. As I approached him I was honestly terrified and didn’t know what I would say. I sat down beside him and we began to talk, and to my surprise began to relate. I talked to him and heard his story (the details I won’t go into here) I realized how much we had in common.

I remember walking away from that conversation in tears, in tears for him yes, but in tears for a way bigger reason, in tears because this was the first time in my life I had an actually deep conversation with someone who’s skin color was different from mine. Sure, before this point I was always nice to everyone, had small talk with everyone, even had many friends who were not white, but never at this depth, never to this point. I walked away realizing how much I missed out on because of my own racism and judgmental ways.

I still thank God for opening my eyes to how serious my personal battle with racism was. I still thank God for showing me what I for so long had written off as normal, written off as “everyone does it.”  I thank God for changing my heart.

Yes, racism was terrible in my dad’s childhood, it the time of segregation in our country, but I’m not sure it is better today (at least not where I live). During our countries segregation racism was at the forefront, it was obvious, and it was also chosen for you. Dependent on your race you had certain places you could go, friends you could have, and privileges you were given.

My problem with racism today is that it is at some point chosen by the individual. I understand that children follow the ways of their parents, I lived this. I understand being a product of your environment, I lived this as well. Here’s the truth, at some point this is only an excuse. At some point this is no longer acceptable.

In today’s society we are no longer forced by law into racism, we are no longer told where we can and cannot go based on race. In today’s society we can choose whether or not we treat all people with equality or we judge them based on race.

I write this because for so long in my life, even when I convinced myself I didn’t, even when I didn’t want to face the truth of who I really was, I chose to be racist. I admit it, once out of my parents house I had the chance to be friends with whoever I chose, and I chose based on race. Sure, at surface level I was nice to everyone, seemingly treating everyone fairly, but honestly my close circle was in no way diverse.

Racism is still real and prevalent today, a silent killer that is still very much alive. Something we try to downplay so often. 

Here is the difference: YOU CAN CHOOSE! You can choose to be part of the problem and ignore racism and how it affects your own life, or you can choose to be part of the solution. You can choose to ask God to allow you to see the world as He does. 

I will be the first to admit I’m not perfect AT ALL, but I’m trying my best to follow Jesus. And to me following Jesus means treating everyone, regardless of race, with equality. 

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for YOU ARE ALL ONE IN CHRIST JESUS.” Galatians 3:26-28

 

Love you guys,

-A recovering racist.

Risky Business

Thursday (today) is the day of the week that I normally get things together for Sunday mornings, you could say it has become my routine.  I will get the bulletins printed and folded for the week, get games together, make sure all of the equipment is ready to go, backpack is packed, etc.

I realized today as I was making copies of the bulletins that I didn’t even make a “trial copy” anymore.  See, when I first started I was always scared I would mess up and would make something incorrect and so I would make a trial copy to make sure everything was right.  As I have gotten into more of a routine and gotten more confident in what my duties are I have gotten a little riskier…  Yes, risky to a youth pastor is making copies without a trial run, SO daring. haha.  It’s kind of funny to think about like that but it really did reveal something to me.

In life we get more risky as we get more routine. (It sounds confusing at first but it’s not.)

Think about it – in your life the more you get into a routine, the more comfortable you become with something, the more you are willing to cut corners, take a risk, do it a little different… Why? Because you are confident!

If you are like me, you get to a place with God at times (a lot of times) where you are not willing to take risks, you (and me) want to play it safe.  If you are at that place right now I want to challenge you… I challenge you (and myself) to get into a routine with God.

But how?

Get into a routine in your prayer life, in your quiet time, in just realizing God’s presence and being willing to sit and bask in His presence!  As you (and I) do this we will become more confident in God and who He is, we will rest more in His promise and His protection, and if I were to guess, we will be willing to take more risks!

As you (and I) get into our routine and learn more about God we will learn a few things:

1. He has ALWAYS called His follower’s to take risks and do crazy things for as far back as the Bible goes (Noah build a boat when it’s never rained, Abraham put your son on the alter, etc.).

2. He has ALWAYS protected them through these risks! (Noah made it safely and Abraham brought Isaac back home!)

 

So here is my final question for you:

If God has ALWAYS called His people to risks and to crazy things to glorify Himself, then why would He stop with us??  HE WOULDN’T!!

Go get into a routine, gain confidence in God, and take a risk!! Do something crazy for God!!… Stop that excuse before it leaves your lips – God has ALWAYS protected His people!!

“As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.'”

Romans 10:11

People Watching on Monday Night Football

So yesterday in an attempt to relax after a fairly long and stressful day I found myself watching a Monday Night Football game. After already losing this week in Fantasy Football, I was not remotely interested in the game or football in general.  I caught myself attempting to watch the crowd more than the players on the field… One of my favorite hobbies is people watching, and honestly I kind of grew frustrated as I tried to watch the out of focus people in the crowd.

At this point God reminded me of something, I realized that in photography and video focus changes with depth. The camera focused at one depth (the players) would put everything at other depths out of focus (the crowd).

I feel like in my relationship with God I often get bogged down and focused on a certain sin, or a certain struggle… Yes, even as a youth pastor I still sin, daily.  At this moment God reminded me that if I wanted to change my focus I needed to change my depth with Him, I needed to go deeper with God.

So today my encouragement to you if you are struggling is this – go deeper with God and your focus will naturally change.

Oh, and might I add… As we go deeper with God our focus becomes more on the things that please Him, our focus becomes more about Him, and less about us… That my friends is something to be excited about because when we focus on ourselves and our own works, we have already missed the point.

“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” – John 3:30