Archive for the ‘Christianity and Christians’ Category

 

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Me, how I used to be in traffic. I’m almost totally never like that nowadays… 😏 *cough cough*

I’ve always had a weakness for dark or dirty jokes. I think they’re hilarious, and I’m dangerously good at making new ones. The allure is, of course, that most other people think they’re hilarious too. Few things are more fun than making people laugh.

The problem is the Bible tells us to be mindful of our speech. The power of words is vast, so if we are to win others for Christ, we have to be careful what we say. The quality of our witness is critical. It has to be genuine and sincere – not faked when we’re around non-believers. (I’ve been known to act one way behind closed doors and another when I’m in plain view. Instead, God wants us to be the real deal all the time.)

Ever heard the saying, “What goes into the mind also comes out?” Lately, God’s been showing me just how true that is. Dirty memes and pictures, foul language – all of it will enter your mind and make it easy to act in ways you shouldn’t.

Want pure thoughts? Want peace? Want praying to be easier? (I do!) Be intentional about what you’re exposed to.

I got rid of sooo many dirty memes and other inappropriate content from my phone. Even things that weren’t necessarily dirty, but were hateful or angry. Political content – including stuff I agree with – can be damaging because it stirs up anger. I’m tired of hearing negative things about people. I don’t care if they think differently than I do. I’ll save my opinions for respectful discourse, if it happens. And if it doesn’t, I’ll put my frustrations to bed.

I love making people laugh, but if the joke is dirty, it’s not worth ruining my witness. I want people to see Jesus in my life. I want them to experience Him like I have, and I want them to live a renewed, fulfilled life for all eternity.

Paul was my spirit-animal when he said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15)

Literally me every day.

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Photo Credit: Jerra Fullo and Adam Bonilla

Feeling disconnected from God is the worst. You can’t think of what to pray, and even if you do, you feel like you’re talking to a wall.

Today it happened to me. As it did yesterday and the day before that, too, I think. So earlier, as I drove to get lunch with my mom, I found myself frustrated and angry at God. I pressed Him about why He seemed distant. And to my surprise, He helped me understand.

Reality is, He’s never actually distant. When God feels distant, it’s always a matter of faulty perspective. Which is to say, either you’re distracted, or you’re ashamed, or you’re living in sin.

If you’re living in sin, the obvious solution is to repent and make things right with God. But, it’s worth noting that many Christians believe they’re living in sin when they’re not.

Allow me to clarify: I think a lot of people have a sin habit – a sin they struggle with – and it causes them to think they’re living in sin. If you commit the same sin over and over, but you hate it and ask God to forgive you each time, you’re not living in sin. Living in sin is deliberate. So, if you’re dealing with a sin habit, ask God to help you avoid temptation and give you the grace to overcome it.

Which brings me to my second point. Unfortunately, the enemy uses sin habits to make Christians live in shame. The enemy will lie in your ear about how God’s angry with you because you’ve sinned too many times. And then, because of your shame, you’ll feel distant from Him. Don’t buy into the lie. As my friend Thomas Nelson put it, God understands your weakness. You’re just dust. Ask God to forgive you. Ask Him for the grace to not do it again. And then simply move on.

Finally, being distracted from your faith will make God seem distant. In my experience, Satan attacks the mind more than he attacks anything else. He crafts his lies so believably that it’s hard to notice he’s involved. In this situation, God’s not distant. Technically, it’s you who’s distant.

Fortunately, the solution is simple. Go worship Him.

And then, as you become aware of His ever-enveloping presence, stop and listen to His voice.

 

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

for His compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

great is Your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:22-23

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Last Monday, the church held a staff retreat at Sharptop Cove up in Jasper, Georgia. As you can see, I brought my drone. Fantastic place to fly.

Anyway, we had a devotion about making the most of our joy in Christ. And I’ve got to give credit where it’s due: I didn’t come up with this. I’m really just reiterating what I learned. But it’s too good to keep to myself, believe me.

I’ll be honest about something else, too. I haven’t experienced much joy in a long time. I can’t sit here and tell you it’s been a hard summer, because it hasn’t. Actually, all things considered, it’s been a great summer. It’s just that I’ve fallen into some bad habits, and it’s taken a toll on my quality of life. I’ve allowed things – stupid things – to rob me of my joy.

I certainly subscribe to the philosophy that Christians can choose to have joy. If we choose to take certain steps, we can enable ourselves to have a good attitude. And of course it follows that, as Christians, we can always find joy in Christ if we try(something I haven’t done often lately).

So, what can one do to experience joy? Well, onething you can do is recognize things and experiences that help you notice God’s presence. For me (I made a list), those things include:

  • Having coffee in the morning
  • Helping my dad at his farm
  • Walking through the woods and taking pictures
  • Getting lunch with my mom
  • Meaningful, peaceful, thoughtful conversations
  • Reading a good book
  • Writing
  • Spending time with my family at Hillcrest (our farm in Virginia) or Rockwood (my dad’s farm in Georgia)
  • The atmosphere of Thanksgiving and Christmas

I know the list made me look like a softie, but hear me on this: Those are a few of the things that help me notice God’s presence, and they bring me tremendous joy. Joy not merely because they’re enjoyable, but also because they add perspective and awareness of God’s presence. When it comes to the believer, a calm mind is a mind that’s open to the Holy Spirit.

But what about things that rob me of joy? Most of those involve me sinning or dwelling on something negative. I made a list of those too:

  • Watching too many YouTube videos: I was in the habit of spending hours each day watching political videos or videos of cops arresting “sovereign citizens” or people getting into fights. It’s entertaining, but it poisons the soul. I ended up just deleting the YouTube app from my phone because I couldn’t keep myself from opening it.
  • Being late: Sometimes I’m late, and it frustrates me to death.
  • Spending too much time playing with my phone: Seriously, no lie. I’ve gone to family gatherings and ruined my experience because I spent the whole time looking at my phone. Complaining about it sounds like something an old person would say – I know. But believe me. When you spend too much time on your phone, you miss everything. You might as well not even be there because your mind isn’t. A lot of what you miss is sacred, and you’ll never get it back.
  • Skipping my quiet time or church: If you’re not being fed, not only will you not grow as a Christian, but you’ll actually shrink. And that was definitely my situation this summer.

My list was actually longer than that, but you get the idea. Make changes that’ll help you focus on the Lord, and be filled with joy!

As a Christian, I want people to recognize the uniqueness of my relationship with Christ. Lately, I know that hasn’t been the case, and I’m so sorry for it. But now that my joy has been restored, I’m confident that brighter days are on the horizon.

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Let me start by pointing out that guilt and conviction are two different things. Conviction is when you are made aware of sin by the Holy Spirit and urged to repent, whereas guilt is a finger pointed at you by Satan to cause discouragement. It’s important to remember that, and it’s frightening how easy it is to forget.

Sometimes spiritual warfare looks like this: You make a mistake – some kind of sin – and you ask God to forgive you. But you keep feeling bad about it, and you get frustrated because you wish you could take it back. Amidst your frustration, you lose perspective of God’s mercy, and that makes it easier to slip up again. Then, if you do slip up, you get even more frustrated. In the back of your mind, you might feel like God’s presence is no longer with you, that He’s punishing you by ignoring you. Or perhaps you’ll even buy into the lie that God won’t have anything to do with you until you deal with your sin – sin you’ve already asked forgiveness for.

And so, it continues in a cycle. You sin, you feel guilty, you get frustrated, you sin again, you feel guilty again, you get more frustrated. You pray and feel like you’re talking to a wall (which is always due to a loss of perspective, by the way), which frustrates you even more. Then you sin again, and it goes on and on and on.

I think this is why some Christians backslide. They get so discouraged that they give up.

Ignore the Accuser’s lies. The illusion of being abandoned due to sin is a farce. The Bible says God doesn’t accuse us like that, especially in such a way that delivers so much pain. We are free because of what Christ has done for us. (Have a look at Hebrews 4:16.)

It should happen like this instead: You sin, then ask God to forgive you and help you do better next time. After that, you recognize that you’re free and forgiven, and you praise Him for it. And then, finally, you move on. Embracing your freedom is part of what gives you the correct perspective. God’s not looking down at you angrily – of course not!

That isn’t to say sin isn’t bad and won’t elicit cause-and-effect consequences. That just comes with the territory. I’m purely talking about how God sees you.

Don’t underestimate the power of His love – that unlimited, unconditional, eternal love.

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I wondered why God’s been so “quiet” lately. I’ve felt His presence during my prayer times, but my spiritual walk has definitely been a dim one. It’s difficult to describe, and maybe you’ve been there. You know those days you pray for a little while, but the rest of the time you accidentally forget God exists? I’ve been that Christian lately, the one who neglects his relationship with God without noticing.

I believe there’s lots of possible causes to God’s quietness, but He finally showed me what’s been going on. Without getting into too much detail, the lesson He taught me is this:

It’s easy to get too desperate about something – desperate to the point of making your desperation an idol (pardon the redundancy). For my part, I became so desperate to fix the problem that it ended up being all I cared about. My trust in God was replaced with panic. Then the panic turned to heartache, then the heartache to utter numbness.

I saw this girl online who talked about how her faith was more of a relationship than merely a religion. She wrote that God is her best friend, and she desires to run the race as hard as possible because of that. Truly, she loved God with all her might. With all her might! Think about the concept of that, what it means. To love God with all your might. With all my might.

I wasn’t loving Him with all my might because desperation had become my idol. All I’ve thought about lately are the things that trouble me. And while I prayed about them often, in my mind, God was never part of the equation. The future I feared was indeed one without His presence and action.

After reading that girl’s post (I hate calling her “that girl,” but I can’t remember her name), God made clear to me what I’ve been doing wrong. So, I asked Him to forgive me and be close to me once more. I used words much similar to how I’ve begged God to let me meet my future wife, because those words were appropriately adequate when describing how badly I need Him. God forgave me and then opened my eyes to the key: There is no desperation in Christ.

It’s important to begin with this topic because every other topic is pointless unless a relationship with God is your Number 1 priority. Without a firm connection to the Lord, you can’t hope to make the most out of life. Without this catalytic ingredient, it’s simply impossible.

I’ve found this to be true over and over, and each time it was a painfully unnecessary experience. This is a lesson best learned in a classroom and not on a field trip, because make no mistake: Whenever God wasn’t my first priority, I felt empty, and my life was rife with chaos. It never mattered whether I had a girlfriend, friends to spend time with, or social gatherings to attend. I could be in a room surrounded by people who I loved and who in turn loved me, laughing amidst what are supposed to be the best moments life can offer, and yet feel so alone and so empty. There was always an underlying sadness in my soul that tore at me. Did you see my entries written in 2012 and 2013? The cynicism should be evidence enough of what existed underneath. I was miserable back then, and I certainly wasn’t making the most out of life.

To the contrary, those seasons when God was my number one priority were the most remarkable times of my existence. It was during those times when I seemed to be the most successful, make the best decisions, and walk with the highest confidence. It was then when God granted me His precious wisdom, and He helped me develop and maintain the best relationships I’ve ever had. Indeed, He enabled me to make the most out of life.

Now, then, to the meat of this topic. This will be a list of four loosely-related subjects about how to make the most of your relationship with God: 1) Mental Priorities – the two types of Godly wisdom and the attitudes you must have in order to apply them 2) The importance of spending alone time with God, and how to make the most of it 3) How to best pursue God 4) Reconciling the consequences of your mistakes with God’s love.

 

Mental Priorities – the two types of Godly Wisdom and the Attitudes you must have in order to apply them.

First, there are two types of wisdom. There’s human wisdom and then there’s Godly wisdom. But then, to make things confusing, there are also two types of Godly wisdom. I won’t address human wisdom here because it’s Godly wisdom that you’ll need in order to make the most of your life.

Your first mental priority should be the pursuit of Type 1 Godly wisdom. Type 1 Godly wisdom is the bulk sayings you’ll find in the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes and a handful of other places in the Bible. Things like, “If someone does this, then that will happen,” or “Something, something, something, and then something else. This I have observed.” These are important truths about life which God inspired individuals like Solomon to write down. The pursuit of Type 1 Godly wisdom is the foundation of life improvement, but it is useless without your second mental priority.

Your second mental priority should be the love and pursuit of knowledge. This means all forms of knowledge and learning. As you learn about science and history and various forms of art and so on, you’ll also gain a great deal of understanding about who God is. It was He who made these, so it should be no surprise that gaining knowledge also opens your eyes to God’s magnificence.

With science, you will observe the method to His madness. You’ll learn how unspeakably vast His brilliance is and why He created things the way He did. Perhaps you’ve become a skeptic of science, but I challenge you with this: put aside bias and seek the truth. Even atheist and agnostic scientists make discoveries that glorify God. You, as a believer, can be equipped to see this and distinguish the nonsense from the sense (so to speak).

With history, you will discover God’s handiwork throughout the ages. It’s everywhere. In every nation and every event, God’s handiwork is there. Even bad things that have happened in our fallen world are rife with God’s involvement as He makes the most out of those situations for the good of those who love Him.

With art, literature, and other elements of culture, you will see how God inspires people and how magnificently He created us. Sure, there is plenty of evil out there and art forms that are not of God, but the capacity to create is something God only gave to humans. It has everything to do with being made in His likeness, and recognizing the result of that serves to bring us closer to Him.

Ultimately, the love and pursuit of knowledge provides a yearning for Type 1 Godly wisdom. It is impossible to pursue and apply this kind of wisdom without the passion to do so.

Your third mental priority ought to be the pursuit of Type 2 Godly wisdom. Type 2 Godly wisdom is the God-inspired understanding of how to apply Type 1 Godly wisdom and other knowledge to your life. Type 1 Godly wisdom is comprised of valuable information, whereas Type 2 is the ability to make use of that information. Type 1 is useless without Type 2, and so is the love and pursuit of knowledge. What’s the point of learning all about astronomy if you can’t infer what it means about God? With Type 2 wisdom, you discover His majesty rather than knowledge alone. A good analogy is this: Knowledge and Type 1 Godly wisdom are like cars, and Type 2 Godly wisdom is like the driver. They are useless without each other. It’s also worth noting how important Type 2 Godly wisdom is when it comes to understanding the Bible. The Holy Spirit provides Type 2 Godly wisdom while we read it as a method for God to speak to us through scripture. Indeed, the Bible is called the living word because of Type 2 Godly wisdom.

Your fourth and final mental priority should be the discipline to apply all of the above to your life. We just discussed how Type 2 Godly wisdom teaches you how to apply the first two mental priorities to your life, but knowing how and actually doing it are completely different things. A valuable daily habit would be to ask the Holy Spirit to give you the discipline to apply the first three mental priorities to your life, for Godly discipline is all about putting wisdom into practice.

Each of these things must be sought after vigorously if you are to make the most of your life. I urge you, dear reader, to spend time each day reading God’s word and learning all you can from it. Ask Him to show you Type 1 Godly wisdom and to expand your overall knowledge of anything and everything. Then ask Him to provide you with Type 2 Godly wisdom and the discipline to apply those three things to your life. These mental priorities will condition you to make excellent decisions and to have fantastic relationships with other people. They are the foundation to making the most of your time here on Earth.

Further scriptural reading on this subject:

Proverbs 2

Proverbs 3:7, 13-24

Ecclesiastes 7:11-12, 19, 25

Isaiah 55:8

 

The importance of spending alone time with God, and how to make the most of it.

Every night I recharge my phone, and every morning I recharge my soul. Actually, that’s false. I recharge my Galaxy S5 three times a day because its battery is garbage. Anyway, so in order for me to remain aware of God’s presence and to exhibit Christ-like virtues, I need a spiritual recharge at the beginning of every day. Just as eating breakfast helps get your day started, so it is with meditating on God. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is to your spiritual walk. Without this special time, your spiritual flame will dwindle. And, ladies and gentlemen, when it comes to a relationship with the King of the universe, anything less than a bonfire simply will not do.

Now, there is no single way to spend quiet time with God. So, before I discuss how I approach it, it is important to realize my precise method might not work for you. There are some things I do which I think everyone should, and there are other things which ought to be flexible based on the individual. I will clarify which is which as I proceed with the discussion.

First, there is the matter of when I spend my quiet time and for how long. Ideally, I spend time alone with God in the mornings not long after waking up. I allow a little time for the cobwebs of sleep to clear so my thought processes are of better quality, and then I set a timer for fifteen minutes. It is during those fifteen minutes that I pray. Now, let me make myself clear. My prayer time is not limited to fifteen minutes. It’s just fifteen minutes is the minimum about of time I allow myself. A lot of times I spend over an hour talking to God. The minimum amount of time you spend with God might be different than mine. A lot of people might set it for ten minutes, or even thirty minutes or an hour. I’ve settled on fifteen.

Now, about how I pray. To get the most out of it, I speak to God out loud as casually as I would my closest companions. He is my best friend and father, after all, and He’s certainly in the room with me just as any physical person can be. Why should my relationship with Him be unrelatable? A truly close relationship is relaxed and comfortable, and I believe this is what God wants from his children.

My dad taught me the greatest thing parents want from their children is a relationship with them. I think a lot of people actually hold God at a distance, trying to have a relationship with Him through obedience. And while He certainly does want His children to obey, because He wants what is best for them, His desire above all else is to have a relationship with them. Besides, without a relationship with Him, it is impossible to grow in a lifestyle of obedience to God. It’s all meaningless without first knowing Him.

While praying, there are three distinct items I pray about.

First and foremost, I thank Him. This practice helps me see how great His mercy is and how countless His blessings in my life are. It’s easy to lose sight of the good when bad things happen, but this helps to reign in my focus on His love.

Second, I bring any and all needs and desires to him. It’s perfectly okay to ask Him for things you want but don’t need. Indeed, the Bible says to ask Him about everything (see the further scriptural reading at the bottom). Sometimes God blesses His children with things they don’t need, but simply enjoy. He merely does it because it delights Him to do so.

Third, I talk to Him about whatever is on my mind. It’s true that He already knows everything I’m thinking before I bring it up, but talking about things with Him enables a whole host of benefits. For one thing, it’s a bonding experience that brings us closer together. And another thing, while I talk to Him, He often adds His perspective to my thoughts. Seeing events and circumstances through God’s eyes brings a whole new meaning to them. It helps me make better decisions, and it motivates me to go forth in confidence. When God’s on your side, who can be against you?

Here are ten other, specific things I pray about:

– I ask God to bless the work of my hands and mind.

– I ask God to prepare and equip me for the future.

– I ask God for wisdom and knowledge.

– I ask God to encourage and motivate me to press on.

– I ask God to help me focus and be intentional about things.

– I ask God for help with any upcoming decisions.

– I ask God for a pure heart and mind.

– I ask God to place my desires where He wants them.

– I ask God to give meaning to my work.

– I ask God to give me vision for the future, and to help me see opportunities, and to get me excited about the future.

Last, but certainly not least, there exists a component of my quiet time which is just as important as the rest, and that is to listen to God’s voice. Consider Psalm 46:10a: “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God;’” A lot of times, particularly in December when all the Christmas decorations are up, I spend my quiet time in the living room with coffee, the Christmas tree, and a fire. My mother has bookshelves filled floor to ceiling with Bible commentaries and scholarly works. On one of the shelves, in plain view from the couch where I sit, there rests a wooden plank with Psalm 46:10a inscribed on it. Many times I sit there and pray, and yet I feel like I’m missing something. The plank then silently reminds me to recognize who God is. When I set my mind to this verse, my problems fade into insignificance. It is while I ponder Him that He often speaks to me. It’s not in an audible voice or a bizarre stream of thoughts in my mind. No, rather it is a gentle urging in my heart. I feel His warm presence, and then, in the calm security of it, He speaks to my soul. God speaks to us in a variety of ways. He speaks to us through scripture, through Type 2 Godly wisdom, and sometimes through other people. But it is here, in the quiet, when He speaks to our hearts. I benefit more from this component of my quiet time than any other.

Next I read from my Bible and a devotional book, typically one with a devotional for each day of the year. I should probably clarify that this is a component of my quiet time whose specifics might vary from individual to individual.

Typically I read only a single chapter of the Bible every day. It is important, however, to make certain that further context isn’t needed. Some chapters shouldn’t be read individually, but ought to be included with the surrounding chapters. In my opinion, however, a single chapter of the Bible is usually fine.

Now, there is a certain action you must take when reading the Bible in order to get the most out of the experience. Before you begin, it is crucial that you ask God to guide and teach you based on what you are reading. The Holy Spirit enables us to interpret and understand scripture. We weren’t meant to read the Bible by ourselves.

When you read, recognize what the Bible is. Ponder the notion that you are reading from the living Word of God, that you are literally holding a collection of words that came from God Himself. It’s a humbling thought that will certainly help you make the most out of reading scripture.

I also recommend reading from a devotional book. While it’s certainly optional, I like to underline the high points in order to facilitate superior comprehension.

All the steps I’ve listed usually only take me about thirty minutes to complete. In my opinion, it’s the best possible way to get your day started, as it’ll help prepare you for what lies ahead.

One final word of advice before I move on to the next section. Don’t confine your relationship with God to your quiet time. Your quiet time is much like starting an engine, but in order to keep it running, it must receive a constant supply of fuel. Make a point of acknowledging God’s presence throughout the day, and don’t be shy about saying small, brief prayers in your head whenever you feel it necessary. Keeping God’s presence in mind is what it means to walk with Him throughout your day, and it will bring you peace and comfort, regardless of what circumstances you encounter.

Further scriptural reading on this subject:

Matthew 6:9-13

Matthew14:23

Mark 1:35

Ephesians 6:18

Philippians 4:6

Hebrews 5:7

 

How to best pursue God.

We just discussed how to spend time with God, but what about the pursuit of Him in general? The Bible says He pursues us constantly, so how might we best respond?

In short, when it comes to your relationship with God, give it all you’ve got. Consider Luke 10:27a: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.”

You might have seen in my previous entries how I had a habit of staying home from church and watching the sermon online, entirely skipping the worship portion of the service. Even when I did make it, I was often late on purpose because I didn’t want to spend too long worshiping. I resigned myself that one or two songs would suffice, that if I stayed until the end of the sermon, my time spent at church was enough. I also thought I could worship God on my own at home in my own way that didn’t involve singing. And that’s true. I can totally worship God outside church in other ways than singing. But I wasn’t devoting much time to God, and the worship experience at church often contains the most important minutes of the week because you’re experiencing God with other believers. Some of the most encouraging moments in my walk with Christ – when He spoke to my soul – happened during worship. That’s not to say all those moments happened during worship. But many certainly did, and I believe that’s because worshiping at church places your focus on the Holy Spirit and better enables you to “listen” to Him. When I came in late on purpose, I wasn’t giving God my best effort. I was lukewarm, so to speak. Such a lackadaisical approach, I am convinced, hindered much-needed spiritual growth in my life. Simply put: each withheld effort (at church or otherwise) was a missed opportunity to grow in the Lord.

So I urge you, dear reader, to be intentional in your pursuit of God. The most precious act you can do in your family life is to make sure those you love know it. The same holds true in your spiritual life – make a point of acting in ways that demonstrate your love for God.

Further scriptural reading on this subject:

Matthew 6:33

Luke 10:27a

Luke 15:1-7

Acts 17:27-28

Hebrews 10:25

 

Reconciling the consequences of your mistakes with God’s love.

I have found the issue many non-believers take with Christianity is the abundance of “rules.” They disagree with them and find little merit to their purposes. They believe obeying God would serve only to prohibit happiness and pleasure, and that, ironically, obedience would keep them from making the most out of life.

Believe it or not, I understand where they’re coming from. I actually used to champion this sort of thinking before God intervened in my life and changed everything. However a closer, Spirit-filled application of Godly wisdom will reveal that God’s word doesn’t provide instruction merely to test our loyalty and devotion. Rather, God, in His vast and incalculable love for us, gave us these instructions so we might live with joy and wisdom and peace. It’s not always immediately obvious when reading scripture, but every command God gave us has the sole purpose of blessing us.

Whenever we are tempted, Satan tries to convince us that disobeying scripture isn’t that big of a deal, and we’ll be fine. And the lie is so believable because if we give in, we are usually satisfied – at first. However if we disobey God, some way or another the consequences will always show up. Sometimes (and I do mean sometimes) the consequences of sin are small in the beginning. And that’s good because what a great opportunity to repent and move away before things get worse. But if sin is given time to grow and destroy, it will inevitability lead to some form of death. It could be the death of a relationship, a career, or even a person. But rest assured, it will ultimately lead to death. Consider James 1:15: “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” Disobedience, my friend, will always bring about consequences, even if you aren’t a Christian.

Of course, that’s not to confuse consequences with God’s discipline. First, God’s discipline is only for Christians. Second, God’s discipline occurs outside the ordinary consequences we might face, and it’s designed to get our attention so we don’t face worse consequences down the road. Third, God’s discipline is never spiteful. God never disciplines us and then says, “Ha, how did that feel?” No, rather He disciplines us with the expressed desire that we repent because it grieves Him when we face consequences.

Now, what if we repent but still have to face the outcomes of our sin? Consequences are nothing more than the results of our actions. That is why they occur even after a change of heart. God wants us to grow spiritually and make better choices in the future, so He allows us to reap what we sow with a precise hand on what happens.

But what if the consequences are devastating? What exactly do we trust God to do then?

The answer is both simple and reassuring. If we place our trust in the Lord, He will never allow our consequences to be too much. Now, allow me to make something clear about the last sentence. If you disagree with God about whether the consequences of your sin are bearable, consider this: You are imagining a future without God’s sovereignty over your life. You don’t know for certain how events will play out. But the truth still stands: God never leaves your side – even as you face consequences. Even though they are a result of your sin, He still faces them with you.

We all make mistakes. We all sin. But don’t forget that no matter what you do, God is in control of what lies ahead. And the Bible says God works for the good of those who love Him.

So take heart! Everything will be okay.

Further scriptural reading on this subject:

Luke 12:22-26

Galatians 6:7-8

Ephesians 3:20-21

James 1:15

 

In conclusion, I urge you to give life your very best effort. Make the most of every opportunity. Ask God to use you. Pursue Him with all you’ve got, and I promise your life will be enriched beyond what you can imagine.

So, dear reader, grab a Bible and study it. Satisfy your hunger for God. Learn about Him. Develop relationships with other believers so you might be encouraged. Pursue God and His plan for your life. Find out what the future holds, and experience a newfound joy that you’ve never felt.

Your relationship with God is the cornerstone of it all. Establish that foundation, and everything else will fall into place.

Maybe I should.

I know what I said in that earlier entry about not wanting new friends, especially Christian ones, but events over the last couple months have forced me to reconsider. A variety of instances have given me pause, and I also made two incredible friends who have, just by existing and being who they are, proven to me that my opinions about fellow believers are not always correct.

First, deep down I knew I was wrong when I wrote the earlier entry about this topic. I knew that as long as I remain alone in my faith, my growth in Christ will not be aided or guided by other, outside perspectives. It’s difficult to consistently approach life from the right direction when you have no godly counsel. And I of all people should have acknowledged that more openly. I’ve always been a loner, and there have been countless times when I believed something that turned out theologically wrong, or I allowed sin into my life unchecked. Each time was a disaster, and it usually took months for me to heal and get back on track. My friends, life is too short for that. I want to get things right the first time, not six months after a devastating battle. And to do that, I need Christian fellowship and counsel.

Second, befriending those two girls changed everything.

No, it’s not what you think. I am not dating either of them. One lives in the Philippines, and the other is dating my cousin. I just thought I’d clear the air on that before I explain everything. But they could be the most incredible people I’ve ever met. Seriously.

I’ll start with Adriel because I got to know her first. She lives in the Philippines, and her dad is the pastor of a small church there. Actually, it’s kind of funny how we met. We met on OkCupid, which, as many of you already know, is a dating site. And yet, we are merely friends. She is so strong in her faith, and she studies the Bible and spends time alone with God every day. If my opinions from the earlier entry were true, I’d have assumed she’d be a stuck-up, judgmental, goody-goody Christian princess. But the reality is she’s not. She’s the furthest thing from being judgmental, and her heart is so soft and caring when it comes to other people. And she’s funny. When I talk to her on the phone, we laugh the entire time. And she’s not weird either. Okay, she’s totally weird – but in a good way. What I’m trying to say is she doesn’t believe in any bizarre theology.

And Caitlin caught me by surprise. Like, what I mean by that is, upon meeting her, she was the last person I’d have expected to have such a monumental influence on me. But that’s just who she is, I guess. I get the feeling I’m not the last person she will impact in such an incredible way.

When I met her, she came with my cousin and me to church. She was sixteen at the time (she’s seventeen now), and I figured she’d see me as the creepy old man in his mid-twenties. I thought she’d be unfriendly because, well, I’m freaking old. But to my surprise, she wasn’t like that at all. We became friends with extraordinary ease. Even more to my surprise, however, was how smart and mature she is. I’d venture to say she’s more mature than I am, and I’ve got a decade on her. She knows so much about scripture, and when she talks about it, she’s so passionate and eloquent. And yet, she is solid as a rock in her theology. I have yet to hear her say anything strange or creepy. There’s also a lot more to her than just Christianity. She’s into all kinds of things, and she’s boatloads of fun to hang out with (hence why my cousin likes her so much). She can joke about anything, and she doesn’t get all uppity about stupid stuff like a lot of Christians.

Knowing Adriel and knowing Caitlin has made me want to be a better Christian because I see what God has done in their lives. The fellowship I have with them is refreshing. It’s like I’ve been missing out on something sacred my entire life, and now someone finally showed me the hidden treasure chest.

I need more friends like that, and there’s only one place I know to readily get them. There are a couple different classes at church I’d like to attend. If I can befriend Christians who are like Adriel or Caitlin, that would be amazing.

I’m going to try it next Sunday, so wish me luck. Or pray for me, or whatever.