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Part two: Come as you are, but don’t leave as you came.

January 21, 2010 Leave a comment

I know, internet, I know.

I promised a follow-up post yesterday to my Tuesday post, but work and second work got the best of me yesterday. No excuses, I fail, but I figured I would offer a bit of explanation. In lieu of this unfortunate failure on my part, today, you are in for a rare treat!

DOUBLE POST DAY!

Yes, that’s right. Two posts…one day. This might be normal for some bloggers, but it is definitely a rarity for me. So enjoy, because I don’t know when (if ever) this will happen again.

If you missed part one of this installment, do me a favor. Go back and read it, so I don’t sound like a blithering idiot as I continue my discourse on what God is showing me through the statement which is the title of this post. Originally the comment appeared on a church sign that I happened to pass several days ago.

A quick recap…

*Insert wavy flashback lines*

I. Hate. Church. Sign. Messages.

Hate them. I think they are a blemish on the image of the church, but that really isn’t the point today, so…

*Dismounting soapbox*

God has once again decided to reveal himself to me in something for which I have a great disdain. This is not an uncommon occurence in my life. In fact, God uses these abhorrent instances quite often to show me how much I generally fail. This specific event was really no different.

Several days ago, I saw a message on a church sign that really caught my attention and has taken hold of my thought process since I read it. Usually, information comes into my brain, I process it, and discard the waste after removing and applying the meaningful pieces from the information presented. This one, however, has captured me a bit more than I expected. The statement was:

“Come as you are, but don’t leave as you came.”

*Insert wavy “coming out of the flashback” lines*

I discussed what the first part of that statement meant to me a couple days ago. I am not going to insult your intelligence. Feel free to read what I posted for the specifics. The first part of this statement affected me, but I really feel as that message is for those who have yet to find Christ or have turned their backs from his love. The second part of the statement, “but don’t leave as you came”, has interesting connotations for everyone, but, specifically, for the believer.

I started to think to myself, “Self, how many times have you graced the doors of the church and walked away wholly unaffected? How many events have you attended where the Holy Spirit has been at work where you have failed to connect with the Creator?” These instances in time began to play through my mind like an old black and white movie where I saw myself walking away from encounter after encounter with God completely the same as I entered. Intellectually, I know that it is not possible to walk away from a face-to-face with God and stay the same. You are either pulled closer or pushed further away. So how does one walk away unchanged?

God is the same today, yesterday, and will not change for eternity; therefore, he can’t be the problem. That leaves one culprit. The problem is me. The problem is you. The reason that these encounters with God don’t change us is because we get in the way. Our sin and flesh stop God from moving like he desires to in our lives. This is why Jesus calls us to deny our desires that get in the way of our relationship with Him.

The simple truth about humanity is that we are not good. The only good that exists in me is God in me. In my flesh, I am a broken lost soul-searching for meaning in a world where meaning is absent. This is why God changes us completely when we find him, so we can see the reason behind our creation.

It is so easy for us to exalt ourselves above God. Many times, we as “good Christians” appear to be walking in the light of God, but we are actually so far outside of the realm of what God wants for us that it makes Him want to upchuck. That’s right, our disobedience literally nauseates God. If that isn’t deflating, then I don’t know what catastrophe it might take to remove the wind from your sails.

It all boils down to selfishness and the casual attitude with which we approach sin. We see sin as a temporary problem for which we can just ask forgiveness. We forget that God is our Holy refiner desiring to make us more like him everyday. The hindrance to this process is the fact that we would have to give up things that we think make us happy in order to reconcile ourselves to his image. It is like two-year-old holding on to a leaf of poison ivy because he or she thinks that it is pretty, throwing a fit when the loving parent attempts to remove the leaf that is going to cause more suffering in the end.

It doesn’t make sense for us to throw a fit, but we do it anyway. It just shows how bratty we are in our relationship with God. On Earth, any parent worth their salt would do whatever it took to remove the leaf from the child’s hand, but that is what makes God entirely unique from us. He allows us to make choices. He tells us that the leaf is bad, but gives us the freedom to keep the leaf regardless of consequences. Then, when we are suffering from the rash that the leaf gave us, we curse God for allowing us to suffer. THAT IS REALLY STUPID, but we do it anyway.

The simple truth is that God desires us to look more and more like him every day and the only detractor from that is us. The time has arrived for the church to take a stand on the truth of the gospel and live out our faith every day in every instance. We will not recognize the vision that God has for us as a Church body until we are able to shove off the chains that bind us. The latch was unlocked when Christ died on the cross. All you have to do is shrug your shoulders and let the binding fall, step forward and let God take over.

When this happens, we will see revival break out because the world is looking for something real. They are looking for you to live out what you say you believe. I will leave you with one final thought that initiated the process of change that I feel taking over.

“Come as you are, but don’t leave as you came.”

Come as you are, but don’t leave as you came.

January 19, 2010 1 comment

I was driving…well, actually being towed down the road yesterday when I happened across this statement on one of those church signs with the removable letters. You know, the ones that normally say something “inspirational” like:

  • A family altar can alter a family.
  • A clean conscience makes a soft pillow.
  • Don’t Wait For 6 Strong Men to Carry you to Church.
  • Five minutes after you die you’ll know how you should have lived.
  • And so on… 

    Internet, I have a confession.

    There are times, as I drive down the road and see these signs that  I enter into a state of nearly uncontrollable rage. The steering wheel begins to shake as my grip tightens and my arms tense. Yes internet that’s right…

    I have a terrible case of church sign induced hulk-rage.

    While the statements on these signs are totally accurate most of the time, I abhor them. I think that they are completely unnecessary and most of the time idiotic, casting a very unfavorable and overly judgmental light on the church. There was even a message that I saw on one of my local church’s sign that was utterly condemning to people who had not yet found Christ. I wanted to rip the letters from their glass housing and stomp them into plastic oblivion. Obviously, this is something that is outside of the realm of possibility and practicality, nevermind human decency, but I can’t deny that the thought crossed my mind.

    As I have stated before, God is in the business of revealing himself whenever we open our eyes enough to see the subtle and not so subtle ways that he works. This was the case for me as I putted passed the sign that stated “Come as you are, but don’t leave as you came.”

    My concentration was on maintaining a taut tow-rope, so that I didn’t get a case of whiplash from the truck towing my little Saturn, but my mind wandered elsewhere as the towing process continued and I came to two conclusions about this particular statement. Surprisingly, neither stemmed from my normal sign induced hulk-rage.

    First, I think that this message is two-pronged. The first part, “Come as you are”, is directed toward people who have yet to find Christ.

    This is the call of Christ to us in the world today. He calls us to come into his love regardless of what we think might be holding us back. God’s love is sufficient and his grace is abundant. So many times, we think that we have to get our lives straightened out before we pursue a relationship with God. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

    If you are among the mistaken who believe this, I have access to some inside info in which you might be interested.

    He already knows.

    He already knows that you are a dirty, soiled creature and he is ok with that. He knows that you aren’t perfect. In fact, that is the point. He wants you to know that you need him and his forgiveness.

    Unfortunately, there is a huge stigma against Christianity in the world today due to the outrageous actions of some and the subtle failings of every day Christians. These failings are not unexpected as *gasp* even Christians aren’t perfect. The disconnect occurs when you try to judge our Creator by the created. The two just don’t line up because we are wretched sin-covered creatures. Even if one is fortunate enough to experience God’s grace, he or she is still prone to sin because the desires of the flesh never stop calling and tempting.

    The reason for this revolves around the fact that God’s people have been historically disobedient. Starting with the Israelites and persisting into today. The narcissistic truth is that we would rather pursue our personal prideful agenda than seek out what God’s intention is for the lives that he has blessed us with.

    The overarching theme for Christ’s love is grace-filled redemption at Christ’s expense. This is why we are to come to him as we are, regardless of our past transgressions.

    More tomorrow on what we are to do after we make the initial step of coming to Christ. Tomorrow’s message is for the believer, but all can benefit. Thanks for reading!

    We exist for…?

    January 9, 2010 1 comment

    Have you ever considered why we you were placed on Earth or what exactly your purpose is for being here?

    If you haven’t ever taken part in a similar personal exercise, I would encourage you to check your pulse and make sure that you are still breathing.

    Sometimes, it is funny how moments of deep reflection come about for me. God seems to reveal himself to me in the strangest ways, but I am most certainly not complaining. I don’t know why God chooses to speak to me like he does, but I am grateful that he chooses to speak to me in any manner whatsoever.

    Here is a bit of background on today’s revelation.

    It all started Christmas morning at my in-law’s house. We are hanging out watching the kids open their presents (definitely my favorite part of Christmas). In short order, however, the kids had finished their assault on Fort Present at Mount Spoiled, so it was our turn to open our gifts. We opened our gifts which were great. Some new clothes, an indoor badminton set, a microwave smore maker, etc…

    My in-laws always save their favorite present for last. It is most definitely always a good one. Last year it was a new grill (awesome!), but this year was a bit different. We were given our final present which came In small nondescript envelope. Immediately my mind goes to cash or something else along those lines. So my brother-in-law and I tear into our envelopes at the same time expecting some dead presidents, but to our pleasant surprise, inside we found tickets to today’s Mizzou game.

    Fast forward to today. I woke up at about 8:00 this morning next to my beautiful wife in the hotel suite at the Resident’s Inn that my father-in-law sprung for at the last minute, so we could all spend some quality time together last night and prior to the game this morning. My eyes opened, and, instead of the sleepiness that normally pervades the morning state of my brain, I couldn’t stop thinking about the dream that I had.

    It is rare for me to remember my dreams, so when I do, I always pay attention. Usually when I do remember, It is because the dream was focused around something significant in my life. This morning’s remembrance was no different.

    The details of the dream are unimportant. The significance, instead, revolves around the people who starred in the dream. The bulk of the people were old friends that I have lost contact with over the years. Usually when I lose contact with someone who had previously been important to me, I am quick to make excuses regarding my lack of effort in maintaining my connection and moving on to “bigger and better” things. Kind of like the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality that dominates the thought processing ability of narcissistic children.

    I understand that people lose touch with one another and that it is ok, but, again, this is not the point.

    I can hear what you are thinking…

    So what IS the point, Jeremy? You dragged us over here from [insert referring website here] to talk about the point of existence. Well, what’s the point?!?!

    And the answer that God gave me this morning in quiet reflection was about you. Yes. You heard me right. It was about you.

    “About me?” you say.

    And I reply, “Yep. I have been missing it all these years. I am supposed to be all about you.”

    To understand the root of this revelation we have to go back to the first moments of human creation and look at God’s motives for our creation. So why were we created? The answer is simple. We were created for relationships. Originally, humanity was created for a relationship with God, but as Eve came along and procreation occurred, the scope of that purpose expanded.

    Let me pause and say that the total purpose of our creation was and continues to be the glorification of God, but the scope of our relational responsibilities to one another falls within this overarching purpose. I wanted to clarify that before continuing.

    So now the Earth is full of people. The question becomes, “Has our original purpose changed?”

    The short answer is that our purpose has not changed, but you all know I am not an advocate of short answers so buckle up. 😀

    The answer that God gave me this morning was one that struck me directly in the face. We were created for relationships. Duh. I know this. I have known this for a long time, but the question that our wise Creator posed to me this morning was, “If you know this so well, why don’t you do it?” I had to look really deeply inside myself to attempt to work out this flaw within my personality.

    To hang out with me, you would not think that I am shy, and, in relationships that I have fostered and invested time into, I am definitely not. In fact, my beloved friends and family have nicknamed me “center of attention boy”. The problem that I experience is rooted in fostering new relationships. I do not have the gift of gab, so I can’t engage in small talk very easily. Usually I establish my relationships in a group setting and then move into individual friendships as I find some common ground on which to relate. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing on the surface, it can leave some of those people who I interact with out in the cold as far as a potential relationship is concerned.

    I am not under the false impression that I will be able to befriend every person with whom I come in contact. But the rub occurs when I try to empathize with new people whom I meet. I think of the new faces that walk into my congregation looking for a connection and leave without ever linking up with someone. The faces that have come and gone that I have just put out of my mind and dismissed haunt me, but I have simply swept these feelings under the rug to this point disregarding the guilt that I feel as a result.

    As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Unfortunately I cannot go back and change the events that have already occurred, but I can resolve to be different in the future.

    So what is the reason for which we exist?

    Simple. To establish relationships that glorify God. First and foremost with our loving creator, but the relationships that we have with people are critically important as well. I have been less than stellar at making new connections because it is tough for me, but that is no excuse to ignore the point of my creation.

    Let me extend an apology to those people with whom I have lost contact and those with whom I failed to connect. Also, I want to thank all of those wonderful people who put up with me and remain my close friends. For you, I am truly grateful.

    Here is the challenge that God presented to me, so I reciprocate it to you:

    Go out today and reconnect with someone or establish a new relationship. The simple truth is that people are worth investing your life into. Where would we be today if Jesus hadn’t thought that we were worth his sacrifice on the cross?

    My Personal Timeline

    January 4, 2010 Leave a comment

    This was an assignment for my Psychology class. This was a very meaningful and interesting project as I had to reflect on the man I am today and the events that shaped who I have become. However, this is probably more than you ever wanted to know about me, but I figured I would post it as I am attempting to chronicle my general body of collegiate work on this website. Enjoy!

     

    When I look at myself in the mirror today, I see the reflection of a man whom is very different from the person that I envisioned myself to be as I was growing up. I have not become the fireman, police officer, rock star, or any of the other pie-in-the sky visions that I had of myself based solely in childish fantasy. Looking back on the events that have defined my life has been an extremely enlightening experience, but before I discuss what this jaunt into self-reflection has meant to me, let me take you through the journey that I experienced when I was researching and pondering the events of my life that have led me to the place where I currently exist.               

    My story began twenty-six years ago in a small German hospital in Nuremburg. I was born to a pair of loving parents whom were extremely excited about the new bundle of joy that they had brought into the world. My mother’s pregnancy was mostly uneventful. She received quality prenatal care as my father was a lieutenant in the United States military. Also, it was important to her to give me every advantage possible even during her pregnancy, so she abstained from ingesting any material that could be deemed harmful to me while I was in utero. This included caffeine, which was an admitted struggle for my mother, but the sacrifice was worth it as it was for her baby boy. Although my mother’s pregnancy was fairly typical for a healthy twenty-three year old, my birth presented a severe challenge to the attending physician. As I was descending down the birth canal, it quickly became apparent that there was an issue. My progress gradually slowed until finally coming to a complete halt. This can be a deadly complication during delivery, so the doctors wasted no time and began working diligently to free me from the prison of flesh in which I had become lodged. The doctor grasped my head with a pair of forceps and began to pull me out. Unfortunately, the forceps broke because I was so tightly lodged. The doctor repeated this process twice more, finally extricating an exaggeratedly cone-headed, healthy eight pound nine ounce baby boy.             

    My first year of life was spent in Germany. My mother did not have the best circumstances in which to begin her adventure in motherhood due to the fact that my father spent many months of the first year of my life in the field training with his unit. One other major obstacle that is completely foreign to many in the world today revolved around the difficulty in which my mother had in communicating with her family in the states. There was no internet, so e-mail and Skype were not in the picture. She had to call the operator to schedule an international call and then sit by the phone for hours and wait for the operator to call back. These phone calls were very expensive which led to a very limited number of calls. This was a trying time for my mother as she had no family and very few friends on whom to depend, but she weathered the storm like a seasoned veteran, providing a wonderful, nurturing start to my life that was full of love and affection. Three days before my first birthday, my father was reassigned to Fort McClellan, Alabama and my family excitedly left Germany to head home to the states. Fort McClellan was more than simply a reprieve from the foreign theater. It was a homecoming as well because this was the area in which both my parents had grown up. Therefore, my mother and father went from having no support as new parents to having overwhelming support from mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, etc.

    According to my mother’s records regarding my physical and mental development, I was ahead of schedule on every milestone that a child is supposed to reach during this period. I was sitting by 22 weeks, crawling by 33 weeks, and walking by 39 weeks. I said my first word at four months and my first sentence at 13 months. Apparently, during this period I exhibited a streak of independence that was difficult for my parents to correct. My mother recorded a story of when I was eight months old. She said that I had just gotten in trouble and instead of crying; I stood defiantly and stared at her red-faced with clenched fists. This independent streak was also evidenced in the first sentence that I spoke when I was 13 months old. I boldly stated to my mother one morning “I want to go” as we were preparing to leave for my grandmother’s house. My mother also noted that I would sit around for extended periods of time doodling on paper with a pencil and that I loved books.

    I also experienced two physically traumatic events during this period of life. When I was 11 months old on the way back to Alabama from Germany, I fell into a bathtub and chipped my front two teeth. The trauma actually went on to negatively affect the development of my permanent teeth in later years. Also, when I was 15 months old, I stepped on a floor heater and had to be treated in the emergency room for severe burns on my left foot. This injury did not seem to have any lasting effects.

    The strong family relationships that were fostered during this period after my family returned from Germany with the members of my extended family still play a role in the decisions that I make in my life now. Although the relationships that I had with the members of my family were strong, my mother cannot remember me experiencing any separation anxiety. I spent several days a week with a babysitter as my mother was finishing college and my mother said that I also socialized well with other children. I believe that trust was established, rooting from these relationships, allowing me to successfully move into the next stage of Erikson’s psychosocial development.

    During my early childhood, my mother also has recorded that I was ahead of schedule on many of the expected developmental milestones. I was potty trained by the age of two and had an extensive vocabulary. My mother noted that I understood the meaning of many words and could perceive the meaning of unknown words based on context fairly early in my development. I was talking conversationally in sentences relating to the world that surrounded me and to the adults with whom I spent the majority of my time. One of my favorite activities during this time was riding my big wheel and playing ball with my father in the yard. During the later years of this stage, I participated in organized sports.

    I had surgery early on during this stage in my life. My recovery was speedy, but any surgical procedure has the potential to set back the development that a child has accomplished. My first brother was also born during this time. My mother noted no regression in development related to either one of these potential obstacles. My fine motor skills were slightly underdeveloped during this period. This may be due to lack of opportunity to exercise these skills as my parents were extremely conscious about messes inside the house. This lack of early development still plagues me to this day, manifesting itself in my extreme lack of manual dexterity.

    My parents fostered an extremely secure environment for me to explore the world around me. My father had a good, secure job in the Army and my mother was able to spend the majority of the day with me, so my physical needs were all met. My emotional needs were also met as there was plenty of love that was lavished on me by family during this time. This fostered autonomy within me by giving me the security to know that I could explore the world confidently. This allowed me to once again progress into the next stage of psychosocial development. The fact that my parents allowed me room to make mistakes and grow also fostered a strong sense of initiative within me, giving me the strength to undertake new tasks and to understand that failure is just a step to a future success.

    My middle childhood featured the first move that I can truly remember. We left my hometown in Alabama and moved to Lansing, Kansas. I remember this being one of the toughest things that I had ever experienced because I had to leave behind all of my extended family who had played a very important role in my life to that point. Going from many caregivers to solely my parents was a hard transition to make, but the skills that had been fostered in my earlier stages of development were extremely helpful in dealing with this new challenge.

    An additional difficulty that confronted me during this stage of development was rooted in my parents’ desire to better the living situation of our family. Both my mother and father began and finished their master’s degree programs during this period in my life. In addition to my parent’s schooling, my mother returned to work. This meant many nights with babysitters. Some sitters were better than others, but honestly, I believe that my brother and I felt slightly abandoned due to the time that my parents had to spend away from us. Upon review, this could not be farther from the truth, but I do remember feeling as if I had to fend for myself emotionally during this time. I had developed close friendships with several of the children in my neighborhood that also helped to sustain me during this tumultuous time in my life.

    Scholastically I did well. However, I did have a strong aversion to homework. There were nights that I would sit at the kitchen table for hours in defiance because I did not want to do my work. My parents were firm and consistent with my discipline and with their expected standards; therefore, I eventually learned that I was not going to get out of homework and it made my life so much easier to just complete it as quickly and accurately as possible. My father also spent a year away from the family in Korea, which added to the stress that pressed in on me during this time of my life. In the middle of the fifth grade, my father returned from Korea and we had to move to Fort Lewis, Washington. This was yet another extreme change during this period of my life causing me to leave the circle of friends that I had developed and moving farther away from my extended family. 

    Although my scholastic achievement was good during this time, I felt as if I never really fit in socially with my peers other than the close friendships that I had fostered with the other children who lived in my neighborhood. I always felt as if I was not good enough to fit in socially and was afraid of embarrassing myself. This is a fear that I have never truly overcome. I have a strong desire to please people and I believe that much of that desire is rooted in unresolved feelings of social awkwardness and extreme fear of embarrassment that began during this time in my life.

    I am fairly certain that all the changes that occurred during this period of my life limited my feelings of industry as I had to learn several new performance standards for different babysitters, teachers, and parental structures throughout this period. I do believe, however, that I did achieve industry and was able to take ownership of my accomplishments and abilities. It was during this period that I also developed a love for music, which has become one of the most important driving forces in my life today. 

    Moving from my middle childhood and into adolescence was a strange transition; although, I am certain that this is a difficult transition for everyone. Again, at the onset of this time in my life, my family was uprooted and moved first to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for my seventh grade year and then back to Fort McClellan for three following years. This period was marked with extreme physical and mental changes as puberty began to work its awkward magic inside my body. 

    I was a late bloomer and that caused many confidence issues that took many years to overcome as I was the target of much ridicule regarding my small, underdeveloped stature. During this period, the desire within me to please people became even more important because I desperately wanted to fit in. Erikson’s major milestone for this period has to do with the individual establishing his or her identity. I can honestly say that this was not the primary concern of the beginning of my adolescent period. I just wanted to stay off the radar. I was very small, weighing in at 75 pounds in seventh grade. It was difficult to watch the other boys changing into young men while it seemed that I remained stuck in the trappings of childhood. The others noticed, of course, and pointed this out at every opportunity that was presented to them. Honestly, this was probably the most difficult aspect of my early adolescent years. However, shortly after I turned thirteen, I discovered the most amazing relationship that challenged me to be different. This relationship continues to challenge me even now. 

    Shortly after moving back to Fort McClellan, I was befriended by a young man who was fairly well known within the small school that I attended. Through this relationship, I was invited to church and eventually to a relationship with Jesus. The moment where I met Christ was the moment that my life was changed forever. This is when I began to understand what my identity was supposed to be based upon what the Bible states about how our individual lives are supposed to look. It was not easy to pursue Christ with reckless abandon as it goes against the social norm and the expected behaviors of society, but I have never made a more important and worthwhile commitment. 

    My academic achievement was of chief importance to me during this time, but I also wrestled and did fairly well in both. I was consistently on the “A” honor roll and was a state place winner in wrestling. I hung out with the “nerd” group and that suited me just fine as the competition fostered within this group pushed me to greater heights academically. I felt socially awkward and was slightly terrified of girls until puberty really began to take hold of me during my sophomore year in high school. Unfortunately for my burgeoning libido, we again moved in between my sophomore and junior years of high school. This was terribly traumatic as I was involved heavily in my youth group at church and was fairly popular in my high school. I moved from a class of 60 students to a class of 280 students and a high school that was five times bigger than the small school that I had left. Talk about culture shock.    

    During this time, I sank into a fairly deep depression that colored much of my junior year. I had a difficult time adjusting to the new social network, but my academic achievement did not fall off as this was still of prime importance to me. The second semester of my junior year changed everything. My pursuit of Christ had waned during this time of extreme depression, but, thankfully, His pursuit of me had never changed. I met a young man on the first day of second semester who would help to foster a change my life forever.

    Through this young man, I met the first girl that I truly loved. Fortunately, she was the only girl that I would ever have to date and would be blessed to marry in the future. Thanks to the relationship that was fostered with the young man whom became my best friend, I was finally able to find a group in which I fit. This was the local youth group at the church that my friend attended. Through this group, I was able to develop the strongest social network in which I have ever been privileged to take part. This group helped me to find who I really was inside and who I was in Christ. I had several adult mentors that were also extremely vital to my personal development during this time.

    I find it a curious task to set goals for my future as I ponder what God has planned, because the only thing that I do know is that I don’t know anything. However, I do feel that it is vital for everyone to establish a strong set of goals that line up with scripture in order to set the direction for their lives, always remaining open to the fact that God has the right to change those goals and the direction in which my life is headed at any moment according to His perfect will. First and foremost, my goal is to look as much like Christ as possible and to do whatever it takes to make my life look like His, experiencing true worship on a daily basis. This encompasses my psychosocial, biological, and cognitive goals as each are an important aspect in truly reconciling myself to the image of Christ. The importance of this goal cannot be understated as it is the driving force behind my very existence. Everything that I do must line up with the purpose for which God has created me. If this does not occur, then I will find myself outside the will of God, and this is not a destination that I am willing to take my life.

    Biologically speaking I would like to lose 40 pounds and to get back into shape, so that I can freely participate in the sporting activities that I used to enjoy and once again be happy with my personal body image. Cognitively I have pledged to become a lifelong learner because when we stop using our capacity to learn, we lose much of our ability think and reason. These are two abilities that I hold in extremely high regard, and, due to this, I will always be enrolled in a class of some sort and a Bible study as well in order to continually foster my cognitive and spiritual development. Finally, psychosocially I desire to have a small group of close friends on whom I know that I can depend on no matter what the situation. I have already accomplished this goal to a certain extent, but I am always on the lookout for new relationships.

    During the course of writing this assignment, I have had to come face to face with many of the major events in my life that have led to me becoming the man that I am today. This was an extremely enlightening experience. Prior to this assignment, I had never truly taken a comprehensive look at the struggles and triumphs that have shaped my life.

    The first thing that really stuck out to me was the fact that all of my early developmental milestones were accomplished ahead of the expected schedule, specifically focusing on my ability to manipulate and understand language. It appears that I have always had a love for words and that I have been blessed with an innate ability to communicate my thoughts. This was the first time that my mother and I had ever deeply discussed my early development. My mother told me that I was always a smart child and that I was truly inquisitive as well, asking many questions to better understand my environment.

    Although the study of my early development was enlightening, the study of my middle childhood was truly fascinating. I was able to look back at many of the events that shaped my behavior during that developmental period and understand the lasting effects that those behaviors and personality traits had on my early development and even persisting into who I am today. For example, socially, I never truly felt as if I fit in with my peers. This might have stemmed from the chaotic environment of regular change in which I spent my middle childhood. I still have problems feeling like that to this day; however, I have changed the way in which I cope with this perceived personal stigma. In my middle childhood I retreated into myself and maintained only a few very close friendships as this was where I was comfortable. Now, I am much more extroverted, but the motivations of my behavior have not changed. I still continually seek the approval and praise of other people.

    I can most definitely see how the tumult of my middle childhood affected my adolescence. These issues compounded with the fact that I was a late bloomer made the early part of my adolescence extremely awkward socially and even within my own psyche. This was a difficult time, but the lessons that I learned during this time again helped to shape me into the man I am today. Without the early adversity during this time period, I do not know if I would have ever felt the need for Christ, which would have made the rest of my life utterly meaningless.

    I believe that God never wastes a hurtful, awkward, or joyous moment. I know everything that happens in this life truly does happen in order to bring us closer to our glorious Creator. Looking back on the entirity of my short life, I am thrilled to see how God has woven all of the events of my experience together to make me the man that I am today. I am thankful for the fact that even in the darkest times in my life, I have always had a loving God looking out for me and shaping me as the potter shapes clay. Understanding the past has given me a better understanding of my present situation and, in turn, has given me a new perspective for my future. I am looking forward to seeing what plans God has on the horizon that He is going to allow me to be a part of and humbled to know that before time began, His plan for me was set into place. Above all else, I am thankful for the obedient sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross that has enabled a wretched sinner like me to find the most amazing love that a person can experience on Earth. Looking back at all the great times, the destitute times, the times spent on the mountain top, and the tough moments spent in the valleys, I can sum up my life in three simple words: God is good.

    And it’s done…

    December 26, 2009 Leave a comment

    The presents are opened, the dinners are eaten, and my living room looks like a weapon of mass toy destruction was detonated within its walls. This can only mean one thing…

    Christmas 2009 has come and is now gone.

    I have to say that, while I am a bit saddened by the passing of the holiday, the overwhelming feeling that is washing over me at this point is relief. I have been accused of being a Scrooge in the past, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. I actually love Christmas. Not for the presents (although I did get a super sweet present from my parents this year) or the other traditional hubbub that accompanies the most celebrated holiday in American culture. Instead, I adore the time that I get to spend with my family and friends and the memories that we make.

    Being at the place I am in my life with school, work, other work, and trying desperately to keep up with all of my other commitments, it seems like my family is the first thing that gets shifted to the back burner. This isn’t ideal, but, honestly, I can see no other way to organize my time and maintain all of my obligations. Fortunately, I have an awesome wife who is understanding (for the most part) and totally supportive even when it seems that we haven’t seen each other for more than five minutes in weeks. She is truly an amazing lady.

    During this holiday season, don’t forget to tell those whom you truly love how you feel and thank them for the role that they play in your life. Above all else, though, don’t forget why we celebrate. Jesus is truly the light and our purpose for living.

    I hope that your Christmas was awesome!

    Categories: Life Tags: , , , , ,

    Consumerism

    December 16, 2009 Leave a comment

    I am a member and the interim worship leader of a wonderful little congregation in Missouri called Harmony Baptist Church. A few months ago, we had a tragic parting of ways where a significant portion of our congregation decided they did not like the direction that the church was heading and that they would be better off pursuing their idea of what a church should be elsewhere. Unfortunately, it seems that the decision of whether or not to hire me as the worship pastor was the final straw for this group. Honestly, this was a kick in the teeth to me. I have done nothing but give my heart and soul to this congregation for ten years, yet I was not good enough to pursue my call at Harmony in their opinion.

    I’m not bitter. Really.

    Everything seems to be working out in a positive Godly direction, though. I am still leading worship as the interim worship director and the congregation enjoys the music and my teaching,  so all’s well that ends well, right? Well, I don’t know about that, but the church is moving forward.  We are truly and earnestly seeking to be the hands and feet of Christ, but we are really still in our infancy. The church has been around for twenty-plus years, but this “new church” (which is really what we are considering ourselves) has only been attempting to get off the ground for about six months now. There are definitely exciting things on the horizon, but, honestly, I am having some issues with letting go of what happened and I believe that when we truly understand our mistakes, we have a much better chance of making the correct choice when a similar problem decides to rear its ugly head.

    So what was the problem?

    In my humble estimation, the issue that ripped Harmony apart (ironic, eh?) boils down to consumerism. Consumerism is the attitude that instills the thought processes that makes us ask questions like  “what can I get out of this?” or “what is this church doing for me?” The consumer is the person who attends church and says, “I didn’t really get anything out of the sermon,” or “I really got a lot out of the music today.” While one of these statements is positive and one is negative, they are both steeped in consumerism. I saw first-hand how people who are in church for the sole purpose of seeing themselves exalted or to be put in a position of power can literally stop a congregation that is working for God dead in its track. This has really been a heartbreaking experience for me. I couldn’t get over their selfish attitude. Or at least, that is what I thought.

    Interesting isn’t it…when you look out at other people’s issues how God turns it all back into an introspective journey where you end up seeing just how much you fail. That is the point that I came to several weeks ago. I realized that I was just a younger version of the people who decided to leave. I realized that the consumerist attitudes that drove them away fall into the same consumerist ideals that I hold dear and propagate.

    The  older group that left was staunchly against contemporary Christian music in the church. As I would lead worship, they would stand in the back (back row Baptists! Woo!) with theirs arms crossed and glare for the entire worship service. Honestly, this was extremely wearing on me as a worship leader. I used to think, “Man, how in the world can they sit there and stifle the Holy Spirit like that,” but as I said, God has a way of turning me back to the plank in my own eye.

    As I began to really dig into what their problem was, God opened my eyes to my own problem and revealed that I have exactly the same atttitude as the group that left. I am not a huge proponent of traditional church music. That is not to say that I hate hymns. That isn’t true at all. I find that many hymns are relevant and amazing, but the style that traditionally accompanies hymns (read: Piano and an organ accompaniment) is not relevant to society as a whole any longer. So, there I was, pointing fingers and scowling under my breath and God looked me dead in the face and called me out for the hypocrite that I was. The truth is, I am just as unbending as the traditionalists that left the church. Try to take away my Tomlin, Hillsongs United, and Crowder and I would be just as upset.

    Would I split a church? Probably not. But would I look for a different congregation that suited my preferences better? You bet I would and that is the root of consumerism. To spin an old JFK quote we should:

    “Ask not what the kingdom of God can do for us, but what we can do for the kingdom of God.”

    If we worship under the banner of preference and consumerism, then we really miss out on the amazing things that God has planned for us as the Church.

    Beloved Church, the time has come to let personal preference fall to the wayside and return to the root of why we worship. That is the amazing love of Jesus Christ.

    Categories: Life Tags: , , , , ,

    Bible Study Friday: Humility

    November 13, 2009 1 comment

    La BibliaOne of the most important aspects of walking alongside God is making sure that you are continually reading and meditating on His word. I am planning on starting a new installment on the blog called Bible Study Friday. Here I will relay what I am studying and how God is moving in my life based on His amazing word. I hope that publishing this study will help you as much as it helps me to prepare for this installment. Without further ado…

    What is Humility? Some would say humility is an attitude, but I would venture to say that, while an attitude of humility is extremely important, God desires much more from the Church. At the most basic level of faith, God desires a lifestyle of humility from His people.

    In Matthew 23, Jesus is talking with his disciples and the crowds that were following him. In the previous chapter, he had been challenged by the Pharisees and Sadducees. In each instance, Jesus had taken the challenge issued by the men of the law and refuted it so that each group of challengers had nothing left to say. Jesus put them in their place so decisively, verse 22:46 states that, “No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.” With his spiritual enemies firmly silenced, Jesus was able to address the crowds freely.

    For the next few verses, Jesus rips into the Pharisees and teachers of the law regarding their outward shows of spiritualism and their love of human recognition. He tells the crowds, “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at the banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them Rabbi” (Matt 23:5-7).

    Are we not there today? We love ourselves to a fault and we love to be exalted before men.  This is not what God desires. God would have us to live humble lives as servants. Jesus himself said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his  life as a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28 ). Today, we live in a society that preaches the need to take care of number one. To exalt yourself to stand out.  We have a corporate world that would have you lie, cheat, and steal to advance up the next rung of the ladder. But Jesus himself stated that he came to serve, even to the point of death on a cross in obedience to the Father as a sacrifice for us. So where does that leave us today? If the Son of Man came as a servant unto this world, how crazy is it for us to be so self-serving! This attitude is even prevalent within the walls of churches today! This has to break God’s heart. We, the body of Christ, are to be His living message to the world today, but it seems like we have forgotten what that message is.

    The attitudes that we express are clearly outside of what Jesus lays out in verse 11 and 12.  “The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” See how our self-importance and Christ do not mix? If you want to be exalted before God, you have to humble yourself before men. As Christians, our rewards in heaven clearly outweigh any reward that we could receive here. Earthly reward is fleeting, while heavenly rewards are eternal. I don’t know about you, but I would rather invest in my eternal home rather than the temporal home I have here on Earth.

    God lays it out for us. If we want to be within His will here on Earth, we have to find humility. Let go of your pride. It only serves to hold you back from where God wants you to be. The gains of surrender greatly surpass the penalty of retaining your self-serving nature. The call on our lives is to love the people of the world as Christ did. And how did Jesus love? Through service. How are we then called to love the world? As humble servants putting others above ourselves. Remember, he who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.

    All for His glory.

    Jeremy

    Categories: Faith Tags: , , , , ,