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This past week, I finished my junior year of high school and witnessed the senior class’ graduation. As the activities and days flew by, I found myself pondering my future plans. Among the common questions such as what to write in personal statements, what colleges to apply to, et cetera, I also found myself asking questions about my spiritual growth and faith.

One question, with several components, weighed heavily on my heart and in my mind: is my future completely consecrated to the Lord? Are my plans aligned with His, in that I am willing to follow His guidance even if it goes completely against what society says I should do? Am I depending on Him with faith that He will preserve me in my college years, and that I would be adequately prepared during my last two summers and my senior year of high school to not only retain, but also to share my faith when I enter college?

These questions are difficult to answer, if answers even exist. I find myself desperate to find ways to connect with God, to depend on Him. But what does it mean to “let go and let God?” How much of my work should I do by myself, and leave the rest in faith? As I struggle with these questions, my only assurance comes from the faith that if I continue seeking God in prayer and meditating on His Word, He will guide me in the right direction.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

As an almost-high-school-senior, the “will of God” is something I hold to be very, very important. If I stray from what He wants me to do, I could become lost and confused. Therefore, this coming year, I want to make every effort to be conformed to God’s standards and transformed by renewing my mind with His Word. I want to come faithfully to Him in prayer and meditation on His Word every day, that through this regular time with God I would be able to discern what He wants me to do in every situation.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”

Colossians 3:1-4

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

As I continue this journey of life, I am also reminded to set my heart and mind on God’s plan for mankind. Getting a good education, and the plans and events that follow, is merely a method of preparing myself to be as useful to the Lord as possible. It is not to be my primary focus in life, but it is to be an aid. No matter what happens in my life, what joys and disasters, everything is done for the glory of God, that His will may be done on earth through His people.

With this mindset and assurance of the necessity of unconditional faith and God’s vision, I can take on the road ahead with confidence. However, it is not without prayer and the work of others that I can even begin this journey. I pray that my fellow brothers and sisters can encourage me in the years to come, and that I can return the blessing.

A passage in Romans 8 gives me an important closing reminder of the power of Him who is in me:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35-38

Finally, let me not forget what the Lord has promised about my future, if only I fully consecrate myself and my future to Him:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear you. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:11-13

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As believers, I’m sure most of us have been taught that we should preach the gospel to unbelievers, especially those close to us. Some of us have learned that preaching the Gospel to ourselves is an extremely helpful and healthy habit. However, what about our believing friends? Don’t they need the Gospel too?

Here is one of my favorite quotes of all time.

Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.

We usually interact with our friends on a regular basis, especially those of us in high school… It’s every day! We’re comfortable around each other. So comfortable, in fact, that we would act in certain ways that we may not with other people.

I’m an introvert. As such, I’ve spent quite a lot of time quietly observing people interact with each other. It saddens me when I see people act so comfortably, they use language they wouldn’t say and do things they wouldn’t do in, say, a professional setting. Sometimes the language my believing friends use or the things they do sadden me; they don’t know how their actions can so easily become a stumbling block to other believers. The images their dirty language conjures and the innuendo in their actions can fill their brothers and sisters’ minds with material that shouldn’t be there.

This is where the quote comes in. It is important for believers to fill their minds with the things of God and to act as such. Rehearsing the Gospel daily and having it reflected in our actions will speak to our fellow believers. It reminds us that we are fallen sinners who were bought by the blood of our Father’s only Son through the Father’s mercy and love, and that we are no longer our own but indebted to serve Him in holiness and purity. If actions truly speak louder than words, then how we act has much more influence then constantly pestering them with Bible verses and a list of does and dont’s. It also gives us more credibility while hindering hypocrisy.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. – 2 Timothy 2:14-26

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. – 1 Timothy 4:12

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8

All believers need the Gospel every day. We need to remind ourselves each day of God’s love and desire for us to be His sanctified priests and future Bride. Without Him, we are nothing, but in Him, we have everything. Our actions reflect what we know, believe, and is in our hearts. We just need to make sure that we are reflecting Christ and the Gospel.

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One Voice

Listening to and singing the song One Voice, I’m constantly convicted and moved by the powerful truth behind its words.

In my life, my parents have exposed me to a variety of churches throughout the years. I’ve met strong baptists, Amish-like people, house churches, local churches, conservative churches, charismatic churches, etc. it was not until I came to my school and came into contact with the Lord’s Recovery (a nondenominational ‘church’ network known for their slightly unorthodox methods of worship and Bible study) that I really began to ponder how much variety is in the Body.

I was also struck by the realization of how large the Body of Christ is. If every one of my schoolmates were a genuine believer, which they all claim to be, that’s already over 100 fellow brothers and sisters going to school with me every day.

Add that to your church, and throw in all the conferences you’ve been to. Multiply that by the many ministries, organizations, and churches across the nation and all over the world.

It’s huge.

The other day I was talking with an older brother, and we somehow ended up on the topic of the church; more specifically, how our church functions, how the Evangelical Formosan Churches (EFC’s) (my church’s fellowship affiliation) function, and how different church chains have different requirements for affiliation. We also discussed our roles in the church, how every single person has something to contribute. We need to work together as a youth group in order that our church can function, the EFCs work, and the worldwide Body grow. It all starts by how each individual works for the Body.

This thought brought me to ponder something: if every person counts, and only through cooperation will the church grow… Just how important is the way we treat each other?

Looking at my youth group, it is true (and a bit shameful) that we’ve formed cliques. There are (informal yet exclusive) events that occur where only some people are invited, such as certain outings. There are activities that are exclusive. Also, whenever we socialize, groups tend to form where everyone is crowded around intent on a conversation.

In observing my classmates, who have grown up together since junior high, I’ve been a bit appalled at the way they interact. Some of the stuff they say can be really damaging, but they’re oblivious to it because they think the offended knows that the offender is just teasing. Looking at my youth group from this perspective, I can see that we have the same problem as well. Perhaps not as extreme, but definitely still existing.

As Christians we really need to watch how we interact. Be determined to build each other up, and observe boundaries when we’re making jokes. We also have to be wary of becoming exclusive, because really, people will get or feel hurt. If the church depended on the interaction between its members, we need to be bearing each other’s burdens, pray for and counsel each other, expressing love, humility, and a servant’s spirit. We are not to belittle each other, make inappropriate jokes, or discuss topics that may hinder or stunt younger believers, but move towards being a family in Christ.

I like the illustration someone I know used before, which states that if God is the Father, then the Church is the Mother. You, every individual believer, are THE church, since the church consists of individuals. Therefore, we should nourish and care for each other. Change will only happen if each person is wary and convicted of monitoring the way they interact with other believers.

Here’s the song One Voice:

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Men are called to lead. That’s why you see that the Bible is full of patriarchies instead of matriarchies. The kings, generals, tribal leaders, and most of the prophets were males. They were fulfilling their calling to lead the people under them, including women and children.

With great blessings come great responsibility, so when a man is given the privilege to lead, he must not abuse his authority. He must lead to his full potential, and in some cases beyond. The people under him depend on him for making the right decisions and wise choices, so he must work to gain their trust. In times of trouble he has to keep everything in order until a possible solution is available. When conflicts arise, he must be fair and unbiased to either side.

A leader also gives of himslef for the good of all. In history there have been multiple cases of monarchs and other authorative figures milking money, provisions, and labor from the people. This is for their own selfish gain and is outright abuse of their leadership. However other monarchs have taken money from the people and divided it evenly so that the poor could live somewhat better. They worked to organize society so that people had a clearly defined status and suppressed any rebellions that would potentially harm the people as a whole. Other leaders would sacrifice time and sleep just so that the people could sleep at ease, knowing that any plans would be taken care of and everything will turn out right.

Many leaders were not good people in themselves. Some were gluttonous or drunkards, others shrill with their finances. But they all possessed certain qualities that enabled them to lead with the effect they did. These include diligence, resourcefulness, dependability, and justice, and are crucial in developing strong leadership.

Leadership starts with the ability to control oneself. One must be diligent, resourceful, dependable, and just. All it takes is application of these charcteristics every day to develop lasting qualities in your life. Be diligent with your work. Make good use of your finances and time. Be someone people can depend on and trust. Be fair when you make decisions and do not tolerate wrongdoing. In doing this, you will set yourself on the path to becomeing a leader.

A leader God wants you to be.

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I’ve attended many, many conferences over the last few years. I’m thankful for the opportunities to mingle with believers of all denominations (or none) and of all backgrounds and walks of life. What strikes me throughout these events, however, is how close our Christian beliefs — especially in the same God — can bring everyone so close together. And this not only happens at conferences, but in churches as well.

I can honestly say that nowhere else in this world have I seen such close relationships between older and younger believers. I love watching the older, 20+ year old brothers and sisters playing, talking, and giving advice to those half their age.  It definitely has a strong effect on how fast and properly the younger ones grow and mature.

There is such joy in being with other believers. My youth group is very close, as most of us grew up together since we were kids, and have interacted with our youth leaders since they were teens.  It has become easier over the years to join the youth group (ages 12+) and the Bible studies, challenges, and retreats/conferences such a membership includes.

Honestly, my church is where I grow the most. If I need to be with or talk to  someone, usually I can find them here. The majority of my friends are also from here.  (I attend a very small private school so there aren’t too many friendship opportunities). If one is really known by what company they keep, then I’m pretty sure I’m on the right path to properly reflecting the image of God. 🙂

With the positive aspects addressed, I now come to the problems that plague and undermine true Christian fellowship.

Perhaps the foremost problem is hypocrisy. I know some people who live differently at church events/weekends and at home/throughout the rest of the week. I am guilty of this behavior myself sometimes. I hit a sort of spiritual high during church services or events, then fall apart in sin for the rest of the week, neglecting my relationship with God. Then when the weekend rolls around, I pull myself together and attend church to once again reach that spiritual high. It’s an unhealthy habit that harms not only me, but also people around me. They’re fooled into thinking I’m what I’m not, that is: a strong believer who maintains a close relationship with God every day. I’m not saying I never have a close walk with the Lord, but there are times, many times, when I don’t.

Living in hypocrisy also prevents you from learning lessons God may have wanted to teach you. For example, the ability to understand scripture. The more you read the Bible, the better you get at uncovering truths in the words. It’s a matter of time, habit, and practice. But when you neglect regular Bible study, it’s a bit hard to contribute to group Bible studies and other such gatherings when they roll around. You just become rusty, so to say.

Hypocrisy is also fooling yourself. You think you’ve got it all together with God and your walk with Him, but really you’re only connecting with Him every so often. You miss out on so many chances to encounter God, to embrace what He has to show you; to hear what He has to say.

In relation of this with fellowship: you won’t be able to give as much to your fellow brothers and sisters as you could have. There are unique truths that God reveals only to certain people, and you could have been the one to share God’s message with your Christian community. Also, people may be fooled into thinking you’re a stronger and wiser/more knowledgeable believer than you really are. You may also unconsciously act this way. This is detrimental when it comes to helping other believers with spiritual problems and struggles. If anything, you may be bringing more harm to them than helping them move towards the light.

Hypocrisy will eventually come to light. And when something bad is revealed, problems and conflicts tend to arise. People feel cheated and fooled, even ridiculed in some cases. Your image and reliability will falter, and no one knows if they can really trust you anymore for a while. Relationships may fall apart, and mending them will prove difficult and many times painful. Of course, this all depends on the severity of the hypocrisy, but there are always consequences nevertheless that harm you and those around you.

A good resource I found on the topic of hypocrisy is a sermon by Ed Allen for Gateway Community Church, entitled “The Dangers of Hypocrisy”. The message outline can be found here.

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I’ve had the awesome opportunity to read some peoples’ blogs and posts, and have been greatly encouraged by what they wrote.

One hard thing about blogging is that to be truly effective in delivering whatever you learned from God to your audience, you must be sensitive to who your audience is. You must be wary of how you convey who you are. If I have trouble with  certain area of my life, say profanity, I should acknowledge that fact whilst condemning it in whatever article I wrote.
This is really important, because it makes the blogger seem more real and trustworthy. It shows the reader that someone out there struggles with the same things they do, and gives some credibility to the blogger’s words. The reader knows that they’re not alone. Books and conferences do this just fine as well, but they are usually all trained professionals that have overcome (with God’s help) the sins which they try to help other people get out of. Bloggers… are more “normal” people. They could be that kid down the street, the grocery man, the old lady you met on the plane. The only difference is that they’ve taken to sharing their lives online with other people.
Christian blogs touch me like no books can. I visualize the writer, still broken with his struggles and his quest to be right with God, and I know that what he says is out of pure desire to know God more every step of the way. Somehow that just clicks in my mind better than listening to a trained pastor/writer/theologian.
And one of the great things about knowing these people is that since I blog as well, I can relate to them on a certain level. I can comment on their posts, share similar ideas, encourage them, contact them, etc. It’s actually a virtual Christian community where the Christian writers can gather and spur each other on.
This is why I strongly endorse blogging, as do many of my blogging friends. It holds you accountable to some level to regularly study God’s word and pursue a daily walk with Him. And it works =D

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Recently I was at a market, shopping for anything that caught my eye. I found myself drawn to a lot of clothing styles I’ve always admired but never worn. After an hour or two, I walked out of the stores with new clothes and an elated spirit.

Only to have my spirit crushed  when I found out just what I’ve done.

*      *      *

Clothing and fashion trends are admittedly pointless. If you think about it, trends are people trying to look the same way by wearing the same style. Although there might be minor diversities, there is a reoccurring theme in most peoples’ attire (i.e. Converse/Vans shoes) . But the point is: who really cares? Who really thinks twice about what you’ve worn that particular day at school? Who even remembers how new your shoes or jacket are after a week or two? Sure, you might look nice, but catching peoples’ attention with that certain article of clothing will only last a couple of days at most before they ignore the fact that it’s new.

Therefore, why bother with clothing trends so much? The classic polo + jeans look for guys is enough (I’m not sure for girls) for almost any occasion. Looking good brings assurance only to your ego; it does nothing for real confidence. I’s like finding confidence in what you wear instead of something Greater. Something more Important. Something more Fulfilling.

Something like God.

Okay, I know, you aren’t obsessed over clothes like that poor girl down the street. But it has come to my understanding that some people spend quite a bit on clothing. And they are sadly drawn into finding comfort in the fact that they are dressed well and people are complimenting them. I find that pretty sad… mainly because I’ve done it myself a few times.

One strange thing that happens is that whenever I dress a bit better for church activities (and no, I don’t mean nicer as in more formal and stuff. Nicer as in more popular street clothing), I feel a whole lot more self-conscious than I would if I just threw on some basic clothes. It’s harder for me to carry on conversations, it’s harder for me to worship, and much harder for me to keep my clothes clean if we’re doing some more strenuous activities.

The reason? Because I’m thinking about what I look like. I’m ignoring the fact that God made me as I am. My clothes don’t define me. I could be wearing dirty rags and He’ll still see me the same way. And really, His point of view is much more valuable than anyone else’s.

I resolve to take the time I would normally send thinking about how I look to focus more on developing who I am inside. True beauty is found on the inside, for beauty is only skin deep — I’m sure many of you have hear. So if people know me as a godly young man bent on serving God and carrying out His well, who cares about the way I dress?

I’m not saying people should take all their clothes, toss them in a box, and dump them all in the local Goodwill donation center, but I am saying that we should assess our priorities on what really matters, the outside or the inside. I know this is a bigger struggle for girls, but hey, guys have problems with it too. But we can all find comfort in the fact that character trumps trends, and that in the Body of Christ, how much you love and serve God is what really accounts for who you are.

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