Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Hope’

Every human desires security. We want to make sure that we will always be safe, never go bankrupt, and always have family and friends by our side, no matter what happens. We desire security because of the way we have been designed. God ingrained in our minds a sense of helplessness. We need our Creator, because if we don’t have Him in our lives, everything would be in chaos and despair. Sadly, since we are a fallen world, we have tried to find our security in things other than our Maker. The most common example would be that of money. Money can buy you just about everything, and what it can buy, it tremendously influences. It buys you the basic necessitates, food and shelter. It may help you make and keep friends. It can definitely get you happiness in many situations. However, money is such a security for some people that when they lose their money, they may even commit suicide. They believe that all is lost, and that they have no more security and have nothing to live for.

I was at my church’s annual retreat this past weekend. The theme was “Counterfeit gods,” and we learned that idols, counterfeit gods, are anything that distracts us from loving God wholeheartedly. While being convicted by the messages, I found myself wondering whether our idols can usually be where we find fake security. For example, I believe one of my biggest idols is people-pleasing. I find security in knowing I can make friends if I act a certain way or say a certain thing. Sadly, this has never worked. I never experienced any true friendships, much less security, in trying to please people. If anything, I feel more insecure because I don’t know who I am anymore. Yet I keep trying over and over and over. I may find limited, infinitesimal security for a brief moment, but overall, my security is still false and nonexistent.

I also thought about the times in my life where I encountered terrifying situations. What is the first thing I cling to for security, or what stronghold do I run into to hide? Is it movies and music, which warp reality and plants me in a world that distracts me from what is happening in real life? Is it my bed, pillow, blanket and sleep? Is it hanging out with friends or talking to our mentors, believing that talking through our problems or other subjects will make us feel more secure?

What makes it so difficult to have faith that God can do more than any of our idols and give us the true security we crave? What disables us from reaching for the Word of God when we fall into despair?

I believe that it is because we have not depended on the word of God as much as we should, myself especially. I have not read it enough. Since the Bible is the Word of God, it comes from the mind of God and tells about God. If I read the Bible regularly, I should become familiarized with God’s heart and His power. I should know that God dearly loves His children and desires nothing more than for them to run in helplessness to Him and find security in His everlasting arms. I should know that God has the power to ensure this security. He made security itself! He made everything in the world… He can protect us from it all. Also, He can defend us against any evil that tries to overtake us.

“If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,

“ For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

– Romans 8:31b-39 (NASB)

Reading through this promise, and the list of things that can never separate us from the love of Christ, I am convinced of God’s sovereign power to secure us today and for eternity.

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

– Romans 8:28 (NASB)

As God’s children, who have been taken into His arms, we have eternal security. Anything that happens in the world is part of God’s plan. All we need to do is love Him and have faith in Him.

Such a simple truth, yet to hard to believe. I am ashamed of my weak faith. Why do I fear man so much that God’s power is diminished in my mind? Why do I have “Plan A’s, B’s, C’s,” etc. that do not stand on faith and hope in the Lord? Why do I despair when my life on earth is infinitesimal compared to eternity with God?

God has the power. He has the love. But He needs our willingness to put what little faith we have in Him. He alone holds the only security that matters… Eternal security in His everlasting arms.

For further reflection, read and meditate on Psalm 91. Pray it to the Lord and rest in His promises!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Alone

In the past few weeks, I’ve been dealing with a number of issues in my life. They concern, however, topics that I rarely discuss with people. These issues bombard my mind, and I find myself almost driven to tears over them.

A result of this struggle is constant loneliness. Sure, I feel good when I’m talking to friends and hanging out with people. I don’t feel lonely during those times. However, when I find myself in situations where I slip easily into the matrix of my thoughts, I become desperately lost. I can’t fathom how I will deal with these issues alone. I need to talk to someone, but I don’t know who. I feel like no one can understand how I feel, cliche as it may sound. I keep pushing the issues away. I’ll deal with them later. They haunt me. In a clash of my Christian faith and what the world says is ok, I’m afraid that I might just give up and give in completely to the world’s values (or lack thereof).

Honestly, I have no idea what’s keeping me going. Maybe it’s hope. Maybe it’s faith (though I personally don’t think I have that strong a faith). Maybe it’s the Lord’s mercy. Maybe it’s love. Maybe it’s fear.

I am given the constant reminder, however, of the fact that I can talk to God about my problems. I can choose to rest in His promises and power. I find it so difficult. It is almost like He is the last person I want to talk to about these issues. So I push Him away. I’ll go back when I solve all these problems.

To a certain degree, I hate myself for being such a good actor. I am not doing well at all inside. I’ve become insecure, scared, and inconsistent. On the outside though, I still look like the quiet “innocent kid” who is prone to excitement, laughter, and practical jokes. It shocks me sometimes how easy it is to fool the world of a person’s true emotional and mental state. The only good that resulted from this shocking revelation is the fact that maybe in the future, or even now, I should start asking people how they’re really doing. Give them a should to cry on, advice when they don’t know what to do, guide them when they become lost, minister to them when they feel broken, reconcile them with their anger, and calm them when they feel upset.

I just wish someone would do that for me.

I know I should talk to God, but I just can’t. I don’t know why this is happening; if this is a trial I’m supposed to go through. All I know is that these issues are driving me to tears, and I need to talk. If I don’t let everything out, I fear I may explode. Some verses and hymns give me limited condolence, as does being with fellow believers. But they aren’t enough.

These trials from God are very much real. I’m just wondering if everything will work out in the end…

Read Full Post »

Most men struggle with purity. Whether it be manifested through thoughts or actions, lust is a powerful temptation that destroys and dominates many lives. In fact, modern society is currently being overtaken by a whirlwind of immoral media of all sorts. Pornography is widely available; just one click away on the Internet. Women dress in the most immodest clothing imaginable.

What are single Christian men to do in such a dirty world? Being the authors of the ever-popular Every Man series, Steve Arterburn and Fred Stoeker, along with Mike Yorkey, have come up with a discussion guide to be used as a companion to their popular titles Every Man’s Battle and Every Young Man’s Battle. While Every Single Man’s Battle draws its excerpts from Every Man’s Battle, both books are useful while you go through this guide. It is written especially for those unmarried, divorced, or widowed men who want to seek out guidelines for celibacy and purity. As such, this book gives practical tips on overcoming lust, pornography, and masturbation, as well as staying away from unhealthy relationships and staying celibate.

I have personally found each of the aforementioned three titles useful in my war against immorality. This guide opened my eyes to key truths in the word that I can practically apply into my life and live out in purity. A must read for sure.

I received a free copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah’s Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

I attend the youth ministry at my church, and like many youth groups, we play contemporary Christian music. I notice that these songs can often be much more stirring to sing than the old hymns, and more heartfelt at times.

One big problem, however, occurs when we sing new songs or get too focused on singing a song well. Personally, I find it difficult to sing from my heart a song I’ve never seen before. I’m unfamiliar with the tunes and the lyrics, leaving me to stay silent as I try to get used to the song. Also, there are times when I’m conscious of my singing or my voice – such as those times when I have a bad cold and a hoarse voice – where I get too distracted trying to sing well. The rest of the time I’m so busy singing, I actually forget what I’m singing in the first place – because I’m so used to the song. It then becomes easy to lose focus of what worship is truly about: standing before God, acknowledging His presence, and letting my praise flow to Him in music.

However, new songs can be excellent at times. If the song is really well written, you can read the lyrics – not busy trying to sing – and understand the songwriter’s motives behind writing it. Often times when I sing a very familiar song, I kind of forget the whole meaning of it… unless of course I know the words really well and sing them as an extension of my thanksgiving to God, experiencing the words in their full power.

Every once in a while, I find it extremely helpful and encouraging to just be silent as the music plays. Read the lyrics and meditate on them, and try to figure out if there are any subliminal, deeper meanings between the words. Silently pray ad talk to God, acknowledging the words and presenting them to God in prayer as your praise. It’s a completely different experience than from singing the words. Your worship might become more real, with the knowledge that you aren’t simply singing… you are actually giving to God all the praise and glory He deserves.

With that, I urge you to give this a try. Whether you sing hymns or contemporary songs, take a minute or two to really think on the words, and honestly present your praise to God in full adoration of who He is.

If you do so with a heart full of thanksgiving, you will surely reap heartwarming results.

Read Full Post »

Like many people, I’ve gone through a “clothes craze phase”. I visited a bunch of thrift stores and bought just about everything I thought looked good. As always when you become crazy with something, you notice other peoples’ paraphernalia as well, in this case, clothes.

One really weird thing I noticed is this: if a given person is not into fashion or the latest trends, he usually ends up dressing in clothes that reflect his personalities and interests. For example, I have some friends who love sports. They are definitely not into clothes. But they dress well, and they dress in clothes that present themselves to people as athletes. The jacket, the brand, the pants, shoes… all have something to do with SPORTS!

Another example is myself. Almost everyone who knows me well will tell you about my passion for writing, reading, and literature as a whole. I’m not exactly a fan of fashion… but I do like clothes that “look good”. Due to my pretty conservative background, I usually wear polos and shirts in classic colors and designs, mostly with jeans. But based on my attire, many people will ask me out of the blue if I’m a writer or am planning a career in that direction. Funny… because most of the time they don’t know a single thing about me. And I don’t consciously go out of my way to dress like a literature nerd.

My point in saying all this? Clothes reflect who you are, and as Christians, we must dress to represent ourselves well. Some may say that clothes do not make the man, and clothes do sometimes cover up who a person really is. However, people have a natural inclination to base their first impression mainly on the clothes that particular person is wearing. You may come up with all sorts of excuses and exceptions for your not-so-Christian attire, but in the end, you are misrepresenting yourself, the Christian community, and God. You can look good without dressing like the world dresses.

Also, the wrong clothing attracts the wrong crowd. You may be dressing to fit in with a certain group, impress a certain person, or whatever. But most times, you will end up with the wrong people; the people you should not be with.

I’m not saying this to condemn, but I know the impact clothing trends have on many young believers. I am writing this out of concern for my fellow believers, for why would a peer like me go all out for no apparent reason just to criticize how people dress? Clothing expresses a person’s individuality, but clothes also reflect their values – whether they know it or not.  Personally, in the past I have debated over some clothing styles, and my conservative side won over. But honestly, it isn’t a huge struggle and problem for me. However, I’ve personal experience with people I know who love the Lord and do their best to live out His plan in their lives… but if I was a stranger and just met them, I would not automatically think them Christian – just because their clothes don’t reflect the modesty and self-respect that Christians as children of the King should be shrouded in… around their entire being.

Read Full Post »

If there is any book that every college or college-bound student should read, it’s Thriving at College by Alex Chediak. This thick book isn’t fat because of big text; it’s fat because it needs to house all the profound wisdom, advice, stories, examples, and discussion questions found between its covers.

The moment I opened my package to pull out my copy, I was surprised at its length. I wondered why it would be so long, until I looked at the table of contents. Then it all seemed logical that all this information requires a large volume. Alex takes the reader step by step through the college process, from choosing a major to planning your social life, and of course all the technicalities in between. He offers scriptural guidance, testimonies, stories, examples, and anecdotes to prove his point: that college can be the best four years of your life, if you so choose to make it that way. It is also the best time to keep your faith, contrary to the horrifying rising rates of Christians leaving their faith in college. It teaches you not only to survive, but also to thrive. Now that’s one big attribute that makes it stand out from all those other “college survival” books.

Endorsed by many well-known authors such as Alex & Brett Harris (Do Hard Things), Jerry Bridges (The Pursuit of Holiness), Tedd Tripp (Shepherding a Child’s Heart), and Randy Alcorn (Heaven), this book deserves all the acclaim and praise it did. I’m already recommending this books to a few high school seniors I know, and strongly encouraging them to get a copy. And of course, if you are also a high school senior or a college student, you should buy or borrow a copy as soon as possible. Thriving at College is just too awesome a resource (and blessing!) to miss.

Click on the picture to buy Thriving at College from Amazon.com when it comes out on April 15, 2011!

I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: