Fear & Joy

Why do I let fear grip me? Why do I let anxiety tear at me, peeling my skin until I am exposed and shaking, freezing in the bitter, piercing cold of [the false]* reality [I choose to let myself believe in]? How can I allow my soul to be afraid when there is truly nothing to be afraid of?

I worry what others believe about me, what they feel about me. In turn, I fear their thoughts, I fear their words. I worry that my life will not be comfortable, rewarding, successful, joyful. In turn, I fear that which I cannot control. In pursuit of joy, I let my soul-shaking fear be the map and compass in a self-ravaging journey.

In order to find the joy that my fear is keeping me from, the fear must be put aside. I believe that happiness + contentment = joy. When I search for the key to contentment and hunt for the solution to happiness, I come to naught, though, because I will never find them. I may very well get close on my own, but I’ll never truly find them both, together.

I have found contentment, I have held it gently in my hand and felt the promise that in any circumstance, its presence will remain, if I do not snuff the light out. That is all well and good, but happiness (which seems to me less valuable than contentment, at this season in life) evades my grasp. It is often hard to keep contentment in one’s hand while reaching for something else, but I suppose that is expected. At times, I have also found happiness—those giddy, mischievous times growing up, when nothing else seemed to exist. The two of them, though, rarely seem to be seen together.

The truth is, the entire time I have been running from fear, looking for happiness and contentment, Jesus has been Here, waiting, holding the key in his hand, being the very key in and of himself.

The Lord (YHWH) will fight for you; you need only to be still.

Fear loses its power and every anxiety shatters in the face of YHWH, because there is nothing in this universe that holds its power under his all-pervading reign.

The Holy Spirit will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Again, why do I let fear grip me? The all-powerful, all-knowing, all-pervading God is in my very soul, the innermost part of my being. How can I begin to worry what others may think or say about me? He is my comfort and reward, he is the source of my joy. Fear doesn’t stand a chance.

Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself.

I am not a good person. I am not wise. Jesus doesn’t ask me for this, though.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Jesus doesn’t expect me to stand up to my fear; he knows I can’t do that on my own. I’m weak, I doubt him, I doubt his love for me. But he has the power to banish fear. Jesus doesn’t expect me to be a paragon of joy. He knows that, without him, I will revert to a twisted, contented depression, devoid of light. But with him, my heart can be happy, and my spirit contented in him. This is how he casts out fear, bringing the light of his joy.

**Scripture quotations are from the NIV, emphasis added. Shared here are the passages Exodus 14:14, John 14:26-27, Matthew 6:34, Matthew 11:29-30. For more on Matthew 11:28-30, see Anchors: an exploration of self-love, toxic people, and Jesus. [Pronouns reffering to diety are purposefully left uncapatalized, as this may sometimes be a meaningless ritual, and in place of this sign of respect for the Godhead, other linguistic changes are often mindfully used.]

*[Words in brackets were added 3/28/18 at 5:12pm.]

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Anchors: an exploration of self-love, toxic people, and Jesus

If the entirety of your life is to give happiness to yourself, then it’s a pretty meaningless life. Isn’t it? Some people seem to have another view. You, it appears, should be placed at the center of the Universe.

Love who you are, embrace who you are. Love yourself. When you love yourself, people can kind of pick up on that: they can see confidence, they can see self-esteem, and naturally, people gravitate towards you. – Lilly Singh, YouTube personality

Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world. – Lucille Ball, American actress and comedienne

Is there a bit of truth in this? Sure. (Maybe a little.) And I realize that these quotes address millions of people (across many generations) who really just don’t like themselves, and that’s sad. To loathe oneself can be an exhausting and depressing habit. But the cure for self-loathing or self-annoyance has never been (and will never be, no matter how much people preach it) “self-love.” Or, perhaps as a better term, self-obsession. There is a time for introspection, of course. And you’ll notice that much of what I believe on this is pinpointed on a fine line between two extremes. But here, I believe, is where you will find joy.

The natural step to take, in an effort to become less focused on yourself, is to focus on others. Pour into others. Love others. Expend time, energy, and other resources on showing people how much you care for them. But then, more problems arise. What do we do when that person turns less-lovable? What do we do when something flips and that person becomes a source of negativity? If you’re part of this Millennial/Z generation, then your answer is immediate. (1) You label that person as “toxic,” (2) call them out as that to everyone in your friend group, and (3) proceed to ignore them! (For good measure, block them on social media.) Problem solved, right? After all, just like toxic chemicals, there’s really no healthy reason to expose yourself to them.

But isn’t this just running directly back to the dogma that brought us quotes like, “Love yourself and everything else falls into line?”

So where is the middle ground? How does one maintain a healthy level of self-care and confidence, while reaching out to a broken world? Do we sacrifice our happiness and health on an altar of ministry? Or do we forget the world and seek self-love, self-knowledge, and, in the end, selfishness?

No. Neither one is the answer, and you can tell because I set up strawmen representing both sides, simply to prove my argument. (That’s a joke–I don’t want to confuse you, but I want to be honest about how I’m arguing it.) Here’s the answer: Jesus.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus, Matthew 11:28

Oh, goodness. Aren’t we all weary? Don’t we all need rest? I think part of the cultural saying, “I’m tired” that we seem to repeat as often as the word “good,” is, at its core, not an expression of physical fatigue, but one of emotional, relational, spiritual fatigue. Sure, we’re tired because we stay up late, get up too early, and run on caffeine. But we’re also tired because our souls are weary.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that the sweetest bit of poetry you’ve ever heard? This God that created the Universe and loves each and every weary soul on this planet, says he will give you rest!

Ugh, I’ve been distracted from the point. This verse gets me every time.

How does Jesus give us rest from the relational difficulties of the world?

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

When we take his yoke upon us, and let him pull our burden with us (which is a deeply difficult thing to do, sometimes!) we learn from him. We become gentle and humble. Instead of loving ourselves or hating ourselves, we begin to care less what we think about ourselves in the first place, (a “self-forgetfulness” that C.S. Lewis and other writers talk about,) and learn to develop a healthy way of viewing ourselves that is profoundly informed by how Jesus views us.

As with all truth, though, it doesn’t stop with us. We then carry this to others. We take this rest to those in our lives and become anchors of Jesus’ undying compassion and love. Others can sway with the tide, expelling negative forces from their lives. Well-intentioned loving, caring people can pour into the lives of others until they are pushed away or burn out, exhausted. But when we rest in Jesus, he gives us strength.

We all know we can’t do it on our own. We all know we’re tired in a way that sleep isn’t going to repair. Why don’t we admit it? Why don’t we let Jesus take this burden of life with us? Why don’t we just forget about ourselves now and then? And why don’t we let Jesus love broken people through us?

It’s not easy. As soon as we make an attempt to do this, we catch ourselves going back to our instincts of self-reliance. But you can’t love her. You can’t love him. And you can’t really love yourself. You’ll never know what real love is until you let Jesus supply that love.

To be very clear with you, I’m not writing this as a display of my perfect ability to anchor the love of Jesus in the lives of others. I’m writing this because my thoughts have been spinning around this topic for months, and I believe that these words of Jesus in Matthew 11 resonate with this human struggle.

Think of someone in your life that is hard for you to love. Here’s the thing: it’s hard for you to love them, but Jesus loves them immensely more than you ever could. And on the opposite side, think of how you feel about yourself. You may not think highly of your eccentricities and intricacies. And that’s okay. Because you don’t need to think about yourself. Just be an anchor of Jesus’ love. It’s enough. You can always find rest in him. Always.

 

 

 

Stop doing this every time you read the Bible!

Yes, this is totally clickbait. But it works this time.
Most people who read the Bible regularly do something like this: they choose a book or a plan or whatnot with allotted chapters or verses for each day, then systematically read the chapters or verses and finish. The other day, I read a book that really enlightened to the fact that this may be harmful.
How so? When you measure by chapter, it ends up being all about getting to the end of the chapter. (Yup, this is a generalization, that’s great if you’re not this way, I am.) Obviously, disciplining yourself to focus can help, but there’s an easier way. Instead of reading a set number of chapters or verses every day, read for an amount of time. Instead of saying “I’ll read four chapters today,” then, sitting down and quickly reading through each one, the better way to approach it might be “I’ll read for twenty minutes today.”
The other idea that this book suggested is choosing one book of the Bible and “hanging out” in that book for a month or even a few months. Take a book like James or Philippians, for example, and read it every day for a month or two. Not only will you get to know the passage a lot, it will simplify it for you and lead to a greater meditation on the truths of the passage. Then, when you have finished that book, move on to the next one. In fact, if you do this enough, you may end up practically memorizing the book!
The book that I harvested most of these ideas from is called How to Enjoy Reading Your Bible, and I highly recommend you to read it. (It only took me about thirty to forty-five minutes to read; it’s not very long.) If you would like to buy the book, you can find it here on Amazon, or just check it out from your library like I do.
For another post about the spiritual discipline of reading your Bible, check this post out: Hearing and Reading the Word of God (The Spiritual Disciplines-Part 1) Or, if that looks interesting, here is a post with links to each installment of that series.

Throw off the Chains of Lawlessness, Teens

(The puppy here is saying “ah, lawless, of whom I am the worst.”)

Lawlessness. The whole thing fills me with rage at times. I certainly have experience with being lawless, and I ain’t perfect, but for someone who has struggled with doubting the validity of the claims of Christ, lawlessness in the Church and lawlessness in churches across the USA (however real or Bible-believing those churches are) certainly does not help. Yes, it’s the old “hypocrite” tagline of the rebellious rejecting Christ. But… sometimes it’s true.

The sad thing is, despite the new generation of millennials thinking they had it all down, they only find new ways to be lawless. While they criticize “the old people” for being legalistic and uncaring, they are busy watching terrible TV shows, making fun of the righteous, listening to music that flies in the face of what Christianity stands for, making up reasons to justify drinking, making up reasons to justify doing drugs, makng up reasons to justify their lack of a prayer life, and making up reasons to justify their spiritual ignorance. Go ahead. Every other generation did it before you.

What has been is what will be,

   and what has been done is what will be done,

   and there is nothing new under the sun.

Thank you, Solomon.

But. If you want to be different. If you want to prove yourself. If you want to be a real Christian that is a shining example of Christ… Change.

When you look at a TV show, (before getting into the plot) ask yourself “is this good for my spiritual walk?” You could even ask “is this something Jesus would watch and enjoy?” If you have good, Christian parents or grandparents, try to imagine if they would watch it. I know, like, that leaves two shows that are both cheesy and have terrible acting. (Yes, I am talking about When Calls the Heart. I hate that show.) But maybe the point of this life isn’t to watch TV shows and talk to your friends about them (just maybe). Maybe you can find a book, or get into a hobby that doesn’t depend on sinful creators.

When you see people who seem really spiritual, don’t immediately doubt them. Sure, lots of people are proud or plain-old hypocrites. (Take me, for example.) But you might still be able to learn from them. The minute you criticize is the minute you stop learning. Criticism is the enemy of learning. And also the enemy of worship. I feel like I heard that somewhere. Hmm…

When you listen to music, listen to the words. If they swear, you might just throw it out (whoa!). Obviously, popular songs are hard to avoid. But you can push them out of your own life. Here are a few music substitutes if you need something to listen to:

  • Celtic music. You can find this really easily on Spotify or Pandora. Yes, some of the songs have little bits of pagan traditions, and sometimes the words are just weird, but often you can’t hear the words well or they’re in another language. Also, French love songs are nice, because they’re really beautiful, but you don’t know what they’re saying.
  • Jewish music. I specifically listen to The Jewish Starlight Orchestra. Most of the songs are really upbeat and sound very fun and innocent. Most of them are in Yiddish. Don’t tell people you listen to this kind of Jewish music because they’ll look at you weird, but do try it out, you might enjoy it.
  • Native American Whistle. Yay, more pagan music! But seriously, it’s super calming and makes a good background.
  • Good-old classical. I love classical music, and currently it’s kind of hip (so is reading) so jump on the bandwagon and love it.
  • And, if you don’t have an eclectic ear like I do, just go with a good Owl City, or someone even more Christian. There is a ton of good music out there.

Before I get onto the next bit, I want to say that this problem, of the ones listed here, is probably the most frequent rearing of the head of lawlessness in my life. It’s so easy for me to listen to songs that just aren’t good, and I’m trying to work through it. These are my substitutes, and they work good if I can get myself to ignore other music I might want to listen to at the time.

If you have friends who justify alcohol, or if you want to justify it… just don’t. Sure, I can’t nail down what the Bible says about it, and maybe it’s okay if you just don’t get drunk. But alcohol ruins lives. You don’t need it. Drink grape juice. Drink ground-up weeds (if you’d like to substitute for beer). Drink pop. (Hey, we have great pop in America.) And, while we’re on the topic of drinking, don’t get addicted to caffeine. Christ is master, nothing else.

On drugs… You don’t need to go very far to realize that it’s not what Christ wants you doing. Just say no. Hey, Nancy is still relevant today. And probably still wearing Reagan Red in Heaven.

Reagan

Now on to things we should be doing.

Prayer is important. It works. Not really, God works, but you know what I mean. I neglect it  on a daily basis. I know I should pray, but I’d rather listen to a podcast. I know I should talk to God, but I really just want to read before I fall asleep. Here’s how I temporarily get back into prayer (it’s not really a long-term answer, but it works.) I confess my sin. If I’m not really willing to confess a certain thing, I’ll just ask him to teach me about it, to soften my heart, and to make himself real to me. Most of these confessions just end with a lot of crying, so it really softens me up to talk to God more. Then sometimes I remember to pray for other people. So, it isn’t perfect, and I’m not where I want to be, but I am growing and changing and staying being humbled about it.

If you are ignorant about spiritual things, don’t stay that way. Figure stuff out. Read the Word. Choose a short book of the Bible and read through the whole thing in a nice, romantic, sunny afternoon. You might choose Philippians or James or a minor Prophet. If you have more time (which you will, if you free yourself from terrible TV shows in your life), you can even read Ecclesiastes in one sitting or the Gospel of John. Why read books all at once? Well, first of all, it keeps you from having to stick to a daily, list-checking ritual that can get really boring, and it also helps you understand the whole of a passage better. After you start reading, try memorizing (it’s not that hard and there’s something really enjoyable about it).

You don’t have to look like every other worldly teen. You can be different. I can be different. We can change. It may not always be hip. It may not always win you points. But it will be pleasing to God, and if you call yourself a Christian, that should mean something to you.

And, on a personal note, I’m not trying to put myself on a pedestal and tell you how you can be like me. I am a terrible person, and that is why I need Christ. I have struggles just like you do, and that’s why I can relate. So, if I come across as proud… well, I guess I am a fairly proud person, probably even more than I realize. But, I’m sorry, and I’m not trying to be mean, just give you what I can.

This is my last real blog post as I will be leaving for the Summer months. Thank you for reading.

Why I’m Pro-Life

A couple weeks ago, I asked all of you readers why you are pro-life. I heard different perspectives and different reasons. Here is an explanation from a friend of mine:

I’m a Bible-believing Christian. I believe that when God tells us what to do -or not to do- that we should listen and be obedient to what He asks. God says not to murder and abortion is murder. And as [my brother] told me, babies have just as much genetic information at conception as a grown human does.  -Leanna

And here is a quote from another good friend:

I am pro-life because every life is valuable. Every single person is made in the image of God and has dignity and value because of Him. No life is worthless or a burden. Every life is a treasure. Every human being on the face of the earth was intricately designed by God. At the moment of each person’s conception, God put a seal around their cells to keep them safe and secure. Life is a miracle. That’s why I am pro-life. -Christina

This is from a great friend who “wished to remain anonymous.”

I am pro-life because the unborn live and have the right to live just as much as everyone else. We have to remember that once all of us were unborn. Think back to when you were inside your mother. What would you say? Kill me? Or let me live!!! Abortion is also sinful. God designs a baby very carefully in Heaven and then before it’s born some of us humans kill it. Abortion is awful and I am pro-life because murdering babies is wrong. -An Anonymous Blog Reader

This is from one of my Grandmas:

I am pro-life because the Bible takes a stand on the sanctity of life: “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works and that my soul knows well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed, and in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Psalm 139:13-16, NKJV). I had five child birth experiences and I cannot imagine any of them not being a part of my life. I do not feel that we as humans have the right to decide if another human has the “right” to live. If God created that person, He has a reason and a purpose for them in His world. -Dawn

And another grandma…

“Just think, you are not here by chance, but by God’s choosing you. His hand formed you, He made you the person you are. He compares you to no one else — you’re on of a kind. You lack nothing His grace can’t give you. He has allowed you to be here at this time in history to fulfill His special purpose for this generation.” ― Roy Lessin
Psalm 139:13-14 KJV13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.  -Jane

Here is a response from someone I don’t really know:

I am pro-life because life itself is a precious gift from God. Murder is wrong in any form. But to kill a defenseless, innocent baby because of circumstances beyond that child’s control cannot be justified. The law of the land may say that we have the legal right to do so, but the truth of God that is written on the heart of every human being states otherwise. -Cheryl

Here is a contact form where you can add your response or voice your support of murder:

 

Don’t Worry

In Matthew, the first book of the Gospels in the Bible, we hear these words from Jesus: Do not worry. Or, as the English Standard Version says, “Do not be anxious.” But we don’t really follow that… It could be our culture, it could be our sin nature, but it’s probably both.

All our friends worry. If we simply understood that Christ is in control, we would seem snooty, as if we didn’t care that others had problems.

Well, that comes from a wrong idea of what “Do not worry” means. We’re not meant to go around joyfully singing about how wonderful life is. The Bible says we should mourn with those who mourn. We should express care.

But. Worry is sin. And so, when we catch ourselves thinking negatively, we need to ask ourselves “Am I being smart? Am I thinking about things in their proper light? Or am I worrying?”

If we are worrying, we must ask Christ to grant us peace.

It is not a peace that defies social standing, but it surely defies social constructs.

When we face trials, do we worry and ‘fret’ about it as if we need to come up with a way to change our circumstances, or do we smile to the one who really does have power and who gave us the trial in the first place?

That is my word to you this week, and to myself. Let’s just give our worries to Christ.

 

Why are you pro-life?

I love life, and I think every other human should have a chance at loving life. Not just my friends, but also non-believers, people of religions, and those that haven’t even been born yet. It’s just not right to say that at one person’s call, they can kill someone who doesn’t even have a way to argue for themselves.

So that’s a short way that I explain why I am pro-life. Why are you pro-life?

I want to compile all of your answers to that question and put them in an upcoming post. Just fill out the form below.

4 Noble Truths Every Christian Should Know About Buddhism

In recent years (and even decades) Buddhism and other eastern philosophies have been encroaching upon the west. Surely, we have no need to fear it. It’s just more stupidity in the sea… adding a few gallons of water to the ocean won’t change things too much. But we need to be aware of it, especially now that people who used to embrace Christian philosophies come to accept Buddhist ideas (some without even realizing it). Here are a few quick facts every Christian should know about Buddhism.

#1: Buddhism has crept in to America’s culture.

Here are a few ideas you’ve probably heard before:

  • Follow your heart.
  • Don’t live in the past.
  • Save yourself.

First off, ‘follow your heart’ is a big Disney thing, but you might be surprised to hear that it’s a pretty Buddhist idea. And ‘don’t live in the past’? That’s huge in our culture. Obviously, we know we can’t save ourselves. Christ is the only way, the only truth, the only life. We can only rely on Him. Not ourselves.

But what does this mean to us? Well, I suppose it’s just a reminder to ‘test every spirit.’ You can feel something to be true without it being biblical, and you never really know if you got something from a source that was true. Seek truth in the Word, and don’t depend on the world for your spiritual food. Satan is ready to poison you if you open your mouth.

#2: Buddhism’s teaching, as with most religions, is not 100% false.

Religions arise when people have ideas that seem to make sense. Therefore, religions are not always completely false. Here are a few ideas from Buddhism that illustrate this:

  • Those who are free of resentful thoughts surely find peace.
  • Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.
  • Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.

For the most part, I agree with these statements. But they’re all direct quotes from the Buddha. See what I mean? But here’s where…

#3: Buddhism falls short.

As with all religions, Buddhism just doesn’t cut it. Jesus said that when a man (or a woman) wants to follow him, he or she must give up their possessions and follow him. And, if he left it at that, Buddhism would fit fine. But he didn’t leave it at that. He goes on. He says that the kingdom of God and the things that he can give you are worth so much that you don’t need all those things that you held onto so dearly before. Buddhism says “be unattached,” Jesus says “be attached to me.” Or as He Himself said “Come to me, and I will give you rest.” Buddhism falls short. It is stupid and lacking when compared to the awesomeness of Jesus. But there’s one last thing you should know about Buddhism. (Note: I read about this on DesiringGod.com and found it to be really true, so I decided to steal it from them and put it here. Here’s the post.)

#4: Meditation is Buddhism’s crown jewel.

When I say meditation, I mean the common form of it that thousands of Americans practice, which is “focusing on your breath.” Not emptying your mind or using a mantra (which are common practices in Hindu and Buddhist traditions) but simply focusing on your breath. I am certainly not talking about biblical meditation, which I explain here.

This is one of the largest things Americans like about Buddhism: it carries with it the ancient tradition of meditation, something that’s very calming. And Americans need to calm down! And so, they turn to meditation. Here’s the interesting thing: prayer is very calming! Not only is it calming, but it’s also spiritualy helpful. Why don’t Americans know how awesome prayer is? Because they stopped praying. And that’s when Buddhism snuck in: when Americans stopped praying. Before, lots of Americans prayed. Now, very few have regular habits of prayer. So, if you’re tempted to try meditation, just pray! (Side note, the form of meditation that I have highlighted above doesn’t seem inherintly evil, and it does produce positive effects in the brain that are very observable. But… why take ideas from religion when we have the Bible? There is nothing new under the sun, and no power in religion that has not been given in Christ.) (Oh, and random bonus here: this article and this article both talk about scientific benefits of prayer.)

Please understand: I am not wise, I am not smart, I just know a few things that I want to share. So here they are. I’m a teenager, and you can use your own discretion when taking ideas from me. 🙂

If you feel like you have déjà vu: much of the thoughts in this post were published earlier, but I decided to take that post down and re-write it into something better. So here it is. I hope you found it informative.

Legalism and Lawlessness (well, that’s a loaded topic!)

I’m a 15-year-old Christian, and that naturally means I go to a church youth group. As with many youth groups, there’s kind of a rub (a term first used in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, as I learned the other day) between lawlessness and legalism. In some youth groups, lawlessness reigns because no one wants to be called “legalistic” or “puritanical.” (And please, don’t knock the puritans, they were amazing people that were probably scores higher in spiritual maturity than any of us millennials, despite the foolish ideas of strict moralism that people often spread about them in pop culture. Here were a few amazing puritanical people: Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, and John Bunyan, writer of Pilgrim’s Progress. For more on how awesome and interesting many puritans were, go to the DesiringGod.com archives under the word ‘puritan’.)

Anyway. Not all youth groups have this idea, though. Other youth groups are very legalistic, which is also bad. They all read their Bible every day and pray with the most flowery language and only read the King James Version (or perhaps the NIV, if it’s from 1984).

Legalism and lawlessness are both horrible. Lawlessness will turn you into a worldly fool, and legalism will turn you into a proud ‘pharisee’.

But surely, there’s meant to be a balance. I mean, setting all these rules for yourself and turning Christianity into a religion can’t be a good idea, but neither is swearing, watching R-rated movies, or wearing immodest clothing, right?

First, a few explanations because some people feel the need to attack a few things I just said.

I know, I know, The Passion of the Christ is R-rated, and I should be clear: I’m not about the rating, I’m against the content of most R-rated movies, and I think we can all agree that type of content is biblically wrong. (1 Corinthians 6:18, Philippians 4:8)

Swearing: I’m not really against the words. Again, I’m against the content. Which means I’m also against people alluding to swear words. I just don’t think it’s right. Sorry. But if you’re more concerned with saying what you want to say and fitting in with others than acting like Christ, there might be something wrong. Again, see Philippians 4:8.

Now to dressing immodestly: try to imagine (if you don’t already know) what it’s like to be attracted to someone, and then see them wearing things that show more than you can “safely” see without thinking things that are sinful. I’m not just talking about girls. I’m talking about everyone. We should all wear things that don’t point out specific areas of our body or allude to things. Sure, it’s not your fault if someone sins in their mind. But if you can do anything to help, why don’t you? Another thing I should be clear on: I’m not saying all girls need to always wear skirts. My sisters  and my mother sure don’t always wear skirts. Do whatever you want! Just keep others in mind.

Wow, it took a while to “clear things up,” didn’t it? Now back to the topic at hand.

Yes, there is a balance. It’s called being Christ-like!

Jesus was surely not legalistic. Just read the story in John 8. When Jesus talked to the woman who had been caught in adultery, he didn’t say “You evil woman! You better shape up and pray the rosary fifteen times, or you can never expect me to let you into Heaven.” (Yeah, yeah, they didn’t have the rosary back then, it was invented later by legalistic paganistic Christians; more on that in future posts.) Obviously, He was super kind and cared about the woman a lot. And he knew that laws couldn’t save her. Only He could. But He did say “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

News flash! Jesus doesn’t want us to sin! He wants us to be like Him! And now the question is “how do we become like Christ?” This short post from DesiringGod.com quickly answers this question in the simplest way, but obviously,

are lots of things that Jesus did that we should do.

The sad thing is, if you believe in doing these things (spiritual disciplines) people will often call it legalism. Sure, if you are religious about it and don’t have any heart and tell everyone they’re not saved if they don’t do them, that’s legalism. But there is surely room for people to practice spiritual disciplines. They’re not evil! In fact, failing to practice them is sin if you know they’re right. And you can’t tell me it’s not worthwhile to read your Bible. You know it is, you just don’t want to, and so you criticize people you disagree with and say “they’re just being legalistic, they’re not good Christians.” That, by the way, is called lying to yourself, and we’re all guilty of this but we should watch out for it in our thinking.

And so, I will say, as so many others have said: don’t be legalistic, don’t be lawless. Do what you know what you ought to do, and don’t judge others for doing things or not doing things (also, don’t judge people for judging you!).

…And the word ‘judge’ fires off another line of thought, but here’s the gist of it: judging is fine if it’s in your heart and stated in opinions. It’s fine to say “I don’t think you should do that or watch that or read that or wear that.” It’s not fine to say “If you do that, you’ll go to Hell.” And that’s what judging is. Simply thinking something and stating your opinion is fine, it’s when you condemn others that you go wrong. Yes, I know, “get the log out of your own eye,” but the truth is, some people don’t have logs in their eye! And you should listen to them. Or maybe, they have a ‘log in their eye’ in one area of their life, but in the area they’re talking to you about, they’re great Christians. Listen to people. Don’t judge judgers. Recognize your own faults and find strengths in others. For more on the “don’t judge me” idea, see this. (I love DesiringGod.com)

Oh dear, I’m over 1,000 words and you’ve probably stopped reading now. Anyway, I hope this post cleared up some things in your mind. And if you did read to the end, thank you. I hope it was worth it.

the meditations of the christian

Do you meditate? The answer, no matter who you are, is yes. You meditate on something.

You might meditate on your worries. You might meditate on your sadness. You might meditate on sin. You might meditate on knowledge. You might meditate on people.

Christians should meditate on Truth: The Truth that God Is. The Truth that God loves us. The Truth that He is in control. And the Truth in His Word.

Here are only a few passages where the Bible speaks of meditation, both on His Word and on His Ways: Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:2, Psalm 77:12, and Psalm 119:15.

But we don’t talk about this much in church, and we don’t think about this in our life. We think “Christians pray. Christians read the Bible,” and maybe “Christians go to church.” But those aren’t the only things that Christians should do. We should also practice purposeful meditation. We should not succumb to natural thought; to the worries and fears and thoughts and anger that usually overtakes our mind, we should take control of our thoughts.

So practice purposeful meditation. Choose an attribute of God or a verse to meditate on. Or combine the two: meditate on a verse that talks about God.

If you want to begin a lifelong habit of purposeful meditation, (or you want to revive an old habit,) here’s an idea: work your way through the 23rd Psalm, meditating on each verse until you’re ready to move on to the next verse.

Psalm 23, English Standard Version (ESV)

A Psalm of David.

     The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

I looked for a good verse to meditate on, and finally came to this classic. I think meditating  on this will reveal things I’ve never thought about, and will show me new things.

With this plan, there really is no plan. I’m just gonna start with verse one and move through the passage as I decide to, memorizing and meditating on one verse at a time.

Do you want to do this, too? Fill out the below forum thingy to let me know. I will give updates at some point in the future, possibly by email.

I really feel strongly about chipmunks.