Monday, January 26, 2015

You say you are a christian...

     You say you are a christian. You say you love God. You say you know Jesus. Are you? Do you? The following are MY observations, MY thoughts, MY opinions. YOU do NOT have to agree with me. I am NOT judging anyone in particular. I am NOT claiming that I know everything nor am I claiming perfection. This post is about 5 years in the making but five years ago I wouldn't have shared this publicly for fear of offending someone. Now I fear offending God for not posting it more than I fear the possibility of offending any person I know.
     I do say that I am a christian. I do say that I love God. I do say that I know Jesus as my personal savior. I do sin. I do mess up. I do fall short. I do have to ask for forgiveness daily. I do, however also strive EVERY day to live a life worthy of the forgiveness given me, worthy of the grace shown to me, worthy of the sacrifice that my precious Jesus made on the cross.
     I have heard it said that " christians are just a bunch of hypocrites. " I beg to differ. I believe that if you separate true christians from just those claiming to be christians you can see a difference. Anyone paying attention should be able to see God in a person whose heart is right with God. If you can't see God portrayed in someone's every day normal life, that probably means that HE isn't there. If God isn't there and they claim that HE is, well, that is where the hypocritical part comes into play..
     If you think that this "God and Jesus " stuff is just a bunch of nonsense then you won't really care what I have to say next. If you think the Bible is just a bunch of made up stories, then you won't care what I have to say next. If you don't believe that heaven or hell exists, you won't care what I have to say next.Good luck to you if you don't care what I have to say next.
     Attending church, even on a regular basis, does NOT make you a christian. There are people who attend church every Sunday, give when the offering plate is passed, say the right things, shake the right hands, and then upon pulling out of the church parking lot, drop the F bomb when someone cuts them off in traffic before they even reach home. This particular group of individuals are commonly referred to as "pew sitters". Sunday morning church is just for show and after that hour is up, all bets are off for the next 6 days. Faith is within the heart, not within the four walls of a building. Having said that, church does serve several purposes. If we place ourselves within the correct one there should be a majority of like minded people there with the same intent and purposes. That time of fellowship with like minded people can encourage us. We can share our daily struggles with people who truly love and care for us, people who will pray for us, people who will offer support in whatever way they can when and if we ever need it. Taking time out of your life to attend church, whether it be once a week or three, forces us to be still and reflect on God. I have heard people say, " well, I can just worship God at home." and while it is true that our entire lives should be about worshiping God, I wonder how many of those people actually take a period of time out of their day to really worship God. With the right congregation, we can flourish in our relationship with God, as well as make relationships with people that can last a lifetime. In the right place, with the right people , church can be our solace, our comfort, our encouragement, our lifeline, and somewhere we look forward to being at.
     Simply believing in God does NOT make you a christian. Even Satan believes in God. We must have a personal relationship with HIM. You must love HIM. You must trust HIM. You must obey HIM .God is our heavenly father and just as our earthly father, in order to have a relationship with HIM, love HIM, trust HIM, and obey HIM, we must spend time with HIM. To have a relationship with HIM means you must know HIM first. How does one get to know God? Yeah, that is where it will require some effort and time from you. You must spend some time talking to HIM otherwise known as prayer. By prayer, I don't mean just asking for everything your heart desires. Prayer involves asking, thanking, interceding for others, humbling yourself, and revealing yourself to HIM , the real you, not the you that the rest of the world sees. Prayer is only the tip of the iceberg. To know HIM is to trust and obey HIM. Only by reading and studying HIS word can you learn of HIS promises and expectations. Don't want to put forth that much time and effort? You will never know HIM and HE will never know you.
      Being a good person does NOT make you a christian. Some of the most generous , kindest people I know will not spend eternity in heaven. You simply can't do anything big enough or wonderful enough on this earth to earn your way in. Salvation isn't earned, it's given, but only to those who ask for forgiveness of their sins and turn away from those sins. You can be the person who gives a stranger the shirt and shoes off of your body, writes a check to the homeless shelter every month, and volunteers at the local soup kitchen on a weekly basis and if you aren't willing to give up the sin in your life, none of the good you do will make any difference when judgement day rolls around. I am not saying that I or any other christian is sinless. Roman 3:23 states that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. ALL is pretty encompassing. ALL of us sin. What makes the difference is what we do after we sin. If we have God in our life we feel convicted and ask forgiveness and strive to not repeat that sin. Without God , we feel no conviction, do not for forgiveness, and repeat the same sin over and over and over. No matter how kind you are, how generous you are, how loving you are, or how good you are, if you are not willing to lay your sin down, ask for forgiveness and live for God, you aren't a christian. What does living for God entail? Well, that goes back to reading and studying the word of God. If you don't read it and know what it says, you can't possibly live it.
     Saying you are a christian does NOT make you a christian. So, what makes someone a christian? Being a christian means you love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. That means that HE is your priority, HE is your focus, and everything you do, say, or think is done, said, and thought to please HIM. Your life becomes less about you and more about HIM. You care less about what the world thinks and more about what HE thinks.
     I have recently began to weed some things out of my life to make it easier for me to live the way that I know I should. It has been easier than I thought it would to decide what could go and what could stay. It has been very simple really. I ask myself a very simple question. Would I say this if God himself was sitting right beside of me? Would I do this if God himself was sitting right beside of me? Would I watch this or read this if God himself was sitting right beside of me. If the answer is clearly no, then I do not say it, do it, watch it, or read it. If it wouldn't please God then I will not allow it to be pleasing to me. The more I do this, the more I realize how much junk I have allowed to come between me and my God. It has been an eye opening experience and I have been forced to humble myself more than once and ask for forgiveness but it has also brought me that much closer to HIM and I have realized that there is nothing here on this wretched earth worth spending eternity in hell for.
     I do not determine who makes it into heaven and who spends eternity in hell. Only God makes that call and only HE knows every heart. Here is what I do know , Matthew 7:13-14 says "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Simply put, there is a wide road that leads to hell and MANY travel that road. There is a narrow road that leads to heaven and FEW find it. Considering those odds, if you say you are a christian you need to make sure you know what that means and then you better make sure you are living as one.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Just my opinion...

     I just read a blog concerning the apparent epidemic of suicides at Appalachian State this year. According to the American College Health Association (ACHA) the suicide rate among young adults, ages 15-24, has tripled since the 1950s and suicide is currently the second most common cause of death among college age students. These young people are often away from home and friends for the first time. They're living with strangers, far from their support systems, and working under intense pressure - with disrupted sleeping, eating and exercise patterns. You could hardly design a more stressful atmosphere.
     I have a theory about a few other reasons why there is a rise in suicide among young adults . It's called reality and my fear is that we aren't sending our children out into the real world equipped to handle the real cruel world.It wasn't too many generations ago that children , elementary school aged children, woke up before the sun, dressed, trudged to the outhouse and then went straight to the barn to milk the cows and gather eggs for their breakfast. After sucking down breakfast, they WALKED to school and they did this every day whether it was 80 degrees outside or 5. Starting last year , local area schools began delaying the school day when the temps were to be extremely cold. I don't like to roll out of bed when it is cold outside either but the reality is that the world doesn't stop turning just because it is below 10 degrees.
     I had my first job at age 16. I didn't work for play money either, I worked to pay for my car insurance and gas money to drive back and forth to school. I see less and less teens having to work for anything they have . Here is what I see : Teens driving not to work, but to a friends house to party or hang out in cars paid for by their parents, filled with gas with money that mom or dad handed them as they walked out the door, and insurance premiums paid by none other than the same mom and dad.
     There are so many things that the generation being raised up right now depends on and takes for granted that the generation before them did not have. I did not own a cell phone until I was 25 years old. Today the average 2nd grader owns the newest Iphone paid for by mom and dad. I am not sure why a 2nd grader would need an Iphone but I have noticed that even elementary school aged children have become increasingly lazier to do actual book work. If you hand them a worksheet with a 3 paragraph story and 6 questions about the story on it, half of the class will gather around the teachers desk asking for help with the answers. They don't want to have to look for them, they just want you to show them where the answer is like google would do.
     I am terrible at following directions...the driving kind. I was no better when I was younger. I now own a GPS but up until 2 years ago there were times when I drove around in circles trying to figure out where I was. Up until GPS everybody used maps to get from one place to another. Now, nobody has to guess how long it will take to drive to a destination , or the best route to get there. We are always just a few clicks away from having instant directions, best routes, driving times, and heck, if you want, a list of dining and hotel options along the way. Children don't have to pay attention to where the car they are riding in is turning to get to where they are going. They won't have to remember. Their time is better spent sitting in the backseat watching a movie on the built in DVD player , playing a game on their Iphone, or taking a selfie to post on Instagram. I mean, why look up and pay attention? Mom and dad will make sure they have GPS so they don't get lost, right?
     My point is, everything is just too easy . Nobody has to work to figure anything out anymore. Critical reasoning skills have been lost. A friend of mine has a daughter who soon will be moving away to college. I have noticed that way too often her sentences begin with " Hey Mom, should I...?" Her questions aren't life altering decisions such as " Hey, Mom should I go to this college or that one?" it is usually something simple as " Hey Mom, should I have a bagel or fruit for breakfast?" Now this could be a case of her valuing her mother's opinion and I really hope it is. I truly hope that it isn't because she lacks the self confidence to make simple decisions on her own. If it is difficult for her to decide whether to wear the tennis shoes or the black flats with her jeans and sweater on her own without Mom's input, how much harder is it going to be to make the decision whether to attend the party down the hall in college or stay in and study for Monday's big test?
     Today's child only needs to show up to get a trophy. Today's child has the latest and best in technology at their fingertips and does nothing to earn it.Today's child has helicopter parents making every decision for them and never allowing them to fail. Today's child looks more greedy and self absorbed than any other generation. Today's child lives in a world that less and less takes personal responsibility for anything. Today's child is tomorrow's college adults and have absolutely no idea how to handle having to actually earn rather than be given. They can't make decisions for themselves and can't emotionally deal with failure. They can't take their noses out of the Iphone long enough to handle real world social interactions. They don't take personal responsibility because they have never had to .Today's child is overwhelmed when thrown out into the real world called college.
     Yes, this is my opinion and you may or may not share it. Yes , it is harsh and perhaps a little judgmental. I am not in any way shape or form saying that ALL children or college students fall onto this category. I am just forming my own opinions and theory based on time spent with young to upper teen children. It is perfectly okay for you to disagree with me and I won't be crushed when you do. I am capable of dealing with that because I live in the real world where your opinion of my opinion doesn't determine my emotional and mental stability.