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spirituality

Christmas 2008: A Light In The Darkness

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christmas2008These are tough times in our country and in our world. The economy is in turmoil and uncertainty abounds. Countless businesses that have been around for decades, and some for more than a century, have gone out of business or are in bankruptcy. People have lost their jobs, their houses, their life savings, and their dignity. It’s clearly the worst time our country has had economically since the Great Depression.

I’ll have to admit that the time leading up to Christmas didn’t feel the same this year. Things are just different this year. Not just in the economy, country, and world, but also in my life and my world. My life has changed very significantly since this time last year. I’ve changed my ways of thinking, my ways of doing things, and pretty much anything else you can think of. I have a new job, a lot of new friends, I’m going to a new church, and I have a new, much more positive, outlook on life.

I guess, reflecting on the matter, the reason why the season didn’t feel the same as years past was not because I’ve become more of an adult, but because I’m a big fan of tradition, for one. We’ve always had our family Christmas traditions, and we haven’t done as many of them as in years past. I’ve also become very busy with work, school, and starting up my own business. It just feels like there’s no time to soak in the spirit of the season and enjoy the holidays this year.

I tried to “un-busy” myself by not putting up as many Christmas lights at the house this year (I usually string them up like Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation), and focus on what’s important. I have done that more, but still found myself incredibly busy with other things.

No matter what, though, I always get that same wonderful Christmas feeling in my heart at least a few days before Christmas Day. I’m totally in the spirit now. Everything in life has changed for me, but I find comfort and joy in the fact that Christmas will never lose its meaning, significance, or specialness to me. It may be that I don’t completely feel it for the whole season anymore because of how busy life has gotten, but Christmas itself will always be the same.

The reason for Christmas has become even more meanful to me as I’ve started to study the bible more and grow even more in my Christian journey, and it’s really cool to be able to focus more wholeheartedly on the “reason for the season.” God bless everyone, thanks for reading my blog throughout the year, and have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Following Christ: Duty Or Delight?

By | life, opinion, spirituality | No Comments

I was incredibly inspired by the sermon this morning at Redemption Hill Church. There were so many things packed into one half-hour message it was amazing. The first question posed was a very thought-provoking one: Is following Jesus a duty that you perform or a delight that you have? It’s a very, very good question, and one that I never really gave much thought to.

How many of us have gone to church all our lives and never really stopped to think about why? It sounds strange, but chew on that for a second. I think we can become complacent over time and even start going for the wrong reasons, whether we think it’s just because we’re supposed to or to gain the acceptance of others, or a plethora of other reasons.

I feel that I’ve been this way throughout my walk with Christ for far too long. It’s only been recently, through the sermons and small groups of Redemption Hill, that I’ve really examined myself to see my true motives for why I do what I do. What I’ve found is that for at least the past 3-5 years, I’ve made going to church more of a dutiful thing than a delight. The thing I’ve come to realize is that once you really take a look at how God is working in your life and helping you to become the person you’re supposed to be, you’re filled with a sense of joy unlike anything else in this world. As that’s happened to me over the past month or so, I’ve begun to take great delight in both attending church and striving to live my life in a way that honors God. I have an understanding of myself and of God that I’ve never quite had before, and it’s a beautiful thing.

The next question that was posed was also a good one: Do you follow Jesus hoping that he’ll love you? What difference would it make for you to follow Jesus because He loves you? How is the source of motivation different? This is a powerful question. As human beings, we tend think that if we do more things that please God, He will love and accept us more, when in fact this is totally backwards. Jesus loves each and every person unconditionally, no matter their situation or how much (or little) they honor Him with their lives. The basic message of Christianity is Christ’s love, and this is the foundation of that principle.

Once we fully understand these two questions fully, I think we’re more inclined to delight in following Christ. I know it’s completely changed my outlook. We’re also more inclined to spread the love and joy of Jesus once we realize our glory is secured by the fact that Christ has died for us, and not based on how we follow Him. That’s not to say we shouldn’t live God-honoring lives. That’s paramount, but all too often this is the only message that is conveyed about Christianity. The message posed in these two questions is the one I think needs to be shared more often with non-Christians. Unconditional acceptance and love is the quintessential meaning of Jesus.

Finding A New Church Home

By | life, opinion, spirituality | One Comment

I’d like to preface this post by saying I started going to the church I attended up until this Sunday in mid-2003. There’s no need to mention its name to the masses here on the Interweb because this isn’t meant to be a knock on them. That being said, some of you from Redemption Hill probably know where I’ve been attending. I’d like to share my church history with you all to help you understand what point I’m at in my life and walk with Christ. It’s a bit long, but I hope you’ll take the time to read it.

I’ve considered myself a Christian since I was old enough to understand what it meant, maybe a little older. But only recently have I understood what it means to be a follower of Christ. I’ve grown to understand that Christian and Christ follower are not synonymous, contrary to my thinking for years. Anyone can say they’re Christian, but there are a lot of people that fail to back up this statement with the way they live out their lives. Anyone can “talk the talk,” but a smaller number actually “walk the walk.”

I feel like I’ve been one of those people. Sure, I’ve always gone to church most every Sunday, I pray, and consider myself a pretty good person. But lately I’ve really taken the time to examine myself and my actions, and realized that those things, while good, aren’t nearly enough. Truth be told, I’ve never actually read the Bible in any depth before. That’s probably the biggest thing, and I guess that’s because I’ve never connected with a small group that’s motivated me to take my faith to the next level. Truth be told, it was always difficult to connect with anyone in the congregation at my former church, my age or otherwise. The people always seemed cold to a certain extent, even when I made a concious effort to connect with them. It was just the demeaner of the church, I suppose.

Throughout my half-decade at this particular church, I began to get heavily involved in several ministry teams. I started by running the on-screen lyrics and video in the back of the auditorium. I then transitioned to the multimedia team, where I helped edit videos that the church produced to coincide with the coming week’s Sunday morning message. I found this work very rewarding at first, mainly because I saw how people were touched, and even came to Christ, on various occasions after seeing the end result of our production efforts. But after a while, I started to get burnt out and realized I wasn’t volunteering for the right reasons anymore.

I was basically volunteering my time because I was pressured to do so by others and because I felt obligated. I therefore no longer received the joy that came from seeing how peoples’ lives were touched by our productions. I took some time off from my duties to take a step back and see if it was what the Lord was calling me to do or not. I didn’t get an answer right away, but that didn’t mean He wasn’t listening to my prayers. Everything is done in God’s time, not ours, which I think we all fail to remember from time to time.

To make an incredibly long story a bit shorter, it was when I returned to the ministry that I realized it was not where God wanted me to be. The Technology Director, whom I worked under, and I had major personality differences. He, as well with most leaders of this organization, are very rigid, structured people who focus on putting on a big, polished production every Sunday. I, on the other hand, am very laid back and not into the high-pressure environment that encompassed the church. I also felt that it got to the point where there was much more focus put on aesthetics and putting on a show than nurturing personal relationships with Christ. The church is run very much like a corporate office.

I do realize that the goal of this church is to reach people who have always been turned off to church, never liked it, or would otherwise never give it a chance. At the same time, though, I think too much attention was put on bringing new people in, and not enough was put on fostering growth of those already there. The “turnover rate” that I’ve seen clearly exhibits this.

I started feeling the same way. My soul hungered for more than the church was providing. I even attended a few small groups but didn’t seem to connect with the people or the curriculum. But I still talked with Kamen, who I met when we volunteered together at this church in the video production team, on a regular basis, and he told me about Redemption Hill. Before long I decided to give it a try.

I’ve visited Redemption Hill 3 times, and I just have to say I’ve never been anywhere quite like it. The first morning I walked into Linwood Holton Elementary, I didn’t know what to expect. My family is still attending the other church, so I came by myself, and sat in the back. Not even a minute or two later, three people my age had come by and said hello, and before I knew it there was a whole group surrounding me. These people took me in and treated me just as if we’d been friends for years. It may not be a big deal to people who are used to that simple gesture of kindness, but it meant the world to me. I almost couldn’t believe it, simply for the fact that it was so unlike anything that would ever happen at my former church. At that church, you could attend every week and remain completely anonymous if you so chose. At Redemption Hill, I found that’s not the case, and I really think that’s a great thing. I really want to thank you all for being so warm and inviting. It really gave me renewed hope in what a church could be. I also attended one of the small group meetings at the Goodletts’ home and connected with the group and the discussion immediately.

Over the past month or so since I first attended, I’ve been back to my old church a few times, partly because my family still attends there, and partly because I was still thinking and praying over where I was supposed to be. It meant a lot to me that you guys cared enough to call, text, and send me messages on Facebook asking where I was on those weeks.

I’m happy to say that after that month of deliberation, I’ve found a new church home at Redemption Hill. I’ll be attending every Sunday now. I’m looking foward to entering this new chapter in my life, and I know that God has led me here for a reason. I also look foward to growing in Christ along with each and every one of you. Thanks for showing me the love of Christ with your actions. I’m excited to have finally found a new church home.

What Would You Do With Just One Month To Live?

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If you found out today that you had just one month to live, what would you do with those thirty precious days? How would you change? What things in your day-to-day life would become instantly unimportant and which things insanely valuable? This is all the focus of a book I just started reading entitled “One Month To Live: Thirty Days To A No-Regrets Life.” It’s written by Kerry and Chris Shook, founding pastors (husband and wife) of Woodlands Church in Texas, a megachurch with more than 15,000 regular attenders.

The book is divided up into daily readings that will help you understand how you spend your time and what’s important to you, as well help you face and then embrace your own mortality, which they say will ultimately set you free to live your life to the fullest and seek out God’s perfect plan for your life.

The most interesting thing I read so far was right in the introduction. It explains that people diagnosed with a terminal illness face their mortality and they instantly live their lives differently, but few people live their day-to-day lives like that.

I’m excited to delve into this book and really feel it will have a lasting impact on my life and help me change a lot of the things I need to work on, like how I spend my time, what my priorities are, and what’s most important to me.

I look forward to posting an update a month from now to tell you how reading this book has impacted my life.

Summer Goal #6: Change My Ways Of Thinking

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Life is what you make of it. The old saying that life is 10% what happens and 90% what you do about it is spot on. I’ve always thought of myself as a glass-half-full kind of person, but I need to do better. In order to implement all of the self-improvement plans I’ve blogged about this week, I need to change my ways of thinking. I’ve got to set my sights high and reach for what now looks impossible. A little confidence and positive attitude goes a long way, and combined with prayer, God will reveal in my life exactly what I’m supposed to do and what path I’m supposed to take. Everything that’s meant to be will work out in the end.

Forgive And Forget

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Pastor Rick gave a profoundly impacting message at church this morning. It was all about forgiving those who have wronged you in the past and appologizing to those you’ve wronged yourself. I think everyone has both of these situations in their lives with at least one person, and I’m no exception. I generally don’t hold grudges against anyone, but there are one or two people who I need to apologize to for certain things. They’re actually mutual situations so I hope that by being the bigger person and reaching out to them to apologize, they might, too. But even if not, it will still make me feel better to right the wrong.

God forgives us for our sins by coming into a relationship with His son, Jesus Christ, and He commands us to do the same to others. He proclaims that there is nothing more essential in life than loving other people, and that’s essentially the basis of Christianity. That being said, I have a bit of work to do to make things right again in my life with a few people.

Powerful Lifehouse Drama About Life’s Temptations

By | music, spirituality, videos | One Comment

A friend of mine showed me this video clip yesterday and it was so incredibly powerful it brought me to tears. It literally sends chills down my spine. It’s amazingly impacting. Watch for yourself and see if it doesn’t do the same thing to you. It’s all about a girl’s struggle with so many things that took her away from the unwavering love of Jesus. She’s pushed down by so many negative influences, but in the end she realizes He is always there with open arms to take her back and make her new again. We’ve all done this and I have certainly done this myself, and it’s the most incredible feeling in the world to know that God is always there to catch you when you fall or go astray.

You can check out the video below. It’s done to the music of the Lifehouse song “Everything.” Please give it a watch. I promise it will be well worth your time.

 

 

What’s Bothering Me So Much That I’m Awake At 4:45 AM?

By | life, spirituality | 2 Comments

It’s 4:45 AM and I’m up writing because I just can’t sleep. Something’s bothering me and I can’t figure out what exactly. I know bits and pieces of it, but not the entire thing, hence my writing it out to try and get a handle on what it is. Part of it is the fact that I just feel like a hamster spinning on a wheel lately. Why? Because I have so many different projects running (web projects, personal projects, etc.) that I just can’t seem to get finished. I can start fifty of them but can’t ever finish one. Two examples I can think of at the moment are my Downtown Short Pump website and the Deep Run Marathon Dance DVD I need to have completed soon (that one will get done because I have a deadline, but I’m having a hard time getting around to it for various reasons).

The other reason I can’t sleep is I keep having these dreams lately that my life is completely stagnant and not going anywhere. I just woke up from one. Well, I suppose they aren’t exactly dreams, but rather subconscious feelings I have as I sleep because I still feel them for a while when they wake me up during the night. It’s hard to describe, but it’s this feeling that my life is two-dimensional and I’m just going through the motions, doing insignificant, meaningless things just because they’re part of a routine or something. It’s driving me insane at the moment trying to figure out the root of these feelings because they’re not an isolated chain of thoughts. I know the fact that I’m going absolutely nowhere isn’t completely true because I have some things going for me right now, but I have this nagging discontent that I just can’t seem to shake. I really need to figure it out.

One more thing is that everything in my life feels so fluid right now. Sometimes it feels like I’m on one of those moving sidewalks, like at the airport. I’m moving on down the line while everyone and everything else goes on by, or vice versa. Either way I feel out of place in my own life and the worst part is I can’t figure out what I need to do to change it.

It’s not like I’m necessarily searching for something of greater meaning in my life beyond the temporary thrills, because I have really focused on putting God at the center of my life more than ever in recent days. It really is true that by doing that, many of life’s problems seem to be less complex. At the same time, however, I don’t think I’m where I need to be.

There are also moments when I have these very satisfying feelings of thinking I’m just a few steps away from being where I need to be and being totally content in my life, but once again I don’t know what it is I need to do or change to get to that point. It goes much deeper in some ways, but as open and transparent as I am about my personal life, that’s as far as I think I can take it on my very public blog. There’s just only so much you can say without unintentionally offending certain people (and that could happen because sometimes you can’t judge someone’s tone by reading words on a screen as opposed to having a face-to-face conversation).

These are all things I’m going to pray about and ask God for guidance with in my life, as well as talk to other people about. I just thought that if I was awake and couldn’t sleep, it might help to write it all out. At the same time, though, if you’d like to offer up any suggestions via a comment, please do so as it would be much appreciated.