Why I Only Agree With 80% Of What You Just Said

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 2/15/2021

I’ve got a weird rule. No really, it’s something I use everyday when talking to anyone. It’s the 80% rule. What’s the 80% rule exactly?

Well if I find myself agreeing with someone more than 80% of the time, then I need to step back and find where we disagree. It’s a checks and balances sort of rule where I prevent myself from agreeing too much with anyone. Why do I have this rule? For a few reasons.

Why 80% and not some other percentage?

Honestly, it just makes sense to me. If I were to choose another percentage like 47% or 90%, then it doesn’t seem realistic. For instance, there are people who you and I agree with a lot.

Whether it’s a coworker, a spouse, or even someone you grew up with like a friend or a neighbor. There’s just some people we genuinely agree with the vast majority of the time and that’s okay. Everybody knows someone who they know well and almost always agrees with them. This rule of mine is applied to those circumstances too because it’s often the case that the people we know most are the ones we either strongly agree or disagree with in life.

Speaking of disagreements, let’s talk about family.

For example, my siblings are a great case study of this dilemma. We all grew up in the same home, with the same parents, under the same rules, and were given the same values. Yet now that we’re adults, we have the freedom to truly find who we are and it’s both strikingly similar or even a stark difference to how we were raised. Some of us are literal copies of our parents in how we behave, how we say certain things, and even what we believe about specific ideas. Then again, in adulthood all 5 of us do have a few key differences.

For starters, we’re just not the same on a personality level. Going by the Enneagram we’re all different numbers: Rachel (Type 1 – Moral Perfectionist), John (Type 3 – Successful Achiever), Me (Type 5 – Intellectual Thinker), Corban (Type 4 – Romantic Individualist), and Nathan (Type 6 – Loyal Guardian). Worldview-wise some of us are Christian, while some of us are not. Even then, my Christian worldview is not the same as those other Christian siblings either.

Politically, you can’t get more diverse. We have a centrist, two conservatives, a liberal, and a libertarian. To put it mildly, family gatherings can be a firecracker of an event when we’re all together and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Putting the 80% rule into practice.

We need more diversity in our disagreements. One of the main motivations for me avoiding talking to anyone online is because people have forgotten how to disagree. I don’t want echo chambers, but I don’t want a Facebook fight night either. I want civil discourse on important discussions. So I choose to have those in-person where we share the same space and I can see how they feel.

I dare you to disagree with me, but not at the cost of who you are as a person. I’d rather people freely leave Christianity, then be bound into believing it. There’s a hot take for you. Now have at it in the comments section you bastards of sin!

In all seriousness, it’s okay to be in the minority when it comes to what you believe. It’s also okay to be in the majority. Know what you’re about and stand by it with dignity. Question everything and when you’ve found the answer, then be content with it. Regardless, avoid for dear life the cognitive dissonance of agreeing 100% with anyone because that’s how cults get made and dictators rise.

My disagreements with God.

Can I be honest? When Christians don’t disagree with God it concerns me tremendously. I have strong disagreements with God and yet still choose to live my life submitted to his will for it. Why? Well God’s personal like you and me, therefore we’re going to disagree on some things.

When I see people who don’t disagree with God on anything, I then wonder if they also share this with other people they wholeheartedly follow no matter what they do. That’s called worship and the only one worthy of that is God. Even in my disagreements with God, I can acknowledge that absolute fact of reality that only he deserves our worship.

Unlike humans he’s not broken, corrupted, or flawed. He is perfectly good and that’s good enough for me to agree to his plan for my life. I’d encourage everyone to do the same, but only if you agree to it. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels

Greatness

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 1/30/2021

What is greatness?

Is it being blameless?

Aimless or even famous?

What’s the basis of greatness?

Some say that it’s to be a world famous celebrity.

A person who actualizes into their own manifest destiny.

Etching their earthly impact onto the past pages of history.

And yet how will these crude crusades actually impact eternity?

When the dust finally settles, will we look at what we did apologetically?

For most of us, we’re not brave enough to reconsider our self-made legacy.

Is the cost of fame always the same?

Lurking in our own shadows of shame?

In the hope that someone knows our name?

Who do we blame for what we willingly became?

If this is our ultimate aim, then this is a fixed game.

These fickle aspirations we all have are ironically tame.

Let’s go back and reflect on what greatness is to God.

Have you considered the idea that greatness is a mutual fraud?

That you can go to any side of the world and find this sin abroad?

The lie that whatever you do must be followed by applause is odd.

This is the human mirage.

Our own self-harm sabotage.

To believe we need an entourage,

Is the most dangerous type of barrage.

So then what is the answer to what is great?

How do we end the debate and no longer fixate?

Since when did we define where we draw the line?

If not us, then how do we find out God’s grand design?

I think it lies at the purpose of our ancestors in the garden,

Prior to being cast into the wilderness of an untamed arden.

What was their purpose before sin sowed its seed into the soul?

What was greatness to God before our hearts corrupted into coal?

As Zack Eswine in his book puts it in extensive literary poetry,

“Heroic moments have as their aim the recovery of the ordinary (2).”

That is, what we deam ordinary is in actuality the God-given extraordinary.

The way to make a global difference starts when we embrace our own locality.

As imagers of God our title assumes responsibility.

Both to our Earth and its creatures, along with all of humanity.

Greatness is ultimately the pursuit of cultivating God’s creativity.

Why else would Jesus dwell among us for 30 years before starting his ministry?

Could it be that greatness is defined by an example of Eden-like mundane activity?

A life well lived that is needed, but not known beyond a town in the vastness of our galaxy.

With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. Sensing Jesus, P. 48

Trump Is King Saul

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 1-20-2021

There are a lot of parallels made about Trump. Even more so within the American Christian community. From Cyrus the Great (2) to Nebuchadnezzar (3), some Christians associated with the current conservative political movement or the Republican party have made such comparisons. I’ve even read of a few people making the bold statement that Trump is just like King David because they’re both flawed leaders that God is using for divine means to an end (4).

I’m not here to talk about those obviously wrong parallels. I think of all the comparisons that could be made, Trump is most like King Saul. Let’s see why that’s more likely the case from a character perspective.

But before I do that, let’s clarify something. Comparing anyone to any figure in the Bible is just an exercise in identifying who someone is like, not who they are in reality. For instance, I could make the case that I’m a parallel to Joseph in Genesis. We are known for our analytical intellect, God speaks to us in dreams, and we both have autism (5).

With that said, it’s just a comparison to aid in our understanding and not a pinpoint accurate psychological look into who someone truly is in real life. This is a common and normal exercise, so now I’m simply applying it to President Trump. With all of that said, who was King Saul?

Who Was King Saul?

Saul under the Influence of the Evil Spirit by William Wetmore Story | 1865

For the sake of time, I’ll paraphrase Saul’s story. In other words, this is the highlight reel and doesn’t cover everything we know about the guy. Here’s the gist of what happened.

At this point in history, Israel was ruled by way of a kritarchy which is a nation run by judges. After years of mixed results and finally with the failure of the prophet Samuel’s own two sons, the people of Israel demanded a new form of leadership like the neighboring nations. They wanted to be ruled by a king.

So Samuel went to God in prayer and asked what to do for the Israelites. Here in 1 Samuel 8:7, we have God’s response: “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.”

Like God had instructed, Samuel informs the people of Israel on how things are going to change under this new leadership style. He will take their children and use them for his own means to fulfill economic, political, and even war purposes. He will take the best of everything in the land for those most loyal to him and enslave the people under his rule. Lastly, when the people realize they have made a mistake God will not save them from the collateral consequences of their collective choice.

As time went on, Saul quickly went from a promising first king to a tyrant that threw out all of the traditions of his own people for personal gain. He made promises before God and others, but broke them with little remorse. He cast out anyone that questioned or threatened his power. He even hunted the man God chose to replace him which was David and his own son Jonathan who chose to obey God, rather than his unruly father.

History now knows that Saul was the king of compromise. Saul was a people-pleaser, but God was never pleased with him. David did become king of Israel and gave God the glory, yet Saul was always wondering who would give glory to him.

In the end, Saul had no faith in God and his lies only led to loss. Our response to conflict reveals our character and Saul will forever be known as a coward. The promising king was now just a man whose promises meant nothing.

Who Is President Trump?

President Donald Trump via axios.com

Now look at the Trump presidency and how it ended. The parallels speak for themselves. It began with a lot of promise for some people. He claimed to end abortion, build a wall, and fix the economy so that everyone would benefit. Whatever you think of those issues for yourself or any other issues for that matter, there are people who saw this outcome as extremely positive in 2016.

Actually, even a few as life-changing on par with the reactions that the Black American community had for Obama during the election of 2008. Like usual, both figures failed to deliver and live up to the hype. Although, for Trump his term ended with the shameful storming of the US capitol by his most ardent fans in a sad attempt to overturn the election. They took the bait of a lie that led to the death of 5 imagers of God, which is horrific for all involved.

Like an incel on OnlyFans, some Christians have crawled in lust to worship Trump and it’s shameful. Your ignorance doesn’t prove his innocence. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s the blind eye of the Church that has built up the ego of a man who craves the adoration of all. Several of those who voted for him were so focused on winning for once that they never considered what would honestly happen if he had won the presidency. Well, now we know.

Now can I criticize a public figure like Trump and be consistent as a Christian? Absolutely. Do I need to remove the plank in my eye before telling someone else to remove the speck in their eye? Of course. As I like to tell people, I’m a shit-show of a human being and need God to save me on-the-daily because I’m the worst. In humility, I admit I’m a failure and sin more often than anyone will ever know.

God gives grace to the humble and I’m glad he does because that’s all we can give him. We must approach God in humility and faith, if we want to be in his good graces. The problem is that Trump lacks the spine to be humble before God and his faith is a farce.

His actions have spoken for him in that regard. He doesn’t fear God because he’s too afraid of the god that is his own graven image. That’s disgusting and it’s even more so when we consider that some of us supported such crass behavior in our leadership that claimed to follow Jesus.

We as Christians should be the first to publicly oppose a political leader in sin and the last to publicly support anyone in politics. Our gaze should be fixed on the Kingdom of God, not our own kingdom that was never a nation under God. Participate in the present and that includes politics, but remember to remain focused on the future for that is where we will find rest under the sovereignty of Jesus as king. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. www.pbs.org
  2. https://www.vox.com/identities/2018/3/5/16796892/trump-cyrus-christian-right-bible-cbn-evangelical-propaganda
  3. https://communalnews.com/king-nebuchadnezzar-and-president-donald-trump/
  4. http://www.sfltimes.com/opinion/looking-to-the-bible-to-justify-allegiance-to-a-flawed-leader
  5. For more on this theory see Samuel J. Levine’s book, Was Yosef on the Spectrum?

Now and Not Yet: Your Impact on Eternity

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 12-15-2020

Back when I was in high school my youth pastor Andrew used to ask us over and over in the Leaders In Training (LIT) discipleship group: “How will you impact eternity?” This LIT group was for high school students who wanted to become leaders in their communities and was co-led by Andrew. We met for over a year consistently and the friendships I built in that time I carry to this day.

When the group ended and we all grew up, it was tragedy that brought us together again. The funeral for the best LIT student: Ryan. While I sat there watching one-by-one as people spoke about how Ryan did all of these deeply impactful things for others asking for nothing in return, it made me reflect.

Would I be known like Ryan as a man who put others before himself, even until the very end of his life? Would I be like most of us in the group and eventually leave God to pursue things that have no ultimate value to them? Would I be one of many who aspire for the things of God or one of just a few who actually attained it?

It was during this funeral when those words of Andrew hit me again: “How will you impact eternity?” I didn’t know the answer that day, but I do know the answer today. Everyone has an impact on eternity, but not in the same way.

Now vs. Not Yet: What’s the Difference?

There’s only two ways to impact eternity. In fact, I believe there are only two types of people in this world. Those who are meant to impact eternity now and those who are meant to impact eternity at a time that’s not yet here. This is tricky, so let me explain each one briefly.

In the first half of people, we have those whose impact must be now. They are or were born in a time and place where their impact is within their lifetime. For example, think of Martin Luther King Jr and how his impact on eternity was immediate. It had to happen within his lifetime or else we would not be where we are today if it wasn’t for his strong influence during the Civil Rights Movement.

In contrast, the other half of people are those whose impact is not yet. It’s people who are laying the long-term groundwork to impact those in the future. For instance, think of Malcolm X who was very important in his time and yet is now more important than ever during this time in history. Just as Dr. King defined the 1960s, so too Malcom X has defined the 2020’s just as they’re getting started. So how does this relate to eternity? Let’s look at a visual for help.

For the sake of concept, think of eternity like a never ending line filled with many points along the way from beginning to end. Each point represents a moment in time, while the line is all of time and then some. We each inhabit a point in time, but that point in time is a part of a much larger story at hand.

For those who didn’t live for God, their impact is negative. For those who do live for God, their impact is positive. Now whether or not your life is negative or positive is not the focus of this blogpost, but rather when your impact will take place and how much of an impact you will have as an imager of God. To see when your life can impact eternity let’s compare the two most important disciples of Jesus: Peter and Paul.

Both were absolutely necessary figures within the Kingdom of God, but with completely opposite aims in that pursuit. To see the full scope of this comparison, we’ll examine one figure at a time and their overall impact. Let’s begin with Peter and then go into Paul.

Peter Was Now

St. Peter in Prison by Rembrandt Van Rijn | 1631

There’s a reason that Peter is mentioned more than any other disciple in the Bible, second only to Paul. Peter was essentially the go-to-guy for Jesus because he knew that Peter powered by the Holy Spirit would accomplish things that none of the other disciples could. Peter lived in the now.

What he did had to be done when it did because time is always ticking for people whose impact on eternity is now. It’s right now and can’t be delayed. It has to be done before you die or else you will be considered unfaithful to God. A servant in the Kingdom of God who was not faithful with the investment God gave to them. This wasn’t Peter. He did what was required of him and then even more. People like Paul run the race of faith, but people like Peter sprint like it’s a 40 yard dash.

Did he do things that still have an influence to this day? Sure, but that wasn’t his main aim. He wrote letters and still has an influence on our culture, but not nearly as compared to what he did within his lifetime. Without Peter being as faithful as he was to help lead the early church, we would not be where we are today as a church.

Paul Was Not Yet

The Apostle Paul in Prison by Rembrandt Van Rijn | 1627

But Paul was built different. Being a scholar and a former Pharisee, he was a man of the written word first. Where Peter was a man who preached passionately, Paul was a man who wrote prolifically. Paul lived in the not yet.

When compared to any other author in the Bible, Paul has both written the most and had the greatest impact on the modern church in how we think aside from Jesus of course. From the current controversies with his writings to the striking statements that are even more relevant to our day, Paul was ahead of his time and his biblical letters give testament to that fact.

His impact on eternity was not yet because the amount of persons whose lives were radically changed by the writings of Paul is too much to count. For instance, if it wasn’t for the book of Galatians or any of Paul’s writings, then Martin Luther’s 95 Theses would be radically different. Maybe not even happen at all the way that it did in the past. The ripples of impact reach far in the future and hence why Paul’s works ring so true to our point in history.

Conclusion

As I look at my own life, I see this parallel too with Andrew’s impact on eternity and mine. He is a Peter type, while I’m a Paul type. He is squarely focused on the Great Commission within his lifetime, yet I’m squarely focused on the Great Commission beyond my lifetime.

Together, we have a balanced approach to ministry to this day as we begin the early stages of starting a brand new church in the state of Colorado. A hard worker and a heady writer on the same mission to win souls to Christ. Our hope is to co-labor with Christ as he restores the reunited by way of the head, heart, and hands of Christian living.

Now will we have the same impact as Ryan at the end of our lives? Tough to say when you’re in the middle of a life being lived out, but time hasn’t run out yet in our own respective race in faith. The clock is still counting down and there is work to be done for those here and now, but also for those not yet here.

Lastly, it’s your turn. You need to seek God and ask when will your impact on eternity take place. Will it be within your lifetime right now or beyond it? By considering your calling from God (2) and preparing your mind for action to implement that calling (3), then you can find out how you will impact eternity. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
  3. 1 Peter 1:13

The Scale of Faith: Evidence + Experience

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 11-18-2020

About a year ago when I worked at Staples, I had a conversation on faith that was fantastic with one of the coworkers on my sales team. It was one of those moments you pray for and ask God for the awareness to know when one of those moments is happening. As Christians, we call this discernment. The ability to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and what he is doing in the present.

Oddly enough, this conversation was initiated by her when she rolled by my desk and asked a few questions about my faith. This was pretty common because she did this with everyone as an extrovert and loved chatting with everybody on the team, but the subject of our conversation was brand new. It was something we never talked about before and I was very excited to have this conversation because I’m always waiting for these moments to happen.

Unlike most people, I have a different motivation for why I go to work. It’s not for money or the type of work I’m doing necessarily, but rather comes down to a very simple question: what spiritually needs to be done here? That’s my motivation that guides everything I do at work and in life overall. Every day and every moment guided by that simple question. On this day during this moment, I knew what spiritually needed to be done. I needed to answer her question, but not the one she was asking.

When someone is searching their own soul, they tend to discover holes within their worldview. For my coworker, this hole within her worldview was related to her experience with Christianity as a person who grew up Catholic. Her being a Hispanic American that grew up within the family’s strong Catholic tradition lends credence to the idea that maybe her faith wasn’t genuine. Maybe this routine of rituals never actually meant a real relationship with God himself. Maybe the faith she thought she had with its rules and regulations never materialized in her adulthood into something real.

The Conversation

The conversation started with her asking, “You’re religious, right?” and I said yes. She then asked if I was Christian or Catholic. I said I was both, which compelled her to ask how I could be both. I replied that my theology is predominantly Catholic, but my convictions are predominantly Protestant. For instance, my theology is inspired by the Jesuit school of thought called Molinism, but I align a lot with the Anabaptist movement as well. I’m a clear mix of these two different sides of Christianity after studying both for myself.

This answer seemed to resolve her surface-level questions, but now it was my turn. I asked “You’re Catholic, right?” and she said yes. She explained that she grew up Catholic, but doesn’t practice the faith like her family does. I followed up with my next question, “Why not?” and that’s when the real questions came to the surface.

Here she shared how the showy stuff never clicked with her, but that she knows that there must be something like God because she has experienced him growing up. She heard that I was Christian and just wanted to know if what she experienced was real. This is a question we should all ask ourselves. Is what I’m experiencing God or is this something else?

The Scale of Faith

I don’t remember everything that I shared with her, but I do remember the crux of my point. Essentially, faith in God is a scale that’s balancing between evidence and experience. In general, the Christian life is a strange combination of undeniable evidences and unexplainable experiences.

Like my former coworker, we too experience things that we cannot explain and yet know intuitively that this must be God. Likewise, we also observe and measure things in life that logically lead us to God. We all in one way or another experience God and have evidence that God exists in our reality. The key is finding the balance between these two components for a healthy Christian faith.

An Evident God

When we focus too much on evidence, we drown in the rabbithole of not knowing enough. Put simply, you will never know enough about God or be able to define him anymore than he has defined himself for us. As King Solomon put it, “there is nothing new under the sun (2).” There is no secret knowledge that remains undiscovered about God that we can find.

He has intentionally given us all we need to know about him and yet leaves it hidden for us to discover for ourselves. Many avenues in fact from history to mathematics or philosophy and science, but none of them leads to the full knowledge of God. If we knew everything there is to know about God, then he wouldn’t be God. Like any person you come across in life, you will never know everything about them and the same can be said of God.

Then again, faith requires evidence. It’s demanded by our minds trying to make sense of the unknown in the best way that we can, so this doesn’t mean we throw out logic and reason. Instead, this just means we search until we find the edge of knowing God and admire the mystery that stands before us. When we know God and are known by him, then we will know who we are and what we were made to do.

The God Experience

With experience, we find ourselves in the murky waters of the abstract and what has been felt in the fleeting memories of our unique moments with God. It’s not meant to be explained because these moments are to be lived in and felt with all our being. It’s the knowledge of being there that counts and not the incalculable details of the moment.

Why do some dream of Jesus and immediately become Christian, despite every reason to remain a part of their current faith? We don’t know and that’s because it’s not our experience to explain. It’s not our story to tell, but their honor to tell it as a critical piece to the unfinished puzzle that is their life in Christ. These experiences with God are once-in-a-lifetime and at the same respect unforgettable.

Conclusion

Her experience could very well have been God. She didn’t need to doubt it per se because only she would know if it was genuinely a God moment. With discernment, I believe what she shared was a God moment and affirmed it as such to her by the end of our talk.

What I left her with was a challenge: “You seem to know what it’s like to experience God, but is God evident in your life? Before you write off God or your faith from your childhood, look at it again and see if there’s anything to your faith. Could this really be true? You experienced it, so now it’s time to find out if there’s evidence.” Our boss walked by and that’s when we got back to work, but I still hope to this day that she takes the time to reevaluate her faith.

Was the experience truly God or something she made up? Could God be evident in her life? If Jesus is a real person, then is what he said true? Those are questions that only she can answer for herself.

I can’t change minds, but I can compliment critical thinking with the best case for the Christian faith. That case starts when we examine the scale of faith to see if evidence and experience meet at the cross of Christ. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NASB)

How To Celebrate Halloween

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 11-1-2020

Like most days in the year, Halloween is a day filled with contentious debate. Although this isn’t necessarily everybody who finds the day controversial, but rather Christians who have quite the beef with this day in particular. Yet when examined further, we find that these assumptions about this day of the dead remain buried by the fact that it’s simply not pagan (2). For instance, it’s origins are steeped in the traditions of French and Irish Christians that mixed their cultures with other cultures into the melting pot that is America.

Regardless, a more important question comes up when these holidays within our respective cultures arrive to be celebrated once again. How should we celebrate these holidays? As Christians or believers of other faiths, how should we approach the holidays? More specifically, how should we approach Halloween?

Earlier this month, I was talking with a friend over the phone about Halloween and how it’s okay to celebrate it as Christians. We discussed a lot beyond that, but I’ll just share what I talked with him about on how to approach Halloween. What we centered our conversation on was three key questions.

What is Christian?

The first question is what is Christian? With this question, I wanted to guide the dialogue to the Bible and how Christians have always approached holidays respectively. This first question can be done within any respective religion as well.

For Christians, a key biblical text is Colossians 2:8-23 and how because of the substance of Christ’s sacrifice these cultural celebrations are now merely symbolic if anything to the believer. They went from days of religious repetition to righteous remembrance. We are not obligated to repeat these traditions, but rather we now get to remember what these traditions mean to the Christian faith.

On Christmas, we get to celebrate the birth of Jesus. On Resurrection Sunday, we get to remember how Jesus rose on the third day after paying the debt of sin with his death. Again, look at Colossians 2:14-17 one more time: “having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” From a biblical vantage point, it matters more why we celebrate holidays than how we celebrate holidays. With that in mind, how we celebrate still matters and that ties into the second question. But for now, always ask yourself why before you ask yourself how.

What is Cultural?

The second question is what is cultural? For this one, we focused a lot on the nitty-gritty of how we celebrate holidays. I’ll just bring up one point we discussed during this second question. When it comes to how we celebrate, is there a way to know what’s worth celebrating?

In my favorite passage in the Bible for ministry, Paul writes that we should “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil (3).” In other words: test everything, embrace good, and avoid evil. Now let’s apply that filter to Halloween.

With all of these customs and traditions, we just can’t celebrate everything. I mean, there’s some pretty dark activity done on Halloween and some great fun too. Does that mean we stop celebrating Halloween because bad stuff is done on that day? No, you just don’t do the bad stuff. Let me explain.

Traditionally every October 31st, kids and parents go door-to-door to collect candy in costume as they say “trick-or-treat” to their neighbors. Has this always been the tradition though? No, not at all.

The costumes are originally a French Christian tradition to honor those who have died, the date is relatively new compared to other holidays, and the involvement of parents is in direct response to the Black Halloween of 1933. This was when teenage boys caused so much vandalism nationwide in America in response to the Great Depression that cities considered banning the holiday altogether before giving it a family-friendly revamp (4). So the Halloween you know today is not even historically accurate.

Truthfully, the modern celebration of Halloween is just like Coca-Cola. The original was way more dangerous and fun, but now it’s a watered-down cash grab that has brainwashed you into thinking it’s good because you have so much nostalgia for it. Put in simple terms, All Hallows’ Eve is now just a hollow shell of its former self.

So now what? Well, celebrate it. It’s a great custom that brings communities and families together. If we’re being honest, is there anything remotely morally reprehensible about a kid dressing up as their favorite superhero and collecting candy? Not in the slightest.

But if you want to go holier than thou, then what if a kid in remembrance of Chadwick Boseman dresses up as Black Panther to honor one of those who has gone before us and who in fact was a Christian too. That’s faithfully sticking to the roots of Halloween. On the other hand, the standard celebration usually has some adult woman laced up in a slutty cat costume in the hopes of getting some action with her toxic ex at a party that looks like a high school reunion, but with more botox and booze. Then again, to each their own.

At the end of the day, reject all of the bad done on Halloween or any day for that matter and embrace the good. Learn about the holiday, adopt the customs that are good, and then avoid the bad. You can even choose not to celebrate altogether which is totally fine too, but that leads into the final question.

What is Convicting?

Lastly, what is convicting? After all of this information and knowledge has been discussed, it’s still your choice whether or not you are comfortable celebrating any holiday. Convictions are not meant to be advertised to all, but they are meant to be respected when in the company of others who know of said convictions.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 8, Paul dissects the idea of liberty into two compatible halves: knowledge and love. We all have varying degrees of knowledge and love that combines into your current convictions. That’s why every conviction is different from person-to person. Some of us eat meat and some of us don’t. But what matters most is being aware of your convictions and when aware of other people’s convictions, being the better person and honoring their commitments to a conviction as well.

Paul points this out when he writes: “But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ (5).” If you want your convictions to be valued, then you must value the convictions of others. This value is found in the active balance of knowledge and love.

Without love your conviction is prideful and without knowledge your conviction is pointless. Therefore, find the balance between what you know and what you love. For the Christian, this love is Christ. For the non-Christian, it’s anything but Christ. If you as a Christian have a conviction that is not Christ-centered, then you have bastardized your own behaviors and beliefs.

When we were nearing the end of our conversation, we ironically pointed out our different convictions of food. My great friend is convicted about eating pork, while I am a simp for lime pork street tacos. With that knowledge in mind, I can now love my friend by not eating pork around them. If my friend doesn’t eat meat, then I don’t need to either when I’m with them for their sake. What divides us should never get in the way of what unites us.

I have the conviction to take time every Halloween to read up on the Protestant Reformation because the anniversary just so happens to land on the very same day. It’s a tradition I’ve made for myself and I will repeat it every year. Then again, I do also enjoy spending time with others doing more traditional Halloween customs. Either way, I choose to celebrate Halloween. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. https://youtu.be/fu-5BmAzbrU
  3. 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 (NASB)
  4. https://www.history.com/news/halloween-haunted-house-great-depression
  5. 1 Corinthians 8:8-12 (NASB)

The Potter and the Clay

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 8/30/2020

Wrote this last night in about an hour and decided to post it here on the blog. It’s a poem inspired by a concept in Romans chapter 9.

This is the potter and the clay.

The latter was molded in a day,

While the former made the day.

This is our life I hope to portray.

The potter knows what the clay will become.

Maybe one day a daughter or one day a son.

Could be a father or even someone’s mom.

The potter knows the clay and then some.

The potter molds the clay.

He molds all of it everyday.

The clay has no actual say,

Yet the potter listens anyway.

The potter molds the clay with meaning,

But the clay is dirty and needs cleaning.

The potter finds his creation appealing,

Yet the clay resists for the time being.

The potter adores the clay.

The clay wants to fly away,

But the potter wants it to stay.

The potter is patient with the clay.

The potter is content.

He loves to invent.

Creating with intent.

It was quite the event.

The potter knows all of the clay,

Even that it would choose decay.

The potter created black and white to guide our way,

While the clay pretends that everything is a moral grey.

The potter has the right to make vessels of honor.

The potter has the right to make vessels of dishonor.

The molded always seems to question the molder,

But the clay should be grateful that it gets to be older.

If only we knew our constant need to pray,

Instead we would rather be sin’s daily prey.

Hopefully we learn it’s okay to not be okay.

This is the story of the potter and the clay.

With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels

Moses: From Man To Myth | 1-29-2020

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/25/2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students understand the person of Moses for a series called fresh start.]

Introduction

For the past three weeks, we have been studying this idea of a fresh start. With Adam, redemption. With Noah, a rescue mission. Then with Abraham, reality and reason in conflict. Now with Moses, we’re going to see how God brings revolution after reconstructing a man on the run.

But tonight we’re going to see how Moses had the right motive matched up with the wrong move. He had the right idea, but the wrong execution of it. Go to that first passage in Exodus 2:11-15.

The Motive | Exodus 2:11-15

Now a little context after we’ve just read the text. Moses was born Hebrew, but raised Egyptian. When he was a baby, he was adopted by the royal Egyptian family after he was hidden by his biological mother. This was because there was a decree to kill all male Jewish babies in fear they might grow up to resist Pharaoh by joining opposing nations and becoming free from enslavement. Also, Moses’ biological mother was the nurse whose job it was to take care of him in the Pharaoh’s palace.

With this in mind, Moses was born into Jewish royalty since he was an ancestor of Abraham and raised in Egyptian royalty for the first part of his life. He was a bridge to two worlds. A man torn between two different men’s legacies in his life: Abraham and Pharaoh. God called Abraham to be the founder of the nation of Israel, while Pharaoh was hellbent on their annihilation.

Years later here in Exodus 2:11-15, we see these two motives in conflict. His desire to free his people or to submit to the authority of his step family that ruled the nation. Next, we see his decision. His motivation throughout this whole story is to save his people. He chose freedom over fear. Yet, he went about it the wrong way. 

As a step-son of Pharaoh, he had the authority to order the Egyptian to stand down and stop beating the fellow Jewish slave. He could’ve commanded him to let the slave get back to work, but he chose the fast road to justice and killed the Egyptian instead. Burying him in the sand of the desert and then makes a run for it once he realizes that news of what he did has spread throughout the land. He had better options and chose poorly. Peace is for the patient and this is a quality that Moses has always lacked.

Needless to say, once Pharoah finds out and Moses escapes to hide from his warrant for his death. He chose the quickest solution to fighting injustice and ended up bringing even more consequences then there needed to be in the first place. When we try to fight injustice with what appears to be the easiest solution, we can actually end up bringing more harm than there was before. Because of what Moses did, the very people he was trying to save ended up staying enslaved for even longer in Egypt. 

The Mission | Exodus 2:25, 3:10

Moses is on the run, Pharaoh is even more brutal to the Hebrew people than before, and now God is going to initiate his next move through all of this by giving Moses his mission. We just saw his motivation, but now God is going to give Moses a clear mission to save the Hebrew the way God had always planned. Let’s read Exodus 2:25 and Exodus 3:10.

In life, I usually think I know what I’m doing next. How to make the next move. How to get where I want to go next, but God always has other plans and a better way of getting where we need to go.

For instance, I thought I was going to become a filmmaker who would dominate that industry. But God gave me a series of simple jobs, so that I could pursue serving others in my community by becoming a writer to advance our understanding of God. I had motivation and a mission, but God made it even better.

Likewise, Moses will save his people and this mission will eventually inspire a movement that will influence generations to come. But first, how did Moses free the Hebrews? How did God execute this mission he tasked Moses with here in these two verses?

Well, here’s the brief version of the story. God sends Moses to Egypt to speak with Pharaoh. Pharaoh said no, Moses tried again. Same thing like last time. This goes on a couple times until Pharaoh’s son dies and finally lets the Hebrew people go. From there, Moses leads the Hebrew people on their long journey to the promised land.

The Movement | Exodus 13:3

Jump to today, Moses is the figure of several movements in history. For example, Harriet Tubman was often called Moses because she freed slaves in America. Also, Superman has been compared to Moses in the way that he was born and other parallels within that story.

Just like them, you have two legacies you can choose from in your life right now. You can either go through the motions or be apart of the movement of God. You decide. Let’s pray and go to small groups.

This was my last sermon taught while serving in the youth group of my church. My best sermon? No, but I enjoyed the process of making it and wrapping up this series created by the new leadership for our youth group. Given during a time of change in leadership when I was stepping away as a new team was stepping up to take charge for the forseeable future.

Are they ready? Not even close to ready, let alone qualified. But neither were we when we started the youth group 3 years ago. They may not be qualified, but God has called them and if receptive to the leading of the Spirit will do great things in ministry. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1.  Free stock photos · Pexels

The Problem With Evil Is You | 12-4-2019

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/24/2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students understand the problem of evil.]

Introduction

Tonight could go a lot of ways given what we’re talking about, which is the problem of evil. In a minute, we are going to play a clip of a philosopher who studied genocide for multiple years. Now after the video I will preach the remaining amount of time on the logical response to evil, then we will do a Q&A with three additional leaders on stage to talk about the emotional response to evil.

But there’s a catch because you decide which of our two videos we are going to watch. Option 1: we watch a 4 minute video and I teach 15 minutes. Option 2: we watch a 10 minute video and I teach only 10 minutes. But whichever way option you choose, we’ll do for you. So what will it be? Which option do you choose?

[Like most nights in ministry, especially in youth ministry, things don’t go according to plan. This entire introduction was scrapped because we left our projector at another location and couldn’t play either video. In response, I summarized the basic idea of what Clay Jones was conveying about Adam & Eve, along with the general problem of evil. I was going to share one of two clips from an interview that was done by Cameron Bertuzzi from Capturing Christianity with Jones, but God had other plans.]

1) Why are we responsible for what Adam & Eve did?

Based off of the video, we can gather a couple things about who we are as people. First, the problem with evil started a long time ago. It started with the first people and since then has spread like a disease to everyone else. This is what a lot of people refer to as generational sin or in other words “the sins of our fathers.”. But how does that work exactly? How did we inherit something that someone else did?

Let me explain by telling you about my family tree. In my family, we have a generational sin that everyone suffers from and that is addiction. On my Dad’s side of the family, we have my Great-Grandad who was a violent alcoholic. Then he had my Grandad who became a stoic workaholic because of the physical abuse he suffered as a kid. Next was my Dad who returned to the bottle, drugs, and the like because he grew up with a father who didn’t know how to show affection.

Same story is on my Mom’s side of the family too. Her Grandad was murdered by his own sons because they didn’t like that he was a violent alcoholic who physically abused their mom. Next my Mom’s parents also became addicted to alcohol and drugs, which is apart of the reason my Mom has to take medication for seizures because they abused substances during the pregnancy. If you take my Dad’s substance abuse and my Mom’s seizures, you get me who has the same problems because of their decisions and the decisions of the family before them.

That’s generational sin, in that when faced with the opportunity for self-actualization you instead choose self-destruction. Instead of finding an escape, you choose to live in the comfort of excuses. Like my family, all people are born evil because of the evil that’s been done before them.

This is how sin is inherited. By being a bandwagon following other examples and by blood we are naturally inclined to evil. At the end of the day, the problem with evil is you. The problem is me. The problem with evil is all of us because no one is good. We have both inherited sin and have a strong interest in it too. This is the cycle of sin.

2) If God is so good, then why is there so much evil in the world?

Wait a minute. How do you know I’m not good? What determines what’s good? God? Are you kidding me? Give me a break! If God is so good, then why is there so much evil and pain in the world?

Great question! Let’s answer that real quick, but first let me ask you a question. If God is so evil, then why is there so much good?

You see, the question whichever way you raise it implies that God and evil cannot both exist. That it’s impossible for God and evil to exist. Yet science proves God exists (i.e. the Big Bang Model and Evolution), along with all of us knowing that evil and good exist as well. It’s obvious. There’s evil and good everywhere!

[When sharing this message, I do remember expanding on this idea that evil and good are evident by sharing a few examples of these things existing.]

We don’t need to look very far to find any of these three variables. But the question remains: what is the ultimate standard that tells us what is evil or good? To put it simply, there’s only four options: nature, myself, society, and God.

First, let’s start with nature. In the animal kingdom and the natural world, everything is less than humans because we are the top of the food chain. We are the true kings of the world and no other species can top us because we are more evolved to be the fittest species to survive. So why should we find our standard of right and wrong from something that is beneath us? Therefore, nature is not our standard to measure good and evil.

What about myself? Am I the standard of what determines what is good or evil? I mean, you-do-you right? Whatever is true to you is true! But what if my truth contradicts your truth? Your truth is that lying is wrong, but my truth is that lying is right. Whose standard is correct if it’s between each other? Do I have absolute authority over everyone else who thinks they have absolute authority? No, so that’s not it either.

Wait, but what about society? Surely there is a society that has it all figured out! Not exactly because then how do we know which society is right? If there is a specific society, then what happens when it dies like all other societies have in history?

During WWII, we saw this problem in a really obvious way. Americans enslaved and tortured the Japanese, but weren’t okay with the Germans doing the same to the Polish and Jews. Yet the Germans weren’t okay with the Japanese enslaving and torturing the Chinese, even though they did the exact same thing. But then the Japanese felt the same way towards Americans because of what they did to them. Which society is right in that situation? Which society has the authority to say what is right or wrong? None of them if it’s all relative.

Now from the process of elimination, we know that God is the standard of what is right or wrong. He determines what is good or evil. Why is that? Because he created all things (Genesis 1:1), he made each and every one of us for a reason (Genesis 1:26-28), and he has established every society for our good (Romans 13:1). At the end of the day, God is the standard that shows us what’s right or wrong.

Conclusion

God in the beginning created everything from chaos and brought it into order. Then we took what was in order and made it chaotic. Now Jesus has offered to bring us out of chaos and into order, but the decision is yours to make. You can stay in the comfort of your own chaos or join God on the journey to order. That’s up to you because God doesn’t cause chaos, but he does allow us to do so.

God cannot be held responsible for a choice you and I make. If we want to sin, then we can and if we want to follow him, then we can do that as well. Like a parent whose kid decided to get in trouble at school, God isn’t responsible for your choices. In the end, you are responsible and that’s why God is good, yet we are the problem of evil.

[In retrospect, this concluding part was switched up to flow better in-person. Here it’s too rigid and comes off as brute, rather than loving. When sharing this message, I was much more tonally aware of the audience and adjusted to the nights circumstances.]

Now what you’ve just heard is a brief logical response to the problem of evil, but now we are going into a Q&A to talk about the emotional response to the problem of evil. If we could, can our three pre-selected leaders come up to the stage? Alright, let’s get to our first question.

Similar to my sermon about Job during the summer of 2019, I too wrestled to give a succinct response to such a weighty issue. The problem of evil and suffering. How do you approach that? How do you explain to students this extremely complicated problem without being confusing? In my case I attempted it and was not happy with the end result. It’s just a tough thing to understand, let alone explain to someone else.

Despite my mixed feelings about the sermon, the students seemed to engage quite well and the Q&A was very successful as I moderated while a few leaders answered questions I posed to challenge them. The best part was they were answering on the spot and had no prep ahead of time because I wanted them to speak from the heart, instead of their head. Ironic that they ended up giving better responses to the problem of evil then me during my message!

I was very proud of them and thank God for their willingness to jump into any ministry moment with joy. If I remember correctly, it was Mackenzie, Trevor, and another new leader who had only just started to lead with us. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1.  Free stock photos · Pexels

All For One + One For All | 10-16-2019

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/23/2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students study the book of Galatians verse-by-verse.]

Introduction

Last time I preached, we talked about idiots and influencers. This time it’s all about family and friends. But first, let’s read the text and then find out how to treat others, along with why we should treat them well. Let’s read Galatians 6:1-10 first.

“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them. Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.”

How To Treat Others

This text we just read has two main points: how to treat others and why we should treat them well. We’ll focus on how before we go to why.

Alright, let’s just tear the bandaid off. You’re not that important. You’re really not too important. At least, you’re not too important to avoid helping other people.

It’s just true. You’re not too busy or famous or rich to help others who are in need. No one is too important to help someone else. Why? Because we all face the same issues just in different circumstances. We all have dealt with the same problems, but at different places in time and with different people.

I listen to a lot of podcasts and music throughout the week. Back when I was a video content creator, it was my whole job. To consume content and create it. Follow the latest trends and then start new ones with the company that I worked for at the time.

Anyways, I was listening to a podcast with Dr. Jordan Peterson and he has this quote where he’s talking about what brings meaning to people’s lives. What will help people know they have a role in the world and he said this: “I think of people as beasts of burden in some sense. We’re built for a burden and we’re not happy without that burden. We want to find the one that suits us (2).” In other words, part of our design is to help others with their problems. To serve a need not being met and to meet it to the best of our ability.

My family does this by making sure my Mom has taken her medication that prevents her seizures. Your family might be one where everyone pitches in to help take care of someone who can’t take care of themselves. Whatever that need is, it’s important and it requires your help. If Jesus thought it was important to help you, then you can help others. If not, then don’t call yourself a Christian because to be a Christian is to be like Christ.

How do we be like Christ? It’s pretty simple: obedience, opportunity, and then ownership. We live to obey Jesus by looking for opportunities to help others, so that we can take ownership of our faith. In other words, always be open to helping others and especially if it’s your own family.

But family doesn’t just mean those you’re related to or grew up with as a kid. As Christians, family also includes other Christians as well. When my Dad was in Russia as a missionary at the tail-end of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, he said his favorite part of being a missionary was meeting other Christians. Meeting family around the world who you had nothing in common with and yet you both had a relationship with Jesus.

The family of God is a real, tangible relationship with God that you shared with other people in different parts of the world. For Christians, your family is not just defined by the blood you share, but also by the blood that Jesus shed. Every family is defined by the blood that unites them, including the family of God.

Why Treat Others Well

So we know how to treat others, but why should we treat others well? Why does God want us to treat others the way we want to be treated? Well, for a few reasons.

First off, treating others well helps you have a bigger network. There’s plenty of people who only lookout for number one and they end up empty by the end of it. They burn bridges, they push friends away, and generally are really lonely people. On the other hand, when you help others you build bridges, create community, and give yourself way more opportunities than you could ever get yourself on your own.

Helping others and treating them well is also proven to improve your mental health for the better. According to mentalhealth.org.uk (3), helping others can reduce isolation by giving someone a sense of belonging, increase your happiness, and studies even prove that those who help others live longer because of their healthier well being. At the end of the day, helping others is more beneficial to you than living just for yourself.

Lastly, helping others is one of the reasons we are here as Christians in the first place. Jesus gave every Christian two commands to follow: to love God and to love others. We are commanded to do this as Christians because this is what Christ did. He was all for one and one for all. He loved God with all of his heart, mind, and soul. Then he loved everyone equally.

We too like Jesus are all for one and one for all. We love one God and each of us loves all people. We love because God first loved us. We can help others even when they don’t deserve it because God always helps us. So go help yourself by helping others and honoring God. Let’s pray and go get into our small groups.

I really like this passage of Scripture and loved sharing this message with the students. Like I’ve said in previous sermons for this particular study in Galatians, we were covering a lot of ground and not with time on our side either.

With that said, this message had a lot of good to share with our student body at the time. Being an active member of your community, mental health, personal responsibility, and so on. Very much a boots-to-the-ground kind of sermon where it’s extremely applicable universally, which I liked very much. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1.  Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. https://youtu.be/AscPHmLWo-M
  3. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/doing-good-does-you-good