Thursday, January 31, 2013

Stepping Above "How about that Weather?"

     NOTE: You may notice that this and the last post do not involve the "Real man" and "Real Woman" pages.  I did this intentionally as I have chosen not to continue posts in a series such as this.  While I wholeheartedly support the ideas these pages introduce, I will be choosing topics of my own to post about that are important to me.  These topics (as my last post shows) will many times be similar to what the Real Man and Real Woman pages point out, but I feel that allowing God to guide what I post can (and has already) change courses that I, in my feeble mind, have set.  You can still find the Real Men and Real Women pages on a separate page on this blog that I will be adding soon, and if there are any points or other topics that you would like me to write about, feel free to write a comment letting me know!  Now, back to the post...

    As the subtitle of this blog states, I want to encourage teens to step above our culture's definition of a teenager and to reach God's calling to live faithfully for Christ; to be a Christian!  Now you may be thinking, I'm already a Christian.  What more is there to step up to?  Well, simply being a Christian isn't exactly what I'm talking about.  While becoming a Christian is the most important decision you can ever make, too many times our generation just stops here.  I want my generation to not just accept the label of Christianity but to live it out in their lives!

     So how does this start?  What's the first step from being a nominal (by name only) Christian to becoming a true Christian, living solely for Christ?  Surprisingly enough, I believe one of the first steps is simply stop thinking of "real life" as being separate from our lives as Christians.  When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, the life of a Christian becomes our real life!  They can't be separate.  It doesn't matter if you're around your friends, at church, youth group, at school, or anywhere - you are a display of Christianity for the whole world to see.   Realizing that the world is watching us is one of the first steps toward becoming a true Christian.

     Not only is the world watching our behavior, but so are our fellow Christians.  How do we portray our belief in Christ to the Christians around us?  This part, interestingly enough, is also quite simple.  I believe that one of the most important things we Christians (and especially Christian teens) miss is fellowship.  Having serious conversations about biblical things is something that, for some reason, we choose to ignore.  Listen to a conversation between a group of friends and how often will you hear Christ or a biblical principle emerge? Not very often at all.  Why not?  Why don't we want to have a serious conversation as fellow Christians?  The answer is because it feels weird.  Our hearts, being desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), don't feel comfortable mentioning Christ!  Think about that.  The souls of God's creation don't want to mention the Creator!  Yet like many hard things, we must deny our hearts' evil desires in order to have fellowship with other believers.  To some, this may seem like an odd concept of fellowship.  Usually "fellowship" involves simply a bunch of Christians getting together, eating some food, and having a good time.  This can very well be fellowship, but if Christ is not in the midst of the conversation, no real fellowship is taking place.

     Do you want to have more fellowship with others?  Do you want to break the long-ingrained line between everyday life and Christianity?  Do you want to live for Christ?  If you want to be mentioned in the Book of Life, you should be mentioning the Writer of the Book in your life.

     (Thanks to my friends Jared and Matthew, whose joking inspired the topic of this post.)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Those who were Different: A Lesson from Hershey Park

     For those who don't realize just how important modesty is in our generation, please read this story from my own life:

     Like many high-school students, I enjoy a good day at an amusement park - just about anyone would.  This time I was with my friend Thomas, riding roller coasters and having a great time at Hershey Park.  Being invited to go along with Thomas and his family on their annual trip, I was thrilled!  As you might imagine, it's not all the time that I get to go to Hershey Park.  At nearly the exact moment we arrived at the park, Thomas and I darted for the nearest coaster.  Amid the excitement and the thrill, though, there was something that began to tear at me.  No, it wasn't the fact that I lost in Chess against his little brother on the way up (he cheated, of course).  It was something all around me.  But it wasn't hiding away in the shadows.  It wasn't even subtle.  It was the clothes girls wore.  I know, I know, I should have seen it coming.  It's summer.  It's an amusement park.  It's our secular culture, for goodness' sake!  For some reason, though, it hit me differently this time.  Anywhere I looked, I was bombarded with it.  What really bothered me wasn't as much what they were wearing, however, but how they were wearing it.  Scattered throughout the entire park, students were wearing their school's t-shirts.  What could be wrong with that?!  But left and right, girls had somehow found a way to get around a standard dress code.  Whether it be rolled up or even cut apart, they simply didn't want to conceal themselves.  How could people dress this way?!, I thought.  What are they trying to gain?  They're just going to reveal themselves to everyone?!  It was almost impossible to look anywhere without finding this kind of dress smack dab in front of you.

     This was just the beginning of the day.  Don't get me wrong, I still got to have some fun riding the coasters.  Between trying to keep the "Hershey's Milk Chocolate" song out of our heads and screaming our heads off at each ride, we had a blast!  Somehow, though, the immodesty around me kept grinding at my heart.  Like many things the devil throws at us, the constant need to guard my eyes - along with the disgust at how my generation dressed - wore me down.

     So there I was, standing in line for Storm Runner for the third or fourth time in a row, wondering how many more times we could get in the second row before everybody else realized it was the shortest line.  I was tired - not just from the long day but from the sickening immodesty of my generation.  Just as I was about to doze off in line, however, Thomas nudged me.  "Now those are two respectable young ladies," he proclaimed.  And that they were.  Among everyone else, these two girls had chosen to wear long skirts and regular t-shirts, one of which said "Purity is in."  These two young ladies stood out - not because of immodesty, but because of the modesty that they portrayed.  At that moment, I was immensely grateful that God had placed those two girls at that park to remind me just how appreciative I should be of a girl's modesty.  I was so thankful, in fact, that I almost walked over to the girls and thanked them myself.  Looking back, I should have.  Sometimes I don't think girls realize just how important their modesty can be to us guys.

     Of course, it's our job as guys to guard our eyes.  There will always be girls out there who don't portray the modesty that God intends.  But when someone does, we should be grateful of that effort of purity.  And for those of you girls who pursue modesty, let me be the first to say... Thank you.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

More like Oscar the Grouch

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." - Ephesians 4:29, ESV
     I think it would be safe to say that the world, in all of its business and hustle, has become less of a friendly place.  The world's no Sesame Street.  Step out into the street singing a musical number and no one's going to join right in with harmony or even choreography. (Not that I have experience, mind you...)  However, we all need encouragement one way or another.  We aren't supposed to be stuck in such a degrading culture.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing."   As Christians, we're supposed to encourage one another in our walk with Jesus, not tear each other down.  That's what this week's post is about:
"A real woman encourages and builds up those around her instead of criticizing and tearing them down."
"A real man doesn't put others down with his actions, attitude, words, or his strength.  But on the contrary, he affirms and builds others up."
     As you can see, the men's and women's points for this topic aren't too different.  There are certain things that vary between the two genders in this area, but Christians in general are always supposed to be an encouragement - not a discouragement - to others.  Even so, we'll still look at each separately.  For women, it can sometimes be easy to form tight groups that allow certain people in and keep certain people out.  These "cliques", as they're called, can often times exclude people whom Christ desires to be encouraged.  This can be a problem for many teens.  We like to spend time with our friends - that's great!  But sometimes Christ calls us to reach out to someone.  Someone who might be lonely and in need of a friend.  That's where - especially in the case of women - it's important to step out of your comfort zone and befriend someone in need.  Cliques can be one of the largest cripplers of a church body because they cause division.  People stay in a group that accepts them and over time each group pushes away, breaking up the Body of Christ.  This is where it is your job to be the encourager.  Don't let anything slip out of your mouth that puts someone down; only what builds them up as Ephesians 4:29 says.  Someone could be depending on you to bridge the gaps in the Body of Christ.

     We as men have a similar problem.  Instead of cliques, however, many times what can put others down is our own self.  As the text above states, we can put others down with our "actions, attitude, words, or [our] strength".  There are many people out there gifted by God with different capabilities or strengths, yet become prideful and want to put others down because of them.  Gifts (from God) are never given to us for our own gratification.  They are given so that we may honor God and share Him with others, which I and I'm sure many others struggle with.  The irony in this is that we - especially men - have a hard time surrendering our pride and using our gifts for God and not for us, which is exactly what we're called to do.  Encouragement isn't as easy as it may sound.  As you can quite easily see, each of us has something deep inside of us, ingrained by our culture, that doesn't want us to encourage.  But as Christians, especially us teens, it is essential for us to do hard things and do what our flesh doesn't want us to.  (Yep. That was a shameless plug for the Rebelution...)

     Encouragement is of unwavering importance to the Christian faith.  Without it churches fall apart and relationships are broken.  As Proverbs 15:4 states, "A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit."