Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Long Lasting Joy

I have been contemplating a lot lately why the teenage generation is never happy. It seems that no iPod, television show, or clothing item is ever good enough, so they keep buying more and more stuff. It also seems like a typical teen’s time is often spent playing video games, reading the latest books, and watching television. So why is my generation so unhappy? We have all the modern conveniences, but still are not satisfied!

Then I realized that it is because the things they are filling their lives with only make them happy for a short time. Material possessions and wasted time are not going to fill the hole that eats them up inside. I don’t know why they think buying more stuff is going to make them feel better about themselves, but I know that it will only last a short time.

I also realized that happiness is only temporary. However, God’s joy is eternal. I have blogged before about my cousin Esther, and how much joy she brings to my aunt and uncle. The joy Esther has is because she now has parents who love her and are bringing her up in God’s light. This is the kind of joy that will last forever, because it is of God.

I know from personal experience that the afterglow of a good book, movie, or conversation only lasts for a little while before it fades into the forgotten. I wish I could capture my favorite moments in time and bottle them up to save forever, but the only way to do that is to allow God’s joy to penetrate everything.

One of the most joyful people I have ever met obviously has let the joy of God fill her life. Her husband died almost a year ago of ALS, and she has six children to take care of all by herself. I have never heard her complain, however, even though her life has been made immeasurably hard. She lets the joy of heaven seep into every crack of her life, and chooses to see the positive side of things rather than the depressing aspects that life has thrown at her.

It is very hard for me to choose to be positive all the time because I am not an overly cheerful person. I’m not saying I’m negative or cranky (well, sometimes), but I am definitely not a perpetually smiling person. This is definitely something I need to work on. I don’t really know how to be joyful all the time, but I am learning.

The Bible has lots to say on joyfulness, but one of my favorites is Psalm 5:11: But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them; that those who love your name may rejoice in you.” Because I love Jesus and am saved by His death on the cross, I have joy inside me. I don’t have to ever be sad or worried, because His joy overshadows my life.

I know how hard it is to stay positive all the time, but that is definitely something my generation needs to work on. There is a hole inside each of us that begs to be filled with something. You may choose to fill it with electronics or clothes, but Jesus is the only thing that will fulfill you completely. Choose to be content with what you have so that you may radiate the joy of Christ in everything you do. Although happiness lasts only moments, God’s joy will last forever.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mighty Things through Willing People

If you have ever read the story of David and Goliath, you know that David defeats Goliath in the end with only a stone and a slingshot. But what is not focused on, is that David had three older brothers named Eliab, Aminadab, and Shammah. Even though there were three older men, God chose David to be his servant, so that the Israelites and Philistines could see that mighty things can be done through those who are willing to do them.

But what about David’s brothers? 1 Samuel 17:8-11 says, “Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, "Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us." 10 Then the Philistine said, "This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other." 11 On hearing the Philistine's words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

The last sentence is what I really want to focus on. It says that Saul, the King of Israel and all the people of Israel were terrified! Yes, Goliath was big, and yes the challenge seemed insurmountable, but isn’t God capable of overcoming anything? It reminds me of the song I used to sing when I was very little, “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty. There’s nothing my God cannot do!” Apparently the Israelites were not so keen on the idea that God might want to use them to defeat the giant.

This got me to thinking about which I am: a willing person like David or an untrusting, fearful person like the rest of the Israelites? I hope I am a willing servant of God, but I know I have a hard time trusting God to take my life into His hands. I have a problem with letting go of my control over my life, and it is not something I am proud of. Somehow I have convinced myself that my life is in my control, when it was in God’s hands in the first place. God created me and watches over me, and yet I still will not relinquish my hold on my life.

When I finally let God take my life into His control, I feel wonderful and free. Until something out of the ordinary happens that I do not like. Then I backpedal on my promise to God and take my future back into my own hands. This leaves me a coward, which is not something I strive to be.

It is so hard to give God control over everything in my life, even though I am so terrible at controlling my own life. I am not wise nor do I have the experience to keep my life on the right track, yet I am so sure that I am better at being in control.

The people of Israel are just like me. They were unwilling to do the difficult and more terrifying things, so they chose not to allow God to do amazing things through them. I most certainly do not want to be like the people of Israel. I do not want God to see me as a coward who does not trust Him enough to let Him work a miracle through me. I want to be like David: A willing servant of God.

Goliath was killed with a single stone and slingshot by a man who had barely grown out of childhood, all because that man trusted God enough to let Him work a mighty miracle through him. If I am to be like David, I will have to give up my grasp on what I think is better. God is God and I am not, so I best listen to him over my own ideas. Although it is not easy to give up control, it is what God wants me to do. God will be able to do powerful things through me, but only if I trust Him completely.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sources of Hope

A little less than a year ago, a man was elected to be president of the United States because he promised to bring hope and peace to a nation that was hurting and becoming chaotic. This man soothed many people’s fears by promising to do the impossible and restore order in a hurry. This man, Barack Obama, has not brought hope to the world, and many are now disappointed in him.

I find it interesting that people can so easily put their faith in a man who is no more capable of restoring order to a quickly deteriorating culture than they, themselves are. Why should we trust any human being when we know they are no more proficient than ourselves?

As a Christian, my faith has been tested by the inauguration of a president who I oppose completely. The decisions he has made have not lined up with God’s word, and are not restoring order. I have asked God in my prayers why he would put such a man into office. But then I remember. I am not putting my hope in a mortal, I am putting it in God Almighty.

I know God has put President Obama in a position of power for a reason, whether or not I think it is a good idea. God is in control, and I can put my hope in Him, alone. Although I do not know why God would let a man make the decision to fund abortions overseas with taxpayer’s money, I know there is a reason.

I have a hard time respecting President Obama because of the decisions he’s made. Just last week, he won the Nobel Peace Prize, even though he has not done anything amazing or peaceful. If the millions of babies aborted each year could vote, do you think they would vote for a man who has furthered the murder of innocent babies? I highly doubt it. President Obama did not deserve the Nobel, but he accepted it anyway.

It is things like this that make me angry and upset. How could he accept such a high honor, even though he has not done anything remarkable besides become president? How he could he be so prideful?

And then I stumbled upon this verse: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God,” Romans 13:1. Once more, God brings me back to the fact that HE has placed President Obama in a position of power! God does have a reason, even if I don’t see it yet.

Psalm 25:5 is an excellent verse about hope: “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” This verse also points me back to God, for my hope is in HIM! I no longer have to be discouraged because of the leaders that are governing America… I am not trusting them to rule my country, I am trusting God, the Savior of the world to guide and lead me!

Although I have strayed from my typical blogs about standing up for what is right and being different, this is a topic that has been heavy on my heart. Remember to put your hope in God, and not in this world.

Psalm 42:11, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my SAVIOR and my GOD!”

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Breaking the Barrier

Lately I’ve been noticing that there is a wall that keeps teens from overcoming different things such as low expectations, pre-marital sex, and the downhill slide of our culture. This seems to be a very prominent problem that no one seems to want to change.

How come there is a barrier that is restricting teens today? Who put that in place, and why aren’t people trying to overcome it? I think it is the teens that allowed this wall to be built. This barrier gives teens an excuse to not work hard and do big things.

I kind of feel like Marlin and Dory from “Finding Nemo.” In the middle of the movie, Dory and Marlin have to break through the “EAC” (East Australian Current) in order to continue on their quest. The EAC is a current of turtles all swimming in the same direction at high speeds. Dory and Marlin have to jump off a sea turtle’s back in order to get outside the current. As soon as they have accomplished this, Marlin and Dory sit there watching the current go by.

I feel like I have just jumped off the turtle’s back and am waiting outside the current for everyone else to follow. I sit there waiting and waiting, but no one will join me. There is always one who jumps outside the current, but then quickly dives back in when things get uncomfortable.

I daily have to make the choice to go against the cultural norm to be different, and it is not easy. It is sometimes a very lonely decision, unless you are fully relying on God. You can make the decision to be different, but it won’t make a difference unless you are being different for Christ! That is a critical element to not being lonely.

I have broken the barrier of low expectations in several different ways. First of all, I am homeschooled. That automatically makes me different. I value family time above all activities, and my mom is my best friend. I would much rather be best friends with my mom than a peer, because she can provide comfort and wisdom. Being friends with peers is not a bad thing, but it is easy to be pulled into things by those who are no wiser than you.

I also choose to keep my body as pure as possible. Whether it is choosing not to curse or use mild profanities or going to the point where I am saving even my first kiss for my wedding day, people often look at me and think I am STRANGE. I’m pretty accustomed to being thought of as “weird”, and it doesn’t really bother me anymore. In a culture where sex, drugs, and profanity is rampant, I am definitely breaking the barrier.

My country is being held captive by low expectations, and I am determined not to let it ensnare me. I am willing to work as hard as possible to reverse the idea that teens are not capable of working hard or being young adults. A “teen” is really just an overgrown child.

When someone calls me a “teen”, I say, “No, I am a young adult.” I am determined not to let my age get in the way of my abilities. Just because I am in between the ages of 13-18, does not mean I have to sink to that level! I can be excellent in all my work, whether hugely important or something small like keeping my room clean.

Please understand that because someone calls you a teen does not mean that you have to act like it. Our generation needs to raise the expectations of our world so that we can make a difference for God in everything we do. Make the decision to break the barrier of low expectations so that you can do great things for Jesus now, without having to wait until you are an adult. God does not care if you are 14 or 65…He created you to do big things now.