An Open Letter to My Fellow Young Adults (I Know Nothing, and Neither Do You)

Would you allow me to be completely real with you for just a minute?

Great, thank you. There’s something I’ve been needing to get off my chest.

Here’s the thing: I know nothing about anything.

Much to the irritation of my pride, this reality rings truer and truer in my life with each passing day. Can you relate?

Apparently, the transition between being a dependent teenager and becoming a (semi)independent adult is even more uncomfortable and embarrassing than puberty – and I honestly didn’t think that was possible.

When I was younger, I imagined that becoming an adult would be a quick, seamless process. A logical assumption, right? All those individuals wishing to “adult” proceeded to get their high school diploma, graduate college (which is supposed to be a cinch, of course), get hired to work their ideal job, get married, have children, never struggle in life, have tons of money, etc. Basically, all your dreams come true – and your life is exactly as you envisioned it at an innocently naive 10 years old.

Boy. . .I was completely wrong about everything.

This strangely beautiful season of life can be downright unpleasant, while also somehow managing to be filled with the most exciting, thrilling adventures you’ve experienced thus far. It’s an adrenaline rush of emotions and fears and hopes, and there are moments when you stand on a mountaintop, overlooking the world – because no task is too large for your ambition, and nothing can hold you back from chasing the dreams God has woven into the fabric of your being.

But then there are those moments when you feel miniscule and insignificant – because what could you really offer such a frightening, brazen world filled with so many accomplished, experienced people? Doubt starts to creep in, and the reality that you may not make a difference aches like nothing else you’ve ever felt. And so you find that life, while bursting with joy and opportunity, can also be fraught with growing pains and discomfort. It’s full of failure and awkwardness and new responsibilities and stress and thoughts of the uncontrollable future and trust falls and tears.

I’ve personally been struggling to come to terms with the weird transitional stage of life that has become my home in recent months. You see, in middle school and high school I was the “mature friend,” the person to whom others came when they had a question or wanted advice. A year and half ago I felt knowledgeable, capable, and accomplished. . .and now that I’m in college, I feel like a babbling idiot half of the time. No one would listen to the musings of an uneducated young person like me – and even if someone did express interest, do I really have anything worth saying?

In the midst of this struggle, I have learned one very important fact: there is a distinct difference between a healthy dose of humility and the crippling habit of tearing oneself down.

I’m going to say that one more time because I want you to hear it. Humility and self-doubt are two very different things! I have wasted too much time confusing the two, and I don’t want you to fall prey to the same misconceptions.

Self-depreciation, or self-doubt, is belittling or undervaluing oneself. It is cheapening your gifts, your hopes, and your passions, choosing to believe that you are less than who God has created you to be.

Humility, on the other hand, is a modest, unpretentious opinion or estimation of one’s own importance. It is recognizing and embracing the reality that you are not, and never will be, the center of the universe. Scripture expands upon that definition even further, stating that “humility is the fear of the LORD,” the wages of which are honor and life (Proverbs 22:4a).

Humility recognizes Christ as our LORD, Maker, and Savior; self-depreciation whispers that God Himself somehow made a mistake when He created you. Humility strives to put others first; self-depreciation discourages you from serving those around you by claiming that you could never even hope to influence others. Humility is an honest estimation of where you are in life; self-depreciation declares that all of your progress, all of the things you have learned, are futile. Humility is life-giving and empowering because it removes all obstructions as Christ works in and through you; self-depreciation deprives you of joy and cheapens the ministry God desires to work in your life.

The difference is pretty drastic, isn’t it?

I hope and pray that you would seek humility – not self-depreciation, self-doubt, or pride. That you would take confidence in who Christ has intentionally created you to be. That you would grow in wisdom and stature with the Lord each passing day. And, most of all, that you would look to our gracious God for guidance, no matter in what stage of life you find yourself.

Please know that you are not alone, nor will you ever be – having gone before you are millions of successfully adulting individuals who have followed God’s call on their lives and pursued His heart.

Have hope and take courage, my friend!

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Simple Worship

Worship is an expression of adoration or reverence. Being both an attitude and an act, it can take many forms. It is the singing of songs or sitting in awed silence before our holy God. It is surrendering to Him, taking up our cross daily to follow Him in obedience. It is recognizing how insignificant we are in the presence of the Lord of the universe and being humbled by the knowledge of who He is. It is choosing Jesus over ourselves. There is nothing complex about it.

“Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” Psalm 95:1-3, 6-7

However, in our consumerist, experience-driven culture, worship has become a spectacle for our entertainment rather than a catalyst for our adoration. In Sunday morning services, the worship time resembles a rock concert. Lights flash. The bass booms through the auditorium. Cool backgrounds enhance the lyrics sung. And we begin to judge the quality of a “worship experience” based upon how it makes us feel or how the overall atmosphere affects us.

(Hear me say that lights and tons of instruments and cool atmospheres are not bad in and of themselves. They can serve to enhance our worship and lead us to focus on Christ. But when such things begin to capture our attention and become the things on which we focus, there is a deeper issue that we must root out.)

Whether it is conscious or unconscious, the Church’s general perspective on worship is shifting the focus away from Who we are worshipping to what we want to get out of a “worship experience.” If we don’t like the way a song sounds, we don’t sing it. If the style is “too this” or “too that”, we complain. If anything displeases us or doesn’t live up to our expectations, we grumble in discontentment. Thus, we enter church wondering if today’s worship will be “good”.

Since when did the means of worship become more important than the One to be worshipped? What a selfish attitude we have allowed to penetrate the Church’s understanding of worship!

I am convicted of how often I allow this selfishness to take control of my own heart. There are moments where I am distracted by the quality of the music or whether the lyrics on screen are changing fast enough for my taste. I sigh in annoyance if I don’t care for the song we are singing. My mind wanders to what I’ll be having for lunch or what I want to do when I get home. I find myself focusing on what is around me and what I think about it rather than giving my attention to the Lord.

Recently, my understanding of worship had a wake up call. I spent the past week at a student retreat. There were many wonderful experiences that I will treasure, such as watching the sun set over a lake while the sky lit up in brilliant colors. However, my absolute favorite moment was when our group gathered around a campfire and – with only a guitar and willing, open hearts – worshipped Jesus.

It was profoundly simple. There were no flashing lights, no drum beat or rocking guitar licks. Some of the songs were familiar, and others were completely new. We were cold and the wind blew through our jackets as if they were little more than tissue paper. But we sat out there for nearly two hours, meditating on and singing praises to our Savior.

Even now, several days removed from the experience, I cannot stop thinking about how deeply that worship time impacted me – and it wasn’t because I loved the songs or everything was to my taste. It was because of the joy I felt in simply being still and pouring my heart out to God through song. It wasn’t about me or what I wanted. Not at all. My eyes were fixed on Christ and I couldn’t help but sing at the top of my lungs in response. 

I’ve included some video footage below. You’ll notice that our voices are shaky and not everyone is on pitch. Harmonies sometimes slipped and words were forgotten. But it was still acceptable to our Savior. It was still meaningful. It was still worship.

The bottom line is: worship is not about us. It’s not about the setting, or the songs we sing, or how we feel. It’s about the God who alone is worthy of our hearts’ attention, praise, and adoration.

Matter

“To the One who spoke and set the sun ablaze,

To the One who stopped the storm and walked the waves,

To the One who took the tree so He could save,

YOU matter.

I hope you know you matter!”

– “Matter” by for King & Country

Always remember, the Lord has a plan for your life and He loves you more than words can express – regardless of your past and your mistakes! Because while we were still lost in our brokenness and imprisoned by our sin, Christ endured the cross to redeem our souls. God stepped down from the glory of His heavenly kingdom to make a way for you to know Him personally.

Please know, you are treasured!

Mine

“No single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!'” – Abraham Kuyper

A God-Given Opportunity

Three words: What. Just. Happened.

The thought ran on repeat through my head as I sat in the empty merchandise booth, situated in the middle of the large, crowded homeschool exhibit hall. On the table in front of me was an array of different books and DVDs on worldview and apologetics. As people stopped by to ask questions, I explained that the two authors of the material were at the convention and would be giving presentations over the weekend. “You should go check them out,” I encouraged.

If you’ve done research in the worldview/apologetic realm, then the names John Stonestreet and Sean McDowell should ring a bell. But if those names sound completely foreign to you, here’s a rundown: Mr. Stonestreet is a speaker, writer, and cultural analyst who has a weekly radio show and travels around talking about worldview. Dr. McDowell is a professor at Biola University in California, working for the apologetics department, in addition to speaking and writing. Both well-respected and skilled in their respective fields, they are men I have looked up to for their faith, boldness, and God-given wisdom.

So imagine my surprise when I receive an email asking if I would be willing to show up at the Great Homeschool Convention in Ft. Worth over the weekend to man their booth in the exhibit hall. I would be working directly with them and doing whatever they needed me to. What are the odds that I – a small-town homeschooler – would have the chance to interact with people (the same people I had watched in video lectures and whose articles I had read) who operate in the very field of ministry in which I am interested?

Forget the odds. It was a God-given opportunity.

Over the course of two days I had the chance to sit down with John Stonestreet and Sean McDowell and ask them about apologetic training, worldview education, how to be heard in a very noisy world, and important habits that young Christian speakers, writers/bloggers, and students should develop. Their advice was priceless, and I am so grateful for the time they gave me out of their busy, hectic schedules!

GHC 2015

If any of you are interested in writing, or speaking, or even just communicating truth (as every Christian should be!), here is a summary of their tips!

  • Read ferociously – The best way to develop your ideas and better understand truth so that you can communicate your beliefs is to take in information. Read articles, pay attention to the news, develop a reading list to work through, spend time in your Bible every day, and follow blogs with content that interests you. Now, I know that some of you don’t like to do lots of reading. That’s okay! There are other great options out there. Listen to podcasts, find a good radio show, or purchase audiobooks. The world is full of awesome possibilities! (At the end of this post, I’ll give you a list of a few.)
  • Find ways to communicate truth in everyday conversations – You don’t have to be a famous speaker or world-renowned apologist to make a splash in this world. Simply being intentional in your conversations with friends, families, and strangers can make a huge impact. Ask questions, don’t shy away from deep topics, and bring up Jesus. You never know where a conversation might lead!
  • Move forward – You don’t need to have everything in your life figured out. It’s okay to not know what you want to do next – where to go to college, what job to apply for, where to live. But the reality is, a stationary ship is rather hard to steer. God has given you interests and gifts for a reason – act upon them. Look for opportunities to experiment in things that interest you. That time won’t be wasted!
  • Try new things –  Go on the mission trip that forces you out of your comfort zone. Read that intimidating book. Start a Bible study. Write a poem. You never know what God-given passions you will discover, just by trying something new.

In conclusion, if you have never heard these men speak or read any of their material, I highly recommend that you do so! Check out Making Sense of Your World by John Stonestreet (among others) and Is God Just A Human Invention? by Sean McDowell. And they just released a book together last summer entitled Same-Sex Marriage. If you are wondering how to respond to the hot topic of homosexuality, that is a great resource to look into. In addition, Mr. Stonestreet does a weekly program with BreakPoint Radio. You can also follow them both on Twitter and Facebook.

Look them up; you won’t regret it!

Between You and God

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” – Mother Teresa

Humanity

Often times, I look at our world, our country, and our culture and grow frustrated with the ignorance, foolishness, and depraved notions that are often displayed in the media and news. In this day and age, humanity as a whole is desperately seeking for answers, for satisfaction. But they look in all the wrong places – relationships, money, drugs, fame, themselves. And I look at myself and see the same prideful spirit, the very same sin nature, always vying for dominance. It is in those moments that I have to stop and fix my eyes on the Lord once more and repent of my wrong attitude.

Because true satisfaction can only be found in Jesus.

The poem you are about to read is my response to what I see in our culture and is the message I so desperately want to communicate to those who are lost and searching. This is what God has laid on my heart!

“O Humanity,

Men of prospect,

Whose hopes and dreams are built upon

The foundations of intellect,

To whom shall you answer?

To what king shall you bow,

O you people who hold the keys to the world?

Your knowledge shapes the universe,

You bend reality to your desires.

Who can stand before you?

Who can dictate the depth of your thoughts?

Who can judge your actions?

Man has become the highest of all things,

Exalted above the earth.

Nothing can remove you

From the throne you have constructed.

All hail the Lords of time,

Who have unlocked the great mysteries of our age!

Let creation bow to its Masters,

Man, the pinnacle of existence.

Thus cry the Humanists, those whose faith

Rests in the dust of the earth.

But you, humanity,

Men of much thought but little sense,

Whose hopes and dreams are built upon

The fleeting wisps of knowledge,

Who shall you blame

When the consequences of your actions

Reap the souls of millions and

Destroy everything you hold dear?

When forced to bow before

The manifestations of your prayers,

To whom shall you cry for help?

Your intellect has shaped society,

You have manipulated and distorted reality to

Your god-less specifications.

Is it all you expected it to be?

When you gaze upon the blood and tears of suffering,

As your eyes water from the stench

Of evil, filth, and poverty,

When standing tall surrounded by

The brokenness of your aspirations,

Do you applaud?

Do you cry, “All hail Man,

The bringer of peace and solutions”?

But you shall be cast down from the throne

You have created of blood and bones,

Reduced to the dirt from which you were made.

Do you not know that you are as fleeting as

The flowers that bloom for a season,

Then wither in the heat of the sun?

Can you not see that you are dust,

A wisp of smoke in the winds of eternity?

We are frail and fragile creatures,

Locked within the confines of space and time.

We are not the Lords of knowledge,

Nor the Creators of reality,

Nor the Masters of the universe,

We are not gods.

O humanity,

Broken men of dust,

Whose hopes and dreams focus on perishable things,

Answer to the Star-Creator,

He who fashioned your souls.

Bow to the King of all knowledge and time,

Who holds the keys to the universe.

He has shaped reality,

Working throughout history to bring

To you the realization

That He is that for which you have been searching.

He is meant to fill the void in your aching hearts.

None can stand before His mercy and grace.

None can dictate the depth of His thoughts.

None can judge His actions,

Far beyond our understanding.

He is above all things,

Exalted alone.

Nothing can remove Him from the throne

He deserves.

All hail the Lord of the universe,

Whose mighty works none can fully grasp.

Let Man bow before his Master,

God, holy, perfect, worthy of eternal praise.

Thus my heart cries.”

Mystery of Grace

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” – Anne Lamott

Press On

New Year’s is always a time of excitement. Memories are relived. Hopes and dreams for the future blossom. Social media sights are plastered with posts such as, “New year, new me,” and “Page 1 of 365,” and “Today is the first page of a new chapter – make it a good one!”

Caught up in the frenzy of motivation, many of us sit down and set goals for the upcoming year – or at least we think about the things in our lives we wish to change or improve. We step into the new year with a sense of empowerment, and a voice in our head whispers, “This year, I will change. This year, things will be different.”

But soon the hype dies down. The resolutions we made are either forgotten or ignored as we trudge through life and allow the busyness or stress to distract us. We learn that those aspirations will take a little more work than we anticipated, or we find that the “easy” goals we set now seem far out of our reach. We realize that, to reach these goals, we will have to MAKE time in our already hectic schedules.

And so we get discouraged. We grow lazy. We figure that it’s just not worth it.

Or, if you’re anything like me, you have fallen through on so many resolutions in the past, that you wonder if there is even a point in creating new ones for 2015. As strange as this will sound, I am the kind of person who avoids setting goals because I am afraid I won’t reach them. It seems easier to strive for less in order to avoid either that feeling of disappointment if I fail, or the extra effort that will inevitably be involved in stretching myself.

Perhaps some of you understand exactly where I’m coming from.

But, let’s be honest here. What kind of life is that? Jesus hasn’t called me or you to a life of mediocrity or sub-par accomplishment. He has not redeemed us that we might sit back and remain as we are, where we are. No, he has called us to lives of abundance and joy. To be renewed and restored by spending time in His Word. To run with endurance where He has called us to go. To love Him with every fiber of our being. To run free, live strong, and love hard.

We were made for more!

“Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13b-14

If you only make one goal for 2015, let it be this: that every morning, before your feet hit the ground as you get out of bed, you would surrender your day to God. My amazing youth pastor spent four years repeating that phrase. Never before has one piece of wisdom so affected me – and now I make it my #1 goal for 2015!

I want to encourage you all to take this year one day at a time. Seize every moment for God’s glory. Seek His will in all things. And remember that your past doesn’t define you. In Christ, you are made new! He has big things planned for your life, so fix your eyes on Him and press on.

Happy New Year’s!