"Every man leaves a lasting influence... that will affect future generations for centuries to come. But let's face it, not all legacies are the same. Some are productive, others are destructive. Some are illustrious, others are infamous... what kind of a legacy will you leave behind? A spiritual legacy is one that money can't buy and taxes can't take away, it is passing down to the next generation what matters most."
Steven J. Lawson

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Unwasted Life

One more day, one more year. The Lord has been so good to me and has given me 27 years of life. It seems that as I grow older, the Lord continues to teach me more and more each year. Looking back on the previous year, and where I was last February, I am so thankful for the gift of life, and amazed at all that God has taught me this year. The emotions that I was experiencing last year, the discontent, frustration, and pain have turned into content, joy, and peace, though there are times of discontent with circumstances. It just reinforces the truth that we ought to be people who live by faith NOT by emotions, because emotions come and go, changing almost hourly. Faith, if in Jesus Christ, is the anchor in the storms of life. Jesus is the rock and pillar of our existence.
So, as I have reflected on another year of my life gone by, I have wrestled with regret(should I have any?), and my heart is both sober and thankful at the same time. My heart is broken over the unfaithfulness toward God, and over decisions I have made that wasted so many hours of precious time that I will never get back. My heart aches when I think about God’s love that will not let me go, and how unchanging it is even when I fail to love Him. Sometimes, I wish that sanctification would just be like big bolts of lightning, insteda of a slow constant drip of rain water. My hope is in Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Hallelujah!
I want my life to count for something significant, to have a weighty impact on this world. In the past, I had an overwhelming fear of being forgotten, of never having my name remembered in the annals of history. The problem with this fear is that it is a worldly fear living as if there was nothing or no one to give you significance. Once, I wanted to be a famous writer and have my stories be the next big thing since Harry Potter. How foolish that is! It is a vain ambition to make much of yourself, at the expense of making nothing of Jesus Christ. In time, Harry Potter and all other great works of literature, art, music, etc will be forgotten, and then what? In that last day, will we have chased after something temporal and lost everything, or will we have pursued with all that we have, something eternal and significant? Will we have wasted our lives? Have I wasted what life God has graciously given me? This is the question that I have been asking myself over the last two months. For the past three years, I feel as if my life has been an aimless wandering, trying to figure out what it was I am supposed to be doing with my life. Although I learned some valuable things on the journey, I would say that many of my pursuits have led to wasted time. What I am left with now is the task of redeeming the time that I have left, however long that may be.
Over the Christmas holidays, God awakened in me something that I have never felt before in my journey as a Christian. He opened my eyes to the truth that a life lived in making much of Jesus, in living in the joy that it brings, and of extending that joy into the lives of others is an unwasted life. It is the only way to not waste your life. A life spent in pursuit of anything else is a wasted life. John Piper, in his book Don’t Waste Your Life, says “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.” THAT is an unwasted life. When we live in such a way that magnifies Christ and extends the good news of the gospel to others, then we will have lived a life that counts. Our lives will have had an impact that is eternal. Now that is a mission that I can get on board with!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


It has been far too long since I blogged on here! Much has happened in the last several months, and some of it has caused me to put writing on hold for a period of thought and reflection and decision making. A couple of weeks ago, I watched the film Eat, Pray, Love on television, thinking that it would be a fun film to watch because of the great far away places it was filmed in. As I watched however, I became more and more disappointed at the main point of the film. Basically this woman divorced her husband(who still loved her and didn't want the divorce), and selfishly left her friends to "find herself" somewhere across the globe. Instead of facing her issues, and trying to save her marriage, she escaped, and hurt others in the process. She went in search of answers, of "higher truth", but went searching in all the wrong places.
Sadly, this seems to be the way our culture lives. I even bought into the romantic notion of tramping around the globe to have new experiences outside of the ordinary. This was before seeing the movie, and it struck me that as I rolled my eyes, that I had wanted to escape too; to make all my problems go away. There are so many people in this world who buy into this idea!
This is one of the biggest reasons why young men put off responsibility and want to stay a boy forever. Boys are staying boys longer and longer, girls get lost in their physical beauty or in finding security in a relationship. As a whole, our society is caught up with self- fulfillment and self-glorification, rather than living in service to others and to a mighty God who made them.
Christ calls us to something better, something much more glorious and beautiful: Discipleship. Discipleship to Christ, living a life in service to the King is our greatest calling. We are to live Godly, obedient lives in pursuit of holiness under the Triune God. Because Christ is the mediator; the one by whom we have access to the Father, is it not fitting that He calls us to follow after Him? Along the journey, He promises suffering and trial, but the way is joyful, and its end is eternal life. Let us both men and women fulfill our calling to live a life of discipleship, and to lead holy and righteous lives. Men, young men in particular, let us not be ashamed or apathetic to take up the reins of responsibility and leadership God designed for us. May we all say that we have been faithful disciples and stewards of that which God has entrusted to us.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Aslan's Country

Today, I saw The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader which is new in theaters. After the last installment, Prince Caspian, which was huge disappointment, I was hesitant to see another Narnia film if Disney was involved. Then I heard that Disney was out of the picture and over the next several months, I heard nothing but hopeful reports online that the producers were trying to regain what they had lost with the previous film, which was any symbolism that can be found in the book, as well as a sense of childlike wonder that the first film had. All that being said, when I actually saw the movie, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is amazing how even if people miss the message of these stories, God allows the message to still come through, despite man's efforts to hide the Christian themes within them. Another great example of this is the film Amazing Grace directed by Michael Apted, who also directed Dawn Treader. This film sticks very closely to the book, much more so than Prince Caspian. The beautiful and powerful themes of faith, courage, overcoming temptation, and ultimately, grace and redemption all permeate through the film. This may be my favorite of the film so far, and certainly it was my favorite book.

The most noble of the characters in this particular story is a brave mouse named Reepicheep, who teaches one of the main characters about courage and honor. Eustace, the spoiled and bratty cousin of Edmund and Lucy(who return from the previous story) learns some very important lessons about faith, courage, and honor from this adventurous mouse. During the course of the voyage, each child is tempted by their own sinful desires, and Eustace succumbs to his own greed when he finds a cave full of treasure. As a result, he turns into a dragon, but in the process, learns humility, and realizes he needs Aslan to save him. Instead of looking at Eustace, however, let's look at Reepicheep, because he is the one who reaches Aslan's Country, which is the title of this post.

Reepicheep has all the qualities that I would like to have more of. He is courageous, loyal, hopeful, a fierce friend, and has deep faith. He longs to sail to Aslan's Country, which allegorically serves as the equivalent to heaven. He believes that it truly exists and cannot wait to get there. In the greatest hour of need, Reepicheep is there to fight. He never turns away from danger, but meets it head on. He hopes for the day when he will get to see Aslan again and travel to his country. In the film, there is a great scene where he is singing about Aslan's Country, when Lucy asks him if he really believes that it exists. His answer is "We have nothing if not belief."
I will go ahead and draw out an application from this character. If Aslan's Country symbolizes heaven, then I think Reepicheep helps us see how we ought to be. Do you long for "Aslan's Country" like the mouse? Do we seek to bring hope to a broken and sad world while we are here?

Revelation speaks about heaven and gives us hope for the day of redemption. Chapter 21:4-5 says " He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And He who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new." This is a promise. Whatever challenge or trial we face, no matter how sad or painful, we have a great and sure hope that one day, the great king will return to redeem our broken world. The more I think about heaven, the more hope I have and the more I long for it. Do you? This is not the way things are supposed to be. There is something greater coming. Are you hoping in that and longing for that day? As for me, I want to see Aslan's Country...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

On Adventure and Wild at Heart

Do you remember being told by your mother to go play outside growing up? I do. Before I quit homeschooling in the fourth grade, these words were heard in our house quite often. Perhaps a solid 75%- 85% of my day would be spent outside, playing with my brothers in whatever creative activity we found ourselves. Our imaginations ran wild as we played cowboys and indians, building forts(even an entire "colony" at one point) or having jousting wars on our bicycles. My mom would lock us out on beautiful days where we had no excuse to be inside. The world was our playground, okay, maybe not the entire world, but at least 40 acres of land... Some of my fondest memories are of the many adventures with my two brothers(often accompanied by my older sister as well) having dirt clobber fights, making mud pies in the rain, or playing football before supper.

Though I was weaker than my two brothers, I always did what they did. They were probably more gun-ho than I was, but I loved tramping through the woods and fields with them. I think my love for adventure came from these special times, but also from things that I read and watched on film. My favorite things to read as a boy were historical fiction and nonfiction, biography, and adventure. All of this incensed in me a desire for adventure, but this desire strangely did not really come alive until my senior year of college.

Before I explore that history however, I want to discuss the book Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge, as well as my ideas on both adventure and what I believe being wild at heart means for boys/men. First of all, let me say that I do not believe there is anything wrong with wanting some excitement or adventure in your life. The only problem comes when you pursue it at the cost of your relationships with family, a job, or even your own life, or the lives of others. More important however, is that adventure-lust may be a sign of discontent, or longing which realistically, only Jesus can satisfy. According to Webster's Dictionary, adventure is "a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome." There have been countless accounts of people who, with the lust of adventure driving them, have caused pain to family and friends, spent thousands of dollars, and even lost their lives in pursuit of glory. This is foolish and a waste of resources and life if done with selfish ambition, that ultimately destroys more than it achieves.

Today, I believe that men are looking for some way to make their mark on the world, and adventure sports seems to be a great way to do that. If you are a hopeless romantic like me, you may desire adventure to experience what the great explorers like Shackleton, or others may have experienced as a way to do something in a spirit of heroism and honor, which seems especially void these days. In some ways, I long for adventure because I want to push myself and test my abilities. Of course, there must always be wisdom in this.
Wild at Heart has been vastly popular, but I feel that it gives an unrealistic and even unhealthy view of manhood and puts too much pressure on men who may be reading the book. Eldredge pulls from his own experiences and tries to impose them on young men. He misapplies scripture
to fit it to his view, which is misleading young men down a path of idealistic dreams.

To be wild at heart I think really only applies to us as men in the sense that we are designed in a way that reflects the attributes of God in a male way just as women reflect His attributes in a female way. God has designed us this way. As Christ is the head of His bride the Church, so we are designed to be the head of our family and of our wives. We are the provider and sustainer of our family, as God is to His children. Mothers provide nurture and care to her children, which
reflects God's care to us. God has designed us in such a special and unique way to be mirrors to reflect our Maker. The way we express things or do things may be more physical, but that is the way we have been wired by God.

As a boy, it was a normal day if my brothers and I came back with torn pants, muddy faces, and a few cuts and bruises. We were interacting with one another as boys will: with physicality. Typically speaking, if a boy gets a chance to wrestle in the rain and get dirty will do so, while a girl will probably stay inside and play with her dolls. Forgive me if I have just given in to a stereotype, but I think that this seems to be the common experience of most children. We were adventurous boys who remain adventurous as men, though maybe in different ways than when we were young...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Of Friendship, Sacrifice, and The Tales That Really Matter

Weather always affects my mood. If it's cloudy, wet, and windy, my mood turns either depressive or melancholic. If the weather is cold, but sunny, particularly around this time of year, my mood becomes reflective, slightly depressive, but more reflective. This is especially true around sunset. Maybe there is something in the air or the change in the leaves' color that does this to me. For some reason, other than the fact that I love cold weather, I love this time of year. It seems natural to reflect on your life at this time in the year. As of this week, the weather started out cold and rainy, but has turned to windy, cold, and sunny. And so, this post has been inspired by the weather, thoughts and reflections over the last two days, and The Lord of the Rings.

I have been reflecting and musing over the last two days on the subject of friendship. It brings one great joy(in my humble opinion) to a person when there is sweet fellowship with a dear friend. The times when bonds are made, experiences shared, and advice given, can provide some of the deepest and richest times in a person's life, where human interactions are involved. I believe God made fellowship with friends sweet so that we might get a foretaste of our union with Him in heaven. When that thought is rested upon, excitement fills my heart and I begin to long for heaven just a little bit more. In those sometimes long breaks in fellowship with dear friends, when the desire for fellowship with a person is so intense, then is the longing for heaven made greater. Though you may not see that friend again, we do have the hope of one day seeing them again in glory. I have friends that I have not seen in two or three years and I long to see them again, but even if somehow I don't ever see them again, there is the promise of being reunited in Heaven.

There are five marks of a true friend: Vulnerability, Trust, Faithfulness, Accountability, and Love. True friends are those who see your sin and weakness, but who push you to the cross and challenge you; who truly desire your best, and who love you unconditionally in spite of your brokenness. These true friends lay down their lives for you. This is the kind of friend that I wish to be to others, and the sort that I seek out in people. In Christian vernacular, we might often refer to them as brothers, as they are our spiritual brothers if we are both in Christ. In my own life, I know that I can converse about anything with those that are closest to me. I know that I will not be judged and they know that I will not judge them for anything spoken or done. There is great comfort in knowing this, and in having complete trust with another person. If one of us does cross a line or if we follow a path of sin, each of us expects to be called out and opposed in love by the other person. A true friend will always be willing to speak truth to their companion even if that person does not take it well. Proverbs 27:6 says "Faithful are the wounds of a friend..." Friends are faithful, even when it hurts...

While thinking bout friendship, I thought of famous examples of deep committed friendships. The most famous in the Old Testament that exemplifies Proverbs 27:6 is the story of David and Jonathan. I Samuel 18:1 says Jonathan's soul was knit to the soul of David. Jonathan loved David as his own soul, and even though his father King Saul tried to kill David, Jonathan protected David behind his father's back. Jonathan risked everything for David, and became vulnerable to the point where he actually took off all his outer garments including his robe, sword, and belt, and gave them to David. Jonathan knew that David had been anointed as next king, but instead of bearing resentment toward David, he humbled himself and recognized that God had appointed David as Saul's successor.

Friendship also requires sacrifice. Sacrifice may take different forms throughout the course of a friendship. It may be simply just yielding your wants and desires to the other person's desires. Perhaps it may be giving up your time for your companion even if it is inconvenient. In some cases, it may be actually giving your life for your friend. Jesus certainly fell into this mold when he died on the cross for his friends, that they may have eternal life. Jesus demonstrates what it looks like to be ultimate friend because He lived it out in His interactions with the disciples, giving up His time and energy, and because He went to the cross for guilty sinners so that we might be called His friends.

An example from literature that readily sticks out in my mind, is the relationship between Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings. Sam was as loyal as they come in this epic masterpiece. Sam, who loved the Shire, who was afraid to leave, remained loyal until the quest to destroy the ring of power was complete. He was charged by Gandalf the wizard to never leave Frodo's side, and he took it to heart. Even when through the deceit of Gollum, Frodo believed that Sam was against him, Sam remained true and came to Frodo's aid in a dire situation. Had it not been for Samwise, Frodo would not have completed the quest to save Middle-Earth.

In the end of The Two Towers, Sam makes a speech about the tales the really mattered. He says that the heroes in those stories had plenty of chances to turn back, but they never did. Why were these stories ones that really mattered? Because they had something to teach the audience. Stories where the hero, through his own lust or doubts, would have failed had it not been for his loyal and trustworthy companion, are my favorite kind of stories. Legends often tend to have the characteristic of teaching the audience some valuable truth. Arthurian Legends for instance that tell the tale of King Arthur and is brave knights on a perilous quest, are moral lessons on courage, loyalty, and faith, as well as friendship and brotherhood. Who likes stories with nothing but fluff? The best stories are weighty and have great meaning to them. Even greater are the stories that give us hope and point us to Jesus. Look at the Old Testament, which is full of stories. Each one is a foreshadowing of someone greater than those in the actual story. The entire Old Testament points toward a coming Messiah who would bring hope to a dying world full of brokenness and sin. Modern examples of stories that serve more as allegory are The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. The tales that demonstrate our brokenness, our need for someone greater than us; that point to Jesus, those are the tales that really matter...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Amazing Grace...Jesus Removes the Scales

This weekend, I watched the film Amazing Grace, which has become one of my favorite films. The film is about William Wilberforce and his lifelong battle to end slavery. However, this is not why this is one of my favorite films. The film includes John Newton, as he was Wilberforce's pastor and mentor and his story ties into the whole slavery issue. Newton was a former slave ship captain until his radical conversion by the grace of God. This grace so profoundly impacted Newton, that he penned the hymn Amazing Grace in 1779. It has since become arguably the most popular Christian hymn of all time. So, back to the film, the best two lines in the film are in the same scene where John is dictating his account as a slave ship captain, when Wilberforce enters to speak to him. The old preacher says "Two things I know; they are that I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great Savior." This to me was summed up in the hymn Amazing Grace. The second greatest line in the film is really a question he asks of Wilberforce, "I once was blind, but now I see, did I really right that?" William replies "Yes, you did." With tears in his eyes, John exclaims, "Now at last it's true!"(what is truly ironic is that at this point, John Newton was actually blind!)

As I watched this film, I wept because for some inexplicable reason, it was made more real to me when, in a very moving scene(other than the one mentioned above), Wilberforce sings the hymn in a very clear and moving voice. The words, as I listened rang so clearly in my heart, that I began to cry. That night, as I realized that my life has been a continual cycle of essentially throwing God's grace in his face, I knew that I had to take radical action to change my ways.

Today, I made a connection between the line 'I once was blind, but now I see' and a very powerful scene(and my favorite) from the C.S Lewis classic The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
The scene in question is a scene where Aslan confronts Eustace, a selfish and rude boy from the real world, who has turned into a dragon because of his greed. Eustace vainly attempts to rid himself of the scales, and return to his regular state yet, every time he tries, it doesn't work. Finally, Aslan tells Eustace that he must undress him. And so even though it was very painful, Eustace let Aslan tear off the dragon scales with his claws. After the painful process is over, Eustace is a boy again, and a much humbler, and grateful boy than before. Eustace finally understood that he needed Aslan to do it for him, because only he could change him.

This is a beautiful picture of what Jesus does for us. Aslan represents Jesus in the Chronicles of Narnia, and is the perfect allegory for how we need Jesus to remove the scales over our hearts and eyes so that we may see the truth about ourselves, and about him. Without the fierce love of Aslan, Eustace could not begin to understand his need for Aslan to remove the scales, so that he might begin to really live. We are no different. Sin has blinded our hearts to our condition, and our need for a savior. The scales are so thick over our eyes, that we have no hope of saving or changing ourselves. Instead, we must let the Lion of Judah tear the scales away, however painful it will be. This is what Jesus does by his grace. He allows us to see that we are sinners and that we desperately need a Savior. Even after we are saved, the great Lion must continually tear away scales to change us and transform us through the process of sanctification. This makes grace that amazing! The question I have to ask myself is: Am I willing for the lion to tear away at me? Jesus, tear the scales away!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Christ Bids Me Come and Die

One thing that I have kept hearing over and over again throughout the last several months is the phrase "count the cost". Of course, this phrase is often associated with Dietrich Bonhoeffer from perhaps his greatest work The Cost of Discipleship. This is not the first place we see this phrase used however. Jesus commissions us in Luke 9:23-25 to take up our cross daily and follow after him. If I would follow after Jesus and be his disciple, I must die to myself and carry my cross daily. Counting the cost of following him must therefore be taken with solemn and courageous hearts. Jesus offers a life of suffering and trial, not a life that is carefree, but he does promise that he will be with us as we walk that road.

So the question begs an answer. Am I counting the cost? Jesus commands that I give up everything to follow him. I must be able to say with Paul that "everything is but loss, for the sake of Christ." Do I see the worth and beauty of following Christ? Am I willing to give up everything on this earth for him? Heavy questions to ponder and consider. The eternal life promised far outshines any earthly gain or wealth that can ever be attained here in this temporal existence. This life is fleeting and will pass away, but life eternal will never fade away. How could I ever trade the glorious riches of eternal life in Christ for cheap and fleeting idols that only weaken and destroy? Yet, the tragedy of this is that, often I do drink out of broken cisterns that hold nothing. May it never be, that I would trade what Christ has paid for with his own blood, for empty promises that broken cisterns offer!

A life filled with pain and suffering would be worth the cost if it meant spending eternity in the glorious presence of my God! A life of sacrifice would be worth it if it meant that I had the joy of heaven to cast my vision toward! Jesus, give me the courage to deny myself, to walk the hard road, and to follow after Thee; to gladly share in Thy suffering, and truly count the cost of following Thee as a disciple.

If you know anything about the extraordinary life of Bonhoeffer, you know that he was martyred on April 9, 1945 for resisting the Third Reich. He gave his life for his fellow believers in Germany and entrusted himself to his Savior, which enabled him to face death with the certainty of being united with Christ. Bonhoeffer was able to count the cost of following after Jesus because the grace of Jesus Christ compelled him to live a life in total surrender to his Lord, and live sacrificially, even at the cost of his own life. Bonhoeffer himself wrote these searing words, "Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again... It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life." This was certainly true in Bonhoeffer's life as he lived it out to his tragic death only nine days before he would have been liberated by the Allies. Perhaps the greatest statement he ever made was this:"When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." His life is a poignant example of how a man ought to live for God, but more importantly, it points to the great sacrifice of Christ who took up his cross, and died that I might live. Christ bids me come and die, and so I die...