Friday, April 18, 2014

A Short Post About Zombies

Zombies are a big thing in pop culture right now. My kids know all about zombies.

This morning, I used it as an opportunity to explain to my son that when Jesus rose from the dead, he didn't come back like a zombie.

"The Romans hammered sharp, spiky nails through Jesus' wrists to nail him on a big cross (or maybe a tree, we're not sure). And they hung him up like that, and it killed him."

"Then he rose from the dead!" my son says.

Yep! He didn't come back as a brain-dead creature, though, he came back to life for real, as God's son!
That's part of why we worship him.

I know some of you that follow me on my blog or facebook get annoyed about how much I talk about "Christianity" and how I "indoctrinate" my kids.

I do not believe that I should keep my faith a secret to myself.

Not after all the healing and wonderful things Jesus has done to transform my life! If I say I believe that Jesus is the answer to all of life's questions and the way be saved from separation from God with eternal life...
...then how sick and twisted would it be to keep that to myself?
(Not to mention completely contradictory to what Jesus told us to do)

Thanks for reading; that's all I needed to say for now.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Why I quit the church, and then came back

I had been turned off by the church. Let me rephrase that: I had been very turned off by the church. I would go so far as to say I hated anything to do with my church. It had been that way for so long, I couldn't even remember when it started. I guess it must have been when I was quite young. The church my family attended when I was growing up wasn't exactly kid-friendly. And no one could give me a satisfactory about why I had to be there every week for that painfully boring hour. At least not in a way a kid could understand.

And so I decided I was an Atheist.

Despite pressure from family members, I was a self-proclaimed atheist starting from about 5th grade on.

People who know me today know that I am very actively involved in my church, and I make my kids go every week (and they love it!). I also really advocate for people to be involved in a faith community.

So, what changed?

Let's go back to my junior year of high school. I was quite taken with a particular boy. Yes, I had a crush (years from now my kids will read this and think, "Ew"!). Anyway, this guy was a Christian who took his faith seriously, so he invited me to attend the Wednesday night youth group at his church with him. I think I probably made up excuses and expressed disinterest at his first invitations, but eventually gave in just so I could spend time with him.

I still remember those first few visits to that church--how completely different and refreshing they were. The kids who attended that Wednesday night youth group were not at all like the teenagers at my family's church. I walked in feeling alone and out of place, but they immediately gave me a warm welcome with open arms. A few girls in particular made me feel like we were best buds right off the bat. The students were even excited about being actively involved in leading this group. A few of them led us in singing pop worship songs--a great departure from any kind of church music I'd ever heard. And this boy I liked volunteered his time every single week to run the sound booth. The youth pastor was...dare I He wasn't some stuffy, out-of-touch, old guy. He had (gasp!) tattoos and piercings. Most importantly, he was really gifted at connecting with us as teens. These people weren't just there to fulfill some obligatory duty...they were real.

So, I went...and kept going. I started to develop friendships there.

Meanwhile, in my heart and mind I was suffering with a number of things that seemed like the end of the world to my teenage mind. At this particular point in time, I was somewhat depressed. I had always been shy and anxious in social situations, which caused me to be absolutely terrified of my impending doom (by 'doom' I mean moving out of my parents' house to be on my own in every kind of social situation imaginable!). I also remember knowing that if I died, I would go to Hell. Every night, I would lie awake contemplating a way to end my life.

I don't know if I ever would have had the guts to go through with it, but the point is that it brought me to a place of helplessness and humility before God. I was supposed to be Atheist, but I just knew I was going to Hell if I went through with it. Being terrified and uncertain about everything in regards to my future also felt like a personal Hell. So, it was a "damned if I do, damned if I don't" sort of situation.

Attending those Wednesday nights and listening to the youth pastor preach about a relationship with Jesus, I heard the Gospel with listening ears for the first time...God broke me.
I mean that in a good way.

I arrived at a point of desperation where one night when that young boy was dropping me off at my house, I told him "I think I've decided I want to be a Christian".

That night, I made a deal with God. (Yes, I know you're not supposed to make 'deals' with God! Yes, people, I know I said I didn't believe in God, but this was how it happened, okay?)

I told God that if He would show me He is real, I would believe in Him.

I'm here to today, and I am telling you: He is Real. Believe in Him.

I thought that the night I accepted Jesus into my heart was the start of my faith journey. I thought that was when God found me. Looking back on it now, I see that God was working on me through my whole life. He was always there, I just hadn't been willing to accept it yet--I was the one who walked away from Him.

I could list for you many times that God's answered my prayers and proven his faithfulness, but the transformation I've gone through is testimony enough. I immediately began to sense the Holy Spirit come into my life and change me--healing me from my social anxiety. Giving me hope about the future that I thought was so dark.

I know how corny this sounds, but with Jesus in my life, I am filled with a hope and joy I never knew before. I can see what was so different about the kids in that youth group (most of whom remain my dearest friends to this day). The difference was they had said,"Yes" to Jesus, and Holy Spirit had come into their lives and changed them. When Jesus lives in you, you become a new creation. You get a fresh start. You don't instantly become perfect, that's for sure. But, you get to join the community of people that are getting closer their Creator and are learning to love each other.

Now, I don't want the message here to be that you need to accept Jesus out of fear--because you're afraid of going to Hell (though, I do believe that Jesus is the only way to escape Hell). True faith is not borne out of fear. Fear of condemnation is part of what led me to faith, in my case, but faith became real when I became certain that Jesus loves me and I want to love him.

One final note about church: I know a lot of people say they stay away from church because it is "full of hypocrites." My pastor recently spoke on this sentiment and reminded us that the golf course, the grocery store, and every other place is full of hypocrites, but we don't avoid those places. I'd rather spend a few years in church with them and have eternal life, than to spend all eternity with them & separated from God.

Here's what you need to know if you're wondering if your faith is real:

"For all have sinned and fall short of God's glorious standard." (Romans 3.23) 
"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6.23) 
Yet, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. There is no judgment awaiting those who trust him. But those who do not trust in him have already been judged for not believing in the only Son of God." (John 3.16-18) 
"God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God." (Ephesians 2.8-9) 
And Jesus' final command he gave to his followers, "Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved." (Mark 16.15)

I look forward to your comments