Sunday, April 10, 2011
I was raised in a Christian home with loving parents. God blessed me with this and I am extremely thankful. I was born on my parents first anniversary. My parents were together for almost 20 years - 2 days shy of it. I'll get into that later. I don't drink, I don't smoke, I haven't had sex. My struggles that I will share about here are more of a personal nature, affecting more myself than others, but they are still the things that God and I have to work out. My struggles are not the 'impressive' ones that others mention as amazing, that people are so shocked to see God move and pull them out of those sins. But my struggles are the ones people face all the time, the ones that consume you in a different way. And to be blunt - with God, any sin is one sin too many - be it pride, lust, or murder. Any sin makes us not worthy of Heaven. But that is why we need his son Jesus.
So as I said, I was raised in a Christian home and we went to church every week, or almost every week. I walked the aisle and got baptized when I was 8, but I didn't really have a relationship with Christ until I was in my teens. When I had walked the aisle at that young of an age, I didn't understand what I was really doing or saying, and just thought it was the 'right thing to do'. Luckily God opened my eyes later to the sin in my life and my need for him.
My group was always the good Christian group. I was the leader of our group- both planning and emotionally. I was the counselor, and everyone came to me when they had a problem. I didn't mind it. I was good at it. God has blessed me with the ability to be an encourager and someone that people can open up to very easily. I was also one of the main leaders of our youth group. I was the only person in my grade who came to my church. I was part of the leadership team, youth choir, etc. Church was my life, my identity.
Well, someone told me one time that they looked up to me so much- that nothing ever bothered me, that no matter what, I always smiled, always kept God first and let nothing else bother me. He said "Chip, you are the rock of our youth group". I was kinda floored. They didn't know all the little stuff I battled, but I vowed to myself not to show weakness and let those who looked up to me down. So I bottled things up, and never let anyone see the things that hammered away upon me. There wasn't anyone, in my eyes, I could really talk to anyways. So as the time stretched on, my pain inside grew. One day, I finally exploded, and did the thing I promised myself I would never do - hurt my friends. It took me a long time to forgive myself for that, and to deal with everything that I had bottled up inside of me for so long. I had tried to take not only my pain upon myself, but all of my friends' pain and problems. I wanted to take it away from them- if I could take their pain and put it on my shoulders I would have done it so that they would not hurt. I failed to realize though that there was someone who had already done that- Jesus. It hit me at a retreat we went on. It was almost as if I was trying to take God's place in their lives. I wasn't consciously doing it. But this scared me away from being a leader after that- I was putting myself ahead of God- my glory, trying to make myself feel loved and to make myself feel better by getting praise/feeling needed from others. So I took a step back and was not as active as a leader anymore.
So time went on, and I started college. I drove back and forth to UAB, staying at home as most of my friends were a year or two younger, and my mom was batting cancer, so I wanted to stay around and help. At the church, we got a new youth minister. For the most part, things were alright. Nothing I couldn't handle. Then my world got rocked. In the span of a month, I lost my job, my church, and my mother. I was laid off from work cause they weren't doing too well, and I wasn't needed. My church did not have a college and career group, but the new youth minister put into effect a new rule that once you were out of high school, you weren't apart of the youth group anymore. To me- the youth group had always been my life. It hurt a lot to be taken away from the thing I loved and to which I had given so much of my time. And then to top it all off, 2 days before my birthday, I lost my mother to cancer. I had finished taking a test and called Dad to tell him I was on my way home- he just told me to get to the hospital- fast. I had seen my mother that morning. She didn't look great, but she didn't look like she was going to die either. But later on that afternoon, after battling, she went to Heaven. Dad and I held her hands as she died. Not gonna lie - It hurt. A lot. I got out most of my pain and grief in the first 2 days or so, and then didn't cry after that for a long time. I had to stay strong for my family. I didn't show the pain I felt because they needed me. So time went on again, and I didn't understand why everything happened, but I accepted it. Later on that year, on my last trip with the church I had grown up in, a boy's father died. He could not talk with anyone else. No one else understood what he was going through. He and I stayed up all night almost every night talking about different things. He knew I could relate with him. I helped him get through the worst of it. And while I would not trade my mother's life for his comfort, I know that God used it to help him in that situation, and for me to be able to minister to others in the future as well- for his glory.
So after that span of a month, I don't want to say I hated God or was angry at him- I wasn't. I just kinda grew cold. I didn't have my spark, my fire anymore. I still told others to do the 'Christian' thing. I would advise them, counsel them, etc. I knew what they needed to do, even if I didn't always believe it myself. I'm not quite sure how to put it. It was as if I knew the right thing to do, but didn't believe it mattered if you did it or not. I mean, I had done my best to earn favor for God and look what it had earned me... But I still had my facade to keep up, so I struggled on. And it went on like that for about a year and a half. I started going to several different groups - UCF, Church of the Highlands, and most importantly, the Basement. Through these groups, God showed me awesome, dedicated people who genuinely loved Him. This was totally new to me- it was unlike the church I had been attending. These people were genuine in their desire to only love and serve Him. It lit a fire under me again- I wanted to be like those people- to love God and to desire God more and more. I became a regular at the college group of Highlands, and the Basement- I was one of the original crew- when it was actually held in the basement of a guy's house, no females were allowed, and there were only 40 people. Now that ministry has blossomed to where they have at thousands of people every time it meets. I don't go there now, but I am glad I was able to be apart of such a group. It helped me gain my fire for a long time.
So yeah, the story from there takes another turn, lol. Things had been going well and I met an amazing Christian woman. We fell in love and thought we were going to get married. Well, somewhere along the way, I lost my focus on God. I got busy with school, was unable to go to the services I loved and enjoyed, and my focus shifted to her. Satan attacked me in all kinds of ways. I started looking for joy and love in her instead of in God. I didn't realize that then. I can only say that now looking back upon it all. I was so desperate for love that I let my pursuit of it ruin our relationship. I honestly loved her much more than I did God. I had no problem saying that either. I wasn't trying to deny it or hide it. We ended up going on a church retreat together and on it, we broke up. It devastated me. I had started making plans to get married, and I had what, at the time, I thought was God's plan for me ripped away. I didn't know what to think. I know now that it is better that it happened this way, that God has different things in store for both myself and for her, but I did not understand at all why all of it was happening at the time. Satan kept pounding upon my self esteem, but God flipped a light switch for me. He has made me realize so many things since we broke up. I no longer have the self esteem issues I did then because God has made me realize exactly how much he loves me. Growing up in church, I have heard countless times that God loves us and he sent his son to die for us. Heck- by that time, I had been a Christian for almost 10 years and a leader for most of that. But it took her breaking up with me for me to realize that it doesn't matter what she, my friends, my family, or anyone else, thought of me- the Creator of the universe sent his son to die for us- what kind of love is that? I didn't need anyone else. I had what I needed.
That has been some time ago now. I went to several different churches since then and God has been teaching me different lessons and drawing me closer to him. I still struggle with my desire for God sometimes, letting Satan distract me. I still battle some of the demons from the above struggles, but when I do, God reminds me of the lessons I've learned and that he will be here for me. I still struggle with feeling entitled, like God owes me for being a 'good Christian'. And this cannot be further from the truth - there is nothing I can do to earn favor from God. I do not believe in works-based salvation. But this is something that, due to my background with the church, I struggle with sometimes. You'd think, growing up in church, that I wouldn't have this problem, but it's something that God is working on with me.
It's been an interesting journey so far, and it's neat to look back at how God has grown me as a person and as a leader. I know he still has that calling in my life - even if I want to deny it sometimes. I now attend Brook Hills and I have grown tremendously since I've been going there. I went on my first mission trip last year, and am going on another one this coming summer. I plan on getting baptized soon - I never got baptized once I was actually saved. It is something I aim to correct here shortly.
So for those who took the time to read all of this, I hope you received something from it and that you don't repeat my mistakes. If you ever need to talk, please let me know. I'll be glad to lend an ear and share what I have learned. Have a great week everyone. Talk to ya later...
Love in Christ,
Thursday, April 7, 2011
- If you're reading this, then you know that first off, I am a Christ follower. God sent his son to die on the cross and rise again so that I and anyone that puts their faith in him and repents of their sin can be redeemed before Him and spend eternity with our Lord and Savior, even though we do not deserve it and can never earn it. I am eternally grateful for this.
- I love hanging out with my friends as I have been graced with some of the most awesome, hilarious, and encouraging people in this world to hang out with. I don't know what I'd do without them.
- I recently began taking classes to become a black belt, which is something I have always wanted to do/had a goal to do. The style I am doing it in is not karate, but a Korean form called Tang Soo Doo. I have at least 2 and a half years remaining to become a black belt, but it's been fun so far, and I like a challenge - even if it does leave me more sore than I'd like to admit sometimes... lol.
- I'm a movie buff, even if I may have somehow missed most of the 80's movies - which I am now trying to correct since my friends and coworkers keep pointing out more and more movies that I need to watch from that time period, lol.
- In some sense, even though I am definitely a technological person and would miss the comforts that I am used to now, I think I was born in the wrong decade. My sense of honor and chivalry seems a little misplaced, and very much not appreciated in today's society.
- I have a house - just looking for the person that God has in this world for me so that she can help make it a home. It'll all work out in His timing. I'm just an impatient person :)
Love in Christ,
PS -> ROLL TIDE! (Come on now, you didn't seriously think I was gonna leave that out, did ya?)
Friday, April 1, 2011
Aloha everyone. Thank you for coming to read my blog. Hopefully you’ll find it entertaining and enlightening. I’ve been told from time to time I am a good writer. I’ll leave that for you to decide. I’m sure it varies from post to post, or depending upon the mood I’m in and the style I choose to write in at the time. Anyways… I used to blog more often, but fell out of the habit, and this is my attempt at getting back in. We shall see where it goes I guess, but whatever the result, I believe it shall be an endeavor worth taking.
So being as the title of this site is ‘Transforming Grace’, I feel I should make my first post about the title. BTW, props to you if you catch the reference in the title. Inside joke for those who know me. For those who don’t, you’ll be let it in due time if you prove yourself worthy :)
So what is Transforming Grace? I’ll break it down for us all and then put it back together at the end.
So why use the term ‘Transforming’? What does this mean? Transform means to change in condition, nature, or character. In the back of my mind, I can hear people already asking ‘Why use that word? Isn’t that the same thing as modifying or altering?’ I use this term because of the magnitude of the statement. If one were to only be affected by a small amount, it would be referred to as an alteration. It would be different, but it is generally only affecting the appearance of whatever it is that we are talking about. The same goes for the word ‘modify’. It means to change somewhat the form or qualities. This, to me, does not have the gravity that I want to convey. A transformation - That mean to change something that is fundamental about you. It is not a small change. It is a powerful statement to say one has been transformed because something that was a core part of what defines you has been changed. What once defined you is now no longer a part of you. Something else has come in its place and has taken over as the defining characteristic.
So now that I’ve gone over why the term ‘Transforming’ is so powerful and what it means. So what about the second word, ‘Grace’? Grace can be defined a couple of different ways, so I want to make sure we are all on the same page. I do not mean favor or good will. I do not mean the word which helps describe the beauty of motion. And I certainly don’t mean the TV show Will & Grace (yes, I know, corny joke, but hey – sometimes you gotta throw yourself on the grenade to get a chuckle). When I refer to grace, I refer to the definition where it means mercy, clemency, or pardon. I’ll speak of those words, and their significance below.
Now that the primary words have a meaning and a background to them, how do we put them together? Just what is ‘Transforming Grace’? If you believe in a perfect, Holy, righteous God, which I do, then you believe that he cannot tolerate sin. He cannot be in the presence of it. I was, and still am, a sinner. We are all sinners. It is one of our defining characteristics, whether we like to admit it or not. We are born into sin, and there is nothing we can do to change that. We will all sin, and therefore, we will all deserve to be sent to Hell. As sinners, we cannot be in God’s presence. His holiness demands that our sin not be allowed in his presence. Leaves us in a bind, does it not?
God did give us a way out - Transforming Grace. It means that a part of us has been fundamentally changed by an act of mercy. So since I admit I’m still a sinner and that nothing I can do on my own could change that, what does that mean? What part of me was fundamentally changed so that I could be in God’s presence? God, in act of mercy, sent his son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins and rise again. In doing so, he took our sin upon himself. He took our punishment. He gave us a pardon. We just have to accept that act of mercy. Accept the pardon that is freely given. If we do, when God looks at us, he will not see our sin. Although he should see a wretched sinner and condemn us, he doesn’t. He sees something fundamentally different - his perfect son. His grace, when accepted, fundamentally changes who we are and how God sees us. The sin which once defined us has now been replaced by Jesus, the one who was without sin.
I hope that this blog gives you an insight into who I am, who God is, and what, for the most part, this blog will be about. I’m sure I’ll ramble from time to time about my own life, but I hope that I always point back to my Lord and Savior, Jesus. After all, I am radically changed by Transforming Grace, and I want that to be the fundamental attribute by which I am known. Till next time…
Love in Christ,