Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Raging Sea

I wrote this several years ago when I was at the beach. I remembered it today and found it in my notes. I wrote this before most of my bad stuff happened and it just made me realize just how true it is and that because I stood firm in Him, I was not knocked down, I was knocked around, but did not fall, I stayed firm  in Him.

While wading out in the gulf of Mexico off the coast of Alabama, the waves reminded me of my spiritual walk with the Lord.
I was standing out about knee deep in the ocean with my feet dug in and planted firmly in the sand. I was ready to face the waves coming toward me. As the waves crashed into me, I was jerked around and shaken, but my feet remained planted in the wet sand. And after that I pulled my feet up and as the waves came toward me, I walked into them, determined to break through them, and I did just that.

Now, the analogy that came to me right then and there was this:
If I keep my faith and lifestyle firmly planted in the word of God and in a spiritual relationship with him, no matter what troubles or terrible events are thrown at me, I will not be brought down! If I know and have faith that he will be with me through it all and use it to strengthen me, I can withstand the highest and fiercest waves of trouble!

Now with the other illustration:
If I see troubles on the horizon or feel them coming towards me, and if I have strength and faith in the Lord to guide me through the troubles, I can face those waves of trouble head on and walk right into them. For the Lord is my shepherd and he will watch over his sheep.

I also physically experienced what MIKESCHAIR was writing about in their song "Let the Waters Rise":

"There's a raging sea right in front of me. It wants to pull me in. Bring me to my knees. So let the waters rise. If you want them to. I will follow you"

I saw a raging see literally right in front of me. I could feel the tide and the water trying to pull me under. And it actually pulled me down to where I fell on my knees. And I know that whatever happens in my life, God has a purpose for it. And if it's my time to die, it's his plan, or if I keep on living, that too is his plan! I do not fear death! I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will be with him when I leave this world, and that is the most comforting thought ever! So, if it's his will, let the waters rise and I will follow you Lord! I will follow you no matter what!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Do "Good Works/Fruits" Validate Salvation?

The following was written by a friend of mine who I have done some video work for. He is a fantastic speaker and theologian and illusionist. In the past he was big into Reformed Theology/Calvinism/Lordship and listened to and read tons of John MacArthur's sermons and books. He then later came to believe in what the bible teaches about salvation, rather than what man teaches about it. I strongly urge you to check out his website

As I said, he wrote all of the following and I claim no rights to it. Enjoy!

Fruits of a Believer to Validate Salvation or Could a Believer be 100% Devoid of Any Fruits After Being Justified?

By René A. López, PhD

The Bible never teaches that fruits should be used to validate someone's justification. Of course, someone will read this and think of a number of passages that they believe explains such views. However, on careful inspection of them, they are not referring to using fruits to validate one's justification by faith alone in Christ which results in one getting justified at God's tribunal, which means "to be declared 100% righteous at that point in time forever, 'not' up to a point in the future. Some of these passages used to validate these misguided interpretations are Matthew 7:15-21 and Jas. 2:14-26. For a thorough treatment of these passages see the articles in www.scripture

However, having said that, there are other people that believe Christians can go all their lives w/o having any fruit at all. I don't believe the Bible ever teachers that, and neither has that animal—figuratively speaking—has ever existed. Part of the problem with both of these views, incorrectly taken by some, is that they become the arbitrar of what exhaustively determines "good fruits." Not only that, such folks also become the judge of where and when should such fruits appear. Look, just like the Bible never draws the line on how much fruits, or lack thereof, bands one from entering the kingdom (again some folks use 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; and Eph. 5:5-7, but for treatment on these passages which I wrote my dissertation on see, neither does it say that people after receiving Christ can be 100% evil (something that also does not exist—even in Satan who practices evil but of necessity having to do some things good in order to promote his kingdom and agenda, since evil employed at 100% level would cancel itself out—search below where I have written on this). Furthermore, for someone to say a Christian can go his entire life w/o having a single fruit, that person would have to have spent all, and I mean all of his entire life with that person. This is something that no one has done either. Similar to the argument of atheism, which does not exist. That is, someone claiming to be an atheist has had to have gone to every place in the universe to be able to claim that w/absolute certainty. No one has or will be able to do that on this side of heaven, Hence, the best such people could claim is to be an agnostic (he/she may not be sure that God exist). Hence, no one can claim a believer can go his entire life w/o ever having had fruits. This is bizarre to say the least.

So, in conclusion, let it never be said that "fruits" validate whether one is or is not a believer (although knowing that one professes faith in Christ people that know a little expect this to be manifested in their life, as John 15 and 1 John argues). Let it also never be said that a believer can go an entire life w/o having any fruits, for no one has hung around that long with a person to claim that from experience and God's Word does not teach that either.

Be careful what paradigms we seek defend, because in our zeal we may be placing grids on the Bible and forcing it to say what it does not. Check your interpretive methods so that you can correctly unlock Scripture.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 A Year In Review

      Wow, 2013 is over already?! That was fast! A lot has happened in this year in my life. Some good and some bad. But overall it was an amazing year. I have grown so close to The Lord and have found what my spiritual gifts are. So without further ado, I am going to give a somewhat brief overview of my year. Not everything will be on chronological order though.

One of the great things that happened this year was in my Students For Life Group. By the end of the spring semester of 2013 the only people still devoted to our group were me, my amazing Vice President, Robby, and our Friend Assanti. We needed more members and we needed more females. Standing up for equal rights for all human beings doesn't matter on the gender, but the liberal prochoice people and the people in the fence about the issue all see it as a woman's issue. So in order to have them listen to the truth, we needed to get to their level and speak to them through ways that they liked. So throughout the summer Robby and I prayed not only for more members, but especially for female members. 

So when September rolled around we attended the Students For Life Mississippi Regional Leadership Summit. All of the SFL college groups in MS attended and we listened to several amazing speakers. I was blessed to have been asked to be the Master of Ceremonies for the conference and got to introduce all the speakers. That was really neat and fun!  To me the most amazing part of it all was hearing the personal testimonies of women who have been doing sidewalk counseling outside of the lone abortion clinic in MS. Some of these women have been doing it for over 20 years. They talk to the young women going into the clinic to get abortions and they redirect them to a pregnancy center that offers free testing and loving care and counseling all free of charge. Since 2009, these women and the other folks with Pro Life Mississippi have saved over 650 lives by talking to the mothers who were considering abortion. And more than 10 times that many heard the truth about abortion. These women who do sidewalk counseling in Jackson are hands down the bravest people who I have ever met! They have been threatened, harassed, physically abused, arrested without given a reason, and have even been victims if police brutality. Their stance for Life is nothing less than a selfless act of love and dedication to The Lord. Not only have these insane actions against them affected them, but it also has affected their families. One woman's husband was actually demoted simply because of his wife's peaceful selfless passion to try to save lives. This goes to show you how much Satan is corrupting our world. One of these women that I met was the first abortionist in the State of Mississippi, but after several years of killing innocent children, she stopped and converted to being prolife. I will never forget these women and their bravery! 

Oh, back to the part about our group members at the conference we gained 2 new members! Both were female and were extremely passionate about the group! It was an answered prayer! We later gained 3 more female members, officially making the females the dominate sex of the group! Since then we have picked up traction and have accomplished a lot. We were awarded the Student Group of the Month for September from the National group Students For Life of America. We were one of only two in the country to be awarded this! We also held a bake sale to raise money for our activities since we hardly had any funds, and we raised over $200 in one day! This is truly amazing! Me, Robby, and Anja(our archivist that we met at the conference) attended 12 hours of training to be volunteers at the new Starkville Pregnancy Care Center that opened in December. We learned how to talk to people considering abortion, counseling them, providing them with hope and options, and many other great skills. We will start volunteering this year. I just recently finished making a commercial for the Center that will play at the movie Theatre in Starkville for the next year! That is exciting as well! The center is run by an amazing staff and I love all of them! They are sweet, loving, helpful, prayerful, godly women! There couldn't be a better set of staff to work there! This place is a Godsend will offer hope and save lives! Starkville is no longer the only town in the SEC without a Pregnancy Center. Praise God! all glory to Him! 

One of the biggest realizations I had this year was how much I am thankful for my breakup that I went through 2 years ago.  Because of the relationship and the breakup, I have grown closer to God than ever in my life. And had she not been in my life, there is no telling where I'd be now. So thank you God for letting me experience this trial and for delivering me from it and making me a better and more Godly man than before. And thank you Katherine for the year an a half of happiness and spiritual encouragement and for breaking my heart. Through the good and bad that you did, know this: because of you, I am now a better man and a more God-focused man! I forgive you Freckles and Im thankful for all of it.

Over the summer I worked at a camp called Ikthoos. It was started over 50 years ago by my church patriarch Dr Nap Clark. He passed away the previous summer while at camp. This 83 year old man of God shared the gospel one last time at the last night session and went to bed and went to be with The Lord. Mr Nap was a very inspiring man who wasn't afraid to share the gospel and did so for over 50 years and shared the gospel with thousands of people. This summer was my first time working there and it was amazing! Unlike the theatre camp I worked at previously, all the people were accepting, nonjudgmental, loving, and most of all, they all believed in the Gospel. I was a counselor at the camp and me and my good friend Andy mentored a group of about 8 high school boys. We also learned a lot from the speakers that were there. It was a fun and amazing experience to grow in The Lord! I will definitely be working there again! 

Now, I think the best thing that happened in my life in 2013 was my friendship with my new best friend, Erin. We had met the previous semester (fall 2012) in an incredibly boring and confusing Philosophy class. When I saw her in class, something about her stuck out,of all the people in the class, she stuck out. I couldn't figure out what it was. I soon found out that she too was a believer when her and I were the only ones who stayed after class to talk to the professor about the existence of God. We talked after class a few times that semester, but that was all. Well after I attended the Passion Conference in January,  I made it my New Years resolution to read through the whole New Testament in a year(I accomplished this goal in a slow pace at the beginning of December). So with 2 hours in between classes that semester, I would spend it sitting in Einstein Bros. Bagels reading my bible. In early January we ran into each other in there and she happened to be going through the same passages as I was. She then suggested that we meet up and talk about what we had read. So that's where the friendship began. We started meeting up at least once a week to get to know each other and discuss scripture. I found out that she had only been a believer for a few years and was still growing in her walk with him. So by the direction of the Holy Spirit I set out to help her grow. We discussed the gospel, controversial scripture passages, and how to grow in our relationship with Christ. In explaining some of the controversial passages, such as James 2, she caught on and understood faster and better than anyone I've ever discussed it with! As we continued in the friendship we became  a lot closer and felt comfortable sharing things with each other that we were struggling with and were able to help hold each other accountable. Com summer she worked the whole summer at a Christian camp where she changed the lives of many young kids! I have never been so proud of someone before! I know it is ultimately the Holy Spirit doing all the things through her, but the fact that she opened up herself for it to work through her was what I was proud of. I've had the privilege of watching her grow and become more mature in her walk with The Lord and it is one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences of my life! As I said, I set out with the intentions of helping and encouraging her in her walk with The Lord, but I never expected that I would benefit so much from the friendship. Seeing her grow encouraged me to do more, and she helped me through numerous trials and struggles that I have gone through. It is amazing! I've never had a friend like this that helped me so much and brought me so close to The Lord. 

One of the other things that I realized through my amazing friendship with my sister in Christ is what exactly my spiritual gifts were. I have come to realize through her and several other situations with people that my spiritual gifts are encouragement and faith. And both go hand in hand when helping people. I am able to always encourage people and point them to The Lord in any circumstance and I am also able to maintain my faith as my solid rock foundation. No matter what happens in life, when all else has failed me, my faith and trust in Christ always remains. And The Lord always is faithful in helping me in those situations. 

All my life I've thought that I needed to lead someone to Christ. But I've never been good at evangelizing to random people. People like Nap Clark had a gift for doing that, and in his 60 some years of doing so, he only had one person refuse to listen to to it. While we are called to do this by The Lord, it doesn't always come easy. I have realized that I am not gifted at all at sharing the gospel with random people, but I have been able to successfully share the gospel while in conversation with people.

I had an old high school friend of mine bring up the topic of my "religious beliefs" as he called them and he praised me on my dedication, and that opened up an opportunity for me to share the gospel with him. And I wasn't nervous or scared, The Lord opened the door for me and I walked through it with ease. The funny thing with that particular instance is that I had been praying before hand that he wouldn't come in the bagel shop and bug me.  Haha! But after I prayed that is realized that it was selfish of me to pray that, so I rayed again "Lord, if it is your will for him to come in here, please give me an opportunity to share your word with him" and by golly that's exactly what happened! God is amazing like that. 

Anywho, back to the original point. I have found that although I am not gifted at random evangelizing, God has given me the gift of encouragement, as I mentioned before. He has shown me that encouraging other believers and helping them understand the bible better is a very important thing to as well. I realize that The Lord has gifted me in that area and that I am able to do that a lot better than random evangelizing. But as I shared, he also presents me with plenty of opportunities to share the gospel. We all act with the gifts he has given to us and we all work together to further the kingdom, the body of believers, the Church, the Bride of Christ. Each member does their part.

Another great experience I had over the summer was being able to convert a prochoice liberal over to being a prolife advocate. You can find more info on this incident in one of my previous posts from June 10th titled "An analytical response to a Pro-Choice Progressive" and it's follow up post from July 28th titled "One Won Over for Life". This goes to show that great things can come about through peacefully and lovingly debating with people. 

One last thing that happened this year, I see as very little of a thing compared to all else that has happened, is that I have lost some weight. I used to drink soft drinks all the time. So one day I randomly decided that I was going to go a week without drinking any. So I did. Instead I drank sugar free lemonade and sugar free grape juice. As a result, in the first week I had lost 5 pounds! I was shocked! Still used to not drinking soft drinks, I went another week without drinking them, and in 2 weeks I had lost over 7 pounds! Seeing the difference on that scale was such a good feeling! 

Overall this year has been amazing! It has had it's ups and downs, but overall, it has been a major up compared to previous years. The most important lesson I've learned this year is to completely turn things over to God and trust Him. Meditating in prayer a lot has helped tremendously! I urge you all to do the same. Here's to an even better year!

Happy 2014!