The Greatest Regret (or The Mask That Lies)

Take Off Your Mask

Whenever I sit down to do a blog post, it’s usually after a deep conversation, insightful read, or some other intellectually stimulating activity. I guess that’s why I haven’t posted anything in a while;  I haven’t gotten a chance to just sit and ponder for a while.

Which I regret.

In my years, which aren’t many, I’ve learned a few things. One of which is that humans have a few nasty tendencies. Things that we all do that slowly kill us. We have this urge, this desire, to be comfortable and quiet and live our life how we think it should be. And for some, that suits them just fine…until it doesn’t…

I don’t talk about it much, especially not on such a setting as this, but I guess the shocking revelation is that I didn’t like being at the University I was at last year. It pains me to think about it because for all the talk, all the bragging about it, I really disliked being there.

I was lazy, I didn’t do much and to be honest, I think I may have been mildly depressed. I felt like the spark of life, the reason to get myself out of bed just wasn’t there anymore.

I lacked purpose and motivation.

Southern, it’s a good school. Decent enough programs, wonderful exercise facility, gorgeous landscapes, even my friends were amazing [no seriously, I love you guys], but still something was missing for me. Something I’m glad was brought to my attention.

It was actually brought to my attention working during the summer. I realized that even though I’m a Christian, even though I believe in the Bible, even though I called myself a Seventh-day Adventist, I really wasn’t.

You see, I began to see myself in contrast to the picture the Bible gives of Jesus. I started to see that my “faith” was little more than a few beliefs and a cover-up smile. As my favorite poem goes, We wear the mask that grins and lies/ it hides our cheeks and shades our eyes. 

I decided it was time to take a peek underneath the mask. To look at myself in the mirror and take a good long look. Here’s the shocker:

I didn’t like what I saw.

I decided, “You know what? I’m done with this  game.” That game we play where we recite our faith with perfect practiced lines and then go into our private life and live in complete contrast. I decided I was actually going to be honest with myself.

And you know what’s crazy? The number one greatest regret of people who are dying is that they wished they had done just that!

They regret not living true to themselves. 

So I’m taking a year off of school. A year to do something bigger than myself. A year to actually be a part of a movement. A year to find what God has had in store for me since the beginning of Creation.

And I don’t regret it one bit.

Yeah, I miss my friends, but I found a family. Sure, I’m not pursuing my education, but I am pursuing Wisdom. And of course, I have people who don’t approve with what I’m doing. But guess what?

I’m giving my youth to the Lord (Ecclesiastes 12)

I’m living with no regrets.

So take off the mask. Live with no regrets. Live the life God planned for you.

It’s much easier than anything you’ve got going for you, I promise you that.

Good night, all.

 

 

 

Our Mission, Our Time, His Glory

In my last post, I spoke about doing nightly blog posts while I was at GYC. I also said it was ambitious to think that would be possible.

Guess what?

It was over ambitious.

Not only did I not do a nightly post, I didn’t do a single post. Apologies, but my time was pretty booked solid and the sleep deprivation was so real.

As part of my attendance at GYC, I was a part of the Presidential Hospitality Department. It sounds all fancy, but really, it’s a servant’s job. We bring speakers and executives water, food, anything they need. We help them with their schedules and walk until our feet blister, and then walk some more.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

In fact, there is a beauty to it. As one of our great leaders said in our first meeting: “We serve the people that serve the people“.

So that’s what I spent my week doing and honestly, I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it. It was amazing, fruitful and a huge blessing.

I got to speak with lawyers about religious liberty, with students about missions they wanted to be a part of and I made good, solid, wonderful friends.

But if that’s all I did, and all I learned, then this GYC was a failure.

GYC, Generation. Youth. Christ., is not supposed to be a place where we primarily make friends and talk about cool things. It’s not supposed to be a yearly spiritual high that is in some cool place with comfortable hotels.

GYC is so much more, and honestly, it saddens me to think that a lot of people view it as the aforementioned.

This annual conference was started by young people, for young people. GYC a signal to the world that the youth are done being on the sidelines and ready to be on the front lines.

It’s a time to be ready to take our mission that God gave us and move, work, serve, live and even die for the One who did all those things for us.

It’s a time for us to get involved at our local (or ‘glocal’ as one Pastor called it) churches and start making a difference.

To get out of this complacency and constant coasting through the cycle, barely doing our devotions each day, barely talking to our Creator at all, hardly helping out our fellow man.

I’m sick of it.

I’m sick of my lack of motivation, my Laodicea, my ignorance and my arrogance.

I want something better, something more.

And so I’ve decided.

I’ve decided to commit, to give it all. to wake up everyday and spend time talking with God and listening to His Word. To write His Words on my heart and my mind. To take the rest of my life seriously because let’s face it, I’ve already spent 19 of my years being complacent.

I’ve decided to go on a mission trip, to study abroad, to serve in my community and to get involved with my local church.

“There exists, today, an army of dedicated young people within the Seventh-day Adventist church who yearn to demonstrate Nehemiah’s leadership, Daniel’s integrity, Mary’s humility, Paul’s passion for evangelism, and Christ’s love for God and humanity. It is the goal of GYC and its members to seek and galvanize such young people (GYC Mission Statement)”

And it’s our turn.

Our turn to be a part of the hastening of the coming of Christ.

Our turn to mobilize into the “Army of youth rightly trained”.

Our time to unite as youth under the banner of God and spread His gospel to whomever we interact with, wherever we go.

Our time to live a life of commitment and love to our Father in Heaven.

Our time to give Him the Glory.

 

Heading Out – It Begins

 

Right now I’m in the back of a filled, crowded van and i have to sat this is probably the first time I haven’t been too upset about that. The people are great, te trip is long, it’s basically a road trip. Where are we going?

GYC.

Generation. Youth. Christ.

In the early 2000’s, a group of college-age youth decided, “You know what? We want more. More Bible, more ‘meat’, more Jesus.”

These pioneers decided that were done being treated like children and it was time to be treated like adults. They decided it was time youth started striving to be on the front lines of this daily battle we call life.

Time for us to step up and be citizens of God’s kingdom.

Almost a decade and a half later, I’m on my way to the annual GYC Conference held, this year, in Louisville, Kentucky.

This conference is all about growth, learning, networking, but most of all, getting to know God.

And that’s what my week is going to look like. Can’t really ask for more than that, now can I?

I’ll tell you what: I’m going to try, try, to post nightly.

That’s ambitious for me. It really is. But you guys deserve it. So we’ll see what happens.

Pray for me,

Alex

 

Introspection is Easy this Time of Night

What are you Doing to Make Things Better.jpg

It’s 2 AM. Rainy. Quiet. Peaceful.

It’s that time of night when introspection is almost a second nature. That period of time when you can look in the mirror and seem to notice all your flaws and imperfections.

You look back on the day and see all the opportunities you had to be the person you wanted to be and failed.

Hindsight really is 20/20.

It’s amazing to me how I can sit here on my couch and reflect on my thoughts. It’s amazing how many miniscule regrets I’ve built up in one day.

I know. This sounds all gloomy and what not, but cut me some slack. It’s 2 AM.

And it’s raining.

I probably should be asleep right now but let’s all be honest, how many times do we actually take the opportunity to do some self-evaluation? How often do we let these times slip away into the “I’ll-do-it-later’s” or the “I’m-ok-at-the-moment’s”?

No.

Right now is my time for introspection.

I’m honestly sitting here at this computer, tapping away at the keys, thinking, “Is this what God sees?”

And I’m honestly curious. Does God look at all the shortcomings I’ve had in just today?

Not curious in the “I wonder if He does” kind of way, but more in a “How can He stand to?” sorta way.

I mean, I lay here, and my thoughts are wrapped in should haves and could haves.

Should have spoken my mind. Too late now.

Could have voiced my opinion. Not fast enough.

Could have eaten healthier. No discipline.

Should have been more productive. Procrastination

Weird though. Even in all that self-criticism, I still feel a sense of completion. Maybe that’s my ego. My pride telling me I’m not as bad as I think I am.

Maybe it’s something else. What exactly? How should I know? It’s 2 AM.

And it’s raining.

Then there’s the random questions that bubble up to the surface.

When are you going to pay off your student loans? How?

When are you going to get married? How many kids do you want?

Would you ever change your name?

Where’s your favorite place?

Who’s the one person on the planet who knows you best?

What are you going to eat for breakfast?

Sometimes I think I put off these questions because they’re unimportant.

Sometimes I think they come back at random times because they’re the most important.

They catch us off guard. They toy with our emotions and cause us stress. Who cares when I get married? Or if I have kids?

You do.

Oh yeah… I do…

You see I think this time of night should be spent sleeping. I honestly do. But when you take a long nap in the middle of the afternoon…well this is where it gets you.

So it’s either dream and release all the pent up psychological stress [shout out to Prof. Coombs for that interesting tidbit of information] from the day or stay awake and dwell on it.

But that’s what break is for I guess; to reflect on the past and to prepare for the future.

Thank God my future’s in His hands.

I honestly can’t think about where I’d be right now if it weren’t for God.

Drugs? A 19 year-old father? Dead?

Crazy thoughts, I know. But I believe that sometimes it’s good to think about where we could be, and then thank God that we’re not.

Sometimes we need to be willing to trust Him just a bit more. To have a little more faith. Tread a bit farther.

A bit higher

Past. Present. Future.

All in God’s hands really.

But I guess it’s time for me to sleep now.

Because it’s 2 AM.

And it’s raining.

 

 

 

First Snow, First Light

Snow LampToday, as many people in the north know, was the first snow. The first day in a long, cold winter.

Usually, I dislike the winter. It’s cold, people are always inside, we get sick easy, and there is no sun.

But this year seems different. It’s interesting to me because for maybe the first time, I’m finding myself enjoying the sight of snow. When I was younger, I always had a sort of bittersweet thought process about it that went something like,

“Ugh, it’s snowing but maybe school will get cancelled.”

The strange thing is, at the moment, I find myself relishing the snowfall. The white of the snow, the purity of it, the beauty. Some people would say I’m just finally “getting into the Christmas spirit” while others would say my tastes are changing.

I’m inclined to think that actually, maybe for the first time, I’m beginning to see the winter through God’s eyes.

This morning I was woken up by a barrage of childlike, excited Facebook messages (you know who you are -__-) that announced the arrival of the snow. I expected to find myself moaning and groaning about how terrible snow is, but for some reason I was just as excited. Even now I have an excitement in my heart that I’ve rarely felt.

Now, as I look outside my bedroom window and see the snow, the pure blanket of white that visits every year, I’m reminded of what I can be.

Not only does the snow awaken in me an energy-filled child, anxious to go outside and enjoy the powdery blessing, but it also stirs up a solemn, wizened old man who realizes that this is a visualization of God’s promise of redemption.

Yesterday, a fellow missionary and I spent the afternoon collecting and disposing of the dead and decaying yard waste around our house and not even a day later, all that death is replaced with pure, undefiled, white beauty.

If you can’t see God’s message in that maybe you can see it in Isaiah 1:18 (NKJV):

“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow”

This promise of redemption reveals to us that although we may only see our failures, our sin, our death now, our sins shall be cleansed from us and made pure.

We mess up. “To err is human” and all that. We make mistakes. We sin. We deserve to die. We deserve abandonment. We deserve to die.

But God doesn’t give us what we deserve. Instead, He gives us what Jesus deserved. And Jesus, in turn, got what we deserved. Jesus took our death, cleared our names, all so that we don’t have to pay the price of ultimate separation from God.

He saved us. He cleansed us. He makes us white as snow.

So this year when I saw the first snow, I didn’t just see the falling clumps of frozen water.

I saw my salvation and the fulfillment of God’s promise to me.

I saw the First Light of God’s patience and love.

The Fearless Youth

Sea, Sunset, SilhouetteThis past weekend I had the opportunity to go to a retreat focused solely on reaching, ministering to, and exhorting public high school and college/university students. The focus of the retreat was being fearless. 

As a youth in my generation (I’m still debating if I’m a millennial or not…maybe it’s denial…), I’m pretty concerned and passionate with the happenings of young people not only in my church, but also in my community, my state, country and planet.

Yes, that may seem a bit too idealistic for some, but it’s the truth. I honestly care about all the young people in my generation who want to make a change. The ones who want to fight for the cause of the needy, the poor, and the unspoken for.

“The greatest want of the world is the want of men – men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall (White, 1903)”

So what can I possibly do now? How can I possibly grow to be a man who will stand for right though the heavens fall?

What can I do, what can we do to help people where we are? Well I’ll tell you this much: we can’t help by being greedy and stabbing people in the back just to get ahead, we can’t help by being full of pride and thinking we’re the center of the universe, we can’t help by being hateful and prejudiced and looking down on others just because of their social, economic, or religious position.

So stop trying. It doesn’t work.

But what we can do to help is love. We can love through kind, willing service to each other. We can love by showing everyone we come into contact with that they are valued by us an by God. We can love by telling people just how much they’re worth to the King of Heaven: priceless.

This weekend I was privileged to be able to work with young people who genuinely want to help, to care, to provide a solace for those in need. These people, my peers, my friends, and now my spiritual family, impressed me greatly and inspired me to make a difference in this generation. In my generation.

A pair of foreign twins I met, we’ll call them Savannah and Sienna, both expressed their desire to reach people in all walks of life, in many Christian denominations, with the Gospel, Savannah also related to me the advice given to her by a well-educated person within the church. The advice was one based on partition, separatism and ultimately, fear of losing youth in our church to other beliefs.

This broke my heart. Here was a young person, willing and wanting to spread the Gospel and love of Jesus, but she were advised against it because it would be bad practice to collaborate and work with people who believed differently.

Are we not called to be a friend to everyone? Are we not called to “Love your neighbor as yourself?” Are we not expected by God to be a witness to anyone and everyone who crosses our path?

Youth, if you’re reading this, don’t be afraid to give your all to God even if it means going against the wishes of your elders. Never be concerned about whether your parents, friends, classmates and peers disapprove of your ministering to social outcasts. Be like Jesus. We are counselled by the Solomon, the wisest of the wise, to remember our Creator in the days of our youth. We are called to give the Lord our most effective, action filled years to spread His Word.

Elders, if you’re reading this, don’t be afraid to commit your young people to the mission. If you truly raised them right, with a proper love for God and His commandments, they will never depart from it. It may be that the only reason you fear the youth being distracted by the world is because you did not raise them with the knowledge of how to withstand it. We are ultimately God’s children, His sons and daughters that He knew from the beginning of time.

You elders were given the gift of raising us. Now we young people are given the gift of presenting the Gospel to the sinners of the world with a life and vigor that could only come from youthfulness. Please, I ask as a youth, don’t hinder us just because it would put us in a position where we are around the undesirables of the world.

The social rulers of Jesus time questioned His eating with “Tax collectors and sinners” and failed to see the huge change that Jesus brought about by just showing them that He cared about their well being.

This Man, who spent only three and a half years in His ministry, who died as a criminal and was resurrected in glory, was not afraid to witness to sinners, prostitutes, social outcast and unbelievers, because He knew that if He didn’t, no one would.

Don’t be the person that scorns others for their service to the poor in spirit. Don’t be the the one who laughs at someone who is humbling themselves as a witness for Christ. Don’t be the group that hinders the work of the Gospel because the Gospel makes you realize your imperfection and need for a Saviour.

Instead, be the one who loves. Be the one who sees the mission that Christ left for us and accepts it. Be the one who read Matthew 28:18-19 and claims that commission for themselves. Be the only sermon that some people ever hear.

Be a follower of God and His truth.

Don’t be afraid of change.

Be fearless.

Who Needs the Law Anyways?

This post was split into two separate parts due to the length and the amount of time I wanted to spend developing the thought behind it.

If you haven’t read Part 1, you may want to in order to understand the background of Part 2.

All Bible texts are in the New King James Version
Kneeling at the Cross

PART 2:

Happy Sabbath everyone!

If you’re just here because you read the title and thought “Is this guy even Christian? What is this heresy,” hold tight and you’ll understand.

Hopefully you read my post a few days, and if you did, you’ll remember my interaction with a Muslim I know who we’ll called Tobias for the sake of privacy.If you did’t read it, I advise you to, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

Tobias’ main question was “Why don’t Christians follow the law of God when Christ said He didn’t come to abolish the law?” He was legitimately confused by their sincerity to convert him to Christianity but their lack of commitment to the Law of God.

If you ask a number of Christians why they worship on the first day of the week and not the seventh (see Exodus 20: 8-11), or why they don’t follow the diet laws in Leviticus 11, both specified in the Law of God and made very clear, a great number of the responses may be “because we’re freed from the law”.

Unfortunately, as common as this belief is, there are many contradicting, and even heretical (oh no I said the H-word), underlying principles that are being set up against Christianity.

Let’s examine it, shall we?

I want you to imagine a line-up of seven people, objects, shapes, whatever you want, draw it if you have to, and label them like this:

Sin, Law, Grace, Savior, Gospel, Preacher, Church

We’ll begin our examination of the problem and it starts with a little, deadly thing called sin.

Sin is bad. I know this, you know this, God knows this. Even if you’re not Christian, you know the word sin has a very negative connotation. Sin is defined in the bible like this:

“Whoever commits sin commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3:4 )”

So sin is lawlessness. In other words, sin is the transgression of, or breaking, the law. Now we know from the book of Romans that there is a beautiful, larger-than-sin property of the universe that is called grace. Grace is sufficient for us to save us fromsin, which is breaking the law.

So grace is pardon for sin, which is breaking the law, and the Savior died that we might have grace which is pardon for sin, which is breaking the law.

You guy’s with me so far? Alright let’s keep going then.

Now, the Savior gave us the Gospel, which is the good news, about the Savior. Now the preacher preaches thegospel in the church.

Now the problem is that we have, in Christendom, men and women fighting the Law of God in the Church and they say that the Law is done away with. (Now remove Law from your imaginary line-up.)

But now, since the law is “done away with”, sin is also removed and done away with for

“…sin is not imputed when there is no law (Romans 5:13).”

(Now remove Sin from your imaginary line-up.)

And if you do away with Sin, you don’t need Grace which is pardon for sin which is breaking the law (Remove Grace from your line-up). And if you don’t need grace, you certainly don’t need a Savior (Remove Savior) who DIED so that we may have grace which is pardon for sin which is breaking the law.

And in that case you don’t need a Gospel (Remove Gospel) because the Gospel is the story of the Savior who died so that we may have grace which is pardon for sin which is breaking the law.

And if that’s true, what in the world do you need a Preacher for (Remove Preacher)? And if you don’t have the preacher, you might as well forget about Church (Remove Church).

Now look at what you have left.

It’s very simple. If you remove the law, you remove the need for a Savior to give us grace and save us from sin. You remove the very namesake of our beliefs and religion. Do you see how illogical that is? Does it make any sense, then, to say that we are freed from having to follow the Law because of the grace given by our Savior?

This is the problem that my friend Tobias, and hopefully, you as well, saw: without a Law, there can be no God. Of course there are much deeper theological implications regarding the origins of morality and the nature of God, but this is just an overview of the thought process.

The Law is now such a beautiful and amazing concept in that, without the Law, we would not have a Savior to catch us when we fall. We would not have be able to have an intimate, loving experience with our Creator that we can depend on to save us from even the darkest nights of terror. If you take away the Law, you take away our dependence on Jesus’ love and sacrifice for you and for me.

So, who needs the Law anyways?

All of us.