New url.

Hey everyone, if you are subscribed to this, I’ve decided to change my url. However, WordPress doesn’t have an easy (free) way to do that, so I had to create a new blog and import this blog into that one. So, all of the content from this blog is still up and running, it will just be at a new address. Basically, I just wanted to have my name in my blog address.

Also, In my new blog, I’m going to create a section for my artwork which I’m very excited about since I’m hoping to show my artwork in some of the coffee shops around the Wake Forest/Raleigh area.

When you click below, look at the top right corner under the picture and hit “subscribe” so you can be subscribed to my new address.

My New URL

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Selling Myself Short

Right now, I’m working toward my MDiv with a concentration in Advanced Biblical Studies. This simply means that I will (or should) be proficient in biblical languages when I have my degree, and it’s meant to prepare students for PhD programs. As I was looking at the classes I will have to take to finish my degree, I was… overwhelmed. And scared. On top of having no money, wondering how I’m going to pay for classes, trying to make friends, trying to find a new job, and suffering from a case of chronic discouragement; I decided I could change my concentration to something less daunting.

But as I looked over my high school and college career, I began to notice a pattern. Between 10th and 11th grade, I switched from honors English to regular English even though I made good grades. I only applied to UNF (a safe school) instead of UF because I was afraid I wouldn’t have gotten in (even though I most definitely would have). I decided against architecture because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do the math (even though I graduated high school with 6 math courses under my belt). In college, I settled for a BA in psychology instead of a BS because the additional research scared me (even though I made A’s in the few research courses I was required to take). And the list goes on. What makes this list really ridiculous is that I’ve alway been near the top of my class when it comes to grades. I also realized this week that if I had pursued a master’s in counseling, I would have just finished it last month.

I think I’ve sold myself short, and I greatly underestimate my abilities.

Not only have I done this with school, I’ve done this in my relationships as well. I constantly fear that no one really likes me, and I’ve always feared this. I feel that as a 24 year old man, I should be done with this. Whether or not I should be simply doesn’t matter because I’m not. I’m afraid to reach out and care for others because I’m afraid that my love will be more of an annoyance than a blessing, and I fear that I am viewed as a ministry instead of a friend.

All of this kind of sounds like humility, but it isn’t. I’m not humble; I’m simply too self-absorbed to risk failure, and I’m so self-absorbed that I worry more about whether or not I am loved than whether or not I am loving.

With all of this being said, I shouldn’t look back on anything with regret. I say this simply because 1) I can’t change what’s been done; and 2) God is sovereign, and I trust I am where He has planned for me to be.

Since God is sovereign and has me where He wants me, the question now is where to go from here. Well, I’m going to stick with the MDiv in Advanced Biblical Studies and pursue my PhD (I’ve even considered going back to psychology and getting a degree in counseling or even clinical psychology). The point is: I won’t let my brains go to waste any longer. And as for the part about my relationships, I’m working on it.

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Withstanding Temptation

*My church recently started a sermon series on the book of Luke. Yesterday, the passage we read was the passage on the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness. In small group last night, we discussed how to withstand (or resist) temptation and what that should look like. I think the problem in our fights against sin is that we ultimately rely on formulas, rules and to-do lists instead of ultimately relying on Christ. Rules and formulas aren’t bad, but they do not change hearts. On the way home, these thoughts came to my mind, and out came this blog.

Withstanding Temptation

There is no such thing as “the last little bit”.

There is no dichotomy between parts of our lives where we need God and parts of our lives where we can depend on ourselves. It isn’t right to say that I depend on myself to make most of my rent and on God for the last little bit. It isn’t right to say that I can provide most of what I need for myself and then put the last little bit in God’s hands. And that last little bit God provides should not be waited for in anxiety with gritted teeth and crossed fingers. I think sometimes we also feel it is our faith that will get us through that last little bit. If we have enough faith, then we will enable God to provide.

This thinking is wrong and replaces God, in our hearts, with self. Thankfully, God has so much grace and compassion that He continues to meet our needs despite the fact that we believe we are the ones meeting our own needs.

The truth is, every single thing we have in life is because of God’s provision. Sometimes I feel proud when I feel I have trusted God to take care of the last little bit. But this really only reveals a complete lack of trust and understanding in God’s provision. I trust in myself to meet most of my needs and then only half-heartedly trust God to meet the last little bit.

In reality, it is only because of God’s grace that I can work and make money. It is only by God’s grace I have friends and family. It is only by His grace that I move and breathe and live and work and play. It is only by His grace that I am justified and no longer have to worry.

All I have is from God.

I think the first step in withstanding temptation is to admit complete, total dependence on God and His grace to provide us with all we need. We have to do away with the idea of self-reliance in any part of our lives. God created me and gave me life and my sustenance is in His hands. I do not have the power to sustain my life anymore than I have the power to create myself.

I also do not have the power to save my soul or justify my soul. My salvation is a gift from God by His grace. It is He who saves me and sustains my soul. It is God who causes my heart to love holiness and find my deepest joy in Him. Without Him, I am only evil through and through. So, I acknowledge that it is God who sustains me in every way, even in my striving.

The idea of withstanding temptation makes more sense when we acknowledge that all we have is from God and that all self-reliance is only delusional thinking.

Grace is free.

In A Godward Life, John Piper says, “Gratitude is a joyful emotion for worship but a dangerous motive for obedience.” He has 3 reasons for this: 1) It is impossible to pay God back for His grace; 2) If we succeeded in paying Him back, it wouldn’t be grace; and 3) focusing on gratitude as an empowerment for obedience tends to overlook the crucial importance of future grace.

The problem with gratitude as an empowerment for obedience is that it nullifies in our hearts the very thing we are grateful for. We are thankful for grace and then try to pay God back for a free gift. Do we truly believe it is free?

God has promised to make you pure and holy.

It’s not that we are justified by the grace of God, and then we have to rely on ourselves for our sanctification or growth in holiness. Every part of our salvation from justification to sanctification is a gracious and miraculous act of God where He Justifies a sinner calling him righteous and holy and then works in him to cause the sinner’s heart to cling to Him for eternity and works in him patiently and lovingly to do good works through him.

God did not save you to sit back and impatiently watch you fumble around in sin. He didn’t save you because He was obligated to and now He has to deal with you because you are His. He saved you because he loves you and wants to pry your heart from death and cause your heart to cling to what it was meant to cling. We find life when our hearts do what they were meant to do: glorify God.

God will not grow tired of you. He knew you better than you will ever know yourself when He first made your heart and soul come alive to His grace and immeasurable love.

When we understand that our souls are in the hands of a very good God and that He has promised to give us the grace to move us from sinfulness to holiness, we can have faith in God’s future grace.

Rely on His grace for obedience.

When I believe that God has promised to make me holy and will continue to sanctify me, I can go before Him daily and receive endless, life-giving riches. He gives me peace, contentment and joy which lead to holiness and love that should overflow to the people around me.

Withstanding temptation comes from a heart change that we are completely dependent on God for. There is no formula or willpower strong enough to change our hearts. We simply come to Jesus Christ and drink living water and take all the riches He graciously blesses us with.

Obedience comes from a faith that God is making us holy day by day and making us a little more willing every day to repent and entrust our hearts, souls and lives to Him.

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Jesus didn’t die to give us a happy earthly life. He died so we could joyfully look beyond unhappy events. He gave us His Spirit so our hearts would detach from the temporary world and cling to the Eternal. Jesus died so we could overcome the world, not so we could love the world.

Jesus is not a mean to an end. He does not promise worldly success or worldly pleasure or worldly peace or worldly security as if He is the glue to adhere us to the world. He is not a step between where we are now and where we want to be.

Jesus is the Eternal. He is everything and He is the ultimate Good and Light and Truth. He is Reality. He is not merely a part of our existence who helps us along our way. He is the reason we exist and because of His grace we know He is the reason we exist.

Jesus is King and Lord. He is sovereign whether we like it or not, and our worlds and lives should be viewed through such a lens.

Jesus didn’t die so our own delusional kingship of our lives would be strengthened as if He were only one of our servants. He didn’t die to tie our hearts to the world by always granting us success and happy endings. He died so that, by the grace of God, we would have a heart that yearns for the world to be put back in its proper order, a heart that yearns for Christ to be its king, and a heart that longs to obey the One it was created to obey. He died so that there would be immeasurable grace when we as little children imperfectly love our Father and often fail to love Him.

His death brings life and restoration, hope and peace. Because of new life, I can see restoration happening. Because of what God has done, my hope and peace in future, continued restoration is secure. Now I can faithfully step out in obedience knowing God has not forgotten me or you or the world.

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God is good to me.

I should not allow brokenness in my life to cause so much sadness that it overshadows the joy I draw from the Gospel. Of course, brokenness should not make me happy; it is a symptom of sin, the fall, and separation from God. But if I allow my brokenness to cause for me so much sadness that it drives me to despair and I cannot see the goodness of God any longer, then I am not understanding the Gospel.

My thorns should pinch me awake so I don’t fall asleep and think I will find lasting peace in a fallen world. I am not in heaven yet. They should remind me that I still desperately need the Gospel, and my life would be entirely, completely, and totally different without the love of Christ.

Christ died for me while I was still a sinner with an act of pure love, so I could be declared and made righteous. I have been taken out of, and preserved from a life of blindness and slavery. I am now a friend and child of God, and when I look at all He has done, I wonder why I’ve ever doubted His goodness.

My thorns are only a reminder of what was beaten and that death is dying and life is growing, and I have evidence of this unshakeable truth in my very own life history.

I will not forget this truth because my entire life has been sealed in Christ and not only forgiven but changed and molded from death to life. I will step into the future in joyful faith without fear because my God, Jesus Christ, has overcome the world, and He has overcome death.

With the Gospel, there is no room for despair and no room for fear, only joyful steps of faith that lead us to a passionate love for God and the people He created.

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“Truly drawing closer to God will not lead to endless introspection and perfectionism. Drawing closer to God should bring peace and assurance that though I am sinful, God will finish His work in me. I should have the peaceful assurance that God, in His grace, will not leave me in my sin. Living with the belief that holiness is important is not the same as living in fearful legalism. I am not justified or refined by lists of rules and religious or spiritual disciplines; I am justified by the death and blood of Jesus Christ, and I am refined by the Holy Spirit’s work in my life. Being refined is a result of God’s grace because of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. He did not give a list of rules in grace. He gave us unmerited favor, a new heart, and the Holy Spirit. I can love God and love others imperfectly but with joy because I know that when I lack faith, God is faithful.”

-Thoughts from my journal from 1/28/2011

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Help My Unbelief

“For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews 12:16-18

I cannot find any joy or peace outside of the mercy of God I find in Christ. But still my heart is constantly coveting and wanting other things with which God has not blessed me. That’s painful to admit. Do I trust in the sovereignty of God? I suppose I do, but I don’t trust in its goodness. And trusting it requires death of self, and death is painful. I am afraid of the will of God, but I trust my own will which has never led me to anything of lasting value and causes more pain and loneliness. Now, I feel weak and beaten and unable to muster any strength.

But Jesus, my Mediator sees me and has compassion. He knows I am weak and completely helpless. I don’t even know how to believe that at times. I don’t believe Him enough to follow Him in simple obedience. Lord, help my unbelief!

And who am I? I’m simply a sad, helpless sinner.

But: ‘Hark! the voice of love and mercy
Sounds aloud from Calvary;
See, it rends the rocks asunder,
Shakes the earth, and veils the sky:
“It is finished!” “It is finished!”
“It is finished!” Hear the dying Savior cry;
Hear the dying Savior cry.’*

Thank God for grace, mercy, and compassion! My salvation was finished on the cross. Christ has died and suffered so that I may be justified! He will not leave me in my sins! He will change my heart and renew my strength in His power, not mine.

He will teach me to rest and trust, and when I don’t, He has compassion and lovingly and gently reminds me of who He is. This He has promised: Even when I have no faith, He is faithful.

*from “Hark The Voice of Love and Mercy” by Jonathan Evans and Benjamin Francis

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