I am a Millennial and I Strayed from the Church

I am a Millennial and I strayed from the Church.

What brought me back to the Church?  Cool music, good atmosphere, and awesome people?  No.

What brought me back to the Church was God himself.  God was working on me, teaching me, growing me, and nudging me back to Him.  God showed me the emptiness of what the world had to offer, the emptiness of what I thought I had wanted.  He used instrumental people in my life to lovingly correct me, teach me, confront the errors in my beliefs, and draw me back to himself.  He used a pastor who faithfully preaches the Gospel EVERY SINGLE WEEK (and it never gets old!) and a church that does not water down its message.

So how do we, as individual Christians, help stop the exodus of Millennials?  First, we bow before the Lord and repent for any ways that we have defiled God’s message or not reached out to love our neighbors, and then we pray for the souls of the young adults who are walking away.  We seek to be intentional in the lives of any young adults we know who have fallen astray.  We reach out to those who have turned their backs on the truth that they grew up hearing.  We let God use us as seed planters and instruments in His redemption plan.  We don’t give up or get discouraged.  We trust in the Lord’s plan and His timing.

God will redeem those whom He has chosen to redeem in His chosen time.

(Note: This post addresses what INDIVIDUALS can do to help solve the problem of Millennials leaving the Church.  My next post will address what the CHURCH should do.)

Advertisements

What is the Gospel to me?

What is the Gospel to me?  How does the Gospel affect my life?  These questions have been on the back of my mind for the last two years- ever since it was the theme of our High School Beach Retreat (for which I was a leader).

When these questions were first posed to me, I have to admit, I was a little taken aback by my lack of an answer.  I thought, “Surely I should be able to give an answer,” but an answer did not come easily.  I could explain the Gospel.  I could tell you all that Christ had done for me, for you.  But, how does the Gospel affect your life, here and now?  That one took some thinking.

After sitting through some great teaching, I began to see how the Gospel affects me.  And meditating on this thought off and on for the last two years has certainly given me more insight.

Let me start by saying that the Gospel is truly TRANSFORMATIVE!  But, what does that mean?!

It is true, we hear phrases like this a lot.  Christ will transform you, God is working in your life, you are being sanctified, you have been made new, etc.  But to be honest, most of the time as a Christian I don’t feel particularly transformed.  Oftentimes I feel completely and utterly helpless in my sin.  Oftentimes I feel discouraged at my tendency to fall back into the same sin patterns.  Often I just want to be done with sin once and for all.  The “already, but not yet” thing can be frustrating at times.

Yet, as I look back at the course of my life thus far, I can see a true transformation.  I can point to many characteristics of my personality that have changed, such as more willingness to admit when I am wrong, more courage to stand in front of people and speak, more desire to reach out to others, and less desire for people to notice me.  I can see sins that I no longer, or less often, struggle with.  I see all the knowledge I have gained and the assurance of salvation I now have.  And I know, without a doubt, that all of this transformation is by the power of Christ.  It was done in me, not by me.  This is the power of Christ in me.  This is the true power of the Gospel in my life.

So, what is the Gospel to me?  It is the knowledge that I am a sinner, yet I have a great Savior.  It is a work done within me, a free gift of God.  It is a renewal of my soul, a transformation of my heart.  It is the knowledge that heart change comes through the Holy Spirit, and it is the empowerment to hope while suffering. It is the fact that I am NO LONGER A SLAVE TO SIN, BUT A SLAVE TO RIGHTEOUSNESS.  Simply put, it is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives within me.

This is spot on.

Marc5Solas

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 9.03.31 AM

We all know them, the kids who were raised in church. They were stars of the youth group. They maybe even sang in the praise band or led worship. And then… they graduate from High School and they leave church. What happened?

It seems to happen so often that I wanted to do some digging; To talk to these kids and get some honest answers. I work in a major college town with a large number of 20-somethings. Nearly all of them were raised in very typical evangelical churches. Nearly all of them have left the church with no intention of returning. I spend a lot of time with them and it takes very little to get them to vent, and I’m happy to listen. So, after lots of hours spent in coffee shops and after buying a few lunches, here are the most common thoughts taken from dozens of…

View original post 1,779 more words

true peace

in a world that believes all roads lead to heaven (or happiness or enlightenment or success or rebirth) and that one can create one’s own truth, i guess it should not surprise me that a statue of buddha would be heralded as being inspiring and peaceful.  the largest buddha statue to ever be carved out of one single piece of jade, known as “the jade buddha”, is currently on display at the escondido center for the arts. an article in today’s north county times quotes an onlooker as saying “when we went, we felt a peace.”  another visitor said, “we do feel the peace that comes with this… the buddha reached enlightenment through meditation, and that is what we teach our children and grandchildren. be calm and meditate.” the jade buddha is on a tour to many cities in the u.s. and canada. the organizer of this tour, ian green, said, “many americans have been attracted to the jade buddha because of its almost primordial symbolism of peace and harmony… many of them have come back day after day to be in the presence of this inspiring symbol.”

this, to me, is a tragedy. visitors to this statue are undoubtedly seeking peace, which the buddha is purported to inspire. they want to be in the presence of  statue that has been made by man, carved out of a piece of stone because it will somehow help them feel… peaceful?

objects can, in fact, inspire a sense of peace in me. for example, when standing on a hill overlooking the ocean, watching the sun’s rays cascade onto the water’s surface, i feel at awe and peaceful. when viewing a beautiful sunset, colorful butterfly, or a child laugh and smile, i again feel peaceful. but this peace is not the absence of thought or a calming of the mind, as it is in buddhism. i feel peaceful when i view the creation of my Lord and realize His infinite power, might, mercy, grace, and love. peace is the realization, knowledge, and assurance that God has freed me from the bondage of sin and it is no longer me who lives, but Christ lives within me. peace is knowing my Creator in an intimate way and knowing He loves me, despite my sinfulness.

peace is far more than being calm and meditating. feeling peace is not a means to gain rebirth and regeneration, as it is in buddhism. peace, instead, is the outcome of being reborn in the Spirit (which is an entirely different rebirth than that in buddhism). for it is only through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the faith He has produced in me that i have been reborn and can feel peaceful- that is true peace.

how sad, how desperate, to look to a man-made statue to gain internal peace. the God i worship, the one true God, is so much more grand, powerful, awesome, and mighty than a statue made out of jade. and God is the only being worthy of worship.

amidst cries for coexistence and tolerance, truth has been discarded. truth, you see, is too polarizing, too absolute. no one wants to be told they are wrong. there is allegedly no way of determining right and wrong, so why not abandon them both? can’t we all just determine what is right for ourselves? this is exactly what our culture tells us. but, in fact, there is one truth:

  • “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” (John 3:16).
  • “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” (1 Timothy 1:15).
  • “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do, ” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

the only true peace is achieved (and actually we don’t do the “achieving,” rather it is given to us) by the Lord who reigns over all of creation. not by looking at a jade statue.

lessons worth learning

i have been substituting for the last week and a half for a different classroom in the school i work for.  overall, it’s been a good experience.  however, there is this one student who has, at times, been the source of much frustration.  i do not know the background story for him at all, so i am not sure if he is a victim of the “system” or has family problems or is dealing with any other typical reason why a student acts out. all i know is that his reading and math levels are severely below grade level and he is incredibly argumentative.

on wednesday he got the best of me. i was utterly exhausted from the ordeal of babysitting him for four hours.

but, despite the lack of interest in school and the constant disrespect toward me, work went a lot better yesterday and today. I still had trouble with him. some of the trouble was so frustrating it has now become comical. But do you know what the beauty is in this situation?

God opened my eyes to see that he isn’t just acting up to be annoying. he is acting up because he has very low reading and math levels and he has trouble even understanding his math textbook. it’s not necessarily the math that is hard for him, it’s understanding the instructions and the examples. math itself is a different language, so can you imagine not even being able to understand the instructions written in english, much less the actual math?!

because of the realization God gave me, because He showed me that i needed to look through this kid’s antics, i was able to sit with him today and go over the vocabulary that he was struggling with. i found some worksheets for him that are more step-by-step and easier to understand. i explained things like what a decimal point is and why you have to line decimal points up in order to add two numbers together. i explained how to convert from a centimeter to a meter and what the prefix “centi” means.  i feel like i got through to him. despite his attitude and his defiance all day. for a few brief moments as i sat with him, in between interuptions and distractions, i could see him actually learning.

God helped me to see through the rebellion to see a kid who’s really struggling. It’s funny because now I wish i had more time with him to try to make a difference in his life.

thank you, God, for reminding me what i love about my job and speaking to my heart today.

ups and downs

ups and downs

do you ever feel like you’re stuck in place?  or maybe a better analogy is being on a perpetual ferris wheel.

lately i’ve been feeling like this.  i guess after three years of working at the same job, without a clear career goal to be working toward, i am just ready to jump off of the wheel and run in a new direction.  i want to have a job that i enjoy, where i get to be creative, have an impact on peoples’ lives, and have a varied schedule.  and of course slightly more pay and benefits would be nice.  is that too much to ask?

i know that God has perfect timing and a perfect plan, yet i constantly want Him to mold His plans to fit more with my plans.  sometimes i grow weary of this whole sanctification process.  i feel as though i am a toddler walking by candy store after toy store after candy store, never being able to go in.  and i am about ready to throw a tantrum (metaphorically speaking, of course).  but, in His infinite wisdom, God is teaching me discipline.  and patience.  and to rely on Him, and only Him.  these are tough lessons.  but much needed ones.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,”  Jeremiah 29:11.

God is just a little late…?

The Fray’s “You Found Me”

I found God on the corner of First and Amistad
Where the west was all but won
All alone smoking his last cigarette
I said, “Where you been?”
He said, “Ask anything.”

Where were you when everything was falling apart?
All my days were spent by the telephone that never rang
And all I needed was a call that never came
To the corner of First and Amistad

Lost and insecure
You found me, you found me
Lyin’ on the floor
Surrounded, surrounded
Why’d you have to wait?
Where were you? Where were you?
Just a little late
You found me, you found me

In the end everyone ends up alone
Losing her the only one who’s ever known
Who I am, who I’m not, who I wanna be
No way to know
How long she will be next to me

Early morning the city breaks
I’ve been callin’ for years and years and years and years
And you never left me no messages
Ya never send me no letters
You got some kinda nerve
Taking all I want

Why is it that people assume that God has been absent when bad things happen to them?  It is so sad to me to think that this song was written to God and the songwriter thinks that he found God too late- that the damage has been done, the girl is gone, the pain has set in.  He is lost and insecure, and yet he determines it is at this point that his life is past God’s help.  But this is precisely when God could speak to him!  It is when we feel lost and helpless, and when we finally realize our sinfulness and our inability to be in charge of our own lives, that we are finally ready for God.  This is exactly the type of person that God speaks to- the broken and contrite, those who are ready to surrender.

Where were you when everything was falling apart?” He was right there!  God is with us through our trials and struggles, ready to rescue us and show his glory through our brokenness.  It is so unfortunate that oftentimes it is precisely this brokenness that drives people away from God- they feel abandoned.  They question God’s love and ask, “How could a loving God allow this to happen?”  While God is loving, love does not mean you will get whatever you want and will live a pain-free life.  On the contrary!  Love sometimes means that you will have to endure hardship.  Hardship breaks us, makes us meek and humble, makes us grow and realize the true power and mercy of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

“In the end everyone ends up alone.  Losing her, the only one who’s ever known who I am, who I’m not, who I wanna be.” But God knows!  HE knows who you are, who you’re not, and who you wanna be!  He knows even more than you know about yourself!  He even knows how many hairs you have on your head (Matt. 10:20)!  He knows you to your core being!  He molded you and created you.  He knit us together in our mothers’ wombs (Psalm 139:13).  Fear not, for He is with us.

How great is our God and His wonderful timing!  Even when it seems that His plan makes no sense and has no purpose, it does.  For God is all good and all powerful and has a good, pleasing, and perfect will.  “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”  Jeremiah 29:11.

I can only imagine

Lately I’ve been listening to Seventh Day Slumber’s album called “Take Everything.”  It’s an album full of worship songs and the songs they have chosen to include have great lyrics.  They are all songs I’m familiar with, but for some reason, it’s like I’m discovering them for the first time.  Does that ever happen to you when you sing worship songs?  Sometimes I’ll be singing a song that I’ve sung hundreds of times before, but all of a sudden the meaning behind the words finally hits me!

So anyway, I’ve been loving the song, “I Can Only Imagine.”  Here are the lyrics:

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When your face is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence,
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing Halelluja,
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Just think about it- what will Heaven be like?  What will it be like to stand in the glory of our Lord and Savior?  It’s an overwhelming thought!

When I was a little girl, someone must have told me that when I get to Heaven I will be able to sit on God’s lap because whenever I picture Heaven, that is what I picture.  I always imagine it as a place where everyone has their own room and God is somehow with everyone at the same time and we are all able to sit on His lap all the time. Now, I’m definitely not saying that this is a Biblical picture of Heaven, but I think it does illustrate how we will be in God’s presence all the time and the love we will feel while with Him.  I long for that feeling!  Won’t it be great to have no separation at all from God??  I just want to be wrapped up in His arms for eternity!  Yet, as the song asks, will I even be able to look at Him?  Or stand in front of Him?  Will I even be able to speak?  Will I be so in awe of the Creator that I will be struck with a reverent fear?

I’m sure it will be a combination of both awe and comfort;  we will feel a sense of fear and love all at the same time.  C.S. Lewis probably has portrayed God the best by using Aslan the Lion to represent Him.  He is so powerful, strong, mighty, yet loving, caring, and all good.  It’s pretty awesome to think about being in His presence one day… I can only imagine…

an honest look at becoming a wife

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

it is somewhat daunting to be this open and honest through a blog, but i hope to serve as an example for other girls and women, as well as offer some insight into what is so challenging about the persisting idea of the “first year” of marriage.  before getting married, and actually for a couple months after, i was craving some insight from a Godly woman.  i wanted a book to read that explained what the struggles are and how to overcome them.  i found it very challenging to find such a book, and so i thought it would be a good idea to write what i had wanted to read.  so today i am sharing with you what it has been like so far to become a wife.

nathan and i have been married for just over five months now.  i have spent these months transitioning into wifehood and adjusting to all that it entails.  overall, it has been a time of growth for both nathan and myself and we are enjoying the process of growing together as a married couple.  it hasn’t all been easy though.

people always say that the first year of marriage is hard, but it is not something that can be totally explained.  for people who do not live together before getting married, as was the case for us, there are really two transitions going on- the transition into becoming a spouse and the transition into becoming a housemate.

for nathan and i, we did a lot of work prior to getting married to prepare for the spousal transition- we did premarital counseling, read several books, and had many, many discussions about the process.  even after going through all this preparation, we are still facing challenges.

for me, the transition of becoming a housemate is what has proved challenging.  upon reading this statement you might be assuming that the challenge stems from nathan’s propensity to be messy and disorganized (due to the traditional stereotype).  however, this is not the case for us.  i think we are actually equally messy.  the challenge really has been a more personal struggle for me.  i have found that living in a way that shows respect and love to one another is something that i wasn’t quite ready to do.  to have to put aside my own feelings and desires (for example: “I am tired and I don’t feel like cleaning/cooking/etc.”) to act in a sacrificial way is a daily challenge.  this is a challenge facing both nathan and myself.

so far, we haven’t been following the traditional roles of husbands and wives, as i am the one with a full-time job and he does more of the cooking and the laundry than i do.  we try to share duties and to balance them out;  i feel that we are doing a pretty good job of keeping this balance, but i daily have to struggle to keep selfishness at bay.  i suppose that is why marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship to the church- Christianity is a daily dying to oneself and surrendering to Christ.  and so it is the same with marriage.  both partners must put aside their own wishes every day in order to act in love toward the other.

while this is a challenge, it is a challenge that is definitely worth taking on.  for it is through our struggles that we are refined and sanctified, made holy and pleasing to God.  what a good lesson to learn!

so, yes, our first year of marriage has been challenging on some level.  but ultimately, it is a process of growing and maturing, which for us has been very fruitful and fulfilling.  i suppose our challenge of learning how to live together is a dying challenge in our world today.  since many couples live together before they get married, they have a chance to work these things out prior to being husband and wife.  even though we did not have this jump start, i am an avid supporter of not living together before marriage.  there is something beautiful about experiencing marriage the way God intended it and going through the struggles in order to be refined as christians.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 states:  “4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  Jesus is the only being who ever loved perfectly, but we are to strive for this in all of our relationships, as the Holy Spirit moves us to do.

are you kidding??

i am also not proud to be associated with pat robertson right now. for what he is saying about haiti. we cannot possibly know the will of the Lord- we cannot make generalizations about an entire people group being victims of a natural disaster and say they are cursed by God.
it just really bothers me that pat robertson is associated with Christians and he says things like this… not all Christians agree with him.