Got Any Change?

A year ago today I was headed over to Asia with my sister, brother and sister-in-law (my sister and I for two months). It’s crazy how much change happens in a year. I definitely miss Asia and all the experiences we had over there…

But what if we got our wish? What if we could stay suspended in time at our favorite moments? Sure, it would be a blast for a while, but we would eventually become bored and resentful at God. Because life is like a dance and every good dance needs good timing: ups and downs, slow and fast, smooth and bouncy.

I hate change, I hate goodbyes, I hate disappointments–if I could remove them, I would. But in order to remove them, I’d take away the movement of life’s timing and the dance would flop.

So let’s embrace the movement which change brings to life–because that’s pretty much what life is: constant change. Remember that the Master Choreographer is GOOD and knows what He’s doing. Every old and new move is according to His grand plan.

I loved Asia, more than I expected. My bones have been aching to go back and I probably would have hit pause, if possible. But I experienced so much rich LIFE since then that I’m glad I didn’t.

But coming home from a fun trip to Asia is not the extent of the change I’ve experienced. About every year and a half or so, half of our household moves away and is replaced by new people. Strange, right? You see, my family houses the volunteers for the ministry we work for, unfortunately, their terms are only a year or two long after which they move on with their lives. Every time one of them moves on, I get a little bitter about the whole change concept. But invariably when I look back and see where they are and where I am today and the relationships I’ve made with the new volunteers, I would not have it any other way. See, God does know what He’s doing after all.

And then there’s death. One of the irreversibles of change. Everyone will experience death, in some way. If someone does not experience losing a loved one, it means they died first. In every marriage, someone will experience the death of a spouse, most children lose their parents, some parents lose their children. Everyone will die.

But therein lies Hope. Because death does not have to be a period, separating one sentence from another. It can, and should be, a comma, which is a mark of transition, or a colon: emphasizing why. Those who are hidden inside Christ will overcome death and be raised to a glorified life where there is no separation (death) or pain–but if I know the Master, there will probably be change.

Thank God!

Obeying God: Does Doing All This “Christian” Stuff Really Matter?

“Last fall, I had to make a decision. Being the first year after my Mom’s fatal car accident made 2013 one of the toughest years of my life, as you could imagine. When grieving loss such as the death of a loved one, or even a lost career, a divorce, a cross-country move, chronic or terminal illness or any kind of major loss or change, the regular pains of life intensify. Last year my family and I saw the regular up-and-down’s of life taken to extremes. In the midst of all the raw emotion, I fell into a type of depression. And that is when I was bombarded by the questions and decisions.

As anyone experiencing similar grief, I had a lot of questions about life. I felt like Job who wanted to “take God to trial.” But from all the questions, one monster protruded out from the rest: “Why am I doing all this Christian stuff?” And then all the little monster questions followed right behind: “Why am I hanging onto all these convictions? Why do I follow and obey God? Who’s going to care? Why don’t I just go do my own thing?”

Let me ask you: Why do you do what you do? Teenager, why don’t you have sex whenever you want? Why do you hold on to your convictions? Why do you work hard to obey God? After all, you are saved because of God’s grace through faith — not because of what you do. There has been a lot of talk in recent years about modesty: why does modesty matter? Why don’t we lust and flirt? Why should we bother to live peaceably with each other and strive for reconciliation? Why don’t we murder? Why don’t we lie? Why do we follow the Bible? If none of this adds or subtracts to our salvation, then why bother?”

continue reading…

Obeying God: Does Doing All This “Christian” Stuff Really Matter?

The Hard Stuff of Forgiveness

Want to do hard things? Want to succeed at life’s toughest challenge? Learn to forgive.

Even the most talented people have limited impact until they learn the basics of forgiveness. But what does forgiveness mean, exactly? Is it merely saying “I forgive you”? Does it mean forgetting as well?

We can try to squeeze it into a simple definition by saying: forgiveness is the continuous state of a guilty person not receiving the punishment that justice or intuition demands he receives. But it is still complicated and cerebral and not very practical. Then of course, life doesn’t have simple answers: there is no logical rationalization which we can unpack and forevermore know how to forgive. If forgiveness is so complicated, how can it be understood? Just as scientists can observe light and say it “is such-and-such” or “affects this-and-that,” but cannot say exactly what it is made of; so can man see forgiveness and give an explanation, albeit a weak one, of its attributes.

Forgiveness is mercy. If someone says “You are an egghead!” forgiveness continues to love that person. It is not merely words: it is an attitude. The words “God bless you” or “I forgive you” mean nothing unless continuously lived out on a day-to-day basis. Forgiveness means not holding the actions against the actor.

When God says in Jeremiah 31:34 that He “will remember [our] sins no more,” He is not insinuating that he has a bad memory. God cannot merely “forget” sins. Instead, He is demonstrating to the world that forgiveness involves the injured choosing to put out of his mind the actions of the injurer. In other words, when someone says “I don’t hold it against you” then he really must not hold the other person accountable for their hurtful actions. This is the example set by God. “Disciples, pick up your cross; follow me; learn from me.”

Continue reading:

The Hard Stuff of Forgiveness.

Let’s Talk About Music

“Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones; praise is becoming to the upright. Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy, for the word of the Lord is upright, and all His work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the loving kindness of the Lord.” – Psalm 33:1-5

Let’s talk about music! Music is a wonderful art. Nothing speaks quite as deeply to one’s emotions as music does—especially if accompanied with poetry. Music transcends many arts in that it affects not only your soul, but your body and spirit as well. Because it is so intimate, I believe that Christians—especially young people—should be serious in their approach to music and truly seek God in this area of their lives. This may be hard, but, well, since when has that stopped us?

I do not completely know how to approach this subject because I am not exactly sure where you, my audience, stand on this issue. In some Christian circles this is a really sensitive issue, but in others it is a topic from the ‘90s. There is a huge spectrum of musical beliefs and opinions among Christians. Some people believe that anything musical is acceptable, others believe that a cappella is the only way to worship God through music. Honestly, I have rarely participated in a conversation about music that was actually beneficial or uplifting. Therefore, I do not write this in order to give my opinion or assert my own personal belief. Rather, I wish to give some suggestions to keep in mind as YOU formulate YOUR beliefs. These suggestions are mostly an assortment of tools others have handed to me which I find beneficial in my current musical processing, and I would like to hand them to you.

If we’re not careful we can easily fall into the “ditches” on either end of the spectrum. But God does not call us to get stuck in ditches; He calls us to walk with Him on the road. Again, I’m not here to define where the ditches begin and end, or show exactly where we should be on the spectrum. Rather, I’m here to provoke our thoughts and, I hope, arouse meaningful conversation. Many of you will come to a completely different conclusion than I would after applying these tools, but my desire is that you really be thoughtful and spiritually discerning in your musical choices.

Read more:

Let’s Talk About Music.

Quit Being So Negative!

How do you view God? Do you see Him as hard to please?

Consider this statement for a moment: You fall short of God’s grace and love and there is absolutely no way for you to ever please Him.

Sounds Biblical right? But how do you respond? Are you drawn to God? Does it quicken your heart to respond in repentance? Maybe. But most likely you feel discouraged. A subtle, subconscious feeling of hopelessness enters in and negative thinking is introduced into your mind.

The problem is that yes, the above statement is true, but only partially. You DO fall short of God’s grace and love—but He extends it ANYWAYS. There IS absolutely no way for you to ever please God ON YOUR OWN STRENGTH. God finds much pleasure in you when the blood of Jesus Christ has COMPLETELY cleansed you of anything that would displease God.

So when these thoughts run through our minds, we slowly become discouraged and lose interest in God. We see daily just how much we fall short. We feel condemned, fearful, and hopeless. And we either give up, or start living out of a drive to please God.

God does not operate through negativity. SO STOP IT! Just stop.

The King came to His enemies, not to condemn, but to LOVE. In response to His love and KINDNESS, we, His enemies, forsake our old lives and become His friends. Once we are His friends, He makes us His very own children. And as His children, we are given power, bravery, endless access to His throne, and UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

Fear, doubt, and condemnation are not of God’s kingdom so STOP allowing them to reign in your mind. You have the freedom to do this. Christ has given you permission to quit thinking negatively about yourself and others.

Jesus cares for you. Give HIM your fear, doubt, condemnation, lust, pride, unforgiveness, and all your negativity. You were lost and deserve God’s wrath, but Christ took that upon Himself. He has found and freed you. Think on THAT! Rejoice. You are free to rejoice! Get rid of whatever is keeping you from joy, trust God AND REJOICE!

When I allow this truth to reign in my heart, I am DRAWN to Christ: I am drawn to pray and to read His word; to love and serve Him.

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” – Philippians 4:8

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge [condemn] the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” – John 3:17

[The sinner] said, “No one [condemns me], Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” –John 8:11

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1

“We love [Him], because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19

C.D.

When Life’s Hard… Breathe In

WHEN LIFE’S HARD… BREATHE IN

“Take a deep breath in. Now breathe out. God is active in your life. Breathe in, again; breathe out. God is active in your life. Breathe in, breathe out. God is active.

Every single breath that you breathe is a gift from God — a deliberate act of God’s will to give you yet one more breath of life, and another, and another.

God is not done with you.

Look all around you. There is life! Look up at the sky, marvel at the mountains, admire the trees—see the people? There are so many people! People with their marvelous relationships: there’s the stability of childhood “besties” and college buddies and the complexity of guy-girl relations. There’s children and elderly. There’s black and there’s white. Some people live in dry deserts; others live in swamps and rainforests, or in cold tundras. There’s life, and beauty — diversity and unity. And it’s all good! And all good things come from God. Every single pure pleasure, worthy word, and splendid sunrise comes straight from the heart of God.”

Keep Reading: http://bit.ly/19KN3f6

I’m Angry at God | The Rebelution

I wrote the following article for the Rebelution dot com. I praise God for the way He works and leads. It was a very vulnerable piece for me to write, but the response has been OVERWHELMINGLY uplifting and encouraging, through the comments, emails, and messages I have gotten. I don’t deserve it, but I am grageful that God can use me even in my brokenness. As one song says: “You make beautiful things out of the dust; You make beautiful things out of us.” I want to allow God to bring beauty out of my dirt, no matter how hard it is.

“‘I just feel so dead. I am so torn up inside. Worthless. Believing lies [and] feeling incapable of believing truth. But I just have to. I am desperate. Angry. I need God yet I feel extremely angry at God. I feel hopeless. This battle never ends. I just want to die.’

I penned these words in my journal not two years ago, not nine months ago, but yesterday and they expressed what I wanted to scream at God in that moment — and I did when I was alone.

I’m not proud of it, but I cannot deny: I’m angry at God.

Pain, lots of pain—and anger—along with frustration, confusion, and despair pretty much describe my relationship with God right now. Sounds really Christian doesn’t it? Aren’t Christians supposed to abide in the love of God and rest in His peace?

I wish I could supply some answers. I like to have my life under control. I like to know what is going on. I hate struggle. If something is bothering me, I like to know why and I like to deal with it. I hate confusion. I hate not knowing which way is up.

But God has chosen to devastate my life like an eruption devastates a volcano. And this frustrates me. It makes me angry that He took my Mom in a car accident nine months ago. I resent the feeling of disconnect from God that I feel. I can’t sleep well; it’s hard to concentrate on work.”

Continue reading: http://bit.ly/angryatgod

Worship Is Living

Here is a recent article I wrote for the Rebelution. Check it out if you can.

“God gives us dreams and desires and He likes to see us set goals and pursue excellence (maybe this is doing hard things and developing personally). 

But as we pursue excellence we must remember to maintain a spirit of worship. We must pursue excellence as an expression of worship to God, as means of communicating to God that He is all that matters to us and we will give everything to serve Him.

If developing personally becomes more important to us than worshiping God, then we have a wrong focus (not necessarily wrong actions, but wrong focus).

In reality, personal growth is a lessening of ourselves and an abounding of Him in our lives. And the only reason we need personal growth is so that we can be more effective in the kingdom of God.

If in pursuing excellence we are not building the kingdom of God, we are wasting time, because our sole purpose in life is to build God’s kingdom by glorifying Him (worship).

The greatest tool we have for building the kingdom is not our tracts, our eloquence, or our talents, but our lives. When we go about our lives in constant worship of the Almighty, ministry happens.

If we are committed to following Christ [worshiping God] it will not be difficult to find hard things to do. Following Christ will invariably involve following Him right into hard things.”

Read the rest of the article: Worship Is Living.

los angeles evening Bible camp

Chris Witmer:

For those of you interested, this is a post by my brother Asher. about the Evening Bible Camps we do here in northeast LA. Please pray for us!

Originally posted on all-out sprint for Christ:

In 2008 three hundred thousand (300,000) children, in LA alone, lived in communities where walking to school put their life at risk. Those of us who live in North East Los Angeles live in some of the worst of those communities and many of the families that we relate with are from those communities.

Last year during our annual Evening Bible Camp 203 children came and were a part of our camp for at leas part of an evening. Grant it, only 25 came regularly enough to win a Green Machine EBC T-shirt as a reward for regular attendance. But, many of those 203 children that we got to know at least briefly come from communities where gun-shots are heard weekly, dope is smoked publicly, and their families are made up of a bunch of “half’s.”

Next Monday we begin the 2013 Evening Bible Camp at Rio De Los Angeles…

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Dragon’s Breath

I bent hard into the wind. The hot desert sun beat down upon my back and shoulder with no mercy. Dust flew into my eyes and mouth and up my nostrils drawing all the moisture out of my body. Moisture is water. Water gives life. Every now and then when I was able to lift my head and look forward, I would catch a glimpse of something, desperately hoping it was water. But it wasn’t. It never was. I plodded on barely placing one foot in front of the other. Stumbling and falling, ever walking straight into the wind, wind like dragon’s breath.

It seemed like I was in the desert all alone. I felt forsaken, deceived. Nothing can go on forever. I knew the desert would end. But that’s hard to believe when you have traveled for days and there is still no end in sight. My hair had grown long, my skin was dry and flaking, and my feet were swollen from all the walking. I felt dirty and messy and ready to die.When I could walk no further, a gust of dragon’s breath rushed passed and I fell helplessly backwards to the ground on my back. It hurt to have all the  air forced through my lungs and out my  parched throat. I groaned in my misery, there in the sand, all alone with my hair a tangled mess all over my face. I closed my eyes.

I could almost feel time stand still. The wind stopped, my heart pounded in my ears, my mind went blank.

“Help!” I tried to yell, but couldn’t. “Dear God, help!” I screamed to the shadows of my brain.

Slowly, inside my head, I could see a light glimmering. It was like watching creation happen all over again. Slowly, so slowly the light grew and glimmered. Eventually it had grown so bright that all the shadows with their secrets fled to somewhere I did not know. Finally, I began to make out the source of the light. It was a man and I knew the man! It was Jesus! But then it changed. Jesus was in pain. I saw this, in my head I saw Jesus on the cross! It changed again suddenly, while the light got brighter until it was blindingly white. Now I saw a throne and on the throne sat the Father and by the Father, on His right, I saw a warrior ready for battle. It was Jesus the King, standing with His sword drawn. And then I felt the dragon’s breath and it was all gone.

I opened my eyes and saw the dry, pale blue sky. I stood up trembling in my weakness. Before me stretched the desert long into the horizon, but beside was a little stream. I had not noticed it in my hallucinating state or maybe Someone had just put it there. In any case, there it was, more of a trickle than a stream. But it was water–and water gives life.

C.D.