It’s Okay To Doubt Your Faith

Yes, if you have doubts about your faith, that’s okay. Actually, it can be good!
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Huh?
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Yes, it’s healthy to have doubts. I think within some sectors of the church, a heavy emphasis is placed on believing the right things, and having the correct head knowledge in order to have a healthy faith. The problem is, to some extent, we can’t really control our beliefs. We can’t just choose to believe something, even if we want to.
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Belief can be defined as, “trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something.” Perhaps one might say they believe in the existence of God, for example, but if they don’t place their trust, faith, or confidence in God, then they don’t really believe (even if they feel they believe, or say they believe).

If someone said they believed that it was going to snow, but went out in shorts and T-shirt, then they didn’t really believe it was going to snow, or perhaps they have a desire to experience hypothermia, or possibly frostbite.
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In order to have true belief, that belief has to influence our actions. Sure, we can sometimes make ourselves believe things if we try hard enough, but sometimes we need more evidence. I would really like it if ice cream was good for you, but no amount of believing is going to change the chemistry. I would need some new evidence or data to influence and change my beliefs.
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In the same way, sometimes we need more evidence to believe in God or a certain doctrine. This is good, after all, we are instructed to love God with all our mind, as well as heart and soul. Nowhere in the Bible are we asked to make a “leap of faith.” Faith is to be founded on knowledge, not wishful-thinking.
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If someone doubts the existence of God, or some doctrine, that is perfectly fine. We should frequently doubt what we believe, otherwise, we run the risk of deceiving ourselves or being close-minded. We want to follow the truth wherever it leads, and question everything. Yes, even our faith.

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Why Do We Want People To Like Us?

To elaborate on my previous post, When Speaking The Truth Makes You A Target, what is stopping us from speaking the truth? Why do we hold back?
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When it all comes down to it, the motivation behind our failure to boldly speak the truth is fear. We’re afraid of something. In our daily lives, this fear manifests itself most commonly in the fear of what other people will think of us.like us cover
Now where does that come from? Why do we care so much about what other people think about us? Evolutionary biologists would say we have an instinctive need to feel accepted because it helps ensure our survival. If we conform and make sure we “fit in” and people like us…then our chances for survival are greater. While these biologists have correctly observed that our desire to be liked by others is instinctive, they have over-stepped their bounds of expertise and are making philosophical conclusions based on their scientific findings.
Regardless, in our everyday lives, I don’t think we are motivated to “fit in” and be liked out of a sense of self-preservation. Most of us are not in danger of dying if people dislike us because of our beliefs. Now, in other parts of the world, this may be the case, but in America, we are allowed freedom of speech (for now.) So what is it we fear? Why do we want other people to like us?
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The Arsenal: Re-Launched!

It’s taken awhile, but my new site has finally arrived! It’s still a bit of a work-in-progress, but it is functional now! Woo!

Re-Launched Arsenal

During the transfer from Blogger, the formatting for my posts was lost, so as a result, many of my old posts are currently in drafts. However, I will be updating them and then re-posting them as soon as they are finished!

 

I will also have plenty of new content coming out as well, AND! I’d also like to have more guest posting, so stay tuned for details on that.

 

Additionally, make sure to sign up for my newsletter to receive all my lastest posts, special deals on books and products as they become available, and unique content!

Subscribe to my newsletter!

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Some other updates: 
  • My ebook, Misunderstood Modesty, is coming along! I’m about 1/3 of the way done with it.
  • Be sure to check out my family’s new website on family home business and discipleship, CoastalConservatory.com
  • Kingdom Pen has been rolling along, and we will be launching a new contest tomorrow!
  • I will be recording, mixing, and mastering the debut album for the Long Family Singers, and will be getting started in June!
  • Life is crazy busy!!!
What is new with you? Any big events or projects you’re working on? Share in the comments! 


What Should I Do With My Life?

What Should I Do With My Life?

I’ve wanted to be many things throughout my young life.What Should I do with my life

First, I wanted to be a construction worker. I loved building forts out of blocks, and building roads in the dirt under a tree in our backyard. Building things was cool.

Then I wanted to join the army. Watching Davy Crockett a million times might have had some influence. Guns were cool.

Next I wanted to be a football player. I couldn’t imagine life without playing football, so for a long time, I figured the perfect way to die would be on the football field after making some spectacular game-winning play. That would be awesome.

At some point in time I realized that I wouldn’t be able to play football my whole life, and my odds of dying while playing were extremely low. What to do? Nothing 9-to-5 really interested me. I loved history though, and would spend hours watching documentaries while other kids watched cartoons (though I did watch a few of those too). Maybe I would be a historian! But what do historians do but teach? And teaching didn’t appeal to me.

Well…I also really liked space and science. Maybe I’ll learn Astrophysics and become a rocket scientist? Of course, the only problem is you can’t really do anything with Science if you don’t also have an affinity for math. I do not have an affinity for math.

So now what? All the things I like I either can’t do any more, am not good enough at, or don’t make enough money. Maybe this blog could support me, but that’s a long-shot, isn’t it? Music production? That’s laughable.

I’ve thought about potentially studying theology or philosophy; however, those would only lead to becoming a teacher or a pastor, and I wouldn’t be able to do either of those for very long before getting fired most likely.

What now? What am I supposed to do? Am I doomed to be a failure? Are all the people right who said I would never amount to anything? Maybe I could join the Salvation Army like one of my old football coaches predicted I would.
When it comes to others my age, I don’t think I’m alone with these concerns about the future. Growing up, I could never see past 18. When I finally did turn 18 I was like, “Wow. I’m still alive.” Part of me never thought I would make it this far, but I have, and now I’m…21? Is that right? Wow. I’m so darn old. At best, my life is already a quarter of the way over.

For most others my age, the question of “what should I do with my life,” is avoided or put off for later. Most simply just go to college because that’s what is expected. We young adults go to college and we change majors and even schools multiple times, trying to figure out what is the right thing to do.

Then four years is up, and many of us still don’t know what to do…so we just go back to school. That’s what we’ve been doing for the past 15 or so years, right? Once summer ends, it’s back to school. It’s always back to school.

But we can’t always keep going back to school, not all of us at least. Some do though. They become graduate assistants, and teachers themselves, and then end up professors at their alma mater. I had a couple of professors at Ohio State whom had never left since arriving as a Freshman.

But many do graduate our institutions of higher learning and go on to get jobs. For many, college works out. For many others, it doesn’t, and they either end up in jobs they hate or unemployed.

Of course, there is nothing necessarily wrong with having a job you hate. Simply having a job is something to be thankful for, and sometimes it’s necessary to just get a job, even if you don’t like it.

But what if you’re not at that point yet? What if you still have some time to try and pursue something you feel created to do? But what if you just don’t see that innate desire ever working out for you in the “real world”? What then?

Of course, worrying about the future is exactly what God tells us not to do.

God has already said what I should do with my life.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:25-34

God makes us a promise here. He promises to give us what we need if we seek first, above all else, His kingdom and His righteousness. I probably should read this passage every day since I seem to forget this so easily. Too often I neglect to seek first His kingdom, doing what God wants, because I feel I need to take care of myself first or I’m going to be in trouble. I’m not trusting God. I’m not believing that He really will come through and provide.

The result is this paralyzing worry, which doesn’t help at all. For some strange reason, we seem to think it’s easier to rely on our own strength rather than God’s. The reality is it’s so much easier to simply trust God and not worry about the outcome.

Rather than worrying about whether or not our struggles and efforts today will pay off in the end, we can simply do our best and trust God by seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness. Whatever the outcome, the result will be good.

This trust frees us up to pursue excellence at the jobs and responsibilities we have currently been tasked with. We don’t have to worry about where it is all leading, because God will work it all together for good, if we simply love Him and obey His commandments.

Do you ever worry about your future?

Do you struggle with trusting God?

What do you do stay focused on while pursuing His kingdom and righteousness?

Waiting For Life To Start

waiting for life to startLife in middle class America is simple.

Generally, you are born to parents who want you to be happy. Your childhood is spent getting spoiled and taught that money isn’t all that matters in life

Then you get older, and you start going to school. First it’s just half a day, and you’re in a comfortable room with lots of bright colors and toys. You have a teacher who always smiles and talks to you like she’s expecting an ice cream truck to drive up any second and hand out free ice cream to everyone.

Then you go to school for the whole day, but at least you have two recesses. And then only one recess. The toys disappear. Creative writing time is eliminated. Story time is eliminated. And then recess falls by the wayside too.

Next the windows start to disappear, replaced by barren walls or covered up by heavy blinds. The desks shrink. The markers and crayons go bye-bye. Heck, some students seem to never even be able to find a pencil.

You still have some writing, but it’s only for teaching the mechanics of English. If you happen to take a Literature class, you will read such marvelous works as the depressing and pointless “Catcher In The Rye,” or something as mind-bogglingly dull, inconsequential, and meaningless as “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” I think they have you read these books in school to crush any possibility students may gain an interest in reading.

Middle school only matters in that it prepares you for high school. High school only matters in that it prepares you for college. And college only matters so long as you are able to get a good job, and by “good job”, we of course mean a “high paying” job.

Getting a high paying job matters because then you gain status and can buy all the things you want. Why? Because this is what will make you happy. Right?

Isn’t that odd? As children we’re told, “money isn’t everything,” but you’d better do well in school so you can go to a good college, so you can get a good job, so you can make a lot of money, so you can buy a lot of expensive things. Schools eliminate all of the activities and ideas which encourage you to break free of the mold. All you need to be successful, all that really matters, is learning math and science so you can make a lot of money. Your life doesn’t really start until you get that job and start making that money. Everything else is just a build up for that stage of your life, right?

Is it just me, or do you ever get the feeling that you won’t really be able to start “living” until you’ve “made it”?

Each new stage of life just becomes another obstacle. “Once I get into the college I want, then I’ll be happy.” Then you get there and happiness moves on to something else. Now it is, “Once I get the job I want I will be happy and I can start ‘living’.” Then you get the job and happiness becomes about the next promotion, or being able to afford this house or that car.

This is what life is like for many people in America. However, I think most of the people reading this blog realize that money really isn’t the path to happiness. Money is just a means, not an end. A personal relationship with God is the only true way to fulfillment. I know this, and I think many of my readers know this. Yet, I still think it’s tempting to think we will find fulfillment in accomplishments or material things.

Maybe instead of college or money, the thought is, “Once I get married, then my life can start,” or, “Once I find the right church.” Whatever “it” is, it is lying to us, and getting in the way of what is really true.

Life doesn’t end when you get married. Life goes on. Life doesn’t end when you accomplish a certain goal you’ve been striving toward for years. Life goes on. There will always be something else preventing us from “making it” or “arriving” or “living”.

As Christians, we can’t buy into this deception. Life is happening right now. We can be content right now. We can find fulfillment right now. We don’t have to wait until we get that job, publish that book, or marry “the one”.

January 1st is on the horizon; the day of “new year’s resolutions” where we often “resolve” to do certain things which will make us happier, or to stop doing things which harm us. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with New Year’s Resolutions…but why wait until the new year to suddenly make the changes you need to make to live a better life? Why resolve to do things which won’t give us what we really want if we haven’t been putting Christ first in our lives?

The good news is you don’t have to wait until the new year to change things around. You don’t have to wait until your salary reaches a certain figure, or until you’ve claimed a certain trophy. Life is happening right now. The kingdom of God is here, it is at hand, it is right in front of us.

Despite the presence of God’s reality, I still find it all too easy to get caught up in the worldly way of thinking. I need this or that, rather than God, to be satisfied and fulfilled. How am I behaving or thinking any better than those without God chasing money to be happy?

Life is happing right now.

Contentment can be found in thanksgiving—thanking God for everything He has done, is doing, and will do. Thanking God for all the things He has already allowed me to accomplish, and the wonderful blessings all around me right now. I am only lacking if I choose to stop relying on God.

I think there is a part of us that fears, if we stop worrying, we will lose control. We don’t realize that we already don’t have control.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:33

Everything we need can be found in the kingdom of heaven, which is found wherever what God wants to be done, is done. We worry or fret or think we can’t be content until we have received or accomplished something.

Right now, right where you are, is where God has placed you: there can be no better place.

Do you sometimes struggle with contentment? How do you foster a spirit of thanksgiving and find contentment in all circumstances?

Stop Giving Me Things!

With it being the Christmas season, there is of course, is going to be a deluge of gift-giving. Of course, among all of the gift giving and receiving, we try hard to communicate the message that it is “more blessed to give than to receive.”
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As a child, I always thought of this as a nice saying, but of course, no one actually believed it, or could really experience this as being true. No, I really do like getting presents, thank you very much. You’ve probably seen those videos on youtube of little girls and boys screaming and jumping up and down over getting something they so desperately wanted. Yeah, that was me.

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But, somewhere along the way, I realized this was wrong. I should like to give more than I like to receive. So, my young-self theorized, I must not appear to enjoy receiving presents too much. And for my next birthday, I tried it out, appearing very apathetic over the gifts I received. This resulted in a rather unpleasant conversation with my mom, and I remember her explaining to me that I should be more grateful.

Yes, many times, receiving gifts has felt like a lose-lose situation for me. To this day, receiving gifts makes me uncomfortable, and I don’t think I am alone in this predicament. Also, I am not just talking about Christmas or birthdays, but receiving gifts in general. Why? Is it because I’m just so humble?
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“Oh, no. Please don’t give me anything. I don’t deserve it. Please let me be. I must go back to bemoaning my wretched self.” I don’t think so.
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I Have No Home

When my family moved, I went with them to help unpack, and then promptly flew back to Ohio to finish recording my music album. Album completed, I started the long, two-day drive back to my family, leaving behind the state where I was born and raised. I took a couple final pictures of our old house and then said goodbye to the streets, sights, and routines that had been constants in my life for the past 15 years.
On my own, with nothing but music and “The Future Of The Mind,” by Michio Kaku to keep me company, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t have a home anymore. Sure I was going to a new home, but it didn’t feel like home yet. That’s when I remembered that this Earth isn’t actually our real home anyway.
I think this fact can be easy to forget. It can be easy to despair when we see the way our country is progressing. As we watch society turn further away from God, and more and more freedoms taken away or infringed upon. It can easily feel like some intruder is barging into our home eating our food and leaving muddy footprints all over the carpet.
But America is not our home. This Earth is not our home. This life is not our home. We don’t have a home—yet—and that’s okay.
As Paul reminded the Philippians, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;” – Philippians 3:20. This concept can sound rather disconcerting at first, but actually, it’s a very positive and encouraging reality.

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Woo! 21, Time To Drink!

Wooo! I am 21 now, and in America, that means I am the legal age to purchase and consume alcohol! If you are German, that probably seems incredibly odd, since the legal age in your country is 16. Regardless, 21 is the magical age here!
Lately, however, I have come across a number of people and articles making the case that alcohol is sinful, or at the very least, shouldn’t be consumed by Christians. Growing up, for the longest time, I didn’t even realize there were Christians who thought drinking alcohol was wrong. Labeling alcohol as sinful just  didn’t make any sense to me. After all, the Bible speaks very positively of alcohol.
Amos 9:14 offers a great promise, the restoration of Israel. Drinking wine is included, “I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.”
Ecclesiastes 9:7 instructs, “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.”
The Psalms also speak favorably of wine:  “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.” – Psalm 104:14-15
Paul even instructs Timothy to drink wine for his health: “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” – 1 Timothy 5:23
If the Bible speaks favorably of wine, why then do some Christians think it is wrong to drink it?
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My Most Embarrassing Moment

I have always hated embarrassment. For most of my life, if faced with the option of getting hit in the face with a brick, and getting massively embarrassed…I probably would have taken the brick. I’d like to think that now I don’t take myself so seriously…but I don’t know, I still might take that brick.
Because of this fear, I’ve always been careful to avoid situations in which I could potentially be embarrassed. Unfortunately, I still couldn’t stop from getting embarrassed on occasion. The time I am about to tell you about was especially bad.
I was in 7th grade, so 13-years-old. I went part time to the local middle school, and was a member of the school basketball team. Practice had just finished up, and I was waiting outside in the cold dark night. In front of the school was a large asphalt loop which allowed busses to easily drive up, drop kids off, and then drive off. This time, the parents of my teammates waited to pick-up their kids.
I was normally picked up by my dad, but this night, he couldn’t make it. My grandma was picking me up, and she drove a gold SUV. So when a gold SUV drove up, I walked toward it and opened the passenger-side door.
The problem is a lot of people drive gold SUVs, and at night, you can’t see who is in the vehicle.It turns out the driver was not my grandma, and the vehicle was not hers.
Yeah…

Thankfully, I did know the driver, a mom of one of my teammates, and she was very pleasant. I excused myself and eventually did find the right vehicle.
I was so embarrassed that I vowed that would never happen again. To make sure it didn’t happen, I memorized the license plates of all the vehicles in my family. This knowledge came in handy, as there were a couple times when getting picked up I would wonder if a vehicle belonged to the person who was picking me up from practice, only to see the license plate and realize, no, different person.
This situation is the perfect example of what it takes to accomplish, anything: Vision, intention, and means.
I had the vision of not repeating that mistake again. I really intended not to let it happen again, and I had the capability, or means, to ensure it would never happen again—memorizing license plates.
This makes me think about the topic of sin. Very often, I will hear Christians talk about how sin is impossible to overcome. “I’m just a sinner saved by grace,” they will say. I find this outlook incredibly depressing, and incompatible with scripture. As 1 John 3:5-6 states:

“But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.”

This is a pretty convicting passage, but it makes sense.
If we are in Christ, we have the means to change: Holy Spirit. So if we do not change and become more like Christ, then we either don’t want to change, or we lack the Holy Spirit.
As Christians, I think we should not deceive ourselves into thinking that we do not possess the means of changing and of “going and sinning no more.” We have the means, but perhaps we’re not taking advantage of them. Instead, we should ask ourselves if we are instead lacking intention or vision.
Vision:
 
Do I have the vision to understand why I should not, say, sin in anger?  Do I not see how there is a better way? Maybe I enjoy the sense of control or power I gain from such anger. Maybe I can’t imagine giving that up. If so, then I need to work on that. I need to find the vision, and discover how sinning in anger is detrimental, and how there is a better. Very practical.
Intention:
 
However, wanting to be different is not enough, though it’s a good start. We actually need to intend to change. We need to actually take the time to engage with God, and then spend time speaking and listening to the Holy Spirit, which is our means. This is an area I particularly need to improve in. I think, for many things in my spiritual development, I have the vision and the means, but I often don’t actually have the intention. I need to do a better job of arranging my life to make space for a real connection that feeds the soul, and renovates my mind and heart.
Means:
 
As I said above, we have the Holy Spirit, this means we are certainly capable of  gaining spiritual ground to the point where we are sinning less and less over time. However, God is not our soul maid. He isn’t just going do all the cleaning up on His own while we sit back and do nothing. We have a part to play. God wants us to be active participants in spiritual transformation.
Perhaps this means engaging in spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, silence and solitude, or other practices that allow us to open up to the Holy Spirit.
Accomplishing real change, whether it be going from not being able to play the piano to being able to play the piano, or to go from struggling with worry to acquiring a spirit of peace and joy, is not a mysterious process, or at least not completely. All it takes is vision, intention, and means.

 

No spiritual change is possible without God, but God typically doesn’t just zap us and make us perfect. In His wisdom, He wants us to participate as well. Let us not give into the thought or feeling that we can never change for the better.

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Mom’s The Word
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Wholehearted Home
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My Daily Walk In His Grace

Pizza Tastes Best In Your Parents’ Basement: Why I Haven’t Moved Out Yet

I will turn 21 pretty soon, and yet, I still live at home with my family. According to cultural expectations, I should have moved out three years ago. The punishment for not following the crowd and obligatorily moving out after completing 18 revolutions around the sun is you get labeled a “man-child” and it is generally assumed you do nothing but eat pizza in your parents’ basement. Failure to move out by a certain age automatically means “failure to launch” into mature adulthood.
Is this stereotype accurate?
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To some extent, I would say yes. As Emporweringparents.com says, “Are you one of the millions of frustrated, exhausted parents whose adult child is still living at home with you? Like many in this situation, you might be feeling resentful that your adult son seems to think he’s entitled to meals, laundry and gas money when he does nothing but sleep and party.”
If sleeping and partying is all you’re doing at home, then yes, there may be a problem here. In my case, I sleep, party, and write blog posts, so I clearly do not fit into that category.
Just kidding. I only party. All day and all night. But you probably already guessed that

There certainly is a dearth of mature young adults. Adolescence is perpetuating well into the late 20s for many individuals today; yet, this immaturity tends to take place on college campuses, or other venues away from parents. We are surely missing maturity today among young adults, but simply moving out rarely leads to miraculously discovering maturity and responsibility. Merely living at home with your parents into your 20s isn’t necessarily an indicator of immaturity. In fact, it may be just the opposite.

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