What Are You Worth?

I’m guest posting today over at Alovelycalling.com again! This time focusing on the question of self-worth.


What are you worth? If you were put up on an auction block today, what kind of price would you fetch? What dollar amount would equate to your value?

Do you think you are worth a hundred dollars? Or maybe ten thousand? A million? Surely you don’t think you’re worth a billion dollars, right? Come on! What kind of narcissistic psychopath are you?

Well, according to our American society, you are worth about $5 million. Hmm…not too shabby. As a livescience.com article points out, “If a safety code will cost more than $5 million for every person it will save, ‘regulators eyes start to glaze over. They say that that is too expensive.’”

Have you ever thought of yourself as being worth $5 million before? How would you treat an object you owned if was valued at $5 million?

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It’s Okay To Doubt Your Faith

Yes, if you have doubts about your faith, that’s okay. Actually, it can be good!
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.

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.
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.
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.
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.


When Christians Find Joy In The Sin Of Others

We love heroes, but even more than heroes, we love to see heroes fall. As a culture, we can’t get enough of our joy in sincelebrity news gossip. We especially love it when a Christian celebrity falls. This lends validation to the fantasy that God doesn’t exist, and therefore we are not responsible to Him for our actions and lives. It’s not surprising when non-Christians rejoice in the sin of Christians.


It makes sense when the world celebrates iniquity; what doesn’t make sense is when Christians do the same thing.


I have been appalled at the way many Christians will rejoice when a Christian leader they don’t agree with is exposed to be guilty of some heinous sin. Just like the world, they find this Christian’s sin to be validation that everything they taught was false. While this is a genetic fallacy, there is a deeper issue here.


How can we as Christians celebrate the sin of another, let alone a member of the Body of Christ?  It’s like some are just waiting in the bushes for a Christian leader to fall so they can assure themselves they don’t have to listen to anything they said. This is not love, and it is not how we as Christians should respond.


When we rejoice in the sin of others, we reveal we have not love, but jealousy in our hearts.


As Paul informs us in 1 Corinthians 13:6-7,


 “[Love] does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”


Even if we do not agree with the teachings or beliefs of a particular Christian leader, to wish their downfall as the result of a devastating sin is pretty darn sickening. Not only does the fall of any Christian harm the Christian Faith as a whole, but it causes terrible destruction in the lives that particular Christian affected.  Yet rather than mourning these tragedies, many Christians have responded with glee. They are not expressing the love of Christ.


The frequency of which Christian leaders seem to fall is very unsettling. It’s frightening to consider how many may be living a double-life, and to realize that we ourselves are capable of the same thing if we seek to rely on our own strength rather than Christ. Because so many have failed, there are numerous amounts of Christians who have come to the conclusion that it isn’t really possible to live the way God calls us to live. All we can do is keep saying we’re sorry.


Yet this isn’t too surprising either, since it really is impossible to live righteously—on our own. As soon as we stop relying on God, we will slip. We are all sinners in need of forgiveness and sanctification. What is surprising is how many Christians will cannibalize their own, even those who make the same mistakes they do.


I’m not sure which is more disturbing. How many Christians fall, or how many Christians applaud their demise.

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

As it is for most kids, Christmas time was my favorite time of the year growing up. Everything changes. There are lights, Christmas songs, making gingerbread houses, fun Christmas movies, and best of all, lots of new toys!
I was always the first one up Christmas morning, and always dazzled by the sight of our family-room filled with beautifully-wrapped presents, all filled with new and exciting things just waiting to be discovered. Yes, Christmas was the best time of the year.
I never thought much about why we had Christmas, or what all of the traditions and practices meant. Everyone celebrated Christmas…or so I thought. 
Once while visiting a great Christian family, I was horrified to discover that they did not celebrate Christmas! WHAT? WHY? How sad their children don’t get presents Christmas morning! My parents explained later that they believe we should treat every day the same, and consider every day as holy, and seek to celebrate God every moment.
Okay, that makes sense, I thought, but why not treat every day the same…but also get presents?
As I grew older, Christmas slowly began to lose its luster for me. More and more things began to bother me about the holiday, such as the hustle and bustle, the stress the season seemed to bring, and the over-commercialization.
Since then, I have also learned more sinister things about the origins of Christmas. Indeed, there are even some Christians who believe we should not participate at all in the celebration due to its pagan origins.


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?


Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

This debate seems to come up every year, and some seem to be very passionate about it. Should Christians participate in Halloween?
Abolitionists cite Halloween’s pagan origins, and its preoccupation with witchcraft as reasons why Christians should not participate.
Advocates of the holiday claim that whatever Halloween’s origins were, they are irrelevant (or aren’t as bad as people say). How could a kid dressing up as Superman and receiving candy be wrong? What is so satanic about a child putting on a costume and receiving a Baby Ruth candy bar, or perhaps some Starbursts, or maybe—if you’re lucky—one of those coconut-filled Almond Joy bars which make your mouth want shrivel up and die the moment you take a bite? This is all just innocent fun.
Personally, I have never liked Halloween. I have never been a fan of dressing up. I remember in public school, we would have a Halloween party/parade where we would all walk around the school in our costumes for all of the parents to see us. In fourth grade, I had made up my mind not to go Trick-Or-Treating, and so had no costume.
It was rather awkward walking around, single-file, the only non-costumed-kid among a crowd of princesses and Grim Reapers. Peer pressure working it’s unholy magic, I was beginning to doubt whether or not I had made the right choice when one of my classmates asked me if my costume was meant to be the “Kid-Next-Door”. “Yeah, that’s what it is,” I agreed, feeling a bit better about my decision not to wear a costume. People will just think I’m the kid next door! Whatever that means…
Speaking of awkward, I can only think of few more awkward things I’ve experienced than being an Elementary school kid and having to hand-out candy to high schoolers. They were always the loudest ones coming up to the door, traveling in their packs, but they would always get quiet for some reason when I handed them the candy. Perhaps they sensed the awkwardness too.
I don’t know what it was. The whole Halloween thing always seemed bizarre to me, even from a young age.
Asking strangers for candy? I thought taking candy from strangers was bad? But it’s not if you have a costume on? On top of that, I wasn’t a candy-obsessed kid. Halloween seemed like too much of a hassle for my introverted self just to get some candy that may or may not be any good. Plus, we always had candy left over from what we handed out, and it was always better than any of the candy I got from strangers. Why not just sit at home and munch on the good stuff while everyone else runs around in silly costumes just to end up with disgusting Almond Joys? My young peers thought I was missing out when I thought I was capitalizing. 
But that was just me. Perhaps you have fond memories of Halloween (or maybe you still Trick-Or-Treat?). My younger siblings don’t seem to share my outlook on Halloween.
Every year, I propose we start a new tradition. I have come up with several very good ideas (in my opinion) but I’m always outvoted.   I think my best proposal was a tradition which started with the placing of an empty bowl out on the front step, along with a sign that says, “take one.”
Perhaps this was my emotionally scarred Halloween childhood coming out. I remember several times trudging up to a house as a boy, carrying the weight of my costume and Almond-Joy-laden, pumpkin-shaped bucket of candy, only to find an empty candy bowl with a sign stating “take one.” Obviously, somebody had taken more than one. At that age, it was hard for me to imagine such fiends existed. What kind of kid would take all the candy when the sign clearly said take one? ONE!
Well, in my proposal, this new generation was going to have to pay for the sins of their older siblings.
But, this is Halloween after all. What is more frightening to a kid on Halloween than an empty bowl of candy? Don’t judge me. I think I was being very loyal to the Halloween theme with my proposal.
In addition to this empty bowl with a sign politely instructing to only take one piece, we would turn all of the lights off in our house, and play hide-and-seek in the dark, with flashlights. To the outside world, they would just see a dark house with spooky beams of light flashing this way and that way. Very festive I thought.
Alas, it seems SOME people (whom I love) are stuck in their ways and prefer to stick to tradition. We never got to try out my amendment to the Halloween holiday.
My sentiments aside, is Halloween something Christians should participate in?


Why I Listen To Secular Music

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To say I love music would be like saying I love breathing. I’m pretty sure I would shrivel up and die without music. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

Being a writer, I spend a lot of time at the computer, and Spotify is my faithful companion. According to my Last.fm account, I’ve listened to over 5,000 songs by 532 different music artists in the last 6 months on Spotify alone. As I look at the top 15 artists I’ve listened to, none of them are “Christian” music artists (though I know at least one is a Christian). One of the bands is named “Chvrches” though, so maybe that counts as Christian?
Confession: I don’t like Christian music. Nearly all the music I listen to is secular.
Some won’t bat an eye at this confession, but I have encountered others who believe “Christian” music is the only acceptable music to listen to. I’ve walked into church youth group rooms and seen that Christian-music-substitution poster which never fails to disturb me. You like the band “Satan Is My Buddy”?  Here, listen to this Christian group, “God Is Awesome,” which sounds, looks and feels just like “Satan Is My Buddy”, but they’re Christian.

Well, if everything is practically the same…why is one wrong and the other good?  Sure, if the secular has copious amounts of foul language or perverted themes this would make some sense, but what if it doesn’t have such filth, and it’s otherwise just the same as the Christian band? How is the Christian band really any better for copying the secular band? This copycatting is major reason why I don’t like a lot of Christian music today.
Of course, there are a few exceptions. I like Mat Kearney and Relient K (though RK’s latest album can hardly be considered Christian). There are a few songs here and there by other Christian artists that I like, but by and large, I do not like Christian music.
In fact, I am in the middle of making a music album myself, but I don’t think it would be considered “Christian.” I don’t mention God by name, and you won’t find the words “grace, faith, or cross” in any of my songs (although I do say “heaven” and “creation,” if that counts).
That being said, all my songs are about God (to me at least). This might sound odd, but to me, a lot of the secular songs I listen to are about God, too.
One of the things I like about music is that it can have a lot of different meanings to different people. This is one reason I generally prefer more vague lyrics to in-your-face-let-me-shove-my-worldview-on-you lyrics (which a lot of Christian music seems to be). Even if I agree with the worldview, I prefer a more poetic approach.
Now before you call me a universalist, I will be clear and state I am not a universalist. I don’t believe the truth is whatever you make it. However, music creates emotions. Sound creates emotions. That’s why music is vital to film. Music is used to create suspense, fear, dread, happiness, joy, mirth, and even tears. Music creates moods and feelings, and these moods and feelings can vary slightly (or a lot) from one person to another depending on the sound and lyrics.
That issue addressed, here are a few quick reasons why I listen to secular music:


3 Ways To Help People Remain Insecure

This might be hard to believe considering the content of my blog, but I used to be insecure. I didn’t know I was insecure at the time, but I was.

My insecurity began when I started to attend public school. No longer surrounded by a supportive family, I began to encounter people who didn’t like me very much, or who excluded me. I know what it’s like to be picked last for a pick-up football or soccer game at recess. In public school, there was always the subtle desire and fabricated need to try and be like the “cool kids.” In the words of Echosmith, “I wish that I could be like the cool kids, ‘cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in.”

Unconsciously, I strove to be “cool” and to be liked by my peers. Being good at sports helped. Eventually, I went from being the last one picked during recess to the first one. I played football and basketball and soccer and lacrosse. I mingled with all the “cool kids”, and I was respected for what I could do on the football field, or the basketball court. But I still never really “fit in.”
Academics weren’t much different. While I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, what drove me to do well in academics was to be respected by my peers. It felt good when everyone came to me when they needed help with their history homework. When I did well on a test, I would sometimes ask the person sitting next to me how they did, just waiting for them to ask me the same question back so I could tell them without appearing to brag. When I did bad on a test, I was silent. Yes, pride and insecurity are very much connected.
I had been struggling with Geometry my freshman year of high school, but happened to get 100% on one test. One of my football teammates saw my score and remarked that I was a “beast at life” since I was good at sports and school.
How could someone who was “a beast at life” (like being good at sports and academics says anything about how well your life is going) possibly be insecure?
I was insecure because I had become accustomed to such compliments. I began to expect them. I needed them.

Things took a turn for the worse my sophomore and Junior years of high school. Being good on the Freshman team was one thing, but when I joined the varsity, I was just another bench-warmer. But that was normal. My high school was so big that sophomores almost never played on the varsity team. Junior year, I expected to start. When that didn’t happen and I remained a back-up, I lost a lot of confidence in myself. I began to regress. Suddenly, I couldn’t make plays that I used to be able to make. Anxiety and depression set in. My teammates and coaches no longer saw me as one of the best players. I felt ashamed to be on the sideline, and I couldn’t handle that very well.


Are Catholics Christians?

This past weekend, I visited a small conservative Catholic university, which is basically the opposite of Ohio State in every single way. I really enjoyed my visit, and felt right at home, which is perhaps why just about everyone I interacted with thought I already attended. At the same time, I also witnessed quite a few things which were very alien to me, having had very little exposure to Catholic culture. Overall, it was a very good experience, and I think it would be fascinating to attend a Christian college.
“Not so fast,” some Protestants might be saying. “Catholics are not Christians. They believe in salvation through works (sacraments), and that’s not what Jesus taught.”

If someone actually believes salvation comes through works (which not all Catholics believe) then I would agree they are incorrect. It does not mean, however, that they are not a Christian, and the reason why is pretty simple.

The reason why Catholics can still be Christians and have salvation is precisely because salvation comes through faith. We are incapable of saving ourselves through works or sacraments. We gain eternal life by faith alone (John 3:16).


This Pastor Hates His Children

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 22:15 that, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
What a harsh-sounding verse, and yet, it’s true. Children are not born perfect. We are all born sinful (Psalm 51:5, Romans 3:23). Children need to be taught, by their parents, and especially fathers (Ephesians 6:4) what is right and wrong. As we all know, children are very impressionable, and can easily be swayed one way or another by their parents’ teachings.
Therefore, it is the responsibility of parents to raise godly children, and to teach them how to become like Christ. This is what is best for children. To do otherwise would be very unloving.
Recently, I have seen several people post this article on Facebook about a pastor who would support a lifestyle of homosexuality for his Children. What is even more disturbing is that these are Christians who are supporting this man, calling his article “beautiful”. It is despicable, and this pastor hates his children.
True, this pastor does say some good things in his article. He says that he will love his children if they are gay,

“I don’t mean some token, distant, tolerant love that stays at a safe arm’s length. It will be an extravagant, open-hearted, unapologetic, lavish, embarrassing-them-in-the-school cafeteria, kind of love.”

Yes, parents should unconditionally love their children. No matter what their children do, parents should still love their children. This is the love that God has for us. But this isn’t limited to affection.
The problem is this pastor thinks love means you have to support and agree with whatever decision a child makes. That is not love. Love is wanting and willing what is best for someone, and a homosexual lifestyle is very far from healthy.