Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In Thirty Seconds...

This post was one I wrote for The Rebelution some time ago (almost two years, I believe) and I'm actually surprised I didn't put it on my blog, but this really struck a chord with me as I discovered it so many months after the last time I'd read it. I am always in awe of how God uses my own writing to convict me often long after I've written a certain piece, and this is one of those moments. I pray these thoughts of mine can touch you the way I was touched, and even transformed by them, as I wrote them.

In Thirty Seconds...

You could die… seriously. My reason for saying this is not to scare you, make you paranoid, nor say that you will.

In light of the recent tragic death of two young men from one of the churches I attend (one being my best friend’s brother), I have pondered greatly on the subject of death. And I don’t mean thinking about and getting depressed over death, rather exploring for and preparing my mind for it. Because to be truthful I could die in the next 60 seconds; I could die while writing this. I could die as soon as I am done. We do not know the time of our death. Only the Lord God Almighty can truly know the time of our death. And so I raise a question: Are you ready to die right now?

It seems such a morbid question, such a horrendous thing to be preparing for, but in all truthfulness, it is only right and honorable that we would! This does not mean that we are to be paranoid in our every action and always envision death looming around the corner, ready to embrace us in its grasp. This is not true! Death will come when the Lord wills it, not a day too soon nor a day too late. But what if you are called home young? What if you died at 14, 16, 18? Would you be ready, or are you too busy to die? Are your relationships in the right place? The Bible says in Ephesians 4:26-27 “"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” There is a reason the Bible warns us to take action in righting wrongs. Psalm 89:47-48 points out “Remember how short my time is; for what futility have You created all the children of men? What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave?” Our time is indeed short! How short we can never know, but there is no man that has lived without death, you will die as will everyone else. But as believers in Christ, we have an understanding of death, its meaning, and its value. Should we, of all people, be unprepared for it?

Ecclesiastes 8:8 says we cannot stop death. “No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, and no one has power in the day of death. There is no release from that war, and wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it.” Romans 5:12 states that all men must die “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—“  1 Peter 5:8 admonishes us to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” We are to be prepared. We are to be ready. We need to live every moment like it’s our last. We need to always have patience; we need to always be slow to anger. We need to be willing to fix wrongs immediately after realizing what we have done. We need to put down our pride. We must never do tomorrow what we can do today. We have to be ready to die.

Once you are dead there is no chance to change things. You cannot go back and fix what you left undone. Again I say, we should not be paranoid about death. But we should be aware of it. We should be aware that you do not have to be old to die. We should realize the consequences of our actions. We should act always with wisdom. When you die will people say “They lived a good life, it was their time to go. Their lives were full and blessed.” Or will they say, “It’s such a pity they’re gone. They had so much left to do with their lives.”?

The good news is that “Death is no punishment for the believer” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon). We are only leaving this sin ridden world for the golden shores of the kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus conquered death by his death and we are now able to live eternally with our king. So we can face death with no fear of what comes with it and after it.

As I think of death, its effects, its rewards, and its depth, I come to the conclusion that death is something that needs to be evaluated. Most people spend their whole lives putting death on the back burner. Friends, I plead with you, please, do not push these thoughts away. Grab a hold of them, contemplate them, pray over them, and prepare for them. Ask God to grant you the wisdom and grace to know what to do, how to prepare. Take a moment to spend with your family and your friends. It could be your last one. Put nothing aside; pour everything you have into life. Never take life for granted. Don’t waste your life.

But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Chameleon Christianity

In the few short weeks that we've had in this new year of 2012, I have had the blessing to be a part of the South Brandon Worship Center's Student Leadership Group. Last Wednesday was my second time attending, and only my third time attending youth group, but despite the obstacles I faced that day, going was worth it. I was sick and tired (no, for real, I was just sick and tired) and literally five minutes before I would have had to leave the house, I jumped up and go ready to go. I just felt like I needed to. I'm glad I did.

Once we got past the silly ice breaker of the day, we got to talking about passion. Passion for God, for the church, for serving, etc. Now, passion was always something I struggled with, because I've always lacked passion in pretty much everything. Now people who know me might disagree, but really, I've always possessed a great drive when it comes to determination, but determination and passion are two different things. Because I'm determined to do something doesn't mean I'm passionate to do it. My life was always lived in determination; there was never really a fire in my belly for Jesus or people or anything like that. The only thing that I've ever been passionate about was doing this- writing. That changed, though, a couple years ago, when I read CJ Mahaney's book "Living the Cross Centered Life", and I really had a passion for the cross. For Jesus. For the grace and the mercy that He willingly gave by His blood. I understood then, reading through this book with friends, and coming to tears at the awe and respect that I then had for my Savior. It was life changing. I understood what it meant to be a follower rather than just a believer. You can believe that smoking is bad for you, and still smoke. Or you can follow that believe and pursue a healthy lifestyle.

But, as I said, passion was something hard for me, but change is even harder. Getting out of my comfort zone is about as foreign to me as ice is to a tiger in Africa. It is seriously a joke in my family. "Hey, we should move!" "Nah, cause then Kaitland will freak out at the change." I mean, seriously. I have been trying to overcome this. Call me OCD, but having everything the same is my disorder.  This Wednesday was one of those chances. Never did I think (really, seriously, in, like, a million years) that Pastor Chuck would call on me- newcomer, Kaitland Conley- to help co-lead the small groups on passion for Christ. Maybe I seemed calm as I accepted the task, but I was panicking a little. First of all, I had no voice, and second of all, I didn't really know these kids that well. How could I share with them about passion if they didn't know me or what I was like? It was hard, but me and Courtney were assigned to our awesome group, and we lead.

It. Was. Amazing. Just all the ideas that these youth had on what passion was and how we could apply it in our daily lives. Their thoughts on how we could receive passion and what made a passionate person stand out from an ordinary one. And it was something on that last point- what makes a passionate person stand out from an ordinary one- that caught my attention. Once I asked the question the answer that stood out the most was this- "A passionate person is someone who lives one life. They believe what they believe wherever they are and whoever they're with. They don't change who they are for the crowd they're with, they stand boldly in who they are." Oh. My. Goodness. Wisdom Alert!

I realized just how true this statement was, and it occurred to me, that there are three types of Christians. Silly as this may seem, I see it this way. There are Ostrich Christians, Giraffe Christians, and Chameleon Christians. Ostrich Christians are definitely Christians, but they are, in essence, ordinary. There are spurts in time when they hold their head high and run after their Savior, but when the doubt creeps in, they stick their head in the sand until the danger passes. There isn't anything wrong with that, they don't deny their faith, but they don't always proclaim it, either. They are ordinary.

Then, there are Giraffe Christians. Giraffe Christians are the ones that really stand out. They stand tall and proud all the time. They never hide their heads from whatever is opposing. They don't try to forget the fear that comes with faith. They are constantly reaching out, reaching for the best, reaching for the leaves at the tops of the trees (and not just because they can, but because that's where the best stuff is). They have passion.

And then there are Chameleon Christians. These I will touch on more than the other two, because I think these are the most common. These are the Christians that adapt to their surroundings. At school they talk slang and dress like everyone else, when at church they're talking Jesus and wearing their nicer clothes. They are good with the good crowd and bad with the bad crowd. We can't be like this. When we choose Jesus we are declaring that we are laying down everything on this earth to follow Him. Everything. Nothing comes before His majesty. Nothing is more important to us than Jesus. Jesus is the only thing that lasts. Really. He is the only friend that goes with you after this life, that stands by you in every trial, who never leaves you, never breaks your heart, never leads you into bad situations. More than that, Jesus is the only thing that saves. The only thing. Those friends you're so afraid to lose can drag you to Hell with them, but they can't save you. Only Jesus can. Only the Cross. It is the one dependable thing in this life. The one rock that never tumbles, the only ground upon which you can stand solidly. Never forget this. Never adapt. Always stand by Jesus' side as He will always stand by yours. That is what passion is. It's choosing to never forget, always share, and forever remember what one man- one perfect, blameless, loving man- did for you, and always trying to share that love.

So, now that I have shared that thought, I'd like to have a little celebration, because, thanks to the same Jesus who never leaves me, I'm finally able to sit down and write something. I have been so blocked these last six months and it's nearly killed me. I haven't been able to express the things inside, and I finally have the words to do it, all thanks to some youth who get it. Some youth who have the same passion I always want to have. Yayyyy! ;) Hope you guys enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!