The challenge of my cracking voice

VoiceThis was originally posted August 22, 2011.

This week at FUEL we’re kicking off the school year with a brand new series called Radical: A Life Of Fanatical Faith. Over the next four weeks we’re going to talk about what it means to live with radical faith. It’s going to be a super practical series and should challenge our students in some awesome ways.

It started challenging me before it even had a chance to start challenging them.

I normally get “challenged” in a very routine way: I hear a talk on a topic or read a verse on a topic. I realize I’m not doing what that talk or verse says I should do. Then I realize I need to be doing what that talk or verse says. After that I think to myself, “Challenge accepted” and go about trying to conquer that challenge.

This one happened in a different way.

This one happened through my living out that fanatical faith in a way that I never had before. Continue reading

How to know if you’re a real Christian

Four ways to know you are a real ChristianFor as long as I can remember, I’ve been a Christian. It’s what I’ve identified as since I was in elementary school. I was raised in the south as the grandson of a preacher. I didn’t have much of a choice other than to call myself a Christian.

I sometimes wish I had a great conversion story where I fell in a giant hole of sex, drugs, and rock and roll only to be saved by Jesus. Instead, my story is like many of yours. I met Jesus as a kid, did my own thing in high school and college, then reconnected after college. Now I’m here as a 28-year-old trying to figure out how to do this whole grown up thing.

My idea of what a real Christian looks like has changed over the years. As a kid, it was saying the sinner’s prayer 37 times a day and wearing nice clothes on Sunday morning. In college, it was not drinking or doing drugs while not going to church. As long as I wasn’t publicly acting like a hypocrite, I was okay. In seminary, being a real Christian meant getting involved in every possible thing I could inside the church. The more I did and the better the experience, the closer I was to Jesus.

For you, being a real Christian could mean something similar or different. We all have our different view of it. Continue reading

My problem is me

my problemThis post was originally posted March 8, 2010.

One thing I love most about the people I consider close friends is we can talk about anything. When I say that, I mean the conversation can bounce from here to here to here and all the way over there in the span of about two minutes.

On Sunday night, I was at my kitchen table eating dinner and talking to one of these friends on Facebook. The conversation started by me telling him to check out a new song I’d heard. Then it moved to something else. And then something else. Before long we’d covered ten different topics, helped each other with homework, and everything between.

Both of our homework questions centered around a similar topic: sin.

It seems like wherever I’ve turned for the last week, the concept of sin was right there. It was the subject we studied in theology class. I read about it online. It was in conversation I had. It was even the subject of a paper I had to write for my youth class.

No matter what I did, I couldn’t get away from this idea of sin.

If you’ve ever studied sin, you know that when you study it, it starts popping up everywhere. You start getting tempted in way you haven’t been tempted in a while. You start noticing things you normally don’t notice. It’s weird, but it happens every time.

I’ve talked on here about my biggest struggle – lust, pure thoughts, keeping a clean mind and heart. I know those things are my biggest temptations. The thing is, I didn’t know why they’re my biggest temptations or why I even give into them.

I didn’t know until I sat down and got real with myself.

I’m selfish. Continue reading

You have permission to not be perfect.

PerfectOn Monday I wrote a post on why you should screw up your life. I said fear paralyzes us from going after what God’s calling us to. His invitation may screw up the comfortable lives we’ve spent years crafting.

In writing that post, I had a nagging voice in the back of my head. The voice kept asking a question: What if I’ve already screwed my life up, but not in a good way?

Unfortunately we all make mistakes. We may have the best of intentions and still end up blowing it. Maybe it’s getting married before you were ready and having the marriage fall apart. Or maybe it’s failing at a job over and over. Or maybe it’s getting two college degrees and a mountain of student loan debt only to not use any of the degrees.

Oh wait, that last one hits home a little.

Continue reading

The most righteous F-bomb ever dropped

righteous f-bombLast month I had the privilege to teach at a retreat for college students and 20-somethings. It was one of the most fun things I’ve ever been able to do.

On Saturday night, I invited everyone to go off on their own and to pray/get some things settled within themselves. Then, when they finished, they could come back to the lodge where we’d been meeting. We had the worship band play the entire time so everyone could worship in response to what had been going on.

As people started trickling back in to the lodge, I saw one girl sitting in the third row by herself. She was a freshman in her first semester at college trying to figure this whole life thing out. I’d known her since she was a freshman in high school and she was a little sister to me in some ways.

The band kept playing and she kept sitting. Alone. After a few minutes I walked up and sat next to her. I didn’t say a word, just sat there quietly. She looked at me a few times trying to figure out what I was doing. I leaned over to her and said, “You realize you’re not alone, right?”

Boom. Instant water works.

Continue reading

How I learned the difference in salvation and grace; or why I said the sinner’s prayer 37 times a day growing up

grace and the sinner's prayerGrowing up, I swear I said the “sinner’s prayer” about 37 times a day. That’s not an exaggeration either. It may have been little kid me misunderstanding what the preacher was saying. But what I heard taught was that one sin could keep you out of Heaven. If you lie to your mom and then get hit by a bus before seeking forgiveness, you’d wake up in Hell.

Fun times, right?

This is what I believed well into college. I’d look at a girl in a sun dress on a spring day, think what 19-year-olds think, and then be terrified I was going to Hell. So, right there in the middle of a baseball game, I’d quietly say the sinner’s prayer yet again because I was afraid of losing my salvation.

It wasn’t until later in undergrad when I started to understand the whole idea of grace. It didn’t matter what I did – I couldn’t lose my salvation. Jesus dying on the cross was enough. Once I gave my life to him, there was nothing I could do to get kicked off the team.

Grace was one thing. Actions – well, that was a whole different ballgame. Continue reading

What to do when church becomes Pinterest in person

Pinterest In PersonRecently I was in a worship service when the band began playing the song Oceans. If you don’t know the song, it’s based around these lyrics:

Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders.
Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.

Those lyrics, when you think about them, are terrifying. You’re basically saying, “God, move me out of my comfort zone. Take me down a road far past any I’d go on my own. I only trust you to this point. Take me past there. Let me bump against those barriers and willingly keep going.”

These lyrics were never meant to be taken lightly. They were written to be a prayer of a generation scared to death of doing what God called them to but even more scared of not trying. Their purpose was to shake us up, make us uncomfortable, and move us to action.

Instead, we’ve made them into Pinterest quotes that make us feel good.

But what if church isn’t supposed to make us feel good?

What if worship songs aren’t meant to be clever photo captions or pretty wall decorations?

What if the entire point of this whole thing is to flip our world upside down and move us past our nice feeling comfort zones? Continue reading