What is Salvation? (part 3–Our Savior)

Here we go! We discussed the original sin. We discussed our condition as humans because of that. We discussed the only way to “fix” that–a human’s sacrifice to repay a human’s sin. A man for a man–to save ALL men! So here comes the most beautiful part of the whole equation–our Savior.

Let’s face it, we were all doomed to spend eternity in hell. (If you don’t get what I mean when I say that, read back to “What Is Salvation?” parts 1 and 2.)  By no fault of our own, we were all damned.  Why? Because we are human beings! We are inherently flawed. We are imperfect. We are dumb, selfish, lustful, greedy, hateful, jealous…we just aren’t as cool as we seem to think. Haha. Trust me, I’m the worst of these. I, too, am as human and as flawed as they come! If I were alive in the time of the Old Testament, I would have stood no chance. No chance at heaven…no chance at hope. We all would have been screwed.

But, low and behold, God knows this. And He loves us. He yearns to spend eternity with us. We are His children. We are literally His creations. He is proud of us…He is jealous for us. He desires our hearts. And that is why He sent His Son–just as the prophets had declared time and time again in the Old Testament (check out Acts 4:26-28; Ephesians 1:3-6; Revelation 13:8) Like we have discussed so many times before, He grants us free will. He grants us the right to choose.  He honors us with freedom. He desired for us to have the opportunity to exercise this power…and He recognized that the only way for our sins to be forgiven was through the actions of another human being. Since the actions of the first human being (Adam), had introduced sin into the world, the actions of another human being (Jesus), had to rectify that failure.  That was the only way we, as people, could tangibly see and feel and experience God’s love, and be taught of His grace and His mercy.  It had to be done through a man.

So God sent the Messiah. A human being that was 100% human, and 100% God at the same time. Imagine that! This man was perfect. PERFECT. Like we have talked about before, and like we will continue to study in more detail throughout the year, this man lived flawlessly. He taught of God’s love, He exhibited healing, He performed miracles, He saved hearts.  He walked perfectly in accordance to God’s will and achieved feats outside of human comprehension. Feats of humility, magnificence, and truth. Now, let me remind you, this was a real man.  This is not some made up story. All historians, both believers and non-believer, alike, recognize that Jesus Christ was a real man who walked this earth. And boy, oh boy, did He stir up some attention. 🙂

This man acted, daily, in accordance to God’s desires.  He stirred nations.  He baffled Kings. He literally changed history.  And no life was left unchanged throughout the history of Jesus’ existence.  All the while, He told the people of the nations who He was–the Son of God.  He preached it time and time again.  He proved it time and time again. And He consistently lived out His Word.  This man NEVER faltered. All that He taught of came to fruition.  All that He spoke came to existence.  Jesus Christ was an extraordinary man.  A man who taught us EXACTLY what it looks like to live a righteous life.  A man who healed the sick, fed the hungry, comforted widows, clothed the poor. His life was a testament of sacrifice.  He was the most humble of individuals. He solicited no publicity, sought no treasures…He simply lived. And He lived magnificently for God.

He faced adversity, He faced hatred, He faced condemnation. He was criticized, He was tormented, He was falsified…and, ultimately, He was crucified. Want to know the most amazing part, He knew He would be.  Jesus Christ knew that He would be hung from a cross and murdered at the hands of sinners. He told his disciples time and time again that He would face this pain.  BUT, He assured them not to be dismayed.  You see, Jesus knew exactly what He was getting himself into.  He knew the fate he faced.

This man WILLINGLY and HUMBLY, took the burden of every single human being onto his shoulders.  Every tear, every scream, every cry, every pain, every scar, every insecurity, every lie, every failure…everything…He gladly accepted the weight of our sins and our misery. He was beaten within an inch of His life. Tormented, dishonored, and nailed to a cross. And all the while, He had peace in His heart. Knowing that His death would mean life for all of us. Imagine the most pain you have ever been in…the deepest your heart has hurt, the saddest and most desperate you have ever been. Jesus felt that for you. He carried that agony. He hung with it on the cross.

The kicker? The whole time Jesus was like, “Don’t worry guys, they are going to kill me, but I’m going to come back to life. Just wait and see, I’m going to prove it to all of them–I’m going to prove that I’m the Son of God.” People judged Him, that laughed at Him, they doubted Him…and then He rose. 🙂 Jesus Christ literally rose from the dead. It is a documented, historical, unbelievable, beautiful FACT. This man rose! He lives! He did it! All the haters, all the doubters, all the sinners literally stood there with their mouths hung open and were like, “Ooooooh man. This looks really bad on us.” Haha. Jesus Christ stuck it to the man! He PROVED that He was the Son of God by doing exactly what He said He was going to do…HE ROSE!

Wow. Wow. Wow. AND THIS IS THE SUPER ABBREVIATED VERSION!! Haha, God is SO GOOD! It’s so tough to put it all into words. Jesus Christ did it! And BECAUSE He did it, we are offered salvation. We are redeemed! We can now join God in heaven! We can now attend THAT party for all of eternity rather than agonizing in hell. HE SAVED US! Holy cow, He saved us. What a magnificent God we serve. A God that sacrificed His SON so that I, a sinner and a liar and a gross human being, could have a second chance! I, the lowest of the low, the grossest of the gross, have a second chance. All it takes is for me to believe in what Jesus Christ did for our hearts.

Unreal. We serve a God of second chances!…Do you need one?

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Redefining Our Reflection… (part 3)

I want to take a deeper look at what it means to be a true woman and a true man of God.  Now only can this help us reevaluate how we act, but it can also help us identify characteristics we should seek in others–especially if we intend on spending time with them or entering into a relationship with them.  We discussed our identities through salvation and the beauty God sees in us, but in order to redefine our reflections, we have to learn a little bit about how we should strive to carry ourselves.

An individual brought up a great point in the comment section of the last blog post.  This was a point I was planning on studying, in detail, later on, but I would like to touch on its relevance now, as well.  As humans, we are stuck in a bit of a predicament.  Because, in recognizing Jesus Christ as our Savior, our souls are sealed and protected.  We are emptied of ourselves and filled with the Holy Spirit.  However, we are still bound by our humanly flesh during our time here on earth.  And that flesh is ugly and riddled with temptation, lust, greed, and sin.  It is the “human” in us all–and it’s gross.  That’s what made Jesus Christ so phenomenal. He was a human being. He was bound by the same flesh we are bound by.  He felt all the same temptations, emotions, urges, desires.  But He STILL lived perfectly.  We must recognize that, for us, that is an impossibility. There is no way we can do it flawlessly. But, it is something we should STRIVE for–something we should live for, daily.  As Christians, we should work towards thinning that flesh so that His light can shine through us as brightly as possible.

With that being said, it is not enough for us to sit back and coast. To think, “Okay, I recognize that He’s real, I recognize what He did for me. But, I guess since I’m bound by this flesh and since He’s always going to forgive me, then it’s alright for me keep living how I’m living. I guess it’s alright for me to remain comfortable in sin. Because, this guy’s sin over here is far worse than my sin. I’m a good person, so I’m good to go.”

That mentality is so off-base.  It’s a mentality that I, myself, held for a long time.  That’s a very human thought process.  If this forgiveness is endlessly offered, then it is a human reaction to attempt to take that for granted.  To try to slide by. To compare ourselves to others and to weigh our sins. But that is so far from what’s real and true.  That mentality is so dangerous.  I know I functioned like that for a very long time.  And I can tell you now that, even though those thoughts still run through my mind occasionally, the Holy Spirit is convicting.  And if the Holy Spirit is truly living inside of your heart, you will feel the conviction of wrongful action.  Whether or not you show it on the surface, whether or not you express it, whether or not you even openly acknowledge it, you know where your heart stands.  You know when you are acting in flesh.

I told you this year would be convicting.  I refuse to sit back and say only what is going to “feel good” and make us all feel warm and comforted inside.  We have to be broken of our earthly mentality.  We have to be broken of our thought process that has been conditioned by this crappy society.  And in order to be broken, we have to be uncomfortable.  We have to reevaluate ourselves and be honest with ourselves.  If you are surrounded by people who constantly tell you that what you are doing is so wonderful and right and good, and you never stand eye-to-eye with someone who tells you that you could be better, and holds up the BIBLE as proof of the improvement you can make, then you will never grow.

If we are going to TRULY redefine our reflections and live for Christ, then we have to humble ourselves. We have to let down our guards and open our hearts.  We have to feel that conviction and RECOGNIZE it! Recognize that it may take a shot at your ego or your pride; that it may embarrass you or anger you or stir up your emotions. But there is BEAUTY in humility. There is BEAUTY in our scars. So let down your walls. I’m right here with you, doing the same.

Break through the flesh that is binding you down and strive for greatness.  We strive, daily, for advancement in our lives.  We strive for the starting spot on our athletic teams. We strive for the promotion at work.  We strive to make more money. We strive to be perceived as having the perfect family. We strive to be the most popular. We strive to be the most famous.  We strive to be the most attractive. We strive to be the biggest, the fastest, the strongest, the best. SO WHY DONT WE STRIVE FOR THAT SAME ADVANCEMENT IN OUR FAITH? What are we so ashamed of? What do we have to lose? A little ego? A little pride? Get real. Break down the barriers this society says we should build around “religion”.  Break down the perception you have of where “religion” should be kept on your schedule!

Being a Christian is not about just being in church on Sunday. Being a Christian is a 24-7, 365 day a year TRUTH.  Why are we suppressing Him? He is in fellowship, He is in bible study, He is in church, He is in the workplace, He is in our schools, He is at the dinner table, He is on the football field, He is at the bar, He is in the port-a-potty, He is in your car, He is in the airplane, He is in the homeless shelter, He is in the huts of the homeless, He is in the fields of the farmers, He is in the waves of the sea, He is EVERYWHERE! He is everywhere. Who are we to ignore Him? Who are we to try to stifle Him? All He wants is for us to see Him. And to love Him. And in return, He will love us more passionately and more fantastically than any other love we will ever know. He is waiting for us…He is waiting for you. Open your eyes and see Him. Then fall in love and break down your barriers and climb on top of the tallest platform you can find and PRAISE Him. NEVER be afraid to praise Him. Never stop praising Him.

Let’s step away from who we were. Let’s make ourselves so vulnerable that we are raw. Then let’s study Him. Let’s study the Word, and let’s figure out what it all means together.

I know I went off on a bit of a tangent today. I promise next post we will get back to the topic of being men and women for Christ. We will start really studying together.  I just really had all of that on my heart and had to let it pour out. I love you, and He loves you. Let’s be exceptional. Together, let’s learn…

“Back to the Basics” (part 1 of 3)

So, now that I have finished sharing my personal testimony with you, it’s time to embark on this incredible journey together and grow closer to our King! Before I begin, I really want to thank you for following up to this point. Can you believe it has already been a month? I hope you are as excited as I am for what this year has in store. It’s my belief that, no matter age, race, gender, social class, or any other “category” this world may label each of us in, we are all beautifully equal and we ALL have the ability to learn from one another and be inspired by one another.  It has been such a blessing hearing from SO many; I hope you understand how much you play a role in this challenge. You are the one encouraging me and keeping me focused. So let’s get started!

I find that in sports, as well as in school and relationships and work, it is unbelievably beneficial to go “back to the basics” and periodically re-visit the fundamentals of what we do.  At times, we get so comfortable in our successes, that we have the tendency to unknowingly become stagnant in our progress and growth. But, if we take a little time to humble ourselves and study the core principles of our activities, it’s often refreshing and beneficial.  With that being said, what are the core principles of our faith? If somebody walked up to you today and asked you what it is you believe, what would you say? How would you summarize all that Christianity entails quickly enough to keep their attention? And would you truly believe your own words? What are the foundations of your life?

It’s easiest for me to break it into 3 points. Three core, elementary principles that we MUST believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Three fundamentals that are all interconnected and are the basis of our Christian walks.  It is not up to us to pick and choose which one we like best, we must be convicted in all three, wholeheartedly.

First, and most simply, we have to believe that Jesus Christ was a real man.  A human being that walked this earth and was bound by all of the same temptations, tendencies, desires, and abilities as you and I. He was real. He is a historical figure.  There is little that can really even be debated about this point because it is simply historical knowledge. He was a human being that existed.

It’s a bummer for Jesus that there wasn’t internet or twitter or cameras back then, because it seems like, now-a-days, the only content people will believe is the content the pops up on their iPhones.  The content they can physically see.  But all it takes to prove this human being’s existence is a trip to the library. Christianity is not the only religion that recognizes that this man was very real.  He was a magnificent man and a true leader.  He was a man who lived with purpose and a man who lived PERFECTLY.

That’s the one factor that boggles my mind the most.  This man lived in a way that no other man had lived before Him and that no other man has lived since Him.  He lived PERFECTLY! He was bound by all of the same human limitations we are bound by, and He STILL lived without flaw.  He was never afraid to live completely differently than every single person around Him.  He was never afraid to defy the kings and leaders of the land in order to stand strong by what He believed. Can you even imagine? It’s hard for me to even wrap my head around sometimes. And it gets me SO fired up.  This man was exceptional! He was 100% convicted in His purpose and He never faltered.  He never stumbled.  Good grief, I stumble daily. I stumble hourly. Yet this man lived His entire life and never lost His footing.  He was completely obedient, no matter the sacrifice or suffering He had to endure. And He taught, passionately.

Whether or not you choose to recognize this man as the son of God, which is a point we will look at tomorrow, you cannot deny that this man was exceptional.  He was real and He was fantastic.  He was a genuine leader and He stood strong on the principles of everything we should strive towards.  He must be respected.  He was a human being that must be respected.  It drives me crazy to sit through history class and leadership class and listen to all of these other individuals addressed (Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Desmond Tutu, Hitler, George Washington, etc.) for their exceptional leadership and sacrifice, yet modern culture refuses to print and teach content about Jesus Christ. HELLO! He was the greatest leader that ever walked the face of this earth.  He set the example for every single individual that has followed Him.  He, single-handedly, built the framework for what leadership is and how we should strive to live our lives!

I could ramble on for hours about this first point, but the basics of this first fundamental are simple.  We must recognize and give validity to the man, Jesus Christ.  He was a human being that deserves every single person on this earth’s respect. All spiritual and religious components aside, He was a human being that must be celebrated. Because He did it all correctly. And He never failed.

How, then…you may be wondering…was this human being capable of such perfection? How was He able to perform all of the acts that He did and resist all of the temptations? How was this man capable of living so flawlessly? Well, that leads us to the second pillar of our foundation…

(to be continued)

My Story (part 15)

“Whoever walks with the wise will become wise; whoever walks with fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20

Even though I was not at the pinnacle of my game due to the time spent in recovery from the accident and the immediacy of the invitation to camp, I was still able to have a fantastic showing with the National Team and was provided a platform to continue my discipleship.

The next portion of my testimony will be vague, because it is a topic that I want to climb much deeper into later during the year. A topic I feel will be most beneficial for younger adults and friends around my age.  However, I want to include a tag to this relationship within my story, because it provided more guidance, strength, and encouragement than any I have come across before. And it also plays a part in why I have taken on the challenge of remaining “Kissless ’till Next Christmas”.

A spiritual mentor of mine once taught me a lesson that I will carry with me for all of my days. He informed me that: a woman should never pursue a man. A woman should pursue a deeper, more intimate relationship with Christ. In turn, Christ will then inspire the man, constructed perfectly for her, to pursue her heart.  And in doing so, the man will be drawn closer to God as well.

It seems cliché to say that as soon as you stop looking to find someone, someone comes along. However, that was precisely what happened to me half a year after my accident.  At the same time that God was rewarding me with the splendor of athletic progress, he also sent a man into my life whom I will respect and cherish forever. A man I was not looking for. A man I did not plan on finding. But a man who walked so humbly into my life, that I couldn’t help but take notice.

I met Joey when I was sharing my testimony at a FCA in Louisiana. An excellent musician, he was there leading praise and worship for the group.  The minute I met him, I was entranced. He was my complete opposite. Shy, reserved, a man of few words. He was not my “type”, not my taste. But I was mesmerized. There was something different about him.  Something I couldn’t put my finger on. His eyes told a story of his purpose. He was unfazed by the standards of our society. Unamused by the earthly manifold. He was living for One–and it shined through him.

Quite commonly known, 1 Corinthians 15:13 instructs us, “Do not be mislead. Bad company corrupts good character.” In turn, there are countless other verses in the Bible that assure us of the inverse. Assure us that, in surrounding ourselves with the right people and those in pursuit of Truth, our hearts can be nurtured and our spirits can grow.

Over the course of the next 6 months, Joey and I journeyed through the most Christ-centered relationship that I have ever known.  It was beautiful. It was simple. It was pure, and it was healthy. It was a relationship of purpose and a relationship of love. Love for one another, but above all else, love for our King.  Each pursuing Christ on our own separate walks, we were able to encourage one another, challenge one another, and inspire one another to grow.  Joey was a man of conviction. He was exceptional. A man who believes every single word in the pages of the Bible and applies them, first and foremost, in every single thing he does in his life. He was a man that had a past, like many, but a man that had a future. A future with our King.

Being surrounded in the company of such conviction and strength taught me more about our Lord than any bible study lesson or church service ever had before.  Because I was not simply sitting and listening to words, I was observing a man living them out to the best of his ability. Stumbling and slipping at times, but picking himself back up and continuing his journey to Christ. He was like a horse with blinders on. He had one focus, and that focus was salvation. That focus was our King. All else in his life fell perfectly into place, because he recognized true importance and invested his whole heart into it.

You may be wondering, why then, I ended my relationship with Joey–as swiftly and as bluntly as the turning of a page.  But the answer to that lies in my current calling. The answer to that can only be described in feeling. A feeling God placed on my heart and a mission He desired that I fulfill. A mission that would impact so many more than just myself…

(to be continued)