People. Politics. Perception.

It was an early spring night and all seemed right in the world. The young couple was sitting alone in a parking lot, and though the air was getting warmer, the windows of the car were nonetheless foggy to a point that the windows were translucent. These teenagers sat in the car alone feeling as though no one in the world knew where they were or what they were doing. It was as though time had stopped.

After several minutes, however, headlights were seen in the near distance, and some of the kids’ friends were seen coming towards the car with toilet paper and other mischievous items in hand. After a confusing ordeal, the boy in the car put his hand on the window to alert the others he was there. The pranksters saw this and knew that though they might’ve been caught, that what they assumed of the couple was even worse. This was totally inappropriate behavior for people of their reputations…

One of the things that I’ve noticed over the past couple months is that we always assume the worst of people. Whether its Barack Obama or Mitt Romney or Tim Tebow, it seems like the world is ready for people to make a mistake – to mess up and fail.

We watch getting close or being open to some people we first meet because of things we hear about them from others. We judge people before we are even introduced to them! We assume we know motives, actions, and hearts, because we have seen this kind of “lurking” behavior before.

Think of how many amazing opportunities we have missed because we have assumed the worst from someone or something or some situation.

There are friendships we might’ve missed because we heard from a friend of a friend that they were bad news. There are lives that aren’t changed because we assumed that the life or situation the person is in can’t and won’t be changed…

But even if that is true, don’t they deserve the chance?

And don’t we deserve to give it to them?

It was March 2008 when I was found in that car with that girl. We had watched a midnight showing of a new movie that had just come out, and our friends had just dropped us off at her car. She was giving me a ride home, but we got distracted and started to talk. She was a good girl and actually had never had a boyfriend or kissed a boy at that point. But after that night, rumors went around and reputations changed… even though that night nothing happened. Even though it might’ve been our faults for putting ourselves in a situation that appeared bad, I wonder what would’ve happened if our friends just would’ve asked us and believed us on what had happened that night… To this day, I would say this is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me.

All of us have failed. All of us have fallen short. Yet God has given us a second chance. Let’s stop assuming the worst from people, and stop believing everything we hear from others – whether it’s our friends, family, co-workers, or the media. Let’s embrace those who others aren’t embracing. Let’s trust people until they themselves have given us a reason not to. And let’s realize that we have the opportunity to change a life, a family, a circumstance, and a nation by the way we perceive and judge those that we are looking at…

Because our own bitter lives are dependent on it.

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Passionate For Truth.

On Floodgate tour I’ve learned a lot of things. Spending several weeks in a car with the same four people, molds, shapes, and brings perspective to things about oneself. I’ve learned a lot about myself.

If you don’t know what Floodgate is, it is a promotional drama/ministry team from Central Bible College. I spent my summer as a graduate touring with this group. We went to Arizona, Missouri, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, and Kentucky. Here are a few things I’ve learned while on tour.

1) I Am Not Above Reproach.

I always thought I would hit an age where I got everything together, where things would get easier, where I would be above reproach. But this summer I’ve struggled with the same hurdles and temptations that I did in high school and college. With every scary story to me comes the realization that I am not above reproach. I still fail and fall short. I still need God’s grace. There have been times in the car and with friends where I would have to apologize for things that I said or did. I guess I thought I would be less fallible once I had a diploma. Not really true.

2) I Need People.

I never really realized how much I appreciated the people around me until I spent ten weeks with the same group. We got so close! Those four people will always have a special place in my heart filled with special memories. Alongside that, I also got to spend a part of my summer with another group of friends at a wedding. All the bonding just made me realize that without those people pouring into my life, calling me out, and tolerating my shortcomings, I would not be the man I am today. I need relationships. All the different people that I met at camps from different churches and ministries teams have blessed me beyond comparison this summer as well! I’ve realized that I can’t just stay recluse and not expect my heart to yearn for relationship. Sometimes I feel like Boo Radley from “To Kill A Mockingbird,” but even he had to take a step out into the world – for him and for Scout.

3) I Need God.

I need God!!! Let me say that again! If you read the previous two points, then this one is a “gimme”. With every mess-up, with every split decision, I’ve had to turn to God. I find myself turning to God constantly. I’m the type of person that doesn’t get caught up in passion but more pursues truth. I guess this summer has helped me to rekindle some of my passion. Truth may be what directs us, but it is passion that drives us! I hope to be both pointing in the right direction, and moving toward that goal – Christ’s kingdom.

I know most of these things might seem simple and boring, but that is exactly what truth is sometimes. It’s been around all along… we just needed to be reminded of it.

Remind yourself of a simple truth. Embrace it. Live it. Share it. And do it all with the passion that God instills.

May We All Be People of Progress

A vector is a quantity that possesses both magnitude and direction.

I remember sitting in pre-calculus class and physics classes in high school and first learning about vectors. The cool thing about vectors is that they dictate more than just magnitude or speed, but they also dictate direction. Without vectors, we wouldn’t know we were moving in the right direction.

In CS Lewis’ book “Mere Christianity,” Lewis describes progress as a vector. He explains that progress isn’t just motion, but that it is motion in the proper direction. So often there are people who are either stagnant or they are moving in the wrong direction.

That isn’t progression.

That is ignorance.

You might’ve been the “nicest person” when you were a teenager, but if you are still the same person you were at 18, then you’ve been living in vain. Everyone can and should be in a process of growth. The goal of man is to pursue perfection – Christ-likeness. To this Paul writes: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” If we aren’t daily learning and growing and applying, then what are we doing with our lives?

Last week one of my friends passed away to be with the Lord. When I first became a Resident Assistant, Milton was on my hall. I knew right from the beginning that he was going to be my “problem child.” Born and raised in inner-city Chicago, Milton was a little rough around the edges. Up until then, my “suburban self” had no idea how to handle people who had a different past than myself. I had to learn to be patient and understanding with Milton.

At first things were difficult. Milton would watch TV during hall meetings, and crank his music up to unbearable decibels at the craziest hours of the night. To some people (especially people in bible college), I’m sure he seemed like a heathen. But when I talked to Milton, I saw the passion he had for the youth in Chicago. I saw his yearning to grow in the Lord, and his heart to heal the broken.

Milton was a man of progress.

I remember one moment distinctly. Milton had almost gotten into a fight with another student, and I was supposed to talk to him and send him to the Men’s Dean to sort the matter out. I remember sitting with him in our lobby for hours and talking to him about his life, the experience, and so on. I remember him telling me over and over how he didn’t hit the other student – a truly remarkable feet for Milton. If it had been a month earlier, I don’t know if the instant would’ve ended the same. And I just remember challenging him to not be happy with just that. I encouraged him keep pursuing Christ-likeness. And I then remember him breaking down in tears.

“Bobby, I’ve been staying after chapel everyday praying to God.”

It was so hard for him, but I knew at that moment he was truly seeking God to change him for the better. Milton was truly seeking God’s will with all that he possessed. I remember leaving that day being touched at how much Milton had changed in the few months I was his RA. And it was all God! It was great to just be the spectator – encouraging him along the way. I remember helping him with his English homework, and letting him use my computer, and then helping him navigate the internet. I remember before I even really knew him going with our campus pastor to the hospital to see Milton after he had had a seizure during one of our chapel services.

He was an inspiration.

He was a man of progress.

He was my friend.

Take time out of your day, and really reflect on whether you have been living life of progress or a life on autopilot. It’s so easy to get stuck in a place where you aren’t growing. But don’t allow that to happen.

Like Milton, realize your short-comings and work on bettering yourself everyday… one day at a time.

In memory of Milton Maurice Stewart. 5/13/1992-5/6/2012.

When Culture Trumps Truth

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” -C.S. Lewis

What happens when we start focusing on that which is subjective instead of what is objective?

Postmodernism did away with the idea of having an objective truth. Stemming from the Enlightment, many believed that there was no such thing as truth, but that truth was just a subjective creation of the culture. From this opposition to Modernism, the Postmodern movement was born. Where truth is relative, now truth can be whatever one wants it.

I don’t have to tell you that this influence has deeply affected American culture. All it takes is listening to a conversation at the local coffee shop. But I don’t think that this idea has just infected the American culture but has also infected the church. I am not talking about objective truth. It is hard to deny truth when God is the Absolute Truth. I am talking about our means to that truth. We have become infected by how we determine what is true.

Instead of Scripture deciding what is true for Christians anymore I think that Christians have relied to believe what is true to that of church culture. This makes “Christianity” more about “issues” rather than about the truth. And though the mark might be made sometimes, by showing improper means, at best believers are unaware as to why the mark was made. As Alexi Sayle said, “Even a blind dog can find a bone every so often.”

I remember the first time I was put at opposition with what I learned growing up in church culture and what the Scripture said – it was in Pentateuch class. As we were discussing the different theories for the creation account, I remember sitting, appalled to hear that there were Christians who didn’t believe that God created the Universe and earth in six literal days. There were several weeks where I almost turned away from Christianity because there seemed to be so many things that I grew up thinking were set in stone that I realized were not.

So why do we have this problem? Well… what’s more important to us: the issues or the truth? The American Church has become a subculture where one has to speak the right way, dress the right way, listen to the right music, and vote for the right political candidate to be welcomed. That seems to be the “truth” of the church.

Hasty Generalization?
Maybe.

But when is the church going to lay down all that which isn’t truth, and truly come united together under the cause of Christ. This speaks truth to denominational barriers, certain cultural sins, and the like. Why has the church become so dogmatic about all the wrong things?

Why would this be considered a big deal? If one gets to truth, does it matter the means to which they get to it? One thing that I have come to notice since being at college is that there are a lot of adolescents and young adults who are turning away from God. And though there isn’t one thing to blame for this, I do think that this idea of truth could be one of the factors. Children in church are told not to drink or swear or smoke or fornicate. They are told to behave – almost as if they were living a “works” based religion. Once these children grow up and start using abstract thought, they start realizing that a lot of (not all of) the stuff their parents and pastors said were inherently evil weren’t evil at all.

I feel as though we have lost our focus. When we start focusing on that which is subjective, we lose focus on the objective. When we focus on a grace by works, then we don’t have a grace by faith. When we have improper means, we have improper motives. When we don’t seek the truth, we lose everything.