Friday, September 27, 2013

Quiet Faith


From the moment he first laid eyes on Nathan, his cabin director, Daniel, could sense that something was amiss. It wasn’t just that Nathan was small for his age, and it wasn’t because he was so shy. Daniel had seen plenty of kids all summer long that fit those categories. No, this was something deeper. Daniel sensed in his spirit that Nathan didn’t know Jesus. There was no outward reason to think this was the case, but he began to pray especially hard for Nathan, that God would give him a spiritual breakthrough during his week of camp.


During cabin devotion times, Daniel made a particular effort to keep Nathan engaged in the teaching. This was difficult because Nathan was so shy that he barely spoke to anyone. He would just sit quietly with his head down until the small group time was over. He never commented or asked questions about chapel time either. In fact, he hardly spoke at all. He would answer direct questions with the shortest possible answer and never seemed willing to open up about his relationship with God.

 
Imagine Daniel’s surprise then, when Nathan approached him out of the blue and asked Daniel to pray with him! Daniel’s spirit leapt inside, but he tried to remain calm outwardly, afraid that too much excitement might cause Nathan to clam up again. They sat down together, and Nathan quietly asked Daniel to help him pray to give his heart to Christ. Daniel then realized that, through all of the cabin devotions, chapels, and prayer times, even though Nathan was quiet, he was taking in every word. His faith was growing more and more like a fire, until it finally strengthened enough to overcome his fear. In that moment, Nathan surrendered his life to God, and he was transformed!


At the end of the week, Nathan made a public confession of faith before the entire camp (over 100 people) and was baptized in our pool. What a miracle! It's a great reminder that faith often works quietly, in the heart, where real change takes place.



Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Love and Lust

Love vs. lust. What’s the difference? Is there a difference? You bet there is. But don’t take it from me, the old married guy. Take it from guest blogger Mikel Collins, a teenager currently immersed in the turbulent subculture we call high school:

 
Many people can’t tell the difference between love and lust, especially the modern teenager. They think that they love someone, but all that “love” just tends to fade away over time.
 
I believe this is also one reason why so many marriages end in divorce. A couple becomes infatuated with each other, and they get married based on those feelings. They think the infatuation will last a lifetime, but it doesn’t. Some people just want to take advantage of their boyfriend or girlfriend. Once one convinces the other that they are in love and it is ok to sleep together, they break up and move on.
 
But what is love? What is lust? Love involves wanting to be around someone all the time. Not to hold hands, and not to make out. Just to be able to spend time with them and talk about the day. When you’re in love, you’re willing to give up everything just to be able to spend time with another person. Lust is a very dangerous thing. Lust make you feel like you can’t be around someone without touching them or staring at them. One signal of lust can be when a couple gets together and does more touching than talking. If you are together with someone you lust for, you will probably end up doing something stupid. Love is pure, selfless, miraculous, and holy. Lust is dirty, deceitful, selfish, manipulative, and sinful.
 
I am a Christian, and I believe that sex before marriage is wrong. People can get so caught up in what the world tells them that they think they have to sleep together to prove they love each other. The truth is, they probably don’t feel love at all, just lust. They wind up having sex and often end up feeling shame and regret for their decisions.
 
In the Bible it says that God IS love. God created love and sex, so they are very good and holy things. With lust, people abuse those things. God is the only one who has agape love, or unconditional love. He loves us so matter what we do, and that is truly amazing.
 
Love and lust do have one similarity, which is probably why we tend to get them mixed up. The one thing that they have in common is the fact that they both have something to do with being attracted to another person. Unfortunately, most of the time, people are too naïve to notice the difference.
 
Another problem is the pressure and drama in school. Kids feel like they have to have a girlfriend or boyfriend to be cool. They end up getting one, but all they feel is lust. It only gets worse as they get older. They feel like they have to have sex just to fit in.
 
Teens need to experience God’s love before they can truly know how to love another human the right way. There is so much crap going on in schools these days that it is extremely hard to help them experience love in its fullest. It’s tough, but not impossible.
 
Love does not necessarily have to mean romance. If we will just reach out and love each other, people will notice. They will want to experience this real love, and we will be more than happy to share it with them. Love is an amazing thing. It helps millions of people and saves lives every day. The problem is that we just keep abusing it. Loving someone is one of the easiest and most powerful things you can do to help someone. Yet some people still don’t want to do it.
 
People get so caught up in lust and infatuation that they hardly notice anything other than their boyfriend or girlfriend. That is a very dangerous place to be because it will always end badly for both people involved in the relationship. I’ve seen couples who act like their sides are glued together. It is sad how our minds can be so easily taken over because of some hormones.
 
It is amazing how two things can be so similar but so different. Someone who has never experienced true love can easily think that lust is love. They can feel so alike at times. The best way to tell the difference is by becoming aware of how you act around the people you’re attracted to. If you are in a relationship, and it isn’t real love, it’s better to slow things down or end it right then and there than to go on pretending like you love someone who you do not.
--Mikel
 
I couldn’t have said it better myself. But listen: If you've already messed up, you need to know that we serve a God who specializes in fresh starts. You can't undo what you've already done, but He can. That's what grace is all about. Past mistakes don't disqualify you from making good decisions today. Change, by it's very nature, must have a starting point. For you, it can be right now.