Friday, April 30, 2010


I want to change the world for You.
I want to scream Your Name,
Until the earth falls to its knees,
Until all can see Your grace.

I want to make an impact, Lord.
Do not let me turn from You.
My actions have not fully changed,
But my passion is for you.

I want to see revival, God,
Nations bowing down in praise.
I long to see them look to You.
Lord, reveal to them Your face.

I want to change the world for you,
But only You can change my heart
Light a fire within my life,
And illuminate the dark.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Show Me Beauty

Show Me Beauty

Show me beauty when the world falls apart.
Show me beauty when nothing seems to matter.
Show me beauty in each living, beating heart.
Show me beauty, make me see.

I see the stars.  I see the sky.  And yet the world still doubts.
I breathe Your air. I need You here. You are what life's about.
So reveal Yourself to me: Your awesome, mighty love.
Show me how You see the world. Show me beauty, make me see.

Show me beauty when I can't love myself.
Show me beauty when I can't bear to seek You.
Show me beauty in everything else.
Show me beauty, make me see.

I see the stars.  I see the sky.  And yet the world still doubts.
I breathe Your air. I need You here. You are what life's about.
So reveal Yourself to me: Your awesome, mighty love.
Show me how You see the world. Show me beauty, make me see.

Sometimes my eyes can't see the light. God, open them to Yours.
I long to see why You made me, why I'm what You adore.

I see the stars.  I see the sky.  And yet the world still doubts.
I breathe Your air. I need You here. You are what life's about.
So reveal Yourself to me: Your awesome, mighty love.
Show me how You see the world. Show me beauty, make me see.

Emily Whelchel

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Poverty: Education

As we learned last Tuesday, poverty and hunger are both huge issues in the world right now.  An unfortunate result of poverty is the lack of a decent education in third world countries.  Education is extremely important.  What decent job can you get without at least a high school education?  You can't become a doctor, a political figure, a lawyer, a dentist, a teacher, or a scientist without a college degree.  Many people believe that you can't go far in life at all without a college degree.  It can be difficult as a student in a wealthy country to make it through twelfth grade and get your diploma.  Imagine trying to get a good education as a child in a third world country. 

Your text books are old and worn or nonexistent.  You often have to skip school for weeks at a time to help your family earn money or to care for a sick family member.  In order to attend class, you must have a proper uniform and school shoes and these things cost money that you don't have.  When you can manage to go to school, you have to get up early and walk for blocks through dangerous streets in order to make it on time, and then you have to walk all the way back home, often after dark.  Your empty stomach makes it hard to concentrate on your schoolwork.  You're often sick because the water you drink at home is unsanitary and filled with parasites.  You sit on hard wooden benches each day and write on wrinkled, brown paper.  Sometimes your hands become too swollen to write because chiggers, mosquitoes, and horseflies won't stop biting your fingers.  It's hard to achieve good scores on the important tests that allow you to graduate to the next grade level because your teacher didn't even make it to eighth grade.  In the early morning, late evening, and rainy days, class has to come to a pause because your school room doesn't have electricity and nobody can see well enough to write or read in the dark room.  You hear stories about rich Americans and Europeans who hate going to school and you wonder why they think they have it so bad.

The United States literacy rate is currently at 99% for people over the age of fifteen.  In third world countries, a vast majority of people are illiterate.  Take Burkina Faso, for example.  The literacy rate for this African country is currently at an astonishingly low 23.6%.  We could be doing so much more to prevent this.  According to the Millennium Development Goals Report, more than seventy-two million children of primary school age did not attend school in 2005.  The Millennium Development Goals Report considered these numbers to be a huge improvement, but I take it to mean that there are still seventy-two million children around the world who are not getting any education whatsoever. 

These children have the potential to become significant leaders of their country.  They could become great doctors who find cures for cancer and AIDS.  They could become teachers who help to bring up the literacy rates in their countries.  They could become powerful individuals who help make the world a better place.  Unfortunately, these children will never be given the chance to develop and use these abilities. 

If it is true that it is nearly impossible to be truly successful without an education, then this is exactly what our next generation is going to have... which means that this will become a cycle, and hunger, illiteracy, and extreme poverty will hit these third world countries just as hard as before. 

What can you do to improve these devastating statistics? 

  • Sponsor a child.  Your sponsorship will go to provide an education- even through college or vocational school- for these poverty-stricken kids.  Your thirty dollars a month can help to change the world, simply by improving the life of a forgotten child with so much potential.  Try World Vision or Christian Relief Fund
  • Recycle your old books and textbooks.  Many organizations can use your books to give to kids and schools in third world countries that can't afford to purchase their own.  This means that those old, trashy books that you were going to throw away can help teach someone to read.  Invisible Children has a program called Schools for Schools where you can donate your school's text books to give to poor schools in Uganda, Africa. 
  • Write letters to your local senators and congressmen.  Write letters to the president, for that matter.  Education is so important.  Your country could be doing so much more to improve the standards of education throughout the world.  Your letters can help make a difference.  
  • Pray.  Ask God to provide new opportunities for these children to get a much-needed education.  Ask Him to give you a heart for the needy and a will to fight against poverty.
Whatever you do, please remember to appreciate your education.  I'm a high school student.  I realize that working hard and getting up early for school every single day can seem monotonous, tiring, and even pointless at times, but when you start to feel frustrated with your school, remember how much kids who don't have an education long to be in your shoes... figuratively and literally.  Use your education to help make a difference in the world.  Don't take your blessings for granted.

Do you have any opinions about this subject?  Comment below.  I take the credit for the pictures used in today's article. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Is hell real?

Controversy over the existence of hell has plagued people for centuries.  In fact, the belief about hell is often considered to be a strong dividing line between Christian denominations and cults.  Christian denominations believe in a hell.  Cults and non-Christian denominations believe that the lost simply stop existing after death- a belief that some call "soul sleep."  Which is true?  According to a survey by The Barna Group, only 31% of adults believe that hell is an existing location.  You may not believe in hell.  The thought of hell often seems contradictory to the loving and merciful nature of God.  A truly loving God wouldn't allow His children to burn in eternal torment... right?  I'm going to do my best to answer some of the questions that you may have about hell in this article. 

Hell is real, hell is a horrible place, and yet God is still a loving God. 

Why would God create hell?
God originally created hell as a place of eternal torment for Satan and His angels (Matt 25:41, Isaiah 14:12).  He created humans to be good.  We were made in His image.  We were meant to worship Him forever.  His plan was never for us to perish in hell (2 Peter 3:9).  God set down certain commands for His children to follow, starting with Adam and Eve in the garden.  When Adam and Eve- and all of humanity- broke God's laws, that meant that we as sinners could never dwell with a perfect God.  Because of this, just as an earthly judge must place a verdict on a violator of the law and send him to prison, God will have to judge each person for the sins that they have committed... and the judgment will be the same each time.  Guilty. 

Is hell eternal?
Many people believe that hell is not eternal, that the soul simply vanishes after death or it burns into disintegration.  The Bible makes it clear that hell is an eternal punishment.  When you sin against God, your punishment lasts forever.  Your soul will always exist, be it in heaven or hell.  Matthew 25:41 says, "Then He will say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and His angels."  In verse 46, Jesus says, "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."  In this passage, Jesus is talking to those who refused to help the needy in their distress.  If you take His Word to be the truth, then that means that unbelievers who don't give assistance to the poor will burn in an eternal fire that was first reserved for Satan and his angels.  Isaiah 66:24 says, "...their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched..."  Here, the Lord is talking about the punishment on Judgment Day for those who have rebelled against Him.  The thought that a tormenting worm won't die and a continuous fire will not be quenched is frightening, but it is also proof that hell is an eternal punishment and not something that only lasts for a short time.  Daniel 12:2 says, "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt."  Again, the Bible uses the term "everlasting," meaning that hell is forever.  Revelation 20:10 says, and I quote, "...They will be tormented day and night forever and ever."  When you go to hell, your soul is doomed eternally.

Why would a loving God send His own creations to a horrible place like hell?
This is a question that is difficult to answer and to understand.  First of all, when God sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins, He gave us the option to choose life over death... to be forgiven for our sins and redeemed with the Lord so that we could go to heaven to be with Him after we die.  When we rebel against this gift, we choose hell for ourselves.  Imagine if God sent no one to hell.  Would heaven truly be heaven with people like Hitler and Stalin and Saddam Hussein wandering around?  No.  God is a just God.  He punishes the unrepentant wicked for their actions.  Atheist B.C. Johnson is quoted as saying, "The idea of hell is morally absurd."  On the contrary, it would be morally absurd to allow the wicked to go unpunished.  

Does God send babies and little kids to hell?
Remember that God is a just judge.  He is not going to do what is unjust.  Because of this, we can assume that He takes into consideration whether or not a baby is too young to understand the gospel.  In Matthew 19:14, Jesus has the children come to Him because "the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."  If the kingdom of heaven belongs to little children, then surely that means that little children go to heaven rather than hell.  Take a look at the story in 1 Samuel 3, when the Lord first reveals himself to young Samuel.  In verse 7, it is mentioned that, "Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The Word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him."  This hints at the fact that Samuel had previously been too young to be able to understand what the Word was saying to him... it had not yet been revealed to him because of his youth.  In Nehemiah 8:2, Ezra reads a scroll to an assembly of "men, woman, and others who could understand."  Presumably, the ones who could not understand would be the young children and the mentally retarded, and if they were unable to understand the truth of God's Word, then they must have been exempt from the punishment until they could fully understand. 

What about the people who die without having ever heard about Jesus?  Do they go to hell?
This is a tricky subject because nobody can truly know for sure until we ask the Lord in person.  However, we can make educated guesses using the evidence that God lays before us with His Word.  Romans 1:20 says, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities- His eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."  This implies that no person can be unexcused for not knowing God because proof of God is everywhere.  Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands."  All of this is evidence of a Greater Being- of God.  In other words, nobody can have an excuse for not believing in the existence of a Higher Power.  There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that there is a God. 

But what about those who know that there is a God somewhere, but they do not know Christ because nobody has ever told them?  Romans 2:14-16 talks about this issue.  "(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)  This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares."  This discusses how that Gentiles (people who aren't Jewish) don't know the law (ten commandments) given by God, but they still know what's right and wrong.  Look at the ancient cultures who lived without God.  There was still punishment for murder, lying, theft, and adultery.  You can find God's law in every civilization because it is written in our hearts, according to the Bible.  This is another reason why men are without excuse when they break God's laws.  Acts 17:27 talks about how God wants people to seek Him and reach out to Him so that they might find Him, because He isn't far from anyone.  This hints at the fact that God is available to anyone- even to those who haven't been told about Him.
The Lord knows that many people die without hearing about how Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world.  Romans 10:14-16 says, "'How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can they preach unless they are sent?'... But not all the Israelites accepted the good news."  God realizes that people cannot call on Him if they haven't ever heard about Him.  He knows that they can't believe on someone whose Name has never entered their thoughts.  We must trust in the Lord and trust that He judges each person individually, based on their specific circumstances... and He takes each person's situation into account.

Where is hell?
The location of hell can only come from speculation, but it is a physical location.  It is more than a spiritual place.  The most common opinion is that hell actually exists within the center of the earth- a harrowing idea, but possibly the truth.  Look at Matthew 12:40 "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."  Assuming that Jesus went to hell after He died on the cross and was temporarily forsaken by God, this is huge evidence that hell is located in the "heart" of the earth.  Ephesians 4:9 says, "(What does 'He ascended' mean except that He also descended into the lower, earthly regions?)"  The center of the earth would be a conceivable place for a "lake of burning fire."  Scientists have estimated the earth's core to be in the range of several thousand degrees, surely a suitable place for eternal torment, don't you think?  However, we can only guess about where hell is located.
What is hell like?
Trust me when I say that you don't want to go there.  Matthew 8:12 talks about hell being an outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth- two expressions of extreme anguish, pain, and grief.  Revelation 20:10 describes a lake of burning sulfur where its recipients will be tormented day and night forever and ever.  Hell is a place where an eternal fire is not quenched and a tormenting worm never dies, according to Isaiah 66:24Revelation 20:15 says, "If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."  There are many other verses that talk about lakes of fire, eternal punishment, and a place of shame and torment.  Hell is the worst place imaginable.   
Who could deserve a place like hell?
God is the Creator of everything and everyone.  He set down laws for us to follow.  Romans 3:23 says, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  God had the right to set down His commands in the first place and He has the right to choose our punishment.  If we are judged by God's laws, then each one of us is guilty.  Hitler deserves to go to hell.  Jack the Ripper deserves to go to hell.  President Obama deserves to go to hell.  George Bush deserves to go to hell.  You deserve to go to hell.  I deserve to go to hell.  What is proof that God is a loving God?  The fact that He has given each person on earth a second chance and the ability to escape hell and go to heaven to be with Him forever- that is proof of a loving, merciful God.  All you have to do to receive eternal life in heaven is to repent from your sins and accept the gift that He has given you.   

I'm not trying to scare you into becoming a Christian.  I'm simply trying to warn you about the truth because I want no one to have to suffer the eternal torment of hell.  If you have not accepted Jesus Christ into your heart, then please think about what I've told you today.  According to God's Word, hell is a real place... and it's something to be concerned about.  Your salvation is a matter of eternal life or eternal punishment. 
Do you have any questions, opinions, or disagreements about today's article?  Please add your comments and inputs.  I'd love to know how you feel about this controversial topic.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Truth Behind Speeding

If you have your driver's license, then you know how much of a temptation speeding actually is.  When you're in a hurry, when you're on an empty road, you feel like it's no big deal to speed.  At least five miles over.  Speeding is nothing... right?  As you read this, you may be thinking, "What are you talking about?  It's not wrong to speed, so long as you aren't speeding way over the limit and endangering someone's life.  Speeding a little is fine.  I do it all the time and nothing ever happens." 

You might be surprised to find out that speeding is wrong.  In fact, when you drive over the speed limit, you are disobeying God.  Let me tell you why. 

The government has set down specific speed limits for each road.  The government is your authority.  Romans 13:1-2 says, "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."  When you go over the speed limit, you are disobeying a law that your government has put over you.  Even if you are speeding by only a few miles, you are still rebelling against something that your governing authority has established.  According to Romans 13, that means that you are not only rebelling against what the government has put over you, you are also rebelling against a law that God has established.  That's pretty serious, if you ask me. 

Do you carry the opinion that speed limits aren't that strict- that really, a speed limit is only a loose guideline for you to follow?  When you think that speed limits are only guidelines, then you are rationalizing something to yourself that isn't true.  You are deceiving yourself.  Speed limits are not guidelines.  What happens when a cop catches you speeding even five miles over the limit?  He pulls you over, gives you a ticket... you have to pay a fine for breaking the law.  If speed limits were only loose guidelines, don't you think that you wouldn't get in trouble for loosely following those guidelines?  No, of course they aren't guidelines.  They're laws.  They've been set into place with a purpose.  When you speed whatsoever, you are breaking the law

Also, when you speed, you are endangering someone's life.  Did you know that in 2009, 46% of road deaths were caused by speeding?  That's nearly half of all road deaths.  How would you feel if you caused an accident that took someone's life?  If the police discovered that you were speeding before you were in an accident, you would be given a large fine or even arrested.

I'm one of the only teens out of my friends who chooses not to speed.  Because of this, the way I drive is often criticized.  My friends jokingly tell me that I drive like a grandma.  Although I'm often teased for driving the speed limit, my mind will not be changed.  I strongly believe that when you speed, you break God's law, and that means that you are sinning.  A friend of mine, Caydence, has willingly agreed to participate in a small interview about speeding.  Caydence believes that speeding is okay as long as you stay careful, but watch how her opinions slowly start to change by the end of the interview.     

ME: Do you think that speeding is wrong?
CAYDENCE: I don't think it's wrong as long as you aren't driving recklessly.  Like, if the speed limit on a major road was 40, I think that's a little ridiculous. 

ME: How fast would you go on a major road with a 40mph speed limit? 
CAYDENCE: That depends on if I'm late...  Normal: 45- or 50 if I'm not stuck behind someone.  In a hurry: Well... in the middle of the day when there's plenty of room and nobody right in front of me, maybe 60?
ME: How fast do you have to be going for speeding to be wrong?
CAYDENCE: Kind of depends on if they're reckless, but sometimes- like 60 on a 40- honestly, I think that is wrong... In neighborhoods, I think it's really dangerous to speed, and I don't because I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I hit a kid who ran out in the street.  On the highway [60mph limit], 90 would be "okay" if there's lots of room, but 100's pushing it.  But there's not any specific rules or anything, it mainly just depends on if you're under control [while] driving. Driving recklessly is always wrong; you need to be in control, especially if you're speeding. 

ME: What is the farthest you've gone over the speed limit?
CAYDENCE: 125 on the [60mph limit] highway... but it was at 4:30 in the morning.  [I was] running late and there was no one else on the road.  I actually screamed out loud and my car freaked out, then I went back down to 100.

ME: Have you ever texted or talked on the phone while driving?
CAYDENCE: I always talk on the phone while driving, but I wait till I'm stopped to text. If I don't finish the text when the light turns green, I finish it and send [it] really fast while going extra slow or [I] just set it down and wait to finish it.  If it's important, I'll ask either [a friend] or my brothers to text for me when I'm driving.

ME: Do you think that you are disobeying God when you speed?
CAYDENCE: When I think about it, yes. I know the speed limits are to keep people safe. That's why I started cutting back [recently], but I tell myself I'm in control, so it's okay.

ME: Did you know that 46% of road deaths last year were caused by speeding?  Does that change your opinion on speeding at all?
CAYDENCE: I didn't know that, [but] yes, it changes my opinion.  I didn't think about it being so dangerous before, but I heard about a lot of people being killed and decided it's definitely not worth it.  And when I think about it, it's selfish of me to speed, putting other people in danger, but in the moment I didn't usually think about that.  

Maybe some of Caydence's thoughts echoed your own.  Maybe you're shocked by her answers to my questions.  Unfortunately, my friend's responses are similar to the thoughts of many drivers (especially teenage drivers) today.  If you are a speeder, I would like to encourage you to pray about what you are doing.  Ask God what He thinks about speeding.  And if your opinions are still not changed about speeding, then please remember to drive carefully while on the roads.  One reckless action can change your life forever.

What do you think about this article?  Do you have any opinions?  Do you think speeding is okay?  If you want, answer my questions on your own and post them as a comment.  I'm curious to see what other drivers believe.  If you don't have your license yet, answer the questions anyway.  What do you plan to do when you drive?  Thanks for reading.      

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Poverty: Food

What did you eat today?  I can remember if I think hard enough.  Can you remember what you ate yesterday?  What about the day before that?  Can you remember what you ate last week?  Sometimes when I try to look back and recall what I ate a few hours before, the answer completely eludes me.  Have you ever done this?

There are currently millions of people around the world who also can't remember what they last had to eat, but it isn't because they didn't take their meal into enough account to record it within their short term memories.  Many people cannot remember the last thing they ate because they last ate so long ago. 

As you probably know already, food is necessary for survival.  If you go without eating for even a few days, your body will react with natural consequences.  When your body does not have enough nutrients, it begins to go into survival mode.  You start to consume fat cells stored in your body.  When your fat cells are gone, your body turns to muscle tissue and then to internal organs.  Your heart is a muscle, so many people who are malnourished die from heart failure.  Eventually, your body shuts down completely because there are no nutrients left and you die. 

You will die within three days with no water, but it can take more than three months to die from lack of food.  Starvation is a very slow, painful, and terrible process, one that no child should ever have to endure. 

Did you know that over 800 million people in third world countries are suffering from severe malnutrition?  However, starvation is not only limited to third world countries.  According to the US Department of Agriculture, 2002, thirty-three million Americans live in households that do not have an adequate food supply.  In 1998, Europe and the United States spend more than $17 billion on pet food, while only $13 billion was used to provide basic health care and nutrition for people lost in poverty.  When I see these statistics, it makes me wonder if we care more about our dogs and cats and hamsters than we care about little children who have absolutely nothing to eat. 

Obviously, hunger is an issue throughout the world.  According to the World Health Organization, out of the ten most common causes of death, starvation wins at 36%.  The second most common cause of death in the world is heart disease, at 7.2%.  There are so many starving people that are dying without knowing Jesus.  What do you plan to do about that?  If you're struggling to think of ways that you can help the hungry, keep reading for some ideas.

  • In your neighborhood and surrounding community: There may be someone living close by- or even on your street- who is going hungry.  If you personally know of someone who is struggling with money, there are many things you can do to lend a hand.  You can invite them over to dinner or bring them meals and even leftovers.  Help them out in simple ways, such as offering to babysit for free (if there are kids in the family), mowing their lawn, or leaving anonymous gifts of clothes, gas cards, and blankets.  More than anything, invite your neighbor to go to church with you and frequently let them know that you're praying for them.  Everyone could use a prayer.
  • In your city: If you knew how many people from your city were currently going hungry, you might think twice before throwing away your leftovers.  Consider donating canned food or money to your local food bank.  If you can't spare any of these things, then volunteer your time.  Serve meals at a homeless shelter one Saturday out of the month. 
  • In your country: There are hungry people in every city.  Donate to organizations such as Red Cross, Salvation Army, Toys for Tots, or Angel Tree.  There are many different places where you can donate used food, clothes, and toys to children (and adults) around your country who need them.  Ask around at your church and see if you can plan a mission trip to a big city and volunteer your time to serve the needy in larger inner city communities. 
  • In your world: There are many, many nonprofit organizations focused on providing food for the hungry.  Donate money.  Start a fundraiser to raise money that you can donate.  Sponsor a child with Christian Relief Fund or World Vision.  Go on a missions trip to a third world country and see poverty with your own eyes. 
There are so many ways to serve the hungry, but more than anything, you need to pray.  Pray for your needy neighbors.  Pray for the hungry in your community.  Pray for the starving people around the world.  While prayer does not substitute actions, it is still important.  God hears your prayers.

When you eat, don't take your meal for granted.  Thank God with a genuine heart for giving you plenty of food.  Try not to waste what you don't eat.  Appreciate what you are eating, even if it isn't your favorite.  There are so many people across the globe who would be extremely grateful to have your discarded food.

This may seem like a stretch, but one day, try fasting out of solidarity for the needy.  Donate the money that you would have spent on food to your local food bank or to a global relief program.  During meal time, instead of eating, pray for those who are hungry. 

More than 80% of all people survive on less than ten dollars a day.  How much have you spent today?  Even if you are struggling financially right now, remember that God has blessed you so much compared to the majority of the world.  Your something is better than their nothing.

You may be having an awful day right now.  You may be struggling with something difficult in your life, be it finances or something else.  When somebody asks you, "Hey, how are you doing today?" instead of miserably thinking, "Today was  horrible!" try to remember this:  You're doing better than you think you are. 

Have a great rest of your day.

How do you plan to help fight to end poverty?  Leave your comments below.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Self Injury

The harsh edge of the blade flashed in the light that came in through the window.  Tori squeezed her eyes shut and clenched her teeth as she brought the razor down onto the open skin of her arm.  She felt numb and dirty.  Both old and new scars covered her body, from her thighs to her arms and even on the hidden area of her stomach.  Blood beaded on the thin lines made by the blade and Tori pushed the knife away, disgusted with herself.  She'd messed up... again

Every time Tori promised herself that she wouldn't cut anymore, something always happened that made her give in.  Someone would make a mean comment about her at school, she would get in a fight with her parents, she would simply look in the mirror and think, "I can't stand myself.  I deserve this."  And then she would be in that same dark place she so often was.  It was like she could not stop, no matter how badly she wanted to end this habit.

It was like an addiction. 

Tori had been a Christian for several years, ever since she responded to the alter call at summer camp when she was eleven.  At first, her passion for God only grew... but then life started to get hard.  Her parents got a divorce.  She lost a couple friends right before she entered high school.  Now Tori felt like God was far away.  She felt like when she prayed, her pleas were static and distant.  She wondered if God could even hear her.  She stared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror.  She felt ugly and unloved.  "Maybe I've messed it all up," she thought bitterly.  "I can't love myself.  Maybe God can't love me either."


The topic of self injury touches close to home.  For most of my middle school years, I struggled constantly with self injury.  I was depressed, I felt disconnected from God, and I expressed my hidden pain through the blade of a knife.  Self injury may be something that you or someone you know struggles with, and if that is the case, then I hope this article can help you find encouragement.   

One of the biggest problems with self injury, namely cutting, is that it is a compulsive behavior.  When you cut yourself, you're releasing pain endorphins into your body that give you a false sense of relief and even a high of sorts.  Each time something happens that makes you feel sad or upset, you feel the need to turn back to self injury to give you that same release of tension you felt before.  Cutting can easily become an unending cycle.  You want the temporary relief, so you cut... and then you feel guilty for allowing yourself to cut, and the guilt causes you to cut again... and around and around you go.  

Even if you have only been cutting for a few months, it can be extremely difficult to stop.  In fact, it may seem impossible.  Please know that it is possible to end this addiction.  I haven't cut for nearly three years.  It takes courage, strength, and faith in God, but it is possible.  If you are struggling with self injury or depression, please keep reading.  The next few points below can hopefully help you to discover a light at the end of the tunnel- a way out of an unending cycle.  

1.   No matter how you feel, you are loved.  When you're feeling depressed and alone, it's so easy to feel unloved.  The truth is, there are people who do love you, people who want to be there for you when you feel this way.  You have family members and friends who love you.  If no one else, then I love you, even though I don't know you personally.  I honestly do love you and I hurt for you.  Above all else, Jesus Christ loves you.  He loves you enough that He suffered and died for you.  He loves you no matter what you've ever done.   Deuteronomy 14:1,2 says, "Do not cut yourselves..., for you are a people holy to the Lord your God.  Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be His treasured possession."  Even though this verse was written for the people of Israel as a whole, it still applies to you as a Christian.  You are God's chosen possession... He doesn't want you to hurt.  He wants you to have peace and joy.  

2.   Even when you feel like God is far away, He has never left your side.  Guilt is often a huge issue for Christians who cut.  Aren't Christians supposed to be those on-fire believers who worship Jesus with every fabric of their lives?  They aren't supposed to be messed up people who have dark secrets that nobody knows about, right?  The perfect Christian is a complete myth.  Every Christian has problems, even if it doesn't seem like it from their outside appearance.  Everyone experiences trials throughout their lives.  You can still be a Christian and struggle with self injury.  It is an addiction that is hard to overcome.  Ask God to help you through this difficult time.  He is there for you.  He longs to hold you into His arms and take the pain away.  When you feel disconnected from God, continue to pray to Him, read your Bible, and go to church.  When you continue to worship God, even when He seems far away, you are expressing to Him that you still have faith in what He can do.  Hebrews 13:5 says, "God has said, 'Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.'"  Keep your faith in Jesus and know that He will never lose faith in you.

3.   Talk to somebody about what you're going through.  Proverbs 27:17 says that just like iron sharpens iron, one person sharpens another.  Find someone who cares about you and who can give you accountability and encourage you to work through your emotions constructively, instead of through self injury.  Ask your friend for guidance, prayer, and understanding.  You may even need to find professional help.  Talk to your youth group leader or a teacher at your school.  If you feel comfortable, approach your parents about what you've been going through.  An experienced adult can help you learn to sort through your problems and find hope.   

4.   Search for a new way to cope.  You may cut to help you release your pent up emotions, it may be a way to punish yourself for the bad things you have done, or it may be a way to control something in your life when everything else seems to be crumbling all around you.  No matter why you cut, you are handling your problems the wrong way.  Take up music lessons, start a journal, go to the gym an hour a day... find something that can start to replace this habit, something that you can turn to when you feel like you need to vent your anger and hurt.

5.   Learn to love yourself again.  When you feel hatred and disgust for yourself, it is difficult to honestly want to stop hurting your body.  Take out a sheet of paper and write a list of at least ten things about why you deserve more than cutting.  It could be "I'm a loyal friend" or "I am a beautiful creation of God."  When you feel the urge to cut, remind yourself over and over that you are loved and that Jesus has planned so much more for your life.

6.  Learn to forgive yourself.  You may relapse.  You may go months without cutting and then mess up again.  When you fall, it is easy to feel angry at yourself and want to give up.  Instead of punishing yourself for messing up, take it into perspective.  Make a calendar of how long you've gone without messing up and congratulate yourself for making it that far.  Cutting is a hard addiction to overcome.  The closer you come to healing shows how strong you are becoming.  Jesus forgives you for every sin and mistake, so learn to forgive yourself as well.

If you have a friend who is struggling with self injury, don't give up on her.  She needs your encouragement and support.  Don't constantly talk about her problem, but occasionally let her know that you're there for her and are ready to listen when she needs to vent.  Ask your friend if you can go talk to an adult together, but don't try to force the issue unless you believe that her life is in danger or else the stress could cause her to cut again.  Spend more time with your friend.  Let her know that you love her and want to be around her.  Leave her encouraging notes.  Compliment her.  Whatever you do, don't criticize your friend about her self injury.  Judgmental remarks are likely to cause her to cut even more.  Instead, let her know that you're concerned about her safety and want her to stop because you care about her. 

If you have suspicions that your friend is suicidal, then that is another issue entirely.  If your friend is suicidal, then please tell an adult and get your friend help.  Making a friend angry- maybe even angry enough to not forgive you- is worth it if it means saving her life. 

You may be struggling with self injury right now.  If you are, then don't give up.  Self injury is a difficult thing to overcome, but it is possible.  You are loved and cherished by God.  Put yourself into His hands.  Hope can be found through the Lord.  He has so much more in store for you than you can possibly imagine.   

Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."          

Thursday, April 8, 2010

If faith can move mountains...

If you go outside and walk down a busy street and look around you, you will see the faces of many people who do not know Christ.  You probably have gone to your church, to your school, to your home, and prayed fervently for God to start a revival, but for the first time in a long time, your prayers seem unanswered. 

Sure, there are moments when you see a young Christian become fired up for Christ or you are able to witness the conversion of a nonbeliever.  A new member joins your church.  Someone is healed in the Name of the Lord.  All of these are great things that are happening all around you... but where is the revival

According to the dictionary, the definition of a revival is: "a restoration to use, acceptance, activity, or vigor after a period of obscurity or quiescence." 

Is that not the truth of what has gone on in the United States- and the globe, for that matter- for past hundred or more years?  Christianity has fallen into a state of obscurity and apathy.  Many- if not most- Christians today are in a state of deep sleep.  We are like the walking dead.  Do you not believe me?  Let me ask you a few questions.

  1. When was the last time you openly witnessed to an unbeliever?  How often do you share your faith with the lost?
  2. When was the last time you took the Lord's Name in vain?  (for example, saying "Oh my ---.")
  3. When was the last time you listened to music or watched a movie or a television program that contained people inappropriately using the Name of the Lord as a cuss word?  
  4. When was the last time you spent more than ten minutes in solid prayer?
  5. When was the last time you spent more than ten minutes reading the Bible?

As you answered these questions, did your heart sink?  If these questions did not apply to you, then do you realize how many Christians that they do apply to?  I am not going to lie.  I feel like a hypocrite when I read these questions, and I'm the one who wrote them!  I know for a fact that I still have a long ways to go in improving my life for the Lord.   

We are praying for a revival.  We are praying for a restoration of the use, acceptance, activity, and vigor of our faith after this period of obscurity and quiescence.  But at the same time, what are we as Christians doing to start this revival?

Here is a huge issue: when we long for a revival in our nation and around the world, we look at the people around us.  "If we could get Christians to stop being hypocrites and actually follow God... if we can change the reputation that Christians have to unbelievers... if we could get more people to have faith in Christ and less people to doubt... if we could get more people to pray..."  That is not the issue.  Other people are not the issue. 

You are the issue.

Instead of looking for the lack of revival in other Christians, in our nation, and in unbelievers, why don't you look for the cause of this missing revival inside of yourself?  You are the only person that you can change.  Every revival has to start out with a core group, and why can you not be one of these people? 

If you are doing something consistently sinful in your life, be it watching movies that take the Lord's Name in vain, be it listening to sinful music, be it not living out every aspect of your own life to God's glory, then how can you truly look around you and ask, "Why is there no revival?"  What are you doing to start this revival?  You must do more than pray.  You must do more than wish.  You need to make a change in your own life before you can make a change in the lives of anyone else. 

Matthew 17:20 says, "...I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."

Have you seen any great miracles lately?  Have you seen a true revival in your nation?  No, our world is sliding further and further down into the depths of sin and worldly things.  According to Jesus Christ, the smallest amount of faith should be doing things even greater than moving a mountain.  When have you seen such a thing happening lately?  When have you seen mountains being moved?

When have you seen a true revival occurring all around you?

I believe that we're close.  I believe that starting a revival isn't too far away.  It can happen. 

The next time you close your eyes and pray to God to start a revival in the United States and around the world, I would like you to reword what you have to say.  Instead of saying, "Please, God, start a revival in the world," why don't you pray, "Please, God, start a revival in me?"  If God can start a true revival in your heart- and in mine as well- then our lives will shine through the darkness, and a revival will have begun.  A revival begins with each individual. 

I would like to end this post with a quote from A.W. Tozer that I think is extremely mind-blowing if you stop and think about what he has to say. 
"Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late- and how little revival has resulted?  I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying, and it simply will not work.  To pray for revival while ignoring the plain precept laid down in Scripture is to waste a lot of words and get nothing for our trouble.  Prayer will become effective when we stop using it as a substitute for obedience."

What is the obedience that can begin to start a revival for Christ in our world?  Obedience is obeying the ten commandments, refraining from participation in worldly activities, witnessing (you witnessing) on a frequent basis to unbelievers, and your life becoming transformed to that of Christ Jesus.  That is true obedience.  That is what will begin a true revival that will go beyond moving mountains.

Do you have any comments about this subject?  Feel free to leave your opinion in the comment box below.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Poverty: The Ripped Bible

What I've done is probably going to cause a lot of controversy amongst my readers.  Some of you guys may be shocked and angered.  You may call me a hypocrite, and you may say that what I've done is sacrilegious and blasphemous.  On the other hand, I think that a lot of you will be positive about what I have done, and you may even want to do this yourself.

What I've done is cut up a Bible.

It was an old King James Bible I got when I was about ten years old.  It's been sitting on my shelf for years, gathering dust.  I prefer the New International Version and I have a newer Bible that I read each day instead of my older Bible.

Now before you start to feel indignant, I would like you to stay seated and keep reading what I have to say.  I did not cut up my Bible because I was angry with God or because I disagreed with things that the Bible has to say.  No, the reason I cut up my Bible was to make a point.

I cut out every verse in the Bible that has to do with poverty and helping the needy.  The reason why I did this was partially to prove to myself exactly how much importance that God places on serving the less fortunate.  I also did this so that I could have tangible and physical evidence to show people and be able to honestly say, "Look at what our Bible is, at what our faith is, without us serving the poor and the destitute."

I suspected that there would be many sections chopped out of the Bible after this experiment- big holes eradicated from God'sWord- but I was shocked to discover what was left of my Bible after I had removed the verses about helping the poor and the needy.  My Bible was completely tattered.  There was little left of its pages.  It was unreadable, unusable.

When Christians do not serve the needy, we are not putting into practice what the Bible so strongly emphasizes that we need to do.  We are ignoring these huge sections of God's Word when we should be obeying them with every fabric of our lives.

The Christian church today does not put nearly enough emphasis into service .  Don't get me wrong- some churches are focused on helping the needy in their communities and around the world, but most churches are more focused on other things.  These things are also important, but Christians too often overlook the needs of so many people across the globe, and that gives Christ a bad name.  There are people dying of hunger, thirst, lack of medical care, and poor sanitary conditions every single day.  There are so many people who are living without shoes or a home and who are going through life without an education.  This is a huge problem.

As children of God, we should be following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, the One who said, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me."  (Matthew 25:40, TNIV)  Service was so important to Jesus, and this is reflected throughout the Bible, in the New and Old Testaments.

What makes me cringe is the fact that there are so many more secular efforts to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless than there are Christian efforts.  Why do the big rock stars who are into drugs and sex and worldly things do more for the poor than we as Christians- who are supposed to do what Jesus did and live how He lived on earth- do for the poor?  This puts Christians in a bad light when people think to themselves, "I'm doing more to help the hungry than the people who love God do.  Why would I want to be like them?"  This needs to change right now.

Over the next several weeks I am going to be expanding on this vitally important issue.  I am going to be talking about the greatest needs of the world today in regards to poverty.  I will also talk about what you can do as a Christian, right now, in your community and around the world.  Don't allow your faith in Jesus to be tattered and torn like my Bible because of the fact that you ignore one of His most important commands: to help those who are in need.

What do you think about this topic?  Do you believe that the church has been greatly apathetic in regards to helping the poverty-stricken people throughout the world?  What do you think about my physical evidence (the ripped Bible)?  What do you plan to do to serve the needy in your community?