Monday, December 9, 2013

Hijacking Your Train of Thought

…take every thought captive to obey Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5

Whenever I catch myself letting my thoughts travel without a conductor, I enjoy halting my train of thought and following the tracks back to the original station. It’s amazing to see the random station stops and where the root of our thoughts can lead.

However, we shouldn’t track down our train of thought only when we enjoy it. When our thought-trains steam with anger, roaring down the rails, we need to follow the tracks and find where this train came from.

I heard a lady describing this on the radio recently. She described when her family was late for church and her husband was driving under the speed limit. When they were late! She began cultivating infuriated thoughts toward her husband. But she stopped herself and asked why she was irritated.
Because he’s driving under the limit.
Why does that bother you?
Because we’re going to be late.
Why is that so bad?
Because I want to be on time.
So we can look professional and punctual to all the other church families.
Ohhh, so you just want to look good; this is a pride issue. And that’s why you’re cross.
She found the root problem and told herself, We’re going to be late, and that’s how it is, and that’s okay. Her feelings of anger dissolved; her runaway train of thought was back in control.

This time of year, taking control of runaway trains is especially relevant. When someone exclaims, “Only sixteen more days until Christmas!” our first response is, “Agh! Don’t say that!” It’s a seriously stressful season.
Because I need to find all the perfect presents for my family and friends and decorate my house to look like a Hallmark card and I haven’t baked cookies yet!
Why is all this such a big deal?
Because I need to do this to make Christmas all that it needs to be for my family.
So Christmas is focused on family now, and on not letting people down? Is that what Christmas needs to be?
Our intentions of desiring a giving spirit and wanting to make people happy may set in motion a deadly engine of anxiety and disappointment. We must hijack these perilous thought-trains, tracing back what’s really at the core.

And once we find the root issue, we have to redirect our thoughts on a godly track. Derailing the old self and fueling the new. Letting go of anxieties and trusting His perfect sovereignty. Taking all thoughts captive to obey Christ.

Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”


Monday, November 25, 2013

Jesus is My Boyfriend.

Yeah. No.

The "Jesus is my boyfriend" mentality is springing up all over the place in 'Christian' pop culture. Teens are facebooking on their 'relationship' with Jesus. Not as a spiritual, Savior of my Soul and Lord of my life kind of relationship, but as a gushing of emotion over quite honestly inconsequential nothings.

As soon as we get over the initial weirdness of the idea that people are 'dating' a guy who ascended into heaven almost two thousand years ago, and the fact that thousands of teens all claim to be dating the same guy, we can get to the theological issues at heart.

The proliferation of songs like Hold Me, for instance, demonstrate this mentality. While it could be argued the song has a deeper meaning than what is immediately apparent, the fact that it sounds like a song Rascal Flatts would record is a problem. When I turn to a radio station claiming to be presenting music glorifying to Christ, I don't want to hear something that, with the changing of two or three words, could be applied to a romantic relationship. It's shallow.

This goes beyond the explicit Jesus is my boyfriend idea, but on a much more common level, devaluing our relationship with Jesus as something less than what He actually is.

Jesus is Lord. I've been reading a book by John MacArthur called The Gospel according to Jesus. In it, he makes the point that the way we interpret Lord is not sufficient, as the literal translation of 'servant' in much of the New Testament is actually 'slave.' We are to be completely "sold out" to Christ. In every sense of the phrase. He has bought us with His blood, we are his servants. By elevating ourselves to "significant other" status, we lose a very important facet of salvation.

Jesus is our savior. Jesus laid down his life in one of the most terrible ways possible. We cheapen the value of such a sacrifice by elevating ourselves. If we are on such a level we can call Jesus "buddy," Then we are his equals. We wouldn't need a savior, and He most definitely would not be our Lord.

Regardless how you couch it, the "Jesus is my BF" mentality can take many forms. Even the way in which we pray can reflect an offhanded and irreverence for the saving and purchasing work He did on the cross.

Leaping Lizard

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Four Gospels Breakdown

I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved…
1 Corinthians 15:1-2

Note: As I was researching, I found I really couldn’t say most of this better than how put it. Please be aware most of the gospel contrasting is directly copied from and is not my own work.

Why four gospels? Each gospel was written for a specific audience, each emphasizing different aspects of Christ’s life. Why not just one big gospel? Early law stated the necessity of more than one witness to verify a testimony, and all four accounts match up.

“Well, they don’t match up exactly,” you might say (I thought the same thing). Tell me, if all four gospels written by four different people matched up word for word, would you find that more credible?

Which gospel is best? Yes. They all have distinct purposes and styles, and all are inspired by the Holy Spirit. For your reading and studying pleasure, I have a small comparison and contrast of each gospel with its respective author, audience, and characteristics.

Audience: Matthew was writing to a Hebrew audience.
Objective: One of his purposes was to show from Jesus' genealogy and fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies that He was the long-expected Messiah, and thus should be believed in. Matthew's emphasis is that Jesus is the promised King, the “Son of David.” The phrase “This was to fulfill the prophesy…” appears repeatedly in Matthew.
Characteristic: Matthew was a tax collector, number-oriented, and often records the number of people at events.

Audience: Mark wrote for a Gentile audience.
Objective: His Gentile focus is brought out by his not including things important to Jewish readers (genealogies, Christ's controversies with Jewish leaders, frequent Old Testament references). Mark emphasizes Christ as the suffering Servant, the One who came not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many.
Additional note: This is a faster-paced, action-packed gospel, highlighting Christ’s miracles and works here on earth.

Audience: Because Luke specifically wrote for the benefit of Theophilus, a Gentile, his gospel was composed with a Gentile audience in mind.
Objective: His intent is to show that a Christian's faith is based upon historically reliable and verifiable events. Luke often refers to Christ as the “Son of Man,” emphasizing His humanity. Characteristic: He was a detail-oriented doctor and diligent historian and shares many details that are not found in the other gospel accounts. 
Additional notes: Luke also wrote Acts.

Audience: Mixed
Objective: John emphasizes the deity of Christ, as is seen in his use of such phrases as “the Word was God,” “the Savior of the World,” “Son of God” (used repeatedly) and several “I Am” statements by Jesus. John also emphasizes the fact of Jesus' humanity, desiring to show the error of a religious sect of his day who did not believe Christ’s humanity. John 20: 30-31 reveals his overall purpose: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Additional note: John writes in a differently layout than the first three “Synoptic Gospels.”

Although all four gospels differ from each other in style and audience, each accurately accounts Christ’s life for us to appreciate who He is and what He has done for us so that we may have life through faith in Him.



Monday, November 11, 2013

How TeenPact Changed My Life

Ever since I was little, I have been terrified of public speaking.  No matter how hard my mom tried to get me involved in public speaking contests to help me get over my fear, it never quite worked.  One year, however, we heard about a weeklong hands-on government class called TeenPact designed to talk about many things including leadership, current events, government, and public speaking.  In the five years following, TeenPact has taught me that my fear of public speaking limits my potential, and has helped me towards overcoming that fear.

The first time I heard about TeenPact, I could not see past the fact that I would have to stand up in front of everyone and read a mock bill that I had written to see what other benefits the class offered. Somehow I avoided the weeklong class, but I couldn’t get out of the public speaking class TeenPact offered at the end of the week.  My sister had attended the class and loved it, but my reaction was quite the opposite.  Over lunch, while everyone else was writing their speeches, I became so nervous that I burst into tears and refused to participate—I convinced myself that I would embarrass myself and the world would end.

The next year, no matter how much I protested, I was forced to go—the phrase “dragged kicking and screaming” doesn’t come anywhere close to describing my reaction.  The thought of reading my bill in front of everyone still terrified me, but as I was waiting for my turn, one of the staffers took the time to reassure me that standing up in front everyone still scared them.  With that knowledge, I was able to go onto the stage, knees shaking, voice trembling, to read the first few paragraphs and later call my mom to say that I was enjoying it after all. After that, I let myself take everything in and began realizing that I was only holding myself back by allowing the fear of public speaking to control me.  Once I realized that I was the only thing holding myself back, TeenPact started not only teaching me leadership, government, and public speaking, but also the self-confidence I needed to help me get over my fear.

Two years later, I found myself willingly standing on that stage to argue in favor of my mock bill and answer questions about it--essentially an impromptu speech.  The next year, I did the same thing, but in addition to that, I begged to be allowed to stay for the public speaking class after the main class was over--the same one that had brought me to tears five years earlier.  Now that I was taking these steps towards overcoming my fear, I decided to take it a step further and help others do the same.  After the extreme reaction I had after my first encounter with TeenPact, if someone were to have told me that a few years later, I would be applying to staff that very same class, I would have laughed in their face.  And yet, that’s exactly what I did.   

In a span of five years, TeenPact transformed a thirteen-year-old who was scared senseless at the thought of having to give a short speech into a seventeen-year-old who was biting at the bit to become more involved in public speaking opportunities.  Not to say that public speaking no longer scares me, and not to say that it is my favorite past time, but I no longer burst into tears at the thought of giving a speech.  I simply remember what my first TeenPact staffer told me and remember that it’s okay to still be scared, as long as I don’t let it control me.

~Comma Queen

To find out more about TeenPact, you can visit their website:

Please note: TeenPact does not condemn or condone this article.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sheep Among Wolves

"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."
Matthew 10:16

     I have always been intrigued by this verse. Partly because of the way it contrasts with much of the rest of scripture (John 10 for instance). Party because of the imagery used, partly because of the greater context of the passage. This verse, along with the rest of Matthew 10, is a precursor to the Great Commission, and understanding it is definitely a major part of understanding how Christians are to share our faith.

    The contrast presented here is interesting, to say the least. When we look at the rest of the passage we see that as Christ sends out His disciples to the Israelites in order to proclaim the gospel, which is not an uncommon thing for Christ to command. The language here, however, is very different from other 'commission' passages and creates some apparently antithetical ideas. Looking at verse one, we see that the disciples were given "authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness." But compare that with verse 16 above. Sheep are powerless creatures, but Christ clearly gives the disciples some very powerful gifts. Another point is that the Israelites are not simply called Israelites, but rather "The Lost Sheep of Israel (v. 6)." 
Now I'm confused, the disciples are being sent out as sheep among wolves that are actually lost sheep?
Kind of. See, not all the Israelites are lost sheep. There are wolves preying among the sheep of Israel, the Pharisees. The disciples are being sent to lead the lost sheep away from the Pharisaical wolves, and to The Good Shepherd.

     The imagery used here is also very powerful. Sheep and wolves, snakes and doves. Sheep are helpless creatures, depending wholly on their shepherd for protection. When Christ gives the disciples power, and reassures them in verses 26 through 31, He is demonstrating that He will protect His sheep from the wolves, even if He isn't present. What are the wolves? Wolves are smart, dangerous hunters, capable of hunting individually and as a pack. Christ is warning us that our opponents are not clueless animals lashing out at anything they can reach, but calculating and dangerous. We need to be on our guard and to be as "shrewd as snakes."
Why do we need to be as innocent as doves though? Because in order to effectively share the good news, we need to be living out the lifestyle of one who has given over everything to Christ.

     As sheep, we are under the protection of our Shepherd. But, we are sent out into the world to confront evil and share the good news. Which is much easier said than done. Good thing our Shepherd is stronger than the wolves.

Leaping Lizard