Friday, March 12, 2010


Okay, so this isn't really a paradigm shift to me, just something that I was thinking about recently. But maybe it will be a paradigm shift to someone else.

What makes a hero? That we could debate
Is a hero a constant state of being, like being male or female
Or is it something we grow into, like being a man or a woman
Or is it something we are for a fleeting moment
Yet recognized forever
Such as an olympic gold medal winner
Or is it something that comes and goes
Like a world record holder
Who knows

This I am convinced of, though
A true hero isn't made by accomplishing spectacular feats
Everybody can be a hero
Sometimes you'll be recognized as a hero by everybody
Other times, nobody will know except you and God
But I'm convinced that everyone can be a hero

For what is a hero
Except someone who simply puts others before themselves
When a friend needs a shoulder to cry on
And you are there, you are a hero
When your partner needs a task done
And you do it for them, even though you don't have to, you are a hero
When someone is to blame for something
And you take the blame, even though you're at fault
You're a hero, even if they never realize it

Most of the time, opportunities to be a hero are small
But many times, just a small dose of selflessness
Could transform you from the person who made the problem worse
To somebody's hero

Yes, you have needs too
And there are many times when standing up for what you need is good
But there are times when you should forget your own needs
And that was one of those times
I can't say what you were thinking
But to me the right thing to do seemed obvious

If you didn't feel like being a hero
You didn't have to be
You could have ignored the situation
Instead, you had to go and make it worse
Is it really that difficult to see that sometimes what you need just doesn't matter
That the right thing to do is to give up your need for a moment
You didn't have to come and try to help
Although if you did, you could have been her hero

I just think it's so sad
That in a moment where you could have been a hero
You not only chose not to be
But became the enemy
The choice seems so clear and so simple to my eyes
Maybe its not to yours

Yet the fact remains
You could have been a hero
But you weren't

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sooo...what exactly is sin?

If you're like me and you've grown up in the church, you probably think the answer to the above question is really, really simply. Especially if you were taught a short, simply, Sunday School-type answer like "Sin is anything we think, say, or do that goes against what God says in the Bible."

But could it be that the simple Sunday School definition misses the point?

I think the traditional definition of sin that we all grew up with is closer to the Wikipedia definition of sin rather than the actual meaning of the word: sin is the concept of acts that violate a moral rule (Wikipedia).

First and most obvious problem with the Wikipedia definition is that "acts" is too narrow--the Bible clearly demonstrates that their are thoughts, attitudes, and lifestyles that are sinful. Second is that sometimes there aren't cut-and-dry "moral rules". Sometimes there are--the ten commandments are an obvious example. But other times, we are simply given general principles to live by.

So what exactly is sin? The Greek word for sin is hamartia, which literally translates "to miss or fall short". In the Greek, this word is often used in the context of archery, meaning "to miss the target". It doesn't carry the connotation of aiming for the wrong thing. It carries the connotation of aiming for the right thing and missing.

Sin is not simply a list of actions, thoughts and attitudes that displease God. Sin is anything that falls short of God's glory. So for all of us who memorized Romans 3:23, "For all of sinned and fall short of the glory of God", it's time for a paradigm shift. We don't fall short of the glory of God because we sin (as I thought for so long). We sin because we fall short of the glory of God. James 4:17 is also a good passage to keep in mind--"To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." If sin was only a list of don't's, this verse wouldn't apply very well.

So many times we ask ourselves the wrong question: "Is this wrong?" when what we really should be asking is "Does this help me grow to be more like Christ? Would I want Jesus Christ to sit next to me as I listen to this music/watch this movie/etc.?"

Phillipians 4:8 is a good passage to look to when deciding whether something is okay or not. The question is not "What is wrong with this?" but "What is right?"

I'll use a very obvious example to illustrate the difference--boundaries in dating. Too many people ask the question "How far is too far?" when contemplating physical boundaries with their significant other. That question shows a misunderstanding of sin. The question isn't "How much can I get away with?" but rather "How can I glorify God in this relationship?" God's standard isn't a line to be played with. God's standard is purity and treating the other person with respect. In the end, the practical application may be different for everyone. I know that I don't want anyone kissing me unless they're seriously committed to me. This is why I've decided I'm saving my first kiss for the day I get engaged at least, if not my wedding day. Other people may have no problem kissing their boyfriend or girlfriend while dating--that's between them and God. But I don't consider my standard a "line". Instead, I've decided I want to pursue purity in my relationships and treat others the way I want to be treated.

So let us quit asking what is sin and what is not, and let us pursue God's standards. We will fall short, yes, and let us repent and ask forgiveness when we do. But let's shift our focus off of a list of rules and onto striving for Christlike character. For as Proverbs says, the heart is the wellspring of life (paraphrased). If we have Christlike character, our actions will follow.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

It's Okay to be Judgmental

You probably read the title of this post and immediately though, what? She's out of her mind. That's definitely false. What about "Judge not lest ye be judged"? That's in the Bible.

First off-yes, that is in the Bible. But it's been twisted. Allow me (or more accurately, God through me) to potentially shift your paradigm when it comes to the issue of judging.

First off, what does it mean to be judgmental? Typically, people say someone else is "judging" them when they perceive the other person to disapprove of their choices. Technically, "judging" means calling anything either right or wrong, but the vast majority of the time, "judging" carries a negative connotation. In my experience, there are several different types of judging, some right, some wrong.

There are a few types of wrong judgment that are very obvious. For example, treating someone differently because they don't wear name-brand clothing is very, very wrong. Treating someone else in a disrespectful manner due to a morally wrong choice they made is also wrong--two wrongs don't make a right. Some more "subtle" examples of this kind of judging are also wrong. For example, cutting off a friendship completely because you differ on a morally "gray" area is probably not necessary (unless they are asking you to do stuff that goes against your conscience, such as watching a movie that has content you are not comfortable with).

However, most of the time when people complain about other people being "judgmental", they are simply complaining that someone else has a moral issue with a choice they made. Most of the time the people haven't actually treated them disrespectfully, but they can't stand the thought that anyone would dare make a moral judgment about their choice.

Making moral judgments about other people's choices, however, is not just okay--it's necessary. It's necessary in order to decide how much time you should be spending with someone. It's necessary in order to know how to pray for them. It's necessary so that you don't get sucked into their wrong choices. It's necessary because the Bible commands it.

Are you serious? You may be asking. Completely:

Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment. John 7:24

And the verse that you're probably quoting in your head right now in order to refute me? Let's take a look at that verse in context:

1Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Matthew 7:1-5

First off, let's think about the crowds that Jesus was talking to. These were a very religious people, taught by the Scribes and the Pharisees, two religious groups that are well-known for their legalism. They were concerned with the correct religious appearance on the outside, not about their heart attitude toward God. Judging with a wrong attitude is wrong.

But that doesn't mean that all judgment is wrong. Take a second look at verse 5 again. Most people just see the beginning part "First take the plank out of your own eye..." and miss the second part "...and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." It's assumed that eventually you will remove the speck from your brother's eye. You're not going to just leave it there.

What Jesus is saying in this passage is NOT "You're not perfect, so don't judge anyone" like so many people think He's saying. What He's actually doing is warning us about judging. As is said in verse 2, others will judge us the way we judge others. If you get onto somebody about not spending time in the Word daily, people will hold you accountable to be in the Word daily. If you question people's choices of friends, people will scrutinize who you choose to befriend. Be sure that you are right with God in a particular area before making a moral judgment about someone else in that same area. Beware the plank in your eye before judging the speck in your brother's.

So if you're disobedient to your parents, don't confront your friend about his or her disobedience to their parents. First, deal with your sin before confronting someone else about theirs. But don't use this passage to avoid confronting fellow brothers and sisters in Christ about their sin. And definitely avoid using the passage in order to justify not using discernment at all.

As long as your motives and behavior are in line, making judgments about others behavior is not just okay, it's required. Sometimes you won't come to a definite decision--you may decide that it's a gray area. But you need to be exercising discernment.

And if you feel that someone else has been judgmental of you, it may be time to step back and re-evaluate. Too many times, people put up walls and refuse to listen to other people, saying "Don't judge me" and using the Bible improperly to justify their defensiveness. If you feel that you have been judged, there are a few questions I have for you:

Is it possible that they're right? Or at the very least, that they see something that you don't? Even if they are being wrongfully judgmental, we should always be looking to see if their's some truth in what they're saying.

Have they actually changed how they're treating you because of your choice? Are they treating you disrespectfully? Most of the time, people haven't changed their behavior. We just feel like they have because we expect their disapproval. If they have changed their behavior, is it justified? For example, have they stopped hanging around you because they are uncomfortable with a behavior, such as excessive drinking or cussing?

Have you changed the way you've treated them? Have you given them a reason to be wary of you? I have had people tell me outright "Don't you dare be judgmental of me" right after telling me about something I don't approve of. To put it bluntly, that puts me in a really difficult spot! Especially if it's a brother or sister in Christ. Notice that you're doing the same thing you're accusing the other person of doing--being judgmental! If you change your behavior or attitude towards others, of course they're probably going to change their behavior and attitude towards you.

There is a lot of judging going on in this world that is wrong. A lot. But our culture has gone to the opposite end of the extreme in teaching that all judgment is wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is okay to be judgmental. Don't be scared of morally discerning other's actions. As long as your motives are right and your basing your discernment upon God's Word, judge with confidence. If you feel that you've been judged, it may be time for a paradigm shift on your end.

Judge with right judgment.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The most impacting paradigm shift I've experienced

This was originally a post I made on an old blog of mine called "God Said It Best", which turned into my senior speech at Grace Covenant Church, which turned into my original oratory speech in the NCFCA. Over the years (wow, it's literally been a couple years) since I originally wrote it, I have seen people both freed by their understanding of this message, as well as get really angry and fight against it with all their might. It's probably the most controversial of all the paradigm shifters I'm going to post about, but it's the biggest one with the most far-reaching impact. It will impact your understanding of who God is, who you are, and your place in God's plan.

The title of this message?

God Does NOT Care About Your Happiness.

Translation: By "not caring", I mean that when God (who is all-knowing, all-wise, and all-powerful) decides how He is going to arrange the circumstances in your life, your happiness is not a factor in His decisions. God's goal is not for you to be happy.

Old paradigm: "God wants me to be happy. He died on the cross because He couldn't stand the thought of living without me. If I had been the only one on earth, He still would have died for me."

You probably think that you don't view things through this paradigm, but chances are you probably do. This paradigm manifests itself in many different ways-from the miniscule, almost unnoticeable to the big and devastating.

The Truth: God did not die for you because you are special. You are special because God died for you. God is more concerned that you grow in character than He is about you feeling happy. Happiness is not a goal that God strives for, and neither should we. God's main goal is His glory, and when we strive for that goal, we experience joy and true happiness. Happiness is a byproduct, not a goal.

I'm surprised by the number of people who justify disobedience to God based on what they think will make them happy. "You have no clue what I've gone through/am going through", they say. "Surely God understands. The rules don't exactly apply in my situation."

Um, let me break it to you. God doesn't understand. His rules apply regardless of your situation. Show me one verse in the Bible where it says that God's goal is for you to be happy. No really, I challenge you to look. If you find it, I want to see it. We hear so much in church about how "God love you so much that if you had been the only one on earth, God would have died for you".

That's not in the Bible.

What is in the Bible is this: "God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—He did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the One who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."-Romans 3:25-26, emphasis mine.

Why did God let Jesus die on the cross? To have a restored relationship with us, yes. But I don't believe that was the primary purpose.

But wait! you say. What about Romans 5:8, where it says that "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us"?

Notice a word that is common between those two verses. Yes, God sent Jesus to die in our place because He loves us. I'm not arguing against that. What I am saying is that God's love for us was a secondary purpose. I very important secondary purpose, yes, but a secondary purpose nonetheless.

Did you find the word?

The word is demonstrates.

God didn't have to die for us. But He did because it brought Him glory. It demonstrated parts of His character-His justice (as Romans 3:25-26 says) as well as His love (Romans 5:8). Demonstrating His character through the cross brought glory to God.

I've had many people tell me that if I was the only one on earth, Christ would have died for me. I can't find it in the Bible. What I do find is verses that tell me that Christ's death brought glory to God. If I had been the only one on earth, and dying for me still brought God glory, I'm sure He would have done it. But if it didn't bring Him glory, I don't believe He would have.

I went off on a tangent about the cross because I wanted to point out something--God's primary goal. It's not to love us. Not to make us happy. It's to bring glory to Himself.

Christians today, especially American Christians, have gotten the wrong view that God's goal is to make humans happy. That God is some sort of "genie in a bottle" to grant us our wishes and make us comfortable. Nothing could be further from the truth.

So, in the grand scheme of things, what does bringing glory to God mean for us? The answer is found in Romans 8:29: For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

A lot of people use this verse to debate predestination, and miss the point. God's goal for Christians is clearly spelled out in this verse: conformity to the image of Christ. Happiness is a byproduct of pursuing conformity to Christ. Actually, let me take that back for a second.

"Happiness" is a pretty vague word. Often, "happiness" is used interchangeably with "joy", although the two mean very different things. Happiness is an emotion, while joy is a character quality. Anything can give us happiness, but only pursuing conformity to Christ can give us true joy.God gives us opportunities to develop Christlike character qualities. Sometimes (dare I say, oftentimes), that means that God arranges circumstances that will actually make us unhappy and uncomfortable.

However, if we take those opportunities to develop Christlike character, we will develop
joy, which is superior to happiness. As I said, happiness is an emotion. Thus it is fleeting. Joy, on the other hand, is a character quality, and thus is constant.

So, paradigm shift: Stop thinking that God cares about your happiness. He cares about your character. Put God in His rightful position. Pursue His goals, and you will find yourself truly joyful.

Heaven, we need some paradigms shifted

"Everything that can be invented has been invented."-Charles H. Duell, U.S. Commissioner of Patenets, in 1899

Sounds pretty stupid, no? But he was convinced it was true.

I had the privilege of a two hour drive with my sister this past Sunday, and we talked a lot about paradigms. For those of you who don't know what a paradigm is, it's basically your point of view, your belief system, your frame of reference. Actually, everyone has multiple paradigms. Paradigms are like the glasses through which we see the world. Most of the time, we have inaccurate or incomplete paradigms, and it's like seeing the world through glasses with the wrong prescription. Props to Sean Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens, for the glasses analogy. Speaking of that book, by the way, my sister is currently reading it, and I read it several years ago. Highly, highly recommended book. I have a copy of it here with me at college and I'm willing to lend it to anyone who wants to read it.

But back to the point. We were talking about paradigms, and how most of the time our paradigms are inaccurate and cause us to view things in a skewed manner. For example, have you ever had a friend who is usually talkative become very quiet around you, and you assume that you did something wrong? When you finally talked to them about it, it turned out that they were having a bad day--maybe they were worried about their grade in a class, or they had just gotten in a fight with another friend. Your paradigm was inaccurate because you had incomplete information. Once you had the additional information, your paradigm was shifted.

Other times, our paradigms are messed up because we have messed up beliefs to begin with. For example, you may believe that you aren't good at a particular subject, such as math or science. When you get a low grade on a test, you may conclude that it's because you just can't learn the material, even though the truth is that you can learn the material, and it's likely that the material on the test was just difficult.

When we have messed up paradigms, we end up making statements that sound just as stupid as the quote at the beginning of the post. The thing is, most of the time nobody realizes just how stupid the statements really are. For example:

"God doesn't care where I go to college/who I marry/etc."
"You can't judge me. You don't understand where I'm coming from!"
"You can't judge me, the Bible says not to judge."
"That can't be God's will, because it won't make me happy."
"You need to date a lot of people to figure out what kind of person you want to marry."
"God, You better have an explanation for that one."
"God, do You even care?"
"I'm this way because of how I grew up/my parents/my education/etc."
"It's part of my personality, I can't help it."

I'm sure anyone reading this has probably said something on the above list, or something similar, before. I know I have. I know I've probably offended someone with the above list.

I don't care.

And here's why:

Over the past several years of my life, God has shown me a lot of truths that go against a lot of what is taught in youth groups, sunday schools, churches, and bible studies today. Some of the things that are taught are just flat out wrong. Others are partially true, but must be balanced against another side of the coin. The result of these wrong or skewed teachings, though, is having a devastating effect on my generation and the generations below me.

Over the next few days I want to post a few of the most major paradigm shifters God has revealed to me, through His Word, other people who are wiser than I, books, sermons, etc. My hope is that others can have their perspectives change the way mine has. I'm not perfect, or even close to perfect, by any means. I'm just a child of God who is frustrated by all the messed up paradigms she sees around her. God can free this generation of the paradigms holding us back. But in order to do so, we must be willing to listen to the truth.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Learning About Trust

I used to think that trusting God came easily to me.

What a joke.

It did, for what I understood trusting God to mean. I could say "My God will supply all my needs" with full confidence and not a single ounce of doubt. But lately, I've been having a harder and harder time trusting God.

So what happened?

The lightbulb went on when I was talking with Charity this weekend. My problem has never really been with "My God will supply". I believe with all of my being that God is all-powerful and all-good, and that it is He alone who controls the universe. My problem has been with "all my needs".

See, for many, many years now I have defined "needs" as what I need to physically survive-food, clothing, and shelter. I've never worried that there wouldn't be food on the table. I've never worried that I won't have anything to wear. I've never worried that I won't have a place to sleep at night. I've never worried that there won't be enough money. It's truly, honestly never even crossed my mind.

But it hit me recently that "needs" is not just restricted to physical needs. You think I would have realized this a loooooong time ago, especially considering that I studied Maslow's hierarchy of needs freshman year of college. For those of you not familiar, Maslow's theory was that people's needs are like a pyramid. On the bottom are physiological needs-food, water, shelter. The next level was safety needs, both physical and emotional safety. Next is love/belonging needs, followed by the esteem needs (need for accomplishment, respect, etc.). At the top are the "self-actualization" needs, basically the ability to "be all you can be". His theory was that humans fulfill the needs in that order, and if a more basic need is being met, humans will ignore the "higher" needs until the basic needs are fulfilled. There are some flaws with his theory, but that's not the point.

The point is that for the longest time I have only defined "needs" as the bottom level, or maybe the bottom two levels, of the pyramid. My God WILL supply all my physical and safety needs. I've never had a single problem believing that.

I've realized that my problem is that my definition of "needs" is too narrow. I've realized that to really trust God means to believe that my God will supply ALL MY NEEDS-from the physical needs, to the needs for love and relationships, to the need to feel fulfilled. Trusting God means believing that HE and HE ALONE will fulfill every last need that I have.

My God will supply all my needs.

No doubts.


So that's what "trust" means in the context of relating to God. Next question: Does that "trust" extend to other humans, or does trusting other people take on a different meaning that trusting God? Can you still "trust" someone while maintaining a bit of a guard because you know that they are human, and they will more than likely fail you? What do you do when someone loses your trust? Should you ever get to the point where you unconditionally trust somebody?

My God will supply all my needs...including answers to the big(ger) questions of life.