The FUTURE.

I’ve for many years been known as someone who loves to know the answers. Not knowing things eats at me, creating a dissatisfaction until I figure it out and make it my own. And I love to know these things. I love having answers. Over the past several weeks, I’ve received one particular question more than any other: “So, what are you going to do with your life now?”

If you had asked me that question 6 years ago, I would have had an answer.
If you had asked me that question 3 years ago, I would have had an answer.
If you had asked me that question 1 year ago, I would have had an answer.

But today, “I don’t know”.
In the previous few weeks, I completed a year-long internship at Cuyahoga Valley Church (CVC). I entered the internship expecting to be immediately launched out into full-time ministry following my conclusion. But as the days remaining slowly ran out, I ran into confusion. Opportunities were presenting themselves left and right, many of them were everything that I would have hoped for in a full-time ministry. Yet God showed time and time again that these opportunities were not his plan. Sometimes He did so by closing the door… Other times He did so by taking me by the hand, leading me away as I stewed in anger, and vied after the beautiful open door that I had seen. More clearly than anything, He’s shown me areas of both character and capacity that I must grow in before stepping into a full-time ministry role.

But… This is what I wanted. This is what I went to college for. This is why I’ve chased after my Savior, and now at what seems to be the prime time why would He hold me back?

My sleeping issues have flared up in recent days. I’m up all hours of the night, playing my guitar, watching SportsCenter, and most often, sitting staring mindlessly at the wall as I try to determine what the heck I’m supposed to do as questions of doubt flood my mind.

Where are you going to live next week?
Are you seriously back working at a Chick-fil-A? I thought you were past that stage?
Why didn’t you take one of those positions where money and housing wouldn’t have been a concern?
Can God really fill this gnawing in your spirit that you grapple with?
How could you have been so stupid to believe that you could sustain yourself this way?
Why are you concerning yourself with what you think God is trying to do?
Do you really think that anybody cares about you and your problems right now?
Is following God’s plan really better than everything you wanted and could have had?
Is it worth it?
Is it really worth it?

The most intimidating thing about this stage of life is that obedience to God’s direction is what put me in this situation to begin with. If I had followed my flesh and my desires, I wouldn’t have had to worry about this. And I’m learning now more than ever that obedience is really hard… and obedience is really scary.

Is it really worth it?
I pray my answer is yes… But my head knows it better than my heart.

In the meantime, I aim to walk:
in trembling, but not in fear.
in obedience, but not in complacency.
in confidence, but not in pride.

The questions above are questions that I don’t have the answers to. I don’t know.
But while there is much that I don’t know, there is something that I do know.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” 

For now, I’m enjoying working at the Chick-fil-A in Macedonia, OH while I continue leading worship and volunteering with the high-school students at CVC. I’m surrounded by brothers and sisters in the Lord who love me and are helping to encourage me to maturity in faith as I walk down this path of unknown.
I covet your prayers today more than I did yesterday, and I imagine I will covet them even more tomorrow.

In Christ,
Kevin

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He Grew in Grace

This past week, I was exploring in J.C. Ryle’s Holiness. It’s a wonderful book, filled with impassioned pleas and pointed wisdom from a 19th century theologian. One of the early chapters in the book is titled “Growing in Grace”. I don’t know that this chapter would have meant much to me… had I not also been reading through the life of David in 2 Samuel, and been pondering what “growth in grace” is supposed to look like in the life of a believer. (More particularly… this believer.)

Throughout Scripture, David is described as being “a man after God’s own heart”. When I consider my own relationship with God, there is little that I would like to be more true of me than this.

Yet, I often wonder how this could be. In Isaiah 64, God reveals to us that our righteous deeds are as filthy rags. Our righteous deeds! (It makes you wonder how nasty the metaphor would be for our unrighteous deeds!) How can I chase after God’s own heart while putting out disgusting filthy rags. Also, it is important for to realize that God’s grace does not only extend to my  salvation, but additionally to my  santicification! Not only am I entirely incapable of redeeming myself from sin, but also at becoming more “holy”.

Honestly, this has often left me at a point of frustration. As believers, we’re told that we should be growing in grace, yet as I try, I grow more and more overwhelmed at my own insufficiency and disgust at the filthy rags that are produced. It seems the harder I work, the filthier the rags. Not to mention the seeming phenomena shared by all believers: the closer one draws near to the magnificent light of the full truth of God’s greatness, more of the wickedness of my own heart is unearthed, and I am ashamed.

It seems the harder I work, the filthier the rags.

What is there left for me to do? The more that I discover about God, the more overwhelming my revealed depravity is! As more is unearthed, I often am left considering, “can I take this anymore?” How can I feel as though I am “growing in grace” whilst simultaneously “growing more aware of how disgusting my heart is”?

It is quite the conundrum… Until my motives are revealed.
As I read Ryle’s Holiness, I came across this thought: “the cost of holiness is a man’s self-righteousness. He must cast away all pride and high thoughts, and conceit of his own goodness.” (Here’s the kicker) “He must be content to go to heaven as a poor sinner saved only by free grace, and owing all to the merit and righteousness of another… He must be willing to give up all trust in his own morality, respectability, praying, Bible-reading, church-going, and sacrament-receiving, and to trust in nothing but Jesus.” My heart both jumped and sank as I first read this phrase. For it showed me the err in my understanding.

I wasn’t hoping to “grow in grace” so that I might “grow in grace”. I was looking for a way to trust in my morality. I was searching for a path that would allow me to feel good about my actions. I was seeking to validate all of my filthy rags, in the hopes that I could delusionally present them to God. I wasn’t trying to grow in grace, I was trying to justify my own righteousness so that I might put stock in it.

If you’re like me, this is a bitter pill to swallow. Yet, if I don’t continually strip my heart of pride, that pill will grow bigger and bigger until I choke on it. I encourage you to join me as we
“Cast away all pride and conceit of our own goodness, and be willing to give up all trust in our own morality, respectability, praying, Bible-reading, church-going, and sacrament-receiving, and to trust in NOTHING BUT JESUS CHRIST.”

Until next time.

Praises,
Keving

Happy _____ Day… And other Christmas thoughts

I can’t tell you how many discussions I’ve witnessed over the years arguing the reasons for keeping Christ in Christmas. Between the progressive liberals and conservative believers, there are many individuals with staunch beliefs as to what can/can’t be said and what should/shouldn’t be celebrated. I don’t claim to be trying to set the record straight, I think I’m far from capable of doing that. Instead, I hope that this may be an informative read for you on the tradition of the holiday that is being celebrated today, regardless of the reason you’re celebrating.

The church today is attempting to convince culture that they should be keeping “Christ” in Christmas. A worthy endeavor. Christmas is, after all, about Christ and His birth. But it is important to know that the age-old ideas that formed what we call today Christmas was not always about a baby that was born in a manger.

In ancient Rome, each year a great feast would be held. The feast was called Saturnalia, a celebration of the end of harvest, and it had many interesting traditions associated with it. At this time of year, there was a great sense of goodwill, as over-indulgence ran rampant. Houses would be decorated and lavish feasts would be thrown. Slaves would be allowed to rule as masters for a day, there was mass-cross dressing and drunkenness, and to top it all off: gift-giving. This is far from the modest and civil celebration we have today. As Christian-conversion occurred all across the nation, Christian Rome converted Saturnalia to a Christmas holiday to preserve the spirit that was experienced at that time of year.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/0/20617780

Another historical  holiday celebrated around the same time of year was Yule (Yule-tide carol!). This celebration was held in Northern Europe and was a time to ward off depression. The cold winter months were rather easy to feel depressed in, and culture sought to defy this possible occurrence. To do this, the community would gather around a massive log and get drunk together. Again, a far cry (hopefully) from the celebration that we have in America today.

https://www.questia.com/magazine/1P3-2886253961/tracing-the-festive-light-fantastic-resources

The early church wanted nothing to do with these kind of celebrations, labeling them as perverse and pagan rituals. The church would often ban its members from being a part of these celebrations. However, as many people across the continent were converted, the church had a difficult time attempting to convince its new adherents to forsake their old practices. In concession, the church established Christmas parties which were focused on celebrating Christ’s birth instead of pagan things. It re-purposed the focus of the holiday, but maintained many of its more raucous traditions.

When America was settled, the religious Pilgrims were greatly concerned of the dangers of a sinful celebration of Christmas, going as far as to ban the holiday in the majority of the settlements. Massachusetts was one such state. Founded in 1620, the Pilgrim settlers refused to allow the gaudy and ostentatious celebrations to have a part in the colony. Although the celebration in Europe was slowly becoming more and more similar to what we celebrate today in 2016, America was at war with Christmas and its concerning history. There was fear it could corrupt the New World. It wasn’t until 1870 when the federal government declared Christmas a holiday that Massachusetts and other regions opened up to the holiday. Even after Christmas was declared a holiday, much of the nation remained uncertain about Christmas’ role in society. It was the mass immigration of individuals and traditions in the early 1900’s that would ultimately lead to America’s more complete acceptance of Christmas.

http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-12-23/america-s-first-war-christmas

This information is an important piece to be considered in light of Christmas, and society’s view of it today. The church may fight to keep Christ in Christmas, but we must also recognize that many of the traditional parts of the holiday have little to do with Jesus. The reasoning behind certain traditions have changed over the years, and often the very traditions themselves have changed!

But what does this mean? Shall Christians forsake Christmas? Shall we cease celebration of the birth of Christ and be happy about jingling bells?

To my fellow Christ-followers, Christmas in centuries past was not celebrated as it is today. It is important that we grasp the truth of Christmases-past. However, that truth does nothing to the reason why we should celebrate today. The fact that people didn’t comprehend the monumental nature of Christ’s birth in the past does not diminish the spirit or reason why we should celebrate it as such today. And that is why I will continue to celebrate Christmas as a time of remembering the Lord’s birth, regardless of what society’s celebration focuses on. My dear brothers and sisters, society will celebrate whatever thing their hearts desire after at that time. Christianity is no longer the leading cultural ideology, and fewer and fewer individuals in our nation will celebrate Christmas as the time of Christ’s birth as the years goes on. Yet, that does not change the fact that we must celebrate Jesus Christ, no matter what the culture embraces.

To my unbelieving friends, I hope you enjoy this time with family and friends. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. But, while you may enjoy the Christmas season for any number of reasons, I hope you know that I don’t celebrate this holiday for a simple reason. I don’t celebrate it for the giving, for the family, for the weather, for the spirit. Because none of those things came down and died on a cross for my sin. I celebrate Jesus Christ and his incomprehensible gift. My spirit will never cease to look upon that truth with anything less less than awe. You may celebrate anything you wish, you can even celebrate a tree if you wish! Yet I will celebrate the Son of Man who came and died on a tree, for I am convinced that there is no greater cause for celebration.

Praises, and Merry Christmas.

He Humbled Himself

I aim to be like Christ. Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise… He is the only thing that I desire. I pray that now, and always.
In light of this desire, Philippians 2 is a baffling and convicting.passage.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

The more that I study the life of Jesus, the more convinced I am of a simple truth:

Jesus’ life wasn’t about Jesus.

See, if Jesus’ life was about Jesus, His life would have looked a little different.

If Jesus’ life was about Jesus, He would have had a parade and fireworks at His birth.
Instead He was born in a food trough.
If Jesus’ life was about Jesus, He would have had the most famous people anticipating Him.
Instead, shepherds, travelers, and livestock watched Him enter the world.
If Jesus’ life was about Jesus, He would have likely operated on the biggest of stages.
Instead, He traveled countryside roads speaking to those who would heed wisdom.
If Jesus’ life was about Jesus, He would have fought back against those who accused Him.
Instead, He was silent as a lamb before the slaughter.
If Jesus’ life was about Jesus, He would have ordered a legion of angels to strike down those who tortured Him.
Instead, He allowed soldiers to push a crown of thorns on His head, nails in His hands and feet, and nail Him to a cross.
If Jesus’ life was about Jesus, He wouldn’t have died on a cross.
But because Jesus’ life wasn’t about Himself, He did.

Paul tells us in Philippians 2, that because of Christ’s obedience and humbling, God exalted Christ! How can someone so humble be exalted in such a way? Because just like His life, Christ’s exaltation was not for the sake of Christ! In verses 10 and 11 Paul writes “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 

All of these things happen, not for the sake of Jesus’ exaltation, but for the glory of God the Father. The end goal of Christ’s life wasn’t Christ’s exaltation, (even though it happened) but God’s glory! And the same is true of our lives.

We like to think of ourselves as the end-all purpose of Christ’s sacrifice. We take verses about God’s love and use them to write us in as the ultimate reason. We, in misguided arrogance, put our salvation as the ultimate purpose of God’s sovereign plan and by extension Christ’s sacrifice. But why did God save us? Not simply so that we might be saved, but that He might be glorified in our salvation.

We must be like Christ, and humble ourselves. A seemingly impossible task, outlined simply for us in verse 8. “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient.” If we are to be like Jesus, we must begin by humbling ourselves by becoming obedient to the Father. Because like Christ, our lives aren’t about ourselves, but about bringing glory to the Father.

Still I Will Follow…

I love taking pictures of my shoes when I go someplace exciting. I’m not entirely sure why, but partially I feel as though the pictures represent my journey and my chasing something. The only question… What am I chasing?
Of the hymns that I’ve heard over my 21 years in Christian communities, few stick with me in the same way that “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” does.

A few weeks ago, the CVCYouth Team was talking in our weekly meeting about “headstone epitaph”. The question being asked “What do you want to be true/remembered of you?” The answer came to my mind almost immediately, because it’s a question I consider a lot.

If one statement could describe my heart, I desire it to be this… “Though none go with me, still I will follow… No turning back.”
This statement is everything that I wish to be true of me. But why? This is a pretty simple and basic statement… Yet it communicates a deep sentiment. Though none go with me…

Even if its hard, even if I must do it alone, even if it costs me everything. Still I will follow. Because what I follow is what is most important.

For years, I couldn’t say that. I placed condition, things which would have to be true in order for me to follow… Lord, if you make me happy, then I’ll follow. God, if you give me a relationship, then I’ll follow. Jesus, if following you brings me this, then I won’t turn back.

All of these convey a message; that the object I’m following isn’t worth it unless there’s something else added to the mix. If I tell Jesus, “give me this” and then I’ll follow You, than I tell Jesus that He is not enough!

If I only follow Jesus conditionally, then I don’t truly follow Jesus, I follow the conditions! If I’ll only follow after Him if He makes me comfortable, than I’m really following comfortability instead of Jesus.

My heart’s prayer is to run and chase fully after Jesus and Jesus alone. He doesn’t ask to be the “first of my heart” but rather the sole desire of it. That’s why even if none go with me, even if I do it alone, even if I do it hungry, or hurting, I will STILL Follow.

I will Follow.
Why? Because I’m following Jesus, and in Him is found a worth that surpasses all else.

Golden

Looking back on High School, many people see times with their friends. Nights spent making fun and sometimes rash decisions. Fridays spent hollering at the local high-school football game, surrounded by community. High school is often seen as the prelude to college, all in all the best years of one’s life.

When  I look back on my years in high school, I see none of those things. Instead, a picture comes to my mind. It’s a dark room, exposed by the dim light of a single desk lamp. Right beside it, sits a digital alarm clock, its poor red display showing it to be around 3 in the morning. On the desk, there’s a mound of books, piled upon each other. They’re placed there for priority, but among the mess of the desktop, it is evident that they aren’t used as much as desired. In the poor lighting, you can make out a few things in the background. A Bible, once marked up consistently, resides in the same place it has been for months. Mountain Dew cans scattered, rolled up paper-balls tossed in frustration beside them. Posters, footballs, baseball gloves, and guitars are all over the room… It used to be more fun in here. The once bright walls of the room have grown faint, barely visible now in the darkness. The pictures with friends that hang on the wall are now covered in dust. Joy, fun, happiness,  and contentment all used to reside here. But those memories and happier times have been replaced with a overwhelming sense of fear, loneliness, and desperation.

How did I reach this place? I never thought I’d find myself so close to the edge..

Growing up, I could not have been a more different person than who I became in high school. I was fun, people-loving, energetic, outgoing, extroverted, naive. As the oldest son of a youth pastor, I spent a ton of time around a community that loved me and wanted to see me succeed… And succeed I did. I quickly found that I was talented at many things. My charismatic personality put those things readily on display. Being on display increased my talent at these things, but also increased a desire to be even better. It fostered a pressure on my heart and on my spirit to be great. To be the best.

As I grew up and became a leader in many avenues, this feeling grew even more. The expectations grew. I was Kevin Lorow, the son of the youth pastor, of course I was going to be a spiritual leader. Of course I would succeed in all of these areas. I was the Golden Boy.

But then, life changed.

My family moved halfway through my 8th grade year. Everything I’d ever known was gone as we relocated from Columbus, OH to Newport News, VA. My school friends? Continuing on in the Plain City and Columbus School Systems. My church family that loved me? Now an 8 hour drive away from me. My best friends of 13 years? Back in the neighborhoods of the only place I’d ever truly known as home. I was someplace new… someplace foreign.

As we arrived in Newport News, I decided I wouldn’t let it beat me. My outgoing and charismatic self worked tirelessly to rebuild connections. Within a month, I was playing Varsity Baseball for the private school I attended, my family was consistently attending a wonderful home church, and I found myself helping to lead worship for my youth group that I adored.
A month or two after I moved, I found myself comfortable. I felt loved, supported, successful… Golden, once more.

But then, life changed again.

About a year after our first move, my family moved again. From Newport News, VA to Richmond, VA. I convinced all of my new friends I would be back to visit often, after all, it was only an hour drive. The sad reality of the situation was that those visits never really happened. The newfound friendships fizzled out, and the friends I had grown to love in Newport News went from friends, to acquaintances, to people that I used to know.
In Richmond, things grew dark quickly. I went from being in a school to being home-schooled. I went from surrounded by Christlike people, to alone as my family looked for a church. As a young individual who thrived off of the praise and affirmation of others, I was shell-shocked to be isolated. Outside of my family in the four walls of our home, I was utterly alone. There were thousands of people I had met and could connect with via Facebook or text… I had thousands of acquaintances, but no-one to be there with me.

That shock quickly turned to anger, as I began to hate my family. It was their fault! They messed everything up when we moved the first time, and had made things worse with the second move! I couldn’t stand any of them… And God? Please. If my dad hadn’t followed “God’s leading” none of us would have been in this mess in the first place. I felt extreme anger, hatred, and distrust towards the only people that I truly had around me and I isolated myself from them.

Given the dramatic change of my life, I needed people more than any other time in my life. But there was no-one. And my heart, once alive with a heartbeat for others, turned inward. I went from optimistic to pessimistic, from loving to hateful, from naive belief to deep distrust… From hopeful to cynical, from open honesty to closed reservation. My former bubbly, outgoing self was replaced by a wounded, introverted, and disenchanted spirit. Even though I needed people more than other time in my life, they simply weren’t there. And I refused to accept the fact that I wasn’t the “Golden Boy” I’d made myself out to be.

The Golden Boy could have handled this. He would stand tall, resolute, unflinching through these difficult storms. But I was struggling. For the first time, I saw that I wasn’t Golden. I was paralyzed by a fear that soon everyone else would see that truth as well. That the doubters would have their day and laugh as I failed. “We knew he couldn’t make it, because he’s weak.”
I developed a steel, cold-hearted determination to achieve the Golden Boy ideal. I would silence and scoff at those who doubted me. But to do that, I had to repress the feelings of fear, loneliness, and hopelessness that I felt with a false front of confidence and certainty in myself.

So I tried. The Golden Boy led worship for his church and youth group, he worked in the children’s ministry, he worked 40+ hours a week at Chick-fil-A, he did high-school online and took college courses as well, he played baseball. He was praised for his giftedness, his passion, his talent, his high ceiling, his incredible future, his intelligence. The Golden Boy had it made. But Kevin? Kevin didn’t know what to do. Beset by loneliness, hopelessness, I took myself to the edge. Given the demanding schedule, I’d be lucky to get four hours of sleep a night. My dreams grew vivid, as I’d see my own death. At first I was simply fearful, but then those dreams became the desired reality. I would avoid sleep at any cost to keep from experiencing the scary temptation of what those dreams offered. My schedule took what had been a mild sleeping problem to full-fledged insomnia that I still battle each night 5 years later. It drove me from feeling “down” after my move, to a deep depression that would push me to the edge. But I couldn’t let anyone know. If anyone knew this, the Golden Boy would die. How could I escape this pressure and this impossible feeling of hurt, pain, and fear?

In that dark room I described earlier, a door appears. I would ask myself what’s inside of it, except I already know. It’s the escape. The door has always been here, I just refuse to acknowledge it. Now, it grows bigger and bigger as it presents itself to me as the difficulty of the room escalates. To go through that door would end my struggle. It would replace my helplessness and fear… All of these terrible things would be gone. Replaced with vast nothingness.  The room shrinks smaller and smaller, while the door grows and grows until it looms over me… I have no choice.

March of my senior year arrived, and my already overpacked schedule grew even more intense. I would get around 10 hours of sleep between Monday and Saturday… Total. Even though I didn’t think it possible, life got harder. I’d wake up Monday at 1 in the afternoon to go to work until 11:30; I’d do homework until 3 or 4 in the morning, and then sleep until work at 5:30 am. Wednesdays and Thursdays I’d work from 5:30 am to 2:30 pm. I’d pick up my siblings from school, and then spend an hour on schoolwork before driving to church for vairous ministries. When we’d arrive home after church around 10:00 pm I had nearly the entire day’s worth of schoolwork to get done, with the next day already crushing down on me. The Golden Boy charade was growing impossible, how could I keep pretending everything was okay? How could I find rest from this meaningless and empty struggle? My sleep-deprived mind kept returning to the door… And now, I opened it.

Either the Golden Boy would die, or I would. 

One night, in late March, I came home from work at about 11 PM. It was a Monday. The full week was ahead of me. I had to be back at work in exactly 6.5 hours. My family was gone for the night doing something. I hadn’t touched any of my homework. I had videos to watch, books to read, and papers to write. In my despair, I wondered could I survive another week of this?
It was simple.

I couldn’t.

I pulled out a knife that I’d hidden in my room. It wasn’t pretty, but it would certainly do the job. Long, wickedly sharp, and poised to complete its task. I picked up the knife and moved it to my chest, letting its edge begin to prick the spot just over my heart. I held the knife with one hand, and grabbed a thick book with the other. I was afraid I would stop halfway and not be able to finish the job.

The door stands open, as I stand in the doorway and lean in as far as I can. Turning my head to examine the nothingness that lies within. I take a deep breath, closed my eyes, and prepared to step inside forever. But I find that I can’t move. I wasn’t able to take the step inside. I was paralyzed.

I sat there for three hours, tears rolling down my cheek… Paralyzed by fear. Fear of what would happen if I followed through with this, and fear of what would happen if I didn’t. As the hours ticked by, I came to the conclusion…
I couldn’t do it. How could I be afraid to do it, yet still afraid not to? How could I keep going on this way, without any hope?

A sleepless night passed,  and the next morning at 5:30 am I drove to work. I cried the whole way there, regretting what I had failed to do the night before.  A couple hours later, I was sent out to the side of the road in a Chick-fil-A cow costume. People passed by laughing at the amusing scene, seeing the cow waving and rocking back and forth. But inside the cow, stood a 17 year old boy who wanted nothing more than to end it all. Hopeless.

In many ways, that was how people viewed the Golden Boy. Standing outside, smiling and waving, but concealing immense hurt and fear below the surface.

That day in the cow costume forever changed my life.

I wish I could say that it was some event that occurred, because it would likely make more sense. But that’s not how it happened. In the moments by the side of the road, I spoke with God. For the first time in my life, I saw that I didn’t have to be the Golden Boy. I had heard the Gospel message a million times throughout my life, and had accepted Christ as a young boy. But I had never seen this. God’s unfailing love for me wasn’t (and isn’t) based off of my capacity of living up to the Golden Boy standard. In fact, God had allowed me to endure the pressure of attempting to achieve that standard to show me that it was beyond my reach. I had always heard that I needed God, but now I knew why I needed Him.I’d heard thousands of times that I needed Him. My head knew it better than anyone around me. But my heart had no clue. God used the brokenness of my high-school years to show my proud, arrogant heart the depth of my need for Him.

That day, my life and my perspective changed. I don’t have to be golden anymore. I didn’t need to make anyone else think I was golden anymore either. My hope, my purpose, my sufficiency is not found in my ability to be golden, or living up to this standard. Because I will always fall short. That’s why Jesus Christ died on a cross, because I couldn’t reach that standard.

Though the days of high-school are behind me, I still deal with the ramifications of that time. 5 years after the fact, my nights are long and restless even if I do fall asleep. My default mode to this day is a distrusting cynic. I’m still learning who I’m supposed to be in Christ. Every day I’m breaking my cynical heart and attempting to re-learn how to love others more than myself. It’s a difficult process removing the deepseeded roots of pride, selfishness, and pain that now exist, because they are often difficult to see.

But the Golden Boy? He’s long gone. If you see him around, kick him in the pants for me, he’s not welcome anymore.

Thanks for putting up with my thoughts.
All Because of Jesus,
Kevin

The Issue of Sovereignty

God is entirely Sovereign, or He is entirely not… There is no in between. He must either be in control of all things, or not. That’s the difficulty in describing a God of absolutes. We can describe Him in those terms when it fits our perspective, but when it doesn’t we quickly begin to question how far these terms can reach…

Take for example a real life situation contained in an excerpt of the book Disappointment with God by Phillip Yancey

“Earlier that week a plane carrying nine missionaries had crashed in the Alaskan outback,
killing all aboard. The pastor solemnly related the details and then introduced a member of the church who had survived an unrelated plane crash that same week. When the church member finished describing his narrow escape, the congregation responded,
‘Praise the Lord!’
‘Lord, we thank you for bringing our brother to safety and for
having your guardian angels watch over him,’ the pastor prayed.
‘And please be with the families of those who died in Alaska.’
That prayer triggered revulsion, something like nausea, in Richard.
You can’t have it both ways, he thought. If God gets credit for the survivor, he should also get blamed for the casualties. Yet churches never hear testimonies from the grievers. What would the spouses of the dead missionaries say? Would they talk about a
‘loving Father’?”

Say what you want about Yancey and his beliefs, but he presents a conundrum here for how most believers view sovereignty. How can we praise God for keeping His sovereign hand on some situations when others go awry?

Either God is entirely over everything, or He isn’t God. Being over everything is an essential part of the very nature of God.

So what is a believer to do?

Stop picking and choosing the moments God is sovereign over.

We love to claim God is sovereign when it is easy or it makes sense. When the church grows, when the child is safe, when grandma heals…. It’s easy because we see God as both good and in control.
But when the church falters, the child passes away, or cancer takes grandma’s life we blame the affect of sin and Satan. The problem is, God is still in control. It is just a whole lot harder for us to admit it.

Consider Job’s story. Job’s life went south pretty quick. But what did his wife tell him to do? Curse God. Why curse God? When we read through the story, we see that Satan is the one requesting Job have these things taken away… But why must Satan ask? Because God is the one in control (which Job is quick to recognize in chapters 1 and 2). When Job goes on his rant later in the book, he isn’t questioning God’s sovereignty! Job instead spends most of his time questioning God’s wisdom and goodness. Job isn’t asking whether or not God was in control; he’s asking why God let it happen on his watch.

How are we to respond to issues where we are uncertain of God’s sovereignty? Shadrach Meshach & Abednego set a great example for us in Daniel chapter 3. King Nebuchadnezzar has built a huge statue and decreed “If you don’t worship my statue, I’m going to kill you by tossing you in a fiery furnace!” Pretty nice guy. Shadrach Meshach & Abednego (From here on referenced as the Three Amigos) believe in the one true God and refuse. Nebuchadnezzar has them brought before him where he gives them one last chance to  respond to his ultimatum. The Three Amigos respond with this:
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego have hit on the point. While they believe that God will save them, they recognize that even if He doesn’t, He is still worthy of their obedience and worship.

God is always in control, always sovereign. Even in the moments where we don’t see how.

 

 

 

 

Still wrestling with the idea of sovereignty? Check out John Piper’s sermon on the matter here:

 

Home

“They say home is where the heart is, but my heart is wild and free…
So am I homeless, or am I just heartless?”

Being an adventurous spirit often leads to interesting dilemmas. Such as: Where am I supposed to call home? I spent less than 3 years in the home my family lives in now, I spent nearly more time at college than in that house, and the home I spent half of my life in is now 10 years removed.

It’s an odd feeling. Being uncertain of where home is supposed to be is a struggle.

This last week, I had the opportunity to visit Clarks Summit University, my alma mater. On the way up there I grew excited. I missed college,  and I figured that spending a few days on campus would go a long way towards taking care of that problem. Over the course of the week, I realized I was wrong. Not because I didn’t enjoy my time. Not because I didn’t get to spend moments with friends. Rather, because the thing I missed most about college couldn’t be found there anymore. Although I’d missed the campus and the college environment, what I missed most was the people… And like me, they’d graduated and gone on to wherever God called them.

Sometimes, its easy to take a step back and be frustrated over these realizations. I’d certainly love to be back doing life in the same fashion that I was as a college student, but those days are gone, and they can’t be replicated. I’ll never be an 18 year old kid attempting to figure out life alongside of my friends.

Essentially, what this trip taught me was that college wasn’t my home. But home isn’t a location. Home isn’t a building, a place, or even a state (though Ohio is about as close as it could get in my mind). Home is anywhere we go, where people are there to love, encourage, and truly care for us. Sometimes is overwhelming to consider the fact that there isn’t necessarily a location that is “home,” but it is also incredibly comforting to consider that as long as I’m surrounded by people who love me, I’ll always have a home.

When 8th Grade Guys Make Me A Better Man

This last Sunday, I had the opportunity to go out to lunch at Taco Bell with two of my 8th grade guys. (Yes, Taco Bell. If that surprises you, I’d say you don’t truly know me.)

We were having a great time. We had talked about our lives, how God had worked in our hearts, the delicious burritos that we were consuming, and about the upcoming events at our church. As we finished eating, we cleaned up our table, threw away our trash, and began to make our way out to my car. While we were walking out, the boys taken interest in something that I hadn’t concerned myself with. Right outside the Taco Bell, a young college-aged guy was out holding a sign for one of the local businesses. As the guys noticed him, one of them turned to me and asked a question: “Can we invite him to church next week?” It was a simple question, and nearly as simple as a task… but for some reason, one I did not feel a particular draw to do. It challenged me. Walking up to a stranger and striking up a conversation when it was outside of the routine was odd and I almost dismissed it.

In my mind, whenever I would invite someone to church or talk with someone about God, it would be in the vein of a conversation that occurred naturally, not one that I would have to go out of my way to begin… But these two 8th grade guys were earnest about the idea of sharing our church and our faith with the young man on the street corner.

My heart had lost some of the bold earnest nature in sharing the Gospel. It had grown lax in its evangelism, because I didn’t want to be troubled to go out of my way to share Christ. It was a blind spot and one that I hadn’t recognized. It took two middle school guys who are passionate about their faith and are longing to see people come to Jesus to make me see that this past week.

That’s how working with 8th Graders makes me a better man.

When Heroes Fall – Why I’ll take my hat off to Alex Rodriguez

Sunday, one of my heroes in the sport of baseball announced he would be retiring from the game on August 12th. Here are a few of my thoughts on the controversial and storied career of Alex Rodriguez.

It was the summer of 2007 and I awoke to a big surprise. My father had gotten my brother and I up that morning around 4:00 am and into the car for my birthday. I had no idea what was going on and slept for the morning as we drove. A few hours later I groggily began to look around, and in a few moments came to the exciting realization that we were entering Cooperstown, NY… The home of the Baseball Hall of Fame! I was standing on hallowed ground! As we arrived, we were greeted with more exciting news! Barry Bonds had days before broken the career HR record, and we would be the first of the public to get to see the display commemorating the event. As soon as the doors open we rushed upstairs and took in the Bonds display in all its glory. My dad turned to me and asked if I wanted to be the first to take my picture with it. What an honor!!! As I considered, I turned and saw the list of others on that great list. Several names down was listed the name of one of my heroes: Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod was the greatest! Second only to The Captain, Derek Jeter, in my mind. In that moment, I decided I didn’t want my picture with the Bonds display. I would confidently wait until the day A-Rod broke the record, and then I would come to be the first to get a picture with that display.

I didn’t know the many troubles that would come to be associated with A-Rod’s name. PEDs, Steroids, Suspensions. As the evidence piled up, I grew disdainful. My hero, the one who I thought so greatly of, was a cheat. I couldn’t stand the idea that I once looked up to and admired a man who had done something so shameful.

However, over the past several years, I’ve noticed a change in my childhood hero. He carries himself with more dignity, has admitted and apologized for his past mistakes, and has been the humble leader on a Yankees team after the retirement of other all-time greats like Posada, Rivera, and Jeter. In these years, as I’ve watched A-Rod play ball I’ve grown to look up to him once again. Not because he’s flawless, but because of how he responded to his flaws. I once admired Alex because of an idea of perfection I thought he lived up to in baseball. Now, he’s earned my respect as he humbly has grown from his failures as a man.

It goes without saying that all of us make mistakes. But it seems sometimes we forget that those in the limelight have their share of dark secrets. Everyone has made their mistakes, and I don’t say that to justify them. I say it to redefine my expectations of those I look up to. If I’m expecting those I admire to be perfect, I set us both up for disappointment. If you don’t know of someone’s failures, you simply don’t know them well enough. As I determine the men and women that I look up to, I no longer try to find someone who claims to have a flawless and pristine image. The closer you get to the image, the more marks and stains you see. Because everyone has them. I know that I have made mistakes and have shortcomings that I’m not proud of. I’m a sinner. And so are my heroes. They shouldn’t have to live up to my ideal standards, because I myself can’t do that. That’s why we all need Christ.Instead, I search for those who respond humbly and with character to their mistakes. Someone who admits, takes responsibility for, and grows from their wrongs.

This kind of person is rare. In sports. In Hollywood. Music. Politics. Life.

As you consider the people you look up to, don’t try to cover up their flaws on their behalf. If they truly are the individual of character you believed them to be, they’ll acknowledge their wrongs and shortcomings, and aim to grow.

That’s why, come Friday, I’ll take my hat off to A-Rod as he trots around the diamond one last time. He made plenty of mistakes, but the humility he showed as he grew to admit them has once more made him a hero to me.

Check out A-Rod’s retirement announcement here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56Vof7Qao-g