Thursday, July 27, 2017

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Importance Of Gathering

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching." -Hebrews 10:24-25

For the past 4-5 weeks I've been skipping out on church Sunday mornings. Lately, I've been making a habit of not going to bed on time due to staying up so late at night. I'm a night owl, so I like to get things done while it's dark. By the time I wake up, it's already noon. Well, last Sunday I woke up just before 9:30 am. That's the time I usually attend Sunday's class. But instead of rushing out the door, I lay my head back on the pillow and snoozed. I thought to myself that it didn't matter since I can watch the service at a later time when it gets posted. 

There are lots of people, and perhaps even you, who'll say, 

"I don't have to go to church today. I can simply read the Bible and pray at home."

"I can just watch the service online."

"Why even go? The church is full of hypocrites." 

In the New Testament, church isn't an option for genuine Christ-followers. We are given a command to not forsake assembly with one another. Even if a brother or sister rubs us the wrong way or hurts our feelings. We are the body of Christ for better or worse. 

In this fast paced society we trade weekly attendances to watch tv, get extra sleep, or have weekend getaways. And feel like we're "good Christians" when we can listen to a sermon online or sing along to a worship song because we think it's enough to sustain our faith. But it isn't. 

Now unless you have physical limitations or are confined to bed by an illness, then praise God for blessing you with ministries from the internet, radio, and television to build your faith in His Word. But if you're healthy and able to commit to church, then there's no excuse to not gather whether it's in your living room, a friend's house, or an auditorium someplace. After all, the church isn't just a building but is made up of believers who desire to love and serve God wholeheartedly. 

As Christians, part of our responsibility is to be united with other believers as one family. To minister and work together in a community. By utilizing and sharpening our gifts, we contribute to helping our brothers and sisters stay strong in the faith. That's how we grow stronger and effectively pour into others. 

One cannot expect to live out the faith in isolation. When that happens, you succumb to being enticed by your own desires that are not from God. Setting the stage for false teachers to come in and deceive you with dangerous teachings. "You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability."-(2 Peter 3:17). If I have to be honest, my faith has been getting rusty. My complacency has been increasing and my desire to be fed and nourished by God's Living Word is slowly losing its appetite. And I'm afraid it will only get worse if I don't do something right now to fix my stupid immature habit. 

So, if this is you as well, then may we be wise and carefully heed the Scriptures that exhort us to remember the importance of gathering in fellowship, so that we will be active participants in blessing, encouraging, and reprimanding in truth and love as the "day" is drawing closer. 

"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household."-Ephesians 2:19

"If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it."-1 Corinthians 12:26

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Tragic Road To Recovery

Cory Monteith was a Canadian actor whose most notable role was Finn Hudson, an all-star quarterback from the hit show Glee on Fox Television. A musical comedy series centered on teenage misfits who join a choir group called Glee club. There, they discover acceptance, strength, and ultimately their voice while pursuing their dreams in the real world.

His humility and palpable sweetness set the tone for the wide-eyed heartthrob character Finn. He was well respected and adored by his co-stars, friends, and a multitude of fans. However, nobody was prepared for the tragedy that happened on July 13th, 2013. Cory died of a toxic overdose from a lethal combination of heroin and alcohol inside his hotel room in Vancouver. The news of his death shook his fan base and everyone close to him, especially his fiancĂ©e Lea Michele who played Rachel Berry (Finn's lover) on Glee. A tribute episode was made in memory of him titled "The Quarterback" where fans could mourn with the cast over his death.

Cory had been battling substance abuse since the age of 13 and dropped out from school at 16. His heavy addiction landed him into rehab at 19 after family and close friends intervened. After the stint, he continued the path of his addiction by stealing money from a family member. Once given the ultimatum of getting clean or going to jail, he chose the highway to becoming sober. He took acting classes and focused on rebuilding his life as he made concerted effort to stay sober. His greatest accomplishments later on was earning his high school diploma and casting his role on Glee.

Unfortunately, his turning point was tragically short lived after completing another stint in March. On Friday July 12th, he went out with his friends and returned to his hotel room alone Saturday morning. Later at noon on Saturday, the 31 year old talented actor was found dead in his room.

In a candid interview, Cory revealed why he started using drugs. He said,

"It was about finding a place. For me, it wasn't about the substance per se, it was about not fitting in. I hadn't found myself at all. I had no idea who I was. I had no idea where I was going. Then all of a sudden, I had this thought that I was going to be this "bad" kid. So that all the other kids will look at me and think "Oh, he's the bad kid, he's cool." And so then they'll want to hang out with me."

Peer pressure and a desire to fit in can heavily influence teenagers into using drugs because of the challenges presented during those years as they're transitioning into a season of discovering who they are and what social groups they belong to. Other risk factors that increase the likelihood of drug use are genetics, a community where drug accessibility is high, and parents using or condoning the use of drugs.

Some adolescents use drugs as a coping mechanism for high levels of stress or problems within their home. Others use it to get high, relieve boredom, or just out of curiosity.

A study in 2014 reported, "an estimated 2.7 percent of American adolescents ages 12 to 17 suffered from alcohol dependence or abuse, and 3.5 percent suffered from drug dependence or abuse."(DrugRehab)

Research has shown that the earlier onset of drug or alcohol use, the greater the person will develop a substance addiction. Teens are more prone to addiction because their brains aren't fully developed compared to adults. The parts of the brain that control emotion, coordination, and motivation develop more rapidly than the parts in charge of logic and reasoning. Teens often try to appear cool and mature hence why they don't consider the risks involving drugs and alcohol too well.

Something to remember is that "cells that fire together wire together." The brain has a complex network of neuron (nerve cells) pathways that transmit communication signals to one another. It does so by releasing a chemical (neurotransmitter) for the other cell to absorb and pass on to other cells, and as they communicate frequently, the connection grows stronger. When they travel on the same neural pathway over and over, they transmit messages faster and faster, creating this automatic loop that plays itself on repeat. Basically the more we repeat a thought or activity, the more entrenched the pathways form in our brain which creates a habit that goes into autopilot mode. Making it very difficult to break a habit or addiction. The difference between a habit and addiction is that habits can be positive or negative, while addiction is only negative. This process is the same for ALL addictions.

Drugs affect the pathways involving reward, triggering higher levels of dopamine flooding the brain circuits. Dopamine is a molecule that plays a role in reward-motivated behavior. It's present in the region of the brain that regulates emotions and feelings of pleasure. Our brains are wired to reinforce an activity by connecting experiences with reward. When excessive amounts of dopamine is released into the brain, the chemicals disrupt the neuron channeling, greatly amplifying the message to want more. 

Thus, another chemical called DeltaFosB will take the wheel. DeltaFosB is a transcription factor that binds the genes and acts as a light switch for addiction, turning them on or off. Dopamine acts as the head command center, giving out the order "This is great! I want more!" And DeltaFosB carries it out. The thing with DeltaFosB is that it alters the gene responses and accumulates lasting, physical changes to the brain. Creating more pathways for the cells to fire and rewire so that it will remember and repeat the experience. Once early drug conditioning has been activated, it'll stay that way and doesn't go away easily. Even long after the dopamine surge vanishes, the pathways will remain right where they left off. People are more likely to use an established path even when they don't want to because it's familiar. That's the number one reason drug addicts relapse after years of being sober.

Now, nobody is far too gone to overcome addiction. By the grace of God, you have the power to beat this enemy and win. But it doesn't mean it'll be an easy road to recovery. God will heal, but the consequences will remain. You'll still have to fight the cravings those pathways have led to, but if you truly acknowledge and pray for deliverance from those oppressed chains, God will set you free from the sin and bondage. 

"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." -(John 8:36)

You are stronger than your addiction. If you're a child of God, then the Holy Spirit already resides in you and gives you the grace and ability to not let your addiction and appetites control you. For sin no longer has dominion over you. 

"For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace." -(Romans 6:14)

If you’re not a child of God, meaning you don’t have a saving relationship with Him, please know that your life is worth more than selling it away to drugs and foolishness. Drugs can never make you feel whole and complete. It is only through a surrendered life to Christ, you will find true freedom, healing, acceptance, and purpose. You were bought at an immeasurable price shed by the blood of Jesus at Calvary. Don’t exchange the price you were paid for towards something shallow and a counterfeit only to make you feel more empty, lost, and ashamed. There is forgiveness found when you lay down your burdens and shame at His feet. He has the power to wash away your sins as white as snow. (Isaiah 1:18) If you'd really like to know about God and how to be set free, follow this link below:

How To Know God Personally

STAY AWAY from toxic people and influences that’ll fuel your addiction. There are tons of treatment centers you can go to get serious help in this area. Visit this website {here} for more information and rehabilitation services in your area. 

I don't know whether Cory knew Jesus or not but needless to say, his death speaks loudly that this can happen to anyone. Thus it is important to stay informed on this topic and educate the minds of this generation to understand the harms and consequences of chronic drug use. Not just for their well-being, but also for their eternity as well.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Idol Of Marriage

I once heard that it's every girl's dream to get married someday. To have a doting husband, start a family, and live happily ever after like how Disney movies or fairy tale books portray it. So many girls fantasize about their perfect, dream wedding and the exchangement of vows followed by a passionate, heartfelt kiss sending sparks flying into the night. Girls are basically programmed to just love being in love. I see it a lot when they're gushing over their crushes or boyfriends saying, "awww" in unison, which I can't help but cringe at because it's like nails on a chalkboard for me. It's the same when a cheesy love scene between two actors appear on screen, the reaction from them doesn't fail.

There's nothing wrong with being in love. Love is great. Love is wonderful. But what is it that makes women so attracted to love in the first place? Is it compliments from guys telling her she's beautiful, even on her worst days? Soppy love scenes from chick flick movies? Mushy and lame sweet talk from guys calling them, "baby" "honey" or "angel"?

Many single women jump at every chance to date a guy and the very next day, they're already planning their wedding and future with him in their minds. Leaving them quite vulnerable to the players and losers taking advantage of her emotions for their personal gratification. Some women don't even consider the prospect most of the time and end up falling into the same trap again and again.

Our society has this terribly shallow view that if you're not married in a certain time frame, something is horribly wrong with you or you're secretly in love with the same sex. Which puts a lot of pressure to find the right mate. I think it especially rings true for women whose female friends and younger sisters are tying the knot and settling down while they're still a bachelorette past the age of 25. Most of us get bitter and upset with God for not giving us our heart's desire and give up altogether.

The problem is that marriage gets placed on a pedestal above God. It's worshiped as an idol. It's perfectly ok to want a Godly husband whose heart is completely devoted to God and a tidy, decorated home to look after, but is our desire for those bigger than our desire for God?

You see, a lot of us assume that we'll get what we want based on one of the most misconstrued Bible verses, "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart."-Psalm 37:4

This is not implying that if we study our Bibles, pray, attend church on Sunday, give our possessions to the needy, serve others, dress modestly, and don't curse, then God will suddenly give us a handsome, Godly man out of nowhere as a token of His appreciation. That's not how it works. God isn't going to be manipulated by our trying efforts.

I'm not saying we shouldn't do those things, because we ought to be loving the Lord and serving Him regardless if we're married or single, since God doesn't guarantee giving you a husband.

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul is saying that unmarried people, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, can focus more on solely devoting themselves to the Lord, since they have more freedom to focus on seeking the kingdom and ministering to others. It makes sense after all because married people have a spouse to look after with possible children to care for as well. Paul explains that singleness is an incredible and wonderful privilege to serve God with undivided attention. In other words, he's telling singles it's a PERFECT opportunity to get busy winning lost souls. Not a curse to be "forever alone."

Married couples play a part in the kingdom as well. Marriage is a beautiful representation of the union between Christ and His church. When both spouses come together under Christ's lordship, they further His kingdom with individual purposes to create a greater mission of advancing the gospel.

Marriage doesn't exist solely to make you happy or feel whole. Ask any married couple out there and they will tell you it's not all fun and games. It's hard work. Healthy and strong marriages don't build overnight. It's something you grow into through a continual process of sacrifice, commitment, and sanctification. It's a team effort resulting in putting one before the other (Philippians 2:3) and aligning their marriage to God's purpose. If you marry with a mindset of "me before you" the result will be an unhappy marriage and your happily ever after turns into your worst nightmare. Marriage is a ministry designed to share Christ, where a man and a woman find purpose in uniting together to be stronger in carrying that mission out. Selfishness and pride will wreck the ministry before it even starts.

I think the most important question to consider is, "Why do I want to get married in the first place?" Is it to make me feel good about myself? Is it so I can blend in with all my friends who are getting married?

I can remember my high school years where some of the girls gave me weird looks because I didn't date anyone. I've never had a boyfriend. Some of them even thought I was a psycho because I wasn't as interested in dating or marriage like they desperately were. So part of me felt like I was abnormal. As I got older, I started to crave marriage, being a homemaker, and raising kids because I thought it would make me feel more fulfilled. I didn't want to be left out.

Ladies, your ultimate identity isn't found in a ring and a paper. It is found in Jesus Christ alone. You don't NEED a man in your life to complete you. Jesus did that for you on the cross. Your singleness can portray the gospel very powerfully when you choose to let Christ be your all.

You can still go on dates and pursue marriage. Just let go of this idolizing obsession with marriage and remember why you're wanting to marry in the first place. In the meantime, keep yourself busy with serving and witnessing to your friends, neighbors, families, and strangers. Living each day with the intent of being holy for the sake of the world and the gospel. Seek God first and in everything you do and God will take care of the rest.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Trials Produce Character

You know, everything happens for a reason. Every trial you face, every experience that you've encountered whether they be good, bad, awkward, silly, confusing, embarrassing, etc. They all play a vital role in your life, I believe it has to do with developing or reshaping your unique character. Another thing it has led me to realize is that every situation I come across leads me to want to pursue a closer relationship with GOD. It is a challenge we often face, but the more we journey on to face these challenges and let God behind the steering wheel at all times; the more it produces and reshapes our Godly character.