Monday, March 10, 2008

Posting My Thoughts

Throughout my whole blogging experience, it has given me a new sense for challenging writing. I am not just writing for myself or writing another paper to be graded, but I am writing to an endless audience where there are no grades or positive feedback to encourage better writing. The audience can be at times strong and cutthroat and if they have a strong opinion or find loopholes about my writing, they will make it known. Therefore, I have to write as if I am on my best game to gain the acceptance of the blogger community. The tougher the critic the better, when they find the loop holes in my writing that is what truly makes me strive to be a better writer.

I decided to name my blog, Truth Perceived. It is a walk through my life and thoughts as a Christian in today‘s society. I wanted to create to the reader that I am not just another “Holy Roller Christian” that is so caught up in religious doctrine and standards that their thinking clouds their eyes from the reality of the real world. I want people to see that I am a Christian that people can relate too, not a person that people avoid and look at as someone weird or annoying. I enjoy the fact that others who might agree or disagree with what I am writing are reading my posts and finding them interesting based on my style, format, and content and if they happen to learn or gain some insight out of them I have accomplished my goal in my blog.

What I enjoy about blogging the most is that I can show whoever is reading that I have something to say. Most of the time, just in general conversation, I find myself as being more of a listener and not the talker. Now do not get me wrong, I like being the person that everybody comes to, to speak on whatever is on his or her mind, while looking for my insight in whatever way they are looking for. However, with blogging I can show that I have something on my mind as well. I can write without any interruptions and get everything out first then I can send it out for everyone to read to get their insight: it is great.

One interesting issue I discovered was that blogging was stressing me out. I was almost to the point of oppression with my posts and the comments towards my post. I had to make the posts perfect in both grammar and content, leaving no loose ends. I enjoy writing, but I was getting so strung out around the fourth and fifth post that the enjoyment for writing turned into more of an obligation to write just for a grade.

My breakthrough to overcome my dilemma did not happen until I was reading the class handbook, The Weblog Handbook. In chapter 7--“Taking a Break“, the writer was talking about the very same thing I was going through. It was like the writer was saying: know when to say when with blogging. The writer states that there are periods of time when we get so caught up on blogging, it can effect us physically and mentally. We need to learn when these periods pop up to shut of the computer and walk away for a few days. Though the stakes were a little higher than your average blogger experience because I was being graded too, I went ahead and took the books advice and I took a needed four-day hiatus from blogging.

After my four-day vacation from writing, I felt refreshed and rested. I found myself once again wanting to write again. My enjoyment for writing had come back and writing became easier. My enjoyment for writing started six months ago and the one thing I learned is that I can get so bent out of shape to make my writing perfect and that striving for perfection can affect me in a negative way in all aspects of my life. I learned that I need to take breaks and relax because the best writing I have done has been when I want to write not because I have to write. I write songs and play the guitar and there has been times when the same type of feelings of stress and lack of enjoyment have came up. A friend of mine who plays guitar once said to me that the best thing he has done is to know when to put the guitar down and take a break and then when the feelings come back to play, that is when he knows it is time to pick up the guitar again. This advice was given to me three years ago and it seems to be good advice in everything that I enjoy. With the handbook and my friends advice, I have learned that it is okay to take a break and getting stress out and striving for perfection can just make things worse. My love for writing is best served to everyone including myself when I am enjoying it and that is what I will always strive for.

God's Grace To A Wayward Child

I grew up in church my whole life and was blessed with the opportunity to go to a Christian school, from kindergarten to graduation; Thank you, Mom and Dad. When I was sixteen, sitting in a pew at my church, I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit for salvation during a sermon by an Evangelist visiting the church. During the invitation, I asked Christ to save me and that day will forever be a day, I will never forget. The first two years after that day were great, but the Devil proved he was not going down without a fight. Around my senior year in high school, the Devil's fight became strong and I started on a downward spiral into darkness, ignoring the Holy Spirit’s convictions.

For the next eight years after graduation, I was doing my will and not God's. I was no longer attending church and alcohol and drugs ruled my life. In the mist of all of this, I never realized how my actions were killing my parents and destroying my own family, but God in His mercy and faithfulness was always there whispering in my ear, "Turn around and come back." One day, just a couple of years ago, my neighbor came over and invited my family an I to their church and right away I felt the need to go, so the following Sunday I went. Thank God for His grace, a dedicated and loving wife, and two parents who probably prayed their hearts out for my family and me because soon after that Sunday I gave my life back to Christ and stopped doing it my way. It has never been the same since. That decision spawned a domino effect in my life; my wife committed herself to Christ and all three of my boys did the same and my life once again had joy and purpose. "THANK YOU GOD, MY HEAVENLY FATHER, FOR YOUR GRACE AND NEVER GIVING UP ON ONE OF YOUR WAYWARD CHILDREN."

Seeking The Truth

On a beautiful fall day while working in the yard, I found myself in a conversation with my neighbor, Tim, talking about religious doctrine such as the Holy Trinity, baptism, and salvation. The conversation was going pretty well, we both agreed on all the general principles, but we started to disagree on the specifics. I always knew that there were different denominations within the Protestant movement like the Baptists, Pentecostal, Apostolic, and Methodist; and I was under the impression that the simple practices like baptism and worship style mainly separated each denomination; however, I believed the Biblical doctrine of salvation was the same within all Protestant churches. My impression soon became a misimpression as the conversation headed into the details.

Tim was a faithful Apostolic and I grew up Baptist and by one question Tim asked me, soon spiraled me down a path of questing the very foundation of my own salvation in Christ.
He calmly asked, “Have you ever experienced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?”

Wondering where this question was coming from, I confidently replied, “Yes, I received the Holy Spirit at the point of my salvation, and I was then baptized a week later.”

Without hesitation, Tim replied, “Your salvation experience and your baptism are different than the Baptism of the Holy Spirit because there is always an outward expression, speaking in tongues, which follow when you receive the Holy Spirit.”

Anxiously! I replied, “I have heard of speaking in tongues and I know that it is in The Bible, but my conviction tells me that because the church has been established and the Holy Bible has been established, there is no need for speaking in tongues in the church today. And to say that you need it for salvation is ridiculous.”

With a sarcastic sigh, Tim replied, “You are one in the majority of people that are completely ignorant and led backwards from what The Bible truly says about salvation, particularly in the book of Acts.”

Completely shocked by where this conversation was going, bothered and concerned I said, “Sunday after Sunday for years I saw people saved and none of them spoke in tongues and they were also all led by called of-Godly men: I cannot believe or even conceive that the God I serve would let people be led astray by phony preachers proclaiming His own word, The Bible.”
The conversation eventually ended due to external reasons, but I did not want to stop, I wanted to prove that what he was saying us incorrect and misleading. As he was heading back to his house, he handed me a pamphlet and said, “This explains in more detail about the Apostolic faith of salvation and the Holy Spirit.”

Soon after we parted ways, and I just stood in the yard dumb-founded and confused, thinking that this is the strangest thing I have ever heard. Truly, what bothered me the most about the conversation was that Tim questioned the very integrity of my salvation along with doing a better job arguing his conviction on salvation with scripture? I knew all the right answers, but I had nothing to back them up. For the first time I felt spiritual weak and unprepared. Although the conversation ended before I wanted it to, I believe now it was all for a reason--God’s reason for me.

As I noticed by looking through the pamphlet, the Apostolic faith whole belief system is founded in one verse in The Bible, Acts 2:38, which says, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Knowing that you should always read the whole text around a particular verse to grasp the complete context of which the verse is applying too, it struck me after reading the entire first and second chapter of Acts. This verse that the Apostolic faith considers to be the one true verse of salvation is not a salvation verse at all. This verse is a forgiveness verse, the people were already believers because of the background text leading up to Acts 2:38; and furthermore, Peter said, “Repent," in this verse and if you refer to any other scripture in The Bible pertaining to salvation, believe is always, first, then comes repenting.

Throughout the next several weeks I was intensively reading The Bible, praying, and searching for answers. I came across the book, Concise Bible Commentary by Tom Fleming, which gives a historical view point about what is going on in the Bible; in addition, the writer gives a more clear understanding of what the writer of each book in The Bible is saying. In the chapter that covers the book of Acts, the writer says this:

“On the Day of Pentecost two separate groups received the baptism--the gift--of the Holy Spirit. The first was the group of the apostles in Acts 1:15 and 2:1-4, the second, the group of three thousand mentioned in Acts 2:37-42. But there were several important differences between the two.”

“The first group consisted of people who were already believers and who had to wait till after Jesus’ ascension to receive the Holy Spirit. The second group consisted of the people who became believers only after hearing Peter preach on the Day of Pentecost and who received the Holy Spirit immediately. The experience of those of the first group (i.e. speaking in tongues) should not be considered the normal experience of the Christian. The experience of those in the second group, who received the Holy Spirit when they believed, without any unusual happenings, was the normal experience of Christians, then as well as now.”

It was not until about two weeks later after reading this; I was researching on the internet and came across a web site that explained in more detail what the writer above was explaining. The site stated that in every incident where there are people speaking in tongues in the book of Acts, the verses either before or after imply that they were already believers waiting for the promised comforter of Christ, which is the Holy Spirit. In other passages in the book of Acts, there are other people who were previously unbelievers who receive the Holy Spirit without experiencing anything unusual; for example, the Philippian Jailer in Acts 16. Clearly, if speaking in tongues were a defendant expression for salvation, every passage in Acts or throughout The Bible would include it.

As I continued on, in my study of Acts and other scripture, I realized the writers of Concise Bible Commentary and the website made perfect sense to me without leaving any loose ends to question. The conversation with Tim, at first, left me uneasy and confused spiritually, but after diligently studying and through the help of my Lord and Savior, I gained a newfound confidence in my faith and salvation. It was no longer something I was taught growing up; it had become a new strength and love for Christ in my life. Even though it has been over a year since that conversation with Tim, I will always be thankful to him and my Savior for opening my eyes and helping me see the need to strengthen my own faith and conviction. Although I do not completely agree with the Apostolic faith concerning salvation, the Holy Spirit, and speaking in tongues; I do not question their faith and hope in Christ and we are all brothers and sisters in the same body of Christ. Moreover, faith, hope, and love for what I can see and read in The Bible is what He--Jesus--has ever wanted.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Meant For Something

When I was 21, I was having a conversation with my mom talking about the usual everyday stuff and out of the blue I suddenly asked her,

“Have you ever felt that you were meant for something or you had some kind of calling in life, but you just cannot put your finger on it?”

Of course, this totally caught my mom off guard. I believe this was the first time I dropped a “deep” thought on my mom. Without even giving her a chance to answer, I started into the details of my thought.

I explained to her how almost every day I have thoughts that there is something out there pulling me towards it and the only thing I feel certain is that it has something to do with the public or people: funny, all my jobs and the career I have now have been in public service: maybe not a coincidence. I continued to express to her that this feeling is so strong and real it cannot be just over-active thinking, more like a passion, but there is nothing I am really passionate about though this passion feels so strong within my heart these feelings cannot be for nothing, there has got to be a reason.

Now, I am 30 and nothing has changed, I still burn with that very same passion, but now it seems more intense, an every bit closer. More often today, my life is becoming more active with my family, church, work, and school, but as of recently, I believe I am on the threshold of figuring out this inner feeling or “calling,” if you will. Three years ago my friend Adam introduced me to the guitar and that, I believe, started the first step of a series that is bringing me closer to pin-pointing the feelings I have been searching for nine years. I know this might sound weird or strange to some, but like I said it is very real to me, as real as Eric Clapton playing a Fender Strat. Since my new found hobby of playing the guitar, it has developed into more singing and writing within the past year. I have thirty songs written so far, which ten of those will be on my concept album, Simple Truth, that will hopefully be recorded, professionally, this year.

I like to think that maybe this is what these feelings are leading me to, a career in music both in effecting peoples lives and being apart of the very thing I love to do, play music. I believe these songs are not just coming out of the clear blue sky, they are coming from something bigger than me. More and more I find myself getting involved with the music at my church along with two other churches in the area. I was talking to my pastor a few weeks back concerning these feelings and he mentioned, to just stay patient on the path to Christ and He will lead me in the right direction and to continue on with my talent and passion for music because what I have is a God given talent not to be wasted and to always be happy with it and if His will leads to bigger and brighter things in music, look at that as added blessing or bonus from God, but never be disappointed with what I am currently doing and to always strive to do better in the talents He has given me and always remember, my given talents should always be for His glory not mine.

The advice from my pastor really hit home. He helped me to see a clearer understanding about the passion and the feelings that have been stirring up inside me for nine years. "Patience is a virtue," so I will be patient and faithful to God and He will lead me to His perfect plan for my life.

“Trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not to my own understanding, but in all my ways acknowledge Him and He will direct my path.” Proverbs 3:5