Monday, May 24, 2010

Discipline

Discipline.
What comes to your mind when you hear that word?
Punishment? Restraint? Authority?
Well, if that's what discipline means, then what does self-discipline mean? Who really wants to restrain themselves, or self-inflict punishment? On the flip side, being one's own authority sounds mighty nice. Many people like the sound of that so much, they choose to live in a world in which they are their own master. No one tells them what to do. I make my own rules, they say. 
Is that what self-discipline really is?
If I truly made all my own rules, I wonder if I would be strong enough to follow them. Making your own rules is easy. Perhaps. But is keeping your own rules any easier than keeping the rules of another?
I like order. Schedules make my world go around.  So, in the hypothetical event that there was no higher authority in my life, I think I would still make my own set of rules follow some sort of structure.
I'd wake up at 7:00 everyday. I'd work out for an hour. I'd eat a healthy breakfast. I'd get right to my schoolwork and have it all done by noon! I'd eat a light lunch. During the afternoon I'd work on various projects. I'd then spend the rest of the day reading, writing, or doing whatever pleased my fancy, finishing the day with a nice meal and a tad of dessert.
But, in reality, human that I am, I'd hit snooze...five times. Then I would check facebook - just real quick! Thirty minutes later, I'd notice a cramp in my leg. So, "unfortunately," I'd put off exercising until tomorrow. I'd begin to work on school, but get tired of it, and take a break. By mid-afternoon, I would realize that I hadn't accomplished anything except for five algebra problems and six chapters in my favorite novel. Since the day had gone so askew anyway, I'd probably plant myself in front of the TV and chuckle at dumb jokes and crude humor until I dragged myself to bed at 10:00 or 11:00. Oh, and I wouldn't have stopped at a healthy breakfast, a light lunch, or a tad of dessert, either....
You see, even though I like structure, I still lean toward the lazy side. (I hate admitting that.) It's hard to pull myself out of bed, open the books, and study till my brain hurts. I don't always like working out or eating healthy. The piano bench doesn't look so inviting when I'd rather apply my fingers to the computer keyboard than the piano keys. Can you identify?
The apostle Paul seemed to understand our struggles. In Galatians 5:17, he writes:
"Our sinful selves want what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit wants what is against our sinful selves. The two are against each other, so you cannot do just what you please."
So, what makes me rise out of bed early every morning? What makes me do my least favorite school subjects? What makes me sit here and rack my brain until I think of a blog-worthy article?
Well, for one, I have parents. But even they don't have complete control over me. There is a higher authority to which I am held accountable, and that is Jesus Christ. I know He created me. I know He loves me. I know that one day, I'll see Him face to face! This is the Bible verse that motivates me now:

"In all the work you are doing, work the best you can. Work as if you were doing it for the Lord, not for people." Colossians 3:23
But even Jesus doesn't demand that I give Him complete control of my life. He gave me the choice to serve Him. And each day, I am faced with more choices. But I choose to let Him control me. And that is more motivating than any earthly reward.
Something holds all of us accountable. You may think you're living for yourself. But we're not energizer bunnies. Something pulls us every day to get out of bed and get on with life. Is it your job? Your family? Your own desires?
All these things can hold us accountable for a little while. But in truth, people will disappoint us. We will disappoint ourselves! Sure, there's the temporary reward we get after going to work, exercising, or being kind to a neighbor. But at the end of life, is even that a suitable reward for all the discipline we subjected ourselves to?
Because I follow Jesus, my life will no longer be a mundane cycle of activities day after day. By living for Jesus, my life truly comes alive. Every day is new and exciting, and I have a purpose. That is a reward worth living for!
Discipline is necessary for an orderly life, and ultimately, an orderly world. But when there is no authority - no purpose - discipline is practically impossible. Some authorities and purposes are better and offer longer-lasting rewards than others. But only One authority offers a reward that is eternal. I've found Him. Have you?
My life, and my schedule, are still far from perfect. There are days where I hit snooze...five times. There are days when I don't get everything accomplished except for five algebra problems and six chapters in my favorite novel. But I'm working on it - not for me - but for Jesus. And the best part is, I don't have to depend completely on my own will-power (of which there is a constant shortage), because He helps me.


This book, Do Hard Things, contains some awesome insights concerning discipline. It was written for teenagers by Alex and Brett Harris, who were teens themselves when they wrote it.
The world expects little out of teens - little other than getting through high school and getting into trouble. But the Harris brothers have a different opinion of teens' potential and their purpose.
If you're ready for an inspiring read and a good challenge, I suggest you get this book! Also visit the website, dohardthings.com.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What Does God Value?

On Sunday my pastor shared some ideas that hit my conscience pretty hard. After mulling over them the last two days, I thought I'd share them with you.
What things do you value the most? Let's take a look at what many people in our culture generally deem significant.
Houses. We live in these! We want our home to be nice and attractive.
Cars. Who doesn't want a nice, comfortable vehicle? I do.
Careers. We want enough money to live comfortably - if not luxuriously.

Friendships. Many times we look to our friends for approval, self-worth, and fulfilment.
These are things that some say make up the "American dream." Nice home, cool car, good job, lots of friends. Is there anything wrong with putting value on these things? Well, God tends to look at things differently than we do. A lot differently. Let's look at these things from God's perspective.

God won't ever ask you what kind of car you drove.
He'll ask you how many you drove who needed a ride.

God won't ask what the square footage of your house was.
He'll ask how many you welcomed into your home.

God won't ask how large of a salary you earned.
He'll ask if you compromised your character to obtain it.

God won't ask what your job title was.
He'll ask if you carried out your job to the best of your ability.

God won't ask what brand of clothing you wore.
He'll ask how many you clothed.

God won't ask how many friends you had.
He'll ask how many people you befriended when they needed it.

God won't ask what neighborhood you lived in.

He will ask how you treated your neighbors.

Humans tend to value material things. God values our souls. He desires a relationship with me, you, and everyone! That's why He cares more about how many we welcome into our home than how nice our home is. Will we witness to more people by owning a large house, or by offering a place for needy people to stay?
However, we must remember that doing all these good things isn't enough to save us. If our good deeds aren't a result of a relationship with Jesus, they're nothing more than empty actions. God wants our hearts more than anything. After we've given our hearts to Him, we can use the things He has blessed us with to tell others the Good News!

It seems like I can never escape the material preferences of my human heart. So this week, I'm going to be asking God to give me His heart, so I can think like Him, live like Him, and value what He values.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Aliens in America


Immigrant: a person who migrates to another country, usually for permanent residence.

Alien: Any person who is not a citizen of the country in which he or she lives.

The USA has more freedom, more riches, more opportunities than any other place on earth. No wonder so many people from around the world want to migrate to America to start a new life. And guess what? We encourage that!
If it wasn't for immigration, none of us would be living here today. Perhaps America has the most diverse ancestry of any one nation, because people have come from all over the world to make us the nation we are. I have Scottish, Jewish, English, Cherokee, and probably more mixed into my family tree! The Scots, the Jews, the Brits, and even the Cherokees migrated here at one time or another. My family history is a story of migration.
But as a nation forms, laws are set in place for the citizens to abide by. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve sinned. Therefore, we're not perfect, and so we need laws that tell us how to conduct ourselves. We need the enforcement of those laws to maintain order and harmony.
It makes sense that when one from another country wishes to become an American citizen, they should have to learn about our laws. In fact, there are a set of laws for immigrants. They include learning our language, learning our history, learning our traffic laws, etc. 
These laws are very reasonable. They are for the good of the country, and for the good of the immigrant.
But, there are those who try to sneak into America illegally. They're called aliens. In the past, the federal government would remove the illegal aliens from the country. We made it clear; you're welcome to come to America, as long as you follow our rules. It's completely fair.
But over the last several years, illegal immigration has become more and more of a problem, because it's being addressed less and less often. For a long time politicians have brushed it aside as being less important than other issues at hand.
But illegal immigration is a very crucial issue. The border states have known this for a long time.
When we stop dealing with the illegal aliens and start tolerating them, a multitude of problems arise, disrupting the harmony and the order that the laws were created to avoid. Many illegal aliens are taking advantage of our schools, our welfare, our health care, and more, but they're not even paying any taxes!
Many have received illegal drivers licences. Because they don't know our traffic laws and most of them don't know English, they are very prone to getting involved in a collision. But they don't have insurance, so the other party is responsible to pay.
Living in Texas - a border state - I know that illegal immigration is a growing problem. I have seen the difference that has taken place in our state in just ten years because of illegal aliens. More and more signs (traffic signs, store signs, etc.) and even legal forms are being duplicated in Spanish. In many schools, a teacher cannot be hired unless he or she can speak Spanish - even if they are not as highly qualified as someone else - because there are so many children who don't know English. And who pays for all those things? Us; citizens; tax-payers.
Now, let me be clear on this. I definitely do not have a problem with being bi-lingual. In fact, I wish more Americans were. I am studying Spanish now, and hope to be fluent someday. There are some schools that teach a second language to their students for the very purpose of raising bi-lingual children. I do not mind that. What I have a problem with is that immigrants are not learning English when they come, nor are they teaching their children. So public schools have to make up for it by teaching them in their own language.
Many border states have had more dangerous problems than these. There have even been documented murders along the border, committed by illegal aliens. Not every alien is dangerous. But American citizens who live along the border should feel secure from illegal aliens.
Individual states are beginning to tighten up security on their borders, since the federal government isn't doing anything about it. Arizona was the first.
Arizona recently passed a law that allows state officials to question anyone who is suspicious and request to see their proof of citizenship. I don't see anything wrong with this law. Arizona is taking the necessary measures to protect their own citizens.
This law has caused quite an uproar. People are protesting the law, saying that it is racist and unfair. It's neither of those things.
President Obama has had a lot to say against Arizona's decision.
"...Now suddenly if you don't have your papers and you took your kid out to get ice cream, you can be harassed, that's something that could potentially happen," he says.
This is an unrealistic possibility. The state officials aren't going to be harassing people - especially someone taking their "kid out to get ice cream."
Something else the President wants to do is to grant amnesty to all aliens already here. That is unfair! What about all the immigrants who worked hard to become citizens the right way? What kind of message will that send to other nations about America's standards? Though the federal government has denied it, terrorists have taken advantage of our lack of security and law enforcement along the borders. What stops them from continuing to do so?
It seems like President Obama is more concerned about the rights of these aliens than the rights of his own countrymen. Why? Perhaps it has something to do with the upcoming elections. If an illegal alien is rewarded for committing a crime, who do you think he'll vote for in the next election? The one who rewarded him.
Illegal immigration is a preventable problem, and it must be stopped. It will effect all of us in the end. Aliens are filtering into our society more and more, with out becoming a part of our society. If they are hired illegally, their money isn't circulating in our economy. Most of them send their money back to their home country. Even if they don't, they're not paying taxes. We are paying for their school, their welfare, their health care, and more. We're paying them to take advantage of our country! All of this will lead to the decline of our society. And no one will profit from that - citizen or alien.
I must make this point once again. This has nothing to do with racism. My brother-in-law is black. My nieces and nephews are bi-racial. I have Hispanic friends, African friends, even Japanese friends. I don't care where a person is from or what nationality they are. And if they want to come to America through the legal procedure, I think that's wonderful. But I do not want a bunch of foreigners living in my country that don't really respect my country, or our laws. And anyone who takes advantage of a nation can't truly respect that nation.
This is my bottom line. We should encourage people from other countries to come to America and take part in the freedom we are blessed with. But immigrants should enter America through the procedure they always have - the legal procedure.