Christianity

I Don't Care by Michael Nichols

Once upon a time, I found Jesus. More accurately, He found me. After spending a really long time not knowing how much I need Him, I finally saw myself for who I was, and I called out to Him in response to His call to me. That was almost seven years ago. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew that I didn't love, not truly. I knew that in order to love, I needed to accept His. I needed to really believe He loved me. So I did. My whole paradigm changed that day.

That doesn't mean anything else changed. I was already on a trajectory away from Him. I was on a road I didn't belong on. As an excellent Wavorly song says, "Turning around was never so hard til I found us far apart." At that point, I was really far away, heading further, and had no idea which way to turn. Imagine yourself lost on a dark night with a broken light and a broken compass, and nothing but two ears and a voice guiding you home. Even better: imagine yourself in the Millennium Falcon, crashing toward Starkiller Base, unable to pull up, not knowing the defector storm trooper was a janitor and new nothing about blowing the place up.

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I had no idea what was in store. I really didn't. I knew things would be difficult, but I had no clue of the depth of it. I don't remember being as bombarded with temptations and heartaches as when I started following Christ. Yet I don't know that I've seen more personal growth happen in me than when I started following Christ.

I'm not going to blather on about all the things that happened between 2009 and 2013. If you've read my blog before, you know. If you want to know, read it.

In one respect, I'm glad for how far I've come, but it hasn't been without cost. That cost has been my ability to care.

I don't care.

Those are three words no one wants to hear. "I don't care" is giving up. On what? Anything.

Have you been told that before? It hurts, doesn't it? Knowing that you're not seen, not heard, invisible, inconsequential.

I hate that about me, which is great because that means all hope is not lost. But right now, that's a problem. The whole reason I decided to follow Jesus was so I could love, not so I could withhold love in apathy.

I'm not sure entirely how I figured it out, but I suddenly noticed lately how much of what has been happening in my life indicates that I don't really care.

The stagnancy of my romantic relationships?

Because I didn't care about anything beyond the moment, escaping the rest of my life.

My lack of reading scriptures or praying in a meaningful way?

Because I didn't care about anything beyond the moment, escaping the rest of my life.

My isolation from people I claim to care for?

Because I didn't care about anything but my own problems.

My inability to focus long enough to do successful studio takes?

Because I didn't care about them as much as I care about the things distracting me.

My inability to loosen up?

Because I don't care enough about living healthily enough to stop obsessing over the things I want.

My jealousy?

Because I don't care about much else than what I want.

Why I don't try hard enough to change any of this?

Because I don't care to keep failing or hurting, which is, by default, keeping anything good from coming of anything I'm going through.

I don't want to run away from my issues, but I also don't want to run into a worse place. Another song, by Linkin Park this time, says, "Sometimes I think of letting go and never looking back, and never moving forward so there'd never be a past."

Relatable? Too much.

Good way to live? Not ever.

The irony of the whole thing is that we tend to stop caring because of the weight that caring becomes. But to stop caring means your heart has to stop working, and if your heart stops working, you really can't go anywhere. You collapse. You stay where you are. You die.

When you stop caring, you are dead. And it definitely feels the part. At least pain lets you know you're alive, even though it means you're fighting to stay that way. When joy happens, you know you're alive and free.

That's what I think is so powerful about the "joy of salvation" that people talk about. Not only are you alive, not only are you free, but you are now set on a path of becoming more like Christ until His coming, when everything corruptible in us will be replaced with something incorruptible, and we enter eternal life and eternal freedom, where all darkness ends and the light only grows, extending into every corner of creation. It's unstoppable. It's unstoppable good, unstoppable beauty, unstoppable life.

That's something that's actually worth caring about. When we lose sight of that, it's not hard to stop caring about things, especially the more we know about evil and hurt.

I guess that's what I've been missing. With something lasting to care about, whatever else is valuable to us, whatever else brings joy, although temporary, finally gains its true meaning. We finally have a reason to care about it.

A reason to care about him.

About her.

About anyone, anything.

But without context to something eternal, how can anything temporary have meaning?

"Our light affliction, which only lasts for a moment, is working toward an eternal glory that far outweighs anything else. That's why we look not on the things that can be seen, but the things that cannot be seen. Why? Because the things we can see are temporary, but the things we cannot see are eternal." --Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 paraphrase mine)

Love And Fear: Campaign Update 2 by Michael Nichols

We're about to close the first half of our crowdfunding campaign! If you haven't heard, I'm making a record with some amazing musicians and friends, and we're raising money for gear. When you pre-order the record for just $10, you'll get an instant download of one of the singles, "Find You In The Light." We're currently at 12% of our goal, which is amazing! When we first launched this campaign, I was as nervous as ever. Correction: I am nervous! But the response so far has been great, both in feedback about our music and in the generosity of friends and family. We've raised $580 of the $5000 we're shooting for to make this the best record it can possibly be. We actually crossed that 10% mark by the end of week 2!

As awesome as that is, we've hit a pretty big slump since then.

We have barely over a month left to go, so if you can help by preordering our record "Love And Fear," picking one of our perk packages (including anything from downloads to signed CDs, to t-shirts, posters, and microphones), sharing the campaign on social media, and most importantly praying that God will make a way for this to happen and that His will would be done.

As much as we love making music and having fun, though, this is our ministry above all else. We want to reach a world that is afraid by offering them the love of Jesus Christ. We're just looking for the means to do that the best way we know how. :)

ALSO, here's some exciting news! A fantastic friend of mine asked to interview me about the new record. She has an amazing devotional account on Instagram, so head over there and check out @shinejesus_ for some excellent words from the Father, and watch out for the interview, coming soon!

Be sure to check out our campaign on IndieGoGo and head over to SoundCloud to listen to our brand new track, "Find You In The Light."

Thanks for all of your support! :)

--Michael

https://igg.me/at/loveandfear/x/9877524

https://soundcloud.com/mnicholszero/findyouinthelight

https://www.instagram.com/shinejesus_/

Someone's Blood, Everyone's Hands by Michael Nichols

Refugees and terrorists. Three words in, and you're probably already polarized, if you've already formed an opinion.

A lot of us are self-professed realists, but no realist is really a realist (and that sentence melted half my brain). We just apply our worldview to whatever "-ist" we are, and call it truth, whether or not it's true. Man does what's right in his own eyes, so every idealist, optimist, pessimist, probably thinks he's a realist, at least on some level.

But, let's be really real for a minute, and look at what has happened in the world recently.


Paris.

The Mirror reports a death toll of 129 from Friday night's (local time) bombings, now known to have been planned by a Belgian ISIL activist. Hundreds more were injured.


Beirut, Lebanon.

A double suicide bombing kills 43, reports The New York Times.


Nigeria.


Syria.


Baghdad.


My God, help us.

It seems that humanity becomes bloodier and bloodier with age, and it hurts. My God, it hurts.

I've had my opinions, mixed or otherwise, about the world since I was first given a glimpse of how savage we can be. In the fourteen years since 9/11, I'm honestly surprised that we haven't been attacked again. I don't know why. Yet, for all the times we could have been attacked from the outside, it seems like we're doing a disturbingly efficient job of it from the inside. The past few days of watching my mostly American friends segregate according to their perceived appropriate reaction to the tragedies that have befallen and continue to befall the world, has made that quite clear.

Let me be clear. I hate that.

"A house divided against itself cannot stand."

--Jesus Christ, son of the living God

I hate that we are so at war with ourselves, yet so blind to it that we think that we have room to speak to the problems of the world.

But we do have some advantages. The freedoms we've been allowed in the United States have given us space for heartbreak and conscience in the wake of tragedy.

That being said, we're also terrified as is evidenced by the accumulating number of state governors refusing to accept refugees. That fact in and of itself is polarizing.

I couldn't have put it better or more straightforwardly than one of my favorite musicians, Audrey Assad...

Now, I'm not entirely sure whether that was referring to U.S. nationalism that I <sarcasm> love </sarcasm> so much or a militant form of nationalism that has unfortunately resulted in ISIL. Either case is valid. I read it the first way, though. Much as I love America, we get stupid when faced with both the possibility of war (with ISIL) and the necessity of servanthood to those in need (Syrian refugees).

I also couldn't have put this better...

...because, well, you know, not everyone can do everything about every piece of the world. I'd love nothing more than to drop what I'm doing and go where people need help. But I can't. I don't know what I would do when I got there. I don't have the funding to do it. I have responsibilities here. And that's okay because there are people who know what they're doing, and who can afford to do so. Thank God for them.

Unfortunately, Audrey's is one of the few positive voices I've heard during this crisis. The following redacted images are from sources on Facebook. I in no way endorse or condone the messages conveyed by these items.

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So let me get this straight. Muslims reside in every country, so we should nuke every country? Or just the ones known to harbor terrorist cells. For one thing, we might as well walk up to the doors of the surrounding nuclear powers and ask them to nuke us for contaminating their nations. Not to mention what would happen to the ecosystem worldwide, because we have even bigger nukes than we dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Not to mention that we were the only reasonably viable nuclear power. Not to mention that would be all the excuse ISIL, North Korea, Iran would need to retaliate.

And it get's even <sarcasm> better </sarcasm>...

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So, Saudis are to blame for a Belgian terrorist slaughtering Parisian citizens? Have you even met someone from Saudi Arabia? Or Iran? Or Iraq? Or any of the surrounding nations? I may not be of that culture, but anyone I have met, has been fantastic company. Including any that may happen to have been Muslim. Doesn't mean we see eye to eye on a lot of things, but on a lot of things we do. And I've never once been mistreated or condescended to by any of them.

This is not to deny that there are people out there who would murder for their faith. But there are also those who would murder for nothing. It say more about what is inside a person than what religion they follow, and although I think both factors are important, they work in tandem. One person full of rage can pursue Islam as a means to destroy the world, and a peaceful person can pursue Islam as a way of peace. That doesn't mean I accept every tenet of Islam as truth, so don't mistake love or compassion for agreeance, but both things have happened with Islam as much as they have happened with Christianity during and immediately following the Crusades, at the beginning of the reformation, and in Salem, not to mention the many cults that have cropped up over the millennia. Bear in mind that "the untaught and unstable distort [...] the Scriptures, to their own destruction." The same is true with Christianity, even though I do believe it to be complete truth.

It's this kind of blatant rashness and racism that infuriates me on behalf of the Gospel that is for the reconciliation of all men to Christ. (Understand that I'm not one of those people who cries "racism" every chance he gets.) Do the same lips that breathe forth the gospel to civilized culture withhold it from ISIL, or other world adversaries? Is there some difference between my need for Christ and theirs? Or Mussolini's, Hitler's, Ted Bundy's, O.J. Simpson's, anybody's? Whether or not the sins of a person pile up, they were all nailed to the cross of Christ, and we cannot in good conscience deny that to anyone, no matter what they have done. We also cannot in good conscience refrain from protecting the world from such people.

My point is this. Make no mistake. Raw war, annihilating an entire people, is not the answer. It never has been. It has never worked before. It never will. Certainly, only for the sake of the safety of the world, we may have to go to war. I don't like to say so, but it may be necessary.

But let's get one thing straight: someone is going to die should the Lord delay His coming. Someone innocent (and for the love of sanity, don't start the argument about man not being innocent, because I know and I'm sure you get my point) will die.

And that's not just in a wartime scenario.

The potential is there due to the simple fact of what we're dealing with.

Another thing Audrey said--and I admire her humility for this--will call to memory the Boston Marathon tragedy...

The simple fact is that in the wake of the movement of Syrian refugees, ISIL follows. But it's not just refugees. ISIL would be moving regardless of whether or not refugees were in the mix. Terrorists terrorize, and they find a way to do it wherever they can, and taking down refugees with them, causing them more grief in their perpetual displacement, simply adds to their self-defined victory. Make no mistake: before the Western "Christian" world was ever attacked, they turned first toward their own countrymen. It is the war within Syria that has led the the displacement of so many battered souls. Don't in overzealous American nationalism forget the common struggles all of our kind has endured, nor neglect what you can do about it.

As for the whole "put veterans first" thing, yes, ideally, that would have been taken care of long ago. But it hasn't. And now we have a brand new problem. The unfortunate truth is that both problems exist irrespective of "who got there first." The world is full of evil, and evil does not care who you are or where you came from or what you might have contributed to the world. Evil will continue to chase humankind until the day of the Lord. Both groups of people need help, even if we have failed miserably up to this point.

So, all being said, let's say we accept the refugees into our country. Probably some terrorists are going to find their way in.

But, let's say we reject the refugees. Refugees suffer more, and the terrorists are still with them.

No matter which path is chosen, the refugees suffer.

What if you could do something about the suffering, but do nothing?

Then blood is on your hands.

But what if, because of our mercy for the refugees, America is terrorized?

Then American blood is on your hands.

What if we go to war against ISIL and fight them wherever they are? Hopefully, we will keep the world safe, but undoubtedly innocent lives will be lost along the way.

Then blood is on your hands.

What if we bomb the tar out of suspected ISIL hideouts, completely ravaging the Middle East? Don't forget about collateral damage. It still exists.

Blood is on your hands.

What if we nuke the Middle East? Even more collateral damage, to the whole world, not to mention nuclear retaliation from the surrounding nuclear powers.

Blood is on your hands.

In every scenario, my Lord and my God, is there not blood on our hands? Was it not for this that You died for us before the foundations of the world?

The same word of God says these things:

Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.

--the Lord God Almighty through Isaiah the prophet

Yes. We must be on the defensive against injustice and ruthlessness, but justice and compassion are not mutually exclusive:

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

--Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God

Whether we stand by and do nothing, or we make the most foolish errors in war against the enemy or in mercy for the weak, you will have to live with it.

The question is simple. What can you live with? And what does that say about your heart?

I know I've ignored love too many times to count. What does that say about mine?

Accuser Within by Michael Nichols

I've always struggled with risks. I think everyone does, though maybe not as much as others. If I know that there is something to be lost, I don't want to. Don't we all? Whether we acknowledge it consciously or not, we realize that we contain infinite value, endowed upon us by Jesus. We also experience fear when we're confronted with the possibility of loss. Everyone's looks different. Some people are afraid to take risks on career ventures. Others hate the idea of moving away and facing the unknown in that respect. My issue is with relationships, specifically the dating kind.

I'm not the only who has been hurt. I'm not the only one who has been scared. I'm not the only one who gets tripped up on words or will altogether avoid words when nothing seems sufficient enough to make enduring the fear worthwhile.

Unfortunately, inaction, in my case, has led to much, much more pain than action. You know, at least if you get shot down, you know you can change direction. And there can be a lot of reasons for being shot down other than it being, you know, your fault, something you did, something you are, heck, how you look.

But wait! How can you experience pain if you don't take a risk?

I'll tell you.

You see, it's equally as big a risk, if not bigger, to assume that something bad could come from your action, as it is to assume that something good could come from your inaction. I say this not to perpetuate the "follow your heart" mentality that has led modern day culture into a morally relativistic decadence, but holding back what's inside of you because you're afraid you might get hurt is like holding onto fire. You don't get used to it the more you hold it: you simply burn what's left of you the longer you hold it.

You're not protecting your heart by not telling people how you feel. You're actually poisoning it. You can always get back up from rejection, but you can't move past a choice you never made. I've avoided making a lot of those choices, and none of them have made living with the regret of what I might have missed any easier. I can think of a few instances in the not-so-distant past when I could have just told a person how much I cared for them, or let them see more of my real self, let go and just had fun with amazing people, but I didn't. I treated my insecurities as though they were for my benefit, like they could save me from being broken.

In reality, all I did was break myself before I let anyone else get to me.

What really eats at me is that every time, at least for the past several years, I've told myself I would stop avoiding what's inside of me, quit copping out of making the choices that I had to make. "This time" I'll say how I feel. After all, that's all I can do, right? After all, I have no control over what she does with that knowledge, right? And I haven't actually lost anything more than an idea, because until the feelings go both ways, I'm not actually "in love" with a person, right? And it's their problem if they can't get over the fact I might have feelings for them, even if I can get over them myself, right? So knowing all of that should make opening up easier, right?

I haven't. Not once.

Even as I speak these things, I realize I'm just finding more reasons to blame myself, as a dear mentor and friend recently put forth to me. And she was right. I'm not doing this for my own good, at least not anymore. Just the habit of repressing the person that God made you to be, even if you don't acknowledge that you're actually doing that, leads to the belief that God doesn't want good things for you, that you are beyond His love, His grace, a second chance, and that you might not even have any value at all.

Guess what. It's a lie. Your very existence, not to mention the whole truth and message of the gospel, is proof of that.

We all torment ourselves over something, but if it isn't making you a better person, it's not worth it. Whatever you're tormenting yourself over--and it doesn't have to be fear of rejection--isn't worth your time, your breath, your life, if it is a barricade preventing you from growing into the person God made you to be in Christ.

Easier said than done, right?

It's a good thing we have a powerful God going before us. Just trust that. Trust Him. Take a risk. Even if it doesn't turn out the way you wanted it to, let Him carry you to the place He wants you to be, and trust that this place will be a beautiful one.

Flipping Switches by Michael Nichols

I can still remember a time when I had no internet. Strange. It's hard to imagine a world without the web. Our first computer was bought when I was five years of age. It ran one of the earliest versions of Windows. I can't remember if we even had a mouse for it. I was young, so what did I do? Play games. What else is a five-year-old going to do with a computer?

While the computers of my very young age rested atop a desk (hence, "desktop" computer), exponentially greater power rests in the palms--the palms of millions of hands worldwide. They're not that expensive, and they do basically everything. Smartphones not only call people, but they process more data more rapidly than the early Apollo spacecraft. It borderlines on miraculous.

Despite the beauty of a world more connected and more accessible than it has ever been, we find ourselves in a predicament. It was more obvious to people raised within a decade of my birth, because they really experienced the first wave of it. I'm talking about media addiction. Sure, resistors have always followed new technology of all kinds (electronics pun emphatically intended). But it was mostly about work at first. As the English proverb goes, "Necessity is the mother of invention."  Then something happened. Computing became about more than work. It became about leasure. Enter the gamer's world.

Atari. Nintendo. Sega. Sony. Microsoft. And let's not forget the countless software devs that work not only with countless hardware platforms but develop countless games for those platforms.

I'm not going to lie. I love video games. I don't play much now, but they're loads of fun. They can be simultaneously exhilarating and almost therapeutically relaxing if that's your thing. But just like anything we do for leisure, we are subject to being caught in a world. Sure, there are professional gamers just like there are professional athletes, professional critics, professional... everything, really. But as someone who has been there, anything can be allowed to get out of hand. Anything can become an addiction.

Let me be clear. Video games, work computers, smartphones, all these things--they're fantastic. They're beautiful. God made us beautifully, so you'd think we'd also make things beautifully, though not on His level... But we're also fallen.

Fallen man likes to create fantasy worlds. Fallen man likes to escape pain. Fallen man likes to walk the easier roads. While tech can be a beautiful conduit, it can easily suck us into itself.

Take social media as a somewhat ironic example. (I am posting this on WordPress, am I not?) Built to connect people with each other, and on a global scale. It has succeeded. Nonetheless, people have succeeded to add this to the shells we tend to put around ourselves. There was email. Then there was instant messaging. Then there was Myspace. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. And they just keep coming. It was just a quicker way to send mail at first. Then it became shorter, and more conversational. Then we could share photos. Status updates. Videos. Articles. Links. We could comment on them. Now we can "Like" them. Favorite, +1, upvote, downvote, pin. Heck. Many Facebookers treat their profile like it's their own personally written and edited news column... mainly because it is. Professionals and people in the public realm use social media on the daily to promote, promote, promote. We, the fans, show our support by following their accounts, liking their fan page, subscribing to their videos.

When a tragedy comes to our friends, we can now easily send them our condolences. They can easily notify anyone at any time about the big, the little, the good, the bad, the average, the special, the exciting, the utterly snoring-boring.

Now, I grant you that not everyone is connected on a deep level. That's okay. That's not a fault, especially when you take into account how social media for the first time makes celebrities easily accessible to fans, serving to somewhat destratify social classes.

But I want to ask you a personal question. Be honest. How easily does this tendency to show support via digital media erode the real-world connections you have? Some may be more prone to this than others. I know I am. When I first started out on social media, I didn't post much. I didn't say much. I had a profile picture, blogged sometimes, and messaged friends often. Then I realized how fun status posting could be. I could share any thought, no matter how small or quirky, with everyone. But despite the fact that this practice isn't necessarily inherently bad, albeit somewhat annoying, eventually, I started to feel cheaper, so I started posting less. The less I posted, the less wrapped up in the news feed I was, the more I lived in the real world with the real people. That should be the point of social media, but is it anymore? or has it turned into more of a personalized TV show, like TMZ for our own little lives. Just like we reduce celebrities in that kind of way, is it possible for social media overconsumption to do that to our own lives, and neglect the people in them?

How sad it is that our show of support to people has been reduced to flipping switches via a digital remote control! No longer do we need to pool efforts, nor make a journey, nor immerse ourselves in each others arms, nor speak words of life, nor give of ourselves. We flip switches. Ones and zeros. On and off. Oh, does this not speak so much about how we think of ourselves and our lives? We have reduced ourselves to the machines we use, but this is not who we are. We are not machines, and therefore, we cannot be fixed. But we can be loved. We can surround ourselves with each other. We can bear one another's burdens. We can encourage one another. But we cannot fix anything, and no, kicking each other will not make us work, as we seem to think is true of our gaming consoles.

They without knowledge cannot push a button to activate some hidden portion of their minds. They without morals cannot simply plug into a set of values that make them treat the world with as much value as Jesus treats them. They who mourn don't have the luxury of flipping a switch to make it all better.

Jesus inhabits us. He doesn't flip a switch.

Jesus heals us. He doesn't fix us.

We are not machines. We are souls.

The Praise of Doubt by Michael Nichols

The story about Jesus calling Peter out to walk with Him on the water is commonly used to tell people to trust God. That's kind of the point, right? But how quickly do we gloss over what's really going on there?

What Peter experienced made absolutely no sense by human standards. We are heavier than water, so we sink. Storms are huge, so how could we be expected to hold our ground within them?

The problem is not that walking on water makes no sense. Jesus is the Lord, right? All things are possible through Him! The problem is that it makes perfect sense, but we believed something else. What doesn't make sense is sin. It doesn't matter if it's the perceivably "little" white lies or the thefts or the abuses or the addictions or the perversions or the violence or the murders or the genocides. It's not just what we do, and it's not just others have done to us and each other.

The adversity for we who now live is that society tells us to question everything, and the fact is that, yes, there really is merit to skepticism, but the amount of that merit is much smaller than we think. Bear this in mind as I speak to you, though: I'm not condoning naively putting oneself in absurdly dangerous situations without a worthy cause.

As followers of Jesus, we believe that everything that we were meant to be is now working in reverse, meaning that we do not live by reason or sanity but rather by lust and psychosis. Our worldview flipped nearly instantaneously in Eden from being sustained by an omnibenevolent God to questioning whether or not His word was true and what He was holding back from us. (Now, whether or not our initial motives were pure cannot be determined, but it can be reasonably assumed that we were as guilty as lucifer of arrogance and lust for power upon temptation.) Now, we live in a world inhabited by three kinds of people: those who prey on others, those who merely try to survive, and those who think that there must be a better option than either.

Jesus is the better option. His death in our place for our sins and His resurrection overcoming the punishment for the same sin is the single most revolutionary act anyone has ever done. Had we never exposed ourselves to sin, this fact would make sense to us all. We wouldn't view the world through the murky lense of fear. The idea that there is a perfect Lord of all would not seem so idiotic, because it isn't! In fact, it makes the more sense than anything in this world! Our problem is that we base our perceptions on what we've seen and heard, and what we've seen and heard is nothing but the evil proceedings from man's heart!

So when Peter was called to walk with Jesus on the water, his lense was already murky. He already had doubts, but they didn't surface until he refocused on how many ways walking on water could possibly go wrong. In a world where man had not chosen corruption, he would have understood and not doubted that this call from Christ were absolutely possible and that it was going to happen.

The real kicker here is that Jesus didn't just call Peter out on the water; Peter asked Him to do it! He already doubted that it was Jesus on the water, but he had learned so far that Jesus had a habit of doing things that were, by human judgments, completely insane! So if Jesus called him out with Him, shouldn't he have understood that it was going to be a little crazy? Yet he doubted Him anyway! I'd bet he didn't mean to do it, but he did. How could you not when there's a hurricane raging around you, right? But Jesus is Lord of the hurricane and the water!

I dare you, reader, to ask God to do something absolutely insane with you, and even more, I dare you to trust Him to lead you in the correct way. It's our disbelief that is insane, not His sovereignty over all things, because the reality is that He is the most sane thing alive.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy9nwe9_xzw

For the Love of Blog: The Graduate by Michael Nichols

It's been a while, readers! Let's catch up! Pour yourself a cappuccino, kick back, relax, and let's do this thing.

The past several months have been fairly crazy for me. I've been finishing up my last few classes for my Associate of Arts degree, playing gigs, recording and producing the band I'm currently with, and sleeping given the opportunity. Now, a part of that is over. I finished the classes, and I'm wrapping up the recording project, hoping to have everything mastered by the end of August and ready to roll not long after.

Being caught up in all these things has left me in a strange state. This moment in my life is very much a transition. The state of my job is changing, which is leading to the slow change of my level of independence and complete engagement in my career and what I believe to be the ministry God has called me to. I've got to pursue that now, and not delay. I might not always have the chance to be a conduit for the gospel of Christ through music, but I will always have my ability to teach math and apply it in whatever field I choose -- I will always have that, but I may not always have an opportunity to reach people for the Lord.

What part does this blog play in that? At this point, I'm not 100% sure, but I'm going to start again soon.

On a similar note, I've decided to rekindle my flame for fiction. Yes. Believe it or not, I used to love to write fiction. For a while, I've had this Idea in the back of my mind, but I think now is the time to implement it. The idea is to create a new blog site for use as a fictitious record, a chronicle or journal as it were, of a Christian observing the end of days as the tribulation unfolds. Most people I've encountered believe that Christians won't endure the tribulation, but after reading a passage in Revelation 6, my thinking changed:

"9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also."

This radically changed my interpretation of eschatology throughout the Bible. What makes us so special, that we will be exempt from the tribulation? Furthermore, how can the battle at Armageddon occur if there isn't another side? There are numerous contrasts throughout Revelation where a line is distinctly drawn between believers and nonbelievers (for example, between those with and those without the mark of the beast), proving that we too will be part of the tribulation, though we may not experience the same things.

When I first read the above passage I realized what it said: we who follow Christ will become aliens, illegal to the world. How would we take it if this alienation happened now? What if there were no more cathedrals? What if the presses on which Bible are printed were burned? What would we do? The fiction that I intend to begin will seek to answer questions like that. When everything we thought we knew about our world and though we had in our possession falls apart, then what?

Want to know more? Follow the link at the bottom of this post! I have not uploaded anything yet as it is a work in progress, but when I do, if you go ahead and follow the page, rest assure that you will get the latest news! Thanks, as always, readers! God bless! :)

http://undertherevolution.wordpress.com/

Entering Rest (3): Deep Valleys by Michael Nichols

"The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the [valley of the shadow of death (KJV)I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." -- David, the Psalmist and King of Israel (Psalm 23 NIV)

An almost cliche Bible passage at this point is Psalm 23. It's the one we've probably all hear a hundred times over, whether we're followers of Christ or not. If you haven't heard it in church, you've probably heard it quoted on a crime show by a cop that's trying to keep his faith or by a mobster trying to justify his crime. I've heard it said that it's just a Psalm about the Lord guiding David through some troubles. I've also heard it said that it's a Messianic prophecy (in plain English, that it was a telling of Jesus sacrifice).

I don't bring up the passage, however, to dispute doctrines or theories. I just want to confront this thing called a valley. I hear the word most frequently used to describe a low point in a persons life, something external that they're going through and that they [hopefully] will emerge from on the other side. There is another word for low point that brings a much greater sense of despair (of varying degree and duration), though, that needs to be confronted: depression.

Depression is that cloud that hangs over a persons head for a long time, the storm that doesn't have wind at its back to move it along, the unshakable feeling that nothing is ever going to change, a constant lack of energy/motivation/passion or at the very least the presence of a vacuum slowly draining that energy, a desire for change but without resolve to make it happen, a fear of failure or personal endangerment or loss, a reclusion from reality, dreams without fruition, the fear/thought of not "getting by," a lack of desire to excel, often but not always masked by feigned apathy and even bitterness to protect the part with the pain from being damaged further (which can lead to an abnormal silence from the individual in question), not a simple imbalance of body chemicals, but a state of being in which a person believes he/she is caught in a endless loop which can lead to the exhausting sensation of chaos and insanity and in the end an amplified preference to rest constantly rather than work. This is at the very least how I would define it because I've lived with it.

It can be a monster, and the thing that make it so difficult to fight is that depression is constructed within our own minds out of the things that make up our own lives. Not just a monster, but a monster inside of a dungeon inside of a hole in the ground.

The easy path is to stop trying to fight it and let it have its way with you. Rest, and maybe you'll be safe. Heck, maybe it's just a nightmare to wake from. That's how I've felt about it, anyway (I dare not say "you" without really meaning "me").

The irony of it, though, is that it's exhausting. You're not resting. You're constantly working to keep the walls from falling down, to save yourself, to hide your heart. What you once thought was rest becomes the slave driver at your back.

It's a fact that things can bring us down, and a lot of times we don't want to get back up and feel insane for it. It's a fact that we can pretend not to care, to go silent, to protect ourselves. Do we really want that for ourselves, though? Wouldn't it be better to let go and truly be able to rest?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYuGuxr7MB0

Semester Four by Michael Nichols

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Today, I think about how much of a procrastinator I am, and how quickly I either blame others, beat myself up, or become frustrated, or shut down when I fail at something, do something crooked, harbor hate, or anything else. Yes, I know that I'm taking one idea, the idea of simply putting off homework assignments, and taking it waaay out of context into something much deeper and darker than that, but that's the way my twisted mind works. I see darkness, and I think about other darkness. Thing is, I recently procrastinated to the point of being perfectly unable to do this assignment, and now it's sinking in, how great of a disadvantage I've given myself, and that is a lazy part of me, a part of my darkness. It's this sense of, "Wow, I seriously just did that!" which give me a reason to take this post the way I'm going to take it.

Whether someone pulls it out of you or you just sort of end up working it out either intentionally or by the way of something else, there is always something dark inside, that worst part of us that we forgot was really there, because we don't believe in monsters under the bed, and that's our problem. After all this time, I'm still trying to piece so much together from so many things I've dealt with. Now, I don't care how it happened or what spirit brought it about. Now, all I need to know is how it affected me and if I'm a whole person beneath the tangled threads.

It has been roughly three years since I left home, just over one since I returned. If you knew me back then, you'd know I was a dark person, devoid of any sense of joy or pride or anything worth living for so I thought. Some of you also probably know the reason I left, and others still know what my last two years of high school were like. The rest of you... well, I'm frankly not ready to talk about it yet, but the day will come.

The important thing for you to understand is that I didn't want to return. Beginning from the end of my junior year of high school, I was ready to burn every bridge connecting to the deserted isle upon which I lived, regardless of the repercussions because at that point, I had learned that nobody could be trusted, especially the ones you needed the most. No, everything I thought I'd know and I thought I could rely upon simply wasn't real, and I could stomach no more. All I could think was, "Get out, get out, and get out now!" That is to say, of my social circle, my school, my house.

Through an undeniably providential chain of events, I found people who cared, who always asked questions, who always backed me up, and were always around to catch me rather than to condemn me for any failure of mine, any shortcoming, any weakness. I started growing, like I was built by God to do, and would have been doing if anyone had the faintest clue as to who I was and who I am, and yes,only began to grow when I wasn't trying to be forced into the cookie-cutter of buyable Christianity (as opposed to the Gospel of grace.) When I started growing, I started seeing light! LIGHT! That's right, the thing that makes us see anything at all.

At the same time, I started seeing darkness for what it really was, and the more I grew to be able to see the lighter side of life and the good things therein, the more easily I and deeply I could see darkness, the hurt and the evils that bury the world. But that didn't make me want to grow. It certainly did not. It made me want to run, so I did.

I'm not just talking about from home or from a social circle. I mean everything. I was planning to attend college to be a music teacher, but I didn't. I thought by now I'd be out of school, maybe even married, with a decent job that paid decent money so I could have a decent life, not that I was really looking for a decent life, but rather a fulfilling life. I stayed out of school for two and a half years, working a dead end job and living a dead end life. Whereas I had once devoted myself on Scriptural knowledge and vigilance, I stopped reading, stopped praying, stopped praising. And the worst part? (As if it could have gotten worse for me,) it wasn't all at once.

Subsequently, I gave in to various alternate ways of keeping my sanity, which I'm also not willing to talk about yet. Did I forsake believing in Jesus? By no means! But when your mind and your heart have been maliciously cut over and over and over from day one, along with the occasional upheaval, all of which left marks, something eventually had to stop, so I ran because I felt small, because I had been betrayed over and over, and because I just wanted to stay alive and feel like I should...

The funny thing is that today is Suicide Prevention Day (and I wasn't taking that into account when I began writing this), when we remember that there are people in this world who don't feel like they should stick around, and there have been many times I've been in that place, where I honestly though I could just slip out without so much as a flinch from anyone in the room. Now, I realize that I've gone through every bit of this for a reason (that I was also completely wrong), and I understand where this mass upheaval started. I remember it like yesterday, the day I had my heart ripped from my chest, when I'd been betrayed worse than ever before at that time. It was like my heart had been ripped from my chest to bear every ugly, untamed, unholy part of me, and though I once blamed the ripper solely, I know now that even though they were in the wrong, those things were already inside of me, waiting to be ripped out, to breathe and live.

At this point in my life, I realize this:

  • I haven't measured up to the perfection that some people refuse to concede is impossible of mere mortals because, no, we are not gods.
  • I haven't been willing to compromise some things that I believe that other people feel are simply psychotic, but it's my faith journey, and no, they are not gods, nor could they be because they do not love like only He can.
  • I haven't accomplished everything I know beyond the shadow of a doubt I can do and was made by the Lord God of Heaven and Earth to do because no, I am not a god.
  • I haven't loved as well as I know I could and know that I should because I have had the ulterior motives of pleasing myself and pleasing a world that is not god, and that reflects upon my understanding of and my relationship with God.
  • I haven't had the faith in myself that others have shown to me, and that reflects upon my faith in them and in the God that made us all.

... And all of this gives me the ability to say this: I'm am over people because I know I'm just as screwed up as the next guy, but I'm not going to give up because of the simple indisputable fact that God doesn't screw people up.

Not even me.