Why I am Miss Teen USA...and so are you

No, I do not regularly keep up with the Miss Teen USA competition. However, I do check my Facebook “trending” tab a little too often. That is where article headlines like “Miss Teen USA uses ‘N’ word” catch my eye. For those of you who do not follow pop-culture gossip (good for you), here is the SparkNotes version. Karlee Hay, an 18 year old girl, won the Miss Teen USA beauty pageant. This led people to check her old social media accounts which revealed she liberally used the “N” word when she was 15. Such a degrading word of course causes pain, which led to people verbally attacking her and suggesting that she lose her crown. I then watched her apology. As she tried to apologize for her 15 year old self, the interviewer started lecturing her on the evil that she had done. I watched her until I started seeing myself.


            I am no longer the same person that I was when I entered college four years ago. At the age of 15, I would not have been a good youth leader, and at the age of 12, I was not really even a Christian. God constantly changes me, and the drastic changes over three years became momentous. God continues to radically change me as I hope He is doing for you. While the sins of my past are a part of my story, they are not a part of my worth and character. Jesus has not only covered those sins but he has pruned me, cut those aspects of my life out. Who are we to try and throw them back in?

            I think Paul could relate to this girl. Having spent a life of persecuting Christians, and supporting the death of Stephen, it is no surprise the disciples did not trust his radical change. Paul did terrible things and yet God changed him. I think that makes his words more powerful as he writes, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it [to perfection]. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul did not claim to be perfect, but he also did not allow himself to be dragged down by his past life. Paul recognized his past was not a part of him anymore. I hope you too allow your past to no longer reflect who God is changing you into. The past can serve as a reference point of the Holy Spirit’s changing work but knowing Christ has died for you ought to free you from all of its baggage. Those in Christ are redeemed!


            Some people might be thinking, “Andrew, you’re being too naïve. She did not mean her apology.” Maybe you’re right, but this is no longer about her; it is about us and God. “But wait, Andrew, I don’t think you really understand the gravity of her using such horrific language.” I think I do. I also realize the depths of my own sinful past. Because of the seriousness of Sin, God’s forgiveness makes such good news. 

My First Blog-Freedom

I was debating on what I should write my first blog about. I mean, a part of me thinks all my blogs should be super theological and mind-blowing, but then I looked at my GPA and realized that might not be in the cards for me.


Anyways, youth are looking for silliness and fun, right? But then it wouldn’t be ministry if it were always fun and silly which means I need to be provocative and relevant. Catchy names, controversial issues--that’s what my blog needs to be all about.


Then I realized, youth ministry, like all forms of ministry, has an element of freedom to it. I can glorify God by being theological as I can glorify Him by being silly, and I can even glorify Him by being controversial. I think that is the beauty of this blog. I can do anything from movie and videogame reviews, to serious issues that are pressing on my heart, to sports (probably not so many on those, but you never know), to whatever I want as long as I do it with the right heart.


So for my first ever blog, I am going to do one of those list things (those seem pretty popular) on the top misconceptions of Freedom!


1. Freedom is not I can do whatever I want. When I think of freedom, I get this mental image of Uncle Sam with an eagle on his shoulder and the flag in his hand saying, “I can do what I want, ‘MERICA.” Sadly, it is this image of freedom that we Christianize (the act of making something more Christian sounding). We think, “Hey, Jesus died for my Sins and loves me as I am, so I can do what I want.” That is not the freedom that Paul is mentioning in Galatians 5:1. Paul reminds us that we were once slaves to our Sins, unable to choose to do the good that God wants us to do. However, God pours His Spirit on His children, and they receive the power to obey God. Freedom is not being masterless; it is switching Lords, from yourself and the world to the one True God of the Universe.


2. Freedom to obey God is not limiting. We like to make Christianity into a cookie cutter, one size fits all thing. I think if we could, we would not only have Christian movies and TV shows, but Christian clothing, cookies, cell phones, sports, etc. Obeying God does not mean you have to quit skateboarding on the weekends and overcommit to every small group in your community (although you should totally start coming to mine on Wednesday nights). Freedom in Christ means in the things that you do, whether it’s eating, playing sports, playing COD, you’re doing it for God and producing the fruit of the Spirit (Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). Enjoy your season of fun, but make sure you are being seasoned with salt (Matthew 5:13).


3. Freedom is not always fun. Obeying Christ changes the way I live more than it changes my interests. Being a Christian does not stop me from enjoying movies, camping, and kayaking, but it changes the way I behave and think while doing them. However, sometimes freedom in Christ is not fun but leads to suffering. Christians are called to love sacrificially. That means there are times that I must do the opposite of what I desire.


I recently read Richard Allen’s (the founder of the AME church) powerful biography. He epitomized these points in his life. During his time as a slave, he decided to work harder and decline his “master’s” offer of more breaks to go to church because he did not want perceived laziness to slander his Lord Jesus. He did not do what he wanted but did what he thought best glorified God. Richard Allen also did not need to Christianize his work for his master. He allowed his slave labor to be a light to his community. While my thoughts of justice scream, “rebel against their evil,” Richard Allen’s mind was on his Lord. So my question is, who do you think Richard Allen’s master really was? If Richard Allen could suffer as a slave in order to share the Gospel to his community, how much more should we be inspired to do the little things like spending time with the annoying kid, forgiving a bully, giving up our possessions? Looking at Richard Allen’s life makes me ponder, who have I been serving lately? God or success, popularity, myself?