Monday, February 9, 2015

?ing the ?s

I think that a person's questions reveal way more about them than their answers. 

Bruce Lee once said that, "A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer."  I think he was on to something quite profound.  Questions are extremely important. I would even go so far as to say that they are more important than the answers we end up with.  Questions shape us.  They are the foundation of everything that we do.

The things-that-we-are-curious-about show a different and deeper side of us than the things-that-we-are-sure-of. 

Another thing that questions tend to do is provoke thought.  Answers have a nasty tendency of discouraging thoughtfulness but questions almost demand it.  Even simple question like "What do I want for lunch?", demand that we look within ourselves to examine our own desires. 

So take a moment to think about the questions that keep you up at night and then question those questions.  If you ask questions about the future… what do they reveal about your heart.  Does your curiosity lead you to ask questions about science, personal relationships or the physics behind superman's ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound?  Whatever your questions are, I bet they reveal something about you that makes you unique. 

So what types of questions do you ask, and what do your questions say about you?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dear Daughter, If I could teach you just 25 things before you leave home.

          I am the proud father of a 4 and a half year old teenager.  It wasn't that long ago that I was changing diapers and warming bottles, and it won't be that long before I'm filling out FAFSA's and buying dorm furniture. Just typing that last sentence kinda scared the crap out of me.  So here is a list of random things that I want to teach my daughter before that time comes.  It's obviously not a comprehensive list and it's not in any particular order but it's a start. 

Dear Daughter,

If I could teach you just 25 things before you leave home, it would probably be a different list than this, but these are the things that come to my mind as I write so here we go.  Actually, before I even get to that let me remind you that just because you leave doesn't mean you can't come back… often.  Okay now I'm ready... I think. 

  1. Failure is not an option, it's a requirement.  You're going to fail and it's going to break my heart but every story of victory starts with a story of defeat.
  2. Ask more questions than you answer.
  3. Music will make it better but when necessary… music and ice cream.
  4. Be Feminine and be strong.  Those two are not contradictory.
  5. Live passionately.  Life's too short to spend your time being bored.
  6. Don't give your heart to a man who doesn't take care of his own.
  7. Spend less money than you make and never finance toys.
  8. Love generously, but smartly. 
  9. Never stop, stopping to smell the flowers.
  10. Believe in Magic.
  11. Intelligent women are sexy, loose the diets and find a good book.
  12. Smile a lot.  Your smile is like a warm bed and the cool side of the pillow.
  13. Love is about keeping promises.
  14. Family can often be found outside the confines of a picket fenced house with a mom, dad, 2 kids, and a goldfish.
  15. Saving should be a priority. Occasional splurging should be up there on the list too.
  16. Life is not always black and white.  Learn to embrace the grey and live in the tension.  It will make you more compassionate.
  17. Journal often.  It'll untie the knots in your mind.
  18. Be brave.  Life is tough but if anybody can handle it, it's you. 
  19. No matter what, you will always be my beautiful little girl.
  20. Please don't ever date a guy that would hurt you.  I don't think I'd do well in prison.
  21. Leave work at work but take family wherever you go.
  22. Find good mentors.  They can help you avoid life's potholes but they are also good at pulling you out when you step in one.
  23. It's okay to get Angry at God.  He can take it.
  24. I have loved you longer than any boy ever will.

And Maybe most importantly…

  1. Please never stop giving me kisses.  They reorganize my soul. 

I love you all kinds of bunches, 

         P.S. Neither of us will ever be too old for you to call me "Daddy". 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Bacon and Eggs and Sex

Last month I wrote a series of blog posts titled "Let's talk about Sex".  They were inspired by a desire that I've had for quite some time to write a book that explores the questions and issues that revolve around Christian dating and sexuality.  Well I've begun the long painful process of writing a book and I'd like to share my initial ideas with you all to see what you think.  This is obviously not ready to be published but I think its pretty good.  I'd love to hear some feedback. 

Chapter 1
            I was in my sophomore year at Southwestern Bible College in Phoenix Arizona. More recently the college has come to be known as Arizona Christian University.  It’s grown and changed a lot in the few short years since I’ve been there but in many ways it has stayed the same.

            That year I was part of student leadership and held the highly esteemed title of Resident Assistant or RA.  Most students hated RA’s.  RA’s were basically morality police.  It was our job to make sure that students obeyed curfew, didn’t drink, smoke or have sex, and as the king in the famous play The King and I would say, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.  There was a whole handbook of rules that were enforced by RA’s.  It was our job to enforce a strict dress code as well as a policy that students must clean their room once a week.  I however didn’t take my job as seriously as several of my peers and became known as the cool RA.  I think I gave a total of 5 write ups all year.  A write up was a little pink slip that served as a warning.  I can’t remember how many write ups a person could get before they had to meet with the dean of students but my fellow RA’s handed out enough to make up for my laziness. 

            If I remember correctly it was about October.  I had a midterm the next day and had just gotten back in to town from a family vacation.  I was stressed and unprepared but I had made plans to study with a friend that night so I figured I’d be alright.  For whatever reason our study session didn’t end up happening on time and because of a college wide curfew policy I was not going to get a chance to study unless I went rogue and broke a few rules. 

            Ashley, the friend I planned to study with, offered to go to Denny’s with me look over her study guide.  It was about 11:45 and with curfew at 12 we had no intention to be back on time.  In the moment we both thought, “no big deal”.  We would each probably get a write up, and I’d pass my test and everything would be okay.  It was worth the sacrifice.

            Unfortunately that’s not how it worked out.  On our way through the parking lot we ran in to another RA.  He said, “Hey” and asked what we were up to.  I told him that we needed to study for a test and that we were on our way to Denny’s.  I was stressed, impatient and not in the mood for condescension.  In a very “holier-than-thou” way he reminded me that there was no way that we’d make it back in time for curfew and I flippantly told him that I didn’t care.  In hindsight that wasn’t my best move but in my defense, curfew is stupid and I needed to study.  I wasn’t going out boozing or joyriding.  I was studying.  I was studying the Bible!

            The next day, it all started.  We had stayed out maybe a half hour past curfew but the RA that had stopped us in the parking lot had gone straight to the Dean of Students and told him of our blatant disregard for the rules.  Ashley’s roommate had gone to the dean of women when Ashley didn’t make it back by curfew because she was worried, but the entire week following our Denny’s incident was filled with uncomfortable meetings about how dangerous it is for a young man and young woman to be out alone so late at night. 

            Let me remind you that we were in a public restaurant within walking distance from campus and it wasn’t even a romantic restaurant.  Seriously what’s going to happen at Denny’s? 

            We had multiple conversations with various leaders at the school that were horribly uncomfortable and demeaning in the moment but are extremely comical and ridiculous in hindsight.  It was infuriating at the time but it has become a fond memory for both of us and we still joke to this day about our Study Session at Denny’s. 

            The administration treated the whole situation as though we had been caught having sex in public so we began to joke about Denny’s being a romantic restaurant.  We started saying things like, “Be careful!  If you go to Denny’s after midnight, you will get pregnant.”  The whole thing became completely absurd. 

            Several months later a group of us were out at Denny’s for dinner talking about life and joking about makin’ babies at Denny’s.  We started talking about relationships and dating and boundaries within dating and I remember telling everybody that one day, when I had it all figured out, I was going to write a book about all of it.  When they asked me what I was going to title the book I looked down at my menu as I thought and it hit me.  With pride in my heart and a gleam in my eye, I looked up from my menu and proudly announced the title of my book.  “Bacon and Eggs at Denny’s”

            That was late in 2007, almost 6 years ago as I write and though I’ve grown considerably and experience a great deal more than I had then, I still have very few answers when it comes to the topics of sex and dating.  What I have gained in the recent past, are questions that I think will help guide you on a journey to find your own answers. 

            This book is intended to be the beginning of the discussion, not the end.  It’s going to be very conversational and laid back.  So come on in and grab a booth.  Order some coffee and some apple pie a-la-mode, and join me in my quest to discover God’s plan for sex, dating, and everything in between. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Let's Talk about Sex 3: The Romeo and Juliette Complex

It would be difficult to make it through middle school and impossible to make it through high school without hearing the story of Romeo and Juliet.  Two star crossed lovers caught in the middle of a family feud and a forbidden relationship.  It's really a sad story, a depressing tale that leads to the unnecessary death of pretty much everybody involved.  This story has been told in many different ways by many different storytellers but now it's my turn.  Here's the version of the story that I have seen time and time again.  (I don't write story type stuff often so bear with me.)

Juliet grew up in the church.  Her parents loved her and each other, this love was something that only a few of her friends understood.  Statistically, her family was the exception to the rule of divorce and marital tension that seemed to plague most families in the US.    She was homeschooled for a couple years early on.  Most of her friends were church friends that she met at youth group.  She enjoyed life, obeyed her parents (almost all the time) and began to develop Christian disciplines like daily Bible reading and journaling in junior high.  Juliet's parents were fairly strict but they weren't too bad.  Juliette was fairly laid back so she didn't mind curfew and things like that.  The one rule that she didn't really get was the rule that she had to be 16 before she started dating.  It hadn't been a problem for Juliette before but then again, she hadn't met Romeo yet.

Romeo was tall dark and handsome like any lead male should be in a romantic tragedy.  He was a little bit of a rebel and had parents that were much more hands off than most.  He was suave and passionate and carried himself with an air of danger that attracted twitter painted girls like moths to a flame. 

For Juliet's freshman year at High School she convinced her parents to allow her to attend the local public High School.  She felt strong in her faith and was ready to take on the challenge of evangelism and needed more of a social outlet than their small church could provide.  She joined the cheer leading team and made some good girlfriends quickly, but it wasn't long before she caught Romeo's eye. 

She was pretty in a cute and innocent way, and there was something about her that set her apart from the girls that Romeo normally liked.  They started hanging out and developed a friendship that quickly blossomed into an incredibly romantic relationship.  They laughed together for hours, and enjoyed similar music and movies.  They exchanged phone numbers and began to talk every night about everything and nothing. 

February came faster than they would have expected and Valentines day was just around the corner.   Romeo planned it all out.  He was finally going to make it official and ask Juliet to be his girlfriend.  He brought flowers to school and a teddy bear that he spent way too much on.  It had a heart in it's hand and it was cuddly and cute and it reminded him of the girl that he had fallen in love with.  He was romantically irresistible and Juliet hung on every word as he expressed his love for her and gave her his letter jacket as a sign of their now public romance.

She was overwhelmed with emotion and wore a smile that began to ache by early afternoon but she didn't care.  She was in love and now she knew for sure that he felt the same way.  Everything was like a fairy tale until the last bell of the day rang and she realized that her mom was waiting at the curb.  For some reason this was the time that her memory decided to kick in to bring to her attention the fact that she was still 15 and would not be 16 for several months. 

Juliet was faced with a decision.  Come clean with her mom and risk ruining something that made her so happy, or hide.  She chose to hide and explained the situation to her new found love who chivalrously vowed to protect her from her evil mother who desired to keep them apart. They vowed to keep their love a secret and thus sealed their fate. 

The relationship was passionate and the secrecy made it all the more exciting.  They were living on the edge and it was exhilarating and exciting.  Juliet's mom became suspicious of her daughters change in social behavior and her late night phone calls and began to ask uncomfortable questions.  Rather than telling the truth Juliet continued to hide her love from her mom for fear that her mother would require an immediate break up; a thought that Juliette couldn't bare.  The relationship continued to be something that created emotional distance between Juliette and her parents.   They just wouldn't understand. 

I could continue telling the story but I think you can probably let your own imagination fill in the rest.  This fictional story is an example of countless stories that I've seen from students in my youth group as well as my own experience in high school.  It seems to me that the "no dating rule" creates what I call a Romeo and Juliet complex in many young students.  The attraction becomes stronger than it would have been because of the secrecy and the deceit.  It creates distance between parents and their children because many students rather than being honest and seeking their parents out for advice in their maiden relationship voyage, hide from their parents and begin to resent their parents for trying to keep them from their "one true love". 

The quick answer from my perspective is that parents should support their children and create an environment where it's okay to talk about these things.  In my opinion dating shouldn't be against the rules.  What seems to happen more often than not is that kids develop relationships weather it's against the rules or not.  If the relationship is forbidden it becomes more exciting and it causes distance and deception.  If young relationships were encouraged and children were able to talk through the ideas of dating and what that looks like from a very young age, I think we might see children benefiting from their first dating relationship and it might even provide a way for parents and children to bond.  If and when a break up happens, teens will feel more comfortable seeking out their parents for emotional support if they've been getting emotional support the whole time.  If they haven't been getting support from their parents from the get go, they will probably seek emotional support from other friends which could potentially lead to a rebound relationship that has all of the same problems compounded by emotional vulnerability that came from the previous break up.

Many students have their first boy or girlfriend at about the age of 15.  They need to be prepared for this experience and they need to have mentors and parents that will help them through it in a positive way.  Chances are it's not a "one true love" situation.  But I guarantee that they learn a ton from it.  I know I did.  

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Let's Talk About Sex 2

Let me begin with a warning. I don't have the answer to the question I'm about to ask.  It's a question that kept me awake at night as a young, single man; and a question that haunts the students in my ministry as a youth pastor.  It's one who's answer ought to be found clearly laid out in scripture.  Sadly, however, the keys to unlocking the mystery of my question seem to lurk in the grey areas or our Bible.  But before I give you the question… some lead in is necessary. 

Navigating adolescence is a dangerous journey and it's not made easier with the introduction of sexual attraction.  I vaguely remember the first time I thought to comb my hair and wear clean clothes not because my mom told me to but because of a girl in my youth group.  It was weird.  She was a girl, she had cooties, why did I want to look nice so she'd notice me.  As time flew by I, much like any other hormone drenched adolescent, struggled to figure out what God's plan was for my sex drive and my sexuality.  I've been married now for 3 years and have a daughter who just learned to walk and I'm still trying to figure out God's plan for sex. 

In this post I'd like to start by looking at what scripture has to say about sex.  I feel like I'd end up with a book if I tried to go through each passage, so I'm just going to try to summarize what I've found.  

There are numerous places in the New Testament that forbid and condemn sexual immorality.  (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 7:2; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7) Several of these texts also condemn sensuality.  Unfortunately scripture really doesn't give us a great definition, at least in these texts, for what sexual immorality encompasses. It's possible that sexual immorality could include everything from intercourse outside of marriage, to a quick kiss, holding hands, or even something as harmless as a hug.  It's possible though that sexual immorality has limits within this scale, but where do we draw the line.  Hopefully we can all agree that child prostitution is sexually immoral.  We could probably also agree that pornography would qualify as sexually immoral.  But what about those less clear issues.  Do we draw the line of acceptable behavior at holding hands, hugging, kissing, making out, hand jobs, blow jobs, or actual intercourse.  In my experience different people have drawn the line in different places but where does God draw the line? What is His understanding of Sexual Immorality?

The key question that must be answered in order to find God's plan for our sexuality is, "what is the best definition for sexual immorality".  Like I said in the beginning… I don't have a good answer but let me put forth a couple possible answers for your consideration. 
  • Could sexual immorality be limited to casual sex? It seems to me that two people who love each other and plan to be with each other for a long time might be able to enter into a sexual relationship in good conscience but it's conceivable that when the bible talks of immorality it is speaking of the type of sexual relationships that involve repeated one night stands with different partners. 
  • Could sexual immorality be limited to adultery.  In several of these passages it would make sense that marriage is sacred and cheating on your spouse is wrong.  However there are passage where a reader would have to assume that sexual immorality means pre-marital sex in order to get that from the passage. 
  • Could sexual immorality not have limits?  Could these verses be speaking of everything from a side hug or casual glance to polygamy and sexual addiction.  The more important practical question in this regard is "how are we supposed to survive our current society if this is the case."  The only way I can see a person possibly avoiding sexual immorality (as it's defined here) is moving to the mountains and living as a hermit. 
  • In many Christian circles intercourse is really the only thing that is completely off limits.  Other things are looked down on but if you have intercourse we can officially announce that "the end of the world" is here.  But is intercourse the best definition for sexual immorality. 

 I'm going to stop before the post get's way to long, but before I do, I'd like to briefly touch on 1 Cor 7:2.  The thing that interests me most here is that Paul tells those who are tempted by sexual immorality to get married.  Paul is speaking of celibacy and explaining that not all have that gift.  He then says if you don't have the gift of celibacy ,or, put another way, if you do have a sex drive…  get married!  The problem for me with this passage is that marriage doesn't seem to be a cure for any type of sexual temptation that I'm aware of.  There are married men who continue to view pornography, masturbate, lust after women they aren't married to, cheat and do a host of other things that are traditionally deemed "sexually immoral".  While Paul seems to talk about marriage here as the answer to an out of control sex drive, marriage in real life is rarely the answer to an out of control sex drive.  

I feel like I could keep going but I'd like to hear what you think so far.  This will probably not be the last post on this topic. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Let's Talk About Sex

Okay parents this one is for you.

For quite some time now I've been frustrated with the stereotypical Christian teachings on sex, dating, abstinence and the like. This will be my first of hopefully several blogs on the topic. The messages that we are sending students, and more importantly the way that we are sending that message just flat isn't working. A recent article in Relevant magazine by Tyler Charles reports that "80% of young, unmarried Christians have had sex. Two-thirds have been sexually active in the last year. Even though, according to a recent Gallup poll, 76% of evangelicals believe sex outside of marriage is morally wrong."

The scare campaigns and purity contracts aren't working, period. In fact the statistics for evangelical Christians who have had premarital sex seem to be rising. So what should we do? Tyler Charles believes that the abstinence message needs a makeover. I'm not 100% sure that a makeover will cure the ills that seem to riddle the churches view of sex and sexuality but it's a step in the right direction. What Mr. Charles fails to do in his otherwise very enlightened article is to provide a makeover message. He points out the flaws in our current endeavor to keep kids from getting pregnant but doesn't offer a solution.

Unfortunately, that's where I find myself. I see some of the same problems that Charles sees and like Charles I don't have a perfect system or orthodox methodology that we can all use to teach our kids what healthy Christian sexuality looks like. I do however want to highlight some problems with our current methods in order to hopefully lead the way in developing the facelift that our message on sexuality so desperately needs.

The one thing that I can say needs to take place in order for things to change is that we need to talk about sex in our churches more often. For so long it's been a don't ask, don't tell topic that has been quieted in the church. It's simply not comfortable in a church environment to answer questions about r mutual masturbation or oral sex. It's not even socially comfortable to type those words in a Christian blog. The only way to change that, is to fight through the awkwardness and just talk about it. Teens desperatly need positive messages about sex and about the changes that they are going through as post pubescent walking hormones in Junior Higher form. The hush-hush attitude needs to stop.

Secondly, the stupid, false, and demeaning analogies need to be mercilessly slaughtered. Remember that students need honest, mature, real answers. They don't need bad analogies or inappropriate jokes to lighten the mood. And to be honest. Most of the analogies that I have heard, run absolutely contrary to the message of the gospel. Please take the time to watch this short video so that you can see what I'm talking about.

Though I don't agree with Matt Chandler on everything, he's spot on here. The message that many Christians receive about sex is actually counter productive. It's anti-gospel. We need to remember and remind our students that the gospel comes with grace, even for our sexual histories. At the same time we need to balance our message, not with a list of do's and don't but with thought provoking questions that help guide students to their own conclusions about sex, sexuality, dating, and physical/emotional boundaries within dating. It's my opinion that we need to stop giving answers to students and start asking questions. They are smarter than we give them credit for and they will figure it out. But lets come along side them and guide them through the correct questions to ask, and help them explore the implications of their answers.

Here are some ideas of what I would call good questions.

"Okay, so lets say that you decide to have sex with your boy/girl friend. How do you think that will affect your relationship in the short term? How bout long term?"

"What do you think are the pro's and con's of setting up emotional, and physical boundaries in a relationship?"

"What are the pro's and con's of different physical displays of affection in a relationship. For example pros and cons of holding hands, kissing, becoming exclusive, spending time alone, making out, oral sex, intercourse, etc…"

"What factors come in to play when you are trying to make decisions about who to date, kiss, sleep with etc…"

I could go on but hopefully you get the idea. One thing that, in my opinion you probably shouldn't do with your kids, is have a sex talk. Now I know this is probably a controversial topic and I may change my mind later but this is where I stand now.  I don't want to tell you how to parent but I would like for you to think through what you do.  I know that the decision to have or not have the sex talk will depend on you and your kids but for most teenagers that I've talked to "the talk" that they had with their parents, if they had one, was awkward, uncomfortable and did not lead to any future talks.

What you should do, is comfortably deal with situations when they come up. Our culture is very comfortable with sex and the topic will come up, just give it time. Just take the issues as they come. Ask what your kids think about certain scenes in movies, or what they think about their friends who just started dating so-and-so. Be casual, honest, and listen to what you're kids have to say. As you develop an atmosphere that is open to questions and isn't judgmental, the chances of your kids coming to you with questions rather than going to Google with their questions will increase dramatically.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sanctioning Martyrdom

We are all in process.  Two steps forward one step back.  We have good days and bad days, awful weeks and great months.  Life is a journey that often takes crazy turns, and has a ridiculously enormous amount of speed bumps (kinda like my new apartment complex. I mean seriously I feel like I get a minor concussion every time I drive through.  They are like every 30 feet.). 

Looking back on my spiritual/theological journey it's interesting to see the dramatic changes that I've made to my world view and theology over the years.  In high school I was the theology expert.  I had it all figured out by the time I graduated.  Then I got to Bible College and realized that I was young, na├»ve, and had suddenly become an intellectually tiny fish swimming around in a tank full of sharks.  By the time I graduated I had grown up quite a bit.  I had developed positions on important issues and was pretty confident in what I believed and able to defend my positions fairly well.  After being a year out of college I feel like I'm back at square one.  The smarter I get the dumber I feel. 

I was always told that the study of God was an endless task because he is infinite and every question that we answer about him causes us to ask 7 or 8 new questions.  But nobody told me that I would also have to go back and re-answer several previous questions whose answers would now be dependent on the new answer and would need to change in order to maintain unity in my worldview and consistency in my theology.  So for every new answer I would receive 8 new questions and have to evaluate 6 old questions.  Then for each of the 6 old questions I would receive 8 new and 6 old which brought the total up to 84 questions plus the original 8....  Confused yet… Me too.

My theological journey has been a constant ebb and flow.  There's tension between the desire to have an open mind and be willing to explore new areas of theological thought and the desire to hold on to what I know.  It's a roller coaster up and down, spinning sideways, with several loop-the-loops right in the middle and at times, it leaves me just as nauseous as the real thing.  The constant tension and sudden drops in confidence is frustrating to say the least but I found some comfort this week as I was reading through the book of Acts. (Speaking of roller coasters, the picture to the right is me on splash mountain and I'm not faking it.  I'm uncomfortable with heights... Don't judge me!)

At the end of Acts 7 Stephen is stoned and a man named Saul is standing nearby holding peoples coats.  Acts 8:1 says that this man, Saul, approved and supported this public execution.  Now think to yourself about what type of person would you might expect to come out and support a public execution by a mob of angry Jews.  Certainly you are not thinking that the local pastor or religious leader would be there in support?  The interesting thing to me was that Saul was a religious man.  And he wasn't just a religious man, he was a religious leader.  The thing that blows me away is that he seriously believed that he was doing the right thing.  Standing up for what was right, serving God.  Acts 23:6 tells us that Paul was a PK (Pharisee's Kid) and Acts 22:3 tells us that Paul was educated by Gamaliel who was a well known Pharisee.  It also tells us that Paul was very zealous for God and yet, in acts 7 we find Paul publicly condoning the first recorded martyrdom of Christianity.

This part of the story scares me to death because I have that sinking feeling in the back of my mind that I too might be holding onto a certain doctrine or theological issue that I'm completely wrong on.  And if I am wrong it's not just me that's wrong.  I'm a pastor who's helping other people on their spiritual journey.  I'm giving guidance to young, moldable minds.  What if I'm wrong about something, like Paul was?  Hopefully I never get to the point where I start condoning the public mob mentality that leads to martyrdom of God's people but  Paul did… 

So I'm sure you're starting to think to yourself… "Self, I thought he said he found some encouragement in the book of Acts".  Well I did, and it is in the story that I'm sure most of you have heard in Acts 9. 

Act 9:1  Meanwhile Saul, still breathing out threats to murder the Lord's disciples, went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, either men or women, he could bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
As he was going along, approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"
So he said, "Who are you, Lord?" He replied, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting!  But stand up and enter the city and you will be told what you must do."  (Now the men who were traveling with him stood there speechless, because they heard the voice but saw no one.)
So Saul got up from the ground, but although his eyes were open, he could see nothing. Leading him by the hand, his companions brought him into Damascus.  For three days he could not see, and he neither ate nor drank anything. 

Long story short, this guy named Ananias receives a vision from God to go see Saul, He does, scales fall out of Saul's eyes and he can see again.  Then he immediately gets baptized and starts preaching about Jesus but Saul wasn't exactly accepted by people at first and he wasn't perfect right off the bat.  He ends up pissing a bunch of people off and has to get kidnapped and taken out of the city by other disciples.  

The thing about this story that is so encouraging to me is that Saul is also Paul.  You know the guy that wrote most of the books in the New Testament.  The apostle to the Gentiles.  Early on in his life he got blinded by poor theology and made mistakes and yet… God still used him.  And Saul AKA Paul, ended up becoming one of the most influential missionaries and  Christians of all time. 

God used a guy who was wrong.  And it wasn't just that he explained the trinity incorrectly or had a misguided view on some obscure theology like millennial view.  He was sanctioning the murder of God's people.  In a sick and twisted way this story gives me hope that God can use me as a teacher and that he will work in the lives of those students that I mess up in my own special way.