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Miranda Writes: CollegeóDAZED and Confused!




by Omar Miranda



Here’s a prayer request I came across on the Insight Web site:

Please pray for me. I am attending a public university, and it has been a month and a half. I have fallen away from God; I have fallen into porn; I have been thinking adulterous thoughts, been ignoring God’s Sabbath day, given up spending time with Him, started making other idols, etc. I am far from an Adventist church, but I yearn to follow God again! Please keep me in prayer, that I may have the strength to follow Him. I want to get to know Him again, but I totally forgot how. I really need prayer.

Wow! Thanks for your honesty. It took a lot of courage for you to write that. Rest assured that the folks at Insight and I will pray for you.

I don’t want to minimize your feelings, but it might surprise you to know that your experience is similar to that of many people. Research shows that within the Seventh-day Adventist Church 40 to 50 percent of Seventh-day Adventist teenagers who accept Christ during their teenage years will leave the church in their 20s! (See Roger L. Dudley, Why Our Teenagers Leave the Church.) We could lose the entire church in one generation!

My story is like yours, only I was younger when it happened. I was raised in a strong Seventh-day Adventist Christian household. I hail from a third-generation Adventist family—a proud line of strong faith, strong beliefs, and quirky lifestyle practices. I witnessed both of my parents having a strong personal relationship with Jesus. We had worship and devotions twice a day. My parents did everything right! I was even raised in an area of the U.S. with a large mashup of Adventists—some have called it an Adventist ghetto. Here, I was exposed to a lot of church. I went through Bible studies and was baptized at the tender age of 8. Nearby were many Adventist churches and an elementary school and academy. Anytime the church doors were opened, I was there. I went through everything the Adventist Church had to offer: Pathfinders, academy, summer camp, and all that went with them.

I was the poster boy for a good Seventh-day Adventist, but I never got it for myself. I saw the same thing in others. Many people had what seemed like a relationship with Jesus, but only a few had a real relationship with Him, and even fewer actually talked with me transparently about the joys and struggles of the Christian life.

I started walking away from Christ around the seventh grade, when I was about 13 or 14 years old. I can’t tell you that any one thing did it for me. Looking back on it and thinking about it for a long time, I’ve realized that it was a combination of several important things:

1. I did not have consistent contact with people who had a vibrant, joyful, authentic Christian experience—people who were honest about their struggles and ups and downs.

2. I did not experience a deep and abiding accountability friendship with anyone who had a vibrant, joyful, authentic Christian experience.

3. I was not taught how to have a vibrant relationship with Jesus. I was never taught practical Christianity, i. e., how to live in the Spirit versus the flesh. How does one make faith practical in real life? I remember hearing about Jesus being in “constant communion with God,” and I even remember reading in The Desire of Ages that when He was on the cross, the thing that almost killed Him was having His relationship with His Father cut off. I remember thinking, So what? What’s the big deal? I didn’t get it, because I didn’t have it. I didn’t figure out that I could have the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome bad habits and sin in my life until I was in the midst of overcoming an addiction to sex and pornography. I wish I had been taught these things as a child, teen, and college student, but alas, I had to learn it all the hard way!

I was raised in a strong Adventist home, but I didn’t see the same Christian experience in a lot of people at my church. What I saw was predominantly a Bible-believing, doctrine-teaching, hard church. I saw a lot of hypocritical, miserable, mean people. There was a lot of truth, but not a lot of love. There was lots of judgment and condemnation and little understanding, grace, forgiveness, discernment, kindness, or authenticity. I saw a lot of people who were afraid . . . afraid of being honest, afraid of being real, afraid of calling themselves imperfect sinners.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I was taught what to believe. Doctrine is the ship that keeps us afloat in an otherwise confusing sea of alternate lifestyles and beliefs. But a love relationship and personal experience with Jesus is the anchor that holds our faith when the times of testing come! Jesus never said, “You will know doctrine, and doctrine will set you free.” No! What He said was “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32, CEV).¹ He also said that He Himself is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6, CEV).
I was taught all the rights and wrongs, but I wasn’t taught the hows—you know, how to live as a Christian and succeed. This is what my story is about—breaking free from doctrine alone. Doctrine comes second, not first. It’s about falling in love with Christ and understanding that He is first your Savior and then your Lord. “If the Son [Jesus] sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36, NIV).²

What I learned as a youngish person was not a real relationship with Jesus but how to “fake it.” You know the drill: fake it, fail, try harder, fail, lie, lie, lie, fake it, fail, try harder, etc. After a while you can add “give up” to the process. Then before you know it, you are one of the frozen chosen, a prune-person, a pretty cadaver, or as Jesus called them, hypocrites! Whitewashed tombs! All pretty and clean on the outside, but on the inside, stinking of death and full of dead people’s bones (Matthew 23:27). When I was that way, it didn’t take long for me to stop reading my Bible, praying, and going to church. After that, my involvement with all kinds of sinful behaviors, such as addictions to sex and pornography, increased drastically and lasted for many years. I got involved in things that I thought would fill that God-shaped hole in my soul. But nothing would do it but Jesus! Thank God I found a bunch of recovering addicts who introduced me to their friend and Savior Jesus and who taught me how to really know and love Him. I haven’t been the same since.

It sounds to me as though your heart is in the right place. You are sorry for your sin, and you recognize that nothing will bring you peace but a real relationship with Jesus. It sounds as though you are ready to place Him in His rightful place as Lord and Savior of your life. You should begin by first confessing your sin and repenting of it. Admit to God all the mistakes that you’ve made and promise a fresh start with Him. Accept His forgivenesss. Then find someone you can be accountable to. The sins of sex and pornography addiction are especially difficult to break free from, and no one does it alone. You may need to speak to a counselor who specializes in treating this type of issue. If you can’t find one, please feel free to contact me. I would also recommend that you read my articles entitled “Black and Blue Friday,” “Porn Doesn’t Have to Be the Norm,” and “Are You Dull?” (see www.insightmagazine.org/webbonus/index.asp).

Last, but not least, I recommend that you read King Solomon’s findings in the book of Ecclesiastes about attempting to live without God. And if you want to start a relationship with God again, read one of the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. I personally like John the most—but that’s just me.

Until next time, remember, God’s way is always the best way. Life is full of decisions, so make yours good ones. Make God first above all in your life, and you can’t go wrong.

Feel free to contact me: you can e-mail me at omarmiranda@earthlink.net; or you can keep up with me on Facebook; or you can read more of my stuff on Miranda Writes, at www.insightmagazine.org; or you can check me out or send me a message at my Web site, thriveatlife.org; or you can reach me via snail mail (slow!) at the address printed below.

In Christ,
Omar Miranda, certified Christian counselor

Abundant Life Ministries
155 Earl Street
Plainville, GA 30733
Phone: 1-770-354-2912

    ¹Scripture quotations identified CEV are from the Contemporary English Version. Copyright © American Bible Society 1991, 1995. Used by permission.
    ²Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Omar Miranda is a Christian counselor with 20 years’ experience working with youth in public and private middle and high schools. He’s married and has two kids. He enjoys teaching the youth at his church, reading, writing, gardening, and camping. He’s a recovering knucklehead who spent a lot of time in the past doing stupid stuff away from God. He’s been back with God for years now and is eager to share what he’s learned from his experiences by answering any questions you may have about life, the Christian life, Jesus, spiritual matters, and relationships in his column, Miranda Writes.


 





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