Today is #WellnessWednesday, so it is a good time to talk about giving as it relates to Christmas.
Any Christian will tell you that Jesus gave his life so that we could be forgiven of the wrong that we’ve done. However, Jesus gave much more than his life while he was on Earth. Let’s talk about it:
1: HIS TIME
Whether it is putting your phone down more often at the dinner table, or volunteering your time to a cause, it is a valuable resource that many people choose not to give up.
2: HIS GIFTS
You likely have talents and gifts that you can use to help or inspire others. This could be singing, writing, designing, or building to name a few examples. Your gift can really help someone in their time of need!
3: HIS WISDOM
He always took the time to explain things in the way that the people of the time could understand. . If you notice, many of the parables in the Bible are related to agriculture or farming. That’s because many people of the time could easily understand analogies using these things.
Take some time to share some wisdom with someone this season. Teach them to do something they cannot do by themselves.
4: HIS HEART
It is important that we meet people where they are to help get them where they can be.
5: HIS EAR
It is officially fall, and it is also blogtober here on TheOpinionatedOne.com. That means that I’m trying really hard to keep everything on theme for this month.
Today, I thought my “message” of sorts could be about harvesting. I know, weird. But I promise I’ll do my best to make my point.
“Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38
WHAT IS HARVESTING TO FARMERS?
Jesus uses these farming parables in hopes of helping the multitudes understand God.
Harvest is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the season for gathering in agricultural crops.” A lot of people understand this time to be around autumn when the weather starts to get colder and some crops cannot grow very well. The idea was that the excess crops would be stored up and saved to be used later.
HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO OUR WALK AS CHRISTIANS?
In the scripture that I quoted at the beginning of today’s post, Jesus has just seen a multitude of people who needed help with one thing or another. This was after Jesus healed the blind men and a man possessed with a devil.
Many of the people in this multitude likely knew the people Jesus healed for several years, as communities were even more closer-knit than they are today. After seeing someone suffer from an illness or handicap for that long only to see them healed by Jesus, they must have been a desperate crowd.
If you are lost and someone (in this scripture a “labouror”) shows you kindness and helps you, you may put your faith in Christ. If you are already saved, you may become a “labouror.”
This time of the year can kick off seasonal depression, the beginning of colder months for the homeless, and difficult times for those who no longer have family to be around.
There are a lot of people in need, but very few people willing to help. When we aren’t in a bad situation, we tend to think of an issue as someone else’s problem and we have this attitude that they should just deal with it themselves.
This was also for my benefit! We are commanded to love one another, and the best way to do that is to help in the harvest. Who knows if you will help someone see or feel God when you do it. Your harvest in times of need could reap enternal benefits. You never know unless you try!
Pretty much all of my recent Worship Wednesday blog posts have been inspired by a message from church and have interestingly enough been themed around water.
Today, I want to reflect on a passage of scripture that I don't think I really took a lot of time to absorb and understand. It was sort of a footnote in the last message I heard at church (at the time of writing this), but I was amazed when I heard our pastor mention it.
GOD IS FAITHFUL TO US
"But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left." Exodus 14:29
But he made a way and helped them get away. I think of other examples like the bread from Heaven or the rock that Moses later struck to give water to the people.
And there are so many other examples in the Old and New Testament of God's faithfulness to provide for us, usually in a way we wouldn't think of. For a few examples:
Furthermore, when our prayers are answered, they might not be answered in the way we thought they would or should be. I was always told that praying for patience will bring a lot of things into your life that will make you impatient for a time. God doesn't answer things in your will or in your time. He answers them in his will and in his time.
This unfortunately keeps a lot of people away from the faith. I've heard many people ask why they should believe in a God who lets people have cancer or allows tragedy to happen. In fact, atheism experienced a noticeable growth after Sept. 11, 2001. What people fail to remember is that not all things are from God. A lot of things come from the enemy. This goes into a whole other debate about God's all-powerful nature. If you have questions, pop them in the comments!
Personally, I try to remind myself that God has always answered my prayers in the way it best impacts me. I remember praying about all three of the men I dated, and all of those relationships, except the one that resulted in my marriage, ended.
All I ask to non-believers or those who aren't sure is to be open-minded and learn more about God and the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You would be hard-pressed to find a Christian who hasn't experienced a prayer being answered in an unconventional way.
At a point in my life, I wasn't really sure what I believed. I've always had a strong sense that we were created and placed on the Earth for a reason by a higher being. For most of my life, that higher being was the Christian God. That was, until college happened.
All of my questions were logical. They weren't "why don't I feel God" or anything like that. They were questions that had answers in the Bible. But I wanted to ground those answers outside of the Bible, too. I wanted to know both spiritually and mentally that God existed. I still have a hunger to be able to answer other questions that are similar, both for myself and for others.
So today, I want to share with you three particularly helpful sources outside of the Bible that helped me ground my spirituality in my intellect.
1: "COLD CASE CHRISTIANITY" BY J. WARNER WALLACE
I was fighting this particular battle. I always believed that God existed and Jesus had come down to save us from sin. But, I wasn't so sure I had (at least at the moment) believed in God and had faith in Him.
In the book, Wallace addresses a common complaint from non-Christians: the disciples accounts don't always match up exactly. The former cold case detective and hard-core atheist decided to examine the gospels as he would a cold case that would have little to no physical evidence.
He found that he would never expect witness testimony to line up exactly. If it did, it would point to some sort of conspiring that would mean the witnesses "got their story straight."
I love this book. You can get it online on Amazon for between $5.69 and $17.58.
2: GIVE ME AN ANSWER - YOUTUBE
I like this because it becomes sort of a debate. You get to not only hear from the educated pastor, but also from others with differing opinions. The others are usually students and sometimes faculty or staff at the University. This series not only helps you to identify some ways of approaching certain question that you or others may have, but it also teaches you about what non-Christians may believe and their reasons for it.
I am a huge advocate for healthy, friendly, and cordial debate. I think it is important to never stop thinking. Cliffe and his son, who is a licensed psychologist, are great at what they do. There are tons of videos for you to binge-watch, but I linked one of the more recent ones below.
3: "THE CASE FOR CHRIST" BY LEE STROBEL
Strobel is extremely relatable as he delves into asking some pretty tough questions that most people have doubts about. I love the narrative style, which makes for great listening in audiobook form!
You can purchase the book from $3.99 to $15 on Amazon!
4: CROSS-EXAMINED - YOUTUBE
"But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on they right cheek, turn to him the other also." - Matthew 5:39
We all have moments in our lives when someone does something mean to us to hurt us. Most of the time, these people just want a reaction from you. I remember hearing this verse often when growing up.
Just by logic, most would interpret this to say that you should let someone continue to abuse you either physically, spiritually, or emotionally. In fact, the lack of "retaliation" when someone wrongs you might be why some people don't want to learn more about Jesus. So, I wanted to clear some things up for today's #WorshipWednesday post!
LOOKING AT CONTEXT
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:" Matthew 5:38
"Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you. And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you. And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." Deuteronomy 19:19-21
WHAT JESUS MEANS IN THE TEXT
It further evident that this is the case when you read Bible verses like those in Ephesians 6:10-11, where the Bible says to " be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."
But, perhaps most importantly, I learned from these Bible study that God doesn't always want us to sit back and continue to let people walk all over us. Our response of kindness makes a statement. Our honest words said in a dignified and classy way will leave an impact. But none of us are perfect!
TIPS FOR RESPONDING WITH THE LORD'S STRENGTH
I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge music lover. You can probably tell by my handles on Instagram and Twitter being @gemusiclover (go follow me)!
So, for today’s #WorshipWednesday, I thought it might be interesting to share some famous songs that you’ve probably karaoked or jammed out to in the car that are said to be based on Bible verses or have some sort of imagery related to the Christian faith.
Let’s get started:
1: CARRY ON MY WAYWARD SON | KANSAS
"And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want." - Luke 15:12-14
In Luke 15, Jesus shares the parable of the prodigal son. A man has two sons. The younger son asks his father to give him his inheritance, and the father does. The son goes out and wastes his treasure on “riotous living” and finds himself with no money in the middle of a famine.
Lyrics from the song say “I was soaring ever higher, but I flew too high,” implying that the son was living the high life, but quickly found himself being “tossed about…like a ship on the ocean.”
2: JOSEPH, BETTER YOU THAN ME | THE KILLERS
"Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost." - Matthew 1:19-20
This song is pretty clear, in my opinion, but I thought it was interesting that the Killers had a song about Joseph, and it features a number of other artists! The song is about Joseph, Jesus’ adoptive father of sorts, who sticks with Mary despite the fact that he was probably surrounded by controversy.
Some give-away lines include “are you bad at dealing with the fame, Joseph” and “you’re a maker, a creator, not just somebody’s dad.”
3: THE SOUND OF SILENCE | DISTURBED
"Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." - John 8:12
The Sound of Silence, originally by Simon and Garfunkel, was hauntingly remade by Disturbed. The lyrics are chock-full of imagery commonly associated with God and Heaven. It talks about light splitting the darkness.
“People talking without speaking, people hearing without listening,” is a reference to what a lot of people think heaven will be like. Many believe that communication with God will be more of a mental thing than a spoken thing. But, as the writer of the song implies, it doesn’t make sense to them made clear by the line “Fools said I you do not know, silence like a cancer grows.”
The writer then finds that the words were like silent raindrops.
4: WHERE IS THE LOVE? | THE BLACK EYED PEAS
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." - Matthew 5:38-39
I don’t know about you, but this was one of my favorite songs back in the day. It talks about the struggles of the world, mentioning in particular that people are dying from terrorism, police and gang violence, and more.
The song then says “Can you practice what you preach? Won’t you turn the other cheek?” The song then goes on to specifically as “father” for help and send guidance from above.
In Matthew 5, Jesus tells others that they should turn the other cheek and refrain from retaliation when we are wronged.
5: HOW FAR IS HEAVEN | LOS LONELY BOYS
"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:" - II Corinthians 5:1-2
This catchy tune is all about escaping the world to get to the paradise of Heaven. To me, the song listens like a modern-day Psalm.
The song has lyrics like “cause I know there’s a better place than this place I’m living,” and “I’ve been lost in my own place, and I’m getting weary.” This translates well with Corinthians 5:1 which says “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
This past Sunday was our first Sunday back in our regular church pattern. When we arrived, it felt right, like it always does!
One of the pastors jumped up on stage after the last worship song had ended to tell the congregation that the head pastor was out, and that we would be watching a video of a service that was previously recorded. I was pretty excited, because I never leave church without a good word.
But this was the word that I needed to hear.
She was doubting herself and, believe me, if you know this woman, you know she’s kicking butt at this blogger thing!
I often find myself waking up and wondering what in the world I think someone as small and insignificant as me is going to accomplish. Sometimes, this burden gets even heavier when you don’t get many views, likes, or shares on your post. You feel like you’re not reaching the right people.
I think I finally am beginning to understand the message God had for me when we watched the sermon on Sunday. The sermon was out of Mark 5.
“And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains…” – Mark 5:1-3
“And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones,” – Mark 5:5
I don’t want to spend too much time on this, as I don’t want to regurgitate the message and pass it off as my own. What you need to know is that Jesus left the many to tend for the one who needed him most.
Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t exclusive to one person. It can be applied to anyone. However, Jesus comes to us personally. He knows all of our needs and our desires.
He came to this man after leaving the thousands of people, some of which I’m sure could have used something from him. He met the man right where he was. This man was said to be filled with demons, and his name was Legion. Our pastor explained that, while demons do exist, demons were also said to be things like different ailments or problems.
I know that many people who have anxiety hate hearing that they should just turn to Jesus or they should stop worry. I’m not a fan of that, either. The truth is that anxiety is an issue with your brain, and so is depression. It’s an illness, and it can consume us.
My anxiety has not gone away, but I can attest to the fact that it is a whole lot better when I stay close to Jesus. Most of all, this story taught me that, if Jesus thinks that I or this man who was so bound down by society and his own problems are both good enough, why shouldn’t I?
Jesus left thousands of people to help one man. If that doesn’t have you smiling bigger each and every day, I don’t know what will. This week, remember that you are loved. Stop telling yourself you won’t amount to anything, or your efforts are in vain. Do what you love, and never apologize for it.
If you’re a Christian, you know that this week is holy week. I know that some of the days in Holy Week aren’t celebrated by every church. I work at a Methodist school, so we have observances for every day.
For today’s Worship Wednesday post, I wanted to talk about some of the science behind some of the conditions that Jesus suffered from on his way to the cross. And, if you’re a non-believer who thinks I will be saying “he didn’t really die and rise from the dead,” then don’t bother reading. I fully believe this happened.
So, let’s get in to this:
JESUS SWEATS BLOOD
The medical term for sweating blood is Hematidrosis. While doctors don’t know exactly what triggers Hematidrosis, many think it is linked to the body’s “fight or flight” response. Hematidrosis has been linked to extreme distress or fear like facing death, torture, or severe and ongoing abuse.
While this could just be a sort of imagery in Luke to mean that Jesus was praying with great effort, it seems his situation would warrant the medical side of this very real condition.
Although there doesn’t seem to be too much information about it, we know from historical research from the time that this was the normal scourging that went on. Most scholars believe the soldiers who scourged Jesus used a flagrum (pictured) which was a leather whip containing pieces of metal, glass, and metal balls at the end of each strip of the whip.
CROWN OF THORNS
They mocked him by putting this crown of thorns on his head. They also gave him a reed in his hand and said to him, “Hail, King of the Jews.”
I never really connected it before, but I wonder if they chose thorns because of his parable of the seeds where he says that seeds are often chocked by thorns. Interesting!
But, at this point, we know that Jesus is severely stressed, he has taken a beating with a very dangerous weapon, and he has had a crown of thorns placed on to his head.
CARRYING THE CROSS
So, imagine being beaten, mocked, and wearing a crown of thorns and being forced to carry the cross up to Calvary. We know it was hard for him to carry.
“And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.” – Matthew 27:32
JESUS' TIME ON THE CROSS
as he pushed up on his nailed feet just to breathe. This would also cause him pain on his wounds and his hands and arms. The goal was to make those being crucified suffer as much as possible. It might take days for someone to die. People would come out for the set up and stay for a while, but then they would leave the crucifixion victims out there until they passed.
Usually, to make sure that they couldn't escape, the guards would break their knees. This didn't happen with Jesus.
"Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water." - John 19:32-34
This water mingled with blood is a condition that happens when the organs begin to shut down. This was likely coming from his lungs and heart. Dr. Cahleen Shrier from Azusa Pacific University, said that this watery liquid was lkikely caused by carbon dioxide build-up in the blood, which causes a high level of carbonic acid in the blood.
This makes the person want to breathe to get more oxygen in the body. However, if the person can't breathe well, it causes damage to tissues which cause capillaries to leak!
I was scrolling through Facebook last night when I saw an article shared by a young woman I went to church with. Now, at the age of 25, I’ve done a lot of growing up and, thanks to a few years of studying the Bible in college and personally, I’ve done a lot of growing in my religion.
I’m a Christian, as you likely know. The article that was shared was a blog post about how woman should not be equal to men because the Bible tells us so. I was troubled to see a young woman sharing this because I don’t see anywhere in the Bible where it says a Christian woman should be lesser than a man.
For the purposes of this blog, I want to tell you what I mean by "feminist." I simply mean someone who believes that men and women should be equal in right, pay, and by societal standards. I know that men and women each have different talents and abilities (i.e. birthing children).
Here are a few reasons why I believe with all of my heart (and Bible) that Jesus and God are both feminists:
1: GOD CREATED WOMEN
2: MUCH OF THE OLD TESTAMENT IS JEWISH HISTORY & LAW
In Colossians 3, we see that verse 18 does indeed say “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.” This whole chapter of Colossians is talking about kindness and love. This doesn’t mean that you should necessarily submit to your husbands overall will, because let’s face it, that can be unwise. I read this and understand it to mean that we should submit to our husbands in love and respect (and I think the next verse says that husbands should do this also).
In 1 Peter 3, it says “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;”
Notice here it says “likewise,” which grammatically implies that the section before this was saying the same thing. It also gives power to the woman here, saying that non-believers who are men can be won over by the way their Christian wives treat them and act.
3: JESUS GAVE MORE POWER TO WOMEN THAN ANYONE IN
Jewish women in Jesus’ time did have to follow the law that came from the age-old curse of being ruled by their husband (thanks Eve). But Jesus did so much for women in his time.
First of all, he saved Mary Magdalene from being stoned to death for adultery. After that, he allowed her to travel with him, even to the crucifixion. And in some of the gospel accounts, she was the first one to see him after his resurrection.
In Mark 14, a woman came into the house of Simon the leper where Jesus was and broke a box of expensive oil/ointment that was very precious, over his head.
“And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.” Mark 14:4-5
4: GOD’S LOVE OF WOMEN
Let’s name a few of the women who God gave an amazing responsibility to:
Also, to address this here at the end, chastity in the Bible is meant for everyone, not just females. Never does it say that only females should abstain from sex. Rather, in 1 Corinthians, it says that a man should not have sexual relations with a woman unless he has his own wife.
So, I want to give a praise of thanks to the Lord for loving me and valuing my life, no matter my sex/gender. To all of you Christian women, you can continue to be great while respectfully and lovingly submitting yourselves emotionally, spiritually, and physically (if you’re on the same page, this is consensual) to your husbands.
At any sign of abuse, do not read the Bible and think that God wants you to stay. Physical and sexual abuse is frowned upon, and it violates the one flesh union.
WORSHIP WEDNESDAY: REOCCURRING THEMES IN ANN MARIE RUBY'S BOOK, "SPIRITUAL SONGS II: BLESSINGS FROM A SACRED SOUL"Read Now
I wanted to approach this book review from a different perspective and offer up a sort of analysis of some of the major reoccurring themes I picked up from this book. Let's get into it:
MY LORD, MY CREATOR
Lord (lôrd): Someone or something having power, authority, or influence; a master or ruler.
Cre·a·tor (krēˈādər): A person or thing that brings something into existence.
You can really tell that Ann Marie Ruby is passionate about the Lord, as she seems to refer to him several times as "My Lord, My Creator." In a lot of biblical literature, you will often see someone referring to Jesus or God as "my Lord," but I find that the term has lost its power as humans were are can still be referred to as "my Lord," to their subjects at least.
Ruby takes this title of sorts to a new level by adding in "creator," which gives a nod to the fact that we wouldn't even be alive without our Lord. It is a refreshing way to refer to God, for sure.
Dev·o·tee (devəˈtē,ˌdevəˈtā): A person who is very interested in and enthusiastic about someone or something.
Ann Marie Ruby refers to herself often as a "devotee" to God, which I found interesting. This isn't because I disagree, I actually agree with this self-definition myself. However, you don't usually hear people saying they are a devotee of Christ.
Much like the added use of "My Creator," using this word instead of "follower" or "child" was really refreshing.
When I read this, it reminded me of the song Sandy sings about Danny Zuko in Grease, called "Hopelessly Devoted to You."
Ob·sta·cle (ˈäbstək(ə)l): A thing that blocks one's way or prevents or hinders progress.
Ann Marie Ruby continually refers to obstacles in many of her spiritual songs in this book. It seems clear that she has faced a number of struggles in her life, but she constantly affirms that she knows Christ will help her overcome whatever obstacles life puts in her way. I particularly appreciated to imagery she added.
When reading this, and understanding some of the deeper biblical roots, it gave me a sense of calm, much like the time when Jesus calmed the waters to ease the fear of his disciples. It also reminded me of one of my favorite Christian songs. See the video below to listen!
Om·nip·o·tent (ämˈnipəd(ə)nt): (of a deity) Having unlimited power; able to do anything.
Om·ni·pres·ent (ämnəˈpreznt): Widely or constantly encountered; common or widespread.
They read like a modern-day psalm or proverb. Their repetitiveness drives home the overall idea that Ruby want's to communicate: God is good, all the time.
If you'd like to purchase a copy of Ann Marie Ruby's book, "Spiritual Songs II: Blessings From a Sacred Soul," click the link attached to the title, or search for it on Amazon.com.
Thank you for reading this review!
- Admit to God that you are a sinner
(Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23).
- Repent, turning away from your sin
(Acts 3:19; 1 John 1:9).
- Believe that Jesus is God's Son and accept God's gift of forgiveness from sin
(Romans 5:8; Acts 4:12; John 3:16; John 14:6; Ephesians 2:8-9; John 1:11-13).
- Confess your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord
HOW TO GET TO HEAVEN
God is a perfect being who designed each and every one of us. He is sinless, good, and perfect. However, after Eve ate that apple, sin was released into the world and, as a result, everyone was born into sin and everyone does wrong. Only those without sin can enter into Heaven. But don't worry, Jesus came down to Earth and paid your sin debt do you could go to Heaven. Jesus is our salvation and offers us a way to Heaven. A way to live with Him forever. Here is what you have to do:
Ann Marie Ruby
Give Me An Answer
J. Warner Wallace
Turn The Other Cheek