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.
I got into an interesting debate with a family member and one of his friends online. Since a few months ago, I've decided not to respond very much to things I don't agree with. I disagree less than I used to, and I also just don't see the point.
But one thing I almost always speak up about is Jesus. I want everyone to have as much information as they can so they can make an educated and informed decision about their faith. When I see something that seems wrong, I try to correct it or provide more information.
DOCKING THE BOAT
Now reflect on this example in your life. Life is a journey filled with sunny days and rough waters. Sometimes the tides are high, and sometimes it's smooth sailing. The anchor is always with us. The anchor is our faith in Christ. It is our foundation. Sometimes we drop the anchor and step out on faith.
This series of sailing, anchoring, and taking up the tides again continues all of our life until we dock at our final destination: eternity.
WHEN THE ANCHOR DOESN'T HOLD
This often happens in the faith journey. Someone steps out on faith and they don't get the outcome they want, so they allow their faith to sink into the dark depths, probably never to be found again. They then can float off of the path that is best for them and drift down into even rougher waters like addiction, crime, and just plain despair.
What people so desperately need to remember is that faith grounds us. But our faith can easily sink without something else. That something else can be different for everyone.
For me, that something else is the evidence I've found and have been taught. The clear evidence that Jesus lived, ministered, died, and rose again. Evidence that other people knew about Jesus. Evidence from eye witnesses and even hostile forces that wanted Jesus to disappear.
It has always helped me to remind myself of the evidence the Bible and secondary sources give to tell us about Jesus and God.
Here are some things others may tether to their faith:
All of these things are excellent ways to remind yourself that you can step out on faith knowing and reminding yourself that God did for you once and he will do for you again, but in HIS time. If you step out on faith without that tether of security and confidence and things don't happen how you want them to, your faith might sink and disappear from your life.
God's goodness is all around us. We can't just give up when the enemy throws his punches. Tether yourself to weather the storm.
Skepticism is a good thing. A lot of skeptics of the Christian religion tend to be well-educated people who look to science and logic to form their views on the world and their views about reality.
As a Christian, this is why I like apologetics so much. It takes time to explore secondary knowledge found in the Bible that can aid in giving evidence for the existence of the Christian God. Today, I thought it would be fun to outline some of the scientific principles that are highlighted or hinted at in the Bible. Let's get started!
QUARANTINE AND PROTECTIVE MEASURES
"And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean. All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be." - Leviticus 13:45-46
THE WATER CYCLE
"Behold, God is great, and we know him not, neither can the number of his years be searched out. For he maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof: Which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly." - Job 36:26-28
"Thou shalt have a place also without the camp, whither thou shalt go forth abroad: And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee:" Dueteronomy 23:12-13
THE STARS ARE INNUMERABLE
"As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites that minister unto me." - Jeremiah 33:22
Scientists now estimate that there are at least hundreds of billions of stars in space. The Bible, however, made this known in 626 B.C.
"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
Some Christians have this thing called a "life verse." This is a verse that speaks to the person specifically for very personal reasons. Sometimes, this verse can change. However, I've had the same life verse for several years now.
I wanted to share my life verse for today's Worship Wednesday, and explain why it means so much to me.
MY LIFE VERSE:
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." - II Timothy 1:7
WHY THIS VERSE MEANS SO MUCH TO ME
A SPIRIT OF FEAR
I found out in college that this was due to General Anxiety Disorder. I was diagnosed by my college counselor, but I didn't do anything about it. The most I did was become more vocal with a few trusted individuals about my feelings. No meds, and no other counseling sessions.
But it is something that has to be dealt with somehow, and hopefully in a healthy way.
"FEAR OF THE LORD"
I just wanted to clear that up quickly and also point out that this shows the passing of time and changes in language use in Biblical text.
WHAT GOD GIVES US: POWER
I'll leave a link to verses on power here so you can check them all out for yourself. But, if you look at these verses, you'll see that God is exhalted as an other-worldly being that has much more power and strength than us humans. He created us, after all.
There is this beautiful image of all of us gaining the power of God when we accept Jesus as our savior. I most definitely believe that I feel more powerful over my anxieties than I used to. They don't control me as much. THEY ARE STILL THERE and I still struggle at times. This is normal and you shouldn't let any church official or person question your beliefs because you're not 100 percent after accepting the Lord. The Bible doesn't say being a Christian will solve all of your problems!
WHAT GOD GIVES US: LOVE
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." - I Corinthians 13:4-7
These verses are precious and often quoted at weddings because the goal is to tell the couple that they should fight as hard as they can for their marriage because love is much more than a feeling. It is a way of life.
"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: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones." - Mark 5:2-5
This man was obviously in mental pain. He resorted to hurting himself, likely because he had been regelated to an island to live among the dead. It is made clear by Jesus' casting out of the unclean spirits in the man that this wasn't something given to the man by God.
I feel a lot like those crazy people many times in my life thanks to my General Anxiety Disorder. However, I get comfort in reminding myself that my feelings aren't from God, but from the enemy. If the enemy is coming at you, you must be doing something right.
A whole lot of Americans were born into Christian families. They spend their Sundays and maybe even Wednesdays going to church, sitting with their friends during the message, and learning about Jesus.
But there comes a point where something is said or done that causes a lot of Christians to decide they no longer want to go to church or have a relationship with God anymore. There are a few things that happen: their parents were too strict, they never really connected with the messages, or someone in church said something that put them off.
IF ALL CHRISTIANS ARE GOING TO BE THIS WAY, WHY SHOULD I BOTHER COMING? CHRISTIANS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE BETTER AND KINDER.
Jonathan's home church is a lot different. It is more casual and contemporary, but still filled with the spirit of God. We started attending and got engaged. At this point, the pastor of the church lightly pressured us into hurrying our marriage along. We agreed and got married only a few months later. After this, the real problems began.
LISTING THE ISSUES
I started getting sick and losing all energy. So, we stopped coming on Wednesday nights. Our schedule was rather hectic and I still had a house to take care of.
Shortly after we stopped coming regularly on Wednesdays, but still coming on Sundays, Jonathan received a text message from the assistant pastor. He told my husband to "be a man" and make me come to church. This was not OK. You are not allowed to judge someone's manhood because they aren't forcing their sick wife to hop up and go to church when they wouldn't be able to focus on the message and might actually cause distraction to other churchgoers.
Before all of this happened, I served faithfully in the nursery. I went wherever I was told to go and helped in whatever way I could. I told the lady in charge of the nursery that I would be out of town on most holidays. Several of the ladies who served in the nursery were local and had family near them. We always go out of town to spend time with our parents, grandparents, and siblings.
SO I WAS BARRED FROM SERVING IN THE NURSERY BECAUSE I ASKED HER IF I COULD SWITCH DAYS WITH SOMEONE BECAUSE OF HER NEGLECT WHEN MAKING THE SCHEDULE. THIS REALLY HURT BECAUSE I LOVE CHILDREN AND NEVER COMPLAINED ABOUT SERVING IN THIS CAPACITY.
WHAT FINALLY HAPPENED
It all came to a close when the head pastor visited the house where we live to tell me that I should move or find a different church if I couldn't come every single service. I'd never been so frustrated before. I felt hopeless and wondered why I had ever stepped foot in that place.
But we decided to start looking for different churches. One of my coworkers told me about her church and we decided to give it a visit. From the moment I walked in, I knew it was going to be different. However, since our first visit, I never leave without feeling 1,000 times lighter. I leave with love in my heart and a good message to get me through to the next service. I wasn't getting that at our old church. It felt repetitive and mundane. It felt judgey and harsh.
YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THAT, AT THIS OLD CHURCH, THE PASTORS WOULD TALK ABOUT SPECIFIC PEOPLE BEHIND THE PULPIT. THEY WOULD TRY TO DISGUISE WHO THEY WERE PREACHING ABOUT, BUT THE CHURCH WAS SO SMALL THAT EVERYONE KNEW.
WHY I'M STILL A CHRISTIAN
I usually put people who are Christians or people with faith to a higher standard. I agree that everyone is human. But you can't go into every situation with an intent to hurt someone and they blame your actions on the fact that everyone is human.
After all, our call is to be like Jesus. It isn't like Jesus to name call or to treat someone with disrespect because they don't fulfill your requirements for the perfect person.
I'M STILL A CHRISTIAN BECAUSE IT ISN'T GOD'S FAULT THAT SOME HUMANS ARE AWFUL. I HAVE SEEN AND CONTINUE TO SEE PEOPLE WHO CLAIM TO BE CHRISTIANS GOING THROUGH STRUGGLES OF THEIR OWN. CALL IT KARMA OR CALL IT GOD, BUT I THINK THAT IS TEACHING THEM A LESSON.
I love God. He gives me little reminders throughout the day that he is watching, listening, and caring for me. That's why I refuse to let someone influence my relationship with him.
It is easier said than done to ignore chaos around you to worship. When the stuff happening around you starts to impact your relationship with God and your ability to absorb a message, it is probably time to find somewhere new to learn and grow. And that's OK.
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 know that the headline of this is rather shocking for my regular readers who are Christians. But, I want to ease your mind by letting you know that I’m partially borrowing today’s title from the book written by a speaker I recently heard.
For today’s post, I want to discuss the ideas from theologian, philosopher, and writer Dr. Thomas J. Oord. I will then respond to them with my take and opinion.
DR. OORD’S SOLUTIONS FOR EVIL
We all struggle with answering the most difficult question to tackle in Christianity: “If God loves us, why does he allow bad things to happen?” According to Oord, and to my experience, many people explain away God’s “role” in tragedy by saying one of two things: “It’s all part of God’s plan” or “because we have free will that God chooses to grant us, he wouldn’t violate that by intervening.”
I take the stance of the latter most of the time, but Oord’s presentation got me thinking. His solutions for God’s “role” in tragedies are as follows:
While Oord has some excellent points here, I’m not sure if I can totally hop on board with all of them. Let’s talk about them one at a time.
GOD CANNOT STOP EVIL BY HIMSELF
However, God did judge the earth with a flood in Noah’s time. Perhaps it was God’s promise to Noah that he would no longer judge the Earth with floods (Genesis 9:11) that had Oord thinking in this direction. But, the promise was only about judgement in the form of the flood. Additionally, Revelation speaks about the many ways God will judge the Earth later, and we know he will triumph over sin. So, this solution isn’t a good one to me.
GOD EMPATHIZES WITH US
God most certainly empathizes with us, and I have no doubt that he is angry when one of his creations harms another.
GOD SQUEEZES GOOD FROM THE BAD
Biblically, we see this in the Book of Job. The devil tests Job’s faith and, while it is clear that Job is sad, frustrated, and hurt, he does not give up his faith. God then rewards him later many times over.
GOD NEEDS OUR HELP FOR LOVE TO WIN
I mean, he obviously has charged us with the responsibility of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. I think that our three main responsibilities as Christians are to live like Jesus, tell the world about him, and worship God. Does he need us? I don’t think so. But, I think that God’s first intention was to live in harmony with his creation. That is, until sin came in to the picture.
“In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should sine unto them.” – 2 Corinthians 4:4.
I believe that God turned control of the world over to man and limited his power because of this. I mean, sin escalated from eating a fruit to murdering a man really quickly! He chooses to intervene sometimes. Most of the time, the interventions are due to the fact that a person may have been destined to accept him and hadn’t yet, or because they had some sort of call on their life that would lead to more good coming to the world.
Lucifer, who has become known by many names like Satan, the devil, the deceiver, the enemy, etc., has decided to reign over this world. He does this by trying to stop those who care for the Lord from spreading God’s message. You’ll likely see many people in the world who are not Christians who seems to prosper. Satan has them in his grasp, so it’s light work for him.
If you’re interested in learning more about Jesus, please check out some of my other posts. Additionally, you can click the “details” button below to learn how to accept Jesus as your savior!
WORSHIP WEDNESDAY: REOCCURRING THEMES IN ANN MARIE RUBY'S BOOK, "SPIRITUAL SONGS II: BLESSINGS FROM A SACRED SOUL"Read Now
For today's Worship Wednesday post, I partnered with author Ann Marie Ruby to read and review her book, "Spiritual Songs II: Blessings From a Sacred Soul."
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.
Dev·o·tee (devəˈtē,ˌdevəˈtā): A person who is very interested in and enthusiastic about someone or something.
Devotee also has a certain implication that perhaps there is some sort of desperation to this devotion. It invokes a question: "Could the devotee live without the person they're devoted to?" It seems obvious that Ruby is very devoted to Christ, perhaps from lessons she has learned in life.
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.
She regularly refers to the obstacles metaphorically as oceans or mountains. One of my most favorite lines from the book is from the song, "The Lord, The Creator," in which she says she "walks upon the sinful ocean," referring not only to sin as an obstacle, but also referring to Jesus' miracle of walking on the sea in the gospels.
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.
In her song, "The Blessed Children of the Omnipotent," you really get a feel at how powerful these words are. Particularly, there is a section of this song that reads, "For we only ask, for we only seek, for we only knock, upon The Omnipotent's door." While you have the wisdom of knowing that omnipotent means all powerful, you get this beautiful image of knocking on God's door like a child or an old friend. While God is all powerful, He is also personal. This song in particular gives a special glimpse into God's character.
Overall, I enjoyed Ruby's book. She gives special attention to literary devices while alluding to the goodness and grace of God. While I don't think I have the heart to call this book the brother to David's Psalms, I would say it is a close second-cousin to them.
FOLLOW ANN MARIE RUBY ON HER SOCIALS:
Legal: I was gifted this book for free, but I was in no other way compensated for my review. All photos are my own or taken from Pixabay, a Creative Commons website that requires no attribution for photo use.
HOW TO GET TO HEAVEN
There is a common misconception that there are several ways to get to Heaven when you die. This isn't true. JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY 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: