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.
After I graduated college, I worked as a reporter for a newspaper located in one of North Carolina’s highest crime cities: Lumberton. I can’t count the number of murders, deaths, and controversies I reported on.
We have a saying in the news business: “If it bleeds, it leads.” This means the most controversial stories like murder or hit-and-runs are always printed above the fold so you could see the horrific headlines on the newsstand. Sales and views always went up when someone was murdered, or whenever some white-collar worker got mixed up in a town-wide scandal.
I’ve often found myself being the interviewer, the reporter asking all the questions to the grieving person. This is the first time in my life that I’ve become part of the headline rather than part of the byline. It’s hard, and I never realized how easy I thought it was.
In my own personal life, I tend to make the bad aspects of my day define my day, week, or even month. I always let the worse things lead my emotions, and that can cause me to totally ignore the blessings God sends my way.
It all started last week. I was replying to messages and scheduling social media posts at my job, when I found myself nervously staring down at my phone, impatiently waiting for a message from my mom. I couldn’t wait any longer.
“Did you find her?” I remember typing the words with shaky hands and quivering breaths.
My mom had called me minutes earlier to tell me that she couldn’t find my grandmother. She was supposed to be going to a doctor’s appointment, but she never arrived. This worried me because my grandmother has dementia, is over the age of 70, and drives like a maniac, so she really shouldn’t be driving anywhere.
But, I will tell you that there are only two things keeping me going: God and my family.
I try to remind myself on a daily basis that Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary was one of the biggest headlines of His day. Jesus was a rebel. He went against the grain of society in the humblest and kindest way possible (except that time he literally flipped a table). His motivations were always pure and God-driven.
But Jesus still ended up on the cross. He still suffered and died for me and you. He was scared, too, judging by the fact that he began to sweat blood (Luke 22:24) in the garden before he was taken to be crucified.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, Hematohidrosis is the name for the condition Jesus suffered from. The condition is rare and causes humans to sweat blood. This can happen for a number of reasons, including excessive exertion and psychological factors (like high levels of stress).
Jesus taught me that it is OK to be scared, but giving your problems to God can help.
One of my favorite verses is 2 Timothy 1:7, which says “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
The proof that this is now natural comes from Genesis. In Genesis 3, God goes looking for Adam in the garden after Adam and Eve eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
“And the Lord God called unto Adam and said unto him, Where are thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” Genesis 3:9-10
Adam wasn’t afraid until he ate the fruit that Eve gave him from the tree. Eve was persuaded by the serpent, who many scholars believe to be the devil.
The verse in 2 Timothy reminds me that God is in control and God will always win, and it reminds me to talk a look at the power, love, and sound mind that God has given me, rather than harp on the worldly things I often tie myself up in.
Whether my grandfather passes sooner rather than later, or if he lives another five years, that verse from 2 Timothy will always remind me that I am a child of God, not of this world. Satan has no hold on me, no matter what he tries to hurl at me.
I’m praying that my anxiety doesn’t get to the point of sweating blood, but rather stops at “it is well, with my soul.” Have a great week everyone, and remember that you have a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind inside of you.
I am far from what I would consider an artist. I have absolutely no skills with a paintbrush. However, I love to look at artwork, specifically art that's inspired by something I know a little bit about. That's why I was beyond excited when I heard that one of our art professors at the college where I work would be painting a piece during the weekly chapel service.
"And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed."
If I had it my way, I'd make a lot of money, do what I want to do with my day, and get on with life. But that can lead to a lot of catastrophe and heartache.
God can see what I need. He can see what is best for me and what will be best for me down the line. Have you ever heard those amazing stories from people who claim that they had a flat tire only to realize there was a massive wreck that occurred on the road they were about to travel on? Flat tires can really mess with our day. We don't understand why God would give us a flat tire the day before we get paid, but there is an unseen reason for everything. These are the brush strokes we don't understand.
Painting by Vilas Tonape
"...Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now." - John 2:10
In the Old Testament, there is much written about God's love for all things sweet and savory. It is mentioned in these books that God is pleased by things that are sweet-smelling.
There is a lot of debate in the church over wine: should you drink it, is it a sin? In the New Testament, we read of Jesus actually replenishing the wine after it ran out during wedding celebrations in Cana.
After telling the servants to listen to Jesus and do whatever he says, they are told to fill the waterpots that were there for the "purifying of the Jews." In the KJV, it says that the waterpots contained two or three firkins a piece. A firkin is a unit of measurement equal to 11 gallons, so Jesus was set out to make 22-33 gallons of wine for the celebration.
The steps are: growing of the grapes, harvesting and de-stemming, crushing and primary fermentation, pressing, and more fermentation. Wine can take 10 to 15 days to ferment, but many wait for months before they crack open a bottle. This gives the wine more time to ferment and offer up the best flavor.
In addition to having a new love for life, those who allow Jesus to do a transformative work in their life will have favor with God, just as those sweet-smelling savors. In fact, Paul wrote to the Corinthians about our sweet savor when we accept Jesus as our Lord:
"Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:" - 2 Corinthians 2:15
Thanks to the miracle of salvation that Jesus gave us at Calvary, we are now of a sweet savor to God. Without Jesus, we wouldn't be counted worthy. If you want to learn more about how you can accept Jesus into your heart, click the "Details" button below.
My prayer for you in these next few weeks is to thank God for the transformation that allows you to be called a sweet savor in His house. Without God's selfless sacrifice of Jesus, we would all stink!
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: