I've already sort of talked about some of my goals over on our YouTube channel but, since today is #WorshipWednesday on the blog, I wanted to talk about some of my spiritual goals in particular. So, here we go:
READ THE ENTIRE BIBLE
Luckily, audio books have made a surge in recent years, and my app that I use at church can read the Bible out to me with a year-long reading plan. This makes it so easy to listen to it and absorb in the car. I just need to make it a priority of each day and morning!
SERVE MY COMMUNITY THROUGH MY CHURCH
From free Easter egg drops, monthly meals for the homeless, a food bank, feeding our first responders around the holidays, and much more, my church is super involved in helping our local community. With that being said, I haven't been the best at getting involved myself. So, I'm hoping to really make that effort this year!
LEARN MORE ABOUT APOLOGETICS
I learned about apologetics a few years after I graduated from college. I think it is the best and newest way to communicate with this generation and generations to come.
LISTEN TO MORE WORSHIP MUSIC
There are a number of Christians who believe that Halloween is an evil holiday. Personally, I never have thought that. I do believe that people take advantage of the time to do bad things, but I still believe it is still used to help children have a good time.
Today, if you are a Christian who doesn't feel comfortable letting their children participate in traditional Halloween celebrations, I'm going to share with you a few things you can do with them so they don't miss out on all of the fun:
1: FIND A CHURCH-BASED TRUNK OR TREAT
2: HAVE A CHILDREN'S MOVIE MARATHON AT HOME
3: THROW A HALLOWEEN PARTY FOR THEIR FRIENDS
BUT, THIS IS WHAT I RECOMMEND
When I was growing up and we would visit our dad's house, our step mom often wouldn't let us watch things like Pokemon and Harry Potter, even though both my brother and I knew that it wasn't real.
My mom took another approach. If she wasn't sure how something would impact us, she would go experience it herself before taking us. I recommend that you don't shield your children from the world because, as someone who attended a southern Baptist church with a lot of very sheltered children, you're just setting them up for a scarier adulthood.
Instead, I think it would be great to let your children participate in traditional celebrations under the understanding that it is just a holiday and shouldn't be celebrated as anything but a day for kids to get candy or for people of appropriate ages to watch scary movies!
I’ve been listening and reading the Bible through my church’s app. It had broken up the reading so that you can read the Bible in a year. Lately, my reading has taken me into the Book of Job.
If you’re a Christian, you’ve likely heard plenty of sermons on the Book of Job. Basically, Job is a righteous man (in a good way) who has a ton of luxuries in life. He has a big family, a ton of land, riches, and cattle. You name it, Job had it.
It was a devastating loss, but Job still praised God. Seeing this, the devil went back to God and told Him that nothing had happened to Job himself (physically), and that’s why he didn’t curse God. God said to the devil that Job was righteous and wouldn’t curse Him, but allowed the devil to bring harm to his body only for Job to still praise God, despite what his wife and friends said of him.
After all of these trials, Job was blessed much more than he was blessed in the beginning. The story is often used as a way to tell Christians to keep the faith in hard times because God will bless them later.
There are so many reasons why this message needs to fall on the ears of millennials and younger people today. I want to share some of those reasons.
1: TIMES ARE TOUGH
I was blessed to have a job right out of college. It paid $11/hr. It was a job in my field of study as a journalist. I went in as a staff reporter. When I left, I had been named a features editor. The entire time I was there, I was never given a raise. I was simply handed more responsibility.
Management refused to clean it up and simply pointed fans at it in hopes of “drying it up.” This caused mold infestation which, I believe, led to illness that sent me to the hospital.
But now, I truly appreciate the circumstances I live in now. Our lights might not work in one room, and one of our toilets might not be working. But it is so much better than it was, and I can only thank God for that.
2: THERE IS MORE OPPOSITION NOW THAN EVER
A new wave of atheism struck the U.S. and around the world. It is fierce. It wants others not to trust it because of the actions and opinions of a few hateful people who I believe shouldn’t call themselves Christians.
In times of hardship, we are always the first people questioned. “Where is your God, now?” “Why isn’t your God helping us through this?” It is the faith of Job that will get us through hard times. God always has a purpose for everything, but that doesn’t mean He caused everything. We are told explicitly in the scriptures that the devil is like a roaring lion, walking about seeking out who he can destroy.
3: TO HELP US SEE OUR SMALL BLESSINGS AS BIG
But I and pretty much everyone in developed countries around the world take it for granted.
Job’s story helps us realize that we should be thankful, even if all we have is life. At least we are breathing. At least we can see the beauty around us. That’s something.
4: TO SHOW US THAT BAD THINGS DON'T ALWAYS COME FROM EDIFICATION
One school of thought is that bad things happen to bad people or people who have done bad. That every bad thing that happens is a punishment from the hand of God. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
That poses the threat of taking their souls from him and directing them toward God. I can’t tell you how many times, at my old church, pastors or leaders would try to insinuate that something happening in our lives was because we weren’t able to come to church on Wednesdays. Yet, some of the most faithful church members would have serious medical conditions fall on them.
No one knows, but it is important that you, the reader, know that your trials may or may not be due to your deeds. It is up to you to use discernment and prayer to find that out!
5: IT HELPS YOU PREPARE FOR THE REST OF LIFE
You now have a full-time job, you may have an apartment or home, you might be married or having children. Either way, you’re just starting life’s journey on your own as an adult.
Reading Job at this age is so important. We comprehend it more when we experience it. While some of us may have lived in the grips of near or full poverty, most of us likely had parents who did their best to make life as good as possible. But now that it is our turn to do that for ourselves or for our own children, we may need some guidance.
Not only can we now understand a bit of what was going on with Job, we can also prepare for life’s future hardships (as they will always come) while we are young. Job was older when he experienced this. He didn’t learn this lesson as a young man. But we can!
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.
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: