Wednesday, December 31, 2014

How To Keep Your Resolutions

"And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." -James 1:4



     It's the end of the year. The last day of 2014. This is the day we all decide on our resolutions and what we want to get done in the year 2015, and hope to keep it up. But how do we do that? How do we keep our resolutions from being discarded by the end of February? Whether it trying to study more, exercise regularly, eat better, read more, memorize a certain amount of verses, or simply try to eat more vegetables, there's an efficient and simple way to keep these resolutions.

Step 1: Decide
   
     What is it you want to accomplish? Do you want to study more, read more, be more encouraging? Do you want to eat healthier, exercise more, or do better in school? Find something you know you can stick to. Find something simple and specific so you don't get overwhelmed.

Step 2: Plan
   
     When you decide on what you want to do, make a plan that you can easily stick to. Want to read the entire Bible this year? Read 3 chapters a day (which takes about 7 and a half minutes. Yes, I timed it.). Want to memorize more verses? Find a reasonable goal and plan it out! Say you want to memorize 100 verses. That means 1 verse every three days or so. Not bad, right? If you want to study more, set a time every day where you can sit down with little to no distractions and study. If you're a morning person, maybe study after breakfast. If you're a night owl like myself, find some time during the evening when you can easily focus. I have a very hard time concentrating sometimes, so what I like to do is set a timer for the amount of time I want to work on something, and I don't stop until the timer goes off. After that I will check my email and texts and all that. If it's a longer task, I might do it in segments, but this way I can focus when I am oh so distracted. The whole purpose of making a plan, though, is so that you can make a habit about it. It takes about 9 weeks to make a habit, so as long as you can make it that far, it'll become easier and easier!

Step 3: Set Up Goals

     Have you ever read a really long book, and every time you look back to see how much you've read, it seems like you've gotten nowhere at all? The thing about making a goal that takes an entire year to complete is that it seemingly never ends. Set up little goals for yourself, or something to track your progress. You know all those cute ways you and find to decorate mason jars? Decorate one yourself, and every time you reach a goal, (say you memorize 5, 10, or 15 verses or read an entire book in the Bible) write it down on a strip of paper, fold it up, and put it in the jar. This way when you start to get discouraged, you can go to the jar and look at everything you've accomplished, and how far you've gotten. Or you can set up an award system. I used to have this planner that I made out of a graph paper notebook where I would have a list of things I needed to get done. Every time I checked something off of the list, I got a penny. Every penny that I got went into this jar, and when I had done about 300 things, I went out and got gelato (gelato is basically ice-cream but better, for those of you who have never heard of it). This gave me incentive to do more, and to stick to my plan. This helped me to make sure that my room was always clean, my bed always made, and my articles put out on time. Little things like this can really help motivate you to continue with your plan and prevent discouragement.

Step 4: Do It!

     You can't complete your resolution without starting it. Today I would like to encourage all of you to stick to your resolutions so you can grow in God's Word, and in wisdom, and in health. Whatever your resolution is, keep to it! By the end of the year, you'll be really glad you did it. And even if you miss a day or two, keep it up! It's easy to start something, but difficult to finish. Today, I challenge you to complete your New Year's resolution. Good luck!
     

Monday, December 29, 2014

Introducing New Ideas

"You shall not add to the word that I commanded you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you." -Deuteronomy 4:2



     Every day it seems like, I get onto my laptop or my phone, and I see articles everywhere that are trying too hard to make things difficult. I see people talking about how it's wrong to use electronic Bibles, wrong to be on the internet, I've even heard someone say that it's wrong to watch any movie or television show no matter how clean. But can we really teach these things? Can we teach that there is one true way to have a relationship (i.e. dating vs courting), or whether or not you should home school, if you should celebrate Christmas even as a nonreligious holiday, etc? 

     First of all, before I really get into this, I want to clarify that I'm not saying that it's wrong to put your foot down. I'm not saying that it's wrong to have opinions as long as they don't oppose the Bible, and I'm not saying that we should be so open minded that we just accept and agree with anything anyone ever does. Now, keeping that in mind, nowhere in the Bible are we told to preach our opinions. We are allowed to have them, and if you believe that you shouldn't watch any movies, then don't. It's wrong to go against your own opinions (as long as they don't go against the Bible) as we see in Romans 14:22-23. However, nowhere in the Bible are we told that others have to believe our opinions as well.

     Does the Bible say, "Thou shalt only read thy Bible on paper." or, "Thou shalt never go out to dinner with thy boyfriend" or even, "Thou shalt not court thy boyfriend or thy girlfriend."? Of course not. These things can be stumbling blocks to some people though. Say you want to go on a date because you don't want to court, that's perfectly fine. But the minute you two are alone together in a room or a house with no witnesses, even if nothing happens at all, is that shining your light? Is that showing everyone that you are in fact a Christian? Is that something that will make you of high repute? But at the same time, there is nothing wrong with a man and a woman sitting down at a table in a restaurant and getting to know each other. Now I strongly believe that someone should know your whereabouts, but no where in the Bible does it say that you cannot do either one. The same thing goes for movies, and the same thing goes for having time for yourself, and the same thing goes for celebrating Christmas (as long as you're not making it a holy day, as we see that we aren't supposed to add to God's Word in Deuteronomy 4:2 and Leviticus 10, which is what making a day holy would be doing). If you have a problem with something, don't do it, but preaching it as doctrine isn't the way to go about it

     The difficult thing about opinions is that sometimes people take certain commandments as just guide lines, rather than what they really are, which are commandments. Also, some people use this to say that we really shouldn't put our foot down about anything, as it can be easy to try to be politically correct. However, it's important that we understand where the fine lines are, and the only way you can truly do that is to study for yourself. Don't read the Bible trying to find the answer you want, (because you will find it if you take things out of context enough) but search through the scriptures and find out that the Bible says. Where the Bible is silent, we should be silent, and where the Bible speaks, we should speak. Today I would like to encourage you to, instead of getting into an argument about whether or not it's wrong to send your children to public school, or use a Bible app instead of a paper Bible, take a step back and ask if you're winning a soul, or an argument. You may be surprised with the answer.

Friday, December 19, 2014

An Idle Tongue

"For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body." -James 3:2



     Modern day technology is one of the best and worst things that has ever happened for Christians. It's the best because it makes it easy to spread the Word, encourage others, and get closer to those we love and help encourage them in their walk towards. Unfortunately it also makes gossip spread more quickly, makes it easier to talk bad towards others, and about them, and can be a discouragement. It really depends on how you use it. 

     We are told to spread the gospel countless times throughout the Bible in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Romans 10, Matthew 9, and so, so many other places. Not only does evangelism help others reach heaven, but it keeps us from growing idle. I'm sure all or at least most of you have heard the saying, "Idle hands are the devil's playground". The same thing goes for the tongue. If you are not busy telling someone about God, then what are you busy telling them about? It's important that whatever we say is for a good reason. I'm not saying that everything we have to say is about the Bible, specifically. It's important to create relationships with those around us, to be encouragements to others, and lighten their load at least a little bit. But if we are not doing one of those things, what are we doing? 

     When we are not doing good in the world, it's easy to do bad. Yes it's important to take breaks, but it's more important that we make sure we don't fall into the habit of being idle. It's important that we don't fall into the habit of speaking to and about others as if they are nothing. It's sad whenever I see someone who talks poorly about their friend, or family member. When we talk poorly about someone, we influence others around us. We tell our friends and our family that it's okay to talk about others that way, we tell ourselves that we are better than them, and we tell the world that Christians think that they're better than everyone else. Matthew 23:12 says "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." When we speak of others as if they are below us, we are exalting ourselves, but when we only ever speak of others as if they are wonderful, and always see the good in people, we are going to be held up to a higher standard (as long as you're not just talking well about others in order to seem like a better person).

     Today I would like to encourage you to find something to do in order to aid the kingdom and keep your hands and tongue from growing idle. Decide to be an encouragement, an evangelist, anything to help others toward heaven, and not towards hell. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Looking At Ourselves

"The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree, and I ate." -Genesis 3:12


     Since the dawn of time, people have been making excuses. There have been countless fingers pointed, excuses made, and "(S)He made me do it!"s. This is because it's easy to look at the flaws of others. But what about our own flaws?

     There was once a preacher in a small congregation who preached about deceit. In the crowd there was a man who had quite a problem with this, but instead of viewing the lesson as a piece of God's word that was being delivered to about 50 individual people, he took it as something the preacher was telling them because it was commanded of them to meet every first day of the week. The man took notes, listened carefully, followed along in his Bible, and afterwords told the preacher that he had done an excellent job, and went home satisfied. You may look at this man as someone who is in the wrong. You may see him as someone who doesn't take God's Word seriously. If you think this, then you are right. But how many of us do this? How many of us look at God's word as just a habit? Something to read or memorize, but never fully apply to our lives. 

     It's important that instead of looking at others and their lives, and instead of pointing fingers or finding excuses, we look at ourselves and what we can improve on. Ask yourself, "How can I improve my walk with Christ?" After all, how can we see clearly to take the speck out of our brother's eye, if we have a log in ours (Matthew 7:1-6)? Today I'd like to encourage you, yes you right there, the person currently reading this, to not only go to worship, and not only sing the songs and listen to the sermon, but to take what is said and ask, "How can I apply this into my life right now?" I'd like to encourage you to take the Word personally, not absentmindedly. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Boldness of Paul

"But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict." -1 Thessalonians 2:2



     Paul was a man of great faith. He had no faith in himself, or in others, but in God alone. And while in hard times, Paul still continued to have faith in God. Paul had the boldness, the audacity to present God's word to others after having been abused and mistreated very soon before. What can we learn from this?

     First of all I would like to look at the first part of 1 Thessalonians 2:2. When it says that Paul was mistreated, it doesn't say that Paul ran into some complications, or minor discouragements, but that he was shamefully mistreated. He was hurt, abused, and suffering. Even so, he felt compelled to preach the Word among those around him. He had been through a lot in his life, he knew that there would be more to go through later on, as we see in 1 Thessalonians 3:3 that he was destined for it, but he still had faith. He had faith, not in himself, not in others, not in false gods, but in the one true God. He had no faith that he wouldn't be persecuted, as we see, again, in chapter 3:3, but that no matter what circumstance, Paul would be able to preach the Word.

     Later in 1 Thessalonians 2:2 Paul said that he had the boldness to proclaim the Word. Why? Why is it considered boldness to present the gospel? In order to understand this completely, we have to understand the context. This was written when Rome was still in high power. In ancient Rome, Christians were greatly looked down on. I don't mean to say that Christians were looked down on as they are today, where really it's all just talk and discouragements. I'm not saying that that is nothing, but in comparison to back then, it's a breath of fresh air. Back then Christians had to worship in secret, because if they were found out, they were not only killed, but were made examples for any other Christians. They were skinned alive, burned at the stake, stoned, and murdered in several different horrific deaths. When Paul said that he had the boldness to present the Gospel in the midst of all this, he truly meant boldness. Paul was a true soldier of God. He did not try making everyone happy, but as we see in 1 Thessalonians 2:3-6, he just wanted to help people get to their heavenly goal by presenting the Word in love.

     What does this mean for modern day Christians? How can we apply this to our lives today? Christians today are given the opportunity to share the gospel with little to no persecution. It is our job as Christians to take advantage of that, and preach the word. So, are we? Today I would like to encourage you to stop what you are doing right now, and go tell someone the good news. After all, that is our mission, isn't it?


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Cotton and Christianity

"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." -1 Thessalonians 5:23



     George Washington Carver, the creator of peanut butter and my favorite inventor (mostly because of the peanut butter thing) discovered that cotton derives soil of certain minerals, while peanuts distribute it back into the soil. Knowing this, someone decides to become a cotton farmer. They know and understand that no matter what the plant, four things are necessary when farming: water, soil, minerals, and time. So they plant the cotton, harvest it, then decide that they want to plant cotton again. So the next time it's time to plant, they go out and plant cotton without having done anything to put the minerals back into the soil. So harvest time comes that fall and they look at the crop and instead of the lush white little clouds that were seen the previous year, all there are, are shriveled up little dead things all over the place. They stand there puzzled, trying to think of why this happened. After all, the plants had 3 of the 4 necessary things. They had water, soil, and time. That should more than compensate for the lack of minerals in the soil, right? As an outsider it can be easy to see the problem. The crops clearly need all 4 things in order to grow properly. In theory this is a simple concept, but a lot of times it can be easy to not understand it. 

     All the time I hear people say that they're Christians, they just don't take the Lord's supper every Sunday (Ats 20:7) or that they're Christians they just don't study daily (Acts 17:1) or that they're Christians except for the fact that they were not baptized (Mark 16:16), etc. But when judgement day comes, are you prepared to tell God that you were mostly a Christian? Are you prepared to tell God that you obeyed most of His commandments? "Oh but this one thing doesn't seem as important as the others!" Let me ask you something, can one thing be more of a commandment than something else? Does God have a scale that measures which sins are worth more? Can you go to hell even harder for some things than others? Of course not. I'm not saying that everyone is going to hell because of sin, because if so then there would be no point in Jesus coming down to earth because every man other than Jesus Himself has sinned (Romans 3:23), but I'm saying that we need to do our best to follow God's word. It may seem like some things are less important, but rain is no less crucial to a plant's life than soil, or soil than minerals, or minerals than time. You can't have a crop without all of the necessary things, and the same thing goes along with our spiritual lives.

     Today I would like to encourage you all to look at your lives, and find something that either you can improve on, or that you're just not doing, and challenge yourself to do that very thing. To improve on your prayer life, start evangelizing, or start studying more frequently. I'd like to plead with you to start, or improve on those things. After all, how can a crop grow without all the things necessary?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Searching the Scriptures

     "Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the Word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so." -Acts 17:11



     Often times, the fact that we go to worship 2-3 times a week makes it easy to believe that that's all we need.  It can be easy to look at it as a reason as to why we can cut out most, or even all of our personal study time.  However, we cannot allow ourselves to fall into this habit.  Why?

     Why not?  Why bother studying something that others can study for you?  Two names you likely recognize, Nadab and Abihu, two brothers who once decided they would sacrifice to God something that had not been commanded of them.  BAM!  They died!  Now, obviously God doesn't strike people down like that anymore, but that doesn't mean that we can't be condemned eternally.  There are two things we can learn from this: we need to search the scriptures often so we don't accidentally do this, and Nadab and Abihu not only died physically, but you can guarantee that they died spiritually, as well.  And I can guarantee that we will too, if we don't make sure we aren't in the wrong.

     Another reason we have to search scriptures and not just rely on others to teach us, is that there are false teachers everywhere.  1 John 4:1 says, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world."  and Matthew 7:15 also mentions this, along with, I'm sure, several other passages.  I would like to point out that also, in Acts 17:11, they searched the scriptures daily.  Not weekly or monthly or yearly.  They made it part of their lives.  See, the thing about false teachers is that most of the time, they don't realize that they're wrong.  In fact, someone could be a very experienced teacher who knows a lot about the Bible, but slip up and say something that's wrong.  But if we study the Bible daily, we will be able to lovingly show them the truth, as we see Priscilla and Aquilla did in Acts 18:26.  It is our job as Christians not to point out the flaws of others, but when we see them, lovingly show them the truth.  But how can we do this if we don't know the truth?

     Today I would like to encourage you all to search the scriptures daily and not take the teaching of others for granted.  There are many more false teachers than you think.  Today I'd like to encourage you to help put an end to that. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Will Of My Father

"Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." -Matthew 7:21


 

     Often times, people want to believe that all you have to do to be saved is say that you're a Christian. Maybe go to church a couple times a year, know the books of the Bible maybe, and just have a general "goodness", which is basically not being a terrible person by not murdering or stealing. Just do what you think is best and you'll go to heaven. However, we can see in Matthew 7:21-23 that we cannot do this. We have to do the will of the Father. But what is that will?

     If you look at Matthew 28:19-20, as I'm sure you'll know, it says, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age." This verse is often looked at as optional. Especially in the teen years, this can be looked at as, "Oh, I don't have to do this until I'm older." or "This is something I can't do until I'm on my own." However, this passage is directed to Christians, meaning, if you are old enough to be baptized, you are old enough to obey this command.

     I have a question: Say you were in a car crash, a hit and run, and you were crushed under the weight of your car. You could get out from underneath it if you simply had the help of one person. Suddenly you see someone rushing over and without asking they pull you out of the rubble. A couple months later you see the same thing happen to another person. Now you walk by and see you have the full ability to help this person just like someone helped you. What kind of person would you be if you just ignored them? What kind of person would you be if you just left them in the rubble? As Christians, it's our job to go out and search for those people who are in the rubble, and save them.

     As Christians we have a way to show others how to be saved not physically, but spiritually. Today I'd like to encourage you to find one person in the rubble, and help them out. Think of someone who you know needs help, and save them from eternal death. "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few" (Matthew 9:37)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A House With Just Wood

"But as it is, God arranged the members of the body, each one of them, as He chose." -1 Corinthians 12:18



     Often times as women we can get discouraged because it seems like men have all the roles. Now I know I talked about this recently (and you can read about it if you click here) but I'm sure you all know about how you can teach Bible class or visit widows and shut-ins, or bring in food for your church pantry, etc. However, I feel like people don't talk about why we need different people doing different things. A lot of times it's just assumed that everyone does different things because God said so. Some people are elders, some are deacons, some are preachers, and some are teachers simply because God said so. However, this is not the case.

     1 Corinthians 12:12-31 talks about the body that is the church. It talks about how some people have certain abilities while others don't. In fact verses 27-30 break away from the parable and ask if everyone is a teacher, or an apostle, or can speak in tongues, or heal the sick or perform miracles. Clearly people no longer perform miracles (which is a whole other article altogether) but the passage doesn't become less true. Even if it's less obvious, even if it's behind the scenes, everyone has a part in the church.

     A carpenter went to build a small play house for his daughter. Now, typically he worked in a large group of people and he was always in charge of the wood. So he brought over a bunch of wood that was cut properly so it would be sturdy. He started stacking the planks together and within about 10 minutes, a gust of wind came and everything fell over. The man scratched his head and tried thinking of a reason why that would happen. The man was stumped so he called up his friend who was usually in charge of hammering. He told the man with the wood that maybe he should try hammering the wood to get it to stick in place. So the man got up, put the wood back, and started hammering. About 10 minutes into this, another gust of wind came and knocked the wood over. Stumped again, the man called his friend who usually handled the nails and thought that maybe he could help. The man with the nails told him that maybe he should try putting the nails in the wood before he hammered. Suddenly, it all became clear. The man started building his house and about 10 minutes later a big gust of wind came but what he had been building didn't fall down this time.

     Now, if you were the man with the wood, you would have probably already have known that you need more than just wood, or just a hammer, or just nails in order to build a play house. It seems like this would be obvious. However, it seems to be less obvious when we're talking about the church. Sometimes it seems like we all have to be teachers, or we all have to be preachers, or we all have to cook for potlucks, etc. Now yes we should do as much as we can, but it takes a lot of different people who can do different things in order to build up God's church. Some people are better at starting up Bible studies than doing the studies themselves, and some people are good at doing the actual Bible study thing but not so good at setting them up. Now I'm not saying that if you're not good at something now then you never will be, but simply that some people have a higher advantage in some things, and that it's important to use that advantage.

     Today I'd like to encourage you all to look at your abilities and your advantages and use them to help in your congregation. Whatever your talent is, whether you're good with kids or older people, or you're good at encouraging people or just helping where help is needed, I'd like to encourage you all to look for places where you can help the kingdom grow.

Monday, November 3, 2014

"Lord Send Me"

"...The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefor pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." -Matthew 9:37-38


     We are told in Matthew 9:37 and 38 to pray that God send His people to aid others to him. We are told to pray for help in our journey of guiding others toward heaven. However, sometimes we forget to ask God, "Lord, send me." and we instead say, "Lord, send him." or, "Lord, send her." But what is more important: working, ourselves and making sure the job gets done, or sitting back and watching others do the work?

     Think of it this way: if a farmer has too much land to harvest on his own, he has every right to hire workers to aid him in gathering his crop, right? But, if one of the workers, even if he's a really good friend of the farmer's, decides half way through that he doesn't want to work or doesn't even show up at all, has he earned his payment? No. He didn't complete his work. James 2:10 says, "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has accountable for all of it." Even if we show up to church every time the doors are open, participate in all prayer groups, Bible readings, studies, and classes, and we never gossip or slander or murder or cuss, if we don't go out and make an effort to show others the Word of God, have we completed the whole counsel given to us (Acts 20:27)?

     It's important for us as Christians to, yes definitely pray for others to help us, but to keep our eyes peeled for opportunities. After all, if everyone sat back and did nothing, nothing would get done! And even if we just help encourage one person towards the heavenly goal, it'll all be worth it. It's important to keep your eyes open for any chance to share God's word, because you never know when you'll be most effective. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

"Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?"

"And Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone.'" -Mark 10:18


     Often times people ask the questions, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" "If God is real, why does he let bad things happen?" "Why me?" "Don't I deserve better than this?" These are questions that are always asked in the misunderstanding of what good is, and a discontentment with what is promised.

     The question I would first like to address is, "If God is real, why does He let bad things happen?" This question bothers me for more than the obvious reasons. God, the creator of all things, created people, humans, to serve Him.He gave them simple instructions and a way to follow them. And when His creation became incompetent and continually broke those laws, God had compassion on them and send His only son to serve His creation, and then die a slow and cruel death. Now let me ask you this: If God sent His son to not only die a cruel death, but to live a life of hardship and to serve those who, had it not been for them, he wouldn't have had to be there, that any human deserves better? Does any human deserve better than Jesus? No. Not at all. Jesus was and is perfect, and if He wasn't blessed in an earthly way, then why should anyone else be? Now God does bless us, and often in more ways than Jesus was blessed, but this is something to think about. I'm not saying that we should turn aside all blessings, but that we should look at it in a different way.
      
     Instead of seeing things in the way that God is letting bad things happen, but that He is letting you grow. He is allowing you to better see why He set these laws in place. Also, if you follow God and if you are baptized and stay faithful, you will receive the crown of life (Mark 16:16 and John 3:15). How is this a bad thing? Yes unfortunate things happen, but in the end, if you remain faithful, you will not only have gotten into heaven, but you will have let your light shine (Matthew 5:16) your entire Christian life, and what's bad about that?

     "Why do bad things happen to good people?" First of all, what qualifies a person as, "good"? In Mark 10:18, Jesus, Himself says, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone?" However, for the sake of answering the question, I will change "good people" to "Christians", because really, all men are equal to God (Romans 2:11). Now, like I said in the previous paragraph, living a life towards God is not a bad life no matter how tough the times get. In fact I wrote an article about it not too long ago (you can read it if you click here). It doesn't matter how hard times get, if you are a true Christian, then you will live in heaven for eternity and it doesn't matter how hard your life was on earth because it's not even a fraction of the time that we will spend in heaven.

     Today I would like to encourage you all to think about these things and study them for yourselves. I'd like to encourage you all to look at things, instead of man's perspective, but God's perspective. It can be difficult at times but it makes everything so much easier to understand. And one day, you'll be in paradise and look back, and you'll thank yourself.

     

Friday, October 24, 2014

Waiting For Happiness

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." -Psalm 37:4





     Whether Christian or atheist, mathematician or author, gymnast or couch potato, we all have one common goal: we all seek happiness. Some of us find it, others don't. However, most people don't find it. They're looking in all the wrong places. They look at knowledge, or power, or money, or friends, but the truth is, it's in none of those things. There is only one thing that can help us find happiness, and that is the word of God. 

     Happiness is not something you get. It's not something that you achieve, it's not something you can be given, you have to go out and get it. You have to learn to be content in all things like Paul, and you have to know how to ignore all those horrible things that are happening and focus on your relationship with God. Happiness is not something that you can give to yourself, you obtain happiness when you have a full understanding and appreciation of God and what He has done. Happiness comes when you stop thinking about yourself and you stop thinking about what you don't have and what you could have, but it comes when you become content with what you have. 

     I'm not condemning the mall, I love the mall. It's fantastic and I absolutely love it. However when we live in a place where there is a mall 5 miles away from pretty much everyone's house, and when electronics are constantly updating, and the list of "necessities" is getting longer and longer by the day, it can be hard to stay content. It can be hard to say that you don't need something when you can get up, drive to a store, and buy it. However that is not where happiness is. 

     When we indulge in ourselves, we forget about happiness and we forget what it's like to live the simple life and we end up waiting for the next thing to come out, or for graduation, or for a job, but really, that's not happiness. Happiness is when you realize that you don't need those things to get to heaven. Happiness is enjoying the things you have while you have them. Happiness is not being attached to the things of this world but to things of God. You can't wait for happiness, and you cannot lose happiness without your own consent. In the verse written at the top, it does not mean that if you follow God, He will grant your every wish, it's saying that once you love God with all your heart and He is all you want, you will become content and Happy because God is good, and perfect, and He, and only He, can give you true joy.

     Today I would like to encourage you all to look past all the things that you want, and the things that you think will make your life feel better, and see what's in front of you. See what God has given you and see what you can do for the kingdom. God doesn't want to see us sad, but that's not His choice, it's yours. 

     

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Christianity in the Work Place

"You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you." -Psalm 128:2



     Often times we are told to spread the word, and to not drink, and don't watch this, don't listen to that, that we neglect thinking about our work. We forget to teach about working hard, not only for God, but at our jobs, or in school, or anything! These are, in fact, the things that occupy the most of our days.

     Our spreading God's word depends greatly on our reputation. Would you be more willing to listen to a happy, upbeat person about their life, or someone who walks around constantly gloomy and sad and depressed and hates everyone and everything? I mean, I don't know about you, but I don't really want to follow the lifestyle of someone who hates their life and everyone and everything in it. It doesn't exactly appeal to me. However, if you're always positive about your work, your school, your life, people are going to be more willing to listen to you. And not only are people going to want to listen to you if you love your life, aren't they going to appreciate God's people more if they're always over-achievers? Won't it give God's people a better reputation if we are always working hard and looking nice and doing a nice job? People don't really look up to people who are always slacking off. As God's people we are to be examples of His word, even in something seemingly irrelevant.

     I know it seems like it wouldn't matter, but not only is it going to improve your grades or pay check, but people are going to get a better opinion of Christians. The world seems to believe that Christians are just lazy bums who think they're better than everyone else. This is not the case though, but how can we prove that if we are lazy bums who think we're better than everyone else? We need to show others that we're human, and that we are Christians, and that we are good. When people start noticing these things about Christians, they're going to start noticing them about God.

     I know it seems silly and ridiculous that something as simple as going the extra mile in whatever you're doing can help further God's kingdom, but believe me, it can. You may not see the results, but they'll be there. I'm not saying that if someone sees you working hard they'll automatically convert to Christianity, but it's a lot easier to listen to someone you respect than someone who doesn't seem to deserve any respect what-so-ever.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Spread the News!

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all these things that I have commanded you.." Matthew 28:19-20



     I love books and movies and tv shows. I love comic books and I love telling people about them and I love convincing them  to read/watch such things. I love spending my time with my books. I recently bought a new bookshelf and am already well on my way of filling it up, and that's just my books, not to mention ones from libraries or my mom's books or my brother's books or books for school. When you love something a lot, aren't you going to want to tell people about it? If something is precious, you want others to see how precious it is, and experience it with you. When you hear a great new song, you want to listen to it over and over again and tell your friends all about it. 

     What about the Bible? Do you love talking about the Bible? Do you know it front-to-back? Do you know the names of all the people? Do you know all the parables and where they're found? "But that's so HAARD!" well I can only imagine all the Harry Potter fans know every name of every character in the series. I have seen some fans who studied languages of their favorite movies. There's nothing wrong with this, but how much do you talk about God? I'm not saying that we need to know every single word of the entire Bible, but how much do you talk about how wonderful He is? How much do you tell your friends, "Hey, I have this amazing book here! Every time I read it I catch something new! You should read it!"? 

     In this day and age it can be difficult to share the gospel, as it's not very popular. Some places are already being denied their religious rights and are unable to speak about homosexuality in the pulpit. This doesn't mean, however, that there is no hope. This doesn't mean that the church is going anywhere, I'm not saying that all Christians are in danger right now, but the true church has never been popular. True Christianity has never been popular and that's because not enough people are teaching the whole counsel of God  (Acts 20:26-27) and people find Christianity hypocritical. They see it as impure, and they don't see it for what it really is: wonderful. We need to show people this now. We need to show people this every day. We need to talk about it and show it to people and bring it with us everywhere. We need to study it, live it, breath it. Because if we aren't, then what does that say about our faith?

     Today I would like to encourage you to study God's word, and to spread it to everyone. Wear it like a badge of honor. Take some time every day to pray and to study and to just sit back and appreciate the glory of God. If you don't have the time, make it. God gave you that time, and it's time to give some back. I'd like to encourage you all to trust Him and love Him and appreciate Him more. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Myers Briggs Personality Excuse

     "But Moses said unto Him, 'Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue." -Exodus 4:10


     
      I am sure that the majority of you have taken or at least heard of the Myers Briggs personality test, and if you haven't then I'll explain it a bit. It's a very interesting theory of personalities where a single individual has 4 of 8 personality traits. There are 4 categories and 2 results from each category. The first category is likely the one you are most familiar with. In this one you are either introverted (I) or extroverted (E). I'm sure you are aware that this means you're either energized by people (E) or energized by being alone (I). The second one, however, is a little less popular. You are either Intuitive (N) or Sensing (S). If you are intuitive it means when solving a problem, you typically look at the big picture first and pay attention to the details later. Sensing, however, means you pay more attention to detail. The third is Thinking (T) and Feeling (F). This means that wen you're making decisions, if you're a Thinking type, you typically make your decisions based on fact instead of emotion, and Feeling types typically see things in a more personal and emotional light. The last category is Judging (J) and Perceiving (P). Judging means that you typically don't procrastinate and keep things very scheduled, while Perceiving means you're more open to suggestion, and typically keep a flexible schedule.

     This study is one of my favorites and it has really helped me understand the personalities of others around me. However, it can be easy to use your personality as an excuse. How? Well, say you're a thinking type like me, and tend to put logic above emotion. This is typically because the personality with the thinking personality type isn't as emotional and doesn't see emotion as a top priority. Now say you have a really good friend who has had a rough week and you're the only one who can make them feel better, but you decide that because you're a thinking type and don't have a whole lot of emotion, you just won't. You decide that emotions are petty and you can get over them and so should they. Or say you don't want to go to church because you're an introvert and "literally can't". I know it sounds ridiculous but I've heard it before. It's important not to use these things as excuses.

     I'm not saying that people don't have limitations, and I'm not saying that introverts are going to hell because sometimes they need to stay home instead of going to something (other than church or their own wedding or something important like that, obviously). I'm not saying that thinking types are going to hell if they don't know exactly how to respond to their friend who is crying their eyes out, but I am saying that it can be easy to find excuses through our personalities. First of all, this personality thing is really just a theory anyway. It's incomplete and imperfect. Basing your life and your choices on it are as logical as building a house with pasta. 

     I'm not saying that it's wrong to take the test, I'm not saying that it's wrong to be an introvert or an extrovert or anything like that, but what I'm saying is that it can be easy to think that the Myers Briggs defines you. It describes you, yes. However, taking something that describes you and letting it define you is not only unhealthy, but it can cause you more harm than good.  It can cause you to lose friends, it can cause you to despise your friends, and it can cause you to fall short of God's law. 

     But how does one conquer ones obstacles and overcome these things that seem to keep them from God? How does the noisy extrovert keep from spending too much time with his friends and not enough time with God? How does the feeling type learn to not put their emotions first when it comes to important things? Well at the beginning of this article I wrote down Exodus 4:10, but not the very next verse which says, "Then the Lord said to Him, 'Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I the Lord?'" God has given us our abilities and our struggles, and He can help us overcome every single one of them. 

     Today I would like to encourage you all to, instead of seeing what people tell you to see, see the possibilities. See the possibilities of growth. Use the gifts that God has given you to to help further His kingdom. Maybe you're good at talking to people and understanding their emotions, or maybe you're really good at coming up with plans and you can set up a devotional at your house or something, or maybe you're really shy and quiet and can help someone else who is also shy and quiet. I'd like to encourage you to take your strengths and use them, and take your weaknesses to God, and He can help you overcome them. Mostly I'd like to encourage you to not use your personality as an excuse, but as an encouragement to others! God is always willing to help you, and it's important to go to Him with your hard times. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

How Will You Be Remembered?

"...Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life." -Revelation 2:10

     
     As a teen in high-school, I often think about college and what my life will be like when I graduate. I often think about what job I'll get and where I'll live and things like that. I also start thinking of my entire life ahead of me, and how I'll spend my time. What will I be remembered by? Will it be my money? Will it be my kindness? What are my goals? What is it that I'm trying to be remembered by?

     Everyone in life has a goal. What is your main goal? It's okay to have goals that aren't about God and that aren't about the Bible, like getting a promotion or being the top of your class, but when our lives revolve around God, our priorities and our main goals are going to revolve around Him, and our friends and family are going to see that. But if your goals are all about your job or your education, then what does that say to others? What does that say to God? When you miss out on church because you have homework, what does that say to those around you? When you go to church instead of basketball practice, what does that say to your team mates? If you were to die right now, how would people remember you? What would be written on your tomb stone? I sure hope mine says something about how I served God. I sure hope mine says more than that I was good at science or that I was a fast runner. I want my tomb stone to stand proudly and say that I was a true child of God. What do you want yours to say?

     Today I would like to encourage you all to think about your life choices and what you're basing them on. Are they based on God? Are they based on His word? Are they based on the passing moments on this earth? I'd like to encourage you to examine your life and the choices you're making for the future and for right now, and ask what they're based on. There's nothing wrong with sports and there's nothing wrong with having a good job or a good education, but when our main focus is on those things, it's time for a change. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Listening To the Kettle Whistle

"You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you." -Psalm 128:2


     I am a big tea drinker. I love hot tea, I love cold tea, I just like tea in general. And now that the weather is cooling off (well, it's October but I live in Texas so it's still in the 90's here but I'm pretending that it's cold) I have started drinking more hot tea. In fact, I am drinking some now as I write this. Anyway, as a regular tea drinker, I have a whistling tea kettle. When I first started using the tea kettle, I thought it was cheap because it never seemed to whistle correctly. It would give out a weak, unsatisfactory squeal letting me know in barely a whisper that my tea was ready. I lived with it, and I drank my tea from a kettle that was inefficient and didn't seem to want to work. Well one day when I was sitting at home alone while my mom ran some errands, I started making my regular cup of tea. I put the kettle on the stove and went on about my business. Not very long after I hear this wonderful, glorious whistling coming from my kitchen. I had forgotten about the tea and could now hear the whistling throughout my whole house. As it turns out, I was too busy trying to be efficient, that I forgot to enjoy what I was using.

     Sometimes in life we can get so wrapped up in getting things done efficiently and swiftly, that we forget to actually enjoy the things that come with our work. Ecclesiastes 5:12 says "Sweet is the sleep of the laborer". Yes it's important for us to work, yes it's important for us to be efficient, but it's important to rest. It's important to take time aside for yourself. Psalm 128:2, as we see at the top of this article, says "You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you." Sometimes we get so caught up in working that we forget to enjoy the fruit of our labor. We forget to take time aside and remember that we aren't just working machines. It's okay to take some enjoyment in what we do. Whether it's your work for the Lord, your job, your school, anything! It's important to take time aside to enjoy and appreciate all the work you've done. 

     Why? Why is it important for us to enjoy what we've done? Why is it important to look back and see what all you have done? Well, if not then we can get burned out. I love to run. About two years ago I started running every morning, and I got pretty good at it! I got in shape quickly and I enjoyed it. Then I started getting these dizzy spells that kept me from doing just about everything. They were really bad for about a month or two and by the time they were finally bearable, I was out of shape again. Forgetting that I had to get back in shape, I started running again. This time, however, instead of starting out small and progressing, I started out sprinting long distances on the hard sidewalk. The next week I was unable to run because my knees hurt so bad it was physically impossible to run. In fact, I had hurt my knees so bad that about 4 months after that I tried running and couldn't even get up to a jog without immense pain. Why? I forgot to rest. I had forgotten to take some time and rest instead of going all at once. If we forget to take time out for ourselves, it can be easy to get worn out and just stop working altogether. 

     Are you taking your kettle off the stove too fast? Are you forgetting to enjoy the fruits of your labor? Are you over-working yourself? Today I would like to encourage you all to take some time out of your busy schedule and do something you enjoy. Go see a movie. Go shopping. Take a nap if you want to. We were created to rest every once in a while! Today I would like to encourage you all to take a break. Even if it's just 30 minutes, it's still important. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Why?

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit," -Matthew 28:19


     Have you ever babysat a toddler? Or maybe you have a little sibling who's about 2 or 3? If you do than you are probably aware that they are always asking questions, trying to gather information about this new exciting world that they have recently entered. I'm sure you are also aware that 90% of those questions are "Why?" Sometimes we need to ask this question, ourselves. Why must we go out to all the world? Why do we have to teach others about God? 

     The first reason is that if you don't, who will? I'm sure you have all heard the story of Esther. I'm sure you have all heard the wonderful story of a young, beautiful lady that became a queen because of how beautiful and charming she was. But Esther had to go through some struggles too. Esther was unsure of what she wanted to do. I mean, what if she died? What if the king didn't like her question? What if she failed? In Esther 4:14 Mordecai tells her "If you keep quiet in this time relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" 

     In the passage you just read, we see that Mordecai is telling Esther that yes, God's will will be done, but it's Esther's job to make sure that it happens. Esther was put in that situation to make sure that her people will be saved. God puts us in situations so that we can save our people from destruction. By "our people" I mean the general population of the world. Maybe God gave you a good friend so that you could help them become a believer. Maybe God allowed you to be put in this situation so that you can show others that even in hard times, you still have to do the right thing. It's important that we are always looking for opportunities because who knows, maybe you were put there for that reason. 

     The second reason is that if we don't, the punishment is eternal. Have you ever heard the parable of the rich man and Lazarus? I'm sure you have. The rich man refused to help Lazarus in time of need, and when the rich man died he went to Hades and was begging Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers so they didn't end up in the same place. Abraham's response was, in Luke 16:29, "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear from them." The rich man, in response, told him in the next verse that if someone from the dead came, they would believe. However Abraham sees through this thought and responds with the logical statement that if someone doesn't hear from the prophets, they won't listen to anyone else. We can see this also through the life of Jesus, as he raised from the dead himself, and performed miracles, and still people didn't believe in Him.

     So what if all the evangelists just stopped evangelizing? What if we all decided that we were all happy with the amount of Christians that there were in the world, and it was time to stop telling others the Word? Well, everyone would end up with the rich man. There is only one way to heaven as we see in Mark 16:16 which says "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." This isn't saying that you don't have the be baptized and just believe, in this context it's talking about how people were being baptized but didn't believe in what they were doing. However we can see that whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, so wouldn't it make sense if we wouldn't be saved without these things that make us saved? So we need both. But who is going to save others? Who is going to help them get to heaven if they don't know these things? We need to help others see this. 

     There are many other things I could talk about, but I'm sure you don't want to read this article for 7 years and I really want to eat sometime before then. But it's okay if you ask "why?". It helps us to see things for ourselves. It helps us see why God wants us to do things and gives us motivation to do so. Now I'm not saying that we need to go around questioning absolutely everything, just looking for a fight. But God has a reason for every single one of His commandments and it's important for us to see and study these reasons. Today I'd like to encourage you to study things for yourself and go teach everyone. Whether it's a friend, or a mission trip, or just helping in Bible class. Anything you can do to further the kingdom is a great thing. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Working Hard For God

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not men,"


     Steve Maraboli said "Live your vision and demand your success." which, on paper, sounds great. It sounds like that's what we are supposed to do. Our society teaches us from an early age to strive to be the best, that the man who dies with the most toys wins. This is not, however, the way God intended us to live. There's nothing wrong with trying to be successful in your work or in your home or in your school, but when it becomes your first priority, something needs to change.

     I know I talk a lot about priorities so I won't go too much into it, but the problem with most people is that they don't have their priorities right. Unfortunately the gleam and glimmer of money and stuff seems so wonderful and is a bit over-powering. However I find it funny how often times we can strive so much for luxury items to help improve our lives that we stress ourselves out beyond being able to actually relax. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with working hard, but it's important that we remember that we are workers for the Lord first, workers for brothers second, and workers for ourselves last. 

     I know I'm talking mostly about work and business and a lot of you lovely readers aren't really working at a company, striving to the very top in order to make more and more money, but what about school? What about sports? There's nothing wrong with competing, but when these things get in the way of serving others, or more importantly serving God, it becomes no different than when the Israelites made a golden calf that we read about in Exodus 32 (except for the fact that that was a calf made of gold and what we're talking about is not a calf made of gold but, it's the same in principal).

     In essence, it's okay to have a job or to do well in school and to work hard, but we are to make sure that we don't put anything before God or the needs of others. Today I would like to encourage you to take a look at your life and see what you spend the most time working on. Is your work going towards God? Or is your work going towards the things of this world? Are you just trying to get the best grades or the best score? Are you putting your work towards God? If not I'd like to encourage you to maybe change a couple things in your schedule. After all, heaven is eternal, everything else ends quickly.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Common Misconceptions About Christians

"All scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." -2 Timothy 3:16-17


     We live in a society that doesn't want to believe in God so everyone can live happy lives full of no responsibility. This society only accepts what it wants to be true, and is unfortunately seeping into the church. It bothers me that I can't go to any camp or girls day or anything at all without hearing about purity. It's not that I don't want to hear about purity, but that it needs to be discussed so much. It bothers me that there are so many people who are unmarried with children, or people cheating on their spouses. You can't even turn on the tv without seeing it. In a society that only cares about itself, it clearly won't want to accept a god that we can't touch or see, and they certainly won't follow a god who condemns them for acting a certain way. Christians get a bad name and are unfortunately often alienated. Today I find it necessary to address a few of these misconceptions that we see often in the world.

     #1 "All Christians are hypocrites." It can be easy to see Christianity as hypocritical. From the world's point of view, we look down on sin yet sin ourselves. We condemn others for sinning and then go out and sin ourselves, as we see in Romans 3:23, everyone sins at one point or another. However, a true Christian acknowledges sin and that everyone has it. A true Christian understands that they have sin in their lives that needs to be fixed. It is not the least bit hypocritical if we say that others have sin, and so do we. It is also not wrong to know when something is wrong. If the Word is made for reproof, correction, teaching, and training, how are we supposed to do those things unless we see sin in others? Now, we shouldn't point out these flaws rudely, but go to them in a loving matter. 

     People of the world believe that Christians are hypocrites because everyone sins, but how much more hypocritical are they who point out the supposed hypocrisy of Christians who are trying to help others fix their problems? Yes as Christians it is possible to be a hypocrite just as anyone else can be, but Christianity in itself is not hypocritical. We also have to be careful and not really be hypocritical, because that won't help anyone find God.

     #2 "All Christians are judgmental." YES! Matthew 7:1 says "Judge not that you be judged" but that verse is taken so out of context! That passage is talking about hypocrisy, and making sure you are right with God before you condemn someone for being wrong so you can see the situation clearly. If you say that something is wrong and you back it up with scripture, then that is not being judgmental. You can do it in a rude or know-it-all way, but if we do it right in a loving manner then we are not being judgmental. In fact, when someone acknowledges that being judgmental is a sin and they don't believe in Christianity or sin at all, then they have no argument because they don't believe in sin! This one also falls under the category of hypocrisy, but it is just as relevant.  

     #3 "All Christians contradict themselves." I'm not talking about saying one thing and doing another so much as saying two completely opposite things. I know this is a bit straightforward but there is only one God, one Bible, and one way to get to heaven. There are two paths, the narrow and the wide, and only one of those ways gets us to heaven. Now please tell me if I am wrong, but would a narrow path give room for variation? Would a narrow path have room for several different beliefs? I can tell you that a wide path does. Unfortunately there are so many denominations that everyone gets confused about who God really is (another misconception is that the church is denomination, when really we are the one church, not one of the many). This is why we need to spread the true word of God, so that people don't get this misconception. 

     Once again I couldn't go through all of these because there are at least hundreds. Maybe thousands or millions. I know that as women it can be hard to teach others about how these misconceptions are false, especially with men, but that doesn't mean we can't ask others for help. That doesn't meant hat we can't study these things for ourselves and be examples of what Christians should be.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Who Is The Lamb?

The next day he [John] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, 'Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'" -John 1:29


     All throughout the Bible there are discussions of lambs and sacrifices, but what does it mean to be the "lamb of God"? What is the significance of this name? Often times we sing hymns and we read scripture about Jesus being the lamb, but what does that even mean?

     The first mentioning of a lamb is in Genesis 4, talking about how Abel was a sheppard who tended to a flock of sheep as we see in verse 2. In verse 4 we can see that Abel brought the firstborn of his flock when he sacrificed to God, as was commanded. If you think about it, the first mentioning of a lamb is one that comes with sacrifice. The first born. In parallel,  Jesus is God's only son, and we can also see that He was the first born or Marry, as she was still a virgin and unless a miracle happens, she's just not going to have any other kids until she changes that. Jesus was the first of the flock, so to speak. 

     Genesis 22 is about Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, his first born. God told Abraham to sacrifice his son on the alter as we see in verse 2. In verse 7, where it mentions the lamb, it says, "And Isaac said to his father Abraham, 'My father!' And he said, 'Here I am, my son.' He said 'Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?'" Here we see a boy who understands the meaning of sacrifice, and understands that it must be a lamb that is offered. In fact, he probably also knew that the sacrifice was to be of the first born. Isaac was taught the Word from a young age. Also, his father was told in Genesis 17:4 that he was going to be the father of many nations. 
     
     In parallel to Genesis 22, God is the Father of many nations. Now I am not saying this to say that all religions are true, because obviously if two contradict each other then at least one of them has to be wrong. However, God is the father of many nations in the way that He accepts people of all cultures, backgrounds, etc. as long as we are willing to change from any bad things we had going on before we became Christians. We can also see from Genesis 22 that Isaac was a sacrifice. Like Jesus, he was made to be a sacrifice of his father. Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son for the love of God, and for the forgiveness of sins. Unlike Jesus, however, Isaac didn't die but he did rise from the alter. Also, in Genesis 22:8, in response to Isaac asking where that lamb was, Abraham's response was "God will provide for himself a lamb for a burnt offering, my son." Jesus was not sacrificed on the same ind of alter that lambs usually were, as a burnt offering, but Jesus was still a sacrifice. This parallel is really one that takes more than just a couple paragraphs to completely cover, but God did provide a lamb to be an offering: His son.

     I know I was unable to cover a whole lot of parallels with lambs and Jesus, but there are so many that I couldn't really go through them all. Jesus is the first born or Marry, the only son of God, who was sent to save us for our sins. The thing that is the most striking to me is that Jesus is not our lamb. Jesus is God's lamb. God did not gain anything through sacrificing the life of His son, but we gained forgiveness of sins. This is why Jesus is the lamb of God.

     Today I hope I have helped you see a little more clearly how truly wonderful God is, and how amazing it is that His only son died for your sins and mine if we only take Him on in baptism as we see in Mark 16:16 and many other verses. Today I want to ask you what you are sacrificing. Being a girl can be rough at times and it can be easy to say, "There's nothing I can sacrifice to God. I can't preach, I can't be an elder, I can't be a deacon. What can I do?" Well, that's a whole other article (which I actually wrote about if you want to click here to read it) but there are things you can do for God, and for others. Today I would like to encourage you all to think of one thing you have an abundance of, and think of a way you can use it for God. It's a challenge at times, but it's always worth it in the end. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Knocking At The Door

     "For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened." -Matthew 7:8




     Often times, we get distracted with what we want and forget about the things that we need. There is an undying list of things that we all want. I don't know how many of you are readers, but I am, and one thing that I have noticed is that I am never satisfied with the amount of books I have read. I am always wanting to read more and more and my reading list just keeps getting longer and longer. This is just an example of how the things that we want can become such an overwhelming number that we forget about the things that we genuinely need.

     What do we need? What are the bare necessities of life? The ultimate thing that we need, as I am sure you have guessed by now, is God. Without God we would have no life, no salvation, nothing. We need these things in order for our souls to live. In fact, the entire Bible is about helping us get to eternal life. If God, the creator of the universe, wrote a book and gave it to everyone He created and told them to tell everyone they could, do you think that book would probably be necessary? Most definitely. That is why it is important for us to study His word daily and make sure we understand not only God and what He has done for us, but our spiritual needs as well. Our primary need is God and the salvation that He brings through His son which we find in baptism as we see in Mark 16:16 and so many other passages.

     Our secondary need is our life here on earth. We need things like food, water, shelter, clothing, etc. We should seek out these things but not as much as our spirituality. Is a job more important than Sunday morning services? Is eating so important that you need to skip church so you can prepare a meal for people coming over after worship? Philippians 4:6 says, "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God." This reminds me of Mary and Martha, who were both presented with the opportunity to learn more about Christ our savior, and while one did, the other found it more important to be a home maker. While both of these things are important, it is far more important to serve our Lord than our house.

     Our third needs aren't really needs at all, but are more like wants. These are things like those really cute shoes you want SO MUCH, or Ben & Jerry's brand ice-cream (that stuff is the bomb) or anything that we could really live without. These things, if not treated properly, can be distractions for what our main priority should be.

     So what does any of this have to do with asking God for what we need? Well, often times we can be dishonest with ourselves and we ask for things that can harm our faith rather than increase it. Sometimes we can become selfish and instead of asking for forgiveness we ask for that cute guy to notice us. There's nothing wrong with asking for things other than salvation, but we have to look at where our priorities lie before we ask. But we shouldn't forget to ask for these things daily. God wants us to ask him for things. We just need to be asking the right questions.

     What are your priorities? What do you ask for when you pray? Are you asking for the right things? Are you knocking at the door? Today I'd like to encourage you all to ask yourself these questions and maybe rethink what your goals are. Are they to increase your faith? Or increase the things of this earth?

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Light In The Darkness Of This World

"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." -John 1:4-5



     John 1 talks a lot about the darkness of the world, and how it contrasts with the Light of Jesus. In verse 9 it even talks about how Jesus being the light, gave light to everyone. Jesus came to this earth not only so that He could die on the cross, but also that He may give light to the others around Him. The verse says that He is the true light who gives light to everyone. But do we accept that light? Or are we staying in the darkness? 

     What is the darkness? How can we tell that we are in the darkness? Have you ever been reading outside and realized that you can't see the words on your page any more because the sun has set? You were so focused on your reading that you didn't notice that you couldn't see it any more. That is what sin does to us. Sin is so slow and subtle that if you aren't paying attention, you can't even see God any more. Darkness is subtle. Darkness is the ways of this world. Darkness is sinning and not knowing because you have not been enlightened by the Word. Darkness, unfortunately, is what most of the people in this world are in. 

     "How do I stay away from the darkness?" Staying away from the darkness is as simple as looking towards the light. We have to look to the light constantly without wavering from it. Not only do you have to look towards the light, but you cannot look at the darkness. Movies, music, books, social media, billboards, and so many more things that are shoved in our faces are covered in worldliness. I'm not saying that there is anything necessarily wrong with any of these things, but unfortunately it can be very difficult to avoid worldly things when these are everywhere. I live in a city, so there are billboards everywhere. Sadly, a lot of those billboards are promotions for "gentlemen" clubs and alcoholic beverages. When we are trying to stay in the light, we need to avoid these things. If we can't go outside our homes without seeing those things, how much worse is it when we go to the internet, where there are no limits? I'm not hating on the internet, but it is important for us to limit ourselves to the things we expose ourselves to before we get used to it and don't even notice the darkness of sin any more.

     So how can you be a light in this world of darkness? How can you specifically be a light to others and enlighten them in the ways of our Lord? First you have to know what you're teaching. Are you just going by what your parents taught you? By what about your preacher or your elders taught you? Those are still people and people are imperfect. You have to read the Bible for yourself so you can make sure that they aren't wrong. Don't just take everything everyone says to be the truth. Also, you have to live your life outside of the dark. That means maybe not going to that movie with your friends. That may mean maybe not reading that book, or not hanging out with that group of people. We shouldn't just avoid everyone, as we see in Matthew 5:15 where it talks about putting a light under a basket. We need to spread the light to others. But we need to separate ourselves and stand out. We need to be a contrast from the world. 

     Today I would like to encourage you all to check your lights. Are you going dim? Are you contrasting with the darkness of this world? Are you looking towards God and spending your time with the right people? Are you in the darkness? I'd like to encourage you all to ask yourselves these questions daily, and study your Bible often so you don't find yourself one day completely in the dark and unable to find the light again.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Rejoicing in the Lord

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice." -Philippians 4:4


(despite common belief, this it not a picture of me.)

     As I am sure you have figured out from the title of this lesson, the verse, and the very happy picture at the top of this article, I will be talking about rejoicing. Why is it important for us to have joy? What even is joy? These are some of the things that I will be addressing in this article.

     First I will be talking about the differences between joy and happiness. A lot of people think that there is no difference, but really there is. Happiness is feeling you get when you go shopping and find a super cute dress that's in your price range and when you go to try it on it magically fits (it actually happened to me once. I was SO EXCITED!) Happiness is an emotion. Happiness, however wonderful, is only temporary. Happiness comes from things of the world that make us feel good about ourselves. Joy, however, is not an emotion as much as a choice. When you are joyous, it doesn't matter what happens in your life, you will be full of joy. Acts 16 where it talks about Paul and Silas singing hymns to God while in prison is a perfect example of this. In Philippians 4:12 talks about how Paul was content in all things, and this is the same man who we see in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 was beaten, stoned shipwrecked, in constant danger from men, without food, and imprisoned who knows how many times. In fact, Philippians 4 was written while Paul was in prison. Paul is a wonderful example of how happiness and joy are completely different. Happiness is temporary, joy is a choice.

     Now I'll be talking about why we should have joy. I mean, there must be a logical reason for why we have this commandment. Not only does God genuinely love us and want us to rejoice, but, how are we going to convert others to Christianity if we're always pessimistic about life? How are we going to show others the glory of how wonderful God is, if we don't show them that joy throughout our daily lives? We are to rejoice because of what God has done for us. It doesn't matter what situation we are in, whether it be physical or emotional, God sent His son to die so that we can have eternal life. What's there not to be happy about?

     One last thing that I'm going to be talking about is that there is nothing wrong with being sad or angry or in distress. John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Bible, says that Jesus wept. Like I said, joy isn't an emotion. Joy is an over-all state of mind. Joy is recognizing what has been done for us and even though we may be upset, we can understand that our life is far more than what we have here on earth and we can rejoice in that. 

     Are you a joyous person? Do you rejoice in the Lord? Today I would like to encourage you all to consider if you are this kind of person, and if not then change things around so you can be. It's as simple as looking at the bigger picture, or the brighter side of things. The big picture is that no matter what happens, as long as we remain faithful, we will be with God in heaven for eternity. I'd like to ask you today to consider this no matter what situation you are in. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Day

"Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonicha; they received the Word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so."-Acts 17:11

   

     It's the beginning of the school year. Your days are beginning to fill up with extra-curricular activities, homework, friends, and school. I'm sure a lot of you are thinking, "How can I possibly get this all done without going insane in the process?" Well, today I am going to give you a 3-step guide to making sure you don't go a single day without making progress in your physical and more importantly, spiritual life.

     Step #1: Prioritize
     When you are doing anything, you have to prioritize. Of course, before you do so, you have to have an understanding of where your priorities lie. Are they in school? Are they in extra-curricular activities such as sports, band, etc? Or is your first priority God? Is your first priority studying God's word and searching through the scriptures as we see we should do in Acts 17:11?

     Before we do anything in life, we have to always put God first, and settle everything else after that. I'm not saying that you should quit school, shut yourself in your room and study 24/7. However, it is far more important to study your Bible and increase your faith than anything else. Not only should God be first in your life, but He should be everything in your life. Don't just spend a bunch of time studying just to forget it once you go to school. It is important to make sure you have a proper foundation. After that, everything will kind of fall into place on its own.

     Step #2: Make a Plan 
     I am a planner. In fact, I have two daily-planners and a calendar and a note pad specifically for to-do lists (not to mention the calendars, count-downs, timers, and to-do lists I have on my phone). I like to make sure everything has a plan, and everything gets done. In fact, writing this article is one of the things on my list! In my experience, if you want to get something done you have to make a plan. Since we're talking about Bible study here, this would be a good time to discuss some the different kinds of plans that you can use to further your faith.

     There are many different kinds of plans. You can have a weekly plan, a monthly plan, yearly, and basically any time-range you can find. Choose a time schedule, and try to get something done by then. Say you want to work on memory verses. You can have a monthly goal of 20 a month (or 5 a week). Or if that's too much and you have a difficulty doing memory work, you can make it 1 verse per week. You can also do Bible study plans, Bible reading plans, plans in bettering your prayer life, anything. So my advice to you is to make a plan that will help make it easier for you to do these things because the easier it is, the less difficult it is to stick with it. Just don't try to make it so convenient that you're not doing anything.

     Step #3: Do It
     Now that you have your priorities and your plan, go ahead and do it! Give yourself small rewards for completing tasks. Say you're doing a memory work plan, go get ice-cream once you've memorized 50 verses. Get motivated, get active. Today I would like to encourage you all to first make sure your priorities are straight, and if not, fix them. If it's something as simple as just trying to pray more often, do it! If you are trying to read more often, do it! Whatever you want to do, I would like to encourage you all to pick up a pen and paper, write out a plan, and stick with it. It's easy, and I promise you won't regret it.