Friday, November 30, 2012

A Month of Thanks: My Home Congregation

For the final November Friday Month-of-Thanks post, I'd like to mention a few things and people that are especially dear to my heart.

I grew up at the Maysville congregation in Gurley, AL. Until college, I'd never even visited anywhere else really. In which case, all of my early ideals and expectations about the church and the people that make up the church were formed at Maysville, and by some especially outstanding individuals. It is to those people that I dedicate this post.

First, let me start with Mr. Tim. Tim is the preacher there, and has been since I was in the 2nd grade (aka since I was old enough to really listen to the preacher). I remember when he first got there--he took the youth group (not just the older ones, but the younger ones that he always paid special attention to) to a skating rink. I remember holding hands with Mr. Tim so I wouldn't fall. I also remember him passing me off to his son--who was my age--and I was highly irritated by it. Little did I know that Mr. Tim was fostering a relationship that would grow to be one of the very best I would have while I lived there.

From an early age, Mr. Tim took special care of me and my sisters. After all, we were the same age as his three kids. Though I knew that he loved and cared for me personally, the ways that he taught me and influenced me generally came from a public setting. Be it "Freed Camp" when he would walk through what the hymns we sang meant or in North Carolina were he would give sage spiritual advice while making us clean up the 'kitchen'. Whenever I was around Mr. Tim, I was learning something.

When I got older, I started understanding more of what he was saying from the pulpit. It's not that I hadn't been listening; it's just that Mr. Tim is one of the most intelligent preachers I've ever heard, and he makes you dig so much deeper into a text than you would normally. When I was younger, I couldn't quite appreciate or grasp it, but as a teen and then college-aged young adult, I craved his sermons and what new thing I would learn.

I know that I wouldn't be the person that I am today if it hadn't been for him. If he hadn't taken me in to his own family, if he hadn't taken special care of our young and impressionable souls before I was technically youth-group aged, if he hadn't provoked me and urged me to be better spiritually, and if he hadn't always believed in me. The most influential thing he ever did was introduce me to Freed-Hardmen, where I met my godly, spiritual husband. A million thanks could never be enough for Mr. Tim.

The second person I need to mention is Lonnie Jones. I'm sure a lot of people recognize the name, as he is a remarkable public speaker. But most people don't know Lonnie like I know Lonnie. He came not long after Tim did, meaning I was still very young. He taught most of our classes on Sunday mornings and Wednesday night, and always spoke to us at camp. He took us on countless youth trips where he was speaking, played games with us all the time, and even opened his home to us nearly once a week for as long as I can remember---fostering the greatest friendships I've ever known.

Lonnie kept us involved. In high school, it's easy to get distracted by different things and hectic schedules and boyfriends and friends and having a car and everything else. Lonnie made spending time with the youth group fun, and something you always wanted to do. There were always tons of us hanging out at his house, or going out after Wednesday night services in the summertime. Lonnie just helped make us like spending time together, because he knew that if you had close friends at church--you were more likely to be there.

One of the key ways Lonnie influenced me--I didn't even realize until recently. You see, I started teaching the teenage girls class at East Hill in September. Sure, I'd taught classes before, but only the little ones (3-5yr olds). When I started teaching kids who understand sarcasm and jokes and, well, me, I started seeing Lonnie's influence. He taught me, through the hours of lessons I heard him give, that studying the Bible doesn't have to be boring---that it shouldn't be boring. Every scripture has a practical application, and it is the teacher's job to practically apply that to the age group. I am definitely no Lonnie, but I'd like to think that this is the approach that I have in the girls class. And I know that a lot of my style comes from him.

Finally, I'd like to thank the 'older' youth group kids. When I was in 3rd-6th grades, my oldest sister and her friends were in high school/college. But they didn't treat us like outcasts, or like the annoying children we were (see for reference mine and Jessie's ski trip video--wow). What they did was include us. They took us on trips to Sonic. They sat with us on the way to 6 Flags. They played games with us and taught us songs at camp. They braided our hair. They taught me alto (thanks Lacey!). They made it "cool" to be in the youth group, and while that's not what having a relationship with God is about, at 10 years old, I needed that perspective. I needed something that made me want to be there, and that group of people were it.

It didn't stop, either. All throughout their college life, they would come back and hang out with us. I can remember the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of high school especially well--going to concerts, hanging out every Sunday and Wednesday night, taking trips together, learning cool music (I still attribute my love of Sister Hazel to Leah and the mixed CD she made for Julia). Those people helped me so much at a time that could have been so difficult. They all still mean the world to me--even if they never knew how much I looked up to them. So thanks Lauren, Leah, Lacey, Juls, Chad, & Weaver. You guys are remarkable. And also..."look at the bones!!"

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bring On the Greed

There's something about this time of year that always irks me. Is it the fact that I'm bombarded by Christmas music on the radio and in department stores already? Partially. Is it because I can't find any fall decor for my new home because stores put up their Christmas displays so early? Partially. Is it because I can't get online without being overwhelmed by Black Friday ads? Partially. But really, it's a conglomerate of all of the above, and it stems from one underlying motivation that just really, really bugs me: greed.

We sit back in dismay when our country elects a leader whose moral compass is basically nonexistent, and ask ourselves how that could have possibly happened. I think in the two weeks since the election we've got our answer: our nation is self-absorbed and greedy.

We can't even celebrate one day--ONE day out of 365-- that involves being thankful. Instead, we brush over that holiday to get to the really good stuff--Christmas , aka "gimme gimme gimme!" Now don't get me wrong: I love Christmas. I love it even more now that I'm married to someone who loves Christmas so much, but let's put Christmas, once and for all, in its proper place---after Thanksgiving! And I don't mean wait to put up your tree or listen to music or anything like that (though please do that), but I mean don't put a holiday all about getting what you want over a holiday that emphasizes thanking our Heavenly Father, the giver of all good and perfect gifts (James 1:17).

It's easy to get carried away. I'll be honest, a lot of my shopping is already done (hello sales throughout the year). But what I have to watch myself on is my attitude. This time of year, attitudes can go south, quickly. Take all of the Black Friday horror stories for example. When our hearts aren't filled with thankfulness, greed takes over. And, I'm not saying that Thanksgiving is the only day you should be thankful. What I am saying, though, is that maybe we should all take this time of year to recharge our thankful batteries, instead of just skipping over the turkey and dressing and heading out into the Best Buy line.

It's not wrong to shop. It's not wrong to shop on Black Friday. It's not wrong to like Christmas (giving is better than receiving). But it is wrong to displace a heart of thanksgiving with a heart of greed. Be careful not to let our culture dictate your heart.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Month of Thanks: Hope and the Old Testament

In the very worldly sense of the word, November is a month of hope. We sit around, hoping someone makes our favorite dish at Thanksgiving--hoping that our candidate is picked for President--hoping that we get what we put on our Christmas list. Really, we're wishing. We're crossing our fingers and thinking that maybe, if we're lucky, our wish will come true.

Biblical hope isn't a wish; it is an expectation.  Psalm 119:166 says, "Lord, I hope for Your salvation, and I do Your commandments." The psalmist isn't wishing for salvation. On the contrary, the psalmist is confident in the salvation that God has promised to the faithful. Why is he doing the commandments of God? Because he knows that God will give eternal life to the one who keeps His commands. Again let me emphasize that biblical hope isn't a wish--it's an expectation. 

Proverbs 10:28 tells us this: "The hope of the righteous will be gladness, but the expectation of the wicked will perish." When we die, if we're been faithful to God, our hope will be realized and we will be glad. We will have attained our salvation and we will be eternally joyful. On the other hand, if we are not faithful to the Lord, we cannot have such an expectation. The wicked will perish. If you are choosing to live outside of God's commandments, you are choosing to expect (hope for) torment when you die. 

I know that I've been pulling our 'hope' verses from the Old Testament, so let's use one from the New, shall we? Romans 15:4 tells us, "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." The reason that we still use (and love) the Old Testament today is not because its laws and precepts are binding, but because we can draw lessons and hope from the text. I, for one, fall more in love with God when I read about Him in the Old Testament. When I see, through the minor prophets, His love for His people and His pleading for them to return to Him. And, as we see in Romans, one of the reasons we can even have hope (an expectation to live with God one day) is because of what the Old Testament teaches us about His love for us and His plan for us. 

So today, I am thankful for the Old Testament. I am thankful for the stories of old and their relevance to my life today. I am thankful for the psalms and their comfort; for the proverbs and their wisdom. I am thankful for the account of the life of David and his beautiful heart, and the account of Abraham and his faithfulness. I am thankful that I can read about God's love for His chosen people, and realize that He's chosen me (1 Pet. 2:9). 

However, I am also thankful for the hope that the Old Testament provides. I am thankful for all of the promises God has made to us that He has already fulfilled, such as the promise to send a Savior to heal mankind once and for all. And, because He has made good on some of His "big" promises already, I can be all the more confident that He will deliver me when this life is over. 

We can go to heaven and we can know that we are going. We, like the psalmist, can have a hope in God's salvation. Ephesians 2:12 says, "that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." If you are without Christ, you are without hope. If you don't have this kind of hope...this kind of assurance in your soul's final to me. I'd love to share with you how I know and how you can, too. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Leading Ladies: Esther

Finally--back to our Leading Ladies series! Sorry for the hiatus! Election season puts me in a tizzy!

I'm going to trust that you are familiar enough with the story of Esther that I don't have to quote it at length. If you aren't, I would encourage you to read the book in its entirety, as it is a beneficial study (and very intriguing).

So, what kinds of things can we learn from Esther:

1: She was pure. Those chosen to 'go before the king' after he dismissed Queen Vashti were virgins. Had Esther not remained pure in her young life, she would have never been under consideration to be the new queen. But, since she'd purposed in her heart to remain pure before God, she had this opportunity. As Christians, we have an opportunity every single day to decide whether or not we will be pure--from the clothes that we wear and the way we present our bodies to the things that we listen to and shows that we watch. There may be opportunities for us to teach others about God's beautiful word, but if our lives aren't pure, we may take ourselves out of the running for helping that person's soul. How sad if we were to take opportunities away from ourselves! Sadly, though, Christians do this.

For example: if we're on our way into the movie theater to watch something that isn't wholesome and we see someone we know (who may be a struggling Christian, a babe in Christ, or a person we've been 'working on' for quite some time) -- are we negating everything we promote/teach based on the way we are acting--based on the way we're living? Our lives must be pure (and subsequently our hearts--Mt. 5:8) so that we can take hold of every opportunity to do good in God's service.

2: She used her position for God's glory. Had Esther not listened to Mordecai, the entirety of the Jewish population might have been wiped out. Mordecai so eloquently states in Esther 4:14, "Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

God's providence is something that I whole-heartedly believe in, yet don't quite understand how it works in my life. Still, I trust that God has a plan. Like Esther, I believe that there are unique opportunities afforded to each of us. Perhaps you are placed in a certain job just so you can influence your co-worker. Maybe you are in a certain town so that you can help an entire population of people. Whatever your lot in life, be willing, as Esther was, to use that position to God's glory.

And note that Esther did not use her position because it was easy. She displayed an amazing amount of courage by going in to the king's chambers without being summoned--this could have gotten her killed! Still, because she was willing to put the greater good ahead of her own lot, she went in anyway--not knowing how the king would respond. Had she not been willing, people would not have been saved. Likewise, if we are not willing to boldly proclaim Jesus in our lives (to our friends, family members, co-workers, cashiers, etc.), people will not be saved.

3: She remembered who she was. This one will be similar to our last point. You see, when Esther became queen, she could have forsaken her Jewish heritage. She was beautiful, rich, and in a powerful position. Quite frankly she could be whoever she wanted to be, have whatever she wanted to have, and do whatever she wanted to do. We know, though, that she didn't. She kept Mordecai close (and listened to his council), and ultimately saved her entire 'family'.

We live in a sinful world and there's no escaping that fact. As Christians, when we go out into the world in our day to day activities, we must remember who we are. It is not ok for us to 'forget' and let a few curse words slip when talking to our co-workers or when a car pulls out in front of us. It is not ok for us to 'forget' when there's a popular movie coming out that doesn't adhere to God's guidelines for things we should think upon (Phil. 4:8). It's not ok for us to 'forget' because the weather is warm or we're taking a trip--and modest clothing just isn't practical. It isn't ok to 'forget' when we're out shopping for Christmas presents and someone cuts us off, takes too long in line, snatches the last of an item, or anything else. First and foremost, we are Christians, and we must always remember that. That is why Paul urged the brethren at Philippi to mediate on pure, lovely, true, right things. The more you meditate on something, the more likely it is to stick.

4: Her inner beauty mattered more. While Esther was beautiful, there was something else about it that made the king love her. The text tells us that not only did the king love and favor her, but so did all of the other people who came into contact with her--even the other young women who had been chosen to live in the king's palace. Now, think about what you know about beauty pageants. Are all of the beautiful contestants best friends and super nice to each other the entire time? Or is the jealousy, envy, and backbiting? Had Esther simply been outwardly beautiful, I'm sure the majority of people around her would have felt the latter--jealous, especially in light of the special treatment she was receiving. And yet, Esther is loved by all. That speaks volumes for her character!! She truly must have been a beautiful woman on the inside for every person to love her.

I believe this point is especially pertinent to parents of teenage girls. I have been extremely disappointed recently in the outfits that I'm seeing on Facebook of 'Christian' teenage girls. While I am friends with some of the girls, mostly I am seeing these immodest clothing choices put on display by their own parents.

As a former teen girl, I know how impressionable they are--especially when it comes to their bodies. Every thing that you praise or put down will stick with them for a long time. Why not, then, put a little less emphasis on their physical beauty and more on their inner beauty? Challenge them to have a pure heart--it will make enforcing a modest dress code easier. Challenge them to remember who they are--it will make the discussions about dances and parties easier. Above all, though, encourage them to beautify their hearts. Esther spent 12 months preparing for the king. Encourage your daughters to spend time preparing for their King.

This isn't an exhaustive list by any means. There are so many things we can learn from Esther. I challenge you to read more about her and find more ways to implement lessons from her life into yours.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Month of Thanks: Marriage

Last week we talked about forgiveness. There aren't many things in life that are greater than that. Without it, I wouldn't have the chance of heaven, nor would I ever get to meet my Savior. I would never be holy or pure enough to see my Father. But with it, so many other things are afforded to me!

Since this is a different Friday, I suppose I should go on with a different topic. Today (and everyday) I am thankful for the institution of marriage, and the commands God gives to husbands and wives.

For the last 16 months I have been married to an amazing Christian man. While Robert is a great person, and would no doubt be very loving and nice according to worldly standards, it is only because of his love for God that our marriage is as wonderful and blissful as it is. Because we both strive to put God first, our relationship with each other has been blessed. Paul instructed the Ephesians in this way:
"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church." (vs 22-29)
Because the Holy Spirit guided Paul to write these words, we can know and experience Godly marriages. Had the Holy Spirit not inspired these words, I may not be in a marriage where my husband cherishes me and protects me. I may not be in a marriage where my husband will give himself for me, and love me as much as he loves himself--really, as an extension of himself. And, were we not guided, I might not want to submit to my husband or respect my husband like I do. I may have trust issues or feel bad about myself---like I had to compete with other women or the internet or other perverse things that our world sets before men's eyes.

Instead, we do have these beautiful, inspired words to live by, thus ensuring that Christians can have wonderful marriages. I have been so blessed to have someone whose main focus within our relationship is to help me get to heaven, and I am thankful for my sweet husband every single day.

A few weeks ago, I was teaching the teenage girls and we were talking about dating. I asked the girls to think about the boys they were dating/wanted to date and think about the characteristics they possessed. Then I asked them to look at the text from Ephesians and think about these questions: Does my boyfriend treat me as well as he treats himself? Does he try to present me as pure and holy, without spot or wrinkle? Would he be a good head to my body? Does he respect my body? Does he nourish and cherish me?

I could tell that some of the answers to those questions were no, and it made me sad. It also made me reminiscent. I dated a few boys who didn't treat me that way. I wasn't cherished, respected, or guarded. When I met Robert, I knew that he was different--and the difference that was inside of him was Christ.

My life wouldn't be filled with nearly as much joy if I weren't married to Robert. And, had God not set up boundaries and given us instruction on how to treat our spouses, I doubt we'd be as happy as we are. I am so thankful that God has given me a man whose heart wants to be like Jesus, and that He gave us the institution of marriage (and the aforementioned guidelines) so that we can have someone urge us along on the straight and narrow as we walk this earthly sojourn.

**As a special note, one of my great friends and a preacher that I greatly respect has written a blog post today about marriage, and it is an interesting, thought-provoking, and wonderful read. Take some time to visit it here.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Blessed Life

Well, I feel like I'm pretty old. Sure, 25 isn't that old, but when I think about it in terms of the fact that--should God give me the time--a third of my life is probably over, yeah I'd say I'm getting old. And, I'd say that if a third of it is over already, I better be getting to work on more great things for the Lord!

Today, though, I'm not really looking forward. Instead, I'm reflecting on the wonderful 25 years I've had.

My earliest birthday memory is in the form of a Little Mermaid cake. I'm not sure how old I was--not very, for sure--but the little figurines on the cake still stand out in my mind (probably because I played with them for 10 more years). From there my birthday memories revolve around sleepovers with my best friend Jessie and trying to predict if it would be warm enough for putt putt or if we'd have to do some kind of indoor, lame, November-cursed birthday party.

The birthday memories that stick out to me the most are the most recent, though. And as you will see, my life has been abundantly blessed.

It starts four years ago. Four years--wow, it doesn't seem like it could have been that long ago--when three semi-ok friends headed out on an adventure that would change their lives. Alyssa, Shane and I climbed aboard an overnight train to Munich for a weekend filled with exciting, once-in-a-lifetime things. They were SO accommodating for my 21st birthday---letting me take stupid pictures all day in Paris and even letting me go to the Hard Rock Cafe for mac and cheese and free refills (with ice!) that evening. The rest of that trip was equally as amazing, with funny poses in the Louvre, hilarious songs on the trains, and hours and hours of laughter (and a few minutes of terror when we got on a train we didn't actually have tickets for). I will forever treasure that weekend and those birthday memories, because I made them with two people who would become my best friends--and one that would go on to be my maid of honor and music-soulmate.

The last memory I want to share is from last year. Let me just say that married birthdays are the best!!! Robert took me to Nashville to see Wicked, and we stayed in a hotel and dressed up all fancy and had a wonderful meal and cheesecake and basically anything on earth I wanted. But the best part was knowing that every birthday I would ever celebrate would be with him. That definitely made it the best birthday ever! Especially when considering that as of last year, I've been given the two greatest gifts I will ever have: salvation through Jesus Christ and a Christ-centered marriage with my best friend. No birthday I will ever have will offer anything greater than what I am already experiencing!

I have had an extremely blessed and abundant life, and I know that the reason is Jesus Christ. He said in John 10:10, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." The reason Jesus came to this earth was so that I could have the opportunity to have eternal life with Him in heaven. And, if I will be His disciple, my earthly life will be filled to the brim with innumerable blessings. The only reason my life (and my birthdays) have been so joyous is because of my Savior.

I am so thankful for each and every person that is a part of my life or who has been a part of my life. Each of you have helped to make my life rich and full and abundant. Should God not give me until my next birthday, I will have lived a full and happy life. But, should God give me more time on this earth, it is my prayer that I will spend every year of my life serving Him, and telling others about the ways He can bless their lives.

If you are not experiencing a rich and abundant life, please know that Jesus wants you to. He wants to give you life--eternally. Don't waste another year, another day!, without putting Him first in your life and receiving all of the blessings that He so freely gives.

And, I'd like to give a special half-birthday shout-out to my wonderful best friend (and amazing husband) who is exactly 25.5 years old today! I love you!!!!! Let's get a cake to celebrate =)

**And for one more reason I am extremely blessed---my husband started a blog today and his very first post is about me (though completely undeserved). He is so amazing and truly makes me the luckiest.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tough Stuff Tuesday: Election Day Attitudes

Today is a big day. Not only for America, but for the world at large. You see, whether we like it or not (or flaunt it or not), America has a great influence in the world. Our president makes a huge difference in who will or will not be our ally in the future. That's why, today, we are writing history. With your vote, you are deciding who should head this country, and who should be the face that the rest of the world sees when they think of America.

Sadly, I have felt badgered by some Christians regarding my vote. While I don't support a certain candidate, I have been made to feel like if I did, I don't actually love God--and that just isn't fair. That's why I'm not here to do that this morning. I'm not here to urge you in one direction or another--toward one political party or another. Why? Because my thoughts on politics don't matter. There is only One whose thoughts matter on any subject. 

Here is what the inspired writer, Paul, penned to the brethren in Rome:
"Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor." Rom. 13:1-7
What this is not saying is that your vote doesn't matter--that God has already appointed the next President of the United States and nothing we do matters. On the contrary--every vote matters. However, God, in His omniscience, knows the outcome already. And just as this country has been in His hands from the beginning, it will be regardless of who is elected today. 

Another thing these verses are not saying is that the governing authorities will always do what God wants. Think of the ones to whom Paul was writing in the first century. Was Nero acting as God would have wanted him to--persecuting Christians in heinous ways? Absolutely not. Nor will the President of the United States act in ways that will be pleasing to God one hundred percent of the time. 


As Christians, we always have the responsibility to be in subjection. Listen to what Peter said in 1 Pet. 2:13-17:
"Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to the governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men--as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king."
Peter would go on to say in verses 21-25 of the same chapter that we are to be in submission because our perfect example submitted--even though He is God. Jesus came to this earth and suffered a cruel, humiliating, torturous death on a rugged cross---who are we to not be submissive?!

And just as a heads up--being submissive to our government does not include bad-mouthing our current president, regardless of if you are going to vote for him today. Being submissive to the government does not mean lashing out and speaking ill toward them--simply because we have the "liberty" to do so. Above all, we are Christians, bondservants of God. Jesus did not go around bad-mouthing the chief priests, even though they convicted Him after a series of illegal trials. Jesus did not go around promoting a mutiny or uprising against the Roman emperors of the day. Jesus taught the apostles to pay taxes. Jesus urged the tax collectors to collect fairly. In every instance, Jesus showed them (and us) how to act like God. 

We cannot claim to be Christians if we are pushing bills and movements that center around things that are abominable to God. However, we can't really claim to be Christians if we are acting haughty, prideful, arrogant, and rude either. We cannot try to bully people into our positions by making them feel as if one candidate is Satan himself and one is heaven-sent. Instead, we must urge people to take the 'issues' and stack them up to what God has to say about it. 

I am not here to push my political agenda on you. Instead, I simply urge you to pray for our country, and vote for the leader who best represents God's view on the subjects at hand. Not mine, not yours. God's. And, when the day is done, remember you are still a Christian. All of the things you have said on Facebook and Twitter will still judge you (Mt. 12:37). 

Also, you will stand before God and give an account of all the things you have said, done, and approved of. Don't put your stamp of approval on things that God doesn't. 

*Note: When the government advocates things that are not in subjection with God's will, I understand and hope that you do as well that Christians are to be in subjection to God first and foremost. No man-made creed or law will ever be able to keep us from doing the things that God has commanded. In no way would I ever encourage anyone to adhere to the government's laws over God's. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Coming in 2013!

2012 has been an amazing year for us! We have been giving opportunities to serve at East Hill and various other places, and get to know some amazing people along the way. One of my favorite things about this year has been the friendships I have made, and the old ones I have rekindled. Out of one of those new friendships, a project has arisen. 

A while back, Robert came to me with an idea. Then, it was a simple, though remarkable idea that didn't have a lot of shape. When we met and subsequently got to know Chris and Melissa Clevenger, this idea starting becoming a reality. With the help and ingenuity of a few others, this project is coming to fruition in January 2013. 

The Light Network is "a group of netcasts dedicated to the truth of the Bible. We have three goals: to encourage, enlighten, and empower" (the rest of the quote is available here). In January, we will be launching a series of podcasts (several for men and two--initially--for women) that we hope will be a bright light for Christ in this dark and sin-ridden world. 

The reason we are telling everyone now (instead of simply launching in January) is this: we hope that you will give us your prayerful support. The world we live in is lost and dying, and with the resources we have available to us in the 21st century, we must do more things to spread the Good News. It is our aim to bring others to Christ and encourage those who are already in Him to remain faithful. We hope that you will get behind this effort of evangelism and edification, and that you'll point others to it. 

On the website ( you will find all of the information you need, such as host bios and descriptions of each of the initial shows we will be launching. If you have any questions or comments, we have an email address and telephone number where you can reach us. 

I will be hosting a show called Navigating the New Testament and I am extremely excited about it! As many of you may be aware, I absolutely love traveling. This show will walk through the places, people and problems of first century cities. If you have any questions or comments about my show, you can email me directly at (and I hope you will!). 

As previously stated, we hope that you will support this effort to reach our technologically savvy world. Our aim is to be pleasing to God, and we know that with all of your help and support, The Light Network can do much good to His glory. 

Please check out our website and share this post and others on whatever form of social media you may be on. Also, please "Like" The Light Network on Facebook and follow us on twitter (@LightNetworkTV).

Oh! One last thing! We will be having our official launch party LIVE on January 5th! Please mark your calendars to tune in that Saturday afternoon for interviews and a live taping of one of the podcasts! 

Thank you again! 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Who is in Christ?

Ephesians 1:3 tells us: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." Think about those words for a second. Every spiritual blessing/gift is found in Christ. Some of those gifts include redemption and forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7), justification (Rom. 5:18) freedom from sin (Gal. 5:1), and salvation (1 Thess. 5:8-10). I am sure that every single person who has a belief in Jesus Christ wants those spiritual blessings. Even those people who do not believe in Jesus want some form of these gifts! But what was it that Paul said at the end of that verse? Those blessings are found somewhere: in Christ. To obtain these blessings, we must be in Christ. To obtain salvation--the opportunity to be in heaven with God face to face--we must be in Christ!

Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:10 that he endured all things, even chains, so that those to whom he preached could obtain the salvation that is available in Christ. That was the reason Paul preached--so that others could obtain salvation. The Bible tells us that faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17), and that's exactly why I want to explore this topic today. I want us to all open our hearts to what the Word of God teaches so that we can be exposed to the salvation that is made available through Jesus.

While this is a sentence I don't want to write, it is necessary: those who are outside of Christ (not in Him) will not have these spiritual blessings. They will not have forgiveness for their sins or justification or salvation. They will not have heaven as their eternal home. Heaven will only be for those found in Christ--the ones who have remained faithful to Him until death. That is why it is so important for us to explore what exactly it means to be in Christ, so that we can determine if we ourselves are in Him or if we are lacking.

So how do we know if we are in Christ? Galatians 3:26-28 tells us this:
" (26) For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (27) For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
I love these verses for a lot of reasons. I'm going to take them a little out of order, but I think it's necessary for the congruity of thought. First, in verse 27, we see that those who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Therefore we can deduce that it is those who are baptized (Mk. 16:16, Acts 2:38, 1 Pet. 3:21) who are the ones that are in Christ. All of the spiritual blessings that are made available in Jesus are only accessible to use once we have come in contact with His blood (Rom. 6:3-4). In order to have salvation and the forgiveness of our sins, we must be baptized. Once we are baptized, we are in Christ and we can have every spiritual blessing.

One such blessing is found in verse 26. The text says that we are sons (and daughters) of God through our faith in Christ Jesus. When we have faith in Jesus and are obedient to His commands (because faith without works is dead--James 2:20,26), we can be called children of God. I find this to be one of the greatest blessings of all! Not only is the God of the universe giving me the opportunity to live with Him forever and have my slate wiped clean, He loves me, individually, and is calling me His daughter! It's one thing to be in subjection to the King of the world, but another altogether to be a part of the royal family! How extremely blessed are we to be called sons and daughters of God! And that blessing is only bestowed on those who have faith in Jesus and have acted upon that faith in obedience through baptism!

The third reason I love this verse is because of verse 28. We are all one in Jesus Christ. There is no partiality (Rom. 2:11-12). Because Jesus humbled Himself and came to this earth to suffer and die for us, we ALL have the opportunity to go to heaven with Him one day! Had He not come, heaven would never have been a possibility for any of us, because we are all sinners (Rom. 3:23). And yet, Jesus gave the same commands to all people. He didn't give one set of commands to the Jews and one set to the Greeks; He didn't give one set to the apostles and another set (or new revelation) to us today. He said that we must repent from our sinful ways and be baptized into Him for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38-39). And if we truly love Him and truly want to be found in Him, we will do what He has said (John 14:15).

God desires that all men everywhere will be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-4). It isn't only Americans or religious-type people or rich people or poor people or white or black or hispanic. It is all men; everywhere. That is why it is so important for those of us who have heard the gospel to spread it to those who have not; because God wants everyone to be saved--not just those of us who have already heard. And while it is important to go and spread the gospel, it is also commanded (Mt. 28:18-20). In order that we can be pleasing to God, we must be telling those who are not in Christ what they can do to be found in Him and thus have the opportunity to go to heaven!

I know that this hasn't been the most cohesive post I've ever written. I know there is a lot thrown in here all at once. The point is this: if you have not been baptized into Christ, you aren't in Christ. And if you aren't in Christ, all of those spiritual blessings aren't available to you. The great news is that God wants to have a relationship with you; and Jesus' sole purpose in coming to earth was to seek and save people just like you. If you want to go to heaven, turn from your sinful ways and put on Christ in baptism. If you have more questions about that--you can leave me a comment and I'll email you!

If you have been baptized into Christ and are enjoying the many blessings that He has given to you, make sure that you are telling other people about the blessings that you enjoy in Him--and if they aren't enjoying them, tell them how they can!

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Month of Thanks

It is common this time of year to see statuses and posts about all of the things that people are thankful for. I love the sentiment: it is always appropriate to thank our God for the blessings and compassion He has given, which truly are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-24). Along the same lines, I would like for every Friday of this month to be dedicated to thanking God for a spiritual blessing He has given us. Today, I would like to focus on forgiveness.

I am a sinful person. While I try to walk in the steps of my Savior every single day, I'm not perfect. I struggle with complaining, being negative, being critical, judging others, and not doing the things that I should as much as I should (reading, praying, visiting the sick). I try with all of my might to serve my Lord the best that I can, but I fall short day after day.  That is why I'm thankful for forgiveness.  Along those same lines, I'm thankful that I live in the year 2012.

Hebrews 10:4 tells us that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins. Under the old covenant, people were reminded, year after year, of their sins. They were made to offer tedious sacrifices to God so that their sins could, in a sense, be rolled forward for another year. Then Jesus came. And now we don't need to offer animal sacrifices. We don't have to live in a state where our sins are constantly before us. Instead, since Jesus died once and for all (Heb. 10:10), we can have forgiveness of our sins in an instant. When we are baptized, all of our past sins (and we all have them--Rom. 3:23) are wiped away, and we start anew--clean and pure in His sight. After we have been baptized, we won't remain perfect. We'll sin--maybe even that very day that we are washed. But that is the beauty of Jesus' sacrifice for our sins. So long as we are trying to walk in the light, His blood will continually cleanse us from unrighteousness if we'll confess it to Him (1 John 1:9).  Forgiveness is not available to me, however, if I continually, habitually walk in my sins and don't repent. Forgiveness is not available if I defy God's laws for my life and do things on my own terms. But if I am truly penitent, I will want to tell God that I'm sorry. I will feel guilt and shame for my sin, because I know that I am trampling underfoot the sacrifice Jesus offered on the cross (Heb. 10:28-30).

I know that I am unworthy of this forgiveness. I feel so terrible every single day when I have to ask God to forgive me for my thoughts and actions of that day. I feel so undeserving of the extreme sacrifice Jesus made in coming to earth and dying a cruel, painful, torturous death on the cross...for me. That's why I am so thankful for God's grace in extending forgiveness to me.

The beautiful thing about God's forgiveness is that it covers everything. In our limited, human perspective, we tend to categorize sins. We may think lusting is a small sin, where adultery is a big sin. To God, all sin separates us from Him, and therefore He hates all sin. Whatever sins you have in your live, past or present, can and will be forgiven by a loving and understanding God. If you are willing to repent (to own up to your sins and turn away from them as I recently heard it put by some high schoolers) and submit to God's terms, forgiveness is yours. And not just forgiveness as we sometimes call it--where we 'forgive' it but keep it right near the surface so that every little mistake someone makes we can throw back in their face. No, God forgives and wipes clean. He keeps no remembrance of our wrongs (Jer. 31:34).

I am thankful, every single day, for the forgiveness my God and Father grants me. Though I can empathize with Paul when he calls himself the chief of all sinners--still, Christ has washed me. Thanks be to God for His grace!

Forgiveness is a beautiful gift that we have been given through Jesus Christ. Come back tomorrow for a post on how we can access this wonderful blessing and so many more.