Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Gospel, The Gospel

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“The Gospel, the Gospel,
Fragrance in words.
The sea of my soul is calmed when it’s heard.”
(The Gospel, Jimmy Needham)

It’s the focal point of scripture. The entire Old Testament points forward to it, and the entire New Testament points back to it. If the Bible were a novel, the Gospel would be the climax. If it were a musical score, the Gospel would be the resounding fortissimo after an intensifying crescendo.

The Gospel is nothing short of awesome.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

How am I Ever Going to Change?

I’ll be honest. I want to change. As a matter of fact, the more I am changed to be more like Jesus Christ, the more I recognize how desperately in need of change I still am.

Truth be told, that’s always going to be a reality. While I’ve been given the power to walk in holiness, I will never reach the state of Christ’s absolute, innate perfection. I will always need to change.

Sometimes, though, change seems impossible. No matter how much I try, I am in many ways still the same. I’ve come to realize, though, that unless I understand a number of things about change, that will always be the case.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Lies and Truths of Hard Times | Guest Post By Laura Owens

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Everyone has times when life is hard.  Times when life blindsides you, and it’s all you can do to put a smile on your face and act normal around people.  Times when you really do want to trust God, but in the back of your mind there are the questions “Does He really know what He’s doing?” and “Why is this happening to me?”

Hard times like these are pivotal to our lives and our faith.  It’s a fork in the road – will you cling to your belief in God, or will you turn your back on Him? 

Many lies have cropped up concerning tough times, and at one point I fell for them.  It took me a long time to recognize these lies for what they were.

Lie #1: God has forgotten you.  

God has promised never to leave you, and He will never break that promise.  In 2 Timothy 2:13, Paul writes, “if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”  He can not deny His Spirit within those who have called on His name for salvation!  If He can’t deny us, how then can He forget us? 

Lie #2: You can’t ask for help.  For one thing, that would be weak.  For another, God gave you this time; handing it off to somebody else like that is a cop-out.  

This lie gains its power from the fact that most of us don’t really want to tell people that we’ve got problems.  Our self-sufficient mindset rebels against the very thought of showing weakness like this.  

Really, pride is most of what keeps this lie alive.  God never said, “You must get through life on your own.”  When God made man, He said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  That holds true today – it is not good for a person to be alone, to have no one to talk to, pray with, even vent toward.  A friend can pray for you and give you wise counsel and support.  A Godly friend (or sibling, or parent, or cousin…) can help you get through.

Lie #3: God is getting back at you for something.  

God does not get back at His children!  It doesn’t matter what you did last month, God does not retaliate when you sin against Him.  Matthew 5:45 says “For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” 

Rain falls on the righteous, too – and if you’re a Christian, He sees you as righteous.  He sends hard times for our good, not because we deserve them.  If you’re going through something right now, you are not being punished – it’s quite the opposite:  God, in His infinite wisdom, knows that you need to go through this time for your own good.

There are also great truths that can help you get through hard times with your faith intact.  These are some of the things I have learned along the way:

Truth #1: This time is growing your faith more than anything else could.  

Last June/July, God allowed circumstances into my life which really caused me to question my ideas about God and what I could trust Him with.  For a month and a half, I tried to understand what was happening and how I could still trust that the Lord still knew what He was doing.  

Now, nearly a year later, I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.  My faith in God is stronger than ever before, because of my time of testing.  God uses these times to strengthen us in ways we can’t see or understand.

Truth #2: It’s okay to cry.  

For a long time, I resolved never, ever to cry when I was going through a tough time – that was a manifestation of a lack of belief, right?  To cry was weak, childish, and foolish.  But then I remembered:  Jesus cried.  

Since then I’ve come to believe that if you truly want to honor God, even your tears will be honoring; in a way, you’re saying “I can’t handle this,” which gives Him opportunity to step in.

Truth #3: God will get you through this.  

God draws near to hurting people; I felt Him most strongly when I was at my lowest point.  When we’re so broken down there’s not much of us left, we give Him the opportunity to step in and build us up into something infinitely better than we were to start with.  You will hit hard times, but God will always see you through!

In the words of my “online friend” Ethan H:

“God is good. Always. Even when it's hard. Especially even when it's hard.”

Laura Owens is a homeschooled sophomore from the East Coast. She is the third-youngest of eight children, and she loves every minute of it! When she's not doing schoolwork or working at her part-time job, she can be found speaking Spanish, reading, or writing.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

The Second Day

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Here we sit between these two important days in Christianity.  Yesterday was a remembrance of Christ’s death, commonly known as Good Friday, and tomorrow is Easter, the remembrance of His resurrection.  These are times when, among other things, we look back at the events of the gospels and reflect on the first day and the third day.

But what about the second day?

Interestingly, scripture doesn’t tell us very much about the second day.  For most of the Jews at the time of Jesus’s crucifixion, the second day was just like any other Sabbath.  They rested from their everyday tasks and devoted their time and attention to the Lord and away from the cares of the week. 

For the disciples, though, this was far from an ordinary Sabbath. 

Unknowingly, the disciples were standing between the two most important events in all of human history: Christ’s death and resurrection.

But on this Sabbath day, the disciples had only witnessed the first of these events.  In light of the horrifying occurrences of the previous day, I’m sure that “rest” would have been the furthest thing from their minds.

Truth be told, we all can find ourselves living in the “second day.”

Maybe nothing earth-shaking will happen today.  Maybe it’s just an “ordinary” day.  Maybe, as with the disciples, the only thing that characterizes today is the feeling of despair from what might have happened yesterday.  Maybe it’s the “second day.”

We may have many “second days” in our lives, but we have no reason to despair.  Had the disciples remembered the words that Jesus had spoken to them, the second day would have been filled with anticipation, not grief, because they would have understood that the Lord had a greater, miraculous plan! 

Likewise, God has promised us that He will work all things out for good, if we love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). 

So, like the disciples, we too can look forward to the “third day” – the day when the Lord will bring good out of all of our present circumstances!

Whether you are facing your “first,” “second,” or “third” day, remember that we serve a risen Savior, one of Whom David said,

“Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.” (Psalm 33:18-19)