Realistically Living the Graceful Life (And So Much For That Hiatus)

realistically-living-the-graceful-life-and-so-much-for-that-hiatus

Hey, friends. At the end of Tuesday’s post, I said something about taking a little hiatus from blogging so I can recharge and get back into school.

 

However, I’m back for a few minutes today, because I had a few things to say.

Continue reading “Realistically Living the Graceful Life (And So Much For That Hiatus)”

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Why I Journal

Why I Journal

I originally wrote this post for Joanny White. Click here to read the original post.

 

Journaling has been something that I’ve done for a long time. Whether I completely realized what I was doing or why, when I was younger, I’m not completely sure. However, I do know that keeping a somewhat-consistent journal has benefited me immensely as I’ve grown – both physically and spiritually.

 

So without further adieu, I give you five reasons why I journal.

Continue reading “Why I Journal”

Why Should I Read the Bible?

Why Should I Read the Bible?

Why should I read the Bible? That’s a question I’ve been pondering ever since my parents gave me a real Bible when I was five. Oh, I’d flip through the devotionals and read a few chapters I was familiar with, but I didn’t totally have the desire to dig in and devour it like I would a pleasure book.

 

I said to myself, “I love Jesus, and I know He died on the cross to forgive my sins and rose from the dead. I accept His forgiveness, and now I can go to Heaven someday. Do I really need to read the Bible now that I basically know it all?”

 

And that’s the question that so many of us wrestle with regularly. Why should we even bother?

 

My parents are both heavily involved in Christian radio, and that means that growing up, we always had the Christian radio station on (and usually still do). I distinctly remember being nine or ten when I was listening to a sermon on the radio and the preacher said, “Christians that do not read the Bible at least four times a week will most likely not have a strong faith.”

 

While that’s not always the case, the point stuck out to me that I wasn’t reading my Bible that often, and oh, I did NOT want to have a weak faith! It woke me up, in a sense, and I decided that I had to do something.

 

But my prompting to read the Bible didn’t just make my regular Bible-reading “happen.” I felt guiltier that I was only reading my Bible when I felt like it than I was actually motivated to read it more. I might read it five days one week, then the next week maybe three times, and the next maybe twice. My fear of having a weak faith was my motivation, and it didn’t work.

 

Want to know why? Because fear is not a good motivator. But grace is. More on this in a minute.

 

Fast forward to the beginning of 2013. I decided to make a New Year’s Resolution and stick to it. Starting in Genesis 1, I resolved to read four chapters a day until I finished the Bible. And you know what? I did it.

 

Now, don’t congratulate me – that’s not why I’m telling you. I’m telling you this because reading the Bible regularly changed my life.

 

Oh, of course I was a Christian before all this. I loved God with my entire heart and even got baptized in 2012. That was not the issue here. The issue was that I wasn’t really growing. But something stirred in my heart around 2012 – when I was twelve – that made me want to really know who God is.

 

I knew alllll about Him before. I could answer every question in Sunday school correctly. And I did love Him. I wanted to serve Him. But I couldn’t really grow in my faith until I understood for myself how much God loved me.

 

My eyes were opened in the year I was thirteen or so. Things really started to click. Through the whole Old Testament, I saw how holy and pure God is, and how sinful we are. Six hundred commands in the Mosaic law, and we broke all of them.

 

But God never gave up on us.

 

In fact, He proceeded to send His ONLY and blameless Son to take away the sins of the world. Jesus did not come to abolish the law that we broke, He didn’t come to earth to say that it didn’t matter anymore, but to fulfill it 100%. He came to show that the Old Testament Law was what God required of all people, and because we obviously couldn’t keep it, he kept it for us. He then gave up His life – a punishment that we all deserved – and paid for the sins of all mankind.

 

His perfection became ours. All the time, I hear the analogy of Jesus’ sacrifice being the equivalent of ‘cleaning us up.’ But that’s the wrong look at it. We aren’t just a cleaned up version of our sinful selves anymore, for we have been transformed. We are new creations! And only by reading the Bible can we see all these truths unfold.

 

2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

 

Day after day, I saw this truth – God’s grace is greater than anything in this world. This is what makes me want to learn more about Him. I wasn’t afraid of losing my faith anymore, I was inspired to strengthen it of my own free will.

One of my favorite twenty øne piløts songs is called Addict With A Pen. You can watch the acoustic studio version here. I love this song because it talks about how far we can feel like we are from God – but that doesn’t change how much He loves us or how He is always willing to save us and wash us with His grace.

(By the way, for all of you who appreciate poetic metaphors, the ‘water’ Tyler sings about in this song is God’s grace. The ‘sand’ is the trials of life.)

 

So, I bet you’re still wondering about the question I addressed in the opening paragraph. To be honest, it’s a good question. Why should we even read the Bible?

 

Reading the Bible shows us who God is and who we are.

 

When we see this crazy dynamic between us and God, we can appreciate His grace. Sinners in need of a Savor? That’s us. And we were saved.

 

Reading the Bible helps us discern God’s will for our lives.

 

How will we know how to live a life pleasing to God if we don’t read what He has given us? The Bible is the holy, God-breathed Word of God. It’s a gift and a how-to guide for the Christian life.

 

Reading the Bible is the way that we can grow in Christ.

 

The Bible doesn’t end with the Gospel. In fact, the New Testament only starts with it. The early Church comes together, and we are taught through the rest of the New Testament how to move forward in our faith. By reading the Bible, we renew our minds. We can be guided to love a life after Christ that isn’t of the world, but rather of the Holy Spirit.

 

Romans 12:2

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

 

I know this has been a long post. I’ll be back on Tuesday with a post explaining how to implement this into our daily lives. If you take one thing away from this 1200+ word post, take this:

 

The Bible is a gift to us. If we feel guilted into reading it, and yet have no desire to examine it for ourselves, we are looking at it wrong. The Bible is life-changing! It’s transforming and eye-opening. Let’s stop thinking of reading the Bible as a chore and start seeing it for what it is – a blessing from our Creator – we will have a whole new experience.

 

*aj

It’s Okay To Rest.

It's Okay To Rest.

 

It’s okay to rest.

 

I know, I know. This message that I’m about to share is probably not what most people are going to tell you.

 

We hear Christians everywhere, saying “Do this project!” and “Accomplish this task!” and “Work hard to serve God!”

 

But if we never realize that it’s actually a good thing to rest in Jesus for a while, we’ll easily burn out.

 

We hear messages like Do Hard Things, and get inspired to “work hard for God.” There is a time and place for that, of course. I’m not going to minimize the message of Do Hard Things or any others like it.

 

However, so many times, we try to do something big. Really big. Really significant. But in our own strength. And we burn out and become discouraged.

 

Doing hard things is a great concept, but it can easily become just like the story of Mary and Martha.  Are we so focused on doing things for God that we neglect to get to know Him?

 

Matthew 18:28-30

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Rest is a good thing. In resting, we get to cast our cares at the feet of Jesus.

 

1 Peter 5:7

“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

 

Psalm 55:22

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

 

We can’t depend on our own strength to accomplish big things. For one, we can’t do it alone. And when we try, we become discouraged because we burn out.

 

Rest is important.

 

By growing our relationship with Jesus, we get to know Him. We get to set our anxieties of all kinds aside and rejoice in His strength over our own. We grow in our knowledge of Him, and also our personal knowledge of Him. He isn’t just the Lord, but He is a Friend Who Sticks Closer Than a Brother (Proverbs 18:24).

 

When we rest in Him, and not fret over big projects because we feel obligated to do them, we choose the greater thing.

 

I cited Mary and Martha earlier, and here is Jesus’ response to Martha preparing a huge dinner while Mary listens to Jesus:

 

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:41-42

 

Work is good, of course! But if we work so hard that we lose sight of the One we should be doing it for, it becomes meaningless and can render us useless.

 

Whether you’re 13 or 93, know that it really is okay to rest.

 

Don’t get bogged down by obligation to serve God. Instead, rest and grow in Christ and let that fuel you to do what He leads you to do.

 

Because honestly, that is what will allow us to be effective.

 

*aj

Dear Christian Teens: How to Stick With Your Faith

Dear Christian Teens- How to Stick With Your Faith

Dear Christian Teens,

I understand.

I understand that life is difficult and faith in Jesus is unpopular.

I understand that it’s really easy to walk away when you have your own freedoms.

I get it that when school is hectic and demanding (high school or college, anyone?) it’s easier to slack on spiritual growth.

I understand that there are seven days in a week and only two days in a weekend, and it’s incredibly tempting to binge-watch Netflix in between naps, books, snacks, and coffee in those two short days. Studying is frustrating, yes. And faith can seem to take the back burner when we’d rather have “me time” and chill out.

I also do know that a lot of “raised Christian” kids don’t stick with their roots because being a Christian isn’t easy.

It’s easy to sleep in on Sundays instead of going to church.

It’s easy to watch Netflix (or even read novels) instead of spending time in the Bible.

It’s easy to be around bad influences because they’re popular people to be around.

But at a point, this becomes really dangerous because we let ourselves slip away from what we once considered truth. Honestly, the temptation to slip away is real. I’m not saying most of us will fall into this, but we can’t approach our spiritual life and growth with apathy or half-hearted commitment.

A lot of us are teenagers right now, which means that right now is the launchpad for the rest of our lives (to put it as Alex and Brett Harris do). Our decisions and beliefs now will shape our futures.

I’m NOT going to beat us all up on how we should be doing this or that and how we aren’t. That doesn’t accomplish anything, really.

What I will say is this.

If you want to stick with your faith, find the roots.

 

For a while, my roots were my parents. I believed in Jesus because they taught me to, and this later turned into having a faith of my own. By this, I mean that I read the Bible consistently on my own accord instead of just relying on family devotions, prayed without Mom or Dad around, and so forth. My faith became my own and it was my own choice.

It’s so simple to believe something when you have people heartily supporting you in that faith. But when nobody’s watching, what is that faith like?

Look down deep and find your roots. Is your belief growing in what someone has told you, or what you know is true? I can tell you for a fact that if your faith is a piggyback ride – you stay with it because someone’s carrying you – you won’t last long when you have to stand on your own two feet.

Let your roots be in the unshakable foundation of grace and truth and grow up into that.

Maybe you are strong in your foundation. That’s wonderful. Want the key to staying strong in that? Growth.

A foundation without an attempt at growth is like planting a seed in the desert and not watering it. It’ll be “there,” but it won’t make any progress, and will probably die.

We want to grow in our faith, and not let ourselves wither and shrivel up or blow away.

We can grow by studying the Bible intentionally. By understanding grace. By being hungry for truth and feeding that hunger.

So much of this is learning. Not a memorization of the “right answers,” but a belief in the God whom we know is true and the saving knowledge of His amazing grace, poured out through His Son.

We learn how to fashion our lives by knowing the Bible and the proper understanding of it. It comes from times of praying as well as reading. And following the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives.

Let your roots be solid by faith in truth, and your growth be steadfast by living in grace.

Dear Christian Teens, I understand that faith doesn’t always seem convenient, glamourous, or comfortable.

Look at it this way. Even when it doesn’t seem like it, there is grace for you. Whether you’ve loved Jesus your entire life or you’re far away from any faith at all, His grace covers you.

Coffee fails. (Sadly.) Our favorite shows go off of Netflix. Heartbreaks happen. And the things that we think satisfy us will ultimately perish.

But one thing does not, and that is the grace of God. That no matter where you are in life, you can be mended and made whole again. You can be given new life even when it feels miserable and dry. What we need isn’t temporary fixes of TV binges and chocolate, but something that lasts, and something to hang onto.

Our faith – no matter how difficult or unpopular – is what will last. We’re talking about eternity here!

Looking for a surefire way to stick with your faith? Find true significance. Understand joy. See the significance of the cross. And see the difference between Christianity and religion.

Grow in grace.

See, our faith is significant because it is what our lives must be centered around.

And our lives can be more beautiful than we could ever imagine.

Thanks to Amanda F. for reminding me of this verse!

2 Peter 3:18

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

*aj