Why Do You Do What You Do?

why-do-you-do-what-you-do

 

Why do I even do this?

 

Deeply breathing, I eke out the words, one by one. And slowly, slowly, my fingers begin to glide over the keys, and I let my thoughts run.

 

I don’t really know what I’m doing.

 

Oftentimes, the words come out more vulnerable than I’d like them to be.

 

What if I’m not living the life I’m supposed to be living?

Continue reading “Why Do You Do What You Do?”

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Joy in Anything

Joy in Anything.png

 

Happy Tuesday, friends!

 

Back in January, I wrote a post called Don’t Regret Where You Are. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite posts I’ve written on Scattered Journal Pages. (Go check it out if you haven’t read it yet!)

 

It came from a time when I was really questioning who I was. I don’t mean that I was feeling that when I wrote it, but I did deal with those feelings for a few years. That voice in my head that whispered to me when I was in the middle of so many changes, saying “Am I really doing what I’m supposed to?”

 

So today, while I’m not experiencing this question in my mind, I thought I’d talk about the flipside of this equation. Not just refraining from regretting what you’ve done and resenting where you are, but thriving in the place that you’re in and finding joy it.

 

When I was five, I told my cousin I wanted to be an actress and a singer when I grew up. Am I an actress? Not by any stretch, though I like to pretend I am. (That and a secret agent. But that’s a story for another time.) But am I a singer? Well, kind of. What once terrified me is what I now do on a regular basis, in front of real live people at church.

 

And when I think about this, as much as it can make me happy, it’s accompanied by a bittersweet feeling. Because as much as I do love music, and practically live at my piano, I haven’t played my guitar in a whole year. *winces*

 

And sometimes, that just upsets me. I taught myself how to play when I was twelve, and I’ll be sixteen on Saturday. (*insert happy dance*) I played guitar almost every day. I led worship every other week for my youth group with one of my closest friends.

 

I played guitar for three years…and then I just kind of stopped. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it. But now, it seems I don’t have the time to pick up one more thing – or even the motivation.

 

And so many times I equate what I can do with my self-worth. It’s absolutely ridiculous, I know. But don’t we all do it?

 

Sometimes I tell myself that if I were to have kept up with guitar, playing local venues regularly, I would have gotten “discovered,” or something like that.

However, if I hadn’t played the piano so much instead, I wouldn’t necessarily have been able to do music at my church, because the worship is piano-based.

 

And whenever I hear those whispers in my head that tell me I’m doing the wrong thing and could be better off doing something else, I have to shut them down and replace them with truth.

 

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that there is a time for everything. Just like Ecclesiastes 3 says.

 

If I had chosen different things to fill my time this year, I would not have gotten the incredible opportunities that I have now.

 

So many things have changed in my life this year, and I’ve had to just roll with them. But instead of looking at all the differences as miserable, I can find joy in all things, as Philippians 4 show us.

 

Because God’s power is not affected by our weakness.

 

His love is not dependent on our performance.

 

His grace is never invalidated by our doubts.

 

God’s presence is not determined by our faithfulness, but on His character.

 

His promises are unconditional.

 

And His plans are always best.

 

And no matter what we choose to do, God will be with us through it.

 

Instead of moping in what we’re going through, we should make the best of it. When difficulty rolls in, let us use those times as chances to grow. Chances to trust God more. To know Him even when darkness surrounds us.

 

Jeremiah 29:11 says,

 

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

 

God works through the choices we make. Instead of regretting what we did or didn’t do, let us see our lives as beautiful.

 

Let us look for God’s hand in everything we encounter, and see trials through the eyes of someone who can grow through them.

 

And instead of filling ourselves with bitterness over where we are, let us find joy in the incredible grace of God.

 

*aj

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

The Problem With The “Christian” Label

The Problem With The Christian Label

We people of earth tend to put a label on things to categorize it. “Clothing.” “Food.” “Books.” “Electronics.”

What we all know (or at least should) is that not everything in the same category serves the same purpose.

For example, when you go clothes shopping in preparation for the cold winter, you’re (hopefully) not going to buy crop tops and short shorts. When you go food shopping for a nice dinner party that you’re hosting, you’re not going to buy circus peanuts for an appetizer. When you want to buy a bookworm a book for their birthday, you’re not going to buy them a textbook on quantum mechanics 401 (unless that’s exactly what they want, of course). When someone wants ‘a portable electronic device,’ you probably will not buy them a bulky desktop computer.

We have discernment when it comes to these things, and obviously use common sense. Think hard about what you want to get, and then get it. Get the right thing, not some imitation or replacement. Get the real thing.

Here’s where the mistake comes in.

We tell ourselves that anything with the label “Christian” on it must be good.

And then we are led so far astray from truth, that we confuse ourselves greatly.

Going back to the previous analogy, if you want clothes for winter, make sure you know what you need and exactly what you want to get, and then get it.

As Christians, this happens all too often.

Friend: “The podcast from so-and-so’s church is so great! Go listen to it!”

Us: “Seriously? That sounds nice. What church is it?”

Friend: “It’s really popular here in [thisbigcity] and they definitely believe in Jesus and stuff. All I know is that it’s Christian, which is all that matters.”

Us: “Popular? And Christian? Cool. Where can I find the podcast?”

This is a huge mistake. When we hear the word Christian, our guards go down and we have a tendency to just accept it because if it’s Christian, well then obviously it must be true.

But that’s not how we treat food! Just because it says “food,” doesn’t mean we should eat it. What about cat food or plant food? Of course you would not eat that. I would not eat that. “Food” is taken way out of context, and of course we have to be discerning when it comes to what kinds of food to eat and not to eat.

Even when it comes to filet mignon versus circus peanuts. They’re both food, yes. Are they both equal? NO WAY.

What we do is we hear the “Christian” label slapped on anything that mentions Jesus, and we accept it as if it’s from the mouth of God Himself, as if anything mentioning God gets His approval.

Let’s face it.

We go to conferences with our youth groups, soaking up every word because of course He’s preaching the Bible (all the while listening because He’s the top youth speaker in the country, of course, and a good Christian!).

We listen to sermons, expecting that everything the preacher says is going to line up with the Bible 100%.

We turn on K-LOVE or Air1 (or Christian music on Pandora, or whatever), and expect every song to be biblically based, because we assume that everybody who proclaims the name of Jesus must have it all figured out.

We go into Christian bookstores and let ourselves grab whatever book we so desire, because if the Christian store carries it, then it must be totally right and absolutely trustworthy.

That’s like us walking into Macy’s and buying clothes because they’re in the clothes department.

We go in with good intentions, but come out a confused and worse-off mess.

Christianity is about being saved by Jesus, absolutely. But as a Christian, you’re not constantly in the process of being saved, because Jesus has already saved you­. After you’ve accepted Jesus, it’s time to grow.

You need the right kind of food to grow, not just any food. Candy does not have nutritional value, honestly, and if you expect to grow because you’re liking what you eat, well, good luck with that.

As naïve people, we tend to flock to shiny and nice things. Think of those “name-it-and-claim-it” preachers, the ones that say that “if you just have enough faith, you’ll be a millionaire in no time flat!”

Excuse me, but where exactly in the Bible is that taught? And if this world is my temporary home, how will being rich and living the dream let me “set my mind on things above” (Colossians 3:2)?

I’m saying these things because false doctrine is really sneaky.

Doctrinal misleadings are subtle, most times. Some can come in the form of denominations that are heretical and yet claim to follow the Bible. Some are evangelists that say you have to earn your salvation, when it’s already been established that salvation is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). Yet others are those who command that you must confess every single sin to God, even after you’re a Christian and God has already forgiven your sins through Jesus. Sin isn’t just forgiven, it’s forgotten and cast away (Micah 7:19, Hebrews 10:17). Those who force us via preaching, books, music, etc. to live seeing ourselves as sinners in the constant state of repentance instead of children of God that are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 6:6) mislead us.

These are incredibly important distinctions to make.

“Christian” doesn’t mean guaranteed to be biblical. Just like “food” is not guaranteed to be healthy.

There are even some blogs I follow that I don’t completely agree with doctrinally. This doesn’t mean that I throw out everything they say, but that I filter through it. So many people have good points, which shouldn’t be discredited. What we should do, however, is view everything with discernment.

The more we read the Bible, the more we’ll be able to see things clearly.

We can’t afford to listen to everything under the sun that claims to be Christian, because that’s not using wisdom. We can, however, get to know the Bible better – in context and knowledge of proper audience, too. In turn, we will learn to discern the truth from the lies, and grow up to be healthy, wise believers.

*aj