There Is Always Grace

There Is Always Grace

 

I’ve been really stressed out this week.

 

You’d think that for a girl who wrote about stress as the very first topic in her book, that I’d be all set.

 

But I’m not.

 

People that try to say that stress is nonexistent are wrong, because it totally does exist. And I’m wary to admit it, but stress does consume me sometimes, especially on weeks like this.

 

(I promise I won’t talk about my problems too much; I just want to give you guys some background.)

 

Most of you know that I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo this month. I was doing great, but then I had a week of driver’s ed.

 

That was all last week. Six hours a day, five days in a row, on what was supposed to be my vacation. It wasn’t terrible, it really wasn’t, but it completely sapped my energy and I wrote a total of 300 words in that entire week, when I can usually write 300 in ten minutes. A writing rut, folks.

 

*cue dramatic sighing*

 

Plus, I have some things going on Friday through next week and I’m a little frazzled.

 

Well, maybe “a little” is an understatement. But I digress.

 

The point I want to make here is that as Christians, we try to come up with all these “cures” and “reliefs” for stress, when in reality, we’re only masking the problems. Things like “believing harder” or “confessing our sinfulness” or something.

 

We’re not really dealing with the issue of being stressed, we’re just telling ourselves that we shouldn’t be. But that isn’t fixing anything.

 

Before you write me off as super-religious, vague, and unhelpful, let me attempt to explain what I mean.

 

Stress, in and of itself, is not bad. In fact, it can be helpful when trying to achieve a goal. Deadlines are beneficial, and a little extra adrenaline never hurt anyone. Stress can motivate us to just do it.

 

But the scary part comes in when we’re so overwhelmed by stress that we let it overtake us. We let our feelings consume us and blind us to the hope we have.

 

Instead of letting stress dictate how we live our lives, we can live in grace. We can know that failing does not make us failures, as I wrote about on Saturday. We can know that we are loved no matter what we do, instead of thinking that our worth is based on our performance. We can know that nothing can separate us from Christ’s love.

 

I believe that much of our stresses revolve around having to get things done.

 

For me, this week, it’s studying enough for my test on Monday, completing 6,000 more words before Saturday, and juggling life on top of that.

 

Part of me is screaming “I CAN’T DO ALL THIS!” because it probably is too much, in the first place. But the other part of me is listening to the lies that are telling me it’s the end of the world if:

1) I fail my test,

2) I don’t get 6k written by the end of the week,

3) I miss another commitment,

4) I keep forgetting to respond to my emails,

5) I don’t write one blog post,

6) I let my friends down,

7) I don’t get to read quickly through the books people are depending on me to review.

 

I have this weight that’s pulling me down, because I feel like I have to do everything, and everything flawlessly. Is that possible? No. Do I make myself try anyway, and crush myself in the process? Why yes, yes I do. Is it smart or wise? Absolutely not. Do I know this? Yes, I do.

 

So what is wrong with me???

 

I have let stress overtake me and affect my thoughts.

 

I have decided to forget the truths in the Bible that remind me that I need not be perfect. I’ve forgotten the fact that my sins, NEVERMIND MY TEENY LITTLE MISTAKES, were all covered at The Cross. I’ve forgotten that the problems of the world are not my own, that I’m not responsible for other people, that it won’t kill off the world’s population if I take a little break from blogging.

 

God’s truths of grace and love do not depend on how well I live my life. If they did, I’d be in trouble. His grace stands in the places where I need it most, and His love endures when I feel the most unlovable.

 

Maybe I’m writing this post just for me today. Maybe I’m the only one that needs to remember that stress doesn’t have to control every hour of my life.

 

Maybe I’m the only one that needs a reminder of renewed grace for each day. Maybe I’m the only one that needs to be encouraged, especially when I do fail (because I’m very far from perfect).

 

Maybe I’m the only one that needs to be reminded to do MY best, and not necessarily expect myself to do THE best. I’ll do the best I can, but not beat myself up over what I wasn’t capable of.

 

But if that’s you too, please know that you’re not alone.

 

If you’re stressed out of your mind, I won’t try to “fix it,” I’ll only say this. You are not alone. You do not have to handle everything yourself; take some pressure off. And I promise, there is always grace for you.

 

*aj

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“Why Do You Seek The Living Among The Dead?”

Why Do You Seek

 

It’s been a few weeks since Easter. Spring has pretty much sprung, and the excitement around Eastertime has mostly faded.

 

But it doesn’t cease to be my favorite holiday.

 

See, while we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, we also celebrate the Resurrection of ourselves. Let me elaborate.

 

When Jesus died, we died with Him. Our sin was totally, 100% paid in full.  Why? In order that we might be freed from sin’s control over us and the condemnation that comes with it.

 

Romans 6:4-6

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”

 

And because we have died with Christ, He has raised us and given us new life. We are alive and free.

 

We have new life, and therefore, we are to walk in that newness. While I was contemplating this concept, a verse came to mind.

 

On Easter Sunday morning, three days after Jesus died, some women went to His tomb with spices to honor His body. Upon finding it, they were made aware that His body was gone.

The angel outside the tomb met them and said this, as it tells us here in Luke 24:5b. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” And in verse 24:6 “He is not here, but has risen.”

 

That’s my question for us. Why do we seek the living among the dead?

 

In other words, why do we act as though we are still dead in our sins when we have been raised to life?

 

Why do we walk crippled and in defeat when Jesus has been victorious already?

 

Why do we forget this verse?

 

Galatians 2:20

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

 

Christ lives in us, so not only do we not have to live in defeat, but we can live in victory.

 

We are not dead. We are not enslaved to sin. We are not controlled by the very thing that condemns us.

 

We are alive. We have hope. We have assurance of salvation and victory.

 

1 Corinthians 15:57

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

So why do we seek the living among the dead? Why do we forget that we are, in fact, alive, and God sees us as sinless?

 

2 Corinthians 5:16-17

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

 

God does not regard us according to the flesh, that is, our sin. So why do we do it to ourselves and others?

 

Simply because we see the imperfections in our own lives. But we need not dwell on them. If God sees us as new, why should we treat ourselves as if we’re dead? If God sees us in victory, why should we see ourselves as if we’re failures?

 

We shouldn’t.

 

We are not dead; we are alive with Christ. Let us live in light of that. Let us live constantly in the Word of God, seeing how He sees us. Let us live in the joy of our salvation, rejoicing in what HE has done for us. Let us live with a focus not on ourselves, but on God. When our focus is on Him, it is not on our sin, but on His perfection manifested in us.

 

Romans 6:10

“For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.”

 

To live a life “alive to Christ” is to let go of our old nature, and to embrace the magnificence of how God sees us. We are new, and there is no condemnation for us.

 

Romans 8:1

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

 

*aj

More of My Book! (Theme: Overcoming Anxiety)

More of My Book! (Theme_ Overcoming Anxiety)

Hi again, friends!

 

Whoa. I can’t believe it’s already Tuesday again.

 

Last Tuesday, I was in Puerto Rico with a really close friend of mine, Gabriela, and our families. It was AMAZING. Gabs and I stayed up really late writing for NaNoWriMo and blogging and talking and baking and watching movies and laughing.

 

So I miss that. A lot. Here’s a picture of us in a coffee shop drinking expensive and delicious latte frappes, all the while pretending like I would never have to go home.

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And here’s us under a nice tree with the ocean in the background, in the SWELTERING sun, trekking through famous forts and ports and such.

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I mention all this because…it was in Puerto Rico where I started writing my book.

 

Hadn’t heard the news? Yep, I’m writing a book! I shared the news last Saturday, and you can read about that here. And then, because I was really excited about it, I decided to share a portion of my first chapter of that book. Want to read it if you haven’t already? Right here.

 

As I said last Tuesday, the format and style is a little different than a regular blog post of mine. Why? Because while writing is writing, blogging and book-writing are two totally different arts. I find books to be a bit more formal, but can still take on different tones based on audiences.

 

 

So apparently, you all liked my sneak peek that I shared (???). I got so much encouragement, and it inspired me so much, so I decided to share another snippet.

 

For those of you who aren’t interested, don’t worry. My Saturday post will be a regular one, and if I continue to share sections, that’ll only be a Tuesday occurrence.

 

Today’s segment of chapter 1 is on anxiety.

 

That is, anxiety over the past, the present, the future, and how to overcome it all.

 

Anxiety Over the Past

 

Have you ever done something that you thought was a good idea at the time, and later realized how stupid it was? And then regretted it for years?

Yes, I think we all have. Whether we’ve done something that has hurt ourselves or has hurt someone else, we all have things we wish we hadn’t done. Things we feel would make life oh-so-much better if they hadn’t happened.

I can only “get” so much of what regret feels like, seeing as though I’m only a teenager, but we all have things that weigh on us because we feel guilty.

And for a lot of us, we can become anxious because of it, and for a few reasons.

We may be afraid that healing is impossible. We may be afraid that we’ll never be forgiven. We may be afraid that we’ll repeat our mistakes. These are valid feelings and fears – but we cannot live bogged down by what is in the past.

Anxious fear, while it is completely legitimate and we should not try to explain it away, is not to be suffered in alone.

God has made us new in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). He does not count our pasts against us, so why should we do it of ourselves?

Why should we live chained to the fear that we’ll mess up again?

Why should we live so caught up in what is over and done that we miss what is right in front of us?

God has forgiven us, and He wants to see us forgive ourselves. To move on, to focus on the greater things He has for us.

Oh, again, this isn’t some easy task that requires the push of a button and three clicks of our heels. Healing from anxiety over the past takes time, but God loves us and His patience never runs out on us. He’s always there for us to come back to and see our worth, to see that we’re forgiven, to see that we’re loved, and to know that He will never leave us to handle our problems alone.

 

Anxiety Over the Present

 

Present anxiety seems to me to be the toughest to deal with.

The panic of, “What am I doing?!” and “Where am I supposed to be?” and “How do I know if people actually care about me?”

Friends, I know what it feels like.

I know what it feels like to sit paralyzed, holding the phone, not knowing if I should call someone because I’m terrified to be rejected.

I know what it’s like to lay in my bed and cry for what feels like an eternity because I’m so afraid I’m going to mess up my life.

I have felt every ounce of pain when I’m convinced I must be doing the wrong thing, or I picked the wrong career path, or I’ve come so far that I can’t be fixed.

It’s paralyzing and petrifying, and that’s when I’m the most anxious.

See, I know the Bible says to be anxious for nothing in Philippians 4, and that by prayer, we should let our requests be known to God and He will give us peace.

I know all the verses. I know I should cast my cares on Him because He really does care for me.

But when I am in the middle of it, I freeze. I forget that there is a solution to my misery. I forget that I am loved and counted righteous no matter what I do. I feel like I have no hope.

But my feelings are incorrect. The feelings – those same feelings that are such a part of my personality – are wrong about one thing: Truth.

The truth that God will never leave me or forsake me, especially when I’m struggling, is never more true than when I feel like I’m alone.

The truth that I am loved with an everlasting love is not conditional, for it does not change when I feel unlovable.

The truth that I can be content and have joy in all situations is not dependent on my material possessions or circumstances, but upon a God who does not change.

When I feel the most anxious over what’s going on in my life, when I’m paralyzed with fear, and when it hurts like it never has before, the promises of God still stand.

 

Anxiety Over the Future

 

I once was utterly panicked over where I’d be in the years ahead.

In middle school and in the years before, I had absolutely no desire to go to college because I was afraid that I’d change my mind about what I wanted to do.

One day, I wanted to be a teacher. The next, I wanted to be a hairdresser. A week later, I decided I wanted to be a writer, and a little after that, I decided writing was much too difficult and I’d like to simply be a mother instead.

Thinking about the future – five, ten, fifteen years in advance – sent me into a bit of a panic. What if I get a degree in something that I decide I hate? What if the first day on my dream job is a flop and I start questioning my existence? What if I fail? What if I never marry?

And the panic-filed “what-ifs” cluttered my mind until my future planning almost became nonexistent.

Of course I knew that anxiety wasn’t really healthy for me. Of course I’d been told that God was in control. But did I believe it? I don’t know if I did.

Somewhere in my mind, and I assume in the minds of others, we think that we have to do everything alone. I think we have it in our minds that God holds the future, but hold in our hearts the burden that we have to handle everything ourselves. While this seems like such a paradox, it’s a prevalent mindset.

In a way, it’s connected to the stress ordeal – we think we must handle everything, know everything, be in control. But we don’t.

The best liberation from anxiety over the future is knowing that God is bigger than anything. He is bigger than our stress, He is bigger than our anxiety and fears. Nothing surprises Him, and nothing is too hard for Him to handle.

But what about our pain? What about the fact that life is really scary and unpredictable, and so many times we really don’t know what to do?

Pain exists. Anxiety is real. But God is more powerful than anything we struggle with, and He is worthy of our trust. He’ll never let us down.

It’s not worth it to live in a state of anxiety, yet in those times, we must cling to God the most instead of running from Him. Can life be terrifying? Absolutely. But nothing is terrifying to God. He wants us to run to Him in our pain so that we can grow in our relationship with Him.

Is it hard? Yeah, it is. And I won’t pretend that I know it all or that I have a perfect life.

But whatever the state of our lives may be, God does not change. He always wants us to look to Him in the midst of our problems. No, we can’t do this life alone – and that, friends, is alright.

*aj

3 Things We Should Expect God to Do

3 Things We Should Expect God to Do

As Christians, we hear this command a lot: “Pray.” When bad things happen, what do we do? We pray. When we don’t know what to do, we pray. When we need something done fast, we pray as hard as we can and get others to do the same.

 

We treat prayer as though the more we do it, the more God will hear us and do what we want.

 

But have we perhaps considered that it’s not always about what we want?

 

All the time, I hear people say, “Expect God to work.” I absolutely agree. He is all-powerful, He is sovereign, He loves us unconditionally, and desires the best for us.

 

But that doesn’t mean that we expect Him to accomplish everything we want.

 

In my life, I’ve found this. While I could pray this:

 

 “God, I want _____ thing, and because I know you can do all things, please give _____ to me.”

 

I’ve started praying like this:

 

“God, you know that I want _____ thing. If that’s Your will for me, I pray that You would allow it, but if not, I pray that Your will would prevail.”

 

So do I expect God to work? Absolutely. But I don’t expect Him to only work in the ways that I might expect.

 

So what should we expect when we pray?

 

  1. Expect God to hear us when we pray, no matter what.

 

We don’t need to use high and mighty words; we need to tell Him what is on our minds. He desires for us to know Him as He knows us. He has created us and wants us to have a relationship with us; not because we are great, but because He is.

 

1 John 5:14

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”

 

  1. Expect God to accomplish His will.

 

When we pray for only what we want, we can miss out on finding joy in God’s bigger, greater plan. And in looking at the big picture, do we want what will benefit us temporarily, or what will benefit God’s Kingdom eternally?

 

That seems like a vague rhetorical question, and I know that we all want to say, “I want what will benefit God’s Kingdom!” but it’s not an easy thing to say. It’s hard to desire God’s will when what we want just seems so good. Really. I have a hard time letting go of what I want and grabbing hold of what He wants at times.

 

However, I have discovered that the more I read the Bible, get to know God, and love Him more and more, the more my desires seem petty. Oh yes, there is still some appeal. But when I see how God led the Israelites through the Red Sea, I am awed at how great His power is.

 

When I see how He worked out Joseph’s imprisonment for the good of Egypt, and when I see how Jesus was crucified for us, enduring the pain of Hell, I see that even in our excruciating circumstances, God still works. Maybe not always in the ways that feel comfortable to us, but in the ways that He knows are best.

 

Proverbs 19:21

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”

 

  1. Expect God to act out of His love for us.

 

God is not a tyrant, nor is He unjust. When we pray for His will to be done, we’re not asking for some Great Cosmic Mystery to unfold, but a wise plan from our loving Father. He doesn’t “send” anyone to Hell; their sin does. His desire is to save all who would come to Him.

 

2 Peter 3:9

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

 

When we prioritize His will over our wants, we’re surrendering our desires to God in favor of something infinitely greater than us. We’re not happy-sapping ourselves; we’re allowing ourselves to be filled with joy because God truly is at work and He truly does have a plan.

 

So what should we expect from God? We should expect Him to answer our prayers with His infinite wisdom, whether we agree with the answer or not. We should expect Him to work in His own way in situations that seem impossible. We should expect Him to work in ways that are genuinely best for us.

 

Jeremiah 29:11

“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.”

 

*aj

The Bible Is Not A Burden: 3 Truths About God’s Word

The Bible is Not a Burden- 3 Truths About God’s Word

One thing I’ve found quite odd in the Christian community is the mindset that reading the Bible is a chore.

 

Think about it. When was the last time most of us thought about reading the Bible – maybe the first thing that pops into our heads is Old Testament law – and thought, “Wow, this is such a great thing to read!”?

 

As hard as it is to admit it, I often have thought that way.

 

It took me until I was twelve or thirteen to really grasp the significance of the Bible, and practically only this year have I found such comfort, peace, and joy in studying it.

 

But we Christians so often treat God’s Holy Word like it’s a burden to read.

 

Because I’m an avid reader, I often have a book on hand that I’m into and want to read. Many times, I’ll read the Bible on my Kindle, where I have a lot of other books. While knowing full-well that I am here to read the Bible, to spend time with God and study His word, I get distracted and start thinking about what happened in the last chapter of that new novel, or how it’s going to end, or how the characters are going to make it out alive. It’s sad for me to admit it, but so many times, I’m so engaged in a fictional world that I forget how life-changing the Bible truly is.

 

I think our attitudes towards the Bible come from the misconceptions we harbor toward the Word of God. The misconception that the Bible is just life’s rulebook, one we must obey or else face the wrath of our iron-fisted God. The misconception that the Bible is just another classic book – dusty, hard to read, and irrelevant.

 

They’re not true.

 

And here, I would like to share with you three truths about the Bible to help us avoid the “duty” mindset.

 

  1. The Bible is Powerful.

The Bible is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It’s not just a book written by people who lived thousands of years ago and thought they were important. It was written by God, through humans just like us, whom God decided to use. Not because they were special, but because they were willing.

 

This means that the principles in the Bible are timeless. The Gospel does not change. Jesus, the Savior of Paul, is the same Savior that we place our faith in today. We pray to the same God that Martin Luther prayed to, and Moses prayed to, and George Washington prayed to, and Mother Theresa prayed to. We see all these people as amazing; and yet they were just vessels that were used by God through their relationship with Him.

 

  1. The Bible Encourages Us.

When I’m depressed and discouraged, I can find no distraction big enough to fix me. I can find no motivational quote inspiring enough to get me through. But the Scripture can. Scriptures that remind me that I can have peace, no matter what. Scriptures that remind me that I am never forgotten or forsaken. Scriptures that remind me that I am lavished in love, and it has nothing to do with me.

 

Now listen, I’m not trying to say that simply reading the Bible is the end-all-be-all of depression, anxiety, or any other struggles. Simply reading does nothing, for truly knowing God is the key.

 

By reading the Bible, we get to know God. We get to understand the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We get to know that the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives inside us (Romans 8:11). We get to be acquainted with the fact that no matter how we perform, no matter what happens to us in this life, no matter the depths of despair, we can have hope.

 

The rest of the world cannot have this hope because it is supernatural. Only in the Bible can we truly know the hope of Christ – His love, His grace, and His joy regardless of our circumstances (Romans 5:2-5).

 

  1. The Bible Leads Us To Maturity.

Let me be straight-up here – there is no greater book pertaining to our faith than the Bible. No other book that is the standard of absolute truth. There is no other book with concepts that stand out in different ways to us every time we read them. To forsake the Bible as absolute truth is to reject maturity.

 

What do I mean by that?

 

I simply mean that if we want to grow in our faith, we must move past the elementary doctrine of Christ (Hebrews 6:1) and get over the emotions. Faith is more than a feeling; it is a choice and it is assurance of our hope (Hebrews 11:1).

 

When we read the Bible, our faith is strengthened. The Holy Spirit works in our hearts and reveals things to us that we haven’t seen before.

 

As for growing, we grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). By studying the Bible, we can begin to comprehend what grace looks like and why it is incredible. We see that in our darkness when we did not deserve forgiveness whatsoever, our sins were paid for.

 

The more we read, the more we understand. The more we understand, the more we want to get to know God better. And the more we will.

 

Let’s stop looking at the Bible like it’s a burden, a chore, or a hassle.

 

Instead, let us see it for the blessing that it is – the offering of hope in the midst of our crazy lives.

 

*aj

 

 

See Also:

 

Why Should I Read The Bible?

 

How to Read the Bible {effectively spending time with our Heavenly Father}

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

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

Truth From The Psalms

Truth From The Psalms

I love the book of Psalms.

I started reading this book once again on September 1st, and I’ve been doing 3 chapters a day since then. I love to read my Bible in the mornings, because it starts my day off with fresh perspective.

Psalms is honest. When everyone around us makes us feel like we have to be “fine,” we read in the Bible that we don’t have to pretend to be. Feelings are real. Depression is real. Tragedy is real. Despair is real.

And the more I read, the more I realize something.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean that life will be easy, painless, or safe. What it does mean, is that God is with us through the good times and the bad. Hardship will come, but God will be with us through it.

Psalm 34:7-18

“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

When I read the book of Psalms, I am reminded of a few things.

Feelings are real.

Psalm 43:5

“Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my salvation and my God.”

 

Stress, depression, and despair are real. There is absolutely NO denying that. God gave us emotions, and we live in a broken, fallen world. It’s good to feel. At the same time, it’s painful. Emotions shift, life changes, things are unsteady. But there is one thing that does not change.

God’s truth does not change because He does not change.

 

Psalm 9:9

“The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”

 

We can spend time in the Bible and read His truth. We can meditate on His word and learn that He never leaves us. We find out that He is the only one that can satisfy us, and He is the only one that can save us. We know that in spite of our sin, God forgives us and calls us holy. He has saved our souls, which is reason to rejoice.

We don’t need to be consumed by darkness in our lives.

 

Psalm 139:12

“Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”

 

Psalm 30:5

“For his anger is but for a moment,

and his favor is for a lifetime.

Weeping may tarry for the night,

but joy comes with the morning.”

Psalm 23:4

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

 

God is greater than the darkness. God is more powerful than tragedy. God lavishes us with love and grace and mercy, and we needn’t worry.

Our lives are in His hands. Tough things will come upon us, but God is always worthy of our trust.

I encourage all of you to take some time this week and read some Psalms. There are so many truths in there that bring comfort to my soul, and so many that push me to keep on going.

*aj