He is Risen!

With Easter being today, I think we all need a reminder of what exactly God did for us. It can be really easy to think about specific things that go along in your life, and sometimes we forget (I do especially) what an amazing sacrifice Jesus gave for us.

All of our lives we are taught in church that Jesus was amazing. His life was amazing, his sacrifice for us was amazing, his rising from the dead was amazing. Amazing, awesome, great. You say it, but do you feel it? Do you ever just think really hard about it, or think about it from a perspective outside your own and really feel it when you say, “Jesus is amazing.”

When you talk about something all the time, it becomes less and less significant and more of just a normal thing. Like when you say a word over and over again and it just becomes a jumble of sounds instead of something that really means anything. That’s kind of how our view of the cross can become sometimes, at least mine can. You’ve got it memorized, how unfair the trial was, how Jesus acted so humbly, how he fought for each breath on the cross, how he could’ve stopped any time but didn’t, how He rose again, like he said he would.

I have this book and it’s called Jesus, it’s a daily devotional and it focuses specifically on the adult life of Jesus, just that. It focuses on many specific things that I would like to discuss and hopefully bring into a new light for you.

First of all, the fact that this was all planned. Jesus knew all along what he was going to have to do. He might have even dreaded it a little bit. But not once did he stray from his plan. So this just goes to show that it wasn’t some random act. It was all designed, perfectly, so that we could be not only in awe but have the comfort knowing that God is in such control, we don’t even realize it.

Secondly, what is amazing is that when Jesus was on the cross, He experienced total separation from God. This is something I don’t think we focus on nearly enough. Total, complete separation from God. Like God wasn’t even there. Can you imagine how that must’ve felt, being so covered in sin that the God of the Universe refuses to look at you? Here Jesus was, dying on the cross, and he had on him every single sin. Right from Adam and all the way up until the last sin ever committed. Every murder, every act of adultery, every lie, sins that we probably can’t even imagine. It was so vile and degrading that God couldn’t even look at him! All the sins we commit, and God still looks at us. But Jesus did this so that we could never be in this situation. Jesus was the thing that brought us to God, and the only way He could do that was by putting Himself farther away for a period of time. He screamed, “My god, my god, why have you forsaken me?” And got no answer. But he said those words so we would never have to.

Thirdly what is amazing is what Jesus said on the cross. First: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” He said this of his enemies, the ones that put him on the cross! Could we ever have that kind of love? Second, he tells the thief on the cross next to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Amidst his own suffering and pain, as well as bearing the sins of the whole world, He takes the time and the energy to say this, to offer forgiveness to someone he doesn’t even know. When Jesus says he is thirsty..isn’t it crazy that God can get thirsty? That he can feel tired, lost, hungry? Out of all the things Jesus could have said, he says this, to show us he is human. He feels what we feel, and he knows. He is God but he is human. And then, when Jesus finally says those glorious three words: “It is finished.” It’s done. Your sin is gone. The devil’s defeated. Death is no longer. You don’t have to worry any longer. It’s done.

He is Risen! Alleluia!

College Decisions

Is a four year college degree really worth it? Will I find a group of friends? Will I fit in? Will I like my roommate? Will they like me? Will I be pressured to do certain things? Will I be too dumb for the classes? Is this what God wants for me? Is this what I think I deserve? Is this the great opportunity I’ve been waiting for?

There are some questions that no college advisor or student panel can answer. I’m not even in college yet, and I know that for a fact.

I got accepted to the university of my dreams. The university I thought about for four years, prayed about, considered and contemplated. I anticipated getting my acceptance letter for years, and when it finally came, I wasn’t even affected, because I thought there was no way I could ever get to go there, because of the cost.

Now some things have come up that have opened up the ability for me to go next fall. They were answers to prayers, answers I haven’t thanked God nearly enough for.

But now it’s got me thinking. Is this what God wants? Or does he want me to make the more economical decision and go to a community college?

I guess when you look at the whole of your life, stuff like this isn’t a big deal. But right now, it is. It decides the next four or five years of my life. It possibly decides my career. It also possibly decides who my friends will be and maybe even who I will marry one day.

And maybe I’ll look back on this blog post six years from now and think, “How could you ever plan how your life was going to go?” Or maybe not. Maybe my life will go how I want it to.

But there is a difference between what I want and what God wants. It’s something I’ve thought about for a long time, especially in my college search. Now the trick is just figuring out what all of that means.

And as for all of my unanswered questions…I’m leaving them to God, and accepting myself for who I am in Christ alone. Because that is all that truly matters.

Jesus Tempted by Satan

The story of Satan tempting Jesus is a triumphant one. It is inspiring but also instructing. It teaches us how we should protect our beliefs and shows us that the only way to do that is through the Bible.

Like 4:1-13 depicts this scene of Jesus being tempted directly by Satan. Here we not only see the power of Jesus but the power of Satan. The devil is powerful. He causes people to sin, to commit crimes, to lie, to kill, to destroy their lives. He is not to be taken lightly. Jesus doesn’t.

And think about the fact that Jesus was tempted for forty days (vs. 2) Forty days! Whereas we can’t be tempted for a few minutes without falling into sin. Jesus didn’t eat during that time and was hungry. So the devil tells him to make bread out of a stone (vs. 3). He’s telling him to perform a miracle, prove that he’s the son of God. I think many people today have a problem with not being able to see anything about God. We can’t see God or Jesus or heaven or miracles. Don’t say you would believe if you got to see these things. The evidence is in our lives, how they are worked and changed. The evidence is in the changing of our hearts through Christ.

But Jesus has the perfect answer for this, words from God: “Man does not live on bread alone.” (vs. 4)

Then Satan shows Jesus all of the kingdoms of the earth. Can you imagine seeing all of that, let alone being told you could own it all? That’s what Satan told Jesus (vs. 6), on one condition: if Jesus worshipped him.

Are we ever tempted to worship something other than God? Sure! Money, jobs, people, authority…all idols made to replace God. But none of them can give us what God can give us. And as Jesus told him, “Worship The Lord your God and serve him only.” (vs. 8)

You can tell that the devil probably got a bit fed up with this. Jesus had an answer for everything. So he pulls out some of his own ammunition and speaks the word of God himself, after he tells Jesus to throw himself down (vs. 9). He says something along the lines of, “If God says he’ll protect you, why don’t you just try and see?” (vs. 10-11). But we should know that this is foolish.

But Jesus once again has the perfect answer: “Do not put The Lord your God to the test.” (vs. 12)

And with that, the devil was done with his tempting. But if it was you and not Jesus, when would you have sold out? When would you have backed away from your faith? For most of us, we wouldn’t have lasted long.

Jesus kept strong through the word of God. It has power in its words. It has truth. It makes people uncomfortable, but it also saves them. That’s Law and Gospel. Besides that, Jesus stayed committed to God’s Word, as we should every day of our lives whether we are being tested or not.

Faith Hall of Fame

When we look back at the greats of the Old Testament of the Bible, we should remember one thing clearly: their faith.

Hebrews 11 makes sure we remember this. The chapter is called “By Faith” and sometimes it is referenced as the Faith Hall of Fame. Here we can look at the enormous leaps of faith that people of the Bible had.

Here we remember Enoch (vs. 5), who pleased God and God made it so that he didn’t have to experience death. Can you imagine pleasing God with your faith so much that he prevents you from experiencing death? That’s the type of intense faith we should strive for.

Here we remember Noah (vs. 7) who built an ark even though people probably thought he was crazy. He did what God instructed him to – gladly! Can you imagine if that happened in today’s world? If someone started talking about a flood, telling people to prepare? They would be outcast and criticized. Noah had such faith to go blindly and obey God.

Here we remember Abraham (vs. 8), who went somewhere even though he didn’t know where he was going or what it was like! Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac because God told him to (vs. 17). And we remember Sarah his wife (vs 11), who got a child even when she was past the age when she should’ve had a child. Think about that faith, waiting for decades for God to bring you a child.

Here we remember Moses, who “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time” (vs. 25). Would you make that choice?

And here even the prostitute Rahab is mentioned, because she obeyed! (vs. 31)

There are many more mentioned…Abel, Jacob, Joseph, and more…all people who had immense faith. Not fiction or fairy tales. Real people with real problems with real faith in God.

I encourage you to read this chapter from time to time to remind yourself of how you should have faith. Faith that obeys, that waits, that does crazy things even though other people will judge. Faith that never, ever stops.

A Small Sacrifice for Lent

I’ve never given anything up for Lent before, but this year I decided to give up something that is a huge part of my life: social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it.

However, I decided that during this time I would blog, because hopefully the experience will bring me into a closer relationship with God. Even though a blog may be considered as a type of social media, I’ve decided to make it a part of this experience.

The funny thing is, I was inspired to give up social media by looking at social media. One of my friends posted that they were giving up social media for Lent, and I immediately thought: “I should do that.”

Social media is undoubtedly a huge part of my life. You could say I’m addicted. I love the way social media allows you to connect with the world. There are great things about social media, for example, it’s where I get all my news and current events, but in most cases, the bad outweighs the good by far. Whether it’s a post that’s inappropriate, crude, or just plain wrong, social media can steer me off my course with God in so many ways. It is a form of temptation for me and also a terrible time waster. Though it does allow me to connect with the world, learn, and stay updated on current events, it also takes away time that I should be spending with God.

A lot of people give something up that they really love for Lent, such as a type of food. Sweets. Soda. Chocolate. This can be beneficial, but I really think giving up and avoiding something that tempts you, leads you to sin, and takes time away from God is the best way to go. And for me, social media was that thing.

During this time I hope to read the Bible more and spend way more time in prayer with God. Those are two things I don’t focus on enough, and it’s causing my relationship with God to worsen, solely because of my lack of effort. But with the distraction of social media gone, I want to turn to God instead, as we all should. I also want to get rid of my extreme addiction to social media, because it is a huge time waster in my life.

And let us not forget the true reason behind giving something up for Lent. It’s a sacrifice. Something that changes your everyday life. Something you give up that you once had. For Jesus, it was life on this earth. He sacrificed his life and his body for US. We can never repay that, but in the same manner, we should give up something close to us for Jesus. To display the same kind of sacrifice he gave for us, though we can never replicate it.

As for me, I’m excited for this experience. If you’re giving up something for Lent, pray about it. Ask God to help you through, and to bring you closer to Him. I can’t wait until Easter Day, when I know, I am certain, that my Savior lives. Let’s all wait in happiness for that day.

Overcoming Prejudice

The other day I was reading John 4:1-26, the story of Jesus talking to a woman at the well. I hadn’t read this story for a while, but its meaning gave me hope and refreshed me.

Jesus was walking through Samaria, home of the Samaritans. He was on his way to Galilee. Most Jews would’ve gone out of their way not to pass through Samaria, because they hated the Samaritans since they believed they were a mixed race. But Jesus didn’t think this way. He didn’t live by these types of restrictions of prejudice. He took the route that was the simplest.

He went to a well, where a Samaritan woman was. Jesus asked her for a drink. Just this brief speaking was pretty crazy. Jewish people didn’t associate with Samaritans, let alone women. The fact that Jesus talked to this woman is a great example for us. The gospel crosses all barriers. So should we.

The woman is obviously confused and taken back by this, but then Jesus starts talking about living water (vs. 10). She doesn’t understand this as well, but the living water is Jesus himself, the Messiah who satisfies the soul’s desire.

In verse 13, Jesus explains, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman then thought that this water was actual physical water (vs. 15). This is when Jesus tells her of her past. He knows that she has had five husbands. She changes the subject (vs. 19) as she begins to realize who this man, who knows her past and speaks of a living water that will quench all thirst, really is.

She thought it was physical water Jesus was speaking of, water that would quench her thirst so she wouldn’t have to go to the well anymore, so her life would be easier. This is a lesson in itself. People think Christianity will make their lives visibly easier. We’ll always be happy and always be perfect. That’s the absolute wrong type of thinking. Christ didn’t come to make our life easier, but to change us and to give us eternal life.

Now the woman understands. “I know that Messiah is coming,” she says in verse 25. “When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

To which Jesus replies (vs. 26), “I who speak to you am he.”

This story is a great one. Jesus took the time on his trip to speak to this woman and change her life forever. Even though she was a Samaritan living in sin, Jesus didn’t care. He didn’t see her as un-saveable. In the same way, we shouldn’t avoid talking to people about Jesus because we think they can’t be saved. Jesus is more powerful than the social barriers we have in our world.

Praying for our Schools

In my opinion, the best thing my school has to offer is our Christian youth group ran entirely by students. We meet once a week after school to pray, have a short lesson, and just hang out. We also some things around our school.

One activity we do is a prayer walk. Once a year we go around to every single locker and pray for each student individually. We’re a small school of about 160 kids, so we split up into groups and go down the lockers and pray. We tape a piece of candy and a note telling them they’ve been personally prayed for for them to find the next morning.

I’ve been doing this for four years, so I know what to expect in the morning when the students find these notes. But every year, it gets worse. In just the senior hallways, I heard people saying that they didn’t need to be prayed for, they didn’t want anyone to pray for them, and that they were really angry that they were prayed for. Some people even complained about the kind of candy on their locker. I heard one student begin saying they were going to start an atheist club, saying, “If they can have a Christian club, why can’t we have an atheist one?”

Mind you, this is an extremely small school in a town of about 1,300 people that is for the most part Christian. We have a lot of churches in our small town and a lot of public outreach. But just because that’s how it used to be, doesn’t mean that’s the way it’s headed.

The outbursts from my peers are the exact reason they needed prayed for. Our country, our world is rapidly turning away from God. This isn’t news to anyone. But it’s alarming when you see it first hand. When you hear it from the mouths of people who claim to be Christian.

We didn’t pester the students, or question them, or even speak to them. We just prayed for them. And that, just that, made them angry. That is why our world needs prayer.

There are still the people that really appreciated our prayer walk. People who were shocked that we actually went and prayed for each individual person. People were appreciative and thought it was a nice thing to do.

But I don’t think anyone realizes just how necessary this is. Our schools and our students need prayer. If my school is going this way, I can’t imagine how bigger schools are going. Our schools need God more than ever. Our country and our world need God more than ever.

So please, pray for our schools. Pray for our country and our world. Pray that all of those who don’t have Christ in their life would have a relationship with Him, very soon.