Life is filled with many wonderful adventures such as going to college, moving away from home, getting married, going on mission trips, etc. Even though life is so wonderful, rough times will come. There is no way to escape trials and tribulations, even as a child of God. Great men of faith suffered many things (i.e. Paul [2 Corinthians 11:24-28] and Job). When these rough times come, what do you do? To whom do you turn?
Psalm 23:4 says, “Yea, 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.” To “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” essentially means to go through the midst of dangers that are deep as a valley and dark as a shadow. David wasn’t exempt from tough times and he knew that. When those tough times came, David “fear[ed] no evil” because he knew that God is with him. We need to have the same mindset as David; we need to fear less because God is always with us. “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
If you turn to Amos 5:8, it says “...He turns the shadow of death into morning...” God will never allow His children to suffer for eternity. “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:12). If we hold on and endure through the rough times, we will be rewarded spiritually. In heaven there will be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4). You might not see better days on this earth but, as children of God, death has no sting, life will be considerably better in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:58). We need to endure and “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:14)
Some things you can do when life gets rough:
Keep pressing forward, endure the things Satan throws at you, and look to God in every aspect of life.
I was blessed to have spent this past week on Freed-Hardeman University’s campus at Horizons. Although I am sad that this was my 6th and final year as a camper and I have no idea if I will ever go back, I am joyful that Horizons exists. It makes my heart happy knowing that lives will be touched and the world will be changed with the existence of the camp I love. Everyone needs to come to Horizons at least once in their life, either as a camper or as a counselor.
Horizons provides opportunities to stretch the limits of our comfort zones. Horizons has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone and I am thankful for that. I may still be really awkward when around people but I’m definitely more fearless. I am no longer afraid of things that once terrified me (e.g. public speaking). For guys, there are song leading and speaking classes, opportunities to lead singing, and to participate in the guy camper lead devo. For girls, you have the opportunity to give devos or lead stairwell singings in your dorm and participate in the girls only camper lead devo. Horizons provides a safe place for you to practice getting out of your comfort zone. You will definitely grow as a Christian if you embrace those opportunities.
Horizons gives us support for our walk with Christ. One evening there was a baptism and people (who didn’t even know the girl who was being baptized) were holding hands in a circle, singing praises to God, and supporting the girl in the pouring rain. How beautiful is that?! People are willing to give encouragement and support to anyone because are all striving for the same goal, heaven! The counselors also provide a great system of support. I was super nervous about speaking at the girls only camper lead devo and my counselor had my back and supported me through it all. At Horizons, there are over 1,000 people there ready to offer support.
Horizons teaches us to serve. We made hats, put together toiletry bags for a women’s shelter, made encouragement cards, did landscaping for a children’s home, went door-knocking for a local congregation, sang and visited with the residents at a rehab center, delivered cookies and cards to the local law enforcement, and we raised over 1,500 dollars to help a Horizons family with medical expenses. Horizons gives us the opportunity to serve and shine our light in the community.
Go to Horizons, it will change your spiritual life for the better.
But little did they know what God was about to do.
A phrase my dad used tonight in a lesson about Daniel and the lion’s den.
A phrase that pricked my heart and overwhelmed me with joy.
A phrase so simple yet so powerful.
But little did they know what God was about to do.
You see, the governors and the satraps were jealous of Daniel and could find no fault with him; so they tricked the king into making a new law; Daniel prayed to God, the governors caught him, and then he was thrown into the lion’s den (Daniel 6:1-17). The enemies of Daniel were probably pretty happy that night because Daniel was supposed to die. The governors thought that killing Daniel would solve their problems.
But little did they know what God was about to do.
God saved Daniel.
The enemies of God’s children are always focused on the short term stuff, they never think about things in the long run. They think that death is the worst thing that could happen to a Christian. They are wrong. When a faithful and obedient child of God dies, he is off to spend eternity with a merciful and loving God. Enemies may persecute us or take away our physical life but they cannot take away our spiritual relationship with God. 1 Corinthians 15:55 states, “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”
But little did they know what God was about to do.
We don’t know what Daniel was praying about before he was taken away, but perhaps he was asking God to protect him. Through all of Daniel’s actions prior to Chapter 6, it is evident that Daniel trusts in God. When we pray to God, we must not be surprised when He answers (James 5:16). The answer might not be what we want but it is what we need. God has a plan for each and every one of us (Jeremiah 29:11) and it may not be our plan. If you’re in a relationship with a person or if there’s a potential for a relationship with a person and you pray to God asking Him to help you know if the person is right for you, don’t be surprised if the answer is no. I’ve known people who have been in a situation like that and they don’t know why the relationship ended when they were supposed to “live happily ever after together.” It's easier to let go of things knowing that God is in complete control and that He has something better in store.
We don’t know what God is about to do with our lives but we need to “trust in the Lord with all [our] heart, and lean not on [our] own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). God is about to do some amazing things with you, just wait and trust God’s timing.
But little do you know what God is about to do.
This past weekend I attended Upward. For those of you who don’t know, Upward is a 3 day long youth event at the Jacksonville Church of Christ in Jacksonville, Alabama that is ran by the teens at Tomorrow’s Church, Today and is filled with sermons, singing, and fun. This year’s theme was “Lessons from the Lesser Known.” The sermons from brothers Cliff Goodwin, Eric Owens, David Shannon, and various other teen speakers taught us valuable life lessons for our Christian walk from the minor prophets in the Old Testament.
From Hosea, we learned to seek God. Hosea 5:15 says, “I will return again to My place till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face; in their affliction, they will earnestly seek Me.” God intends for man to seek Him; there is a hunger and thirst for God that exists in all of us. Read Psalm 19. Verse 3 of that passage says, “There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.” If you take a look back at verse 1, you know that the voice in verse 3 is the same voice that declares the glory of God. The universe, God’s creation, is basically screaming for us to seek God (vs. 3); we all hear the same thing when we look at nature. Everyone realizes that we need something and in Psalm 19:7 we realize exactly what we need, the law of the Lord! We need to seek God seriously. Cliff Goodwin said, “Sin and rebellion are doing to the soul what malnutrition does to the body, we just can’t physically see the effects.” Don’t starve yourself spiritually, seek God.
From Joel 3:9, we learn that we need to proclaim God’s word because people can’t believe in God if we don’t (Romans 10:14).
From Amos 5:15, we learn to love good. When we look at the world around us, it may seem like that good does not exist in the world. Good does exist because there is a God; without God, there is nothing that is good (Mark 10:17,18). We must be able to identify the good. The world wants us to falsely think that we cannot judge anyone for any reason. Not only does Amos 5:15 tell us to love the good, it also tells us to hate the evil. We can’t hate evil if we don’t know the difference between the two. Love good, hate evil.
From Obadiah 10, we learn about being cut off. We have to submit to God or we will be separated from Him. Submitting to God is accepting the fact that He is in authority and we listen to what He tells us. James 4:7 shows that to submit to God also means to resist the devil. If we don’t submit, we will be cut off from God. Hell is the only place where the omnipresent God is not. Don’t be separated from God, submit to Him.
From Jonah 3:5, we learn to put on. The people of Nineveh put on sackcloth when they learned of their sin. The act of wearing sackcloth is a sign of remorse, repentance, or grief. They knew that something was sorely amiss, they are broken and are hurting. We have to understand that something is wrong when we sin; we need to put on a deep regret because of sin. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit” (Psalm 51:17). David was not trying to take the cheap way out; he knows that he cannot buy his salvation. We have to fully offer God our broken spirit. When we sin, we are guilty, but do we feel the sin? 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 states that “godly sorrow produces repentance” and “sorrow of the world produces death”. Godly sorrow is being truly sorry for your sins and worldly sorrow is being sorry that you got caught. Even before judgement, worldly sorrow leads to destruction. Put on godly sorrow when you sin.
From Micah 6:8, we learn to walk humbly with God. Walking humbly is required. God actively opposes the proud (James 4:6,10). Walking with God is an invitation from God to walk with Him (the greatest invitation that man could ever know). Walking with Him is optional, He doesn’t force us to walk with Him. You have to understand God to walk with Him; to understand God, we need to read from His word and focus on His actions. This walk is intimate and is intended to be a long walk into eternity; start that walk today.
From Nahum 3:14, we learn to draw water, to prepare. Sometimes preparation is worthless; such as preparing for an education without God (Psalm 14:1), taking care of our physical bodies without God (1 Timothy4:8; our souls lost for eternity, our physical bodies do not), wealth without God is useless (Luke 11), and friendships are useless without God (Proverbs 11:21; Romans 14:12). Prepare now for the trials that will come (Ecclesiastes 12:1). To prepare, study intentionally, identify potential problems and study; pray every day for a faithful Christian spouse with whom you will go to heaven with; form Christian friendships with those you can fall back on and keep you on the right path.
From Habakkuk 2:7, we learn to rise up. War is a constant thing and we must rise up against the enemies of God. Faith will be our victory. It may appear that the world is winning but we must stay faithful (Hebrews 10:35-39)!
From Zephaniah 1:7, we learn to be silent. Being silent means giving reverence to God’s name. We need to have reverence for God’s name (Psalm 33:8) because His name is reverend (Psalm 111:9) and He has created everything (Genesis 1:1).
From Haggai 1:8, we learn to go up. We need to look up (Colossians 3:1) and glorify God because glorifying God will make others want to glorify Him as well.
From Zechariah 14:3-5, we learn to go forth. God will make a way for us through everything that we might go through.
From Malachi 2:1-2, we learn to give glory. We are to give God His credit. We have to submit to God to give Him glory. Understand why we obey God’s commands, do the right things for the right reasons, and give God the credit for what He has done.
I encourage you to take these condensed notes and apply the major lessons from the minor prophets to your life. Seek God. Proclaim God’s word. Love good. Don’t be cut off. Put on. Walk humbly. Draw water. Rise up. Be silent. Go up. Go forth. Give glory.
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe -- and tremble!
It is impossible to go to heaven without a belief in God. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Contrary to popular beliefs, just believing that there is a God is not enough for one’s soul to be saved. James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe -- and tremble!” Even those who are against God, even Satan himself believes that there is a God. If belief alone got us into heaven, Satan would be there too! In the Bible we read that Satan is in fact not in heaven. “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matthew 25:41). The demons even tremble; from this we know that they believe God’s existence and they know how powerful He is. “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16).
If just believing that there is an all mighty and powerful God isn't enough for Satan to get to heaven then why would we think that it will work for us? Some people believe that they can just pick and choose what parts of the Bible they want to follow. The Bible isn't a buffet, you have to obey every command in the New Testament (James 2:10-11). We, as New Testament Christians, aren't bound by the Old Testament. We don't have to offer animal sacrifices for our sins (Hebrews 10:1-4), we don't have to circumcise eight day old baby boys, we don't have to avoid eating pork. We don't have to do these things for two reasons. One being that the Old Testament laws were written for the Israelites and we are Gentiles. The second is that the Old Testament was "nailed to the cross" when Jesus sacrificed His life for our sins. (Colossians 2:14-17). See also Galatians 4:21-31 and Hebrews 8:7-13.
If belief alone can’t save our soul and get us into heaven, then what must we do to be saved? The Bible tells us exactly what we have to do. First we must hear the gospel preached, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). We must believe, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). We must repent, “Then Peter said to them,’Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38). We must be baptized, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). We must live a faithful Christian life until death, “...Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10c).
The Bible clearly states that we cannot be saved by belief alone. In order to be saved from an eternity in hell, we must obey the plan of salvation, including the other commands God has given us (i.e. partaking of the Lord’s supper and meeting as a congregation every first day of the week, showing love, being kind, spreading the gospel to others, etc.). We can’t add to or take away from God’s word and make our own way to save ourselves. “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19). We can only be saved if we follow the plan God has provided. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
By Jennifer Odom
The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, ‘Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’
In John 4, we find the account of the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus had been talking to the woman while His disciples went into a Samaritan city to buy food (vs. 1-26). At the close of their conversation the Samaritan woman tells Jesus, “I know that Messiah is coming. When He comes, He will tell us all things” (vs. 25); to which Jesus replies back, “I who speak to you am He” (vs. 26). At that point the woman left her waterpot and went into the city to tell others about Jesus Christ (vs. 28, 29).
The woman left what is possibly her only waterpot; she left her means for getting the water necessary to survive. She was in such a hurry to go tell others about what had just happened that she left something that she needs in a place where someone could come along and take it. The woman left, not knowing whether or not her waterpot would still be there when she returned. She left something that is considered valuable to go tell others about the Messiah. She sacrificed something for Christ’s cause.
The woman at the well is not the only person that had to leave something to follow Christ. Peter and Andrew left their nets (Matthew 4:18-20). James and John left their boat and father (Matthew 4:21-22). Matthew left all that he had (Luke 5:27-28). They all left things immediately. In Luke 9:57-62 we read of one person saying that he will follow Jesus wherever He goes, another says that he will follow Jesus after he buries his father, and another says that he has to go tell the others at his house farewell before he will follow Him. God doesn’t want us to make excuses for delaying our commitment to Him, He wants us to follow Him immediately.
We can take what the Samaritan woman did and apply it to our lives. There will come a time when we will have to sacrifice something in order to continue our walk with Christ. Maybe you’ll have to leave your family to spread God’s word a few hours away or maybe even in a different country. Maybe you’ll have to quit a really good job in order to attend worship services. Maybe you’ll have to endure being frowned upon by your family because you decided to follow the true gospel rather than upholding the false beliefs they may have. Maybe you’ll have to “miss out” on prom or homecoming because of the sinful atmosphere they tend to have.
Some of the things that you will have to leave may be hard to let go of but Christ's cause is worth so much more than the most valuable thing on earth. Leaving the waterpot isn’t hard when we think about what Jesus gave for us, His life. What will you leave for Christ?
By Jennifer Odom
A new year equals a new me and maybe even a new you. I don’t know why people decide to make changes in their lives at the start of a new year rather than the day the idea of change first pops into their head; I guess it’s just what humans do! I plan on making changes in my life throughout 2017. The changes I’m more focused on aren’t physical but rather spiritual. You see, my relationship with God isn’t as strong as it should be and that’s my fault. God has always been there for me but I haven’t put forth enough effort to strengthen my relationship with Him. In 2017 I’m going to work on strengthening my relationship with God and I challenge you to do the same! Now, you may be thinking, “how do I do that?!?!” Well, if you continue reading you will find some suggestions that I have come up with.
How to develop a deeper relationship with God:
Pray often. Prayer is how we talk to God and you can’t have a strong relationship with someone without talking to them. Talk to God like He’s your best friend because He really is our best friend. He is always there for us no matter what happens; He will “never leave you, nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). Talk to God multiple times every single day; pour out your heart to Him because God will hear your prayers and He will answer them. The answer may not be what you wanted but rather what is right for you. When you talk to God express gratitude, thank Him for everything He has done for you (i.e. sending His Son to die for our sins, mercy, a way to be saved, etc.). “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” Colossians 4:2. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” Philippians 4:6.
Study His word. Studying the Bible is very important. How can we know how God wants us to live if we don’t read what He inspired men to write? “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” 2 Timothy 3:16. Spending time in God’s word is time spent with God. Spending more time with God produces a deeper relationship with Him. John 14:23 states, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.’” God and Jesus will make Their home within us if we obey the commands of the Bible, His word. I don’t know about you, but I have a strong relationship with the people that I live with. Having God living in us is how we grow a deeper relationship with God.
We need to pray, study God’s word, and follow His commands to have a stronger relationship with our Savior. If you need someone to pray for you, someone to study with you, or someone to help you find how God wants you to live your life, please don’t hesitate to shoot me a message either on the questions and suggestions page or via Facebook. I pray that you accept the challenge of strengthening your relationship with God.
By Jennifer Odom
Dear energetic high school freshman,
You have either started your new adventure this week or you will be starting next week. The following is a list of things that I have learned in the past three years that I wish I knew or others knew upon starting high school. My prayer for you is to utilize these things so that you may glorify God in all that you do and have a fantastic high school career.
I absolutely love traveling to new places. This past weekend I had a wonderful opportunity to travel to Dallas, Texas for a tournament with some of my best friends. While I was there, I learned a lot of lessons that will help me grow as a Christian and I wanted to share some of them with y'all.
What is the role of a woman in the Church?
My name is Jennifer Odom and I've been a Christian since October 2011. I'm a 17-year-old freshman at Freed-Hardeman University. I like reading, crocheting, and Bible journaling. My favorite verse is Philippians 1:21. I write for Tomorrow's Church, Today and am the editor for Beyond the Foam. I hope to speak at several ladies days, become a music teacher, get involved with mission work, and bring as many people as I can with me to heaven. Stepping in Light is affiliated with the church of Christ.