There is peace.
There is peace in knowing God.
There is peace in knowing that you’re not blindly following a Divine book without supporting evidence from the world around you.
There is peace that passes all understanding.
There is peace that can only be obtained from God.
But it’s not just about having peace during the good times in life.
It’s about knowing that even though I may “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4) I will have peace because God will “turn the shadow of death into morning” (Amos 5:8).
It’s knowing that because God is in control, I can have peace no matter what may happen to me.
It’s knowing that peace will be there in the midst of chaos.
Before today, I didn’t really have true peace. I felt like my life was in a whirlwind of chaos and stress.
Last semester, I found myself overwhelmed with stress. I attempted to find peace but my efforts were fruitless. I was looking in the wrong places.
I prayed for peace. I prayed for God to take away my pain, to take away the chaos.
But I had to do my part in order for God to do His.
I didn’t find true peace until I spent numerous of hours studying God’s word (thanks to a class that I’m taking).
I didn't find peace until I intentionally dug into the deep pits of the Bible.
I didn’t find peace until I shifted my focus from the chaos to the cross.
But I have now found peace.
I found it in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We have peace in Christ because He “overcame the world” (John 16:33).
We have peace because of the promises God gave us.
Because Jesus took what we deserve and gave us what He deserved.
Because of Jesus’ sacrificial love, there is peace.
This fall I came back to school early for a two week course. I’m not gonna lie, I was slightly overwhelmed after the professor posted the syllabus. The amount of work and the thought of sitting in one class for four hours a day, five days a week for two weeks stressed me out a little bit (the work load isn't as bad as I thought it would be and we get a coffee break during class). But what really got me stressed out was the specific subject of the class. Apologetics. The defense of the Christian faith.
I’ve tried reading books about the evidence of God’s existence but I felt like a lot of it went over my head. I didn’t understand a lot of the content. I was stressed about this class because I thought that I wouldn't understand any of what would be taught. I thought that I would struggle through this class. I was wrong, granted I’ve only been in class one day (but one day during a two week course is equivalent to two and a half weeks during a regular semester). I’m actually understanding what is taught, I understand what I’m reading in a book (I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be and Atheist, which I highly recommend reading). I think a lot of it had to do with maturity, I can dig into more meat than I could a few years ago.
I’ve only just begun learning the importance of studying apologetics. 1 Peter 3:15 commands us to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” We cannot defend our faith without a good, solid foundation. How can we truly believe in something if we don’t know why we believe in it? How can we spread our faith to others if we don’t have the evidence to back up what we believe?
We can’t be ready to make a defense for Christ if we don’t study the evidences that prove God’s existence. If we’re always prepared to defend our faith, we won’t be as timid to share the Gospel with others. We will be more apt to seek opportunities for evangelism rather than shy away from them.
I encourage you to study the evidences of God; it will help strengthen your faith. Feel free to contact me if you have questions about how to study apologetics or if you have questions about the evidence of God in general.
Sin is ugly. It makes scars on our hearts and on our bodies; it has an eternal effect on our lives. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). We can’t heal ourselves. We can’t take away our scars but Jesus can. He came to heal our scars. He can “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus became like us; He understands our pain. His cross shows us that He understands. Isaiah 53:3-7 shows us that God’s love for us meant that Jesus would have scars just like us.
“But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.’ And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain…” (Revelation 5:5-6).
There stood Jesus, the living Lamb, with scars from His sacrifice for us on earth. He was slain for you and I.
Jesus has scars so that you and I can live with ours. We cannot have eternal life without His wounds, for “by His wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
Because of His scars, we can be saved.
We need to trust God with our scars. We need to trust Him with our sins, with our flaws, with our wounds. We trust God because He earned it on the cross. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). We need to tell God about our struggles and our sins. We need to talk to Him daily.
There is no scar that is too big to be healed. Paul called himself the “Chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15) and he was healed.
Let your scars remind you of Jesus’ scars. Let them remind you of God’s unending love and mercy. Let them remind you of how much we need God.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:7-11).
“There stood a Lamb as though it had been slain…”
Dear single women of the world,
You do not need to be married to live a successful life. You don’t need a man to accomplish your dreams and aspirations. You can make a living for yourself. You can be independent. Even the Bible talks about being unmarried in a favorable way.
Take a look at 1 Corinthians 7:25-40 (for the sake of space, I will not post the entire passage here but I urge you to read the entire text from your own Bible). In verse 28, Paul makes it clear that being married isn't bad, that it’s not sinful. People get married all the time (especially at Freed-Hardeman, am I right?!). There's nothing wrong with being married but as Paul later mentions, there are some benefits for not being married.
“I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:32-34). Paul is telling the Corinthians that it is easier to give undivided devotion to God if they aren’t married. From what I have gathered, providing for and raising a family takes some devotion and sacrifice; and sometimes people get so caught up in their family and marriage that they forget to turn to the Lord.
“I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:35). Paul told the Corinthians these things for their benefit, so that they may live in full devotion to God. If you can live your life focusing on God while being married, then go for it! However, we are not promised marriage; life does not revolve around being married. You can serve God whether you're single or not. Don’t dwell on the idea of needing to get married but rather, dwell on Jesus.
We need Him. Jesus. Because without His sacrifice, His blood, His everlasting grace, we would have absolutely no hope in going Heaven (1 Peter 1:3). It was unfair to Jesus that He had to go through an agonizing death. It should have been me and you who died on the cross. We deserve that death. We fail God daily. But through the immeasurable love of Christ Jesus we have hope (John 3:16). We need Him.
With Christian love, Jenny
Let me just say that my mission trip to New Zealand has definitely changed my life and I am beyond grateful for everyone who has supported me throughout this entire journey. I have a different perspective on life and on working for the Lord’s church.
Because of the new perspective I have recently gained, I started reflecting back on my life today. Memories from high school and conversations I’ve had with people in the past flooded my mind. I began to recall all of the opportunities that I had to talk to my friends about Christ, all of the conversations I’ve had that could have turned into me studying the Bible with them. I knew that my friends had been lead astray by false teachers and what did I do? I did nothing. Even when the door was wide open. Looking back at the missed opportunities hurts. I regret not talking to my friends about their eternal destiny. I regret it because now it seems as though the times of ample opportunity has passed; we’ve all gone our separate ways, off to college.
In the midst of the reflection, I began to wonder why. Why had I not seized those opportunities? Why didn't I show concern for my friends’ souls? I’ve determined that it was because of fear. I was afraid to lose my friends. I was afraid of saying the wrong thing. I was afraid of what people might think of me. I. Was. Afraid. But I can’t live a life full of fear, especially when souls are at stake.
The Bible says a lot about fear:
“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fear.” -Psalm 34:4
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9
“Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, you people in whose heart is My law: do not fear the reproach of men, nor be afraid of their insults.” -Isaiah 51:7
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” -John 14:27
“And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.’” -1 Peter 3:13-14
In all of Jesus' ministries that we read about in the Bible not once do we see Him shy away from teaching others. Not once did He show that He was worried about what others might think. Even the apostles were this way. In Acts, we constantly read about the apostles going back to cities that threatened to kill them if they continued to preach about Jesus. Not once did they show fear because God was with them. They knew that their reward was in heaven. They knew that being physically killed on earth for righteousness' sake could never cause spiritual death. "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).
As long as I have God with me, I shouldn’t be afraid. I can’t let past fear hold me back from spreading God’s word. There has been a lot of missed opportunities in the past but I can't let fear hold me back from seizing the new opportunities that I have each and every day. I choose to live a life that is fearless, a life that is full of spreading God’s love and light on everyone around me, a life modeled after Christ.
It has only been a day since I’ve gotten back from a trip to New Zealand and I’m still in awe of everything. The trip itself was definitely good for me. What really made an impact on my life was all of the training that we did to prepare us for spreading God’s word. The following quote from Don Humphrey was brought to our attention while training:
“The average member of the church of Christ has heard 4,000 sermons, sung 20,000 songs, participated in 8,000 public prayers…and converted zero sinners.”
Let that sink in for a moment.
I don’t know about you, but that hit me hard. I was doing everything in my power to ensure that I go to heaven when I die but I was overlooking God’s command to spread the gospel so that others will go to heaven also (Matthew 28:18-20). There are so many lost souls in the world and I wasn’t doing my part to help them.
I was guilty of making excuses. “I don’t know how to share the gospel with others,” “I don’t know the Bible well enough,” “I’m too busy” (if Satan can't make you bad, he’ll make you busy), “it’s not my talent,” “that’s what the preacher is for,” etc. It’s time to quit making excuses. It’s time to break the status quo of “the preacher does the elders’ work; the elders do the deacons’ work; the deacons don’t know what to do, and the members simply warm the pew.” In Matthew 28:18-20, everyone is called to reach the lost; not just the preacher, elders, or the deacons. Every. single. member. of Christ’s church is supposed to be making an effort to evangelize, to make disciples.
In the city where I was in New Zealand, the congregation size is about 60 members and the population of the city is about 500,000 people. It would hardly make a difference if I made one disciple every year for the next 15 years there; it would be a drop in the bucket. However, in theory, if each disciple won a single person to the Lord each year, it would only take 14-15 years for the congregation to win the entire city to Jesus.
We can’t expect one person to do all of the evangelizing for a congregation; they wouldn’t be very effective. It is up to the congregation to work together diligently in order to make an impact on the lost souls of the world.
Even though my mission trip has ended, I’m still on a mission to reach the lost. Are you willing to make that your mission too?
Fact about humans: none of us are perfect. We can strive for perfection but we will never be able to be perfect. We make mistakes. We mess up. We sin. We fail God far too often. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Thankfully, we have a God who gives multiple chances. Take the story of Jonah for instance. In Jonah 1:1-2, Jonah was charged with a task from God to go tell the people of Nineveh about Him. Now, Nineveh was not a very righteous city; in fact, I’ve heard it referred as being the “Sin-City of that day and age”. In verse 3 of Jonah chapter 1, we read that “Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” Jonah ran in the complete opposite direction of where he was supposed to go and tried to run away from God. Jonah messed up. Afterwards, he was thrown overboard a ship and swallowed by a great fish.
In Jonah 3:1-3, we read that God charged Jonah with the exact same command, to go to Nineveh and preach Him to the people there. God didn’t tell Jonah that he is a failure, He didn't tell him that he would never amount to anything, that he messed up big time. God was telling him to try again. Even though he messed up, God loved Jonah enough to give him a second chance.
In Luke 15 we read of the parable of the Prodigal Son. The son messed up, but the father welcomed him home with open arms full of love.
The book of Judges is a continuous cycle of the Israelites messing up and God saying “try again."
God isn't a father who puts down His children for messing up. He doesn’t hate us. He doesn’t tell us that we are a failure. It pains Him seeing us doing wrong, as it would any father who sees his children doing wrong; but He loves us enough to discipline us when we do wrong and gives us unending love and forgiveness.
“Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:9-11).
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Time and time again, God shows us His love and tells us to try again.
College is hard.
There are going to be times when you have multiple projects, assignments, and tests due in the same week.
There are going to be times when you have to be in five million different places at once.
There are going to be times when all you want to do is go home but you can’t.
There are going to be times when it seems like nothing is going your way.
There are going to be times when you are overwhelmed with stress.
You may feel like giving up, like you just want to run away from everything.
You may feel alone at times.
You may feel like you can’t do it anymore, that you aren’t ready for a life of being on your own.
Although those things may happen, you cannot let them get to you. Don’t let it consume every fiber of your being. It is so important to keep your focus on God; especially during the rough times. The earthly things you may turn to are not going to help you for eternity.
Your roommate can’t.
Ice cream can’t.
Although those things may help, but their effect is only temporary. Only God can bring you eternal peace.
Only God can bring you true joy that’s everlasting.
Only God will always be there for you.
Only God can truly comfort you.
Only God can give us hope.
“For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and joy are in His place.” (1 Chronicles 16:25-27)
“I know, O Lord, that Your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. Let Your steadfast love comfort me according to Your promise to Your servant. Let Your mercy come to me, that I may live; for Your law is my delight.” (Psalm 119:75-77)
“If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away and let not injustice dwell in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear. You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away. And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning. And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security. You will lie down, and none will make you afraid; many will court your favor. But the eyes of the wicked will fail; all way of escape will be lost to them, and their hope is to breathe their last.” (Job 11:14-20)
Focus on God. Don’t let earthly things turn your heart away from Him. God is there. Don’t just seek God’s help during the rough parts of life, look to Him during the good as well.
“I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all of my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed.” (Psalm 34:4-5)
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.
My name is Jennifer Odom and I've been a Christian since October 2011. I'm a 19-year-old sophomore 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.