You’re at a major life event (a wedding, graduation, etc.).
Everyone is buzzing around with happiness in the air.
Then something happens that reminds you of a loved one who passed away.
And then it hits you.
That loved one should have been there.
But they’re not there because death took them from this earth far too soon.
For a moment, you’re overwhelmed with grief.
For a moment, you’re frozen with tears running down your face.
For a moment, you long for that loved one to be there celebrating with you.
For a moment it seems impossible to feel happy at such a joyous occasion.
You begin to wonder if the grief will ever truly go away.
But then you realize that everything will be okay.
Everything will be okay because you remember that you have an awesome God who provides comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).
You have a God who loves and cares for us (1 John 4:7-11).
You have a God who knows what it’s like to have a loved one die (John 3:16).
You have a God who is always there for us in every situation (Matthew 28:20).
God’s got you during this wave of grief and He’ll continue to carry you after the grief passes and through the next wave that comes.
In that moment, you realize that grief never really truly goes away but God is always there.
In that moment of grief, you allow yourself to grieve. No one is ever happy all the time.
In that moment, you think about how much of a blessing that loved one was to you and then count the other blessings God has given you.
In that moment, you pray.
In that moment, you seek God for comfort.
In that moment, you trust in God and that’s why you know that everything will be okay.
I cried this morning during worship for the first time in a really long time...and that's okay!
I used to hold back my tears during worship until eventually I became numb to feeling the emotions that made me want to cry. I used to be embarrassed to cry during worship. It's not something that I usually see people do during worship so I thought that I was weak for being so emotional.
Recently, I have gotten myself back to where I get emotional during worship. I feel and understand the weight of the words we sing. I allow myself to be pricked by prayers and sermons and scripture. I am allowing myself to feel and not just go through the motions.
I have finally realized that it is perfectly okay to cry during worship and personal Bible study. It is okay to cry tears of joy and tears of sorrow.
It is okay to be overwhelmed with joy or overwhelmed with sorrow. Even Jesus cried and felt emotions deeply (i.e. when He was praying in Gethsemane, when Lazarus died, etc.).
When you listen and reason correctly, it should produce an emotional response. God's words are so powerful that we should feel emotions in response to their greatness.
It wasn't easy for me to get back to producing an emotional response during worship. It took me a while to knock down walls I had built and push past being numb to feeling deeply. It took hard work and determination to get to where I am today.
I am not ashamed for crying. If you are a crier, I hope that you're not ashamed either. We need to feel in order to better understand God's power and grace and mercy and forgiveness. We were given emotions for a reason. Let's use them to help us grow closer to God. Let's shift from just going through the motions to going through the emotions.
Forgiveness. It's what I need to work on. It's what I need to practice more. Because it's so easy to be angry and frustrated with someone. Because it's easy to hold on to that feeling of "they deserve to feel my anger". Because forgiving others is hard.
I'm working on being forgiving because it's commanded in the Bible. Because Jesus forgave me. Because I don't deserved to be forgiven and yet I am forgiven.
I'm not saying that we can't feel the emotions of anger or frustration. For even Jesus got frustrated and angry at times (driving out the money changers in the temple, the apostles falling asleep while he was praying in Gethsemane, etc.) but he was forgiving anyways.
If I were in Jesus' shoes, I would have been very angry and frustrated with those who were crucifying me. I wouldn't want to show them compassion or mercy or forgiveness. And yet, Jesus forgave them. "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). It would have been so easy for Jesus to be angry with the people. It would have been easy for him to save himself. It would have been easy for him but he chose the road of forgiveness.
Those who crucified Jesus didn't deserve to be forgiven. They deserved fire and brimstone because they killed the Son of God. They deserved the same death as Jesus on the cross. We deserve the same death because it was your sin and my sin that drove the nails through Jesus' hands and feet. He was on the cross because of you and me and yet he forgave us anyways.
We need to imitate Christ in every aspect of our lives. That includes being forgiving toward others no matter what. It may not be easy to forgive someone, but if Jesus forgave those who killed him, then we can forgive those who do us wrong. Remember the forgiveness Jesus showed us the next time we have to forgive others; it makes forgiveness a little bit easier to show.
Choose to follow Jesus down the road of forgiveness.
I recently had an audition for something that I really wanted. I made it to the callbacks but I didn’t get it. I was rejected. I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t take the rejection well. I wasn’t angry at the people in charge of the auditions. I wasn’t angry with those who were accepted. I was angry with myself. In that moment in time my best wasn’t good enough.
In that moment of rejection I began to become afraid. I was afraid to audition for other things that I had planned on. I wanted to back out for fear of being rejected again. Rejection isn’t easy to get through. It drags you through the dirt. But it’s up to you whether or not you dust yourself off and get back up. You can let rejection keep you down or you can rise above it and see it as a learning experience. You cannot give up after one failure or even after a thousand failures. We, as children of God, have hope. We have a loving God on our side who knows what we go through. Jesus was rejected by many but He didn’t let that stop Him.
It took me a while to realize that my worth is not determined by that moment of rejection. I am still myself. I am still a child of God. I am not defined by my setbacks. We grow from our trials (James 1:2-3). Growth can be painful but it is necessary and you don’t have to go through it alone. So many brothers and sisters in Christ were there to comfort me through this rejection. They were encouraging me by saying things like “you’re more than good enough, this one just wasn’t your timing” and “don’t let the road block keep you from succeeding.” They were there for me and that meant a whole lot.
Rise above the things that knock you down. Rejection and failure does not define your worth. And perhaps this wasn’t in God’s will for my life. Perhaps this is for the better. I can never really know for sure, but I trust in God. I trust that He knows what He’s doing and that He has an ultimate plan for my life, a plan far better than I could ever imagine. Place everything in God’s hands and you’ll make it through. You have an army of brothers and sister in Christ on your side. Get back up. Don’t be afraid to try again. Learn from the rejection and rise above it. I believe in you.
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?
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 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.