Tag Archives: Christian

Praying for Wendy Davis

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Image-1 (2)In 2013, Wendy Davis put on her pink shoes and fought strongly during her notorious thirteen-hour filibuster that served to block a Senate bill intended to create more restrictive abortion guidelines for the State of Texas. Though the bill was eventually passed, Davis did succeed in delaying the passage of this bill. While I am pro-life Christian, I do appreciate that we all have our differences on the topic of abortion. In regards to her filibuster, I simply could not wrap my head around someone fighting so hard and so long just so women could abort their babies after the 20 week gestation mark. And I just could not comprehend why the pro-choice Davis would not agree in the upgrading of abortion facilities and want them to become classified as surgical centers. Here she is, wanting to terminate pregnancies well into the second trimester knowing these babies are fully developed and could survive outside the womb and yet not want the utmost safety for the mother going through this abortion procedure? I neither agreed with nor understood her thought process.

Davis was also a teenage mother who successfully went to college at Texas Christian University and earned her law degree at Harvard University. Davis was a successful litigation attorney, became on entrepreneur and opened Safeco Title Company, served on her local City Council, and eventually became a State Senator for Texas. I would think that these life experiences would serve as a source of encouragement to other young mothers, especially single mothers since her adult life began in just this style. Wendy Davis chose life for her child at the young age of 19 and she is a successful woman today. Why is she not inspiring other young women down the same path? Isn’t she proud of all that she accomplished, considering all the obstacles she overcame?

Just last week, Wendy Davis released a campaign memoir book that revealed that she had two abortions as a young woman. My heart broke for this poor woman…. again. In her book, titled Forgetting to be Afraid, she justifies both abortions – one was an ectopic pregnancy and the other had a severe brain abnormality. I’ve read a lot about both issues. An ectopic pregnancy is dangerous and considered a high-risk pregnancy. Many women generally choose to abort their baby for their own personal safety after being informed that the baby will likely not survive. Ectopic pregnancies can be successful; therefore terminating them early in the pregnancy is considered an elected abortion. This procedure does end the life of a fully developing, viable baby.

Davis’ second abortion was decided upon after her baby was diagnosed with Dandy-Walker Syndrome. Davis writes these words in her memoir, “In our doctor’s office, with tears flowing down both our faces, Jeff and I looked at our baby daughter’s beating heart on the sonogram screen for the last time. And we watched as our doctor quieted it. It was over. She was gone. Our much loved baby was gone.”
Wendy Davis, a highly educated woman, failed to educate herself on the diagnosis of her child. Children with Dandy-Walker syndrome do survive! They live full lives and experience love and happiness just like any other child. But she never allowed that child to live her life and be a blessing to others. She didn’t allow her child to overcome obstacles and achieve victories. Wendy Davis chose and watched her daughter’s heart beat for the last time.

Choosing to stop the beating heart of your child is not love. Abortion is not the act of choosing love.

I think it’s past time we pray for Wendy Davis. She has fought a good battle for the pro-choice forum. She has chosen abortion herself and knows the suffering that this choice creates. Imagine if her heart was changed and she became a voice for the pro-life movement? Imagine the day Wendy Davis puts on her pink shoes and announces a filibuster and fights for the rights of the unborn. It can happen! As Christians, we all at one time accepted the lies of satan and made choices that contradicted the commandments in the Bible. And as Christians, we have a testimony that announces to the world the forgiveness of Jesus Christ and how the Son of God became our Savior and carried us away from the pits of hell. Somebody prayed for us. And we need to start praying for Wendy Davis in anticipation of the day she accepts the love of Jesus Christ.

#prayingforWendyDavis

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Grace and Mercy

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graceGod’s grace is likely one of the most esteemed and fundamental principles of the Christian faith.  As Christians, we have all been saved by the grace of God through salvation.  He promises us in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Grace is an unmerited gift from the Holy Spirit; it frees us from our sins.  There is no other way to please God than by accepting His mercy and grace, and living and walking daily in His presence.

However, grace doesn’t stop here.  Grace and mercy go hand in hand and both are something Christians need to be practicing and extending to others on a daily basis.  Grace began in the manifestation of God.  The greatest appearance of grace was the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, born to the unwed Virgin Mary.  We believe in Jesus Christ and believe that He died on the cross to bear our sins.  He lived a sinless and blameless life yet was scorned and shamed.  He was whipped and pierced for our transgressions.  He was labeled a criminal and hung on a cross.  He died a cruel and painful death because of our sins.  Jesus hung from the cross, gasping for air and spoke, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”  This is the saving grace of God.  Even as sinners, as people who mocked and rejected Him, He never abandoned His place on earth.  He went as far as to ask the Father to forgive us for the pain we caused Him as He hung and died on that cross.

We aren’t deserving of God’s grace and mercy yet we receive them and treasure them.  We put our faith in the heart of the Gospel that defines the true meaning of love.  And while we are never outside of God’s grace and mercy, as sinners we acknowledge the need for His merciful grace on a daily basis.

While we accept God’s grace and mercy, how well do we extend the same blessings to other people? Sin is sin in the eyes of God; our sin is no less than other peoples.  Are our family members, neighbors, and enemies beyond OUR grace and mercy?  Are their sins more grievous, is their lifestyle more sinful, is their life more in shambles than our own?  We all at one time or another reveled in our sins, and if some of us were to be honest, we may still be delighting in our sins behind closed doors.  We are all disobedient and we follow our sinful thoughts and desires.  We have all turned our backs on the Creator; we deserve our punishment for our wrongdoings.  But because God loved us unconditionally, because God is rich in His mercy and grace, we have been made alive in Christ Jesus.  It is by grace that we have been saved.  And yet so many Christians do not truly understand the meaning of grace and mercy.

What is your response when you see a person hurting?  What is your response when you see a person out of jail and looking for a job?  What about that homeless man asking for food or spare change?  What is your reaction to the LGBT community, persons from another faith, or people with a different skin color than you?  Do you offer up that same grace and mercy that Christ so freely gave to you?

The issue of extending grace has been heavy on my heart for years.  To be honest, it was not an easy lesson and one that I had to truly be mindful about.  It was too easy for me to look the other way, to ignore those who were different than me, or to simply shrug my shoulders at someone who was suffering the consequences for their own choices and actions.  What I learned through my lessons of grace was that I too could be suffering greatly from my own choices in life.  The difference was, that I accepted God’s grace for my life.  In the same way, we ought to be like Christ extending grace to others.  1 Peter 2:21 says this, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

This is our test of faith.  How well do we truly accept and appreciate God’s grace?  Do we offer grace to others for their choices, even if their choices hurt or wronged us?  Do we love our neighbors as we love Christ?  Do we love our enemies well and ask God to bless them? Do you show mercy and compassion for those who are hurting or struggling in life?

Grace is a gift to us from God.  Let us not dismiss the example of Jesus Christ lest we become like the Pharisees who knew their bible and yet missed the heart of Christ.  Let us begin to extend grace and mercy to everyone we encounter.

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Blessed are the Peacemakers

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peacemakers

Can you think of a single day in your life where there has not been conflict with another person? How about conflict that happens to be around you but doesn’t involve you personally? There always seems to be some form of tension or bickering in our lives. There is conflict on the national level, in our homes and in relationships, and in our work places. As hard as we try and as perfect as we think we are, the truth is – we all have trouble avoiding conflict.

Matthew 5:9 reads, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Peace does not come from an organization or by man alone. It comes only through Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Jesus wants us to be His ambassadors, a member of His peace corp. Not only does He want us to cease fighting with others, He wants us to also make peace. And it all begins with the work Christ does in us first.

As sinful humans, we need to recognize our own spiritual poverty and admit that we need Jesus as our Savior. We must humble our hearts and mourn the fact that we often wander away from God. We must surrender ourselves completely to the only One who can do something for us and in us. We must become a new creation as written in 2 Corinthians 5:17-18, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” Just as God did, He asks us to bring peace first and then focus on reconciliation.

As a Christian we must desire righteousness and aspire to make things right in our personal lives and for those around us. We must desire mercy because our hearts are thankful for the mercy bestowed upon us. We must desire a pure heart because what’s in our hearts produces our behavior. When our outward expressions match our inward conditions, then peacemaking will be possible. We must want to have right relationships with one another. But we cannot be peacemakers until we are at peace with God.

The problem does not lie within our marriages or children. It does not lie within our communities and nation. The problem is not out there… the problem is in our hearts. Until we have peace with God, we are not in a position to be peacemakers. We must allow God to fully meet our needs and rest in His promises. It is only then that we cease seeking to have control over people and manipulate circumstances in order to have our needs met. We will relax knowing God has already met our needs through Christ Jesus.

What is the source of our conflicts and disputes? James 4:1-3 says it best – “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” It’s perfectly clear, the source of our conflicts is our insufficiency and our desire to make circumstances and people do what we want to fill a void. The truth is that only God can fill that void. When we are at peace with God, we do not lust and over desire. While it’s okay to desire things it becomes sin when those desires become more important than obeying God, treating people respectfully, and tending to our relationships. It is with lust that we become envious and quarrel. All of this can be quieted when we realize that God “will meet all of our needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). We must allow God to meet our deepest needs and then we can pursue peace.

How do we pursue peace? Romans 14:19 tells us “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

We are required to INITIATE peace. God wants us to be part of the holy order, for us to be the first to initiate peace. Are you waiting for the other person to take the first step, even if they are the ones who wronged you? The Bible tells us that “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” We are told that even if we are the person who has been wronged that we are CALLED to initiate peace. Someone has to be the mature person in every conflict and take the first step towards peace. Why not you? Are you the mature person?

We then are required to COMMUNICATE with love. Ephesians 4:15 commands us, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” This is the principle of good biblical communication – speaking clearly, in truth, and in love. Never speak out of anger or hold on to your negative feelings. Nowhere in the Bible does it tell us to speak the truth in love… as long as it works. We need to keep communicating even when the other person doesn’t respond the appropriate way and even if they never come around to listening.

When communicating, our voices must remain calm and our words need to be void of manipulation. Don’t punish the other person with silence or act holier by simply not arguing at all. Ephesians 2:26 remind us, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry”. If we conceal our anger instead of calmly talking it out with the other person, we begin to build up resentment. Sometimes we may even forget why we became angry in the first place! Our hearts become hardened and toxic and we begin to take everything personally, becoming easily offended. Resolve your differences as quickly as possible and move forward.

Ephesians 4:29 reminds us of this when communicating – “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Do not bring up what happened days, weeks, months, or even years ago. Use words that are only good for improvement, be positive and fruitful.

Nothing should come out of our mouth that doesn’t already have a solution. And invite them into your solution and refrain from commanding them to do and see things your way. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). The same must be true for our speech. Avoid criticism and use only positive words that are intended to build up the other person and the relationship.

Now we can begin to NEGOTIATE. Conflicts begin when two or more people believe they are right about something. But we must remind ourselves that every time there is a conflict, there will always be a solution. There is a creative third alternative than your way and their way. Only then when you look at everything, can you begin to get creative and find a solution. Be honest about the true needs, compromise. Give up complete control. You don’t have to agree with someone, if it’s a non-moral issue, just simply agree to disagree, it doesn’t really matter. God created us all differently! Sometimes we have different opinions to keep us out of trouble. We must give away our selfishness, our preferences, and love.

God made us for relationships. We are blessed with opportunities to share, love, and be flexible. It’s what it means to live in this world and be a part of the community. Intimacy brings about conflict and the resolutions of conflict produce peace and love. Pursue the things that make peace and the building up of one another. Don’t be shocked by it, afraid of it, or try to escape it; it’s a part of His plan. As we negotiate our differences we find ourselves in a better place.

The final step in creating peace is to ABDICATE. For some of us, letting go and moving forward is the hardest part of creating peace but must let go of past wrongs, all of them. Don’t collect and hoard past sins of other people. Don’t get historical in arguments or use them as a leverage to get your way. To be a peacemaker, we MUST let things go. Let go of our need to be right. It’s worthless, it has no value, and nobody is impressed with how many times you’ve been right. This means we need to relinquish our need to win. The reality is, we need to lose some argument on occasion. And it’s ok if only you and God know you are right. But you cannot be right all the time. Humility reminds us that we just might be wrong. Just the consideration of possibly being wrong causes us to be humble and yield to conflict. This does not include moral and ethical issues as we must not compromise our values. We are talking about humility that we are poor in spirit. We yield because we recognize that we are sinners and that we make mistakes.

Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Aren’t you glad that God initiated peacemaking with us first? He didn’t wait for us to come and die for our sins. He didn’t meet us halfway; He met us all the way. He sent His only begotten Son to die FOR US. Jesus came in the appearance of a man – the creator of the universe was willing to be seen as wrong. He hung on the cross to be seen as a criminal even though He was a Savior, to be seen as taking on the sin of the whole world, to be seen in a guilty state. He didn’t need to be seen as right or as a god in that moment and in doing so, He became the peacemaker. He asks us to repent, to turn away from the ways we think will fulfill us so that we can be turned humbled before Him.

As Christians, we are most like him when we initiate peace, communicate peace, negotiate peace, and when we abdicate and relinquish so that peace can happen. The blessings is this – we will be called the children of God. When we become peacemakers, people will look at us, recognize us, and see Jesus in us. He initiated, He communicated, He negotiated and He abdicated. We must become the catalyst and in ALL circumstances promote peace and bring people together. We must help others meet their Creator and become a part of the peacemaking process.

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Should Christians Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

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St Patrick Shamrock ImageThe life of Saint Patrick remains wrapped in mystery still today. Is March 17th a day marked with pagan rituals and traditions or is this a day for us to honor and remember Saint Patrick for his life of loving and serving God?

Saint Patrick was born in 385 AD in Scotland.  As a teenager, he was captured to Ireland by thieves and sold into slavery as a sheep herder where he spent six years enslaved as their captive. During his captivity, he turned to God for comfort and found a passion for Christian faith.  At the age of 20, Patrick had a dream where God encouraged him to escape slavery in Ireland and run to the coast.  Back home in Scotland, he was overwhelmed with dreams to move to France and begin studies for the priesthood.  As an ordained Bishop, Saint Patrick spent the next 40 years converting pagan Irelands to Catholicism and building churches and schools for the new believers before his death on March 17th.  Rumors of miracles circulated among the people and his mission for conversions became something to honor and celebrate.  Although he has never been canonized by a Pope, Saint Patrick remains on the list today of saints in the Roman Catholic Church.

Few letters exist of Saint Patrick that gives a narrative of his life.  However, this writing is believed to have been written during his time in captivity: “The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same.”

What is the controversy over the observation of Saint Patrick’s life?

While many believe Saint Patrick lived a life of serving and converting, others claim that he murdered the Irish pagans who refused to convert to Christianity, believing that he is the person to blame for the Roman Catholic Inquisition that took the lives of more than six million Irish citizens.  The story is told that those who refused to convert were bound and thrown out to sea or were tied onto stakes and left to starve. While Saint Patrick didn’t eliminate paganism, it is believed that he was the catalyst that brought Catholicism to Ireland.

Pagans celebrate the spring equinox, which just so happens to fall near March 17th.  The pagans refer to this season of nature’s rebirth as the Festival of Trees or the Feast of Ostara, the fertility goddess.  The pagans are believed to choose a god or goddess from ancient Ireland during these festivities to praise and pay tribute to.

St. Patrick’s Day symbols are also thought to bring respect and admiration to paganism.  The Wiccan church believes that all symbols associated with St. Patrick’s Day are founded in the worship of goddesses and witchcraft.  Christians believe that any use of pagan or occult symbols are from satan and should be strictly forbidden.  Scripture tells us in Matthew 5:19-20, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

  • The SHAMROCK –Pagans used the shamrock, also known as the Seamroy, to worship the three faces of the goddess found in the moon long before Christianity existed in Ireland.  They also use the shamrock as a hex symbol that curses and plagues others.  Saint Patrick used the shamrock during his sermons to represent the holy trinity – God, Son, and Holy Ghost.
  • The color GREEN –The original color linked with the St. Patrick’s Day was at one time blue, but the color green has grown in popularity overtime.  Today, March 17th is associated with the color green, maybe because of the color of the shamrock, the most notable symbol of St. Patrick’s Day, or to represent the rebirth of spring.  Pagans believe that evil spirits will pinch you if you are not wearing the color green on this specific day.
  • The LEPRECHAUN – These little green, mischievous men with beards and hats like to stir up trouble and wreak havoc.  A fairy in Irish folklore, they are also supposed to spend their time making shoes and storing away coins in hidden pots of gold found at the end of rainbows.  If caught by a human, they have magical powers to award three wishes to their captor in exchange for their freedom.  The leprechaun is a pagan idol used to observe and celebrate the rebirth of spring.
  • The IRISH GOOD LUCK CHARMS – Good luck charms are forces that are believed to shape events in a person’s life. Charms are said to help people become successful, provide advantageous opportunities, and define circumstances and many Irish wear good luck charms.  Some even believe the work “luck” is derived from the word “lucifer”.  This would mean that to wear or hold good luck charms, it would be the same as wearing a demon or carrying one around in your pocket.  Christians must put their faith in God and cast away in all superstitious philosophies.  Maybe we should reconsider the term “good luck” when sending blessings to others?
  • The CELTIC CROSS – Legend tells us that Saint Patrick combined the Christian cross with the Irish sun cross to represent the importance of the Christian cross to pagan groups.  Because the cross stands higher than the circle, this represents Christ’s authority over the pagan sun.  However, this theory combines pagan practices and Christianity which we are forbidden in scripture.  Let us be reminded evil will corrupt truth.
  • The SNAKES – Folktales recount that St. Patrick stood at the top of a hill and with the swoop of a wooden staff expelled all snakes from Ireland.  The truth is that Ireland was never really a habitat to snakes of any kind.  While the legend is false, it is assumed that the tale is a metaphor of the tattoo of a serpent that many Druids wore and that Saint Patrick banished the serpent tattoo (or snake) when he allegedly banished the pagan religion.
  • CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE – A traditional meal for Irish Americans is to serve corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day. Cabbage is very popular in Ireland; however corned beef has evolved as a very popular dish over the years.  Irish bacon was once a popular food item to be eaten on this day but has likely been substituted for corned beef to save costs.

The question remains, is St. Patrick’s Day a Christian holiday?  It is in my opinion that it is not.  Pagan practices and celebrations were in motion long before Saint Patrick began his mission of converting pagans to Catholicism.  Because of this truth, the links of many of the symbols and customs were already longstanding pagan traditions.  I believe that Saint Patrick’s death just so happened to coincide with the pagan festivals of spring’s rebirth and that overtime the two somehow became one.  The devil is very clever like that.  1 Peter 5:8 reminds us, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  The devil knows the Bible and he mixes truth with sin to confuse us and ultimately destroy us.  Be aware of these ploys!

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What is Lent?

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Lent is the 40 day journey (excluding Sundays) set aside in the church calendar in preparation for Easter. The time spent during this period is to be devoted to prayer, repentance, and self -reflection of one’s life. Although not every church or denomination observes Lent, many Christians choose to observe this season as a way to keep their focus and shift their thoughts on the forthcoming death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lent is not specifically mentioned in scriptures and therefore is not a command or requirement.

The rules for fasting during the Lent season vary from denomination and geographical location. Generally, those who fast during the Lent season, fast six days a week over the course of six weeks. Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent and was instituted to bring the exact number of fasting days before Easter to 40. The types of food and drink people fast from also vary but generally include meat, animal products, and soda. In some religions, the fasting modifications have relaxed drastically to make the process more simple and easy. Today though, Christians are still encouraged to give up something for Lent as a form of self-denial.

Another, less popular, Lent tradition is to limit your meals to just one per day. Traditionally, this meal would be eaten in the evening or at 3pm and should be void of meats and dairy. The absence of dairy products led to the tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday (also known as Fat Tuesday) and the blessing of the Easter eggs. The Lent practices for fasting have evolved overtime to allow for additional meals for strength as well as eating fish, other meats, and dairy.

Does the number 40 sound familiar? The number 40 holds special significance for Christians. Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai in preparation to receive the 10 Commandments (Exodus 34:28). Elijah walked 40 days and 40 nights before the Lord appeared to him on the mountain of God (1 Kings 19:8). And the most importantly, Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness fasting while continually being tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:2). Ash Wednesday also symbolizes the beginning of Jesus’ 40 day fasting and prayer while in the wilderness.

The choice to observe Lent should be a personal decision. When deciding what to give up for Lent, do so with a grateful and humble heart. Don’t give up something that doesn’t take effort or act like a Pharisee and look for loopholes in the guidelines. Fasting without the desire to renew your relationship with Christ is a form of blasphemy. Whether you fast from something small, give up your meals during the day, or add something to your schedule during this season, the effects of atonement and self-discipline will astound you and your relationship with our Savior will forever be changed.

While the fasting practices have changed over the years, the intent for the Lent season has remained the same – to repent of your personal sins, to renew your faith and commitment to the Church, and to prepare your heart for the return of Jesus Christ. How do you strengthen your relationship with Christ during the Lent season?

Here are some great ways for your family to celebrate Lent together:

  • Begin a Lenten devotional that accommodates the whole family.
  • Read your Bible and be intentional about memorizing scriptures.
  • Simplify your schedules and eliminate luxuries.
  • Serve others with the hope of sharing Christ.
  • Replace urges with time spent in prayer.
  • Walk humbly and keep your focus on Jesus.  Don’t publicize your Lent practices and bring the attention on yourself.  This time is about reflection on Christ, not your personal accomplishments.

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What is Ash Wednesday?

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ash wednesdayAsh Wednesday celebrates the beginning of the Lent season, the 40 day period leading up to Easter Sunday. This day is celebrated on the seventh Wednesday leading up to Easter and follows Shrove Tuesday (also known as Fat Tuesday).   This season is meant to spend time reflecting on your personal life and penance for your sins.  The 40 day Lenten journey leads us to the ultimate redemption through Jesus Christ’s resurrection and atonement for all of man’s sins.

The Ash Wednesday ceremony, originally called dies cerinum which means the day of ashes, dates back to the 8th century.  But the season of “repentance” dates back to biblical times.  In Leviticus 16:34, the Lord established an annual day of repentance for the Israelites saying, “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.”  In the old tradition, those offenders who had committed grievous sins would come before the priest wearing sackcloth.  Wearing rough material or animal hair was meant to show an outward demonstration of an inward sorrow and shame.  The priest would then sprinkle ashes on their head and bless them.  They were expected to spend the next 40 days in penance and reconciliation and would return to the priest on Maundy Thursday for their first communion following their repentance.

Christians today have been blessed with the blood of Jesus Christ who made the greatest atonement for our sins.  However, many Christians continue the tradition with a time of fasting and prayer.  We spend this time of year bringing our hearts back in accordance with the will of God and giving thanks for the atonement made by Jesus Christ.

During an Ash Wednesday observance service, the cross is marked in ashes to the forehead of each church member to signify an inward repentance.  This process is meant to humble our hearts and remind us of the sacrifices made for our eternal life with Christ.  The service brings our focus back to the mission of the Church and the sacrifice Christ made on our behalf.  It is encouraged to spend time reflecting on the last year of your life and giving a greater commitment to God and the Church.

The ashes are a symbol of man’s mortality and remind us that life is not guaranteed. Ecclesiastes 12:7 tells us, “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”   Traditionally, the ashes used in an Ash Wednesday ceremony come from burning the palm branches used in the Easter service the previous year.  The ashes are blessed with holy water and rest with burning incense to create a pleasant scent until the next Ash Wednesday service. 

Because Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent are not specifically mentioned in the Bible, Christians are free to observe this time as they desire.  The most popular method for celebration is fasting, or giving something up that would be difficult during the Lent season.  Others add an activity such as a daily devotional.  Both are great methods that lead you constantly back to the Lord, reminding us of our need for repentance and the need for our Savior.  Any activity chosen during this season is meaningless if not done with the intent for spiritual renewal and repentance.

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How Should Christians Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

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vday1Valentine’s Day… dare I say it’s probably a more loathed holiday versus a loved holiday, contrary to its theme and modern intent?  Christians have been very bold in their disgrace towards the commercialization of Easter and Christmas; why are we not as vocal about Valentine’s Day?  And should we?  Although it is a holiday aimed at sharing love with those closest to us, is it a secular celebration?  What are the origins of Valentine’s Day and are there really Christian foundations in this holiday? Is there any harm in cupid, red hearts, candy, flowers, and romantic dinners?

At one time, a pre-Roman pastoral festival known as Lupercalia was observed from February 13th through the 15th.  This three-day festival time of celebration was acclaimed to refine the city, deter evil spirits, and increase health and fertility.  As Christianity continued to grow, the festival was adapted over time by different cultures and people began to add their own customs.

The patron St. was a priest and physician in ancient Rome and was well-known for his kindness and generosity towards others.  He spent much of his time caring for the poor, performing good deeds, and healing the sick and afflicting.  He was arrested by the Roman emperor Claudius Gothicus (268-270 AD) during the time of Christian persecution.  During his time under arrest he healed his attending officer’s blind, adopted daughter which led to the officers’ family’s conversion to Christianity.  Gothicus heard of these “deeds” and ordered St. Valentine to be beheaded on February 14th.

While the Lupercalia festival was still highly respected, it was Pope Gelasius who officially added February 14th as a holiday on the church list in 496 AD, known as St. Valentine’s Day.  From that point forward, this day was honored and celebrated in memory of St. Valentine for his life of service.  The new name of the Lupercalia festival was easily adapted and new elements to the holiday were quickly added into the fold.  The emphasis on the holiday was never meant to reflect romantic love but to honor St. Valentine and mirror agape love and goodwill towards all people.  It was never about cards, flowers, and chocolate candy.  But somehow the commercialization has managed to taint the holiday and steer our focus away from loving others in need.

God is not opposed to us loving others; it’s quite the opposite.  He commands us to love others unconditionally.  God wants us to show love to others through words and actions, Let us not love in word or talk bur in deed and in truth,” 1 John 3:18.  While God wants romantic love shared between a husband and wife, He wants us to show love to others as well.  We should be doing both year-round, not just on a single day when an overly-commercialized holiday says we should be showing love to our significant other.  It should be our mission to love others at all times and make sure our actions show God’s love.

Romans 15:13 says this, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  This is the highest and most respected form of love.  As Christians, we certainly need to love and honor the spouse God blessed us with, but we need to do away with our love for “things”.  Let’s celebrate the holiday in memory of Saint Valentine – by doing something special and anonymously for someone in need.  Spend the day and your money modestly on others.

Click HERE for some Valentine family games that celebrate God’s love and HERE for Valentine devotionals.

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What Does the Bible Say About Tattoos?

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031Tattoos, at one time, were thought to be a mark of rebellion, a sign of adulthood and the freedom to make your own choices with your own body and no parent could stop you. As the years have progressed, Christians have continued with this trend of new-found independence and started putting Christian tattoos on their body to represent their faith and belief in the Bible and Jesus Christ. Others believe that all tattoos, regardless of their significance or symbol of your religion, are a mark of the beast and should be strictly forbidden. These theories confuse both Christians and non-Christians causing judgment to easily swell. The question remains – What is tattooing? And what does God say about tattoos? Are there really such things as Christian tattoos or is this an oxymoron?

The Bible speaks of tattoos (some translations use the word “marks”) as early as the beginning of time. In Leviticus 19, the Lord is speaking to Moses, giving the command that he must go and share with the Israelites; “‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.’” This command seems simple enough! The origin of the tattoo was rooted and practiced in the demonic and pagan realm. The tattoos were given during religious ceremonies and were intended to put the bodily soul in accordance with supernatural forces. Many times dancing and chanting were also done during these tattoo ceremonies to exorcise demons. Regardless if your Bible uses the word tattoos or marks, the context of the word heeds a warning to the Israelites from joining occult practices and entering false religions. Be assured, this is STILL a warning for us today!!

The Bible also teaches us that our bodies are a holy temple for the Lord Jesus Christ in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” As believers, the Holy Spirit resides in our bodies as our conscience and voice of God and Truth. The scripture is very clear about this issue – our bodies are not our own. We must treat our bodies respectably and we must pray extremely hard before making any kind of permanent mark on the Lord’s dwelling.

And what is the stuff about the “mark of the beast”? 2 Timothy 3:1 warns us, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.” Many believe we are living in the end times and that even today “cutting the flesh” allows satan and the demonic realm to easily enter your body. This blood-letting practice has origins in the cultic dominion (as stated above). We even read in the New Testament about Legion (Mark 5:1-9) who was possessed by demons and attempted to cut himself with stones to unleash the evil spirits locked inside his body. This serves as another illustration that mentions the cutting of the skin and its relationship with the occult and the demonic origins.

This command is not just an outdated Old Testament law. This is a moral law and was applicable then as much as it is now. It is just as important as many others given to Moses to share with the Israelites – do not make idols for yourselves (Lev 5:4), do not steal (Lev 5:11), and do not make your daughter a prostitute (Lev 5:29), among many others.

If you are a Christian with a tattoo, spend time in prayer asking God to cleanse your soul and use the mark on your body as a testament to his love and grace. Romans 8:28 reminds us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Have faith and ask God to use you for His greater purpose. If you are struggling with the desire for a new tattoo, spend time in prayer. Then spend more time in prayer. Ask God what He wants marked on His dwelling place. Ask God what He wants His money spent on. Are you willing to take that chance to allow evil spirits to enter your soul through this practice of blood-letting?

As a reminder, do not judge those who have tattoos. We do not know where their heart was when they received their tattoos and we do not know if they had received the word of God about this very issue. We cannot testify for them about receiving the facts and origins of tattoos. We must simply pray for them and ask God to use them to bring others to Christ.

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Testimony – I am Redeemed. I am Loved.

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testimonyOn this very day last year I publicly shared my testimony and wanted to share it on this blog as well.  I woke up that morning and immediately my mind wandered, just like it does most of the time.  I knew that day was coming; I had thought about that day for years.  I hadn’t planned to blog about the significance of that date but there I found myself writing.  I started writing just to let go of the baggage I carried but also so that one day my boys could read about their momma’s testimony and know how much I wanted to be their mommy.  On that day, I decided to share with whoever was reading whether it was just one person or 3,000 people what that day means to me.

I prayed and pleaded with God about what He wanted for my life.  I finally let go and let God speak to me.  This is what I heard, “My love, you think you’re finished with your story, but you have no clue.  There is one thing that you and I both know you think about secretly in the dark that I want you to bring to light.  HELP my children.”  He told me to deal with this, speak the word, and finish my story.

Today, I’m wishing a Happy 16th Birthday to my UNBORN BABY… due date January 5, 1998.

Why am I telling something so personal?  Believe me, I NEVER wanted to.  God convicted my heart one day and it hasn’t stopped yearning for these unborn babies.  I want to help the people who have made this decision to forgive themselves and I want to hopefully convince someone who is contemplating abortion that you don’t just “do it” and it’s over.  You have to deal with this for the rest of your life.  I have eleven years of school pictures I’ve missed out on and I want them to understand that this decision will affect them for the rest of their lives.  Here’s my story:

Matthew 19:14 Jesus said, “Let the little children
come to me, and do not hinder them, for the
kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

I found out a few days before I graduated from high school that I was pregnant.  I didn’t believe in killing a baby and I didn’t want to kill this baby.  A baby made out of sin, yes, but it was my baby. My boyfriend didn’t want me to keep the baby and even told me I didn’t have a choice, that I was having an abortion.  I begged him to let me keep the baby and even told him child support wasn’t needed.  I was already showing and attached to my baby.  I was almost at the limit to have an abortion which made it that much more difficult.  I was over three months.  I had been reading up on pregnancy and trying to eat healthier so my baby could grow big and strong in my womb.  I was willing to do this as a single mother and never ask one thing of him, but he didn’t care.

I had always believed that a baby is a human from conception and you could never convince me otherwise.  Others told me it was just an embryo and to think of it like it was a fish.  But I knew its heart was beating and God knew that baby before it was in my womb.  Regardless, I allowed myself to be taken to the abortion clinic.  I cried as we were walking up.  As I lay on that cold table with my feet in stirrups, looking at the doctor that was going to take this life out of me, I wondered if he had kids.  I wondered what he thought about what I was doing.  I wondered if he knew I didn’t want to do it, that I had been threatened and convinced otherwise.  When he stuck that ultrasound tool on me to see where the baby was and how far along I was he didn’t move the monitor where I couldn’t see.  I looked at that perfect baby floating around and moving in my womb.  I saw life.  In less than one minute, that life would no longer be in my womb, it would stop growing instantly and there would be no more creation inside of me.  It was already a human being growing, forming, so it could look like me and every other human being that God had created.  Two years from that moment, it would have been giggling and jabbering and writing all over the walls.  I saw creation and life, even through my sin.

I had an abortion that day, with a baby that was due in January of the following year, a baby that I think of everyday of my life and always will.  That baby was made out of sin, and so have a million more babies that have grown up to serve God in powerful ways.  I left that clinic that day, and I was no longer pregnant.  God cried that day and I cried with Him.  I was sick with myself.  We had just eliminated a problem that would have only been in the way of our future. This baby needed my womb to survive in a little while longer and it had been destroyed, without even knowing how to fight or cling to me for dear life.

That day I did something I would take back right now, only to see that child’s smile, only so I could have been a better person a lot sooner.  I look around my house, and sometimes my imagination runs wild enough to imagine that my now 16 yr old child would have been a Christian by now.  Maybe if it was a girl, we’d be getting pedicures together today or maybe if it was a boy, he’d be pitching the baseball to my husband.  Maybe this child of mine would have braces and be coming up to me right now to ask if their friend could spend the night.  Just maybe….  I wish this part of my life could be turned the other way around.  Maybe I would have considered abortion but in the end decided against it and had the baby.  Then I wouldn’t have to wonder who it was.  A boy or a girl?  My child would have a name and a personality and a LIFE.

There’s always reasons, they say, that life turns out the way it is.  What reason was there for this?   I had just killed my own child.  How could God ever love and forgive such a shameful act when I couldn’t even forgive myself?  My baby never had the chance to breathe one breath outside of my womb.  Babies fight for their lives every single day and parents grieve because their baby didn’t make it.  How could people be so selfish and how could I now be one of those people?  I never got to see what God could have made out of such a tragedy.

I was now going through the worst depression of my life.  The pain of holding my stomach and no longer eating for two and preparing for our future hit me hard every single day that my belly wasn’t growing.  I never felt those first kicks.  I never got that chance.  Being a mommy was all I wanted since I was 13.  I was 18 now and didn’t have a clue where my life was going.  I was so depressed that I just did not care about anything.  I tried so hard to move on.  I wasn’t happy and really never moved forward or tried to get my life back on the right path.  The depression kept me in the same cycle and I found myself pregnant again just 4 months after my first abortion.

Yes, I had gotten pregnant again.  I became angry all over again, total opposite of what I thought I would feel to have the chance to be a mommy again.  What I had imagined wasn’t what I was feeling at all.  This time I was mad that a new baby was in there when the other baby should have been in there.  I resented this pregnancy because I shouldn’t have been five weeks pregnant; I should have been seven or eight months pregnant.  I was so blurred and clouded with confusion, that I didn’t beg this time, I didn’t plead to keep this baby.  We’re supposed to learn from our mistakes.  I hadn’t learned from mine.  I lay on that same table with my legs up in stirrups, and I don’t mean to make light of this situation.  To me, I saw it for what it was.  There is no way I would have been pregnant if I had not had the first abortion.  I should be wobbling around with a huge belly and feeling the baby move and curl up inside me, feeling life.  Instead I felt nothing.  I didn’t deserve to be a mother.

By this time I truly felt that I didn’t deserve happiness or anyone to love.  Not after what I had done.  I deserved to be condemned to Hell, the place I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to be.

Through my abortions, I’ve learned that life can be redeemed, that I have been redeemed.  I’ve learned that God does forgive me and that He does still love me.  I’ve learned that I do deserve to be loved and I’ve learned that my friends still love me, despite my previous choices.  I’ve learned that abortion is not an easy answer and the problem isn’t gone within minutes.  I’ve learned that the effects of abortion are life-long.  I hurt every day and every year for the children I do not have in my arms.

I had always worried about judgment from others.  I no longer worry about that.  I’ve figured out that even the “perfect” people have baggage and they too have made mistakes.  But know this, I only share my testimony because I want people to know who I am, why I believe in a God I’ve never seen, and how I long to fulfill His purpose through me.  I know what abortion is and I know the effects they cause a woman.  Choose life for your child and don’t make the same mistakes I did.

-Shayna

A Jesus Lovers New Year’s Resolution

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newyear2It’s the end of another year and the majority of us are eagerly awaiting the chance for new beginnings and blessings.  We certainly never look at the new year as a time for added stress, pain, or sickness.  In our anticipation and hope of new things to come, we tend to make new year’s resolution – to lose weight, cut out caffeine, go to the gym, work less, sleep more, find a new job, etc.

The question I ask of you as we close out 2013…. What does Jesus want from you?  He very well may be calling you to cut calories, lose weight, and exercise.  He may be tugging at your heart to work less and be at home with your family more.  But what does He want from your heart?  How can your life glorify His name in this coming year?  What changes does God want from you that will ultimately lead you to a closer relationship to Jesus Christ?

Here is a list of New Year’s resolutions all Christians need to work on in 2014:

Forgive more – As a forgiven sinner, you are required to forgive sinners.  Let go of other people’s mistakes and shortcomings, even if those decisions directly affected your life.  Satan will remind you of the pain others have inflicted on you but YOU are a forgiven sinner and are called to forgive the sins of others.  Remind yourself that you have not always been a Christian and that you too have hurt others.  We have all fallen short and we will all fail again.  Pray for those who have hurt you, that they are blessed by God and that those blessings change their lives.  “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32

Pray always – It’s so simple to say “pray more” but the thought of praying all the time can seem very daunting.  Rest assured, if you miss an opportunity to pray, you must not give up!  Begin by praying every morning or evening and slowly add in other specific times in your day devoted to prayer.  You will soon notice how your prayers shift from specified times to daily conversations with God throughout your day.  Make sure you also add a few minutes of reflection time to listen to what God says to you about your prayers.  “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Quit worrying – We begin to worry when we feel as if we are not in control.  The truth is, very seldom do we have full control over anything.    When we allow worry to seep into our lives, we are saying to those around us that we are helpless and have no one to turn to.  But as Christians, we must have faith in God and faith in His plan.  Find the good in every situation and be thankful for what God has already blessed you with.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

Give more – Give more of your time, your money, and your effort.  Pray about this specifically and see where God wants you to give.  Does he want you to give more of your money to your church or a mission?  Does He want you to give more of your time and volunteer efforts?  Does He simply want you to give your family more quality time?  Whatever it is that He leads you to give, give wholeheartedly and give as if you are giving to the Lord.  “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7

Go to church – Attending church should not be a Sunday morning visit when times are hard.  Church is a time for weekly reflection and an energy boost.  It’s a time for us to put aside the craziness of life and refocus on Christ and His will for our lives.  Church is a time for Christians to fellowship with other believers and together build the kingdom of God.  “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

Learn more – Read your Bible this year, start a devotional, or commit to reading that book your spouse has asked you to read.  If you’ve already read the Bible in its entirety, read it again to gain more knowledge.  You cannot go wrong opening your Bible and reading scripture!  But there is power when reading with other Christians and discussing life together.  “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Proverbs 18:15

Judge less – Learn how to judge righteously and ask God to show you when you’re sinfully judging.  Practice the art of judging the sin and not the sinner.  Find the good in every person and in every situation, even if it’s simply acknowledging that God will use that situation for His glory.  Remember that we have all sinned and fallen short in the eyes of God.  We will all stand on even ground before God one day; your sin is no less than any other man’s.  “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” John 7:24

Be more gracious – Again, find the good in every person and in every situation.  Treat others with kindness and respect.  Even if we don’t think they deserve it, they really do.  Don’t assume the worst in others, even if their track record shows otherwise.  Give people the benefit of the doubt, always.  Complement those who frustrate you, and add a smile.  Work on changing your heart towards others and people will begin to seem far less threatening to you.  “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Plant seeds – Write down a list of people who are non-believers and commit to praying for them over this next year.  Make it your goal to talk to them about Jesus Christ and his unending love for them.  Invite them to church, offer to pray for them, connect with them regularly and allow them the opportunity to see how Christ is working in your own life.  The outcome is amazing to see how God uses YOU and your everyday circumstances to change the lives of others.  You plant the seed and watch as God grows new believers.  “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Go on a mission – Your mission trip doesn’t necessarily need to be across the world to a third world country.  While that is definitely an incredible experience, your mission field can be right here in your hometown.  Your mission field is the path you drive to work and the places you run your errands.  To be on a mission for Christ is to tell others of Christ and bringing His Good News to non-believers.  Begin by asking strangers, “Do you know that Jesus loves you?”  Spend time everyday preparing for your mission work and ask God to show you where your work needs to be done.  “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28: 19-20

To put our focus on Christ rather than ourselves is ultimately what God wants for our lives.  He wants us to depend on Him.  When we do these things, our lives begin to take on a new meaning and good things begin to happen.  We will still suffer loss and heartache, setbacks and pain.  But life becomes bearable when we walk with our Savior and allow Him to lead the way.

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