“If you feel that you are called to full-time missions, come forward during the song and dedicate your life to doing God’s work overseas.”
Ever heard that? Did you go forward? I never have. Maybe you’ve thought, “Me, called to missions? I don’t think so. There’s no way God would ever call me to be a missionary overseas!” Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
I never thought the Lord was calling me to be a missionary. For years I insisted that I was called to be a stay-at-home mom and raise Godly, Christian children. Sure, I may be called to do that, but I think I was selling myself, and God, short. We have all been called to something greater than that, and if we are willing to remove our pride and let Him use us, the Lord can change the world through us.
This spring break I had the opportunity to spend a week in El Salvador playing with kids in orphanages and talking to girls in prisons. What an amazing trip! It was incredible to be a part of the work God is doing in the city of San Salvador. But when I came home, I found myself in a spiritual slump. I kept thinking about how much I wanted to be back in El Salvador continuing the work of God there.
Finally, a friend of mine sat me down and, with a strict look, told me, “Just because you aren’t in El Salvador anymore doesn’t mean you can’t continue the work of God here.”
I instantly felt ashamed. I thought I had left the mission field when I landed back in the States, but I had simply moved from one area of the mission field to another.
Hebrews 11:13 says that those who followed God in the Old Testament “acknowledged they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”
They understood that they do not have a “home” on this earth and, therefore, wherever they were was considered their mission field.
What does that mean for you and me? It means that no matter where you are, at home, at school, at work—that is your mission field. You may not be speaking a foreign language, you may even be in your own backyard, but that does not matter. Your neighbors and friends need to hear the name of Christ and you can be the one to tell them.
You may be thinking, “I’m not qualified for that. I’m not very good at speaking to people about Christ; I never know what to say. What if I mess up and ruin any interest they had in God in the first place?”
Read Jeremiah 1:5-8. The Lord called Jeremiah to be a prophet before Jeremiah was even born. God fashioned him in his mother’s womb specifically to be a prophet to God’s people. When Jeremiah claims he does not know what to say, the Lord assures Jeremiah He will give him the words to say. God will do the same for you.
If you have been saved, you have been called to be a missionary. Like I said before, it may not be in Russia, or China, or El Salvador, but wherever you are is your mission field.
For me, that means that the university I attend in the mountains of North Carolina is my mission field right now. The people I sit next to in class and the professors I nearly kill in Chemistry lab need to hear about Jesus.
They are just as lost as the people I was serving in El Salvador. I have a truth that many people are missing and I have a responsibility to let God use me so they might hear that truth before it’s too late.
So, my friends, the bottom line is you have been called to missions.
The location does not matter because there are people without the truth all over the world. Don’t let fear or self-doubt hold you back because the Lord will give you the words, the strength, and the power to say what needs to be said.
by Carissa Chang
What’s your motivation in life?
What drives you to do something (or not to do something)?
It seems like these questions are often posed along with advice on how to achieve success in life. Some motivational speakers and tips, for example, are geared toward finding success in life. Yet, apart from what others tell us about success, how do we define such a word? How do we speak of success if we have different views on what success is?
James 4 may not directly address the word “success,” but if we are to equate life with God, there are clear outcomes regarding living a life of faith that are discussed in this chapter. Discussed by paragraph, each cause has an effect for us to consider.
Beginning with verses 1-3, James talks about when people want more in life than what’s necessary, or want more than what God provides. Wrong motives can lead to “fights and quarrels” with other people. By extension, even though James doesn’t mention this, these fights can also be internal. Jealousy, selfishness, negative criticism, and anger can all be brought upon a person relying on his or her own impulses rather than asking God for guidance.
The next paragraph, verses 4-6, is very clear in its message: intentional focus off of God means becoming an “enemy of God.” The end of verse 4 speaks of “friendship with the world” as “hatred toward God.” These are strong words! This doesn’t mean completely forgetting about the world, though (see John 3:16); we do live on earth, after all, and we are called to love our neighbors just as God loved us. Verse 6 is a good example of this: “But he gives us more grace.” I think “But” is important here. Despite the wrong we might do in life, and despite being imperfect human beings, God still gives us grace.
If verses 4-6 provide the initial cause and effect of what happens if we know God and don’t acknowledge him, verses 7-10 continue these thoughts by detailing their application to our lives. Verse 7, the namesake of this chapter’s first heading, is a good place to start:
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Here’s another clear “cause and effect” in verse 8:
“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” Considering how much we probably mess up in life, verse 9 is so somber because it gives examples of how humble we should be when we don’t deserve to be “lift[ed] up.”
The last sections of this chapter talk about judging others (verses 11-12) and selfishness/bragging about one’s future ambitions (verses 13-17). In both instances, we know the outcome of judging others or “boasting about tomorrow.” If we are to humble ourselves to the point of grief like verse 9 says, then what gives us the right to speak against another person?
Verse 11 clearly says to “not slander one another” because, as verse 12 notes, “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge.” Trying to place ourselves in a power that isn’t deserved can create some selfish consequences.
The same goes for talking about what we will accomplish in the future – “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money,” as stated in verse 13.
Having goals to accomplish or having a personal mission is not necessarily a bad cause; in fact, such things can be really helpful in life. But verse 14 is a good reminder of why we should be cautious in how wrapped up we become in chasing achievement: “you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.”
We may be content with life today, but who knows what the future holds?
In a way, then, James is talking about facets of success – of godly success – in how to live life. Verse 17 is a wake-up call for me to not lazily forget what he said, either.
James says that for those that do know God and want to live his or her life according to the standards of God, knowing “the good” one ought to do, but not doing it is the same thing as sinning. Living such a life was never described as easy, but as worth pursuing.
Questions to consider:
- How do you define success? Why are certain things more important to you than others?
- Why is faith important?
- In light of the temporariness of life (see verse 14), what are things that can be done now to make an impact on your own life and in others’ lives that are God-powered?
by Laura Kuhns
Pride and Prejudice—I love that movie. I mean, what girl doesn’t? Strong, confident, beautiful Elizabeth Bennett is caught by the allures of love as she finds that she is falling for a dashing, quiet, generous man with a bit of an attitude. Sigh. What a fantastic love story!
As I was sitting in my room watching it the other day, I realized something—Elizabeth Bennett’s strength and confidence may seem glorious and very appealing to many young women today, but these traits are merely nice words for a bigger problem: her pride. Enter Mr. Darcy, the man who falls in love with her while simultaneously calling her bluff, making her question her beliefs and examine her prejudices.
Now we come back to real life, but the scene is still the same. I play Elizabeth Bennett and Christ plays Mr. Darcy. As I am watching this stunning performance by Kiera Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, Jesus walks in the room, looks straight into my heart and points out my own issues with pride, and they are many.
My first reaction is to shrink away. After all, how could I, a girl with very low self-esteem, have issues with pride? Easy. By making my life all about myself.
I have found that as I grow older, I think of myself as more accomplished and motivated than most people. I find that I look down my nose at those who spend less time studying or don’t practically live in the lab or have no need to study for graduate school entrance exams. I have high aspirations for my life and at the rate I’m going, it won’t be long before I reach them. I am smarter than you, stronger than you, better than you.
Whoa. That’s harsh. While it might not be the exact words I’m thinking, it doesn’t take a translator to realize this is the heart of what is running through my mind. Yikes. I have a serious problem.
Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.”
I am no “more” of a person than anyone else on this planet and I am certainly no more deserving of grace than anyone else. In fact, I do not deserve grace at all. My thoughts and actions reflect a heart so riddled with pride, I’m sure I only appear as a foolish hypocrite to the people watching me.
Somehow, in the midst of trying to gain some self-confidence, I went the wrong way and ended up with far too much pride. But I have nothing to be proud of! My life is one filled with sin and disobedience to my God. Whatever I have is given to me from the Lord—my grades, my opportunity to go to graduate school, the amazing things I get to see and work with in lab. Without my God, my life would be nothing. Scary, but true.
Ephesians 2:8-9 reads, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
I need to be careful of my pride. It is the reason I find it hard to forgive or ask for help. It is the reason I cannot fully trust in the Lord, leaving me in a state of constant worry. My pride is what holds me back from doing what the Lord has planned for me. My pride is what gets in the way of what He is doing in my life.
The moral of the story? Pride and Prejudice is a great movie but Elizabeth Bennett’s pride is a fire that will only burn her. Take care that in your quest for self-confidence (as in my own), you do not end up with pride. And be sure that when Jesus nudges your heart and points out your areas of pride, you don’t fight Him. You’ll never win anyway.
Note from the editor: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is also a classic novel. Pick it up for a read just as enticing as the 2005 movie!
By Stacey Wilson
Six minutes. That was the duration of a phone conversation I just had with my mom. Average, I would say, for the amount of time I usually talk to her in a three-day time period. I could blame this lack of communication on living 650 miles from my parents’ home in South Mississippi, but that would be a lie.
I made the phone call tonight, feeling a little guilty for abruptly, and perhaps even rudely, ending our previous conversation so I could meet a deadline for this very article about relationships. Don’t tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor.
And He didn’t stop with the comedy act after I hung up the phone. Computer on. Mind focused. Phone rings. It was my friend Kelly who has a knack for recapping recent history in vivid detail. It’s one of her gifts. I literally sit in awe sometimes on the phone with her, listening as she replays a series of events like narrating a movie. Sure, I have a good memory, but I can’t imagine having a mind as alert as Kelly’s.
Anyway, this would probably be a lengthy conversation, and I was tempted to press the “Quiet” button so I could write this article. Not the “Ignore” button because that would have sent her directly to voice mail after only two rings, and she would have known I was avoiding her. (You know when you’re being ignored, and it’s not a fun feeling.)
No, I couldn’t silence or ignore this one. God was already trying to teach me a lesson, and I thought it would be in my best interest to play along with Him. I dove into the conversation with a hearty, “Hey!”
Here’s where we go deeper into the lesson I was learning about relationships that night.
Even though Kelly couldn’t talk very long, she called to tell me about her friend Danielle, just an acquaintance of mine, who had been trying to reach her for several days. Danielle’s dad passed away recently, and she wanted Kelly to know – probably because Kelly would understand since she lost her own dad in 2006. Kelly felt bad for not answering Danielle’s calls, but work and school had stolen the time she needed to call her back.
“Hello, Stacey. Do you get what I’m trying to tell you now?”
God was screaming through the other end of my LG Chocolate.
We may never know what someone is going through, why they’re calling, or what type of day they’ve had. When we screen calls because we’re busy (and I understand that we can’t always answer every phone call), or because we just don’t feel like talking, or when we choose not to call an old friend God has put on our hearts because we’ve had a long day, we could miss opportunities to be big blessings. By building only surface relationships with those around us, we miss chances to make real impacts, lasting or temporary. We need to dig deeper into the lives of our family members and friends, sincerely asking how life is going for them, not just pretending to care about the problems they are facing.
Wouldn’t you rather be the girl who is remembered for her gentle words and compassion, not just for her wit and beauty? I’m not saying those other things are necessarily bad, but sometimes we get so wrapped up in mirroring the sitcom stars and cover girls that we forget about the hurting world around us. To my knowledge, there aren’t many airbrushed divas making lasting, eternal impacts on the lives of people around them – at least not from the magazine stands of a grocery store.
Charles Spurgeon, definitely not an airbrushed diva, but maybe one of the greatest preachers in Christian history, said this: “A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.”
So, let’s carve our names on the hearts around us. Let’s get off those superficial magazine stands and call our moms back – or whomever we’ve cut off recently because the time investment just didn’t jive with our schedules. Let’s offer kindness and compassion to the people God has placed in our lives for a reason. Let’s give them a true relationship.
Have you ever dreamed about what your perfect Valentine would look like? I’m not talking about just any guy, but one who could fulfill everything you’ve ever hoped for and more. Well, let me tell you ladies, I’ve found Him. Never before have I found a love like this; never again can I find someone any better. I hope you don’t mind me bragging, but this guy is just AMAZING.
Get this: He wants to talk to me every day, He always has a surprise gift for me, and He not only tells me that He loves me but He also shows me that through His actions. This guy even gave me an entire book full of letters He had written me! He knows me inside and out, and every once in a while He surprises me by giving me exactly what was on my mind. He loves me so much, and even though I am completely undeserving, this guy constantly tells me He wants the best for me and is literally willing to die for me! Now how many guys will do that?
So who is this dream-come-true Valentine of mine? His name is God. He loves me more than I could ever imagine anyone could. Not only did this guy buy a dozen roses for me, He created a whole world with thousands of flowers for me to enjoy! I love spending time with my Valentine because He listens to me and gives me the best advice. As soon as a thought enters my mind, He knows it; He tells me things that make me feel valued and protected: “Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
What is most wonderful to me is that He is such an awesome God, yet He still thinks about me! Even through all of my failures, God chooses to be there for me and to love me always. Even though I wonder so often about what my future will hold, He has a perfect plan in store for my life, telling me: “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). These verses are only a few lines to the huge love letter He has written! And no matter how many times I read it, it never gets old.
The best part about God is that, since He is so powerful, He can multi-task and be everyone’s Valentine! How cool is that?! He is waiting right now to be YOUR Valentine and to spend one-on-one time with you too. And this isn’t just a one day thing; it’s an everyday deal! Even though we totally don’t deserve it, God is always thinking about how much He loves us. I so often fail to give Him half the credit for what He has done, but God is more than worthy of our adoration.
You know when an amazing boy likes a girl for a really long time and one day he finally works up the courage to ask her out? If she rejected him, wouldn’t you feel so bad for the poor guy? His heart would be broken! Imagine how God feels when we “dump” Him on a daily basis. Unlike any guy I know, though, He keeps coming back day after day. It makes me feel so special that someone that incredible would continually come to “ask me out,” even though I blow Him off all the time. Why don’t we take more time to show our love in return for all He has blessed us with?
For those of you who are dating someone, who ever said that having a boyfriend was an excuse to not allow God to be your Valentine too?! I have had a wonderful boyfriend for over two years now, but he makes mistakes just like I do; we can’t expect boyfriends to satisfy the desire we have to experience genuine acceptance and love. The only One who can completely satisfy us is God, who has and always will be our number one love. No matter what circumstances come our way, God will never leave us; instead, He will always love us and give advice for life. I don’t know about you, but to me this is just too great of a relationship to miss out on!
So today, I challenge you: let’s focus more on our dream-come-true Valentine. Take a break from homework or from Facebook stalking your latest crush, set aside a few minutes, and spend some quality time with God. Thank Him for what He’s done in your life and let Him know how much you’d love to be His Valentine, not only today but for the rest of your life! He’s already waiting to spend time with you, so go for it right now! I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
I wasn’t allowed to watch the WB television show “Charmed” when I was in middle school. I babysat Monday nights and once my care was in bed, it was that or Fear Factor. But I once told my mom I’d watched a “Charmed” episode and she said she didn’t like that the show was all about witchcraft. So I watched people eat worms and jump off cliffs instead.
This thought stayed as a shadow for a few years. I knew my mother didn’t like my interest in the supernatural, but soon I was past the ages of parental censorship. Yet whenever I read or watched something involving mystical forces, I felt a little like I had something to hide, especially if it involved witchcraft. Maybe I didn’t want to open the possibility of judgment—that people would question my faith and my conscience. Maybe I thought I had something to be ashamed of. But over time I grew up and shame developed into defense. I love compelling stories that involve magic and demons, good and bad witches, vampires—stories many people argue glorify the occult and corrupt vulnerable youth and adults. And I love God. The two can be mutually supportive. Apparent contradictions to Christian myth can stimulate faith.
Ignorance and fear have led to a particular attitude towards “wicked” supernatural in fiction. Certain people, many conservative Christians among them, believe the stories promote illicit practices. They quote Exodus 22:18, “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live,” and try to censor the story about a boy named Harry Potter and his sacrifices that instilled a love for reading in a desiring generation. Even a book series like “Harry Potter” with deep Christian principles of loyalty, fellowship and resurrection isn’t safe.
At the heart of that matter is the line between what is real and what is the creative product of someone’s imagination. The more that line is blurred, the more people must consider the world they themselves live in. The more that line is blurred, the more afraid people become of what could be real and the more afraid they become about what other people will believe is real. Opinion, backed up by personal experience: people are afraid of the gray area. Looking at things in black and white and as good and bad makes examination easier just as creating a strong division between fiction and our world makes acceptance easier. Looking at the material and calling it either taboo or fake sparks a threatening ignorance. There are the people who hold too much stock in supernatural stories because they believe they are corruptive and heretical. And on the opposite end there are people who don’t put any stock in supernatural stories because they accept them as fiction and therefore removed from their own life.
I’ve invested myself in characters that walk the night, ones that are hurt and fighting, betrayed, betrayers, fallen. I’ve burned passion for their stories. The vampires, authored by many. The witches and wizards. The fallen angels. The mythologies arcing centuries, criss-crossing and rewriting history. But I can’t keep them completely separate from my life because they deal with the same morality I face. I hold great stock in these stories and I recently realized they make me face in the best and worst of ways the existence of God and His role in our lives. I don’t think it’s inappropriate as a good Christian to do that.
Take the television show “Supernatural,” one of my favorites. Two brothers fighting to find and destroy the evil that killed their mother in a fire twenty years before. They are hunters of the supernatural, facing sometimes concrete but often blurred “forces of evil.” And demons, plenty of them. That was the first three seasons. It took a turn in the season four premiere when an angel named Castiel appeared. BAM! Out of nowhere, we’re introduced the side the show had kind of avoided. They’ve been exorcising demons, destroying ghosts, fighting hell hounds, making deals at crossroads. But…angels? Even the show creator hadn’t planned to go there. Dean had said to his brother in season one, “There’s no higher power, there’s no God. I mean, there’s just chaos, and violence, and random unpredictable evil that comes out of nowhere and rips you to shreds.” BUT HOW CAN THAT BE? How can there be all the evil and none of the grace? Aren’t these often stories of personal redemption? Is it easier to accept reading or watching this kind of thing if you can push away the thought of God, call it fiction and let it be?
Castiel’s introduction triggered the immense desire for justification inside me. As I watched on, completely enraptured and never offended, I found myself dealing with suggestions many Christians would shout, “Heresy!” at: the possibility of corruption in the heavenly system and a seemingly absent holy father. And it made me think hard about my own beliefs. I believe God is always listening. I believe God alone is all-knowing. I don’t believe the plot lines I’m drooling over are true but I also don’t believe they are unreal. They offer a legitimate examination of humanity as so much fabulous television, film and books do. As much as they are excellent storytelling, they are encouragement to THINK. To consider and evaluate and thus come to a better understanding of our own beliefs and purpose. Sometimes this comes in the form of a half-hour comedy about middle-aged friends trying to figure out their lives. Sometimes it’s a movie about pirates swashbuckling and double-crossing. And sometimes it’s that next popular teenage vampire-human love story.
I propose the middle ground between “promoting un-Christian thoughts” and “ultimate fiction”: open your minds to ideas that challenge your own. It’s an intellectual dilemma some would say contradicts what it means to have faith. There’s not supposed to be intellect in faith. According to Merriam-Webster, faith is a firm belief in something for which there is no proof. And I am not arguing for proof of God. That’s the leap we take. I just believe personal analysis can bring us closer to Him because when we just stand back and outright accept something, there’s a limited level of connection. Faith should be explored not assumed.
Quoting the Armageddon novel “Good Omens” by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, “God does not play dice with the universe: He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players [i.e. everybody], to being involved in an obscure and complex variant of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.” Yes, it’s scary. There’s a plan and we don’t know it—we don’t need to know it and we can’t hope to learn it. But maybe the converging armies of heaven and hell on the small screen of your living room can offer the exploration we need to strengthen our faith and relationship with God.
by Laura Blythe
I have a simple piece of pink paper tacked to the wall above my bed. It’s an exercise we did in a Bible Study my freshman year. It was a simple assignment—we each wrote our names in the center of a piece of paper, then passed them around the room and anonymously wrote encouragements to each other.
At the time, it didn’t seem like that big of a deal. But at my friend Rachel’s house the other day, I noticed that she still had her paper on her wall, too—almost three years later. I asked her about it, and she said that even on her worst days, she could look at the encouraging things that people had told her years ago, and it would brighten her day.
It was a pretty awesome lesson in the power of words. We have all been told since we were little that sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will never hurt us. But again and again, it’s been proven that words do have power—the power to hurt, of course. But they also have the power to build others up, to encourage and inspire. How are you using your words?
How do you speak to others? Do you use your words to belittle people, to jokingly insult them? Even if you’re speaking in jest, you still have the power to be hurtful. I’ve heard of a youth group where, if you insult someone in anyway, you have to be able to give that same person two real compliments afterwards. After holding each other (even the youth pastor) accountable to this for a few weeks, the group noticed that there were a lot less insults being thrown around. Try insulting less and complimenting more.
We don’t write these days like our parents did in theirs. Rather than passing notes in class, we send texts and sneak onto Skype and Facebook chat. Even though these written words are different from spoken words, we still need to be aware of what we’re writing. Think before you post something to someone’s Facebook profile or Twitter. Once something has been put on the Internet, it’s tough—sometimes impossible–to take back. And unlike the spoken word, there is no way to be misheard.
By Emily Herring Dunn
I have been through a lot of bumpy patches in my life. Throughout high school I migrated from group, to group, to group. In our day it wasn’t acceptable to have friends in all places, so I would settle in a spot for a while and then migrate. I was a nomad of friendships, so to speak.
My freshman year I hung out with the misfits. My sophomore year I hung out with theater dorks and “the brains.” Junior year I hung out with theater dorks and band dorks, and Senior year I hung out with band dorks, specifically drum line members. It seemed that everywhere I “moved” during high school, I became a different person. When I thought I was molding myself too far from my core, I would move to be with other people. I think my problem was that I always wanted people to be pleased with me.
Oh, yes, I’m a people pleaser. I have always been the person to bring snacks when no one else will, to bake for everyone’s birthday, to give everyone Christmas presents, to be the match maker, the shoulder to cry on—I have been everybody’s go-to gal when necessary. The problem with this lifestyle is when I finally got to a point where I wanted to be myself… very few people accepted me. There were the actual friends who stuck by me through it all and are still with me today, but others just drifted off. Others who I thought were my best friends, my partners in crime; once my true colors came out, they decided to hit the road.
I’m also a person to keep my emotions to myself. No use troubling anyone when they need help, right? Some friends had the courage to make me open up and share how I was feeling. Some have seen me cry, yell, and even be completely emotionless. Many of those people are long gone now, and I have yet to understand why.
It’s strange to me how people function. One minute you are best friends, and the next they’re off to use someone else. I wonder, sometimes, if I was ever a friend or just someone to use. I wouldn’t necessarily say I was an enemy, but I was used to their advantage and dismissed once I was no longer needed. More than anything it hurts to look back on these people and blame myself for the end of our relationships. To see pictures of us hidden away somewhere as if it never happened… it’s just a sting that reoccurs.
Lately I’ve been realizing that growing up is necessary. I know it’s silly to state out loud, but it seems everyone comes to a point where they have to choose if they’re really going to do it or not. I think I rushed ahead of my friends long ago, and as I got closer to that vital moment… I realized that somewhere along the way I hadn’t seized the opportunity to know myself. Don’t get me wrong, I know my beliefs and my weaknesses, but I never got to figure out who I really wanted to be.
I don’t blame my so-called friends for this or my actual friends, but I do blame society. I blame the idea that we have to fit in- even if fitting in means being a misfit! We have to have that niche of security, because being a loner is looked down upon. Society has taught me to change myself so that other people are pleased with me. We have to mold to become what the world wants us to be, at least on the outside.
Relationships come and go, but my relationship with Christ is eternal. I have to say this to myself over and over again, because it’s very true. Friends and enemies come and go, and I have to find it in myself to forgive them and truly forget how much they hurt me. The hardest thing is to forget friends who I shared my life with and who have now abandoned me, so it feels.
Lately I had been feeling blue. I had been feeling unwanted and unloved. Although I always have my husband at my side and my family behind me, I feel so out of touch with my friends. Yes, the power of facebook prevails and I am able to stay in touch. With some friends we have calling dates to keep that connection going, but it isn’t the same. With others I have dates once a month, or at least once a year when we can manage. Unfortunately, once they leave the area which is closest to me or I leave them, I feel lonely once again. What is it about friends that just makes you feel loved or not? Perhaps it is the bonds, the closeness, the love… that human connection. Regardless, I was feeling alone.
Then I heard a man on the radio. He asked his audience what they truly wanted out of life. Out loud I responded, “To be happy.” It seems a simple request, right? We all want to be happy, and to me having relationships had always determined my happiness. Now that I had the man I loved, I needed other people to turn to as well. I always have my sisters and my parents, but I wanted others as well; others who were one in the same with me. Anyway, something strange happened. The man on the radio said, “Most of you probably said, ‘to be happy,’ right? Well, there’s only One who is ever going to make you eternally happy.”
The man on the radio reminded me that my relationship with Christ is truly the only fulfilling one. That He above all others is going to be there for me, guide me, carry me when I have fallen, and just lead me through all the rough patches, as well as the best moments, of my life. Christ, our Lord Savior in Heaven, He is my essence of happiness.
My devotional has been following the Psalms, and I came upon this one:
“Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are they who keep His statutes and seek Him with all their heart. They do nothing wrong; they walk in His ways. “ Psalms 119:1-3
This Psalms reminded me that as long as I walk in the ways of the Lord, I am blessed. As long as my relationship with Him always comes first, as long as I seek Him consistently, then I am eternally happy. He is all I need.
While that may be difficult to remember at all times, I now keep this verse with me. I am learning to be happy with my earthly home through my heavenly and eternal relationship with God. He is my happiness. As long as I follow Him faithfully and unquestioningly, I am truly happy.
by JOY SMITH
Marriage is not easy. The rise in divorce statistics proves just that. Well over 50 percent of couples, even in the church, are ending up in divorce courts divvying up the king size bed and Lazy Boys.
Have those “core family values” we grew up learning about suddenly disappeared? What caused this huge shift in our homes. and more importantly, how do we change the tide?
One thing is certain: change is not going to occur overnight.
Christians across the US need to embrace a new mission field: their own homes. They also need to focus on the primary responsibility that God has entrusted to them: their families.
Perhaps the earliest means of preventing divorce can occur in premarital counseling. More and more couples are opting out of this “old-fashioned” custom and trading in sessions with a pastor for ring shopping and cake tastings.
However, premarital counseling can produce invaluable fruit in the first few years of marriage. With a skilled therapist or trained pastor, a couple can navigate multiple issues that are often points of contention in new marriages.
With the help of a mediator, the couple can address differences in beliefs, family values, and priorities, all while building on their communication skills.
This kind of counseling provides a forum for couples to talk about tough issues or address sticky subjects. By addressing the issues early and honestly, couples won’t be blindsided in the first year of marriage when contention starts brewing under the surface.
In premarital counseling, a common view of marriage and commitment is established. In unions today, this vital building block is often missing or cracked.
The purpose of marriage is not to simply fulfill your own needs, to share only one rent check, or even to build a happy life together. Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” (NIV).
A strong Christian marriage should be an imitation of your relationship with Christ. Just as a relationship with the Heavenly Father requires work, sacrifice, communication, time, effort, commitment, and trust, so does a marriage.
By understanding that the goal of marriage is not to promote self, but rather to join together as a whole and grow towards God, all of your priorities as a couple will be synchronized. What good is embarking on this beautiful journey together if two people are headed in different directions?
Ultimately, however, a common and accurate view of love needs to be adapted before our country has any chance of lowering the rising divorce statistics. In a time where independence and personal success is highly valued, one must reflect on what love really is.
True love does not insist on winning every fight or even fighting every battle. True love does not antagonize or provoke. True love is not simply words without action or promises without intentions.
I Corinthians 13, often referred to as the “love chapter” of the New Testament, outlines exactly what love is, and what is required in order for a marriage, or any relationship, to be successful. Verses 4-8 read:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
Love is a selfless choice that a person has to make every minute of every day. God poured Himself out for His children in the most unselfish way possible by sacrificing the life of His only son. If Christians should want to imitate that type of altruistic love, constant sacrifice and compromise are necessary.
Marriage is not 50/50, but rather both parties giving 100 percent all of the time. If more people understood this kind of selfless love, and the happiness that it brings, marriages could transform from crumbling to thriving.
Divorce rips apart houses, families, and lives. Hearts are broken and children are often left abandoned as the “adults” battle for condos, cars, and couches. God holds marriage in such high esteem that He speaks directly against divorce.
Matthew 19:6 says, “What God has joined together, let not man separate.” Divorce should not be an option when loving each other is the only choice.
Christians should cling to the foundational truths of the Bible: love your neighbor and above all else, love God with all of your heart.
PHOTOS: marriage1 and marriage 2
Marriage 1: Frank and Betty Harrelson on their wedding day in 1950.
Marriage 2: Joy and Robbie Smith on their wedding day in 1979.
Joy said she has permission to use both photographs; this is the only information she gave me.
by JANELLE COLLINS
Rubbing together their sweaty palms, swallowing the lump of fear and anxiety swelling in their throats, wiping away tears and saying goodbye: they are college freshman, and everything in their world is about to change.
Responsibilities they once thought extreme now pale in comparison to the new “adult” lives they must lead. As they nervously walk these new and unfamiliar halls, they search for some place, or someone, to reach out to; a friendly face, an extended hand, something to initiate them into the sacred fellowship of college-hood.
While college is primarily about learning, it is also about finding your place. It is a time for transition and time for going from dependent teen to independent adult.
Friends are made, life partners are met, and goals are achieved. It is a busy time, and new habits are formed while old habits are broken.
So what’s the hardest thing about college?
Well, it depends on whom you ask, but for those with a Christian background the answer may be staying connected. In the rush and hustle of college life, the demands on your time from all ends make it seem impossible to stay focused on anything, least of all a devotional life.
There are two scenarios for the prospective college student. Either you are going to a religious college, or you are not. It’s really that simple. Your college choice is the first step to maintaining a solid connection with Christ.
Do you want to be surrounded by all sorts of temptations that may or may not lead you down a rocky path? Or would you rather be in a place where you at least have the option of being surrounded by Christian influence?
Good! You’ve made a choice, and you know it’s a choice led by God. However, you come to the realization that just because you are on a Christian campus doesn’t mean your spiritual life will now be a walk in the park.
Like a head on collision, the reality of it all knocks the wind right out of you. Books, new found friends, teachers, parties! It’s all here, sucking the spirituality right out of your life. You can’t believe that you thought, even for a moment, that being on a Christian campus would somehow make you more… Christian. Instead, you’re pulled in the other direction. Now what?
It is a known fact among Christians that your spiritual journey is just that: a journey. It’s full of ruts, potholes, and forks that make you dizzy, and yet somehow bringing insatiable joy.
During your college years, it becomes even more rugged, unpredictable, and sometimes downright difficult. So where do you go from here? What do you do when you realize that you can’t survive this spiritual journey through college alone? Well, the solution is simple really. Get involved.
Campus Ministries, a program implemented in many colleges and universities nationwide, is a wonderful part of college life. Involvement in campus ministries takes you out of the chaos of studying and worrying and gives you a “bigger picture” of the entire college experience.
Many students who are involved in campus ministries go on to be student missionaries, or play a large part in the planning and coordinating of spiritual activities on campus. Not only do you gain meaningful experience in leadership and lots of community service hours, but you have the opportunity to help be the backbone of your college community.
You are a realist, however, and as much as you’d like to dive head first into any spiritual leadership opportunity you can, you just can’t do it all.
You’re class load is overflowing, and if you add one more thing to do the wagon, it just may buckle. What can you do then?
Whether you are at a Christian or non-Christian campus, you can find Christian companionship. If all you can manage is a short Bible study one night a week, or one church service a week, it’s better than leaving your Bible to collect dust on your desk.
If it is available to you, join the Christian or Bible club at your school. They don’t have one? Start one!
Maintaining a Christ connection throughout college isn’t a magic trick. Despite your deepest wishing and your most sincere prayers, your spiritual connection won’t last unless you want it to.
On some campuses a local church family may host students in their home during the weekends for food and socialization. Even if you don’t know anyone, go! You never know who you could meet, or how you could be blessed.
If you become involved in your campus ministries program, they also organize social events, often with free food (which is always music to the ears of any college student). The potential for a successful spiritual experience on any campus is there, simply waiting for someone willing enough to take advantage of it.
College is a big undertaking for anyone. It takes control of your life financially, emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. It can become part of who you are and for four (sometimes five plus) years, your life is defined as that of a college student. However, you don’t have to let the stresses and pressures of higher learning take control of your relationship with Christ. If He can provide you with the funds to attend a college or university, He will provide you with the resources and people to stay connected.
As with most things involving higher learning, staying connected isn’t easy. But with a willing heart, an eager spirit, and a hunger for Christ, your college years can be filling both mentally and spiritually.