God’s Word: Daily Bread that Requires Chewing

Several years ago I set out to read the entire Bible in order in a year. I figured if I was going to call myself a Christian, I should read the entire thing that I call God’s word. I had read it to check it off my “to do list” of being a Christian. I succeeded in literally reading the entire Bible. I did not study it nor did I give much thought to the cultural contexts in which it was written. I did not pray about what I read nor did I ask many questions. I read the book to say I had read the book.

After officially finishing the Bible, I figured I could set it aside and maybe refer to it once in a while. After all, I had read the entire thing. I foolishly thought I “knew” at least the high points of every story. The crazy thing is, my actions were as if I ate a big meal and then decided to not eat again after that except for the occasional small snack. If I stopped eating food, I’d slowly grow weaker until I died. A strikingly similar statement can be said about time in God’s word. God’s word truly is the bread of life and should be a staple of our daily lives. Without regular time in His word and in prayer, our soul weakens and eventually, dies.

Saying that you don’t need to read the Bible or a specific passage in the Bible because you have already read it so many times is like saying you don’t need to eat food. You have probably eaten bread thousands of times and yet it’s likely you’re going to consume some form of bread again within the next twenty-four hours.

I grew up in church and therefore there are Bible stories I’ve read or heard about thousands of times. It is so easy to look at these stories now with a glazed eye. Stories like Jesus feeding the masses with a few loaves and fishes are told so regularly that it’s easy to think that we, as Christians, don’t need to re-read them or study them. During my sophomore year of college, I joined the Bible study group on campus. We have gone over some of those stories that I’ve heard more times than I can count. Yet when I prayerfully study those passages, whether alone or in a group, God often shows me a detail I didn’t notice before or gives me some new revelation. There is so much under the surface of these stories and unless we take the time to really prayerfully study them, we only scratch the surface.

Jesus himself knew the importance of God’s word in people’s lives. When Jesus was fasting in the wilderness, the devil came along and told him to turn some stones into bread. Jesus replied:

““…It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

Here, Jesus is actually referencing Deuteronomy 8:3, which refers to the Israelites. What was true for the Israelites and Jesus is true for us as well. If bread (or any sort of grain) is such a daily staple of our diets for our physical bodies, surely the Word of God is the same staple for our souls. Rather than thinking of the Bible or prayer as things to check off our to do lists, let us truly see them as our daily bread for our souls. Let us remember that bread requires chewing even in our rushed lives. Let us prayerfully meditate on each passage and word in order to get all the flavor.

Let Easter Change your Everyday

Today we celebrate Easter. We celebrate our risen Lord and Savior. Death has lost its sting and Christ is alive!

In the hustle of church, Easter egg hunts and family dinners, let us take a moment to really remember the reason we celebrate. Jesus rose from the dead! He lives forever more! He suffered, bled and died and his blood has washed us clean as snow. Those of us who trust in him will also live. The chains of sin that held us down are broken. Our shackles lay in pieces at the foot of the cross where love died. This is not something to be taken for granted. Easter is one day, but the reason we celebrate is a reason to live everyday. Let Easter change our everyday, and not just this one Sunday. After all, today is just one day. But the reason we celebrate it is forever.

Happy resurrection Sunday!

The Generosity of a Child

I haven’t posted in a little while. I guess it’s just a dry spell of inspiration to write. I have some ideas written on scraps of paper and hopefully I’ll get to them soon. Last week was Vacation Bible School in my town and I just wanted to share a short, inspiring and encouraging story from the week with anyone who might regularly read or stumble across my blog.

Every year, we have a missions project at VBS and this year we did Coins 4 Kids. Coins 4 Kids is a part of the World Food Program. Money collected goes directly towards funding school lunches for kids around the world that may not have the chance to eat otherwise. Many of the children who will receive these meals would also not go to school if they could not get that meal. The money collected this past week at VBS is going to Kenya. At the beginning of the week, our leader gave a short speech about the missions and told the campers how some children wake up and have no food to eat for breakfast. When lunch comes around, they still have no food. Dinner time comes and goes without food as well. On Friday a nine year old girl came in with her cup full of coins. Her mother told the VBS leader how this girl had put ALL of her piggy bank savings into the cup. She had asked her daughter if she was sure she wanted to do that and the girl replied “Didn’t you hear what [the leader] said? These kids don’t have any food. We do have food. This money will help them so they can eat.”

It’s stories like these that give me hope for my generation and the generations after me. We hear so many crazy stories of kids and teens gone wild but truly there are still young people with generous and loving hearts. I don’t know how much money this girl had but she gave it all. She didn’t give it to receive glory like some of the hypocrites Jesus mentioned in the Bible who gave a small amount of their abundance for recognition. This girl appears to have a firm grip on the lessons about giving and generosity that Jesus taught while he walked the earth. I only hope and pray she will continue to have such a generous and loving heart as she goes through her tween and teen years.

The Pain He Endured

On Good Friday, we commemorate the day that our Savior Jesus was crucified. In the ultimate sign of love, Jesus laid his life down so that we may be saved. He suffered more than I can fully comprehend. Still, I’ve heard some people say that Jesus’ death was not anything really special or unique. Lots of people have been killed for various causes. Lots of people have been crucified. Heck, even when Jesus was crucified, two other men were crucified with him! Death by crucifixion could last from several hours to even several days, but Jesus was only on the cross for a few hours. At times I’ve even caught myself thinking that Jesus’ death was not anything spectacular. But in reality, several things differentiate his death from the deaths of other martyrs and victims of crucifixion.

The most obvious difference is of course the fact that Jesus was innocent of all crimes. He was perfect and sinless. Even one of the men crucified with Jesus recognized this fact. None of us can say the same. Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Even the saints and the people we honor for their contributions to society have fallen short. We all deserve to die. Romans 6:23 states “ For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus was sinless and yet he paid the price that we should have had to pay.

Obviously the physical suffering of Jesus was extreme. He was brutally whipped, forced to carry a rugged (and heavy) cross through the streets, had thorns pushed into his head and finally nailed and lifted up on a cross. Crucifixion is one of the most excruciating means of execution. Still, others have been whipped and crucified throughout history. While we remember the physical suffering that Jesus experienced, we must also remember the emotional pain he experienced before and during his crucifixion.

While Jesus was human and experienced physical torture, he was also God and knew things that others did not. While Jesus physical torture was perhaps not exceptionally long in duration, the emotional pain he experienced before the day he was crucified was long and excruciating. Imagine knowing the exact way you will die. Imagine having to continue to work despite knowing the pain you will be inflicted with in the near future. Imagine walking into the city knowing that later that week you will be betrayed by your friend, beaten, crucified, and abandoned by many of those you love. If these thoughts don’t churn your stomach, I’m not sure what will. If I knew these things, I’d probably be crippled with fear and unable to continue doing anything. Yet Jesus continued to teach, serve, and love people, even the one he knew would betray him. As the hour of his crucifixion drew nearer, we see that Jesus was distraught by what was coming. In Mark 14:34, Jesus says to his disciples, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” Luke 22:44 says “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like drops of blood, falling down to the ground.” Even though Jesus knew what must be done and that he would live again, he was still very troubled. He even asked that this awful cup of suffering awaiting him would be taken away.

While on the cross, as life slowly left his human body, Jesus was thinking of each of us. He knew that many would reject him even after he paid the price of our sins. He knew that sin would still fill the world for years, centuries, and beyond. He knew things far beyond our comprehension. If you watch the news, you hear of horrible things going on all over the world. There are bombings, shootings, stabbings…the list goes on and on. It can make us feel sick. Even with the technology we have now and all the media, we still only know a small fraction of the pain and suffering in this world. God knows all that has happened, all that is happening, all that will happen. I can’t even imagine the pain that God must feel seeing the suffering that people, his own creation, has inflicted on themselves and each other.

Despite all the physical and emotional pain, Jesus still laid down his life for us. His love is beyond human comprehension. So as we mark another Good Friday today, let us remember how much our savior loved us and how much he went through so that we could have a relationship with God. Let us also remember that the cross is not the ending though. The cross is nothing without the resurrection but that is another blog post.

The Cost of Following Jesus

“Are you willing to pay the cost?”

I roll the words over in my head.

What cost? Jesus paid the price of my sin. I am free. The price was paid.

Still I hear “Are you willing to pay the cost?”

What cost? I’ve heard the stories. I’ve prayed some prayers. I’ve gone to church. I’ve abstained from sex and drugs. I’ve tried to not curse. I’ve given my 10%. I’ve read the Bible. I’ve done these things that Christians should do.

“Are you willing to pay the cost of following me? Yes, outwardly, you have appeared eager. You’ve honored me with your lips saying you desire to follow me. But have you truly considered the cost of discipleship? What builder would start building without first counting up the costs? If he simply starts building without considering the costs, he may only lay the foundation before running out of funds.”

But still I ask, what is there left to pay? My sins were washed away.

He answers, “Yes, you sins are paid for but there is still the cost of following me. The cost is great, my child. Discipleship will cost your pride, your will, your worry, your worldly desires, and your life. And in addition to that, you will face rejection, snide remarks, sometimes loneliness, even possibly persecution. There will be trouble in this world. The road will not be easy and you will face trials. You will feel discouraged sometimes. You will have to place your trust solely in me and not in this world. You don’t have to fear because I have overcome the world but you have to trust me. I will guide you but you have to let me. You have to let me be God over your entire life; its duration and all that is in it.”

Before I even know what I am saying, my lips blurt out “But Lord, I know you are better than all things I could desire in this world. I’m never alone when I have You. Surely everything will be fine. I just want to follow You. You alone offer me eternal life.” It’s almost as if I had rehearsed this line over and over again just for this moment. I’m so quick to say it. I’ve been conditioned to say it.

He replies “You say these things with your lips. But remember you can’t fool me. I see your heart. You still cling to your reputation, your pride, and your desires. You want to fit in when I made you to stand out for me. Your knuckles are white from holding on so tightly to things that are fading away faster than you realize. You can talk, but in order to follow me, you also have to work. This is not a one time decision. It is a process that will last the rest of your life. I love you, dear one. I am with you and want you to draw nearer to me. I will not force you to though.”

A tear starts to roll down my cheek.

Am I ready to pay the cost? My lips say yes quickly. But talk is cheap. My heart however, wants to ponder the cost a while longer. And time is running out.

My (unexpected) Work With Dress a Girl

It’s crazy and amazing how God works.

About two years ago in October 2011, I happened to be scrolling through a craft blog. I stumbled across a post about an organization called “Dress a Girl.” I clicked the post and was very intrigued about the project. I did some more research about the site and printed the patterns. I happened to have just gotten some fabric from my mormor (grandma) recently so getting supplies wasn’t that hard. I just had to find some bias tape. I made my first few dresses and shipped them to headquarters.
Picture 063

(The above picture is one of the first dresses I made along with a handmade doll)

For those of you who have never heard of Dress a Girl, here is a little overview of the organization I have prepared for an informational flyer at church:
Dress a Girl aims to provide sturdy dresses to girls around the world. So far, dresses have been delivered 164,000 girls in 65 different countries. These dresses not only provide modest clothing to impoverished girls but also help protect girls from predators. This is accomplished by attaching an organization tag on the outside of each dress. Sometimes people make dolls using leftover fabric to include with younger girl dresses. Dress a Girl is a program affiliated with Hope 4 Women International and is a non-denominational Christian organization. As such, Dress a Girl strives to follow the example of Christ by extending love and mercy to all.

Pilgrim%20Wesleyan%20Bible%20College%202

(The above is a picture of Dress a Girl recipients from Dress a Girl’s website)

I never expected to be continuing on with this project. I mean, yes, it is a great organization but I’m only a student with limited funds. When I started I was still in high school. Now I’m in college but that makes me even more broke. I also never expected my mom to be so supportive of this work. I was almost afraid to ask her for shipping money the first time I sent dresses out. Two years later, I’m still making dresses (when I have the time). Again I’m an almost broke college student but God has been supplying the materials and money I need to keep doing this. My mom is always on the look out for good fabric deals. Occasionally I get a monetary or fabric donation from people that my mom has told about the program.

Currently the youth director at my church and me are working to set up a Dress a Girl ministry at my church. I never expected myself to still be making dresses let alone trying to set up a ministry at church. It’s all so exciting. I never thought I would be doing something like this but obviously God had other plans.

For more information about Dress a Girl Around the World: http://www.dressagirlaroundtheworld.com/