Be Thankful

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

     Worship the Lord with gladness;

    come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.

    It is he who made us, and we are his;

    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

    and his courts with praise;

    give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

    his faithfulness continues through all generations

(Psalm 100)

 

This Thursday coming up as we all know is Thanksgiving, the historical day where we celebrate by being with our loved ones and eating a huge amount of food to the point of a massive stomach ache. As this is an annual holiday in the United States, I wish that this holiday wasn’t something that everyone did only once a year, but rather give thanks every day. We don’t always have the opportunity to see family all the time, but we are given the opportunity to be thankful for the blessings God has given us everyday.

Why should we praise God? He is our Creator, our Savior, our Sustainer, our Giver, our Father who give us love that never ceases, He is truly the Beginning and the End (Revelation 22:13).

We take a lot for granted: our family, friends, our professors, our God-given talents, even the air we breathe and the life we get to live.

This weekend, I went to my great-grandmother’s funeral and I realized a lot of things that day when we laid her in her final resting place. The first being the importance of family. No matter the occasion, whether it be a holiday or a reunion, or even a funeral, my family still comes together to have a wonderful time just being with each other. Even though we all had lost someone close to us, you could still feel the warm love all around the room.

A second thing I realized was how God used this service to remind me how precious life is. Ecclesiastes 3 states that there is a season for everything, and each season is a gift from God that we cannot waste. Time is a precious gift from God and we must manage it wisely because every moment in our lives will soon pass.

So, this week I encourage all of you to praise the God who gave you this wonderful life on earth. Give thanks to the things that you have in your life right now: the family that you have, the friends that you have made, the abilities God has given you in the classroom and in the real world, and don’t forget how blessed you are to experience life at Cedarville University. And for those of you who have lost something precious to you, whether it be a breakup or losing a loved one, thank God for time that you had with that person and hold on to memories that you have of them. It is hard to be thankful when you are in a dark season of life, but continue to be thankful. Because in the end, God is using every season of your life for a great purpose that we may never fully understand.

Don’t Let Doubts Defeat You

It’s that time of year we have all been dreading: midterms. Midterms and other exams can really be draining, especially when it comes to your hardest classes. So this week, I thought I could bring some encouragement for when our work load becomes more than what we can handle.

There is a saying that goes around: “God won’t give you more than you can handle”. Is this a true statement? If we look at 1 Corithians 10:13,

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Is this what Paul is telling us? Let’s look at this as a college point of view.

There will be at least one college course here at school that you will struggle with. You may be consuming all your time studying for that class, but your grades still don’t look so great. This can be really frustrating and mostly discouraging, sometimes you doubt your ability to succeed. College isn’t meant to be easy. Here at Cedarville University, you will be challenged academically and spiritually to be ready for the real world. Sometimes a class seems too difficult, and the work for the rest of the semester seems too much. And the work load before doing it, already puts you down. To me, I want to be self-sufficient, and when getting grades I am not pleased about, I tend to let it bring me down and worry about what the rest of college is going to look like.

But the Bible tells us to not worry about the future as long as we trust in the Lord and not our own ability, God will provide. He will provide you a path to follow:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

So this is my advice: If you are going to be defeated by a college course, then at least give it your best effort. Give it your best shot with the abilites God has given you. Use your free time outside of classes wisely. But don’t be absorbed by what your grades look like too. Grades are important, sure, but your growth in character and your growth in knowledge is more important. And the only way to grow is through the challenges that life throws at us:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:1-5).

We can’t be successful at everything, and you might face challenges that seem to be too much for you, but don’t work against God’s plans for you and let your doubts defeat you.

So back to the question, does God not give us more than we can handle? Well, this is only partially true. I think at least one class here at Cedarville is going to be a class that we may not be able to handle with our own strength. And this only portrays our weakness and how much we need God’s strength. So it’s not really about if we can handle it or not, it’s more about that God will help us through all we have been given, as long as we trust and have faith that He will provide.

What Being Left Out Taught Me About Valuing People

Girl Alone in Corner

Have you ever had a time where you felt left out?

Maybe you were the only one not invited to a friend’s party. Maybe you didn’t make a sports team or audition, but your friends all did.

Let’s face it, rejection hurts. It’s not fun to be left out.

I’ve had so many times growing up where I was the only one. Believe it or not, my worst “left-out” experiences have been at church.

Ever since I was little, I’ve been the only one my age at church who actually came on a regular basis.

When I was 3, I was in a Sunday School class by myself. My teacher, Miss Sue, was the sweetest lady. She even made a blanket and pillow for my Sheepie, so that we would both be comfortable in her class. In Miss Sue’s class, I felt welcomed. I knew I was the only one and I kind of wanted others to come, but I liked the individual attention.

Fast-forward ten years, and my family switched churches. That was one of the most difficult times of my life. As someone who dreads change, this was a major transition.

At this new church, I was still the only one my age. The majority of the kids there were either two years older or two years younger.

For a while, I was lumped into class with the younger kids, but finally, kids my age started coming. We had a 7th-9th grade class and there were five of us in there on a good day.

Well, after a while, the other four drifted away. And week after week, month after month, I was the only one.

Now, being the only one didn’t bother me as much as the way this new teacher handled it.

She constantly made comments like “Nobody’s here” or “Why doesn’t anyone come to class?” right to my face. Every single class, she complained about who wasn’t there. I was the “nobody” that came.

It was like I didn’t exist.

There was never appreciation for the fact that I came faithfully. Just constant grumbling about how no one ever came. Even to this day, she acts like she did nothing wrong. She never realized how much she hurt me.

Talk about a slap in the face!

So for the longest time, I tried to make excuses so I could avoid going to church. I felt “sick” almost every week and tried to convince my church-faithful parents that we should skip Sunday School. Let’s just say, that didn’t happen.

After a few years, I was old enough to move to another class and new people around my age joined the church. Although no place is absolutely perfect, church became a lot better after leaving that negative class.

But this whole experience taught me a valuable life lesson: Every single person matters and wants to feel valued.

Even in youth group, the leaders would spend a whole night focused on how many people weren’t there and how we were failing to bring friends to church!

Yes, I think it’s important to invite friends. But, I think leaders should be appreciative of every single person who comes.

I’m sure it’s frustrating to put in a lot of effort and very few people show up. It probably makes the leaders feel like their time is being wasted.

But I don’t think it should. God’s message matters the same whether one person hears it or one million do.

In this day and age, I think we’re all focused on numbers. How many likes we get on Instagram, how many YouTube subscribers we have, how many people read our blog posts. I’m guilty of this too.

Trying to get a bigger following isn’t entirely wrong, but I do think we should be grateful for everyone who has been faithful and is choosing to view our content/ come to our class. Successful companies know the value of rewarding faithful employees and customers. If people aren’t being treated kindly, why would anyone else bother coming?

Since I know what it feels like to be treated like you don’t exist, I want to make sure that I go out of my way to make people feel welcome.

I hope to teach Sunday School one day and I eagerly await the day I have one student. I want to pour as much energy and passion into that beautiful soul as I would into a room of 100.

To God, we all matter. Not just collectively as human beings, but as individuals.

He even knows the number of hairs on our head! (Matthew 10:30). 

I absolutely love Psalm 139. If you ever feel left out or like no one cares, this is the chapter for you. You are so loved and valued by God!

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!”
~ Psalm 139:13-17 (NLT)

In all honesty, I don’t always do a good job of making people feel welcome. I get shy, I get comfortable, I fail. But I’m striving to love people like God loves them more and more.

So if you’re feeling left out or like you’re the only one, I want to encourage you that you matter SO MUCH. No matter what hurtful things people have said or done. You are so valuable and wonderful.

And sometimes God uses the most painful times we’ve had so that we can encourage others who’ve dealt with similar struggles.

This Powerful thing called Prayer

I wanted to share a piece of my life so that maybe one of you would be encouraged by the message I want to share with you today.

Recently, I have been drowned in my own pain. I have been finding it difficult to get out of bed, to go through the motions, go to class, and to do focus on my studies. I struggle with dealing with my sadness and depression. It is all that I think about now. My thoughts are overwhelming, as if they are screaming at me. I feel that I am losing hope. Anyone else feel like that, or is it just me?

This weekend, I cried, swallowed up in my sadness, feeling completely and utterly alone. I knew in my mind that the only comfort that I need is God himself. I did not know how to speak to God for I didn’t feel his prescence in my pain, but I know He could hear my thoughts and my silent cry for help.

I prayed asking, “How much longer Lord? How much longer will I feel this way? Am I truly alone in this journey I’m facing?”. As I kept praying for answers, I heard the Holy Spirit respond, “Don’t forget Who Your Father is”. I immediately fell in awe and moved by God’s love

Our sinful nature make us forget some things. We live in a negative world here on earth, so we tend to let the world control our attitudes and affect our perspective see each day. The world tells us what to think, how to act, and what to choose. This is Satan tempting you and telling you to forget the many many promises God has made for all of us. Let us not forget that each day we wake up, we are alive, we are breathing, and God has provided for us! Isn’t that amazing?! Praise God for letting us live anew because of His gracious love.

God is working in us. All of our skills, abilities, strengths, and achievements are not our own gifts, but gifts and blessings that were given to us from God Himself. He gives us these gifts so that we may use them in the glory of His name.

If you are having a bad day today, I want you to stop and think about five things you are thankful for today. Even if you are having a good day, this is a good exercise for you too. If you can’t think of five, just find at least one thing that you are thankful. Write them down and pray to God how thankful you are for those things. I challenge you to continue to do this so that maybe, just maybe, our heart will grow farther away from our sin but closer to the joy in Christ Jesus that we strive for. I understand that there are days where we struggle in our misery and in deep anguish. But, our pain is being used for good. There is meaning in our misery. God is with us in every step of suffering- remember that. For God knows what we don’t know and God sees what we don’t see. If we commit our faith to God when we suffer, not only will we overcome it, we will also grow from it and we will learn from it for God gives us purpose to our struggles. We may not know the purpose while we are in our struggles, but all that matters is that God will provide.

Therefore: “Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

And if you aren’t sure what to pray, here is an acronym that can help:

PraiseThank God for the blessings He has given you.

Repent. Ask for forgiveness of your sins and ask for him to take away any darkness that is in your heart.

Ask. Ask for His help in anything in your life that you may be struggling with right now.

Yield. Surrender yourself to God. Allow yourself to be led by the will of God.

If this doesn’t help you, don’t forget about this prayer:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:9-13).

I pray that you may also keep praying even when it gets hard. God can still hear our cries even when we struggle getting the words out. GOD ANSWERS PRAYERS. It may not seem like it from time to time but He is answering our prayers. They may not seem like immediate responses or solutions, but He does answer them in His own time. This is where we should continue to trust in His will for us.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him,and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Why Your Testimony Matters

 

The purpose of a testimony is essentially to tell others how you made the decision to follow Jesus.

Chances are, if you’ve grown up in the church, you’ve heard these a lot.

Over the course of my 19 years, I’ve heard a fair share of testimonies.

I remember going to see Candace Cameron Bure at a women’s conference when I was ten. I was so impressed with her story and how her faith impacted her career. Hollywood and Christian morals don’t often align, so it’s been interesting to see how she’s staying true to God and making a difference in Hollywood at the same time.

In the back of my mind that day, I wanted to run away from home, “live”, and come back so I could have an incredible testimony too. I thought my testimony was too boring and insignificant.

Maybe you’ve felt that way too?

I was raised in a Christian home. I attended a Christian school from Pre-school through 8th grade. I was saved when I was four years old. I don’t even remember the exact date.

I’ve heard so many people in church talking about how their lives were so radically changed when they became a Christian.

I began to wonder if something was wrong with me. There was nothing radical about my faith. I don’t remember who I was before then.

One night in youth group, there was a lesson on testimonies. I initially rolled my eyes. It wouldn’t apply to me at all. Who would care about my boring testimony?

But the lesson basically explained that everyone’s testimony matters. Being a Christian is a lifelong process. It doesn’t stop when you ask Jesus into your heart. It’s a commitment to follow Jesus all the way. We’re all prone to sin and being “saved” doesn’t mean we’re perfect or exempt from temptations.

From a human perspective, we often try to rate sins. We may try to justify our actions by saying, “A little white lie isn’t so bad, but murder, well that’s just wrong!”

But that’s not the way God looks at sin. All sin separates us from God. All sin is wrong. No matter how harmful or innocent it seems to us, sin is sin.

As a four year old, I had sinned. I had fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). The wages of my sins were death, but through Jesus, I now had access to eternal life (Romans 6:23).

It can be easy to take salvation for granted sometimes, but think how incredible it truly is! Whether you were 4 or 94, the moment you chose to follow Jesus and accept forgiveness of sins, you were saved from eternal death. You now have hope of living with Jesus forever!

You were no longer defined by your mistakes, but by God’s grace.

Growing up, I was far from perfect. I would lie and manipulate to get my own way. I would hide the truth from my parents, wait a couple of years and then tell them. That way, the punishment wouldn’t be quite as bad.

I also back-talked quite a lot. I always felt compelled to give my two cents, even when it was obviously the wrong time to do so.

From the ages of 4 to 8, I probably asked Jesus into my heart at least 20 times. I wanted to make sure that Jesus would forgive me every time I sinned. I hated being in trouble, but I still loved lying and talking back. When it was less painful to lie than tell the truth, I usually did. On the outside, I was always a “good kid” at school, but very stubborn and strong-willed on the inside.

I guess you could say the perk to being saved from a young age is growing in Jesus as you grow in age. By seventh grade, I finally understood what a relationship with Jesus was all about. He wasn’t just someone we learned about in Bible class, but someone who genuinely wanted to know us personally. It wasn’t about how well I kept the rules. It was about how much I loved Him.

When my goal was to love Jesus, doing the right thing became easier. I wasn’t as much concerned with “getting in trouble” as I was with disappointing God.

Everyday is still a journey. I try to do what’s right, but inevitably mess up from time to time. That’s what makes following Jesus a lifelong process that is so worth it.

Every Christian has their own daily strengths and struggles. We can be encouraged to keep running the race (Hebrews 12:2) by hearing stories of what others have overcome with God’s help.

That’s why your testimony matters.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on testimonies.

How did you come to know Jesus? Have anyone else’s stories of salvation impacted your life?

Thanks for reading,

RaeAnn