Systematic what??

Think theology is boring?

Theology is defined as the study of the nature of God and religious belief. Sounds dry and monotonous yes? I mean theologians are those crusty above middle age men and women you see on National Geographic documentaries right? Why should we study theology? I am a nerd by trade and a bookworm to boot; it just comes naturally to me. I love learning about God and the Bible. I’m currently taking a class entitled Systematic Theology. As if theology itself wasn’t hard enough, we have to get all systematic about it?? But I’ve been reading some interesting things in one of my textbooks recently. One traditional definition of theology is “faith seeking understanding.” Studying theology leads to questions. We aren’t questioning our faith, rather we ask questions in order to understand God better. Augustine, and later Anselm, both theologians, agreed that believers inquire not to attain faith but rather to increase their joy by gaining a better understanding of who their God is. True faith keeps on seeking and asking after God. True faith leads a believer to want to know more about their glorious God since they have already experienced the grace of God through His Son Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us in Matthew 6:33 to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. True theology is not just about reading a bunch of books, writing a couple of academic papers, and getting a PhD. Rather it is about seeking after God, getting to know Him, and trying to understand Him just because we love Him. Of course we can never fully understand God, which is not the goal. But the more we learn about Him, the more we grow in Him!

Go ye…

After my missions trip to Panama last September, I came back to work feeling depressed.  I bumped into a girl in my office who asked me where I had been.  I told her I had gone on a missions trip to help build a soup kitchen.  She then said, “Well that’s nice, do you feel better about yourself now?”  To which I instantly answered with a simple “No.”  It was an auto answer, I didn’t have to think about it.  It meant, “No, I felt worse than before I went.”  Nothing traumatic had happened to me.  I had caught a cold but that wasn’t what was troubling my spirit.  I didn’t feel better about myself at all, rather I felt like I hadn’t done enough for those I went to serve.  I felt like a week and a half was not nearly enough time to accomplish what I wanted to do.  I thought about all the sweet children I had met.  They had stood outside the tiny building watching us work throughout the week.  They were fascinated with the tools we were using, they wanted to help us paint.  Every little detail we added to the room was like a new treasure to them.  They were excited and they didn’t mind traipsing through the dusty, dirty conditions we worked in.  The heat was unbearable at times, the worst being when I painted the kitchen.  There were no windows and the smell of the paint mixed with the stifling air was almost too much to handle.  I almost gave up that day, but I pressed on since that was all I was able to do to help.  If I didn’t do it, someone else would have to step in and finish it which would take them away from another task they could be doing.  I didn’t want the rest of the team to know how tired I was, how much my hands, my shoulders, and my back ached.

Missionary life is a calling.  It isn’t a vacation.  It’s not a “cultural experience.”  You don’t go on a missions trip to fulfill any duty.  It’s not a requirement, meaning you don’t have to go.  Of course Jesus said “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.”  But the lifestyle is not for everyone.  It doesn’t fulfill anything in yourself IF you do it right.  What you’re doing is fulfilling Christ’s work.  You’re being His hands and feet.  Because we love our Jesus so much, missionaries will give of themselves freely.  We do whatever it takes to accomplish God’s plan.  We spread God’s love in tangible ways and hope that the little things we do in His name helps someone to come to know Him and love Him as much as we do.

Singled Out

Check out my guest post on the Lift Off blog!

20somethingsliftoff

singled out

Ever felt singled out for being single? Singles get the short end of an already short stick in contemporary society. You’ll pay the most for health insurance, you’ll pay an arm and a leg in taxes, AND you’ve got to buy birthday presents for each one of your coupled up friends yet they give you ONE gift on your birthday…it sucks. Today I want to remind you of two very important people in history who were single and changed the world drastically. Let me introduce you to Jesus and Paul! The Scriptures make it very clear that both men never married. So why is there such a stigma against singles? Churches need to affirm singles and not make singles second-class members unless they want to make Jesus and Paul second-class members of Christian tradition. HopeNYC does this by providing Lift-Off!

Let’s talk about covenant relationships for a minute. Covenant…

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I am NOT a Feminist

I am not a feminist. Ouch. That’s a radical statement in this day and age. I’m going to ruffle a lot of feathers. Women are expected to be all about empowerment. We’re expected to side with our sisters in the struggle against the man. The suffrage movement is still alive and well with women at every corner fighting for their rights. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to the women who worked tirelessly to make the government give women the right to vote, the right to equal pay, and the right to just have their own identity. However, my rights as a woman came from my Father. He already made me to be equal to any man – the governments have just been recognizing what’s already there.

I am not a feminist in the sense that I do not want to have power over my man. I am more than happy to give my husband the reins. He is the spiritual head of my household and the head of me. You have to be a Bible-believing Christian to understand why I’m ok with that. That doesn’t mean he tells me what to do. It doesn’t mean I am a pushover or I have no voice in my own house. I’m not one of those women who fought to keep their maiden names after marriage just to keep their identity – I couldn’t wait to change mine! The Bible says clearly that a man shall leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife. Meaning he and I are one. My identity now includes him. We make decisions together, we respect each other’s choices, and we work to make each other happy.

My man is a better cook, a better house cleaner, and a better driver than me. He cooks, I wash the dishes. He drives me around wherever I need to go. He irons his own shirts, picks out his own clothes, and buys himself underwear and socks. He takes care of me and I take care of him. I daresay by not being a feminist, my marriage is a lot happier than most others out there.

Women like me are persecuted for not going along with feminist ideals. Other women try to make us feel bad because we’re not feminists. The feminist movement is all about empowerment and women doing what make them happy – my choices for my life with my husband make me happy and above all empower me to work for God’s kingdom. In the end, that’s all that matters.

Arise!

Arise

Pastor Deven Wallace is coming to HopeNYC!!! Yes, internationally acclaimed preacher Deven Wallace is coming to minister at HopeNYC’s annual Women’s Conference. This year’s theme is Arise – Women with Weapons, and there’s no one better equipped to speak to the subject of taking up your spiritual weapons of warfare than this anointed woman of God. Founder of the Zion Project and co-pastor of Redemption Point church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Pastor Deven’s preaching style is full of fire. She works tirelessly for God’s kingdom.  You will be inspired, you will be changed, and your Spirit will be awakened and refreshed. HopeNYC always puts on an amazing conference and because of our very special guest speaker, seats are going to fill up fast. The cost is only $45.00 for two days of incredible worship and the Word. There will be 100 door prizes and goodie bags for all.  It’s all happening Friday, August 14th and Saturday, August 15th. Call HopeNYC at 718-848-2810 or click here for tickets!

Take a Hike!

Hope Ambassadors Hiking

Saturday morning. 9:45am. There’s a bunch of ill-equipped people embarking on a four mile hike through Forest Park…fancy sneakers, designer shades, and not a clue in the world.  They’re sweating bullets half way through. There’s a hill that just knocks the breath out of them. There are bugs flying into their mouths and every leaf looks like poison ivy. Little chipmunks play along the path and every now and then the group marks the spot they see berries in case they get lost and have to come back for sustenance! Now why would they subject themselves to all this? Because I asked them to.

Every single one of them are a part of Hope Ambassadors, a ministry at HopeNYC dedicated to training missionaries before sending them into the mission field. If you’re a member of Hope Ambassadors, we’ll teach you a language, prepare you with travel necessities, and attempt to acclimatize you before you even step foot on an airplane. We’re looking to reduce culture shock. We’re looking to teach proper mission trip etiquette (don’t use up all the water if there’s no running water!). We’ll let you know if you need to bring a pillow, sleeping bag, or toilet paper!

Now back to the hiking trip. A key part of Ambassador training is purely physical. We want our missionaries to be accustomed to walking long distances. They may have to climb a mountain to get to an isolated area. We want to condition their bodies to withstand unfamiliar environments and climates. We want them to be physically capable for any trip they may take. Not only is it beneficial to them, it benefits their fellow missionaries as well! I was so proud of the few who showed up on Saturday morning. It wasn’t so much about the hiking; I wasn’t looking to see who the best at it was. Rather, I was gauging the willingness and the determination. Just by showing up, I could tell they were ready to commit to wherever this journey is going to lead us!

At What Cost?

Sunday morning, Pastor Curt preached on “How Much?”  Based on 2 Samuel 24:21-25, he asked the question “What did it cost you to follow Jesus?”  In the Scripture, David is looking to buy some property to build an altar for the Lord, but the owner wants to give him the land for free since David is the king.  To which David replies that he will certainly pay for the land since he plans to use it for offering sacrifices to the Lord and he won’t give unto the Lord without it costing him something.  In this particular case he was talking about finances, but what about you?  What has it cost you to follow the Lord?  What price have you paid to give your life to Jesus?  What do you continue to give up in order to walk in His footsteps?  What cross have you carried?  Yes, Jesus said He would make your yoke easy and your burden light.  But in order for Him to do that – you need to be carrying something…hello!

Maybe it cost you a longtime friend who couldn’t understand why you turned into a “Jesus freak.”  Maybe it was a job that didn’t agree with your beliefs (any former bartenders out there?).  Maybe you lost your home because your family wouldn’t accept your new faith (I know a couple of young people like that!).  Maybe you lost all three of those things, but along the way you also lost depression, anger, and anxiety!  What if all it cost you was letting go of the things that held you down anyway?  We tend to focus on all the “good” things we lost, but perhaps we need to highlight what we let go of when we decided to follow Jesus.

Unto These Little Ones

Following up on my last blog where I talked about my writing talents, I know God has a purpose for gifting me in that way.  It is my duty to cultivate and use that gift in a way that is most pleasing to Him.  The Bible says that we must give account for every idle word.  So now I strive to not let any of my words fall by the wayside – but to use them for the furtherance of God’s kingdom!  One of my passions is missions.  While doing missions work in Panama, I have seen what poverty in childhood is like.  My heart is to reach children all over the world and show them the love of Jesus Christ.  With that being said, I am pleased to announce that I have joined Compassion International’s Blogger network to highlight the needs of children in impoverished countries.  I don’t get paid to do this; rather it is my distinct honor and privilege to be able to help in some small way.

Meet Judah, a beautiful, healthy little boy full of energy and life.  His mama tells his story in this short video.  Judah was born with a heart defect that could’ve had him hooked up to medical equipment for the rest of his life.  But because Judah and his parents had access to excellent medical care and of course because of Jehovah Rapha – the Lord our Healer – Judah was healed!  His name means “praise”, and by this sweet boy living his life every day, it is praise to God!

Children in impoverished countries lack access to basic necessities that we take for granted every day.  Clean water, food, and medicine are all essential for these babies to grow and thrive.  Think about your own child, your niece or nephew, your godchildren, grandchildren, your 2nd cousin twice removed, whoever! Think about what lengths you would go to get them anything they needed.  Jesus plainly says in Matthew 25:40 ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Let us do for these little ones as Jesus would have us do!

Dig Up the Past

The Lord dropped an idea for a book in my Spirit a couple of nights ago.  Right when I was about to drift off to sleep the idea wafted into my mind’s eye.  It was brilliant!  Here’s the thing though, I couldn’t remember it the next day.  Luckily, I had remembered to sleepily grab my phone and jot the idea down before I fell asleep.  But I didn’t actually remember I had written it down until a day or two later when I looked at my memos.  Lesson learned – write everything down!

I have been toying with the idea of writing a book since I was in 4th grade and my teacher told me I was such a good writer that I would definitely be writing a book someday.  She made this statement based on a strange little story I had written about some scary monsters having a Halloween party.  She thought I was ultra creative, however, many of the details I included in that story were borrowed from other stories and books I had read.  I just changed some names, mashed it all up and wrote it down.  That made me a plagiarist – but since she hadn’t read the same books I had, she never caught on and therefore thought I was a genius.  I went to school in a time when having a computer at school was a luxury; our classroom had one station with one of those tiny Apple computers.  My story had impressed my teacher so much that she rewarded me by letting me type the story on the computer and make a picture on Kid Pix (remember that??) to go with it!  All my classmates were jealous and it made me feel special and important especially since I wasn’t very popular.

Even with that incident of plagiarism, it turns out I actually was a good writer.  When I got to high school I was placed in honors English classes my freshman year.  In college I consistently scored A’s on papers and essays, prompting one classmate to offer me free personal training sessions if I would write his papers for him (I never took his offer, nor wrote his papers.)  One professor even asked to keep one of my essays as an example for future students on how to write a perfect essay.  Yet, even with the accolades, I still felt like a fraud.  You see, I didn’t think I was a good writer.  Maybe I wrote a little better than most people but I sure wasn’t a New York Times bestseller writer.  I wondered what made me so special.  What made people read my work and exclaim over it? One day I happened to come across a stack of those old writings and I read them over.  Something like a light bulb went off in me because as I read them, I was impressed with what was written.  And then it hit me, I wrote that!!!  I know it sounds strange but as I was reading, I really was astonished that such words could have come from me.  Even now, I can go back and read things I’ve written in the not too distant past (blog posts for example!) and surprise myself with what I wrote.

What’s the point of all this?  I’m not introducing the book I’m writing – that may take some time.  Rather I’m issuing a challenge – I’m asking you to re-examine yourself.  As I can go back and take pride in my writing and see the talent that I possess, look back at the things in your life that don’t seem so special – you may find a hidden talent or gift.  There are treasures in you, God put them there Himself when he formed you in your mother’s womb.  What can you discover today?

Oh What Grace!

I’ve been reading Lee Strobel’s newest book A Case for Grace.  The book is a series of interviews detailing the stories of people who found grace in the most unlikely places and situations.  So far I haven’t read a single chapter without deeply reflecting on my own journey to grace.  I say journey because I feel I haven’t quite reached the point where I can accept the grace that Jesus Christ freely gives me.  I sing “Your grace is enough for me”, but do I really feel that way? Not really.  After all, I’m a sinner.  I’ve done terrible things in my past.  Sure, it’s all under the blood now – God has forgotten all about those things I did – it’s been blotted out.  Yet the Devil – that wicked liar – keeps reminding me of everything that I did.   I know the Devil is looking to get into my head and I know he has no power over me.  I’m an anointed child of God, called and chosen by Him!

But grace is elusive.  I feel like I can’t give it and I sure as rain can’t accept it.  Knowing that God’s grace is abounding and infinite helps.  Knowing that my personal grace should be a reflection of His helps.  God has been generous to me.  He accepted me as I was, still accepts me as I am – flawed and all.

Today I read something by Charles Spurgeon:

When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. I do not think the young convert is at first aware of this.

I can recall the very day and hour when first I received those truths [the doctrine of election] in my own soul — when they were, as John Bunyan says, burnt into my heart as with a hot iron, and I can recollect how I felt that I had grown on a sudden from a babe into a man — that I had made progress in Scriptural knowledge, through having found, once for all, that clue to the truth of God.

One week–night, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher’s sermon, for I did not believe it.

The thought struck me, How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment — I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so?

Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, “I ascribe my change wholly to God.”

All that to say this – God’s grace is what lead me to Him in the first place!!! Without knowing it, I have already accepted His grace.  Now isn’t it just like God to reveal something to you when you least expect it???