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Beatitudes: Poor In Spirit

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:3

When we think of being “poor,” good things don’t come to our minds. I always think about not having a lot and always struggling to be able to survive in this world. The hard times, having to pinch every penny, and the buyer’s remorse every time you spend anything. Even when it’s something you absolutely need like food or personal hygiene products. Being “Poor” sucks.

However, there are good things that come out of being poor. I always think back to “The Pursuit of Happiness” with Will Smith and how the man in the movie struggled. Following a business adventure that would make his family a lot of money, but ended up being one of the worst investments of his life. His wife left him and his son. He had to live in homeless shelters and even turned against a good friend of his for sixteen dollars! Then a job opportunity came that he couldn’t refuse. He worked hard and did his best to charm the bosses until they offered him the job, and it changed his life. Now the man who the movie is about now lives a really good.

I think the best life lessons come from when you start at the bottom. It keeps you grounded as your success grows and reminds you of where you came from. Many people who struggled at one point in their life end up helping a lot of people through their own charities and fundraiser events. Most of the time it’s aimed towards people who find themselves in the exact situation they were in before.

Let’s look at some more good things that come out of being poor.

1. You are thankful for what you have – You may not have a lot or be able to give everything your family wants, but you have enough. There’s a level of happiness that is found in this situation because, honestly, you don’t need a lot of stuff. Stuff is stuff. At the end of the day, what does it really do for you?

2. Relying on God – Let’s face it. There are some people who have to decide which bills they’re going to pay that month. How terrible to think about! This gives us reasons to rely on God. He promises that He’ll give for us the things we need. I’ve come to notice that even when I feel that I’m not being provided for, I am. (Matthew 6:31-32)

3. You’re Humbled – Admitting you need help isn’t a weakness. In fact, it takes a seriously large amount of strength to turn away from your pride like that. When we come before God and ask for His help, or for ANYONE’S help, there’s something that happens within us. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather admit that I need help and get it than not to and struggle. When we humble ourselves, we understand that we have no control.

So what does that have to do with our spirits? Jesus wants us to take all the good lessons that we learn through being “Poor” and apply them to our spirits. While we’re probably not poor on the outside, He wants us to act poor on the inside. Be thankful for everything that we have whether it’s a lot or a little. Trust in Him no matter if we are in a good place or a bad place. Realize that we aren’t in control of our own lives and give the control to Him.

Since the beatitudes are the opposite of what the world expects us to be, what is the opposite of being poor in spirit? If we aren’t poor in spirit then we are proud. We aren’t thankful for what God provides, we don’t rely on God for what we need, and we never accept help or admit that we need it.

“(17) For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (18) I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. (19) Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” – Revelation 3:17-19

The church of Laodicea was a lot like this. In Revelation 3:17-19, John sends a letter to tell them what Jesus wants them to know. They think they are rich and don’t need anything. You can think of their city as being like the United States. We don’t really need anything. Sure jobs, a less amount of homeless people and food stamps, etc. All those would be nice, but we have a lot more than a lot of other countries. In fact, I make more in a week than a lot of people live off in a year. Crazy, right?

These people were wealthy and comfortable. Let me put it into perspective. If you are happy at your job, with your home, your spouse, your children, and your material wealth, what do you need? Nothing, right? Wrong. No matter what situation you’re in, you always need God. All of these things that make you happy are temporary. What happens if you lose it all? Do you suddenly need God now? God doesn’t want you to only need Him when it’s convient to you. He wants you to need Him ALL THE TIME.

There are other forms of wealth than just material things. A lot of people in the church are under the impression that they are “spiritually wealthy.” Meaning that they have their salvation, wisdom and understanding, and the Holy Spirit. However, that is usually not the case. A lot of the time people lose sight of this beatitude in their hearts. We become what people call, “High and mighty.”

This is why Jesus calls us to be Poor in Spirit. If we’re supposed to live our lives for Him, that means serving Him and His people. You can’t serve and help others if you are too high and mighty. If you are so prideful in yourself and what you think your salvation is.

In 5:3, Jesus says that to be “Poor in Spirit,” is to be blessed. This goes the opposite direction of what we consider being “Blessed” is. When you hear some say they’re blessed, what comes to your mind? Usually that something grand happened to them or that they don’t have a single worry. They’re blessed because they came across a lot of money, got a new car, found a house, etc. But here Jesus says that if you are poor in your own state of mind, then you’re blessed.

What He’s really saying is that it’s better to humble yourself and be a light to others than to be prideful and be “Above” others. When you don’t humble yourself, you don’t care about others and their situations. You start to think that you can control your own life. Eventually, you leave the arms of Jesus.

So what does being Poor in spirit mean to you? Are you more prideful or humble? What in your life have caused you to humble yourself? When do you consider yourself blessed? Remember, there’s no right or wrong answers. We are all at different stages of our lives and our faith. Sometimes we continuously fall back into these stages. However, this is how God wants us to be. This is how His son was and still is to this day. The whole point of being a Christian isn’t just to love God and find salvation in His son. It’s also to follow His teachings and be like Him. Even though we could never live up to His standards.

Picture via torrahclub.ffoz.org

Happiness Vs. Joy In The Lord

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” – Galatians 5:22

Have you ever been through a struggle? How did you feel during the hard times? Were you happy? Probably not. In the past four years since being saved, I’ve had a lot of what you would call, “Hard times.” From struggles in relationships, family, work, writing, and my life in general.

During these times I wasn’t happy at all and that made me question God. If I’m a Christian and gave myself to the Lord, why am I not happy? Why doesn’t anything work in my favor? I’m consistently living for God, going to church, bible studies, and helping others in need. I’m kind, considerate of others, and I hold my tongue when I would rather rain my wrath down on those who upset me.

God spoke to me one day while I was ranting all my frustrations out on Him. He told me to make a list of everything that makes me happy no matter how dumb it may seem. I’ll never forget my answer.

Shoes, animals, comfortable beds, pillows, blankets, movies, music, food, flowers, my hair, getting my nails done, kittens, money (making and spending), writing, reading, shopping, the mall, my family, my friends, laughing, jokes, my phone, Facebook, comics, scarves, clothes, beanies, hair accessories…

The point is, there was a lot of stuff that made me happy. Then God asked me the most convicting question I’d ever had. “How many of those things have to do with me?” I read over my list and almost died because I was so appalled with myself. Absolutely none of these things had to do with my faith or God or serving Him at all!

But God wasn’t mad at me because when I had only been saved for about two years. Spiritually talking, I was a mere infant at that time. There comes a point when every Christian has to learn this lesson. Next God said to me, “If I gave you these things: shoes, clothes, pets, and money, you would be happy. But these are not things that you NEED. They are what you WANT.”

“Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” – Luke 12:15

See, even when we try not to we look at God as if He is our Santa Claus. This concept is more than just thinking He’s a big guy in a red suit that gives us stuff. It’s believing that His sole purpose is to make us happy and that if we aren’t happy, then He is wrong. God isn’t here to make us “Happy.” Really, that idea limits God. God is eternal and His power is infinite where happiness is only temporary.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19

Money makes you happy until it runs out. Your boyfriend makes you happy until he does something wrong to you. Your pet makes you happy until they make a mess. Shopping makes you happy until what you bought isn’t new anymore. See the pattern?

The things that God does for you are far more valuable than what you do for yourself. God provides every need we have. He promises to clothe and feed us and always take care of us. Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on the Earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves o not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want us to be happy and have these things. It also doesn’t mean that He won’t give the means of getting them. During this past Christmas, I had a so-called. “Best Friend” steal a lot of money from me. It ruined my chances of buying anyone Christmas presents and I was heartbroken. However, at the last-minute, I prayed to God to make enough money to buy my nieces and nephew something for Christmas.

What I wanted to get them all came to the cost of $55. So I asked to make at least $60 to cover the tax. That day I made $77. This was more than enough, or so I thought. When I got to Wal-Mart, I couldn’t find what I had wanted to get them. By the time I checked out my total was just under $77. I always love using this example because it shows how God cares and does want us to be happy.

The problem is when we get lost in it. Worldly things bring happiness. Material possessions and other people are just two examples. It becomes a problem when those things that make us happy become idols. The new guy in your life becomes more important than God, money becomes more important than God, reading a book more than your bible, etc.

Even though God wants to give us opportunities to be happy, but what He really wants is for us to be joyful. People like to put joy and happiness in the same definition, but they are two different things. There isn’t happiness in times of hardship, but you can stay joyful because of God. Being joyful allows you to get through the hardship easier because you know God will take care of you.

“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” – Isaiah 12:3

Joy is something that only God can give you. Your boyfriend can’t make you joyful and your material possessions can’t make you joyful. Food, money, and sex can’t make you joyful. All of these things are temporary, but because God is forever so is your joy.

“(10) That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (11) I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,”[a] even though I am nothing.” – 2 Corinthians 12:10-11

So I urge you to do what God had me do. Get some paper and a pen. Write down everything that makes you happy no matter what it is. Don’t worry, some of these things may have something to do with God’s purpose for you such as helping others or going to church. When you’re done, read it and check everything that applies to God. How many things on the list are Godly?

“(7) Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (8) Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” – Galatians 6:7-8

Picture Via Nashville Christian Family Magazine

Old Fashioned

When my sister and I were little, we played a role-playing game called “Old Fashioned” where we pretended to be children growing up in the Victorian Era. I always found it fun to fake accents (which I’m still very bad at) and spend time with my older sister. When she found this movie called, “Old Fashioned,” I thought that it would be like the game we used to play, but instead it was very different.

There are very few love movies that I will still watch: Fireproof, War Room, and now Old Fashioned. I loved how they took Clay (Rik Swartzwelder), a former frat boy who had done and said awful things to woman, and showed how different events had led to him finding God and completely changed his life around. But he isn’t perfect and still holds grudges against himself, which is where Amber (Elizabeth Roberts) comes in. She’s a free-spirited, go where ever the wind takes me, sort of girl. Together they try to have the old-fashioned relationship that he wants and she needs.

This movie impressed me with the fact that they showed two people who both had pasts that weren’t pretty, were fearful of what the other would think of them, but then chose to look past the baggage and love each other for who they became. This is the cutest love story I’ve ever seen.

Who Do You Say I Am?

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” And He continued by questioning them, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:27-29)

There comes a point in our lives when we’re faced with this very question, and whether we are believers of the cross or not it makes its impact. The night Jesus saved me he said, “You need me.” And so I did. Throughout the time that I’ve followed him I have been through many trials, and I’ve had to make difficult decisions out of my faith that caused mixed feelings towards me from other people.

Even though my faith is strong, sometimes I grow too confident in it and will sometimes lose sight of who God is and his importance in my life. Sometimes I think I’m putting God first when I’m not and He has to put me in my place.

One of those moments has happened recently. I’ve been faced with the question, “Who do you say I am?” He isn’t just some big guy in the clouds. He’s the God that created the entire universe (Genesis 1:1-31), made humanity (Genesis 1:27), flooded the earth for forty days and nights and then made it new again (Genesis 6-9). He told hungry lions not to hurt Daniel (Daniel 6), saved three men from being burned with fire (Daniel 3:14-29), had a virgin give birth to the Son of God (Matthew 1:18-25) who died for our sins (Matthew 27:32-61) so that we may live forever even when we die (John 11:25).

So when I’m asked who I say God is, He is the one and only Great I Am. THAT is who he is.

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

Do You Believe?

“Do you believe?” A question that represents the most important part of our lives. What you believe is a way of life and what/who you choose to put your faith in is the leader of your life. As human beings, it is so easy to cheat, to steal, to lust, etc. The world around us is so full of lies that it is torturing us mentally, emotionally, and physically every day. It was John that said,

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father  is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)

All of our life we get pushed by those who came before us. Do this, do that. This is the order you live your life. This is how you dress and act. If you listen, you’ll end up unhappy and in a life you never wanted. However, if you don’t listen you’ll still end up that way. What does that tell you? There is only one voice that matters when it comes to your well-being. That voice does not belong to anyone that is around you, nor does it belong to anyone that is of the world.

It’s that soft breeze that comes through the trees and cools you on a hot summer day. The refreshing water that flows around your body and makes you clean. It’s the voice that can cause hurricanes, move the ground through an earthquake, and sweep everything bane up with a tornado. This incredible voice belongs to someone who is so indescribable that no human, angel, or demon can fathom it. He goes by the name of God.

God created you and because he loved YOU so much, he came to earth and walked with us. He taught us, he loved us, he saved us. He shed his blood so that we would all love the opportunity to come to him and have no worries, no sadness, no torture.  So knowing that someone who is so infinite loves you, what is your belief system? Who do you allow to lead your life? Is it a savior, or is it yourself?

In the movie “Do You Believe” Twelve people face challenges in their lives where they have to make a choice between their will or God’s. Fortunately enough God wanted all their souls and what God wants, he gets. From putting everything they’ve worked for on the line to helping their enemy and even facing death, these twelve people went through it all.

I filled with so much emotion as I watched this that I started questioning my faith. What do I believe? How do I believe it? And I realized that I had become like the church of Ephesus: I’d forgotten my first love. I had put my video games, me relationship, and my job before God. I had forgotten that my life only goes according to plan when I put his will above my own. All I am and all I have has come from my creator: God. It was through Jesus that my life changed. When he isn’t in my line of vision I go back to being who I was before and that isn’t cool.

I had become like the church of Laodicea: I was lukewarm and I didn’t want to believe it. I’d stopped praying, and when I did pray it was to ask for something. I wasn’t praising him and wouldn’t listen to anyone who tried to talk to me about it because I had become so prideful that I believed my faith was too strong to break. I was a Pharisee and I knew it needed to change.

If you need to feel God’s love, if you want to feel appreciation for God, or if you need a wake-up call. If you need a reason to keep going this movie is the one to see because you will not walk away unchanged. I pray that no one will walk away untouched. I pray that every heart turns and becomes more compassionate, more loving, more generous, and more merciful when it’s watched and I pray that you lift your eyes and your hands to the heavens and just say, “Jesus, I believe.”

Is God Real?

Is there a creator of this perfect design that we live in, or do we exist because of a random event? Were we planned, or were we just an accident? If there is a god, who is he? What is he about? Where is he?

During the last couple of weeks, I wasn’t sure what to write about. Nothing was getting on my nerves and I wasn’t finding anything cool that I wanted to share. However, today during my dad’s sermon I got the urge to write a blog about God’s existence. Normally I wouldn’t think anything of it, but this time was different because He wasn’t leading me to scripture, he wasn’t leading me to quotes or any biblical history at all. He was telling me to write what I know.

And it dawned on me. When I first got saved, I knew very little about the Bible. I knew that God made the world, Noah had an ark, Moses freed the Jews, Jesus died on the cross and that one day He would come back. So the way that I saw to people was through telling them what God had done in my life. Over the last couple of years, I’ve shied away from telling my story and used more scripture and history which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, sometimes I forget that the correct proof we have of God’s existence is what He has done for us. So here it is. This is my proof.

There are two types of people: those who get saved as easily as hearing a conversation in a restaurant or seeing a bible track (those tiny pamphlets that people leave in random places). Then there are people like me: hard-headed and stubborn. To admit you can’t do it by yourself, you have to fall apart.

I grew up in a family that was sort of everywhere in faith. Mom’s side enforced Jesus and Church where my dad’s side believed but didn’t enforce it as an actual way of life. My mom instilled Christian morals and a how-to guide on walking like Jesus in me when I was really young, and when I moved in with my dad I started to forget about all that stuff. God became background noise until, eventually, He didn’t exist to me at all. “I don’t know” was always my answer when asked about my faith.

When I turned sixteen I discovered paganism and was completely taken by it. I loved how creative and different it was, and I had never felt so spiritual in my life. It was finally something that I could lean on. Symbols and their meanings were something I studied. I also knew the names and powers of stones, runes, and different plants and herbs. I meditated while chanting the names of gods, I went into the woods and did rituals, I called upon the powers of the elements and deities, and I praised them. Pentagrams and talismans were things I wore every day. “Witch” is what I called myself.

There are people who will swear up and down to me that magic isn’t real, but 10 out of 10 times I will swear up and down to them that it is because I have experienced it. It changed me. I had real power that no one else could experience the way I could. Lives and relationships changed because of me and I found it funny.

Right after I graduated high school I started seeing this guy that was not good for me and my life turned upside down. He got into my head by becoming the guy he knew I wanted, but he only pretended. After he got my heart, he controlled everything. My head, my heart, my body, my money, my social media, when I could go somewhere, who I go with, who I talk to. I wasn’t allowed to eat (he stayed at my job to make sure I didn’t eat there) or sleep (if I fell asleep he’d wake me up every hour). He made horrible comments to me that degraded me as not only a woman but as a human being. I was nothing to him and he made sure that I knew it.

He told me that no one would ever love me like he loved me. I was too crazy, I talked too much, and I didn’t know what I was doing. His control was something I needed so that I didn’t do anything wrong. I was lucky that he loved me. In just four months my confidence didn’t exist, I was nearing anorexia and so sick with depression that I was basically just a vegetable that stared off into space. My brain physically felt fried.

I still remember the night that I got down on my knees. There wasn’t a candle or chanting. I didn’t do anything fancy. I said, “I don’t know what faith is right and what faith is wrong. Whoever is up there, I need help because I don’t know what to do. I’ve lost everything that is me.” Then the most incredible series of events started happening. The next night, my best friend randomly decided to come see if I was working that day for no reason other than he thought about me. I hadn’t seen him in over a month because of the tight leash I was on. After the conversation we had that night, I could feel my attitude coming back. It was just enough for me to remember what life was like before having an abusive boyfriend.

A couple of days later, we were out taking a walk and he made a vulgar comment to me and instead of cowering and taking it, I punched him in the face and just walked away. He did nothing. There were a couple more occasions that proved to me that he was more afraid of me than I was of him. When I realized he tore me down and ruined my life because he felt small compared to me, I got mad. This anger didn’t go away. Finally, the tables turned and he couldn’t touch me mentally, emotionally, or physically.

After awhile, I left him (which is a story I could tell by itself). The next month I was having to deal with stalking, harassment, and threatening phone calls and text messages which all ended in a restraining order. But just because I saved myself from that relationship, didn’t mean it was over. I couldn’t run from my own thoughts and he had done a number to my head.

I still remember when Stephen picked me up the night I left him. We went to a restaurant and I when I looked in the mirror I didn’t recognize myself. I didn’t feel like it was my body or my brain. When I went into my house and looked at my room it felt weird. It was like I was intruding on the old me’s personal space. My books, my clothes, my posters…none of it felt like it was mine. The next day I deep cleaned and rearranged my room. I was no longer that person.

For three months after I struggled with my thoughts. I looked through pictures, memory books, old journals and pieces of writing. Anything I could to remember what I was like before that relationship. I was angry at him, at myself, at the world. When I was alone I would sit on the floor or on my bed staring into space, convulsing because the thoughts were too much, the visuals of torture and murder wouldn’t leave my mind. I filled with sorrow and hate. I hated everyone and everything and I especially hated him. It was a long three months.

March 7, 2013, is a day that I am very proud of. My mom was back in Florida and remarried. While I was feeling all of that pain, I was also seeing Christianity for what it really was. That day I asked my mom if we could watch bible movies and she was ecstatic. We ended that day with The Passion of the Christ and that night I asked Jesus into my heart because I felt so alone. I had tried to move on, but I just couldn’t do it by myself.

In that moment, my life had changed. I felt a warmth around me like I was being held. All those awful thoughts and images went away and I didn’t feel sorrow, or hate, or anger. I was different the day after God showed me the person he needed me to be.

I still struggled in relationships with my family, friends, and boyfriends. But now I am completely healed. I use my story to mentor others and it has been really helpful. I don’t regret that relationship. In fact, it’s one of my best ones in my opinion. I am such a different person because of it and I love the new me. I learned how to love and be loved and how to forgive and be forgiven, among many other lessons. For example, I’ve been with this cutie for almost two years and thank God every day for giving me someone who is so wonderful to me. We have our moments, but I don’t remember how I lived without him.

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“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. or those God foresaw he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Romans 8:28-29

There is no way to describe God in words. He is infinite and is there with you where ever you are no matter what you are doing. God is always giving love and wisdom to His people regardless of if they deserve it. He doesn’t wish for anything bad to happen, and He doesn’t make those things happen either. He begs us to not do anything hurtful to ourselves or other people and guides our lives hoping that we will let Him.