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One Year

Miscarriage, FaithJessica ScheksComment

A year ago today I woke up still pregnant. But by the end of the day I was empty.  Physically and emotionally empty.

It is extremely hard to fathom that it's been a year since our first loss. In some ways it feels like it only happened yesterday, and in others ways it's hard to remember what my life was like before my heart was broken.

Psalm 51:12

FaithJessica Scheks2 Comments

psalm 5112This verse hit me like a ton of bricks a couple weekends ago. It's something that has been on my heart for months and I'm sure I have read this block of scripture countless times. But the part that always stood out to me was two verses prior: "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." I still love that verse. But the power of verse 12 had never really resonated with me until a minister from Lancaster, CA brought it out and spoke on restoring the zeal that many "new" Christians have upon being saved. It's something that has been bothering me because I feel like I don't have as much joy as I should considering I am SAVED from eternal death because Jesus Christ died for me despite being perfect himself.

It's almost like it's such a big concept that it's hard for me to put my small human mind around and fully grasp; like it's too good to be true -- but I want to grasp it more. I want to be noticeably joyful in every moment of my life because Jesus died for all of our moments whether they are good or bad. I want to be in absolute awe + wonder when I think of Jesus. I want the thought of salvation to bring me to joy-filled tears. I want to feel even more unworthy than I already do because I come to more of a realization of what Jesus did for me everyday of my life. I not only want the joy I had to be restored to me, I want more of that joy! I just want MORE Jesus.

Getting more of Jesus is so simply laid out for us in the Bible, yet it is so hard for us to attain. John 3:30 states it plainly:  "He must increase, but I must decrease." I wish it were that simple! Dying to self is arguably the hardest thing that we will face as humans on this side of glory. BUT, it is how we will get to glory. So it's not an option but it's still hard. So I've been praying and asking the Lord a lot lately to restore that joy, to put me in my place and show me how AWEsome He is, and to show me ways that I can get to where I need to be. And the answers I feel like I've gotten back so far have been pretty simple. I NEED MORE JESUS! In every way possible, I need more of him. And just as John 3:30 states, to get more of him, there must be less of me.

I can't just pray and ask for more of Jesus without doing anything on my end. I have to empty myself to make more room for him. I am praying for a pure + clean heart with the knowledge that my heart is divided. This concept became so real to me after hearing a minister describe that the opposite of a pure heart is a divided heart. I suddenly had this image of my heart:

divided heart

I envisioned a pie chart in the form of a heart with all of the things that I sometimes, even if it's just momentarily, allow to take priority over my relationship with Jesus. I need to empty my heart of my desire for those things over Jesus. I can still enjoy them, but I have to be so careful that they don't begin to override the importance of Jesus in my life! I'm reminded of the quote I blogged about several weeks ago: "Anything you are unwilling to let go of becomes an idol." ANYTHING. Something as simple and innocent as coffee could become an idol if you refused to give it up for the Lord. I don't feel like He's asking me to give up coffee, but if He were just for the sake of testing my faith, I better be able to give it up! So I'm trying to prepare my heart, because I want it to look like this:

pure heart

I want my heart to be ALL FOR JESUS! I don't even want it to momentarily beat for something other than my Savior, Lord, and King!

So in case you hadn't noticed, I changed the name of my blog! It was originally just my name because I couldn't think of anything that was catchy enough and hadn't already been taken. I also wanted my blog name to be meaningful. And upon hearing this scripture I knew it would be my blog name, and my {future} Etsy shop name {RestoringTheJoy}, and my Instagram username {@restoringthejoy}. So this post gave you all of the insight into the name change!

A Little Pinspiration For You

FaithJessica ScheksComment

#pinningforjesus

Pinning for Jesus 1 Pinning for Jesus 2 Pinning for Jesus

So recently I've shared about how I'm trying to cut back on Social Media and I'd be lying if I told you that I've done really well. But I've definitely improved! Deleting my Facebook app was very helpful -- however there is more I could be doing to help simplify my life. And just in the past couple of days, I feel like the Lord has laid an idea on my heart to help me when I get a little too infatuated on Pinterest. Which happens basically every time I get on Pinterest. The idea is so simple, but extremely helpful!

If you have a Pinterest you most likely know that the last three boards you pinned something to are saved at the top of the list of your boards when you go to pin something. It's such a useful tool when you've searched for something specific and want to keep pinning to a particular board for awhile. I have SO many boards that it's kind of ridiculous so I almost have endless opportunities when I am pinning {for hours on end}.

So in trying to come up with a way to make sure my time spent browsing on Pinterest is balanced, I have a new rule that my "BLESS THE LORD" board has to stay within my top three most recently used boards. It sounds tricky, but it's really not -- especially if you already follow a lot of people who pin a lot of spiritual//religious things. Plus you have a little leeway; if you're researching something for a project you want to start you can pin away to one board for awhile, and since you're most likely only pinning to one board, your spiritual board will still stay in the top three!

Some of you might say, "Seriously?! It's just Pinterest!" And I understand my idea sounds a little extreme at first. But first off, I've noticed since applying this concept to my pinning habits it hasn't been too hard. I already pin so many things related to Jesus. But more than anything I just want to keep in the forefront of my mind at all times that I was put on this earth to worship and magnify the name of the Lord. There is nothing else that matters as much as Him -- everything on Pinterest will fade away, but Jesus will remain throughout eternity! Plus it's kind of catchy to say that you're "pinning for Jesus," right? I can almost envision it becoming a little movement on Pinterest of women {and maybe some men} who want to keep Christ at the center of every single thing they do in life.

What are things that you do on any social media platform to help you stay focused on Jesus?

An Endlessly Misinterpreted Scripture

FaithJessica Scheks3 Comments

About a week or so ago I read this post by Lori over at Always Learning. She was talking about contentment and spending less because materials goods have no value -- eternally speaking. She mentioned a verse that I constantly see on Pinterest, that is sometimes posted on Facebook when someone is going through a trial, and is quoted by many in the Christian world. The problem is that people always quote the NIV {this post is not intended to debate which version is the best} instead of the KJV. I've always been taught that the KJV is closer to the original translation and I often use the Strong's KJV concordance while studying to really help me understand a verse better since some of the vocabulary is rarely used anymore or used differently in this day and age.

The verse is Jeremiah 29:11 -- you have probably heard it quoted this way many times:

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'"

However Lori quoted it from the KJV Bible and it takes on an entirely different feeling and meaning:

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."

{I'm sure I've read this scripture a dozen or so times in the KJV Bible, but it never really struck me until today.}

Now I didn't mean to be super harsh by crossing out the first version of this scripture, but the world tends to interpret this verse very incorrectly when read from this version. They believe that God has a very specific plan for them filled with only good things; they will never be harmed and no matter what they will always have a hope for eternity.

First off -- this scripture is about the Israelites as a whole, it's definitely not directed towards one specific individual, but rather a large nation. People today take it is a promise that God will specifically make sure no harm comes their way as an individual. But by reading more of the Bible we know that trials are going to come our way. Just because we are going through a trial does not mean God has forsaken us! Psalm 34:19 tells us that "Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them ALL!" {Emphasis mine.}

I feel like to continue this post I'm going to have to mention the concept of predestination >> Personally I believe that God predestines certain events, certain jobs for certain people, etc. But I do not believe that He predestines every aspect of every person's life. If He did it seems to me that we would not have free will, or the ability to make choices. My two main "arguments" are that first of all, God has given us the ability to make choices because we have the ability to sin. But if God predestined every single decision we made, then when we did sin would it be God's fault? I think we know the answer. It definitely would not be God's fault. Secondly, if God knew the outcome of everything then praying would be pointless. In Mark 7:25-30, the Syrophoenician Woman changed the mind of God by asking Jesus a second question in order to have the demon driven out of her daughter. If it were predestined that Jesus would not heal her daughter, then her asking a second question and persisting that her daughter be healed wouldn't have changed anything.

Something else that we need to consider is the fall of mankind -- we failed. Therefore we have a curse on this earth which explains much of the evil and sickness that we must endure. If we had not fallen, death would not be a fear of humans because we were not made to die. But mankind decided to sin; it was a decision, and now we have to live with the consequences.

Taking all of this into consideration will tell you that, yes, Christians along with everyone else in the world will go through trials and suffer at some point, but we also have a hope that the rest of the world doesn't have -- That if we continue to walk with God while we're being tested we will come forth as gold! (Job 23:10)

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:" // Romans 8:1-3

Jesus made us free! He suffered to make us free. He suffered. He sinlessly suffered to make sinners free. {There is no greater love!} But this means we will also suffer, but we will suffer for Christ's sake! Suffering for Jesus seems like the least I could do since he did everything for me and yet I feel unworthy even to suffer in his name let alone be blessed.

And even though this scripture doesn't mean what so many believers think it means, it doesn't take any of the glory from our God! He does know you personally, after all He created you. He formed you. He is YOUR {personal, loving, all-knowing, amazing, graceful, merciful} GOD!

 

Simplifying and Glorifying

FaithJessica Scheks2 Comments

"Anything you are unwilling to let go of [in life] becomes an idol."

This quote by Lisa Vischer {Wife of Phil Vischer who is one of the creators of Veggie Tales} really resonated with me when I heard her interviewed on Moody Radio last week. Like many Christians I've made the goal of reading my Bible through for the year 2015. But I'm reading the Bible prayerfully this year. I'm not going in any order -- just making sure I read at least four chapters a day. And so far I've seen some themes in my reading that I think God is using to show me ways I need to change in order to glorify Him more and more. You can tell God is trying to get a hold of you when you've just had too many experiences to consider it a coincidence. And through all of this, I think God has given me a couple of "themes" for 2015:

C  O  N  T  E  N  T  M  E  N  T

It's something I never gave too much thought. I knew that I shouldn't be blowing my whole paycheck at Target and that I should be thankful for what I had as opposed to bitter for what I didn't have yet still wanted. But this year the Lord keeps placing experiences across my path and daily scriptures and blog posts to read about being content//not being materialistic//being a minimalist//not spending unnecessary money//etc. I am really coming to realize how unimportant it is to buy things.

I have always been a shopper, which is surprising because my mom is definitely not and never has been-- so where did I get it from? But lately {and thankfully} I get that naggy feeling of guilt when I buy things that are not truly needed. I'm pretty sure that naggy feeling of guilt is conviction. As I've done my daily Bible reading so far this year, I've come across so many verses about being content and not wanting more. Perhaps it's because contentment is a big topic of the Bible anyways so it's mentioned quite frequently? But nonetheless, it's really sticking out to me this year and impacting me and the way I want to live.

Along with contentment I need to mention another word. It's like a sister word to contentment. And that word is:

S  I  M  P  L  I  C  I  T  Y

I have had a growing desire this year to really simplify my life. To get rid of clutter, purge out my closet, to keep things tidy, and to eliminate distractions. Maybe it's because I'm getting older, but I just really want to be intentional in every aspect of my life. And this hasn't been the easiest journey so far. It's hard for a lifelong hoarder of things to get rid of all of her things. But here is what I've done so far:

  • Michael and I did the Daniel Fast at the beginning of January to pray for family in desperate need of prayer and to start off on a clean slate for the year.
  • "Cleaned" out my closet - I'll have to go through it again because I came up with a lot of excuses for items that I probably should have donated.
  • My Gold Card anniversary at Starbucks sort of snuck up on me this year - since we were fasting for most of January I was unable to get Starbucks. I needed 20 stars in less than 15 days.. I tried at first. But I realized it wasn't going to happen and I'm okay. I feel like this is God telling me that this "award" is pointless in eternity and unnecessary on this earth.
  • I've kept our apartment much cleaner than I have in the past.
  • I deleted my Facebook app from my phone because I was spending way too much time on it. WAY too much time. And I've loved it - I feel like my mind feels less cluttered because there's so much less clutter from other people's lives filling up my brain.
  • I rearranged the apps on my phone -- My home page is now blank. The second page only has necessary apps {i.e. alarm, calendar, weather, settings, etc} along with my Bible and music apps {which I only use for spiritual music}. The next page has utility apps and other things I occasionally use, and the last page is where you will find my social media apps (Gmail, Instagram, Pinterest, FB Messenger, Buzzfeed, and Timehop) and my games. I purposely made them less accessible. I've found that when my Instagram app isn't glaring at me, vying for my attention as soon as I unlock my phone, I tend to use it less.
  • I have tried to wake up early to spend time with God. I am terrible at this. I love my sleep and I feel so cozy when I wake up that this has by far been the biggest struggle I've had while trying to simplify my life.
  • I've tried to limit my intake of media in general, including TV. Especially TV that doesn't glorify the Lord. I feel like this helps to simplify my mind. My mind is not a trash can, therefore I'm not filling it with trash.

And there have been many scriptures that have convicted me as well, here are just some of them:

  • Job 1:21 "And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."
  • Psalm 49:17 "For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him."
  • Psalm 51:10 "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me."
  • Psalm 62:10 "...if riches increase, set not your heart upon them."
  • Psalm 101:3 "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me."
  • Ecclesiastes 3:6 "A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;"
  • Ecclesiastes 5:10 "He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity."
  • Ecclesiastes 5:15 "As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand."
  • Daniel 1:8, 15 "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself...And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat."
  • Daniel 6:27 "He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions."
  • Ephesians 5:16 "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil."
  • Colossians 3:2 "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth."
  • Colossians 3:23 "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;"
  • 1 Timothy 2: 9-10 "In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But {which becometh women professing godliness} with good works."
  • 1 Timothy 6:6-8 "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content."
  • 2 Timothy 2:16 "But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness."
  • 2 Peter 2:7-9 "And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of the temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:"

That's a lot of scriptures for one blog post - but the overarching theme from them all is that God always provides! You don't need to worry about anything if you have food and clothes. And to keep your mind pure, which means staying away from impure things.

Going back to the quote from the beginning of my post, it really made me think about what I hold near and dear in my life and if I'd be able to get rid of them if I felt led by the Lord. Some of those things include Starbucks, Target and Marshall's shopping trips, Panera Bread, Parenthood, my iPhone, cute clothes, makeup, and the list could go on and on. I don't think these things are bad, and definitely do not consider them to be a sin -- but I had never thought about the things I loved before in this way. They would all become a sin if I chose them over the Lord because I would be unwilling to give them up even though He asked me to. And it makes it even more clear to me that nothing on this earth matters except for the people. I have to be willing to give up any of these things for the Lord, and even if I had to, it would seem like a couple seconds of my life once I got to eternity. It would no longer seem like a burden or even something worth thinking about once I'm standing in front of my Lord on the other side <3

It's only the beginning of February, I have eleven months to go. But I am really trying to "redeem the time" and to be intentional about every part of my day so that I can make the most of it.

The Modesty Struggle

FaithJessica ScheksComment

MODESTY

I saw this quote on Pinterest today and it really resonated with me. It made me think back to the times where I struggled with dressing modestly and how frustrated I would become when all I wanted to do was slip on a pair of my old jeans on a freezing Ohio winter day.

I only gave into the "desires of my flesh" twice. We were at my grandma's for Christmas in 2010, so only several months since I had decided to always wear skirts or dresses, and there was a lot of family cramped into a tiny house. I was getting a little overheated in my knee-length jean skirt and for some reason I had it in my head that I would really cool off if I changed into the pair of jeans I had brought with me. So I changed. I can't remember how changing affected my temperature, but I remember feeling like a fake. And I just felt depleted; sort of like how you feel when you vow to yourself that you're not going to commit a certain sin in your life, but then you find yourself giving in. And afterwards you have none of the pleasure you thought that decision would bring you.

That feeling I had after changing into jeans at my grandma's was enough to give me motivation to resolve to never do that again. But sometime within the next year or so, I found myself in another situation. I lived in co-ed dorms (but we each had a private bathroom, so it wasn't as sketchy as it sounds) and I had the mindset that the dormitory building was like my house, so wearing  sweatpants around was acceptable. But this time I had to run to the little market directly behind my dorm to get a snack. It was late - I'd already showered and changed into comfy clothes and I fought with myself over whether or not I should go down in sweatpants.

Even though I felt like I shouldn't, I told myself that I'd be really fast, so it didn't matter. So down I went- when I reached the ground floor I went to turn the corner and was stopped with the vision of who I thought was my friend Christa walking by in a floor length jean skirt. She had a green coat on (just like Christa) and brown hair that was cut (just like Christa and rules out many Pentecostal women who do not cut their hair). It was past 9:00 and I was so startled to see her that at first I jumped back behind a wall because I felt ashamed. But then I thought to myself, "It's Christa! She won't care..." So I started walking again and called out her name. She didn't turn around so then I grew very curious of who this skirt wearing person was. I really had to quicken my pace to catch up with her but she walked out the doors before I could. When I walked out I didn't see her anywhere (and you can only turn left or right). Then I felt really convicted.

I am definitely not saying that I saw an angel, or had a vision from the Lord. Maybe I did... I guess I won't know that for awhile. But whoever it was, angelic or not, was enough to convict me for good. Now I know that the desire to dress immodestly at times is not worth how I will feel afterwards. Generally my desire stems from laziness; I just want to wear sweatpants or jeans. But occasionally when I see a girl in real life or on Pinterest with leggings on, the cutest tunic-y top I've ever seen, super cute booties, an infinity scarf, and an adorable vest... I become a little jealous because I know that the outfit could not be pulled off with a knee-length (or longer) skirt.

So this quote captures my feelings to a T! And I'm here to tell you that dressing modestly is sometimes a struggle for me, just like any sin or temptation I have to deal with is. It was not a "one and done" type of decision for me when I decided to dress more modestly. For awhile it was a pretty constant struggle. When I first decided that I was going to wear skirts I felt sick - it was a scary choice to make. And I made the choice publicly so it felt like there was no turning back...was it something I'd regret in a couple years? Could I really see myself for the rest of my life wearing skirts?

To clarify, I am definitely NOT saying that if you are a woman and wear pants that you are sinning. Dressing modestly requires very personal decisions and interpretations that is only between you and God. It is a decision that I think should only be made based on inspiration you find from the Lord. It shouldn't be something that you do to please others, and it should be a personal belief that you hold in your heart. But it isn't something you should ignore altogether, either. I think it is something you should take to the Lord and ask Him what He wants from you. Ask the Lord to guide you and to show you what pleases Him. Even if you have a certain pair of pants or a shirt that you sometimes question yourself when you wear it, ask God.

>> A word of advice, though, I have found that if you are already questioning it, you've kind of answered the question for yourself. And sometimes you have to give something up and say to yourself, "This struggle/question I have just isn't worth it when it comes to eternity." And leave it at that.

So with my "disclaimer" that you just read, I would now like to say something that some may find to be a bit controversial. But I'm going to say it anyways. And really, this is only for those who have already made a decision in their life to dress more modestly than they have in the past.

Choosing to dress modestly is just like choosing to wait to be intimate in marriage, or choosing not to gossip. It's not a one time decision, but one that you have to make over and over again. Especially towards the beginning of your modest journey. If you feel the Lord telling you in your life to dress modestly that's a pretty serious thing. If you vowed to the Lord that you would dress modestly for Him, that's a pretty serious thing. I have felt that calling on my life, I'm not sure I'd go as far as to say it's a "commandment" in my walk with God, but I'm also not going to say that it isn't. I feel very convicted to dress modestly - and to not do what the Lord is telling me to do sounds like sin to me.

>>If you have genuinely sought the Lord about dressing modestly and you have found that you still feel like it's okay for you to wear pants then I think you've done your job (but revisit the subject from time to time - don't dismiss it for life).

It is only sin if you feel or even know that you should be dressing more modestly and don't.

Sometimes modesty has to start on the outside, which means that your thoughts aren't always modest - You hunger for a comfortable pair of jeans or for some comfy yoga pants on a lazy day. But I can tell you from experience, that eventually your thoughts begin to change. You begin to realize how good it feels to dress modestly and please the Lord. And as your thoughts change, that means your heart is changing and your thoughts and mind are being clothed in modesty as well.

If modesty started purely on the inside for you, then you should be praising the Lord. If you just had a desire to give up dressing worldly and were happy to do it, then you should be praising the Lord! Because for me (and for my friends) it was not that easy. It was kind of like we had one foot standing in the world, and one foot standing in the Kingdom; we wanted to please God and we had an inkling that dressing modestly was what we should do... but it was hard to give up. And you kind of have to go cold turkey - you can't wear "worldly patches" to help you wean off immodest articles of clothing, you just have to give it up. It's a sacrifice. You are giving your temple to the Lord to use for His glory, and you should be giving it cheerfully, not begrudgingly!

This October it will be FIVE years of dressing modestly for me! As you have read, it wasn't always easy or fun. Sometimes it was a decision - just like deciding you aren't going to share that really juicy piece of gossip you overheard with your best friend. It can be a hard decision at times, but I have found again and again that there is not one article of clothing on this earth that could possibly come close to compensating for how modesty feels.

Thankful For The One That Fills My Hungry Soul

FaithJessica ScheksComment

Song of Solomonn

It's been another night of being home alone for too many hours. My husband works at a country club and often has to work pretty late for weddings and other events. Around 7:00 I got hungry, so my sister picked me up and we went out to eat. Coming home to an empty apartment when it's dark outside will never be on my list of favorite things to do. I ashamedly admit that I am a very fearful person. Part of it stems from the fact that since we live in an apartment I know that there are copies of our keys for the landlord or a maintenance worker to use floating around somewhere, and if the wrong person got ahold of that key... But then I think about how the Lord led us here, it was His will for us to find this apartment. I have to remind myself that He wouldn't lead me somewhere where I'd be in danger.

It's not like I was sobbing and deathly afraid, but I had that uneasy feeling - the one that makes you look behind the shower curtain, under the bed, in all the closets, and behind all the doors. And I just couldn't shake it off. It's when I realized that I needed to be with the Lord. Just saying JESUS brings peace to my soul. It is breathtaking and puts me in awe to think about how much power his name holds. I had already read several advent devotionals for the day, I thought about putting in a DVD of a church service, but instead I decided to listen to a Bible study on the third chapter of the Song of Solomon by the pastor from our church in Mansfield, Bro. Baer. The study is an hour and nine minutes long and I've only gone through the first 13.5 minutes of it. And I am already feeling so beyond thankful for the hunger in my soul that only Jesus satisfies again and again!

In the third chapter of the Song of Solomon, the first five verses are describing the bride-to-be. She is restless-- unable to sleep, and is looking for her bridegroom but can't find him. Spiritually speaking, she was restless because she was unable to rest from sin, which means she can't rest in Christ. But she had this deep desire and intense yearning to have a relationship with Christ, but she was unable to find him at that level.

Here are some quotes from the study that describe why she was unable to find her bridegroom:

  • "There is a place where the church was at for a great bulk of its history where the level of relationship that an individual had with Christ was severely limited."
  • "When the church fell away, the ability for individuals to have the type of relationship they could've had with Christ during the early church period was severely curtailed."
  • "The moving of the Spirit of God dropped off dramatically after the first century."
  • "The order and operation of the church became tainted with political and philosophical conditions that began a downslide of the church, making it incapable to produce overcomers."

As I was listening to this study and reading the verses, my heart felt miserably broken for this person who had a hunger in her soul that nothing could satisfy. And it made me immensely and extremely thankful -- so, so thankful for Jesus and the relationship I have with him. Sometimes when I go a day or two without really taking time to pray or sit down to read God's word and just be with Him, I start to feel a hunger for it. Sometimes I don't realize what it is at first, but I find myself becoming more irritable and less joyful. And eventually it hits me. I apologize to the Lord for not putting Him first and then spend time with him.

But imagine having that feeling and it never going away. It makes me cry just thinking about it because I cannot put into words how truly and deeply thankful I am. Thank you Lord, for filling those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. It's something that I am sad to say many of us take for granted. But what if one day we had that feeling and tried to fill it with the Lord only to find that He was just out of reach and we didn't know what to do to reach Him.

The study then went on to describe the fifth chapter, which is just going more in depth of how the person feels, longing for their beloved and not being able to find him. It makes me think of how much I love my husband; I love him so much it hurts. And it would hurt so deeply if he was taken away from me and became just out of reach. If he could speak to me and knock at my door, but then when I called to him and he didn't reply I would be in extreme despair. And if I would feel that way with my earthly husband, it's hard to comprehend how much more it would hurt to feel that way with Jesus.

So tonight I am thanking Him for filling me with life, joy, peace, truth, love, and so many more wonderful and beautiful things that those who lived in centuries past haven't always gotten to feel so freely but yet they yearned for so deeply.

Christmas is not YOUR birthday

FaithJessica ScheksComment

About a year or so ago, I read a blog post that I found on Pinterest. I can't remember the source (I tried to find it again), or much about the article other than one thing: The mother who wrote the post and her husband celebrated Christmas a little differently than most. They focused on the fact that Christmas is Jesus' birthday, not someone else's. So instead of spoiling their kids with dozens of gifts, each child got just a couple of presents. Nothing big. But on each child's birthday, the child was spoiled...like many children are on Christmas. I grew up like most children probably did; I got a lot more presents at Christmastime than on my birthday. But when you stop to think about it, it just doesn't make that much sense. Which is exactly how the pastor at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio felt and he gave a pretty crazy challenge to his congregation one year for Christmas:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXIwRiL9SDY

To me, that is the real meaning of Christmas. We should be giving gifts to Jesus, not to each other. Because last I checked, I did not overcome sin, die on a cross to save mankind, and then raise from the dead and return to Heaven to live with my Father. People get so greedy during Christmas, and I'll admit that I sometimes get a little too excited about all of the gift giving and receiving possibilities as well. But that means we are so missing the point.

After I read the blog post I mentioned at the beginning of this post it just clicked with me and made so much sense. I was excited to share the idea with some of my Christian friends thinking that they would find the idea downright genius as well. But when I did they did not share the same amount of enthusiasm. I could tell they were responding nicely, a lot of nods and half smiles. To be honest I was really surprised and pretty disappointed.

As Christians we are to be separate from this world and realize that all material things will go to waste. We should be more concerned about laying up treasure for eternity, not laying treasure under the Christmas tree. (Not to mention, wouldn't it be nice to disperse the expense of Christmas throughout the year on each child's birthday instead of all at once in December?) When we get too caught up in gifts, especially gift receiving, we are blending into the world.

When Michael and I begin our family I hope we can teach our children to be content and to not expect much on Jesus' birthday since it has nothing to do with them -- Other than the fact that humanity's sin was the reason that Jesus had to come in the first place. Which should humble us even more and make us feel unworthy of gifts during this season, and that much more thankful when we do receive one. It should also compel us to do even more to glorify Jesus in this season.

To keep Jesus as the center of Christmas here are a couple ideas you can do with your family (some are ideas I came up with, some are ideas I've seen floating around Pinterest)

  • Have an advent calendar where you do anonymous good deeds because you're not doing them for your own glory, but for Christ's glory
  • Put an emphasis on Christmas songs and movies that emphasize Jesus
  • Hang a stocking up for Jesus, every time you or your child does something nice write it down and put it in the stocking. On Christmas morning read all of the "gifts" you gave to Jesus
  • Instead of reading The Night Before Christmas, read the story of Jesus' birth in the Bible
  • Volunteer to help the less fortunate, or "adopt a family"

I personally do not like the idea of telling your children about Santa Claus because when they do find out the truth, they may feel lied to. Especially if you are raising them in a Christian home and always encouraging them to tell the truth. Secondly, it teaches children to ask Santa for things, when in reality Santa provides nothing. God is the provider of all things and to teach children differently makes me get an uneasy feeling in my stomach. And finally, having your children believe in Santa does not separate them from the world; it makes them a part of it.

I realize my personal view may be extreme for some, so if you do choose to incorporate Santa into your family's Christmas, do so in a way that still brings ALL of the glory to God and His Son! Teach your children to thank God for the presents they receive and not Santa. But let me just tell you that based on the children I know who were not told about Santa, they don't feel like they are missing out on anything and they are very respectful to other children who do believe in Santa by not spoiling the surprise.

All in all, I just want to make much of Jesus during the Christmas season and even less of me.

 

Spiritually Closing Avenues

FaithJessica ScheksComment

In the past few months, possibly even a year, I've become increasingly convicted about what I watch and listen to. There were certain shows I had become addicted to that were slightly crude, however I justified watching it because it was funny or the main actor seemed to be like a good person off the screen. Or secular music I listened to that I told myself was okay because it was catchy and the lyrics weren't that bad. But I found myself feeling more and more guilty. And the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.I had already decided to stay away from R-rated movies, which I think is a pretty common preference among Christians for obvious reasons. But I was feeling the need to purge the things I let enter into my mind even further. I find it really hard to promise myself that I'm going to stop watching a show or listening to a catchy song. So I realized that I had to promise God. In case you were wondering, the show I am specifically referring to is "New Girl" with Zooey Deschanel. The show is hilarious. But there is a lot of sexual content as well as the use of profane language. This show was like my guilty pleasure, but the more I watched, the guiltier I felt.

And based on past experiences in my life, when I'm feeling guilty it's really the Lord working on my heart and convicting me in areas of my life that I need to change in order to glorify Him.

It was a sacrifice to give up that show. But the thought that finally convicted me enough to tell God that I was done with the show was that those ideas and words wouldn't be in my mind if I weren't letting them enter in. Have you ever found yourself repeating a curse word in your mind? Or thinking a thought that you wished had never entered your mind? That's where I found myself. (Side note: New Girl was not the only show I gave up, it was just my favorite, the one I watched the most, and consequently the hardest to give up.) I absolutely hate when words I would never say, or thoughts I hate thinking seem to be on repeat on my mind because I heard it somewhere else. And I realized I was doing it to myself. I was letting it happen.

I personally believe that having these thoughts and words circulating in my mind is just as bad as saying them out loud in God's eyes. The Bible says that if you murder someone in your heart, it's just as bad as murdering them in real life. And if a man is considered to have committed adultery just by looking at a woman and lusting after her, then I'd say thinking a word in my mind is just as bad as saying it out loud.

I have to close the avenues that the devil can use to enter into my life.
I found myself praying and asking God to purify my heart. But how can He do that if I am letting impure thoughts, images, and words enter into my mind? He can't. That part is up to me. So I took a leap of faith, knowing that God would bless me for making that sacrifice, and gave up all R-rated movies, crude or inappropriate shows, secular music, books, et cetera. I am trying to close the avenues, or the paths, that the devil uses to try to get into my life and distract me.
Here is a statement recently made in our Sunday School class at church that I thought was worth sharing: 
You can't help it if a bird flies over your head, but you can stop it from building a nest in your hair.
At first I was like, "huh?" But then it was explained to me. When bad thoughts enter your mind, you can't help it unfortunately. Sometimes they just pop up, offending your own self that you would even have such a thought. But you do have the power to decide whether you are going to feed and nurture that thought, or if you're going to shoo it away. I think that allowing media of any kind that contains thoughts I wouldn't want to think of myself, is feeding and nurturing those thoughts. I'm inviting them to come build a home in my mind. And if I let those things make their home in my mind and heart, there's less room for God and His Son to have a place because they are being overcrowded. And competing with God is a very scary thing.Choosing not to watch or listen to certain shows, movies, or music is like telling those thoughts that this road is closed; they can't travel down this avenue.
I heard a statement several years ago that has stayed in the back of my mind ever since. It has sort of become my "WWJD" statement in my own life. In a youth class at our church in Louisville, KY, a man said that everything you do should have something to do with eternity. If it doesn't, it's not worth it. That statement alone has guided so many decisions in my life the past couple of years. One little sentence has convicted me on multiple occasions. I ask myself all of the time, does this benefit me? Does this glorify God? Does this please Jesus? Does this have anything to do with eternity?
There are so many things that I find myself getting caught up in, whether it's a TV show, a game on my phone, or browsing Facebook and Instagram for way too long, and then that thought enters my mind.What does this have to do with eternity? I rarely have to answer the question, because if I have to ask the question in the first place that's not a good sign. And once I do, if the answer is nothing to do with eternity, I have that sinking feeling of guilt which answers the question for me. And the sad thing is that sometimes I ignore that feeling and just give into whatever the guilty pleasure is. But when I don't give in, and I stop what I'm doing and open up my Bible, or begin to pray, or pop in a church DVD, or listen to a recording of a Bible study, I NEVER regret it!