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Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Christian Challenge (Massive Post)

I recently finished the Christian Challenge from tumblr. It was a lot of commitment, but it definitely helped me keep my focus on God, and I've learned some great things through it. I'd definitely recommend going through it.

The Christian Challenge:
  • Make a goal for this month. Make sure that it is something challenging while achievable! 
My goal for these upcoming days is to study God and his word every morning. -7/20/15

Progress:
July 20: Dannah Gresh's "Get Lost", Love Feast Day 1, complete.
July 21: Dannah Gresh's "Get Lost", Love Feast Day 2, complete.
July 22: Dannah Gresh's "Get Lost", Love Feast Day 3, complete.
July 23: Dannah Gresh's "Get Lost", Love Feast Day 4, complete.
July 24: Dannah Gresh's "Get Lost", Love Feast Day 5, complete.
July 25: Dannah Gresh's "Get Lost", Love Feast Day 6, complete.
July 26: Dannah Gresh's "Get Lost", Love Feast Day 7, complete.
July 27: Dannah Gresh's "Get Lost", Love Feast Day 8, complete.
July 28: Dannah Gresh's "Get Lost", Love Feast Day 9, complete.
July 29: Dannah Gresh's "Get Lost", Love Feast Day 10, complete.
July 30: Loving God with All Your Mind, Elizabeth George, Chapter 1, complete.
July 31: Loving God with All Your Mind, Elizabeth George, Chapter 2, complete.
August 1: Loving God with All Your Mind, Elizabeth George, Chapter 3, complete.
August 2: Loving God with All Your Mind, Elizabeth George, Chapter 4, complete.
August 3: Loving God with All Your Mind, Elizabeth George, Chapter 5, and Psalm 148, complete.
August 4: Loving God with All Your Mind, Elizabeth George, Chapter 6, and Psalm 86, complete.
August 5: Psalm 103, complete.
August 6: Psalm 69, complete.
August 7: Psalm 49, complete.
August 8: Psalm 19, complete.
August 9: Psalm 95, complete.
August 10: Psalm 33, complete.
August 11: Psalms 27, complete.
August 12: Psalm 66, complete.
August 13: Psalm 110, complete.
August 14: Psalm 73, Whispers of Hope, Beth Moore, Day 1, complete.
August 15: Psalm 51, Whispers of Hope, Beth Moore Day 2, complete.
August 16: Psalm 55, Whispers of Hope, Beth Moore Day 3, complete.
August 17: Psalm 111, complete.
August 18: Psalm 13, Whispers of Hope, Beth Moore Day 4, complete.

Completed! I missed the last two days though, and had to catch up.

I struggle with writing a testimony, as I was saved at a young age and grew up in the church. It can be hard for me as I didn't have a moment where I fell to my knees weeping because I was living this awful life and accepted Christ because I couldn't stand it anymore. Rather, I found Christ with my parents help at the age of 5 or 6, and he has quietly worked in me to get me to the point where I am now. But I will attempt to tell you my story anyways. And who knows? Maybe my story will be what you need to hear?

           When you grow up in a Christian home you always are told the basics of a Christian life; Don't sin, Love others and follow the golden rule, Jesus loves you, etc. So from a young age I had the head knowledge of what being a Christian was, but I didn't really know and believe it in my heart. I did a lot of 'Christian' things, but I didn't do them because I loved Jesus and he loved me. Instead, I did them because that was what my parents wanted and what we always did. Although I accepted Jesus into my heart as a young child (and I do believe I really accepted him) I think when I really started to follow after God was in the 7th grade. That year I gained a new small group leader. Her name was Jennifer.
           It's hard to fully explain Jennifer in terms that would do her justice. She was the sweetest woman I had ever met, and she still is! She had so much faith in Jesus, and she firmly believed in the power of prayer. If you've ever read the verses in Proverbs 31 about the 'proverbs 31 woman', those pretty accurately describe her. She came around at a time in my life when I really needed her. I had never had anyone who I felt that I could really talk about my faith with, and she quickly became a mentor and friend to me. She listened to my struggles, and even when I told her the deepest, darkest, dirtiest secrets of my life (and believe me I have some), she was full of nothing but grace and love. She showed me what it's like to be like Jesus.
         After that, I wanted nothing more than to follow after Jesus like her. But I felt that I couldn't. I had a sin problem in my life, and it was a major one. I don't feel like it's something I can share on the internet, but just suffice it to say that it was bad and I sometimes felt very far away from God because of it. But that doesn't mean that God wasn't still working. Rather, he just decided to work on me in different ways. He kind of worked around the sin problem for the moment, if you get me. In the meantime he taught me what it meant to truly worship him, through singing, playing, and leading on my worship team. He taught me what it meant to have discernment (which is kind of like a spiritual 6th sense where you can tell when someone has something going on in their life, or when a situation is a bad one, and other things like that), and put me in situations where I could learn to use it. And he also taught me how to be a leader and pulled me out of my introverted shell while still letting me remain introverted at heart. But the sin problem remained, and I still felt far from God, and at times, hopeless.
         But then, God decided it was time to start picking at the most major problem in my heart. And if I'm to be completely honest with you, I still struggle with this sin problem. Please don't think that God has completely fixed me and I'm perfect. I'm not perfect, and I never will be. However, my heart towards this sin problem has recently changed. Before when it came to this, my heart was hard like a rock. But about a year ago I asked God to 'soften' my heart towards this issue. I'm ashamed to admit it, but it no longer bothered me anymore. I was comfortable with this sin, and I didn't want to change. And I felt like that right up until recently, in early May 2015, when God finally started to work on my heart about this sin problem.
         The most major change happened not that long ago though, in July 2015. Although he had been slowly softening my hard heart I still wasn't completely getting it. It felt kind of like my heart was inside a large block of ice, and God was pouring cups of hot water on it. Sometimes, I thought I could feel him working, but it was only an outer layer of ice being removed, and I still felt far away because the ice still remained. However, he spoke to me clearly during a message at my church camp this year. And that finally cracked the ice.
        The speaker said something that I knew was what God wanted me to hear. He said "When we fail, we often let our failures bury us. We pile the dirt of our failures on top of us, and wonder why we start feeling so far away from God. But what we need to do is not to let our failures bury us, but let them plant us." He went on to say that when you bury something, it's dead and gone. You don't expect that thing you buried to come up out of the ground alive next week. No, you consider it permanently gone. But when you plant something, you are expecting something good to come out of it. It's the same action for both, you cover it with dirt. But the difference is the outcome, and the way you think about it.
       I don't know why I hadn't gotten that before, but I just hadn't. I let my failures cover me up so much that I couldn't see through all the dirt. I felt like I had done so much that I'd never be able to get my self out of the whole I'd dug. But now I know that that's not true. God can work with anyone through anything. I doesn't matter what you've done. All that matters is that you let God work.
       He's still working in me, and there's still a lot more dirt I have to push through. But now I can see where I'm heading, even if I can't see the final outcome. And I feel alright again. In fact, dare I say it, I feel joyful again. And that's enough for me.
  • Pick a favorite scripture and write about it on your blog or in your journal. What it means to you. If you want to take it a step further, write the verse on your hand where it is visible so people can see it. (hopefully someone will ask you about it!:) )
'See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.' -1 John 3:1-3

I love these verses because they reminds me of a few very important things:
            First, that God loves me and calls me his child. He loves me! How amazing is that? That even though I am so much lower than he is, and even though I am unclean and unworthy and so many other things, he still loves me enough to call me his child! And he loves you that much too!
            Second, that although we may not see what is ahead, God already knows the outcome and will bring us through it until we are in heaven with him where we will bask in his love for all eternity.
            And thirdly, that there is hope for us. That someday you and I will both be pure in Christ. If you're anything like me that sometimes feels impossible. But God says that's not so. We will be pure in him, just as he is pure, and in that there is hope.
  • Thankful Thursday! What are three things that you are thankful for today? (continue this for the rest of the days if you remember!)
Day 4: Vegetarian breakfast sausage, hair wraps, and warm summer days.
Day 5: Morning sunshine, kittens, and Josh Lavender's song 'You Fight For Us'.
Day 6: The hummingbird who currently is living in my backyard, God's promises, and cold, clean water.
Day 7: My (now) working car radio, frappes, and God conversations with friends.
Day 8: Iced Lemonade, friendly cashiers, and lilac school supplies.
Day 9: Summer flowers, my Toastmaster's group, and conversations about books with Suzannah (an adorable 8 year old).
Day 10: Traveling watercolor sets, ear buds that have lasted me 5 months (usually I break them in 2 months..), and lemon poppy seed muffins. Bonus: McDonald's people who actually give you light ice when you ask for it. God bless you lady!
Day 11: The Great Banquet community, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and modpodge.
Day 12: Fields of corn swaying in the wind, cool summer breezes, and knowledge.
Day 13: Flowing dresses, bare feet, and the love of the church.
Day 14: That the world is smaller than you think, biblical truths, and purple charging cords.
Day 15: Finding a life factory water bottle at goodwill for $2.99, my Grandpa's jokes, and helpful siblings.
Day 16: Homemade chocolate cookies, the ability to vote, and Mori friends.
Day 17: Visiting with far away relatives, cheddar cheese, and finishing research papers.
Day 18: Soft white pretzels, friendly advice, and being given a meaningful gift.
Day 19: My crazy best friends, galaxy shirts, and driving with the windows down.
Day 20: My family making it through a serious accident safely, God's protection, and Psalms.
Day 21: Psalms, summer sweaters, and the promise of a future with the Lord.
Day 22: The opportunities that being an American citizen provides, unconditional love, and my worship leader.
Day 23: One of my best friends getting baptized, Penpals, and "Color Me Beautiful's Looking Your Best" by Mary Spillane and Christine Sherlock.
Day 24: Thin Mint Crunch bars, God's faithfulness, and Christian mentors.
Day 25: The promise of Jesus' return, prayer, and the soundtrack from "Ragtime".
Day 26: Laughter, Pepperwhistle's delicious sandwiches, and happiness.
Day 27: The promise in a rainbow, ice cream, and letters.
Day 29: Learning the Banjo, knowing people that are going to be at the same college as me, and hourly schedules.
Day 30: Differences, Similarities, and the smell of lavender.
  • Describe the church that you go to. Is it small? Big? Do you attend a small group? What is the music like? Do you volunteer there? 
My church is a larger church, but not a mega-church. We have around 2000 people on a regular weekend. I attend a high school small group currently, but I'll probably be switching to the women's bible study soon since I've graduated.  I'm on worship team, and I serve the main service, and the high school service. I play lead piano and synth for all services, and sing and play acoustic guitar for the high school. We play mostly average worship music, although our worship leaders tend to stay away from the extremely cliche worship songs (thank goodness!). We have three worship pastors (although one is about to move) and they all have amazing hearts for worship. Plus they all can sing amazingly well!
    • What is your favorite book in the bible? Why? Find your favorite chapter and read it again. Reflect. 
    My favorite book of the bible used to be hands down Romans. However, 1 John closely rivals it now after studying it so deeply in "What Love Is" by Kelly Minter. But I suppose my favorite chapter in Romans has always been chapter 8. I haven't read it in a while, so it should be good to go back to it.

    Reflection:
    This passage is so chocked full of hope in Christ. It's all about how much Christ loves us, and the hope we have to live a pure and holy life in him because of his sacrifice. It's still one of my favorite chapters because of this.

    A few verses I like, and reflections on them: 
    v. 15 'the Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”' I love any verses that talk about God calling us his children, and this verse is no exception. It's good to see God as Holy and above us, but it's also good to see him as our Father who loves us. And it always touches my heart to hear it.
    v. 26 'In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.' It's amazing to think that the Holy Spirit is praying for us. I don't know about you, but sometimes I just don't have the words to say and it's comforting to know that the Holy Spirit has it covered.
    v. 35-39 'Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: 
    “For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
    No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.' I struggle with mild anxiety sometimes, and these verses are comforting to me. God calls us to difficult things and persecution as Christians, but nothing can separate us from him. Nothing! How wonderful is that? No matter what the world will throw our way, God has it covered. All we have to do is follow after and imitate him, and he'll do the rest.
    • It took God 6 days to build our world. He took the 7th day to rest. So on this 7th day, take some time to rest. Rest and then reflect, what is your favorite part about creation? Do you have a favorite spot? Is there some place that you want to visit?
    My favorite part about creation is it's complexity. I love to look at what God has made, and see all the immense detail he has put into it. My favorite spot in nature is either by rivers, or on hiking trails when you're all the way into the forest and all you can see around you is miles and miles of trees. I'd like to visit Ireland, because it looks absolutely gorgeous in pictures, and I'd like to go back to Montana someday, because the sky there really is larger than life.



      Here are some pictures from one of my favorite state parks, Spring Mill. I also love Turkey Run, and Shades State Parks, and Yellowstone and Great Smokey Mountains National Parks.

        • What does it mean to be a Christian? What verses support what you think?
        One of my favorite people always defines Christianity with this statement, "Love God, love people." And I tend to agree with him. It's definitely a simplified version of what being a Christian is, but I think it's pretty accurate. As for verses that support it, you could start by looking at the 10 Commandments.
          ...You shall have no other gods before Me.
          You shall not make idols.
          You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
          Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
          Honor your father and your mother.
          You shall not murder.
          You shall not commit adultery.
          You shall not steal.
          You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
          You shall not covet...
          You'll notice that all of them relate to our interactions with two things; God, and people. And all of the commandments, at their root, are meant to help us love God and other people better. Another scripture I think supports it is Matthew 22:36-40.

          “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

          In those verses, Jesus pretty much sums up what I said but in more eloquent terms. Love God, love people. That's really the root of everything.
          • Fast/skip a meal today and pray diligently instead. During your breakfast, your lunch break or even dinner!
          Because I am hypoglycemic I can't do a complete fast, but I am going to avoid eating anything and drink a protein shake instead.

          Reflections:
          I decided to fast my lunch, but I'd never fasted before. Lunch was probably not a good idea for me, because I was a bit too busy to pray as much as I would have liked. But I did try to pray as often as I could. I found that it was quite easy to remember to pray when hungry. Although I'd heard people talk about that, it's a different thing to actually experience it yourself. I also managed to only have about half of a protein shake and a small pepsi to keep my sugars up. So I actually felt like I was fasting, which was nice. I was a bit worried that drinking things to keep my sugar up would take away the hunger, but it only got rid of the shakes I normally get while still keeping the hunger. If you're hypoglycemic and thinking of fasting, I'd definitely recommend it.

          • What comes to mind when you hear the word religion? Are you religious?
          Religion makes me think of people who claim to be something, but don't really act like it. I guess by a dictionary definition's standpoint I am religious, but if we're going by what 'religious' makes me feel, then no.
          • Read Matthew 27:32-56 This passage is also known as The Crucifixion of Jesus. You have probably heard it a million times, but read it with a deeper perspective. Pause after each verse and picture it as vividly as you can. Did you know that “His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness?”
          Reflection:
          If I didn't know the outcome of this, I would feel so hopeless. There's so much dread over this entire passage. Can you imagine what it would have been like. Awful. And did you know, when they say that they offered Jesus 'wine mixed with gull' that gull was a type of poison most likely? They probably gave it to him to quicken the process of crucifixion, but he refused. For us. I'm so grateful for his sacrifice. And I can't truly imagine how awful that must have been.

          Oh How I Need You by All Sons and Daughters


          Glorious Ruins by Hillsong


          O My Soul by Audrey Assad


          Steady Heart by Steffany Gretzinger ft. Amanda Cook


          Relentless (Acoustic Version) by Hillsong


          The Earth Is Yours by Gungor


          Wonder (Spontaneous) by Bethel ft. Amanda Cook


          Future/Past by John Mark McMillian


          We Will Not Be Shaken by Bethel


          Nothing But The Blood by Citizens


          Sinking Deep by Hillsong Young & Free
          • What needs the most work in your relationship with God?
          I struggle with desiring God over my flesh. I'm slowly softening, but it's still a process.
          • Pray for someone you don’t know. It can be scary, but just commit to it! God will give you the right words to say!
          I decided to pray for a man who often serves me at the Post Office. He gets on my nerves for some reason, but I know that I need to pray for him because he has a soul that is just as precious to God as mine.
          • What is the best verse to describe your generation? Is it good? Bad? How do we make our generation better?
          "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." 2 Timothy 4:3-4

          Obviously, this is bad. But I think that the best thing we can do to improve our generation is to love like Jesus. People don't need you to condemn them of their sins. Most of the time they understand that they have sinned. What people do need is to be loved. We need to do a better job of showing Jesus's love to the world. Because we may be the only bit of Jesus they ever see.
          • Have you been on a mission trip before? If yes, where did you go? If no, would you want to? Where do you want to go?
          I've been on a local missions trip before, called "Summer Serve". We helped out those in need in my community, and it was a good way to see how there is need not only overseas but also right in our own neighborhoods.
          • What translation of the bible do you read? Why do you read that translation?
          My actual physical copy of the bible is NIV, but that's because that was the only Japanese-English translation available. When I use YouVersion, I mostly read GNT (It's basically a more accurate and reliable version of The Message) and ESV (the translation my church uses). GNT is definitely my favorite though, even though it is slightly more of a paraphrase version.
          • Who is your favorite hero in the bible? (extra challenge, can’t be Jesus and find a man and a woman!) 
          My favorite woman in the bible is probably Mary sister of Martha. My favorite man in the bible is Paul.
          It's a tie between 'Same Kind of Different as Me' and any of the Millie Keith Series books.
          • Do you have a Christian mentor? If not, why?
          Currently, my biggest Christian mentors that I don't know personally are Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Audrey Assad, and Kari Jobe. As for people I do know, I'd have to say my old Youth Pastor, Brent Faulkner, my two Worship Pastors, Aaron Cross and Geoffrey Buck, my Toastmaster's instructor, Christie Andreas, and my old small group leaders, Jennifer Lee, Kent Eaton, and Kellie Eaton.
          • Were you raised Christian? Is your family Christian?
          Yes. Both my parents were raised in Christian homes, and in fact one of my grandparents was a Nazarene pastor.
          • How often do you read your bible? I challenge you to open your bible to a random page, and read it. What did you learn?
          I'd like to say often, but until recently I only read it a couple times a month. I'm hoping to change that though.

          Random Page reflections:
          'The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "When Pharaoh says to you, 'Perform a miracle,' then say to Aaron, 'Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,' and it will become a snake." So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same thing by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs. Yet the Pharaoh's heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said." Exodus 7:8-13

          I feel like this verse relates to a lot of people I know. They are shown the truth, and very clearly, yet still their hearts are hardened and they refuse to believe. It's a sad thing really.
          • What is your favorite Christian blog on Tumblr? Give them a shoutout and show them some love!
          Worship Gifs is by far my favorite! That women is truly a soul passionately pursuing after God. And all of her responses to peoples questions and concerns are chocked full of biblical truth and the love of Jesus. I'm always refreshed when I see her posts on my feed. A couple others I like are: cypress-andtealeaves (my mori friend!), everlastingjesus, and gloriouspraises.
          • Does your blog/social media reflect your walk with Christ?
          Most definitely. My Facebook reflects it most, but my tumblr and instagram followers are also aware of my beliefs.
          • Think about this. Do you call on God when you are giving Him praise or asking for help more?
          I used to only call on him when I needed help. But then my mom told me of something that helped me remember to treat him more as a friend and confidant, and less like an insurance plan. She said that in one of the bible studies she participated in the writer said that she started thanking God every time something good happened, or she saw something beautiful. So if she saw a sunset, she'd thank God. If she made it on time to a meeting, she'd thank God. If she had a good cup of coffee, she'd thank God. It helps you to get in the habit of talking to God more, and focusing more on him and less on your own troubles.
          None that I can think of right now.
          • Have you been baptized? Where and when? If not, why haven’t you?
          I was baptized when I was eight, right before my favorite children's pastor moved to Colorado.
          • What sin are you struggling with the most? Be real with yourself. Post about it, or keep it private between you and God.
          I'm going to keep this private between me and God <3
          • What talents can you use to please God and help Heaven come to Earth? 
          Well, I use my musical talents on my worship team so that's one thing. And I'm good at listening and giving advice, and I try to do so in a godly way.
          • What are your future plans with God? Pray about it. What is God telling you?
          I've felt for a while that God is calling me to go to Japan to minister by living out my faith among the people there. I'm still shooting for that, and hoping that if that's not where he wants me than he'll let me know. I still pray about it, but I haven't heard him speak on it in a while. Other than that, it's just to fulfill the great commission the best I can, and grow close to him by studying his word.

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