Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Trinity Lutheran - South Divide in Sidney, Nebraska

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hand It Over

Pastor greeted me after church. "You seem so much happier lately!" he remarked. "What changed?" I paused. What has changed? I gave the run-of-the-mill answer, "Things are just getting better!" Driving home, I really started considering it. I can definitely feel a change, but can I pinpoint the cause? Yes, I believe I can. It's all about control. I will admit it. My name is Jessica, and I'm a control freak.

 People have been telling me for a long time that I need to relinquish control over to God. Yeah, yeah, I know I would respond. I acknowledged that giving up control was what I needed, but it seemed like an entirely impossible task, and some deep down part of me still held on to the self-absorbed notion that I need to get what I want despite what God wants. Yes, I prayed for guidance, but it was with a feeling of "please guide me to what I want." As I was reading scriptures one night, though, I noticed something. Jesus' disciples didn't spend their time with him constantly asking where their lives were going, or for earthly things they desired. If they didn't focus on those things when they talked to Jesus, why did I? It suddenly didn't make sense, and I honestly had a moment where I felt extremely selfish. If the disciples weren't asking Jesus for help and guidance in their personal lives, what did they ask him? They asked for understanding. The disciples were frequently asking Jesus to explain his teachings, and were focused on their eternal lives rather than their mortal lives. They were so ready to hand control over to Christ that they shed control of their own personal lives, dropped everything, and followed Him.

The things I want in my life are not necessarily the reason God put me here. I don't understand the purpose God has for me yet, but that's ok! That realization wasn't so bad. The part that I am struggling with is being alright with it if I don't get the things that I want, and trusting that while gaining understanding and working as an instrument of God, He will provide for me. Yes, I'm still a work in progress, but I'm working through it step-by-step!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Great Grace vs. Works Debate

For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourself, it is a gift of God, so that no man may boast. Eph. 2:8-9

The Grace vs. Works debate is a big one. The popular worldly view is if you are a "good person," you will go to heaven. For many, doing good things is what it's all about. If you are a good person, and live your life according to a set of morals and values, you will surely be ok, right?

Here is the problem with that scenario. Works do not create grace. Works are a result of grace. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." -Romans 3:23. None of us are able to live perfectly, so if we are saved by living a good life, where is the line? We would have to have a 'sin quota,' which would be absolutely impossible to keep track of. The reality is, there is no way anyone on Earth could live a good enough life to rely on our own works.

If we aren't saved by our works, does that mean we can sin freely without having to worry about it? Absolutely not! When you have received the saving grace of God, you must let that grace shine to the rest of the world. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16. By doing good works, we manifest the love and glory of God that has been bestowed upon us. Our works are a means to demonstrate to others the blessings of our Lord, and to identify us as his people. In addition, Jesus taught that hearing his words, but not actually putting them into practice, is like building a house on sand. (Matthew 7:24-27) If we profess to be followers of Christ, but disregard his teachings, we become more susceptible to corruption and the sways and temptations of the devil. One of the most powerful ways we can witness to others is by letting His grace shine through us. There is truth to the sentiment "actions speak louder than words." If we consciously demonstrate the grace of God in our day to day lives, we are truly ambassadors of Christ before we ever even speak to someone about salvation.

"Sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura,
solus Christus, soli Deo gloria" - Grace alone, faith alone,
scripture alone, Christ alone, glory to God alone.
Jesus taught that he is the only path to salvation. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6

The fact is, our judgement is not based on what we have done. Christ became the propitiation (atoning sacrifice) for our sins because we could never measure up. No matter how hard we try, we cannot overcome our sinful nature on our own. Christ took up the burden of our sins for us, and in return gave us saving grace. All that is asked of us is that we have faith.

Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.”But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’”(that is, to bring Christ down)“or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’”(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:4-13

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Perils of Being a Single Christian Woman

I will admit it, I am completely baffled by today's society. We live in the land of instant gratification. Anything we want can virtually be at our fingertips moments after we think it. While I will concede that this convenience can be really nice, in the larger picture I find it is representative of our over-all cultural mindset. How does this tie into being a single Christian woman? Stay with me here.

I was raised with the notion that an upstanding and moral woman is to be desired.
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30

It seems in today's society, though, that a woman who chooses to live by a set of values is to be scorned. Rather than being sought after, more often than not I feel shunned, earning labels like "uptight" (and other less pleasant terms). I find myself living in a society where attending church is unfashionable, and those who attend regularly are seen as extremists.

We live in an age where pornography is a $13 billion industry. A vast number of boys grow up forming their views of relationships on these violent and unrealistic images. Many go in search of instant gratification. Everything else in our society is ready and available, after all. My generation has been trained to get what we want, when we want it. That being so, we seem to have lost the concept of the pursuit, the journey.

I have to hold on to the faith that all hope is not lost, and there are still those out there that uphold a woman who chooses to serve the Lord. I will be the first to admit that I am far from perfect, and far from righteousness if being judged on my own actions. I will not, however, set aside my beliefs and moral fiber to fit in with society or gain affection from someone who tries to force me to settle for anything less than a harmonious union, with Christ as the tie that binds. Maybe, just maybe, there are still men who choose the same.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Having been thrust into the world of "singledom" yet again, it has given cause for me these last few months to really consider the basic concept of love. Doing a simple Google search for what love is led me to a list of definitions for love found on the web:
- A strong positive emotion of regard and affection
- Any object of warm affection or devotion
- Having a great affection or liking for
- Beloved: a beloved person; used as terms of endearment
- Get pleasure from
- A deep feeling of sexual desire and attraction
- Being enamored

Writers, poets, and philosophers have been writing about love for centuries. Aristotle said "Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies." According to St. Augustine, "Love is temporary madness." W. Somerset Maugham even said "Love is only a dirty trick played on us to achieve continuation of the species."

As I consider these statements on what love is, I can't help but think there must be more. The common wordly view of love seems kind of vague, and even a bit hollow. Then, I was reminded of 1 John 4:8 which says "God is love." Most of the time when I hear people discuss this concept, it is divided into two parts: our imperfect love, and God's perfect love. If we take this statement literally, though, that which we refer to as "love" is the one and the same as God. Notice, this passage does not say "God has love," or "God shows love," but that "God IS love." Therefore, when we feel love toward another, we are experiencing direct contact with God in our lives. When we show and demonstrate love towards others, we are sharing God with them. There is a reason Jesus said that to love is the greatest commandment of all!

Bringing this back to my original predicament, searching for someone to spend my life with, I have made a revelation. If I search for love according to the world's standards, I am searching for something superficial. No wonder so many relationships fail! From here on out, I am making the decision to search for someone to share God with. The way I see it, if we share God, we share a love that transcends the world.

This morning in Bible Class we discussed 1 Corinthians 13, otherwise known as the "Love Chapter." This chapter is frequently used in wedding ceremonies, but the words seem to have become almost pithy, and judging from our national divorce rates obviously have no real impact on how many of us show love to one another. If we remember, though, that God (the term encompassing the Triune God; God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit) quite literally is love, we can gain an entirely new perspective on Paul's Love Chapter in 1 Corinthians. By replacing the word love with the word God, who is love Himself, the chapter reads:

"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have God, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have God, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but have not God, I gain nothing.

God is patient, God is kind. He does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud. He does not dishonor others, He is not self-seeking, He is not easily angered, He keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always perseveres.

God never fails."

Can we achieve this kind of love on our own? No. Because we are meek and sinful humans, we don't have that kind of power. But with God working through us, and by the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ, we can strive to follow His example.

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." - 1 John 4:7-12