If I Died at a Concert, Would I Go to Heaven?

I’ve often asked myself this question. It’s a legitimate concern for me because I love music and I love going to shows. I love the feeling music alone gives me, and the power of performances is like nothing else.

So in light of what happened at a concert in Manchester recently, the question popped up again: If I died at a concert, would I go to heaven?

(*Note: I’m not at all giving any kind of judgment to any of those people who lost their lives at that concert in Manchester. My heart aches when tragedies like these occur. I don’t know their lives nor their hearts, and I’m not here to sentence anyone—that’s not my job.)

I’ve gone to countless shows. I’ve even seen one band nearly 20 times alone.

Here’s the thing though.

Within the last maybe year or so, I’ve really felt my concert-going days would soon be over for me. I felt God was calling me to set my mind on things above, and going to shows was something I had to let go of. If I’m honest (though through gritted teeth), I think it’s a pretty clear conviction for me.

Though yes, I’ve tried to ignore it. There are many, many concerts I want to go to this year. If I go to one of these concerts and end up dying, what does that mean for me? Where will I end up? Would my Christian life up to that point not matter? Did I just damn myself by that one decision, that one choice to go?

Is it dangerous to do something we know we shouldn’t be doing? Where do justice, grace, and mercy come into play?

Does ignoring our convictions and rationalizing them away end up leading us to an inevitable path of destruction?

 

How Rude

When I fail at following my own advice

Okaaaay so I said in my last post that I didn’t want to write posts that are too detailed or write them just for the sake of blabbering about myself and my problems, but here I am already about to cross my own boundaries.

But this story is just too appropriate, and writing IS my therapy anyway. There, I’m justified. Haha.

Seriously though, I’ll start it off like this: Do you ever deal with people who say they are one thing but in actuality, they are quite different? Do you deal with people who say they behave a certain way but they really do not behave that way at all?

Well, I always hope that am not like that, talking about how we should be one way and then I totally act the opposite.

Except I did that today.

Ugh. Major. Face. Palm.

I acted the opposite of how I tell and what I expect others to be. I totally missed an opportunity to be nice to a person even though she was totally rude to me. I totally missed giving them “a cup of cold water,” as I tell the students in my class to do. I totally missed being the best person I could be: being nice (and not rude) even when the person is not nice in return.

I just really hate when people are rude. Who doesn’t? It just sends this fire raging through my bones and it’s almost impossible to quench.

But I think I’m so used to getting the kind of reactions I want and expect, that I totally lose it when I don’t. That’s another issue that’s worth digging into.

So in short, my reactions to rude people are a problem that needs fixing. I make mistakes and miss opportunities. I will never claim to be the gold standard. My posts are as much for me as they are for my readers. I wish I could’ve handled the encounter better, but now I learned from it.

Learn and move on! Small victories, right?

Love One Another (Wait, They Don’t Love You)

Lettering by ofpaperandgrace

Last post I briefly glossed over the question of what it means to truly love your neighbor as yourself.

I want to talk about that a little more because whether it be in my reading for the day or on the radio, love for one another seems to be a theme that keeps popping up.

What is love for one another? 

The Bible says in John 15: 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

“These things I command you, that you love one another.” John 15:17

John 13: 34 says “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

Matthew 22 has Christ’s response to the question of “What is the greatest commandment?” as this: Love God and love your neighbor.

So if we Christians think that love is the greatest commandment of all, how do we show it?

And to whom? Does this love only apply to the people we, well, love?

I believe the principle in Titus 3: 1-2 (the verse that is the feature image for this post) is this: as Christ’s followers, we are to develop these types of qualities.

I’m not going to say that because we’re not immediately nice to people who wrong us or we don’t go to church every weekend like we should mean we don’t have a love for God or our fellow man. We are sinful humans after all.

But really, though, if we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, shouldn’t we aim to develop the kind of love that treats others with respect and goes to worship God in His house on His day?

The kind of love that serves others even when we don’t feel like it or even though that neighbor is incredibly nasty and hocks loogies outside your window every morning?

The kind of love that obeys God, goes to church even if we can’t stand a certain church member, and abstains from willfully sinning?

Isn’t that what faith is all about, trusting that God will help you through what seems impossible?

As Titus puts it, show humility to all men.

Now I know what oppositions could come up. Like, how can I be nice to someone who raped me? or abused my child?

I cannot give direct answers to those questions. All I know is God can make what seems impossible possible.

Abiding in Christ means a constant receiving of His Spirit, a life of unreserved surrender to His service. The channel of communication must be open continually between man and his God. As the vine branch constantly draws the sap from the living vine, so are we to cling to Jesus and receive from Him by faith the strength and perfection of His own character.

The Desire of Ages, 676

John 13:35 says “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

I’ve been tempted to think that because someone acts a certain way towards another person or thinks a certain mean thought about them, he/she really doesn’t love that person. But I don’t know if I believe that anymore. I think our moments of weakness and plain old humanity get the better of us, and we lose our grip.

Love to man is the earthward manifestation of the love of God. It was to implant this love, to make us children of one family, that the King of glory become one with us. And when His parting words are fulfilled, ‘Love one another, as I have loved you,’ (John 15:12); when we love the world as He has loved it, then for us His mission is accomplished. We are fitted for heaven; for we have heaven in our hearts.

Many who profess His name have lost sight of the fact that Christians are to represent Christ. Unless there is practical self-sacrifice for the good of others, in the family circle, in the neighborhood, in the church, and wherever we may be, then whatever our profession, we are not Christians.

The Desire of Ages, 641 and 504

I think we could all do more of serving others and truly trying to understand what it means to love one another.

Until I come up with a clever sign-off,

em

Strength for Today, Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Hello, everyone!

Soooo I am back with a little bit of a concern (really, though, when am I not concerned about something?).

The reason I have this blog is because I want people to draw closer to Jesus. I also want others to see my life as I try to live it as Christ is calling me to live it. To look beyond the “Christian” title and dig deep into what that means and how people my age and beyond can live it. I also want to share the real struggles that I face as a Christian.

So I’m caught in a tough place. I don’t want this to be a diary; I don’t want to expose details of my day that could bore you to death. I don’t want to be too open or post details about my issues just for the sake of blabbering about myself. So what do I do? I don’t want to focus on me, and yet I want to share my stories as I walk with Christ. So what should I do, dear readers? How do I balance a lifestyle/faith-based blog?

When it comes to posts about issues and lessons I can be as vague and yet as precise as I can. If you want to know about specifics we can privately talk about it via some way or other.

When it comes to lifestyle posts, well I can be as colorful as I think I should be.

So let’s give this a try, shall we?

I had a spark ignite in my brain yesterday when I was driving home. I was listening to a sermon that was more or less about what it means to own your faith. The main thing I got from it was this: No matter what may be going on with people around me, no matter what problems I see or problems I am dealing with, I always need to a.) Trust God and b.) Serve others.

Alright, alright that may sound superficial because as a Christian we all kind of hear those things, right? Almost as much as we hear “love your neighbor as yourself.”

But what does that all mean?

How do I own my faith? What is trust in God? What is serving others?

I’ll tell you what it is for me, and what I think it is for anyone claiming the Christian faith.

As the speaker put it, owning your faith involves perspective, participation, presence, perseverance, and power.

So then it hit me: At least in part, the recent bitterness I’ve been feeling is because of me — my unbelief in God’s character and promises. My perspective is way out of whack. I am too busy looking at other people and letting their personalities or whatever it may be getting under my skin, that I forget the power God has to make what seems impossible possible.

I have to get on my knees in prayer and trust Him.

Instead of focusing on the ugly characteristics of others, I have to participate in serving them. Instead of avoiding places I don’t want to be because I don’t get anything out of being there or can’t bear the emotions I may face, I have to be there and be present because I’m letting God lead. Instead of coming up with excuses for still participating in sin, I have to be persistent in my faith by never letting go of God and remembering He calls me out of darkness. And above all, instead of relying on myself

I have to rely on God’s power.

I can’t do any of this on my own.

That’s it.

I (and all of us in the Christian faith) must choose what’s right to glorify God. How can we call ourselves Christians if we aren’t doing that? We must probe into God’s thoughts because His thoughts are not our thoughts — they’re greater and better and go deeper than we could imagine in our feeble human minds.

And we have to serve other people, even if we don’t see ourselves benefitting in any way.

All of these things require sacrifice. The only way to truly serve God and serve others is by sacrifice.

Sin is truly an ugly thing. I can let it keep me down, or I can look up and trust in He who is greater than I.

He has to transform His believers from the inside out, and we all have to be serious about that.

What’s the bigger picture? How serious am I in serving God? How serious are you?

 

Troubled Hearts

How to find peace when our hearts are at war

 

Howdy day everyone! Boy, it feels good to be back on the blog! It’s felt like an eternity, though really it’s only been a few weeks.

Anyway, today I want to talk about these two P’s I keep stumbling upon in the Bible (bear with me non-believers.)

Persecution and peace.

As Christ’s followers, His disciples, we are to expect persecution. Namely, being hated, ridiculed, even killed for our faith and for standing up for truth. But why is it that no one in Christian circles really talks about that? John 14, John 16, James, 1 Peter are just a few places where persecution is mentioned. Those living now are not exempt from that. We in America may not deal with being killed for our faith just yet, but one thing is for certain: if we are living the way a Christian is supposed to live, we will experience persecution in some form.

So what is Christian living?

And as people who believe in the second coming of Christ, why does it seem like we really don’t believe He’s coming soon? If we did, wouldn’t our lives be different? Wouldn’t we be concerned with witnessing, with getting rid of sin in our lives, of making changes we need to make, of finding out truth from error?

There are so many bonkers beliefs out there amongst Christians. That’s why there are so many churches. So how do we know what’s true?

“Give me the Bible, holy message shining, Thy light shall guide me in the narrow way.”

That’s how we discover truth. By studying the book we believe is inspired by God. That is the only way to find true peace. I’ve really been struggling with certain teachings that are out there, and it took so long for me to realize I need to study God’s word for myself and not just take what people say as truth or hold onto any preconceived notions.

Knowledge is power, right?

So even amidst persecution, there is hope! That hope is found throughout the Bible. John 14 is a beautiful chapter on hope and promise. So even though we are to expect persecution, Jesus tells us not to be afraid, to not let our hearts be troubled.

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27 NKJV

How easy is it for me to let my heart be troubled! I feel like I’m troubled all the time. And I’m especially troubled whenever I hear or read about persecution. I get scared, discouraged, and even angry.

With all that trouble in my heart and countenance, what kind of example am I setting for others, for you?

How do I find peace amidst all the confusion and internal struggles?

Here’s something I found especially meaningful from a book called In Heavenly Places.

The Saviour’s life on this earth, though lived in the midst of conflict, was a life of peace…. No storm of satanic wrath could disturb the calm of that perfect communion with God. And He says to us, “My peace I give unto you.”

He left [the disciples] the peace which had been His during His life on the earth, which had been with Him amid poverty, buffeting, and persecution…Those who take Christ at His word and surrender their souls to His keeping, their lives to His ordering, will find peace and quietude. Nothing of the world can make them sad when Jesus makes them glad by His presence. In perfect acquiescence there is perfect rest. The Lord says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3).

It is the love of self that destroys our peace. While self is alive we stand ready continually to guard it from mortification and insult; but when self is dead, and our life hid with Christ in God, we shall not take neglects or slights to heart….

When we receive Christ into the soul as an abiding guest, the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, will keep our hearts and minds. There is no other ground of peace than this. The grace of Christ, received into the heart, subdues enmity; it allays strife and fills the soul with love. He who is at peace with God and his fellow men cannot be made miserable…. The heart that is in harmony with God is a partaker of the peace of heaven and will diffuse its blessed influence all around. In Heavenly Places, 249 

There are so many things unanswered, so much confusion to sift through. There are also so many truths to discover in God’s Word, truths that are waiting to be discovered if we only took the time to study and remove any preconceived ideas and misguided traditions of men. But as we delve into discovering those truths, we can rest assured that peace is given to us.

 

Keep Her, for She is Your Life

Why instruction is important

Fridays are funny for me. Here’s why: I have the day off.  So I told myself Fridays would be my blog days. Yet here it is almost 3 p.m. on a Friday and I’m barely starting…go figure :p

Anyway, all humor aside, I feel today’s post is going to be quite a hefty one, and aimed more towards my fellow believers in Christ. But even if that isn’t you, I still encourage you to read. My hope is that you all will learn a little bit more about Jesus, and a little more about me. I also hope we can still connect somehow.

Here goes. So last Friday I received a text quoting 2 Chronicles 7:14, which reads: If My people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and  turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land (New King James Version). (All texts I use from here on out will be from NKJV unless otherwise noted).

I wondered why this particular text was sent, and wondered how the person who sent it to me views this text. I also wanted to ask how one defines ‘wicked ways’. What is wickedness? How do we turn away from it? Is there a method? a standard? And God says here that if His people do these things ( humble themselves, pray, seek His face, turn from wicked ways) then He will forgive their sin.

That sounds like a condition. God’s forgiveness requires something from us.

And if God requires certain things from His people, how, then, do I meet those requirements? And are their consequences for not meeting them?

1 John 2:6 says “He who abides in Him ought Himself also to walk just as He walked.” After reading that text aloud, I asked a few people what it means to abide in Christ and “walk just as He walked.” They said abiding and walking as He walked means to be obedient.

Obedient to what?

Leviticus 18:5 reads “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.”

One meaning of abiding in Christ is to obey God’s commands. Which ones? All? Some?

Weren’t some commandments done away with?

I am not going to talk about which commandments were done away with exactly, but a main thing I have to cover is that God’s law, His holy law, His holy ten commandments, is His character. Why else would His law and statutes come up so frequently throughout the Bible, Old Testament and New? And if they are His character written down — and God is unchanging — then His law is unchanging, right?

Okay, now that I’ve come to that conclusion, I’ll transition to this thought: Ecclesiastes 12:14. Fear (this isn’t to be afraid of, but rather to revere) God and keep His commandments…for God will bring every work into judgment…”

How does this apply to me, a Christian? What commandments do I keep? And what works of mine will be judged?

How shall a man be just with God? How can a sinner be made righteous?

Galatians 5:19-21 lists behaviors God’s people should avoid ( sex outside marriage, jealousy, hatred, drunkenness, just to name a few). Of course, we cannot in and of ourselves and of our own will power keep from doing these things. It is only by God’s grace, Spirit, and power working in us. It is only through Christ.

Here’s a quote from a book called Steps to Christ:

“Christ is the source of every right impulse. He is the only one that can implant in the heart enmity against sin. Every desire for truth and purity, every conviction of our own sinfulness, is an evidence that His Spirit is moving upon our hearts.”

1 John 1:9 says if we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us. Luke 13:3 says unless we repent, we will all perish. Repentance is a condition we must do to receive forgiveness. Repentance also doesn’t just mean to confess the sin, but also to turn away from that sin.

Instruction is a lamp, a light, and the way of life (Proverbs 6:23). Instruction is important. God’s instruction is important. Whatever He says in His word directed to His people are important. Proverbs 4:13.

By not ignoring truth and conviction and by heeding to instruction is how to keep my conscience from being “seared with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:2).

“Repentance includes sorrow for sin and turning away from it. Until we turn away from [sin] in heart, there will be no real change in the life.” Steps to Christ, 23

That’s powerful.

All compromise with sin must be put to an end. I’m speaking to myself here, too. I don’t want this new year to be the same as years before, to keep putting off what I know I need to give up. Lately jealousy has been eating me up inside, and I know I need give that burden to Christ, because His promises are unwavering.

 

Two, Just Want to be With You

It’s that time for another sappy anniversary posssssttt.

Okay, not sappy at all for me, but perhaps it is for you :p

So here goes!

I can’t believe it’s been two years since I married this incredible young man. We are both blessed beyond belief.

The morning of our anniversary, I made him these cute little guys from an idea I found on Pinterest (Ohhh, Pinterest <3)

fullsizeoutput_1a2bAt night we enjoyed a fantastically delicious dinner at Shojin at Little Toko in DTLA. Incredible. Worth it. And did I mention entirely vegan!? I could have easily eaten another order of the potstickers. And I was pleasantly surprised they had several non-alcoholic and caffeine-free drink/tea options. There was a no cell phone policy, so I didn’t take any photos of the food. Guess you’ll have to try it yourself 😉fullsizeoutput_1a27

Just as in times prior, we waited for winter break in December to take off and spend a few days together up in Oregon.

img_6213
Just look at this snow!
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So snowy and beautiful.

We flew from LAX to PDX and indulged in the pho and bánh mì at Bambuza ( it’s in the airport, and we’ve been longing for that vegan pho since last year hehe.)

From Portland we drove to Sisters, which took longer than anticipated because there was so much snow and we SoCal folk had never driven in snow before ( kuddos to my husband for killing it out there.)

We made it just in time to check in at Five Pine, and then drive a half hour to Bend to catch a Journey to Bethlehem production at a local church. It was such a crisp, clear, and beautiful evening. One day I’ll invest in a camera that can actually capture the essence of the moon that was out that night.

After the production we went to grab a bite at Laughing Planet. Plantains in a burrito!? Sounded odd to me, but it was delicious.

We went snowboarding the first year and snow shoeing last year, so we wanted to plan another snow activity this time around.  He started feeling a little sick and we didn’t want to push it, so we were fine driving to and from Bend, shopping at Natural Grocers ( I could live there), and spending a snowed-in night eating pizza ( one of the few places open that night because of the snow!), playing board games ( I won), and watching Shark Tank ( it’s hard to just watch one episode…). We even got to see carol singers at Old Mill District. Magical.

Another wonderful time spent in Sisters, OR. I thank God we are able to take trips like this. Everything was a highlight those few days, and I wasn’t ready to come home. I can go on about the time we spent there, but I’ll leave you all with this clip of our trip instead!