A SCANDAL

(Post by: Lilly Hobbs)

Have you ever been part of a scandal? A scandal where people mocked you, thought that they were superior when compared to you, and were entertained by the gossip that makes its rounds whenever scandals take place?

Big or small, the world feeds off of stories that involve people’s personal lives. Why else do you think people buy the magazines at the grocery checkouts that tell of all the latest gossip?

You’re probably wondering why I would bring this topic up in a blog post. So, allow me to share about a scandal Christians should, yes should, be a part of and a quote that I came across recently that gave me this crazy analogy…

“If you are going to walk with Jesus Christ, you are going to be opposed. In our days, to be a true Christian is really to become a scandal.”  (George Whitefield)

Now, here comes the part where I beat us all up a little bit. I hope it will be worth your time to read to the end.

Let me start by asking two simple questions… 1. Are you opposed daily? 2. Did you know that an antonym for the word “scandal” is “honor”? To be honored in this world should drive a follower of Jesus mad. If we are standing in the company of worldly worshippers while they praise us for our achievements, then we do not have the right to call ourselves Christians. For, to be honored by the world is indeed the biggest disgrace a Christian can be paid.

Far be it from me that I should receive a crown of worldly honor, when my King was given a crown of thorns.

Matthew 5:10-12 says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.””

To be a scandal for the world should be a blessing for believers, but only if it is for righteousness’ sake. You know, the American Church has done a terrific job at turning people into selfish creatures that live to consume. Most Christians think that we are persecuted if we take our Bible to our favorite coffee shop to read, buy a $7 coffee, and then get weird looks because we brought our Bible.

The thing is, if we were a scandal for Jesus, then we wouldn’t be focused on who’s looking at us. We would be focused on what we’re reading in the Word and then living it out!

There’s a huge difference.

I’ve been especially noticing as of late that even the most religious “Church-goers” are not in their Bibles during the week, let alone the average “Church-goers”. Therefore, they are not opposed by the world, but instead happily welcomed into it. Sure, they could probably tell you what they learned on Sunday from the pastor, but the Church isn’t a scandal, so it really makes very little difference.

The enemy doesn’t need to threaten them because they aren’t being transformed by Scripture personally!

1 John 3:1 says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”

If you are a child of God, live like it. Be a scandal the world just can’t get over because you know who you are in Jesus, and what you’re meant to do for Jesus.

“There is not a thing on the face of the earth that I abhor so much as idleness or idle people.”  (George Whitefield)

SO WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?

= Are you a true Christian?

= What are you going to do differently?

THESE ARE THE DAYS!

(Post by: Michelle Hobbs)

I would like to ask you a question. Please, take some time to really think about it and answer honestly.

Are these the most spiritually fulfilling days of your life?

My family and I are at a ministry conference this week. The speaker yesterday posed that question to us, and I have been mulling it over ever since.

What is my answer? Well, in some ways, “Yes”. Overall, probably, “No”.

When I think of the most spiritually fulfilling days in my life, I think of the first few years after I got saved. Scott and I were in our late twenties when we got saved, and we were on fire for Jesus immediately. We attended every class we could. We studied the Bible every day. The Word was opened up to us in a powerful way. It was exciting and exhilarating!

I remember looking around at other church attendees, people in our Sunday School classes and worship services, and not seeing the joy and excitement I was feeling at the time. I found it odd. I knew they loved the Lord, but the pressing desire to worship, study, and learn new things was not evident.

They were comfortable. If I am honest, I have now grown comfortable, as well.

Comfortable is a dangerous place to be in the Gospel, friends. Revelation 3: 14-17 says, “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.”

Those of us who have been saved and/or have gone to church and have done “Christian stuff” for several years have a tendency to simply get comfortable. We lose our zeal for the Gospel. We lose our passion for learning new things; our deep desire to know the Lord more each day. We lose sight of the lost and walk around defeated, thinking there is nothing we can do about the state of the world around us.

We are content to remain in a state where we feel no guilt, but there is also no blessing.

That, dear Christian, is exactly where the enemy wants you; and precisely where the Lord has warned us not to be. From the verses I previously cited, it sounds like the Lord flat out despises that state. When we are comfortable, we are lukewarm and completely ineffective.

The speaker from our conference yesterday, shared a story from a time when he was in seminary, and he went to listen to an old, seasoned preacher. After the sermon, he told one of his professors that he would give anything to be as spiritual as the preacher they had just listened to. The wise professor replied, “No you wouldn’t. You don’t want to get up at 5:00 am to pray for two hours like he does. You don’t want to spend three hours a day studying Scripture. You don’t want to spend countless hours serving the hurting people in your community. You don’t want to pray with the store clerk or share the Gospel with a stranger or a fellow classmate.”

That wise professor said, “Each of us are as spiritual as we really want to be.”

Ouch! That is a hard truth, isn’t it?

You see, when I look back at the days that I would say are the most spiritually fulfilling days of my life, they are the days when I was willing to put a lot of effort into my relationship with Christ. I was praying, studying, and serving every day. They were the days when I learned how to pray with people and share the Gospel with them, and I actually went out and did that on a regular basis. They were the days when I saw the truth being ignored and injustice being accepted, and I spoke out, in love, against it.

My most spiritually fulfilling days, depend on me, and me alone. No one else can lead me into them. I cannot ride into them on someone else’s coattail.

We are each as spiritual as we really want to be.

Friend, do not allow yourself to get comfortable; to become lukewarm in your faith. Can you imagine how wonderful life would be if we would strive to make each day the most spiritually fulfilling day we have ever had?

It’s not too late for you and me to do just that!

I was so encouraged at the end of our service yesterday.  After the speaker shared this message, he gave an altar call for those who wanted to commit to making the days ahead more spiritually fulfilling than the days behind. An elderly woman, with a full head of white hair and walker to steady her gait, was the first one to make her way down to the altar. It was no easy task for her, but she obviously recognized that there was great reward in making this commitment.

Oh Lord, let that be me when I am old and gray!

SO WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?

= Are these the most spiritually fulfilling days of your life?

= What are you going to do differently?

GRIEF EVERYWHERE, EVERYWHERE TERROR, AND ALL SHAPES OF DEATH

(Post by: Madie Hobbs)

You know how people often say, “Well, it certainly has been one of those days”? They usually accompany the statement with a slump of the shoulders or an irritated sigh. Well, for me, it seems to be one of those months.

If you read last week’s blog post, you will have heard about some of the incredible, exciting things going on in The Few and in our personal lives. We just went on an outreach, celebrated four years of Bible study with our best friends, our podcast is only a few listens away from hitting 7,000 downloads, etc. etc. However, over the course of my life, I have come to accept the sad reality that joy and excitement are often mingled with pain and sorrow.

Early on Saturday morning, the day we were getting ready to celebrate an incredibly huge milestone with our friends, we were made aware of the news that a twenty-one-year-old woman from our church had been tragically, and very abruptly, killed. When Lilly told me the news my brain quite literally couldn’t absorb the information.

This was a girl who I have known practically forever, who was in the prime of her life having just graduated from college, gotten engaged, and was entering one of the most exciting new chapters of her life, and she was suddenly gone. I had never been particularly close with her, but both our families have watched each other grow up, have been in many of the same camps and Sunday schools together. To realize life could change that quickly for anyone on this earth, hit me like a ton of bricks.

I spent the entire day repeating the exact same phrase over and over again, saying, “I just can’t even fathom it.” Our whole group couldn’t get the subject off our minds. As we sat around a campfire later that night, we began to ask ourselves what life would look like for The Few if one of us would be taken just that quickly. The accident had put my whole life into perspective, as I thought about what it would be like for her sisters, her fiancé, her parents.

The emotion I’d been trying to hold back all day finally broke lose as we talked, and I sat in front of that campfire weeping. All I could ask was, “Can you even imagine?”

I write this post having just come back from one of the most heartbreaking, sorrowful funerals I have ever had to sit through, and only one quote comes to my mind as I try to grapple with the grief that has struck so quickly.

“Grief everywhere, everywhere terror, and all shapes of death.”

~ The Aeneid

I say it has been ‘one of those months’ because it seems like one thing after another has brought more and more sorrow to my personal life, but also to the lives of those around me, and our entire world.

The quote above may sound a bit grim, or downcast, or harsh, but I think all of us can say that we have experienced this same feeling that Aenias conveys when speaking of the fall of Troy.

Our world is a place of utter darkness, and sometimes it feels like we’re drowning in it. Like we’ll never be able to see the light again.

But let me encourage you, dear heart, it wasn’t supposed to be this way, and it won’t be like this forever.

We often use these times to normalize asking God why He can’t always save us from things like death and sickness. But let me tell you, He doesn’t desire that it should be this way. Unfortunately, death and grief are consequences of sin, and day by day we will have to find the strength to bear it.

But do not despair. Our Redemption is near.

“The works of His hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy; they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. He sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever. Holy and awesome is His name!” (Psalm 111:7-9 ESV)

Something I’ve always really disliked about times like these, where everyone is shocked into the realization that life is short, is the fact that this thought wears off so quickly. In one week, the number of cards that family is receiving will be minimized. In one month, people will stop texting, asking what they need, and letting them know they’re being thought of. In one year, those people will just be a few more simple faces blending into the crowd, and everyone will have forgotten the trauma and tragedy they have gone through.

A week from now people will not be asking themselves what they would wish they’d have done differently if their daughter, sister, fiancée had been taken away that quickly. If they had been in her place. So, I’m here to ask you that question again. If you knew exactly how much time you had left on earth, what would you do differently?

Would you wish you’d not have sent that insensitive text to one of your kids when you got angry? Would you have read Scripture more? Would you tell your family you loved them a little bit more adamantly and regularly than usual?

Let me tell you, on Saturday night as I sat weeping in front of that campfire, asking myself that very question, I thought of quite a few things I would change.

I would get closer to Jesus. I would write obsessively. I would change my attitude towards siblings. I would hug my friends a little tighter before they left my house. I wouldn’t waste time on things that have no soul.

My life would look radically different. How about yours?

My prayer is that we live our lives so well we can truly look ourselves in the mirror and admit with confidence that we are so much different than every other bundle of bones on this planet.

The one thing that is certain in this world is that none of us are making it out of here alive. So, wouldn’t you rather leave with a bang? On fire with passion for eternal things, and with no regrets left behind.

Vivanus, moriendum est.

            ————

Let us live, since we must die.

SO WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?

= What are you going to do differently?

A HERO ALWAYS KNOWS (PART THREE)

(Post by: Scott Hobbs)

Who does a hero look like to you?

Keep reading no matter your age, gender, status, etc.  But know that my heart as I write this final blog post in our Hero Trilogy, is primarily for all my fellow men, husbands, fathers, and grandfathers out there that might, at some point in time, run across this account of what a true hero looks like.

Why am I singling out my fellow men?  Because, I believe, based on my understanding of Scripture, that we are called to lead our families.  Spiritually first and second, in all the ways of the world.  How often we seem to get those in the wrong order.

Last week, one of our small groups got into a discussion about parenting.  We discussed the intricacies of how to parent our adult children.  Things like what does Dad do when his newly married daughter asks him what the grinding noise on her car is instead of asking her husband? 

As fathers, of course we want to teach and help our kids in any way we can.

But, you see, it is our job to teach that daughter, while she is at home, to listen for those strange car sounds that may indicate a problem.  It is also our job to tell that same, newly married daughter, to ask her husband first when that car sound pops up.

It is our job to train up our children in the way they should go.  How to throw a ball, have good manners, conduct yourself in public, work hard, respect authority, make your bed, and brush your teeth.  How to be a good loser, a humble winner, a safe driver, and to walk in integrity.

In a recent documentary my girls were watching, an elementary teacher said that when reading the great stories, such as Lilly and Michelle mentioned in the previous two posts, most of the kids, when asked, said the hero most reminded them of their dad.

I’m reminded of an old movie line when the captain of a submarine was asked a question and said he didn’t know.  His second in command pulled him aside and rebuked him.  “The captain always knows what to do; whether he does or not.”  It seems like that is often the esteem our children hold us in.  As dads, we are always supposed to know.  We are to be their heroes.

In part two, Michelle said that our world is full of monsters, and we are forever at war with them.  So, if we, as men, are to be heroes in the lives of those around us, why would we allow all the earthly monsters that get between our families and Jesus to win so many battles; without so much as a drawn sword?  I’m not talking about murderous thugs on the street. It’s a given we have to be the hero there.  But realistically, most of us will never face that challenge.

I’m talking about leading your family in meals together, conversation, and maybe even some devotions.  I’m talking about saying we need to cut back on some extracurriculars so we can spend time as a family.  I’m talking about being willing to lead and say we won’t participate in things that aren’t Godly.  How about not letting our daughters out of the house half-dressed to date a boy she barely knows.  Or telling our sons to stop blaming everyone else when something goes wrong.  No more video games, respect your mother, and stand out from the crowd for Jesus. 

Will you be the hero of those situations or just go along to get along?

Or maybe the question we really need to ask ourselves as men is whether we are living a life worthy of being looked at as a hero?  What would your kids say?  Do we even understand that at the core of all this is the fact that we must follow Jesus if we expect them to follow us.  You see, in our own power and strength we are not worthy of them following us.  We need Jesus. We must follow Him because He is worthy.  In that, others may find a reason to follow us.

You see, most of the time heroes aren’t your John Wayne or Jason Bourne.  They are just everyday folks, doing life well alongside Jesus.  Those are the heroes I want to look up to; and maybe even work toward being like myself for my family. 

The true hero will never forget that the most important thing he will ever do is lead his family to Jesus and eternity with Him.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, else matters in the end. 

Now go be their hero…

SO WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?

= How often to you “go along to get along” instead of leading and being the hero for your family?

= Did this post challenge you on your spiritual condition currently?

= What are you going to do differently?

(This post is the final post in our three-part series on monsters and heroes. Be sure to read part one and two if you haven’t already, and share this series with someone you know needs to read these posts as well!)

WILDERNESS AND WASTELAND

(Post by: Lilly Hobbs)

Have you ever attempted to walk through a wood that hadn’t been pruned, in which a clear pathway didn’t exist? If your answer is yes, I would like to ask you, how did that walk go? From my own previous experiences, I am guessing not very well.

You were probably quite frustrated by how many sticks (no matter how careful you were to avoid them) you stepped on, how many itchy bugs bites kept appearing on your skin, or the number of times you were forced to change direction because of fallen tree branches in front of you. I think you get my point.

However, if you have also taken a walk through a wood that had been pruned and had a clear pathway, you know just how different the experience can be. You probably enjoyed the quiet sound of nature, felt the warm rays of sunlight shining through the trees, and were deep in your thoughts as you walked effortlessly following the path that had been made.

I believe we are all aware that if a piece of land is not cultivated consistently and pruned constantly, it will never cease to return to being a wilderness and wasteland. It will always go back to its former state. There is one thing that I don’t believe we are all aware of, though… Our hearts can do the same if we are not obedient to Christ and allow Him to do His work of cultivating within us.

Our souls are in desperate need of being tended to.

Three of the Gospel writers record a story Jesus told known as the “Parable of the Sower” (Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8).  In each case, the sower spreads the same seed by casting it over the soil. One would expect the same results, but that’s not how the story goes. What effects the results you ask? The state of the soil.

An uncultivated heart cannot produce the enduring, plentiful, spiritual fruit that is possible and desirable. Our hearts can be so hardened that the Word “bounces off” us with no lasting impact.

The rocky soil Jesus speaks of is not just filled with little pebbles of stone, but the solid, obstinate table of rock buried several inches beneath what appears to be fertile soil. This represents the sin and hidden things in our minds and hearts that we never prune away, and they keep the seed from taking root. The third type of soil seems to accept truth, but never reaches maturity, because it also accepts the world with its riches, worries, and pleasures. God’s Word is “choked out” and is unable to produce fruit.

The good soil, however, is the heart that embraces the Word and holds fast to it, allowing it to take root, grow, and mature, and ultimately produce eternal and abundant fruit for the Kingdom of God. This heart is described as honest, good, and noble.

The Holy Spirit is the only one who can give us a “good heart” that will receive and bear the fruit of salvation. He gives us a heart of flesh instead of stone (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26). We are responsible (with the help of the Holy Spirit) to cultivate and keep a “noble and good heart” so that the Word of God continues to bear fruit pleasing to God.

To cultivate means to nourish the soul with the true, the good, and the beautiful. This must be done constantly if we wish our hearts to not be a wilderness and wasteland spiritually. You can be sure that when your heart is not being cultivated by Jesus, it is being filled with disorder and chaos by the enemy.

Ultimately, it’s a heart issue in the listener, not a failure of the sower or the seed that keeps someone (maybe even us) from bearing fruit. Matthew 6:20-21 says, “But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Remember the Pharisees and Scribes Jesus spoke to in Matthew 15:8? He said Isaiah had correctly prophesied about them when He said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”

Their hearts were not cultivated. Sure, they may have looked spiritual on the outside, but even an uncultivated and unpruned wood can look good at first glance. It’s when you step inside that you realize what a mess it is. They could say all the right things, but it didn’t matter because they weren’t genuine.

We have a sin problem that is turning us into a wilderness and wasteland by the minute. Our souls are in desperate need of being tended to. The ultimate goal we are after by means of the act of cultivation is to know God, glorify God, and enjoy God.

Nourish your soul with the true, the good, and the beautiful instead of giving in to the temporary and fleeting things of this world that will certainly pass away. Lord, let our hearts not be far from you.

“Disorder in the world implies that something is out of place. Usually, at the heart of all disorder you will find man in rebellion against God. It began in the garden of Eden and continues to this day.”  (A. W. Tozer)

SO WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?

= Do you feel like your life is full of disorder?

= Do you desire to focus on the true, the good, and the beautiful?

= What are you going to do differently?

THE PRESENT PRESSURE

(Post by: Lilly Hobbs)

If you know me, you know I have a certain interest in people-watching. I often catch myself analyzing, studying, and observing whatever environment it is that I happen to be in, and who the people are around me.

There is something I have been noticing in people’s countenance… Many are increasingly lacking hope, purpose, determination, and perseverance.

Even to us as Christians, does it not seem as if the world we’re living in is currently being crushed under the enemy’s feet? As if Satan is winning?

Charles Spurgeon once said, “If you should be filled with alarm like others, you would no doubt be led into the sins so common to them under trying circumstances.”

Unbelievers tend to run to the wrong means in order to escape life’s difficulties, and Christians can quickly do the same when our minds yield to the present pressure of our age.

The present pressure and anxiousness we’re all feeling is a direct result of the evil that is freely roaming about, but there should be a radical difference in the way we continue to operate when compared to people who have no hope and have not put their trust in Jesus.

So, the question before us today is this… How do we live with intentionality amidst the pressure of the age we’re living in?

This might seem an odd Scripture to start with, but I am reminded of Psalm 23:5-6 which says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

This passage explains the presence of David’s enemies as bystanders at the feast. We probably wouldn’t be very much inclined to invite our enemies to watch us eat, and we might even regard their presence as likely to spoil our appetites. However, the enemy’s unwilling attendance at the feast is the important evidence of a shift in the balance of power now that the King has arrived. David’s foes had mocked him and humiliated him, but his trust was in God. For years he had been crying out, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? . . . How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Ps. 13:1–2). How it must have seemed to David, and to the rest of the world, as if the Lord had forgotten him and allowed his enemies to rejoice in their triumph.

Although He didn’t, did He?

This ultimate distinction between faithful servant and unfaithful enemy, those invited to join the feast and those left standing in disgrace to one side, I think raises a question in the heart of every Believer. Why would I be invited to be an honored guest to a feast reserved for faithful servants of the King?

I mean, our obedience is erratic at best. We regularly and deliberately turn our backs on obedience and join our peers in eager worship of their idols. So, why us?

This, my friend, is where the magnificence of unmerited salvation, that is ours, shines forth so clearly. We have a God that we can run to at any time. We have proved His faithfulness before, and He has never once been found lacking.

There’s a song by NEEDTOBREATHE called “I Am Yours”, and I think the lyrics perfectly describe the point I am trying to make.

“Sometimes I’m under starlit sky
But I’m feeling more like dirt
How do I forget so fast
Who you are, and what that’s worth

‘Cause there’s an evidence of you
In every corner of this life
So why do I still try to prove
That I don’t deserve your time

‘Cause I am yours
And you will always be mine
It seems like madness, I’m invited
To the table by your side

‘Cause I am yours
And you will always be mine
I’m a man whose one ambition
Is to dance with my divine
‘Cause I am yours
And you are, you are, you are
You are mine”

What we do is rooted in who we are, and I’m here to tell you that God cares a lot more about who we are deep down inside than whatever it is we may happen to do on any given day for Him.

Christianity isn’t something I do. It’s who I am. Our influence is irreplaceable, so we must be intentional about remembering who we are because of who Christ is.

My concern for American “Christians” today is that I’m not sure they want to be His. I’m not sure we long to be at the King’s table and be with Him. I’m not sure we will MAKE time to be at the table.

However, if your one ambition is to dance with your divine, surely His goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. If you want to live with intentionality amidst the pressure of the age we’re living in, take a seat at the King’s table.

It seems like madness, but He’s waiting.

SO WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?

= Write out a list of three or four things you want to be. It could be something from the verses we just read, or it could be something you admire in Jesus, or another Christian in your life. Ask God to continue to complete the good work He has started in you. Ask Him to enable you to BE who He created you to be. 

NEVER REALLY WHAT YOU WANT

(Post by: Lilly Hobbs)

How often do you find yourself chasing after the things in life that you think you want? For many young people my age, relationships, trendy tennis shoes, the newest iPhones, thousands of Instagram followers, and status are at the top of the list.

Before starting to write down these thoughts that are on the forefront of my mind, curiosity led me to Google, “What do humans desire most?”. I found there to be a consistent theme in the articles that have been written in regard to this question. Most stating that once we have food, water, and shelter we must feel safety, belonging, and mattering. Those three things being what we desire most.

It may come as a bit of a surprise to you if you’ve been around here for a while, but I agree with these Google search results. We all desire to feel safe, to belong, and to matter to others. Those are not trivial or wrong desires/wants to have. In fact, they are the very things God put within us to move us towards having a relationship with Him.

The terrible trait mankind possesses, however, is that we pursue these wants and desires in sinful and careless ways, thinking only of our own gain and happiness without giving anyone else much thought. James 3:16 says, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”

Friends, take one good look at the people in the world right now. As all of us pursue what we think we want, it is completely obvious that we are not happy. We are not content. We don’t have peace, and what we think brings us peace is really just a week-long vacation from the mess of a life we have created and continue to choose every day.

You know what genuinely astonishes me about us today? It’s the fact that we pray and ask God to bless our disorder and dysfunction. We ask God to bless the life that we desperately want a vacation from, yet we come back to it time and time again and don’t change a thing.

A.W. Tozer once said, “Getting what you want is never really what you want. What you truly want is only found in Christ. Until He is your highest desire, you will still feel empty when you get everything else you want. Your heart was fashioned to fit perfectly in the hand of it’s Maker. Trust Him.”

We are the problem. We get in the way of our own hearts. The relationships, trendy tennis shoes, the newest iPhones, thousands of Instagram followers, and status will never be enough for us. There will always be something that, in our minds, is better than what we already have.

Yet we continue to try and find our identity in the temporary and fleeting things of this world, and we wonder what we’re all so afraid of. Is it really so hard to see? We’re afraid of losing the worldly safety, belonging, and mattering that we have put all of our hope, time, and effort into gaining.

My generation specifically is being raised on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication because they haven’t faced the fact that they will always feel empty and will never truly live until they die with Christ and get themselves out of the way.

I am so sick of watching my peers try every other solution first instead of running straight to the Savior. He is the ONLY ONE who can give us safety, who knows our need to belong better than anyone else, and tells us that we mattered to Him before we were ever born.

Getting what you want is never really what you want. We are our own problem, and until we get ourselves out of the way by surrendering all to Christ, we will only create more disorder within our lives.

What we want can only be found in Jesus. Real life change has to start with a longing heart.

“Who do I have in heaven but you? And I desire nothing on earth but you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever.”  (Psalm 73:25-26)

SO WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?

= Do you long to change?

= What are you going to do differently?

WHY THEM?

(Post by: Lilly Hobbs)

Have you ever asked yourself the question, “why them” as you read about the lives and stories of individuals that God used powerfully in Scripture? I am not afraid to admit that I have wondered why God uses people such as David, Rahab, Abraham, Rachel, Gideon, and Paul before and to this very day even.

What you may be expecting me to say here is that God used them because they all had their own disastrous messes and sins, and if He used them, then He could surely use us. As almost every pastor I have heard preach on this subject says, “God was not limited by their inconsistencies and used them anyway, because after all, every person is a sinner. He has no perfect men which He has had the opportunity to choose instead.”

Though it is true that God is willing to use us despite our sinful nature, I truly don’t believe that that is the primary reason for why God used them and why He chooses to use us to build His Kingdom today. There is another theme that remains consistent in every story found in Scripture and the stories He is still writing and unfolding before us in this generation.

I think one of the best examples we can glean from (and one that reveals this consistent “theme”) is the story of the women going to visit Jesus’ tomb after He had been crucified.

Matthew 28:1-10 says, “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” He said. They came to Him, clasped His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Picture this story in your mind with me, friend. Their Savior, teacher, and friend has just died the most gruesome, painful death, and these women are out of their minds with grief. Imagine they just got of bed, no makeup, hair hasn’t been touched for days look. They don’t know what to do. Because they are emotional wrecks, and they weren’t able to prepare Jesus’ body properly for the grave due to the Passover Sabbath, they are most likely going to the tomb where Jesus’ body was to mourn; hoping that just maybe they can prepare the body as was their custom. Then, there is an earthquake, an angel appears and rolls back the stone covering the entrance to the tomb and tells them that Jesus has been resurrected.

I ask the question, “Why them?” about practically every part of this story.

For one, they are women and, in that time, would have been viewed as lesser than. Yet, Christ makes His glorious resurrection known to them before anyone else, even the eleven disciples. I am confident they are emotional and probably aren’t thinking straight, but surely they could not have forgotten all that Jesus had told them! Perhaps they were wrestling with some doubt and just wanted to be where Jesus was?

Of all people, why them? Why did Jesus choose them?

There is but one, individual answer to this question… Because they were seeking.

A. W. Tozer once said, “The difference between faith as it is found in the New Testament and faith as it is found now is that faith in the New Testament produced something and there was a confirmation of it. Faith now has a beginning and an end. We have faith in faith but nothing happens. They had faith in a risen Christ, something happened, and that is the difference.”

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the same women who watched the crucifixion, are now sitting against the tomb, just as they had sat against the cross; still longing to express their love and devotion to Christ. Still, they were seeking after Him.

Is this not the state of your heart as well, dear Christian? Though you may be overwhelmed by the state of the world, wars and rumors of wars, sin and death, disappointment after disappointment, does your heart not long to seek the One who holds victory in the palms of His mighty hands?

God does not pick random people to build the Kingdom because He doesn’t have any “perfect” ones to use instead. He chooses to use those who are seeking and long for something more.

May it be said of the Church in our generation that even though they could have walked around defeated, still they were seeking after Him.

“To seek God does not narrow one’s life, rather it brings it to the level of highest possible fulfillment.”  (A. W. Tozer)

SO WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?

= Have you been feeling weighed down by the world?

= What are you going to do differently?

CLUTTERED ALTARS

(Post by: Madie Hobbs)

A few months ago, as I was sitting in a youth event, my mind started to wander away from the lesson a bit and began to slip into a world of deep thought. My eyes began to drift slowly across the sunlit room, taking in the sights of my fellow peers, the color of the familiar walls surrounding me, and the small objects sitting around the room in several different spots.

But even though I was profoundly familiar with this space where I was sitting, the Lord revealed something new to me (as He often does when I take time to look about) that never held much significance before.

I began to think about the many other similar youth events I had attended in the past and began to remember the many different students who had stood to my left and right, who had a deep, outward response to the workings of the Holy Spirit. I thought about how there would typically be several different people who would make their way up to an altar that was almost always present in front of the stage, and how they would soon be surrounded with friends and fellow peers praying over them and helping them work through certain things.

My mind specifically stopped on the image of those crowded altars, and I couldn’t help but wonder why I had never experienced that same Holy Spirit driven worship in this event I was now attending.

As I thought, my eyes drifted toward the altar that ran the length of the stage only a few feet away from me, and I noticed something that has been burnt into my thoughts ever since.

The wooden altar, sitting a few feet above the floor, only a short distance from where we all sat, was covered with ridiculous clutter.

Game boxes, candy bags, sound equipment, cords, a laptop, and several other objects lined the length of the altar, with only a few small spots of the smooth wooden surface still visible. As I stared at it, I was overcome with a desperate, sorrowful feeling. A feeling of longing to see that altar in use again.

I began to realize that there was actually a great deal of significance to this sight that lay before me, and one that the American Church needs to wake up to.

God began to reveal to me that this was one of the most blatant, but almost unconscious actions that slammed the door of opportunity in Jesus’ face.

You see, this action represents an unabashed rejection for a move of the Holy Spirit.

Now, I want you to understand, I do not, in any way, believe that God can be restrained to an altar. However, we as human beings need a physical place where we can go to get right with Him sometimes.

This cluttered altar represents the complacency and weakness in the American Church, because we no longer wish to stand in the presence of God and feel conviction and fear for the stupidity we have allowed into our lives.

We have allowed our lives to become cluttered, much like this altar. Cluttered with skewed priorities, where we place our social status, our previous engagements, and our personal enjoyment above the power of the God who places breath in your lungs, minute by minute.

This altar clearly says to those who enter that building, and to the God who resides in it, that “We haven’t seen a move of God in this youth event no matter how many times we’ve tried. So now we’re just not going to even worry about keeping the altar open for students who may want to radically repent and get right with Jesus. I hope they all make it okay out there in the wide world.”

“For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of Heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives life and breath and everything. And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is actually not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:23-27 ESV)

By creating cluttered altars, we are portraying to people that we serve an “unknown God”, the same unknown god that the Greeks did.  We have not identified Him any better than they did by not even allowing people to experience what can happen as we kneel before an altar. But, if we are calling people to a radical, Biblical Christianity, our altars would be overcrowded with living, breathing souls versus inanimate objects week after week.

The Lord is not far from each one of us, maybe it’s time to clear our cluttered altars so we can actually meet Him. 

SO WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?

= What have you allowed to clutter your life?

= What are you going to do differently?

SOMETHING MORE

(Post by: Lilly Hobbs)

I feel like I’m making my way through the land of the lost, even in the Church most days. Is it just me? It can be discouraging; it can certainly be disappointing. There’s a burden that true Christians bear for the sake of what is good and what is right.

I found this quote by C. S. Lewis this week that got me thinking. It says, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

The American Church acts as if this “Jesus thing” is moderately important (precisely what it cannot be). The “Christianity” most have today is not the real deal. It’s reasonable and comfortable.

But it used to be something more.

Madie and I are often asked by older Christians why young people are leaving the Church and the faith. I realize their concern, as most young people have already “left” the Church mentally and emotionally even though they are sitting in the pew physically. The honest and gut-wrenching truth is that they don’t want what they see other believers have.

Is some of that their own fault for not paying attention and putting some effort in? Of course. But if you don’t see that Jesus has radically changed the people that sit alongside you in the pews each Sunday, why would you change? If they live no differently than you do on any ordinary Wednesday or Thursday, tell me, what’s the point?

It used to be something more.

The American Church threw real, Biblical Christianity out the window when we started manufacturing a weekly gathering of people who wanted to be “religious”, yet keep their lives, incomes, and time for themselves instead of sacrificing everything to follow Jesus. We ask God to bless our lifestyles, our activities, and our futile efforts even though they offend His very nature.

When was the last time you asked Jesus if your life really pleases Him? If all that you are is becoming what He intends for you to be?

Colossians 3:5-10 says, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator.”

We either become a more hellish creature or a more heavenly creature as each day passes. Everything is radically transformed when we encounter our Savior and King. In turn, it should be evident to those we encounter as well.

Christianity is not moderately important to me. It’s who I am, and who Jesus has made me through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave. It is of infinite importance.

C. S. Lewis also said, “Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

How will history remember you? Are you seeking Him or some cheap imitation that leaves you needing more?

Real Christianity is so much more than us; thank the Lord.

SO WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?

= Have you encountered Jesus for yourself?

= What are you going to do differently?

TWENTY-TWO THINGS CHRISTIANS SHOULD DO IN 2022

(Post by: Lilly Hobbs)

I love reading through a good list or “idea” type post and have found them to be very helpful when trying to be creatively intentional about living a deep, and also meaningful, Christian life. You know, I’m sure that many of us wrote out some of the fitness goals we wanted to accomplish in 2022, or perhaps you thought about a new hobby you would like to try. Or maybe creating a book list full of amazing classical literature (oh wait, maybe that’s just Madie, haha). Those things are great, but what about the things that actually matter? What about Jesus? Is He something you just fit into your schedule when it permits, or does everything else flow from your personal relationship with Him?

We get asked quite often how to practically get serious about living for Jesus, and I pray this list is one you can refer back to time and time again to help you do exactly that. Here are 22 things I believe Christians should do in 2022!

  • Challenge yourself when it comes to reading Scripture. Don’t complicate it, but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. It’s too easy to do what’s easy, so we must choose to do hard things in order to continue to grow. I am challenging myself to read the entire Bible this year, and I would invite you to try something new and maybe even a tad bit difficult!
  • Give 22 minutes each day to simply listen to what God may want to speak to you. Maybe this time needs to happen in the morning after you study Scripture, or perhaps it’s on your lunch break, or right before you get ready to go bed. Make it happen. Many of us spend much more than 22 minutes on our phones each day. Instead, try to eliminate as many distractions as possible, and ask Jesus to share His heart with you.
  • Read three Christian books that will help you learn more about the basics of Christianity and why we believe what we believe. My three recommendations would be: “Until Unity” by Francis Chan. “Mere Christianity” by C. S. Lewis. “The Normal Christian Life” by Watchman Nee.
  • Ask someone how you can pray for them and then pray WITH them! How many times do we tell someone that we will be praying for them and completely forget to do so? Trust me, I’ve done it too. By praying for someone’s request with them, you let them know that they are loved and that their request or struggle is not trivial. If it matters to them, it matters to God, and it should matter to us as well.
  • Seek out and prioritize time with a small group of Jesus-loving believers (in your local church and also outside of your local church). After starting a teen girl Bible Study myself, I have come to realize how vital this is and how much it can help a Christian get serious about living this Jesus thing out, but also how few actually make time for it. I am convinced that the small group model is what Christ intended for us to make the most of! It’s real Church. Please do not neglect this in 2022.
  • Try to open up your home by sharing a meal with someone you know who may be struggling, live alone, or you feel Jesus wants you to pour into. Hospitality is one of my spiritual gifts, and I so enjoy creating a cozy environment where people can relax, have meaningful conversations about Jesus, and know that I care about them! This is the best way to create community. My mom, sister, and I have decided we want to serve by doing much more of this in 2022, and I couldn’t be more excited.
  • Evaluate how much you are allowing the world to influence you and your lifestyle through the music you listen to/shows you watch. Far too many Christians have compromised in this area. Would you want Jesus to listen to/watch what you regularly do? If you don’t care, then that’s on you. But if you do, and you know that something needs to change, there’s no better time than the present. Aim to please Jesus in all that you do.
  • Be prepared to share your testimony and how Jesus has changed you with those you encounter! Remembering the Lord’s faithfulness to us will help us to not forget how good and gracious He is and will enable us to lead others to knowing and experiencing Him for themselves.
  • Be a witness to others through your behavior and conduct. As Christians, we are called to live above reproach (Titus 1:6-9). This is often one of the most powerful ways to witness to others of what it means to live a godly life. You can say all the right things, but if your actions don’t reflect what you say, then your life won’t make a difference.
  • Edify and uplift others daily. Through text messages, phone calls, cards, etc. make sure that you are putting others before yourself continually.
  • Be obedient to Christ even when you feel pressured to come under the world’s authority instead. Let Him lead you. God calls us to live lives worthy of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27-30), and we must listen to Him before anyone else. Obedience to God means that we say no to ourselves, and yes to carrying the cross. Obedience requires faithfulness.
  • Let Christ have first place in all the choices you make. Our lives should be scheduled around what Christ wants us to do first and foremost. Pursue nothing except what God wants and has for you. Nothing should matter more to you.
  • Fight the enemy on your knees. Pray fervently for the unborn babies who are being murdered, and for the people who lost or have walked away from the Lord. Pray blessing and comfort over those who are heartbroken and fearful.
  • Don’t give up on anyone. God can do anything, in anyone, at any time. No matter how disappointed or hurt you may be, don’t give up. Remain steadfast and patient despite what you feel. God has taught me some of the most crucial lessons when I wanted nothing more than to walk away.
  • Seek Simplicity. The Christian life is not too difficult or complicated for you to live out. Christ gives us strength when we give Him our weakness (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10). You can’t hit as hard as life, but if Christ dwells within you, nothing is impossible.
  • Fear God, not man. Are you concerned with what men think of you more than what God does? Begin to fear God, and you will begin to live your life in light of eternity, and the temporal views of men won’t matter. A.W. Tozer once said, “It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate.”
  • Don’t purposefully stay in your comfort zone. Are you worshipping Jesus in the midst of your pain, or do you pursue comfort by escaping it? When trials occur, you must press onward and move through the pain to the God who allowed it to take place. When you pursue comfort to escape the pain, you miss the comfort God provides in the midst of it.
  • Start to disciple someone and go after Jesus together. We weren’t meant to do life alone. Community is one of our greatest resources. We won’t always be motivated, so we must learn to be discipled and stay accountable. Being discipled and discipling is the key to Christian success if done as Scripture illustrates.
  • Stop following people on social media who think too highly of the world and make you question if Jesus is worth everything. Just unfollow them. It isn’t worth it to waste time looking at what they say/post. What could you be doing with that time for the Kingdom instead?
  • Avoid pride and spending time with prideful people at all costs. Proverbs 16:5 says, “The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.” Pride is the desire to be exalted rather than to glorify God. Your prayers reflect the desires of your heart. If you want to kill pride, ask God to kill it in you. 
  • Live by convictions instead of convenience. We cannot afford to let the world rule our emotions and our reactions. Stand for what’s right and do it. Know what you would die for and then go live for it. My dad has a sign in his office that says that, I’m not sure who the quote is by.
  • Know who you are and what you mean. Do you know what Christ says about you and what He created you to accomplish? C. S. Lewis once said, “The Being behind the universe is intensely interested in right conduct – in fair play, unselfishness, courage, good faith, honesty, and truthfulness.” Christians should desire to pursue those things more than anything else if they care about what the Being behind the universe really values.

Let me know in the comment section which specific thing you are excited to start implementing, and be sure to share this list with a friend!

IF YOU DON’T LOOK UP

(Photo credit: Bundesarchiv). Story: https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/august-landmesser-1936/

(Post by: Madie Hobbs)

Just the other night as I was sitting at our kitchen counter, I heard the familiar Star Wars soundtrack begin to play from our living room, and see the familiar, ‘in a galaxy far, far away,’ line flash across the TV screen. I could immediately guess the boys were watching ‘Rogue One’, considering that that’s my dad’s favorite movie in the series, and I couldn’t resist watching a bit of it with them.

After a little while, we come to a pivotal scene in the movie, where two of the main characters, Cassian, and Jyn, end up in the middle of a warzone where they are trying to contact an old friend of Jyn’s, who may be able to help the Resistance. They are kidnapped and taken to her friend’s secret hideout where she can talk with him and give a bit of an introduction for the Resistance.

Jyn tells her friend that since she has now fulfilled her obligation to introduce the Resistance members to him, she is finished, and wants nothing more to do with the messy business of rebelling against the Empire. Her friend then asks her an important question that has always stuck out to me.

He asks, “You can stand to see the Imperial flag reign across the galaxy?”

She replies, simply, “It’s not a problem if you don’t look up.”

Now, many of you probably just thought, ‘Wow, that’s a pretty good philosophy. Maybe the bad guys won’t mess with me if I just ignore their existence.’

Unfortunately, no matter what you think, that will never be true. Even I wish that could be true, that evil would just go away because we have chosen to not “look up”, but still, this is not the case.

Over the past three years, I think we can all agree that most Christians have been more cowardly than anyone else in the history of Christianity. I don’t say this in spite or anger, but rather I say it with a heavy heart that is filled with sadness and disappointment. Over time, we have made excuses for ourselves, just so we don’t have to face the blatant evil, and sin we have partaken in, staring us in the face. We say that things are too complicated, not relevant, not as big of a deal as other issues, and the list goes on.

One thing I have been asking the Lord over these past few years, is when will people wake up? I have asked over and over again, and every time the answer is the same. They will wake up when those of us who are facing the evil realities around us, start to make radical choices, staring this darkness in the face and walking in God’s authority.

Unfortunately, our world is full of followers, as we have all seen, who like sheep have gone astray and followed false shepherds blindly. But what if we could be the people to really give them something to follow? What if we helped them to follow the radically different Christ-like path?

Throughout history, it has been the people who are willing to live radically who have made a difference, won wars, expanded the gospel, and saved nations. They have been radically different in the face of fear and darkness and have made the decision to break away from the crowd.

“Do not consider that adverse circumstances are a proof that you have missed your road; for they may even be an evidence that you are in the good old way, since the path of believers is seldom without trial.” (Charles Spurgeon)

My dad recently sent me a photo, with a small, true story about a man who lived during WWII, whose wife was killed for being a jew, whose children were taken away from him, and who spent time in concentration camps before being forced to fight against the Allies. The picture he sent was one that has stayed in my mind and has inspired me to keep fighting the evil around us every day.

This very courageous man is photographed standing among many rows of men and women. All the people around him have their arms outstretched, as they salute the fascist Hitler, most with semi-happy expressions on their face. But this man, this man who had everything ripped violently away from him, who knew just what the Nazis were capable of, stands humbly among the people, with his arms folded across his chest, squinting into the sun.

He dared to look up at the flag of the enemy, and he chose to stare right at these violent, ruthless people, and to stand by himself, in direct defiance of darkness.

I challenge you today, dear Christian, wake up. Look the darkness right in the face. Don’t just say, “oh, well it’s too complicated for me to understand,” or “it’s not relevant enough for me to give my attention to it.” You have the power in your bones, placed there by the Ruler of the Universe, to confront evil.

Don’t be afraid to look up.

SO, WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?

= Where can you stand up against darkness?

WAR WITHOUT WAR (BLOGMAS DAY THIRTY)

(Post by: Lilly Hobbs)

Have you ever had a time where you knew what you were supposed to say, but you just didn’t have a clue how to say it? Well, I’m kind of in that awkward place at the moment. I’m really not sure how to best write this post. The Lord has been working on me with a couple of different things over the last several days, so I’m going to write this post in order to preach to myself…

If that’s ok?

I’ve been thinking a lot about spiritual warfare. The real importance of it and how it often goes unnoticed. I guess I hadn’t seriously thought about how God, (quite literally) made you and I for war until recently.

The issue is that most people that call themselves a “Christian” aren’t engaging in any kind of spiritual warfare at all. Even though they were made to fight. Not only do some not fight, but many wreak havoc on their own souls and cause themselves to fight unnecessary battles.

Leonard Ravenhill has an amazing quote that I’d like to take a look at with you today, but I first want to make it clear that this quote isn’t what it seems. I’ll explain later…

He said, “No church group that knows spiritual warfare has wiener roasts or even passion plays. There is a real warfare. I have said before that we are an arrogant, self-styled bunch of believers. We “believe” to the point of inconvenience – and then quit.”

Here’s where I explain. Some may read that quote, faint, and after they wake up think to themselves, “Is that quote really saying that wiener roasts and passion plays are bad, and that my church shouldn’t be doing any of that?!”  

Sure, I might be exaggerating a little bit, but is that not the truth y’all?

Of course he’s not saying that those things are bad. What he’s trying to do is make an incredible and valuable comparison that I think we skim right across.

Ravenhill is trying to make the point that we replace real war with our own “wars”. Sometimes we start fights (intentional or unintentional) on social media so that we can satisfy our God-given desire to fight for something.

Most of the time, the reason we put on events is not because we are fighting for people’s souls and want to see them come to Jesus, but because we want to do more this year than the church down the street could ever dream of doing.

You see, we wage “wars” that won’t ever satisfy us like real war will. All because we don’t want it to be an inconvenience on our part. We want to create the “wars” we fight. We want to plan them so that we’re certain we can win them before we even start.

But that’s not even close to the kind of war that Jesus created us to fight! He created us to fight against darkness and evil.

Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “Pay careful attention, then, to how you live — not as unwise people but as wise – making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

It’s a great thing to have the will to fight, but it’s an even greater thing to have the discernment about what kind of wars to fight.

The greatest war we will ever have the honor to fight is for people’s souls. Not because we’re anything special, but because of Jesus’ power through us. Like I said, I’m preaching to myself here. These are the very things I need to remind myself of daily.

My prayer for us this week is that Jesus would reveal to each one of us the very wars we need to be fighting.

 And, just a quick reminder, not everyone will encourage you to fight the war’s God calls you to fight. Not everyone will approve. But you, my friend, are a mighty warrior. Made with an amazing, passionate desire to go to battle and win a real war.

“For although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

DON’T TREAD ON ME

Get on outta here
Get on up and leave
Ain’t no devil
Gonna tread on me
He’s choking on the blood
That ran down the tree
Ain’t no devil
Gonna tread on me

Ain’t no devil
Gonna tread on me

CHRISTMAS IS WHAT WE DEFINE IT AS (BLOGMAS DAY TWENTY-THREE)

(Post by: Madie Hobbs)

Just yesterday, I was listening to someone who was talking about some of the things she had done with her family before Christmas Day. She was speaking about an exhibit they had seen which illustrated ‘Christmas through the ages’. It showed Christmas during the Victorian era, the early 1900’s, and present-day Christmas. Then the exhibit began to illustrate what the makers of the exhibit think Christmas will look like in the future.

(Cue the scary music)

The exhibit interpreted Christmas of the future as being entirely virtual, free of contact, and entirely secularized. They didn’t even include real decorations or gift boxes, but rather showed a world in which everything was plastic, and pre-packaged, and all care for thoughtful, touching gifts had ceased to exist. Many of us have been expecting this, as we have looked around at the pre-meditated plans of many in our society who have a strong desire to completely change the world as we know it. This story filled my heart and soul with a heavy sorrow that made me fear for Christmas in the future.

The woman then made the point that Christmas is about incarnation, Jesus coming in the flesh, congregating, fellowshipping, with His Creation. I thought about this for a while and came to consider the deep, profoundness and importance of physical fellowship that we experience with family and friends during this time.

I think over the course of 2020 and 2021, we have all realized that if people can take away our ability to socialize with others, they can control our lives, and I think many of us regret letting people have so much power over us in that way.

For a moment, I felt it was too late; too late to turn back on the path we’ve already chosen. Too late to take back control over our own lives and our own health. Too late to make the world a better place for my children, and to make Christmas the special time I remember from when I was a girl.

Since then, however, I have been filled with hope anew. You see, in that moment, I focused on the darkness, and the power I thought it had over the way we may celebrate Christmas in the future. Now, I focus on the small things, as I wrote about in one of my other, recent posts. I began to focus on the things I can do to keep darkness at bay, the intimate gatherings we have during this season. The good food we are blessed to enjoy. The presents we have the privilege of giving, and I was reminded all over again that Christmas is about the little things. It is about the words we sing in carols, the things we write in a Christmas card, or the time we spend together as a family, in the flesh, just as Jesus came and did.

I will say that this futuristic exhibit is still scary because it is so close to being real. But I will also say that Christmas is what we choose to define it as. Will we choose to define it as a time of fear, as we cower in our houses, afraid of death? Will we choose to define Christmas as a holiday about ourselves as we spend unbelievable amounts of money so we can outdo the neighbors next door? Or will we choose to celebrate Christmas together, and define it as a time of reflection, used to think about the glory of our Savior and His coming?

I challenge you to act on the small things this year. Please, don’t take them for granted. Those are the things that make Christmas magical.

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”  (J. R. R. Tolkien)

ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH

Come to Bethlehem and see
Him Whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

RISE UP

(Post by: Lilly Hobbs)

We live in a day and age where people get on social media, write up a quick post, and then drop it like a bomb into the world with no intention to defend their opinion with facts or to respectfully debate with someone on the matter. I think we have all seen this done, especially over the last year and a half.

We have almost lost the ability to intelligently and respectfully debate. Most people typically “walk away” from their post without taking a stand or making a legitimate point, because reality is, they can’t. Actions like these are quickly ruining my generation in various ways that I find extremely alarming.

Young people today are terrified to go against the grain of society and to take a stand for anything except for what they see others posting about on social media (because for most, that’s their world). Why is this?

Because the world no longer believes in fundamental truths, and if anyone raises an objection they are deemed “judgmental”, “unloving”, the list goes on. They are also afraid of being the only one. These two things fill young people with absolute fear and anxiety because they don’t know how to refute those opinion filled comments with facts and the truth.

Honestly, my generation hasn’t been taught how to talk to people, let alone stand up and fight for something noble.

So today, I’d like to speak specifically to teens and hopefully encourage them to refuse to be average, but I’m sure some of you adults reading may need to hear this as well.

One of my favorite verses is Ezra 10:4 which says, “Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.”

This is what I desperately wish I could tell every teenager. The matter is in your hands. We must fight to protect the unborn. We must learn about America’s founding and why it has been the most successful system of government ever known. We must learn how to read good books and apply them to our everyday lives. We must learn how to research a topic and defend our position with facts. We must realize that the government does not own us and that morality and the concept of trusting our neighbor is under attack.

It is indeed up to my generation to be God-fearing, educated, intelligent individuals or we will live our lives believing and falling for every lie the world chooses to tell us. Unfortunately, this is how most of the generation that came before us currently lives.

I want young people to know that despite what almost everyone else is screaming at you right now, it’s ok to love Jesus and live radically for Him. It’s ok to be different and say what no one else wants to say. Call evil out for what it is! It’s ok to fight for your country and for the things it stands for. Things such as liberty and independence. It’s ok to desire to be married and to raise kids out in the middle of nowhere to be the next leaders (and no, climbing the corporate ladder is not nearly as important as raising a family). It’s ok to be white, and you’re certainly not racist just because you are. It’s ok to be black, and you’re not lesser or unloved just because you are.  

Your voice is of great value, refuse to be silenced. Think for yourself and don’t quit when it becomes difficult.

1 Timothy 3:1-5 says, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”

Read through each of those things again. Seem familiar? We are seeing that description being lived out in our very world right now, and I truly believe that we are in the last days.

I’m a 17-year-old girl who’s trying to rise up in a time where everyone else has sat down. I have to wonder if there isn’t another young person out there who will join me? To my generation: It’s time to take courage and do it. The matter is in our hands.

“Look at the nations and watch, and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”    (Habakkuk 1:5)

SO WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?

= Are you terrified to go against the grain in the society we live in?

= What is stopping you from rising up and doing something?

= What are you going to do differently?

THE SILVERSMITH

(Post by: Lilly Hobbs)

How’s your day been? How’s your week been? Whether it seems like it has been the best or the worst, it’s extremely likely that you’ve had some kind of “crisis” happen that you’ve had to deal with, maybe even just today.

What’s your first reaction to a “crisis”? Maybe it was that a loved one got sick, or you totally forgot to turn that one year-end assignment in on time, or perhaps it’s just friend/family drama.

You see, I’ve been taught that you cannot fix a spiritual problem with a physical solution. So very often we look at things in life and our first reaction is to do what the people around us (who usually do not know Jesus) say to do, or what the world tells us to try.

But some good life advice I have personally received: Always try Jesus’ way FIRST before resorting to any other option.

1 John 5:19 says, “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”

More often than not, our first reaction to a crisis is to run to the world for a solution or “quick fix”, because we are already functioning in a worldly mindset on a daily basis. However, this is a bigger issue than we think it is. Our choices are evidence of whom we ultimately trust.

This means that we make Christianity look absolutely weak and trivial when we trust in anyone or anything but Christ.

Titus 2:11-15 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”

We are called to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives. I don’t think we are living up to that expectation when we turn to the world and let it be our source of security and hope instead of Jesus.

Lilias Trotter once said, “Holiness, not safety, is the end of our calling.”

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about crisis, hardships, and trials it’s that if I’m doing what I’m called to do through it, He will certainly do His part and make me more like Himself.

For example, it reminds me of when a silversmith heats up silver. He has to heat it up over and over again. As the heat draws out the imperfections and impurities and they would surface, he would scoop it off the top and start again.

Do you know when he would stop refining the silver? He would stop when He could see his own reflection in it. Only then was it perfect.

This is exactly what Jesus does in our lives. He begins to sanctify us, and mold us into His likeness, which is indeed, the most beautiful thing.

The verse above said that Jesus “gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession”. Just take a minute to think about that.

He wants you to be His, and His alone! He is a jealous God because of how much He loves and cares for us.

A.W. Tozer once said, “When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.”

I’m not sure about you, but I want my first reaction in the midst of crisis to be to trust that He is just taking some time to draw out some impurities. He wants to make us more like Himself, but the question you and I must decide the answer to is, are we going to let Him?

“It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.”  (C.S. Lewis)

SO WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?

= What tends to be your first reaction in the midst of crisis?

= Do you desire to be holy?

= What are you going to do differently?

A TIME OF TRIAL

(Post by: Lilly Hobbs)

This generation is failing to recognize truth, and every human being alive is suffering the consequences. There is indeed a double standard being taught by the world. It’s in almost every news headline that we see on any given day. If I understand correctly, “good” is now bad and “bad” is now good.

Yet, this has been the enemy’s plot throughout history, has it not? Whenever evil becomes evident, Christians are shocked, but I’m not sure why exactly.

Andrew Kern once said, “I believe that God has been preparing His people for a time of trial, but He has been doing it the way He does things and not the way we would.”

In other words, God is purging us of all the vain supports that offer themselves.

1 Peter 4:12-13 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.”

If Christians would just realize that everything happening to us right now is to make us more Christlike, we would indeed have the passion that our persecuted brothers and sisters do. The problem is, the American Church has little desire to be Christlike because we would rather continue on in our worldliness.

Oh, that we would repent of our love for the world! We’re so worried about ourselves and not about what pleases Him.

I think one of the biggest questions American pastors specifically should be asking themselves right now, is if the people that sit in “their” churches each Sunday would be able to withstand a fiery trial and a time of testing.

Would you?

Are we preaching Jesus crucified or are we preaching the comfortable and convenient version of Jesus that we made up because we don’t want Him on His terms? A.W. Tozer once said, “Many people say, “Try Jesus;” You don’t try Jesus. He’s not there to be experimented with. Christ is not on trial. You are.”

This post is not to make you doubt your relationship with Jesus, but rather encourage you to test the strength of it. In Psalm 57 David said, “My heart is confident, God, my heart is confident.” I don’t know about you, but I want to be able to say that to Him as well.

Friends, the time of trial is now. However, even in times of trial, I want my heart to be confident in Jesus and what He did for me on the cross. May He help us to remain steadfast under trial.

If you give up your life, you will gain it. There is no other way.

“God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over.”  (C.S. Lewis)

SO WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?

= Is your heart confident in God?

= What are you going to do differently?

SECONDARY

(Post by: Lilly Hobbs)

How many of us wish there were more hours in a day, or that we could be more productive than we are currently? Go ahead and raise your hand if you do. Ok, maybe don’t do that, especially if you’re in public reading this post, ha!

I think we can all agree, however, that our days, weeks, and months fly by because of how much we tend to pack into our schedules, which is usually our excuse for missing out on all the “Jesus stuff”. Whether that be our personal time with Him reading His Word, going to church, or even serving others, we mark those things as, what I call, “optional tasks”.

About a month ago, my family was invited to share at a church that we have been doing ministry alongside for a few years now. My dad preached a powerful message where he gave some good, practical life advice that I want us all to think about.

He explained that most of us go to school or work every day with the intention to do exactly that, school or work. Who knows, maybe you are doing both right now. Whatever the case may be, we go to those places every single day making assignments or jobs our main priorities, when really, they should be secondary.

Allow me to elaborate…

I’m sure y’all have heard or read Colossians 3:23-24 before which says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Seems to be a pretty straightforward verse, right? Most of us read that and believe it is saying to do things with excellence because we should do everything as if we were working for the Lord. While that is partially true, I think as Christians we have provided ourselves with a very clever excuse.

To speak plainly, I think we have tricked our minds into thinking that we can participate in every worldly thing we find satisfactory, so long as we say that we “look at it” the right way. Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, I don’t think I should quit doing some of the worldly stuff (which usually isn’t bad in and of themselves) I’m involved in because I can be a witness there”? Yeah, me too.

What that typically means is, “I don’t want to quit, so I’ll trick myself into thinking that Jesus is my priority and that I’m doing it for the right reasons, even though I’m really not.”

I don’t mean that harshly, but y’all know I’m not afraid to speak truthfully.

Simple question: What would happen if we would all go to our schools and workplaces with the intention to share the Gospel and live for Jesus, not just to complete assignments or jobs?

Get this y’all, if you work at a factory, you’re first priority should not be to make as many parts as possible today. Your goal should be to pray for the individual next to you who might be struggling with family issues.

Do you need to make parts? Sure. But that’s secondary.

Maybe you’re a teacher or a bus driver. Your first priority should not be to make sure kids are learning or that everyone gets picked up/dropped off on time. While those things are very important, your primary intention should be to talk about how good Jesus has been to you and how much He loves each one of them, as openly as possible.

Every kid you’re around should know that you love Jesus with all of your heart, and that Jesus loves them with all of His heart. Stop with the excuses of why you can’t.

The word “can’t” should not exist in a Christian’s vocabulary.

Maybe you work for a welding company, or work on big cranes all day. Maybe you sit beside a girl at school during lunch who doesn’t eat because she is insecure and has been bullied because of it.

Perhaps a teacher at your school mentioned she just lost a baby, or you know the kid at the back of the class during third semester plans to deal drugs after school is over. When you just start to look around, you will quickly realize that God did not create you and give you life only to do schoolwork or change tires every day.

Are those the things you have to do every day, absolutely! But those are the means by which you are able to meet new people, encourage them, challenge them, pray for them, and speak joy and life into them!

Jesus and His Kingdom should be first in our lives. The task of sharing the Gospel should ALWAYS be your first priority. Let everything else fall in the “secondary” list.

“Do I live in the world as carelessly as others do, and yet make a profession of being a follower of Jesus? Then I am exposing my faith to ridicule and leading men to speak evil of the very name Christian… O, Lord, keep me so. O Lord, make me sincere and true.”   (Charles Spurgeon)

SO WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?

= What are you going to do differently?