• Everyday Life,  Guest Authors

    A Nigerian Story

    Wow, it has been awhile since I posted. I could tell you that school made me too busy, or I forgot to write, or a host of other excuses, and while those may be partially true they don’t tell the full story. The real reason I haven’t posted in months is that I haven’t felt like I had anything important to say.

    Friends, that has changed. I recently met someone with an incredible story, and his one request for me was to share it. I cannot use his real name, so we will call him F.

    I sat next to F at a meal and he asked me why I don’t eat meat. I gave him my classic answer about factory farming and pollution, and he responded that he doesn’t eat meat either. I asked why, and his answer blew me away. F doesn’t eat meat because in his native country, Nigeria, people kill cattle farmers in order to take over their land, use their animals, and turn a profit. He doesn’t eat meat because he is unwilling to put money into the hands of murderers.

    I am horribly uneducated on Nigerian culture and current events, so I asked him what else went on that people in America wouldn’t expect. He said, “I am a professor and divisional head at a top university in Nigeria, and I haven’t been payed in 9 months.”

    Because he works at a state university his pay is subject to the whims of the government, and right now the government doesn’t feel like paying. F has no living family, but said that this is a blessing because he wouldn’t be able to support a family.

    What struck me most about this story wasn’t the details and actions themselves. What struck me was F’s fear. He cannot tell this story or ask for help because he is a Christian living in the “middle belt” of Nigeria, where persecution from the north is spreading (think Boko Haram). Additionally, he lives under a government that is democratic by name, but can not be said to allow free speech. For example Buhari (before he was president) drafted Decree Number 4. This was when he was part of a military coup. The decree states that “Any person who publishes in any form, whether written or otherwise, any message, rumour, report or statement […] which is false in any material particular or which brings or is calculated to bring the Federal Military Government or the Government of a state or public officer to ridicule or disrepute, shall be guilty of an offense under this Decree”. While this decree is thankfully no longer in effect, a quick google search pulls up articles such as Hate Speech Bill 2018: Is Decree 4 Of 1984 Reincarnating? and Memories of Decree 4 as Buhari’s CSO evicts reporter.

    F is at risk of being harmed because of his religion, is not being payed for his work, and cannot reach out to the government for help. He was offered a teaching position in the US, but couldn’t afford to relocate because of his lack of income.

    Most of us heard about the abduction of school girls by Boko Haram in 2014. It happened again in 2018. Now you have heard about a much milder, but still awful, story of everyday life in Nigeria. Here’s my question: how many stories does it take for us to do something? As Christians, when will we begin to see these people as our neighbors whom we are called to love and serve?

    I asked F what I, as one person who lives continents away, could do to help. “Tell my story. If people don’t know what’s happening, they can never help.”

    I’m not here to condemn anyone or say that the people of Nigeria need some white saviors to swoop in a fix things. We all know that doesn’t help anything. I am here to say that the world is full of these stories, and if we just listened to each other we would be taking a step in the right direction.

     

     

     

     

  • Creation Care,  Everyday Life,  Scripture

    You Need to Care about the Earth.

    I’m going to start out by saying that what follows is a rant, and a sassy one at that. However, its a topic that is very important for each and every one of us. Consider yourself warned.

    I am SO sick of Christians thinking that caring for the Earth doesn’t matter. Shouldn’t we all care about the things that God cares about?

    Beginning in Genesis 1, it is clear that God cares about His creation:

    In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God[b] swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

    And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

    And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good.13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

    14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

    20 And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” 21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good.22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

    24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. (emphasis added)

    The light is good. Earth and water are good. Plants are good. Animals are good. When we pour single-use plastics into the ocean, we are changing an environment that God created to be good. When we block out the stars and skies with smog, we are negating the fact that God created these good lights to be signs of seasons and days for us. When we fill the land and sea up with garbage that kills animals, we stop those creations from fulfilling their God-given duty: be fruitful and multiply. How can animals multiply if we kill them all?

    This message continues throughout the entire bible. Noah is required to take two of each animal onto the arc so that animal diversity can continue. In Matthew, we learn that God cares about the death of a little bird. In the Psalms, animals frequently worship their creator.

    But Erin, the oceans are huge! It’l be fine! Try again.

    But Erin, all that stuff about pollution is just liberal propaganda! Scientists and general citizens all over the political spectrum would bed to differ. 

    But Erin, we aren’t killing that many animals! Hmm. How about the white rhinos? How about blue whales? How about all of the farm animals who die for our food at a rate greater than any other generation in history?

    Many people agree that climate abuse is happening, but still don’t want to do anything about it. The argument I most frequently hear is the “God will save us” argument. We don’t need to care about what happens to this planet because at just the right time, God will swoop in and fix everything. This is a lovely thought, but to me it seems inconsistent with the message of the bible. Yes, God saves us. But never without fair judgment or consequences. In fact, the entire point of Jesus’ death and resurrection is that God is just and cannot let the sins of the world go unpunished. To receive that mercy, we are all called to repent and change our actions. Harming the Earth without a second thought doesn’t much seem like repentance to me.

    This is not an issue that we can ignore. Billy Graham defines sin as “any thought or action that falls short of God’s will. God is perfect, and anything we do that falls short of His perfection is sin.” 

    I am 100% positive that destroying the planet is not in God’s perfect will. Therefore, each action that we take against the Earth, whether its using a plastic straw and then tossing it away or dumping gallons of oil into the ocean, is a sin. We don’t ignore other sins. Why would we ignore these?

    At the end of the day, Psalm 24:1 says it all- The earth is the Lord’s.

    What makes me so sad about this entire thing is that for many Christians it comes down to political party divides. When did affirming a political label become more important than affirming your faith by living the life God calls you to?

    I challenge each and every one of you to make your faith more important than political affiliation, or even family affiliation. We are called to do what is right, not what is easy. Upcoming posts will detail things we can do on a daily basis to help God’s creation.

    If this was confusing or upsetting to you, please let me know. I’d love to continue this discussion and hear what you have to say.

    All of my love,
    Erin

     

  • Everyday Life,  Lifestyle

    Confession Hour

    The largest test of faith I’ve encountered came this summer.

    During the year immediately after my baptism, I lived in constant fellowship with Christians who encouraged my faith and enjoyed going to church just as much as I did. I went to at least one worship night and one church service a week. I ran a faith-based club. Many of my classes centered around talking about God. After that, I spent a month abroad learning even more about God and His creation.

    And then I went home.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love home. It’s great to be able to sleep in, babysit the kids I’ve known since they were born, and go out to dinner with my parents who suddenly aren’t all the way across the country. That said, home is not where my faith flourishes.

    If you know me in real life (or have read my about page) you know that I am the only Christian in my family. My parents are lovely people who enjoy having conversations about faith. My mom occasionally goes to church with me, and our drives home are filled with Q&A sessions and some great conversations. My dad is the least spiritual person I know, and yet during family debates he often utilizes his lawyer-skills to put himself in my shoes and see where I’m coming from. However, neither of my parents will ever come to me and say, “Hey, I saw that there’s a really cool worship night coming up, want to go?” or “I’m heading to bible study, come with me!”

    All of that is to say that when I’m home, I have no accountability from other believers. If I don’t go to church, no one texts me to see if I’m okay. If I don’t show up to bible study, no one is knocking on my door to make me come. It is all on me! I’m not telling you this to cast blame on my parents for not babysitting me, I’m telling you this to admit fault.

    At first, I didn’t realize that if I wanted to engage with my faith over the summer I had to be the one to make it happen. That’s how today, August 1st, I woke up and realized I hadn’t looked at my bible since leaving school. How embarrassing is that?!? A christian blogger who is majoring in religion and hopes to be a pastor hasn’t opened her bible in 3 months.

    This is my public confession: sometimes I’m a bad Christian. But you know what gives me hope? I know that God will never give up on me. And that should give you hope as well. I don’t care how far you’ve wandered, or how lost you think you are. If you turn around and come back, God will always be there. You are not a lost cause.

    I would love to hear from you: Is summer more difficult for your faith walk, or is it easier? How do you make faith a priority when you have no accountability? If anyone wants to help me stay accountable, please leave a comment. I will respond to you and together we can get back on the right track.

     

    All of my love,

    Erin

  • Everyday Life,  God,  Scripture

    Your Salvation doesn’t Depend on Your Good Works, but Someone Else’s Might.

    We’ve all had it drilled into our heads: the gospel means that your salvation was determined by Jesus, not by what you do!

    Amazing, right?

    But too many people take this to mean that they can do whatever they want.

    Here’s the thing: Your own salvation doesn’t depend on your good works, but someone else’s might.

    Let me explain:

    You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. -Matthew 5:14-16

    Christians are supposed to act as the light of the world. That isn’t for your own good. Good deeds aren’t for you, they are for others. We are supposed to let our light shine SO THAT OTHERS SEE OUR GOOD DEEDS AND GLORIFY GOD.

    When you do something good for someone else without expecting anything in return, they will want to know what you have that they are missing. And the answer, of course, is Jesus. Good works were the original evangelism method!

    Imagine if each one of us did one nice thing a day. Just one. For an average lifespan of 80 years, that equates to 29,200 good deeds each over the course of our lives. 29,200 evangelism opportunities for each Christian on this Earth! Think of the changes the church could implement if we all took this calling seriously. What if the church was known as where the nice and helpful people hang out, rather than where the judgmental people hang out?

    This week I pray that each one of us would truly consider the implications of our good deeds. Help someone out, and see where it leads.

  • Everyday Life,  God

    5 Little Rituals to Enhance your Spiritual Life

    I often find myself feeling stagnant in my faith and wishing for some growth. At the end of the day, this wishing gets me nowhere. What follows is a list of little things that anyone can do to get over the edge of a spiritual funk!

    1. Get away from other people.

    Your distance from God may be caused by bad influences on your life through who you’re surrounding yourself with. Even if this is not the case, getting some space from your people can often offer some perspective.

    2. Try to establish a daily routine.

    It is difficult to find time for God when your life is in chaos! When possible, try to streamline daily activities. By establishing a clear routine you often find little bits of wasted time throughout your day that could be spent with God. Even if it isn’t possible for you to plan your entire day out, try to establish morning and night routines.

    3. Write in a journal.

    Journals can help with spiritual low points in many ways. First of all, if you are distracted or anxious about something in life a journal can help you process and free up brain space for other things. Additionally, you can journal out your prayers and thoughts to bring you closer to God.

    4. Get outside.

    This one is crucial. God created this entire beautiful world for you to explore, why on earth are you sitting inside? Creation is meant to bring us joy and encourage us into praise of the creator. If you are never experiencing creation, it’s no wonder that you don’t feel like praising!

    5. Switch up your media intake.

    This one seems so small, but can help so much. Instead of listening to pop music on the radio while in the car, put on a worship playlist. If you like to watch youtube videos to unwind, watch ones about God. If you want to read, read one of the many books out there written by Christians with the intent of helping other Christians. If you fill your life with things that remind you of God, it will be impossible not to think about God throughout your day.

  • Everyday Life,  Scripture

    Make Disciples, not Christians

    Matthew 28:19-20

    Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    This command is simple and well-known. Most Christians know that we have a duty to tell others the good news of Christ. That said, most people do it wrong.

    In our modern day, there are many people who I lovingly refer to as “Sunday-Morning Christians”. These people go to church on Sundays and probably on Christmas. They say cute phrases like “God bless you!” and “I’ll pray for you.” That said, their lives have never been altered by Christ. Their hearts are the same as they would be if they didn’t show up at 9 am and sing some songs.

    I do not blame or condemn these people. In fact, I don’t think it is their fault that they have a one-way relationship with the Father. I think that the modern church and its members have failed these people. We’ve failed to uphold one of Jesus’ commands because we’ve been focusing on making Christians when we should have been making disciples.

    Christian: Belonging to the religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    Disciple: a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another; any follower of Christ.

    Jesus said that we should follow Him. Somehow I don’t remember Him saying that we should belong to His religion.

    It is our duty as the church to show people how transformative a relationship with Christ can be. We have a gift to share, and right now we’re only giving part of it away! Knowing Jesus is supposed to be radical. It is supposed to be life-changing. When you let God into your heart, others should be able to tell that you are a changed person because your actions change.

    The next time someone asks you a question about your faith, engage them. It is great to invite someone to come to your church, but it is better to have a conversation and share your own story. It is great to show someone worship music, but it’s better to tell them about your own worship practices. It’s great to give someone a bible, but it’s better to study it with them.

    Let’s quit making Christians, and start making disciples.

  • Everyday Life

    5 Questions to Help You Combat Fly Syndrome

    I recently wrote about something I’ve been calling fly-syndrome; our tendency to circle false light sources rather than God, the true source of our light. If you haven’t read that post yet, catch it here. I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot and wanted to come up with a plan to combat it. So here we are: the 5 questions we can all ask ourselves TODAY to fight fly syndrome.

    1. What are your light sources right now?

    2. What do you want to be your light source?

    3. What actions need to change to get you there?

    4. What mind frames need to be changed?

    5. What should you be praying for?

    Here’s an example:

    Maybe my light source at the moment is placing my self-worth in outward appearances rather than inward character. I want God to be my light source, so I have to make some changes. In terms of actions, I can take the small step of replacing online shopping with watching a Christian Ted Talk or youtube video. This switch out is small and manageable, not a huge leap like disconnecting the internet and moving to Antarctica. I also need to switch my thinking; maybe every time I think something negative about my appearance I have to say three positive things about my character and identity. Again, this is a small change up! I can pray for discernment in recognizing these damaging thoughts, or for strong role models in my life, or for God’s presence to be there while I’m trying to make these changes.

    I would love to hear what your light sources are, how I can help you, and how I can pray for you. Please let me know what you are struggling with in the comments!


    I am in the process of making a WORKBOOK to go along with this. It’s often very difficult to recognize what your light sources are in the first place, and I want to give you all some exercises that will help. If you’d like a free copy, please sign up here and I will get it sent to you right away!

  • Everyday Life

    Humans are just Big Flies / What is your Light Source?

    Last night I was reading in bed, and as I prepared to go to sleep I heard that familiar buzzing sound that meant a fly had found a home in my lamp. I turned off the light, and the fly left me alone. Why do bugs do this? They always buzz around and bounce off of lightbulbs until eventually the heat or the collision impact kills them.

    This morning, I looked it up. Flies (and other flying creepy things) navigate naturally by the light of the moon and stars. Because the sky is so far away, they can keep their light source at a certain angle to their bodies at all times. This worked out great until humans invented artificial light. Smaller light sources confuse the bug’s navigational signalling, and in an effort to maintain the proper flight angle the poor creatures end up flying in circles around the fake light source.

    If we take an honest look at ourselves, don’t we do the exact same thing?

    Our natural navigation systems like to keep us at a constant angle towards God. We are His creation, and our hearts yearn to return to Him. We want to fly in line with the moon! Instead, we let ourselves get distracted by smaller light sources. We want to follow God, and yet here we are circling around things that will ultimately lead us to destruction.

    A “lamp” in my life is perfection. Rather than angling towards grace and forgiveness, I angle towards impossible standards and defeat. Some people fly around wealth, some around beauty, and some around human love. We are such dumb little flies! Why can’t we see that the true navigation system for our lives wants to lead us and love us? All we have to do is stop following the lightbulbs and look towards the moon.

    What is a lightbulb in your life? How can you move towards following the true light source instead of an artificial one?

     

     

  • Everyday Life,  Scripture

    And if not, He is still good.

    Do you all know the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Basically, three men refused to worship a golden statue of the king and their punishment was death by furnace. Nebuchadnezzar, the king, taunts the men and tells them that no god can save them. The men replied:

    If the God we serve exists, then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” –Daniel 3:17-18

    God has the power to save, but these men didn’t know if He would utilize that power. When they are thrown into the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar becomes alarmed because he sees a fourth man in the furnace along with the accused. It turns out to be an angel of God. The three men walk out of the furnace unharmed, and the twisted king converts.

    A touching story, right?

    But what would have happened if God didn’t save them?

    Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said it themselves: God might not save us, but we will still refuse to give up our faith.

    In daily life we like to think that we know best. We follow our routines and do our jobs, and if something goes wrong we pray for the outcome we desire. Here’s the problem: the outcome we desire isn’t always the perfect outcome that God has planned.

    This month I’ve been struggling with making a big life choice, and I’ve been praying for God to give me some sort of guidance. That’s the outcome I wanted: guidance from God so that I wouldn’t have to make the decision myself. God is capable of delivering that guidance, but it didn’t come. I became more anxious and confused with each “unanswered” prayer, and began to feel abandoned by God. But here’s the thing: just because I didn’t get my desired outcome doesn’t mean that God is no longer present.

    I didn’t get my desired outcome, but He is still good.

    By definition, God is good. Whatever He desires is the ultimate good, even when that doesn’t match up with what I want. We have to remember that God lives outside of space and time and can see the entire picture, while we live these finite little pieces of the gigantic complete puzzle. God works all things together for good, even when we can’t see it. He is there with us, even when we can’t see Him.

    Think of all of the times when God didn’t give you what you wanted. Were you angry and resentful, hurt and confused, or were you trusting and loving towards the One who is the ultimate good? I know I have been guilty many times of harboring doubt and negativity when things don’t work out how I prayed they would.

    Having unconditional trust in God is very difficult, especially when you’re struggling to see Him move in your life. If you are struggling with this, please don’t struggle alone. Often we can only be turned back to God by seeing how He works in others, and that is only possible in community.

    This week I will be focusing on placing all trust in God, and I pray that you would do the same. Walk with me, please.


     

  • Everyday Life

    Easter

    Jesus is Dead.

    APRIL FOOLS.

    He’s alive. Gotcha.


    Anyway, today is kind of a big deal. A few thousand years ago, death was defeated. How crazy is that?!? Most of the common fears and anxieties people face today revolve around a fear of death. When you’re scared to be up high, you don’t want to fall down and die. When you’re scared of the ocean, you don’t want to be swept out to sea and left to drown. When you’re claustrophobic, you don’t want to be stuck somewhere that would make you suffocate. Almost all of our fears are rooted in a common fear of death and dying!

    But here’s the thing: we can be free from those fears.

    Jesus literally already fixed the problem! Today is a day to remember that and celebrate the unending love we receive from Him.

    Happy Easter, friends.