Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Guest Bloggers...The Faith Journey

Continuing the guest blogger series with Melanie and Crystal Monae'. We are all in different places on this faith journey, we have to meet people right where they are (Jesus did that for all of us), and God's grace is sufficient. Interested in guest blogging? Holla back, let's talk! http://aqua-canwetalk.blogspot.com//


Written by Crystal Monae’
http://crystalmonae.blogspot.com/

There are no cookie-cutter Christians. In fact all Christians have differing levels of faith. However, these differences are increasingly preventing Christians from being truly set apart from nonbelievers. The light that once shined brightly is becoming dim. We must keep the faith nonetheless since Light shall forever prevail.

When I came across Mellanie’s blog post last week, this very subject reignited a passion to continue letting my light shine to draw men unto Him. Who is Mellanie? She is a hip, bright young college student who tells it like it is, and her popular blog is sought after by hundreds of readers daily. You can check her out for yourself at http://www.meldenisesays.blogspot.com/

Here is what Mellanie said in the post that got my attention. I asked Mellanie’s permission to share it with you here:


I'm a Christian but...
I was reading one of my friend's blog posts about his journey through Faith (Check it out @ Ivy League Neck Tats: End to Beginning: My Battle to Find Faith), and I decided to write a post explaining how I feel about religion. Here's a little background on my religious experiences...

1. I rarely go to church.
2. I don't believe in prayer as heavily as the average person does.
3. I went to a Catholic elementary and high school.

Religion- a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny; "he lost his faith but not his morality"

My definition of religion: A means of faith in a higher power which causes others to put themselves on a pedestal and look down on others who do not believe in the same beliefs as they do.

Church. It's ok. Nothing too special. I don't need it to be able to have a good week and it doesn't make me feel any better about life after I leave Church. I mostly go once I come home and want to make my mom happy if I go with her. That's it.
I have a hard time at church because I feel that church is full of hypocrisy and judgmental people. Church is only a reason for some people to feel that they are better than others. I've met too many people who look down on those who aren't really interested in church and for what?? Just because you never miss church makes you no better than the person who doesn't go at all. I don't think so. And i'm not pointing the finger at anyone specifically, but most of my church going friends actually do more "sinning" during Monday through Saturday than the average person. I'm not tooting my own horn but I consider myself to be raised ALOT better than most people my age and I don't participate in alot of things that people would consider "bad", yet I don't go to church. I've had a pretty good life for the past 20 years without much church activity and I'm just fine.
I also believe that Church is about making money. The pastor can preach the word for about 10 minutes, but when it comes to giving tithes and offerings, he will talk for hours. The Bible says that everyone should give 10% of their earnings to the church. I don't agree. Not at all. Times are hard and I don't believe that you will go to hell because you didn't give your money to the church. Most people could really use that 10% towards alot of other things that would be more useful in their lives. Too many people don't hardly make any money but yet still giving 10% to the church. For what?? Use that money to pay your bills and keep your lights on. I think God would understand.

Prayer. I believe people rely too heavily on prayer and less on personal actions. Just "praying about it" isn't gonna make things better and fix everything. I believe that prayer should be a means for encouragement and an emotional uplift, but I don't believe praying solves every problem or dilemma. When things go wrong, people's first thought is prayer and they think that's all it takes. No. How about making things happen on your own? Don't just sit and wait for God to help you get out of difficult situations-just because you "prayed about it" doesn't mean anything is gonna happen. YOU have to do something. You're failing all your classes. Praying about it isn't gonna make you start getting A's. You need to go to the library and study or get a tutor.

Baptization. I don't believe that being baptized will do anything for me. Most people become baptized because they want to start living their life right and sorry if this offends anyone, but I'm already living my life right, baptized or not. I'm not saying i'm perfect because I am far from it, but I don't need it to finally give me that push to start doing right.

I do believe in a higher power and that being God and I want to become closer to Him and have a stronger faith and that's my own personal journey that I am taking, but as for right now, this is how I feel.

How do you feel about the issue?

Here is the comment that I left for Mellanie...by Crystal Monae’

Mellanie,

Thank you for being transparent because there are many more people who feel the same way that you do but they are embarrassed or afraid to admit it. Religion has in fact too often become commercialized which takes focus away from God. The “church” is not the building but the people in it. They all have varying degrees of maturity which is why there is discord among members giving them an appearance of being hypocritical. The “church” is a hospital for sick people. It is a fantasy to assume that the people in it should be perfect or 100% whole. None of us are. The reason that people need to consistently assemble is so that we become healthier individuals that can lead people to God instead of away from them. We are all unworthy so no one should think better of themselves. Sin is sin, whether you cursed someone or murdered someone, sin is sin. The Bible is God’s word for us, and he commands us to do certain things like tithing. He did not say that we had a choice in the matter. Tithes are suppose to go towards building the Kingdom (drawing people unto God), but like I said the “church” is full of sick people and unfortunately this sometimes means that the leadership is sick too. However, if you find yourself in a church where there is corruption monetarily, God is only concerned about if you are doing what he asked. He will deal with the misappropriations of funds in His own time. God is not a God who dangles us over Hell waiting for us to fail. We would all be gone by now if that was the case. He loves us. A special part of being in relationship with Him is that He gives us grace for when we mess up. (However, sometimes there are consequences for messing up.) You are right, the Bible says that prayer without works is dead so you must couple your faith with action in order to have effective prayers. Baptizing is not a necessity, it is symbolic of accepting your salvation. All we have to do is confess with our mouths that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior and that He was raised from the dead. If we believe that in our hearts, then we are saved. End of story. At that moment you receive the Spirit of God. It’s just that simple.

Now Mellanie, you woke up this morning…not on your own but because God did it. You pass exams at school because God allowed you to retain information, not on your own. Prayer is a petition for God’s help and an acknowledgement that you need Him. You can do NOTHING independent of God, so we go to church to worship Him for being so wonderful to us…allowing us to live on His Earth and providing for us. Also, to be a light for all of those messed up people that are in the building too!  I love you Mellanie. The Bible says to work out your own salvation. Work it out lil’ sista. You can email me if you ever want to talk about anything, but I’m pretty sure that others need it too so be bold as you are and lend it transparently as you have done here. BTW, I have an older sister named Mellanie!

How is your faith?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Be Still AND Know-Guest blogger~Josh Copeland

I have been thinking about having guest bloggers on my blog for about a month or so. My purpose is to encourage my readers, share some useful and practical information, and provide other perspectives of how God lives, moves, and breathes in our everyday lives. I read this piece (originally posted on FB) and thought it would be great for the first spot. If you want to guest on my blog, send me an email at chosenaqua@gmail.com. The guest blogger is Joshua Copeland in the picture below with his aunt, Cheryl. Enjoy!


Some of you may or may not know that I have been led to leave Houston to attend college in San Marcos next fall. I was led to this decision after asking God what I was supposed to do with my life because it did not seem like I was headed in the right direction. Not too long after my petition was made it was answered in the form of a phone call from a friend. He was excited about finding his purpose in life after he had been looking for so long. After I mentioned how it was “weird” that he called me with that news I explained my concern about my own direction. His said that what really helped him was prayer and lots of it.

So I prayed for the next step and the Lord reminded me of how He told me through His small still voice that I was to be Christian rapper about 7 years ago. He also reminded me that I was very passionate about owning my own studio, producing and recording artists. I attempted to go to school for this but my “young and dumb” outlook on life didn’t allow me to pursue the education with my whole heart. Now God was showing me that it was time to pursue my passion again but this time with His glory in mind instead of my own.

After researching the best school for recording that offered a Bachelor’s degree, I was drawn to Texas State University because it was the only school in the southwest to offer such a degree. My thoughts were a bit excited because I like the hill country but reality also struck. I will be three hours from home which means I will have to live there which means I need a job there! You can imagine the amount of uncertainty I had when I began to realize these obstacles and what it would take for me to get over them. This was on a Thursday.

So I kept my mouth shut about this because I was so unsure. I figured I would wait until church on Sunday and maybe the pastor’s words would encourage me to take the right step. When Sunday arrived the pastor preached a great sermon but nothing really jumped out at me so after church I was still uncertain. So as I go around to shake hands and kiss babies afterwards I go to shake a friend’s hand. As I say hello I notice that he has a strange look on his face. He then explains “God told me to tell you something.”

“Oh man” I think to myself.

He goes on, “He told me tell you that whatever he led you to do you need to do it.”

My eyes bug out of my head and I began to step away from him. “No way man you’re kidding me!”

Waving me back “No, No brother come here you gotta listen to this”

I walk back sheepishly “Ok lay it on me”

“ He said that this is your time to do what He said to do. You have no wife, no kids holding you back. Don’t play it safe just do what He told you to do and don’t look back.”

I thanked him and walked away completely blown away.

I’ve always noticed that the Lord doesn’t always speak through other people to get to me but when He does He is trying to drive a point home. Does this mean that I got the point right away? Not at all. As this process continues to build I have had more and more obstacles come along that have only increased my doubt and uncertainty. What drove me to write this today is that I have had the job issue on my mind for the past couple of days and every time I do I hear the words “Be still and know that I am God”.

I knew I had heard this in scripture before but I had to use help from my mom and biblegateway.com to find the actual scripture…

“Be still, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world.” Psalm 46:10

After some research of this scripture there are some key things to pick up. If you read the whole 46th Psalm then you will actually see that this is a reprimand to nations who are warring against God. This threw me off at first because I was trying to understand what this had to do with me worrying about a job. Some of you may already see the problem. Worrying is a very toxic habit to have. Worry is the absolute opposite of having faith in God. It is where our minds war against God and his promises when we don’t understand His way.

His solution to our worry is to be still. Now be still doesn’t mean I need to sit in my room and not move until I have the right job. I think another translation of this scripture helps to understand this better…

Our God says, "Calm down,
and learn that I am God!
All nations on earth will honor me."

Another translation says we need to desist and know that He is God which is the opposite of insist. SO God is trying to tell us today that we have to STOP insisting on thinking we know what’s best for us. STOP insisting on worrying about every little detail and thing we don’t know the answer to. In place of this we have to KNOW that He is God. This kind of knowing means to recognize and to understand God. Recognize Him as leader of our lives. Recognize Him as the solution to our problems. Recognize Him as the supplier of ALL of our needs. Understand that He loves you. Understand that He will never leave you or forsake you. Understand that He knows what is best.

It can look very simple on paper but its only by prayer and faith in Christ that we can put this into practice.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Red Hot Smoldering Unforgiveness


Last night I decided to light a fire in my fireplace. The fire was warm, inviting, and relaxing in this unusually cold Texas weather. As all of the wood was being consumed, the fire began to smolder; all that remained was the red-hot embers, white-hot embers, and the glow of the fire on the wood, but no flames. I gazed into the fireplace and noticed how intense, purposeful, and consistent the fire smoldered to consume all of the wood until only cool white ashes remained. I remember thinking that must be how unforgiveness smolders in our lives and our hearts consuming all of us (time, emotions, energy, attention, heart, and money) until only ashes remain. Ah…forgiveness…a great topic to begin a new year! Let’s talk!


If an accelerant (like gasoline) were added to the burning embers of a fire, the fire would likely reignite or at least blaze up quickly once again. Our unforgiveness acts much the same way. Someone says or does something that triggers (adds accelerant to) our unforgiveness, manifested through pain, grief, resentment, bitterness, hatred or, anger and we ignite. We act out in many ways when we hold on to past hurts and offenses. We might live our lives distant and angry, fearful, resentful and bitter, deciding to stop interacting or speaking to the person(s) who hurt us, or even plot revenge for their demise. None of these actions is beneficial to us. They only serve to fuel the red-hot smoldering, causing the embers to burn hotter, and causing our pain, hatred, bitterness, resentment…to intensify.


Forgiveness is not easy, but it is a required of us and necessary for us to live in peace (in our mind) and freedom. Forgiveness may not “feel” good at first, because forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Some of us do not want to forgive, because we cannot imagine letting the person who hurt us off the hook or giving them a get out of jail free card. Forgiveness is not really about their freedom, it is ALL about our freedom.


Unforgiveness is the resentful, angry, hateful nurturing of our grievances – it is a harmful transgression against our own being. We hurt ourselves more than we hurt the person who we choose not to forgive. Release THEM and YOU will be set free. (You are probably asking, how does that work?)


Unforgiveness is a blessing blocker that binds us to the person(s) and the event(s) that caused us pain. We unconsciously relinquish control of our emotions, actions, and healing to the person or people who hurt us. They may not physically be in our lives, but emotionally we are trapped in the place where and the time when the offense took place. If we are going to move to forgiveness and live in peace and freedom, we have to acknowledge the pain, (yes, it happened) forgive the people involved, allow God to heal us, and DECIDE to move on.

Forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give yourself.


The red-hot smoldering of the fire in my fireplace eventually stopped. All that remained was cool white ashes that could be touched and handled to clean the fireplace. Once we forgive, all that remains is cool white ashes of the past, easily touched and handled, unable to hurt, burn, or hinder us any longer.


This time of year, people are making resolutions to lose weight, save money, quit a bad habit, or start exercising and eating right. All of those are great resolutions to make, by the way. Unfortunately, more people will fail at keeping those resolutions as early as the springtime then those who will be successful. (This is one reason I do not make resolutions. I seek God’s guidance, make plans, and set goals to change my life). New Year’s IS a time for new beginnings, a time to begin fresh and new, to wipe the slate clean, to start from scratch, to “do-over”, to start over (I know…enough with the clich├ęs already).


A more productive and fulfilling resolution is practicing forgiveness in our lives…leaving the past in the past and not allowing the past to control or dictate our future. Interestingly, change is constant in our present lives; but one thing that change cannot affect is the past. Nothing can change the past. We can change how we view the past and how we let the past affect our lives and we do have the power to change the future by letting go of the past.


As the New Year rings in, make a plan to forgive. Make forgiveness part of your life. As you practice forgiveness, you will learn to forgive in the moment. Yes, that means in the moment the offense occurs, you will have the power to forgive and move on with your life, refusing to be held hostage by the offense or the offender. Do not take anything with you into 2010 from 2009 (2008, 2003, 2000, 1990, 1986, 1970, 1967…you get the picture) that could contaminate your new year’s success, health, blessings, and prosperity.


Happy New Year friends!