Simplifying Christianity

We humans tend to complicate every aspect of our lives, especially God.  We want the best worship experience and an emotional message on Sundays.  We overthink God by our works.  All our lives most of us are told that you must be in church and studies to have God in our lives, which in fact, is not true.  Hear me out, I am not saying that church is not important.  I am saying God is more than a church service and group studies.  He is simply about relationship.  He does not want us so busy trying to figure out who He is that we have no time to personally have a relationship with Him.

For the last year, I have been going to one church to another trying to find the perfect setting — is the worship spiritual enough or is the message convicting to bring me to the altar.  I was looking for emotion rather than God Himself.  I was so insecure that I needed to be convicted to speak to God for forgiveness.  And when restlessness and discontentment came over me, I moved on to another church.  Through all the confusion, I caused more chaos in my life.  I caused more disappointment of what the church should be — to my preference.

A few months ago, I decided to temporarily stop attending church and have church at home.  Every Sunday morning and Wednesday night I would listen to a podcast from my iPad and worship God in my own living room. I spent daily in prayer.  In just a month, God showed Himself to me with simplicity and love.  It is not required to do works to find God’s love; He is love, and He only desires relationship with me.  When I complicated God, I was miserable.  The standards I put on myself only made me feel more inadequate.  It was only when I simplified the way I approached God is when I found the true God.  A God who is not demanding but unconditionally loving.  A God who is all comfort not judgmental.  A God who makes me whole when I feel incomplete.  God is complex in so many ways, but when it comes to a relationship with Him, it’s simple: Love God with all her heart and live a life abundantly in His love.  Love God and be a Disciple.  Simple as that.

We need to stop representing a demanding God who is false and scary.  We need to start showing others that God is all about the heart.  He is all about love.  We do not need an emotional message on Sunday to convict us of our sin, but a message of truth.  We do not need to a worship service to sound like a professional concert, but to worship God in purity.  We don’t need an in-depth message every week to tell us who God is; we need to experience God ourselves through group Bible Studies and an individual prayer life.  If we want a relationship with God, we need to pursue Him at church, at home, in our workplace, and with our family and friends.  God is everywhere!

When you seek God in simplicity, you will find His joy and His peace.  When you pursue Him with all your heart, you will find the true God that you have been looking for.  It starts with you — not the church or others — YOU!

This Is Us

For all the This Is Us fans, this blog is for you.  For those who are not familiar with the show, it is an American television drama series that revolves around an everyday family who has three children, two are twins.  Episodes show flashbacks from the past (1980-1998) to present day (2016-2018).  The show is based off of Jack and Rebecca Pearson and their three children (Kevin, Kate, and Randall).  We know from the beginning that Jack died when the children were 17 years old.  The show begins with the children as adults at age 36.  They are all in different stages of their lives.  Kevin is struggling as an actor.  Kate struggles with weight issues, self-image, and love.  Randall is a successful business man and family man who struggles with perfection and joy.  Rebecca, after losing her husband, remarries her past husband’s best friend.  The Pearson family is no different than our lives.  We struggle with loss, love, self-image, family, children, and careers.  We laugh together, cry together, love one another, and, most of all, support each other.  This series is us — in every way!

We can learn from the Pearson family on how to strengthen our love for one another, how to support each other in all things, and how to laugh together in the good times.  The characters all have different personalities who make life work together.  Their lives are as mundane as ours.  The characters are real and relevant for all of us.  Rebecca Pearson tries to be the best mother and wife she can be, and, yet, she was not perfect in any way.  Jack Pearson was perceived as the perfect father, but, yet, he fell back to his old ways and became an recurring alcoholic.  Kevin was known as the high school football star, and then became a famous actor.  He quit his job out of frustration and became an alcoholic and drug addict.  Kate struggles with her weight and self-image so much so that it almost ruined meeting the love of her life.  Randall, from the outside, looked like he had the perfect life — great career, wife, children, and a nice home.  He quit his job after having a nervous breakdown and found himself finding his purpose again.

As seen in This Is Us,  we relate to many of these characters’ insecurities.  We are born into a family who is imperfect which causes us to have insecurities.  Some of the insecurities follow us into adulthood.  Most of us lived with loving parents who cared for us and provided for our needs.  And, yet, something was still missing.  Maybe a sibling was shown more love than you.  Maybe a parent was hard on you in an area you struggled in.  Maybe a parent reacted to a situation badly that may have scarred you for life.  Maybe a spoken word hurt you deeply, and you never recovered from that moment.  As a result of these insecurities, we struggle with finding purpose in our lives.  We struggle with our appearance.  We struggle with loving others and receiving love.  The list could go on and on.

Just like this series, the characters get back up and dust themselves off.  Life does not end with that moment.  In the midst of their tears and chaos, they find the strength to move forward.  At the end of the road, they find joy again where there once was sorrow.  You can do the same.  If you do not have a family who supports you, you are not alone.  God is always there to pick you up and dust you off to start again.  He will never leave you defeated and alone.  He will carry you through your journey and heal you from your wounds.  God will cry with you and will hold you until you stand on your own.  He will create a support system for you during a time of difficulty.  Our lives may feel like a roller coaster at times (ups and downs), but God will overwhelm us with His peace, if we only come to Him for help.

Letters To God

I’m currently in a Bible study at my church called, “Goliath Must Fall” by Louie Giglio.  In one of the weekly exercises it asked me to write a letter to God.  I could write about anything–my feelings, my hurt, my joy, my love for Him, etc.  No limitations.  As I was writing this letter to God, I was reminded of how sweet His presence is, and how I missed spending more time with Him.  I would like to take a moment to share with you what I wrote:

“Dear Daddy,

I know I do not express my love for you as much as I should.  I know I fail you so many times.  But, yet, you always have your arms stretched out whenever I need you.

You know my needs.  You know my hurt.  You know my every tear, and you wipe them away one-by-one.  I do not deserve your love, but, yet, you always give love without hesitation.

You know the shame I carry.  You know the loneliness I feel.  You know the secrets that I keep tucked inside for no one to know.  But, yet, you still love me.  I’m an imperfect being loved by You.  You never expect me to be perfect.  You simply ask me to come as I am — flawed and broken.

In this moment, I feel you holding me and whispering: “You are going to be okay.  Yes, life is a bit confusing, but, I tell you, you do not have to have everything figured out.  I will guide your future, and it will be everything you dreamed of plus more.  Trust Me my Child.  Now, put your feet onto Mine and let Me lead.  I know the way!'”


APPLICATION

I encourage you to write a letter to God and express how you feel about Him.  Acknowledge who He is in your life.  Tell God your troubles, and how you feel about life.  Cry out to Him in humbleness and gratefulness.  Be transparent.  Remember, there are no limitations.

Living Out the Change in your Life

In the past few years, I have written about the importance of change, and how we must embrace it.  Over a year ago, I made many changes in my life.  I changed churches after being committed to one for over three years.  I lost my friends due to this change.  My pastor’s moved after serving under them for several years.  I lost all my leadership roles at the church once I stepped out from being a member.  You see, church was my life.  Besides working, I stayed busy helping the pastors in various projects.  It became my identity.  What I did became who I was.

One Sunday God told me this is your last Sunday here at this church.  In that moment, I was overwhelmed with the change.  I did what I was told and attended church that day for the very last time.  I seemed lost for many months trying to fit in and find my place to serve in a new church.  Even when I was discouraged, I found myself not wanting to give up.  Once I found a church that God led me to, I still mourned over my previous church I attend.  I struggled with my emotions and my thoughts.

Eventually, as I continued to attend the new church on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, I began to feel like I belonged.  I took two months off from serving to find myself again.  Little by little I took steps into serving in the church as a greeter once-a-month.  In September 2017, I had the opportunity to serve beside another church to help those throughout our community.  In November 2017, I started to help with the youth group on Wednesdays.  I have participated in many Bible and book studies throughout the year.  I am now part of a church that I love and feel honored to serve in.  I have realized that church is not just about works, but it is all about having a relationship with God and being in fellowship with other Christians.  My identity is in Christ and not in what I do.

Change can bring many hardships, but, in the end, we are rewarded for not quitting.  Since this change, I have had to adjust to being in new leadership roles in the church, meeting new people, making new friends, working with a new boss, and financial changes.  My life looks completely different from a year ago, but I am thankful for the changes in my life.  It has helped me to grow personally as well as Spiritually.  I have realized I am a stronger person than I thought, and I can do anything with Christ by my side.

If you are struggling with changes in your life, always remember God is on your side every step of the way.  The journey might not always be easy, but the reward is always worth it.

 

Facing Challenges

We all face challenges in life.  It could be mental, emotional, or physical.  Hardship sometimes causes us to have unhealthy emotions.  When we face challenges, the devil tries to convince us that it is impossible to overcome it.  We begin to doubt ourselves and feel defeated.  Satan wants us to lose the power and authority we have with God.  But the Lord wants us to feel empowered to overcome any obstacle that comes our way.  In Isaiah 41:13 says, “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’”  We are not alone in our battles!  God is with us every step of the way.

The decisions we make during hardships are crucial.  Our choices determine our future.  Our emotions can get in the way of making good decisions.  We can easily become impatient and angry.  We have to learn how to control our emotions to have a clear mind.  We must always be in prayer with every step we take to be an overcomer through Christ.  When we feel overwhelmed with our emotions, we need to “cast all [our] anxiety on [God]” (1 Peter 5:7).  We need to go to God in prayer so He can remind us He has already given us peace.  We just need to declare His peace over our lives!  In John 14:27, Jesus says, “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” 

Philippians 4:13 is a powerful Scripture that is well known and often misunderstood.  It states, “I can do all this through Him [, God,] who gives me strength.”  We cannot be overcomers through our own strength.  The only way we can overcome obstacles is through God.  We cannot do it alone!  We need God!

When we face challenges, God promises us rewards.  James 1:12 tells us “blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  The Bible says “that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).  We not only get rewarded, but we build our character through hardship.  We grow in our faith and learn who we are as an individual.

The Bible promises us “that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).  I encourage you to persevere “so you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4).  I pray you stay strong in your faith.  Do not let the devil get you down.  God is on your side and will always be there for you!

Declaration: You are a conqueror through Christ!

“Beautifully Broken”

Recently, I started reading a book called, “The End of Me” written by Kyle Idleman.  So far, it has been an incredible book about the beauty of being broken in the presence of God.  Jesus becomes real in our lives when we are broken for Him.  It is when we come to the end of ourselves that God shows up to pick up the pieces of our lives to put them back together one-by-one.  In Luke 9:24, it states that “whoever loses life will find it.”

In this book, the author portrays a beautiful picture of what brokenness really looks like.  In Luke 7, Jesus is having dinner with a religious leader, Simon.  Simon has disregarded all tradition by not greeting Jesus with a kiss on the hand, washing his feet, and anointing his head with oil.  Simon is rich and the people feared him so he intentionally did not honor Jesus as his guest in his home.  Simon wanted to be the master of his home, not Jesus.  At one point in the middle of dinner, a sinful woman enters Simon’s home uninvited.  She heard through the crowds Jesus was in town and was having dinner with Simon and other religious leaders.  While everyone else looked at her with judgment, Jesus looked at her with unconditional love.  She did not focus on the disgruntled faces around her and allowed Jesus’ love to overwhelm her.  You see, Jesus saw “her as beautifully broken” while the others saw her as tainted and untouchable (“The End of Me”).

The woman kept her eyes focused on Jesus and knelt at Jesus’ feet.   She began to weep uncontrollably and, with her tears, she cleaned His feet.  She let down her hair and dried His feet.  She then took an entire bottle of perfume and poured it on Jesus’ feet.  In this moment, “she offers all that she has, because He has changed all that she is” (“The End of Me”).  A prostitute, known for our profession, “has become a living embodiment of cleansing” (“The End of Me”).  Jesus tells her that her sins are forgiven (Luke 7:48).  Her brokenness is recognized, and she is made whole again.  What an incredible imagery of being made whole in Christ in just one moment.

“Brokenness often overflows with hidden beauty.  It is redemptive by design” (author unknown).  The moment Jesus forgave the woman from all her sins, it was redemption.  She was not ashamed of her past; she boldly walked into a religious leader’s home to have a moment with Jesus.  This Biblical story reminds us to never be ashamed to bear our scars in the church or around our family and friends.  Our past tells a story of redemption–of who we were and who we are today.

If you look closer in the story of Luke 7, we see that Simon is carrying around brokenness as well.  He is so arrogant about his status that he refused to greet his guests with traditions.  He does not respect who Jesus is and only invited Jesus to dinner out of obligation.  Instead of receiving a blessing from Jesus, he received a rebuke from Him.  The sinful woman knew that she was broken and needed Jesus’ forgiveness, but Simon, on the other hand, did not recognize his brokenness.

Romans 3:23 states that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  The truth is, we are all broken people who need Jesus.  We can complete this sentence: “We are the people who _________________________________________” (“The End of Me”).  Who have debt, ignored the hurting, looked down on others, etc.  We are the kind of people who wants to avoid being honest with ourselves.  “Most of us have some conception, in our heart to hearts, that a lot of the pieces never seem to be mended.  But we will go to great lengths to avoid the full, honest embrace of our condition” (“The End of Me”).  “The only solution for being broken is brokenness.  Brokenness is the way to wholeness.” (“The End of Me”).

APPLICATION

When was the last time you recognized your brokenness and knelt at Jesus’ feet overwhelmed by His love for you?  Are you avoiding the brokenness that keeps on pulling you down and telling you lies about yourself?  It’s time to bear your scars and be real with God and others about your past or present life.  It’s time for you to be whole again through Christ.

PRAYER

“God, take my broken pieces and remold them into what seems best for you” (“The End of Me”).  Lord, help me to be vulnerable and bear my scars so I can be mended and whole again.  In Your Name, Amen!

Worshipping Through Scripture Series -Being An Overcomer Through Christ

As Christians, we live in a world filled with chaos.  Every day we put on our Armor of God and fight the battles of this world.  With God on our side, we face “giants” with confidence and come out as winners through Christ.

There are several characters in the Bible who have fought and defeated giants.  One of the characters is named David.  In 1 Samuel, chapter 17, David fought and defeated a giant named, Goliath, with just a sling shot and a stone.  His story encourages us to stand strong on the battlefield, no matter what we are facing.

Two Christian artists, Francesca Battistelli and Blanca, wrote songs based off this Scripture to encourage Christians to not give up in the fight.  These songs remind us to stay on the battlefield and to trust that God will come through for us.  Francesca Battistelli wrote a song in 2014 called, “Giants Fall”.  The song is written in honor of a young girl, at the age of 11, who wanted to start an organization called, “Project Yesu”.  The purpose of the organization is to minister to girls and women in Uganda.  When the artist read her story about being mocked by others and being told she was crazy to start an organization, Battistelli was inspired to write a song to encourage all of us to be bold and courageous for what we believe in.  It’s never “too late” or “too far” to turn away from sin and walk with God (prodigal son, Luke 15:11:32).  We are never “too small” and it’s never “too hard” to go after our dreams (David and Goliath, 1 Samuel 17).

In the chorus, it states “don’t you be afraid of the giants in your way [because], with God you know that anything’s possible” (Referenced: Matthew 19:26; 1 John 4:18).  The chorus continues to encourage us to stay in the fight with boldness and bravery and watch the giants fall.  “With childlike faith” (Matthew 18:2-4), mountains will move and miracles will happen (Hebrews 11:1; Matthew 17:20).

Blanca, also wrote a powerful song in 2015 called, “Greater is He”.  She wrote the song in honor of her mother being diagnosed with cancer.  The artist was inspired by her mother’s courageous fight to live.  The song lyrics expresses the struggles we deal with on a daily basis.  It starts out saying, “I face a giant in over my head.  Help me to look up [and remember to] take a deep breath” (Referenced: David and Goliath, 1 Samuel 17).  These lyrics are a prayer to God desperately crying out to Him to be present in our circumstances.  I imagine this artist face down on the floor crying out to God for a miracle for her mother.

In the chorus, Blanca declares who God is through Jesus’ miracles.  She states that her family have faced “an ocean [with] waves raging (Psalm 89:9, 93:4; Mark 4:35-41) and, with faith, they have “step[ped] out on the sea” to meet Jesus (Matthew 14:2-23).  The song continues on to proclaim God’s name.  We can face anything “in His name”.

APPLICATION

We were all made to be warriors through Christ.  The songs mentioned above are powerful and will lift our spirits when we are discouraged and feel defeated.  The lyrics and the meaning behind these songs come from the heart of these artists.  Battistelli and Blanca both wrote songs through inspiration of others.  They were inspired by someone else’s strength while going through hardship.

These two songs declare who God is through Scripture.  Just like David in 1 Samuel 17, we have our own battles to fight and win.  The lyrics remind us to stay strong in the fight and always have God by our side.  Philippians 4:13 states that we “can do all things through Him who gives [us] strength.”  I encourage you to put on your Armor of God and run onto the battlefield to face your giants.

OTHER REFERENCES TO LOOK UP

  • Joshua 24:14-18 (Joshua’s Story) – “Every Giant Will Fall” by Rend Collective, The Promise land.

Being Transparent

Last night, during a book study at church, God told me to tell the group a specific story about my past. This is not a story I tell to many and telling it to a group of people at one time was a bit scary. Instead of being obedient to God, I figdeted in my seat quietly. I kept on asking, “Why this story, God? Any other story but this one.” He reminded me of what I said two weeks ago in the study. I said that I was working on my past to make it a testimony. Last night, God gave me the opportunity to tell my story, and I left church with a misopportunity. God kept telling me that someone needs to hear your story tonight, but fear got in the way of telling it.

The truth is, we should never be afraid to share our past with others, because we are living in victory today by overcoming it. We should never be ashamed of who we were, because what happened in the past shaped our today. We need to realize our story matters, and it encourages others. I need to put into practice what I preach.

Below is the link to my story.  A story full of regret, past hurts, and being unlovable.  A story that is powerful and can encourage others if I allow it to be talked about in group settings.  The second link is to encourage you to write your story on my page, and let it encourage those who read it.  Your story matters!  Our story matters!

https://aprilcoon.wordpress.com/my-testimony/

https://aprilcoon.wordpress.com/readers-testimonies/

How to Help Others and Yourself Through Hurtful Situations

HOW TO RESPOND TO SOMEONE WHO IS HURTING

When people are hurting we sometimes overuse Christian statements to make them feel better.  We tend to say, “God has your back”, “Keep your chin up”, “You are blessed”, and so forth.  At times, these statements are appropriate.  But, other times, these statements do not help those who are hurting.  They are just words with no emotion and meaning.

We need to remember to listen instead of trying to give advice all the time.  We need to listen to the person’s words, and why he or she feels that way.  We do not need to make others feel that their feelings do not matter.  Sometimes all they need is a hug, a prayer, and a friend to talk to in a time of need.

“IT’S OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY”

In a previous church I attended, the motto was, “it’s okay not to be okay.”  It’s okay to cry.  It’s okay to be upset.  It’s okay to ask why.  Sometimes it just does not make sense, and we want answers.  We want the chaos to stop.  We want to silence our thoughts.  We are overwhelmed and want to run the other direction.

THE IMPORTANCE OF FINDING HOPE THROUGH THE TEARS

The truth is, we cannot stay in that state for a long period of time.  We have to continue to lean on God for comfort and peace.  We have to continue believing in hope.  We have to constantly pray, through the tears, that God has a plan for our lives.  And then one day, you realize you do not hurt as much as you used to.  You are not thinking about the situation as much.  God is at work in your life to heal your pain and loss.

APPLICATION AND PRAYER

If you are going through a difficult time, I encourage you talk to someone about it.  Find someone who you trust and who will listen to you.  I pray that you find God’s peace in your circumstances.  I encourage you to cry in God’s arms and allow Him to carry you through this hardship.  And, always remember, “it’s okay not to be okay.”

Life

In the last few weeks, I have pondered about “life”.  What does it look like to live for Jesus?  What does it all mean?  Life is meant to be lived to the fullest.  It is meant to have surprises along the way to build our character and endurance — good or bad.  Life is much like a roller coaster with twists and turns.  Sometimes we go through chaos and confusion.  And other times, there is peace and full of wonder.  Life can be crazy, at times, and we can lose focus on God.  We forget our purpose in life.

God is a good God, all the time!  Let me say that again: God is a good God, all the time!!!  God has given us a life to live through Him!  We do life together with God.  We lack nothing!  God provides for our everyday needs.  He comforts us through bad times.  He celebrates with us in victories.  He is always there to pick us up when we feel defeated.

Life is about doing life with Christ!

Simple as that! — Life is about doing life with Christ!  No matter your circumstances, God is with you.

Recently, I have learned a hard lesson about prayer, and how not to react to God when my prayers are not exactly answered how I want them to be.  I have been sick for the last six years with sinus issues and migraines.  I prayed for God’s healing in the matter.  I went to see a specialist and was told I need sinus surgery immediately.  I truly believed that God would give me His healing touch, but instead He is working through a surgeon to heal me.  It was not exactly the same prayer that I prayed.  I have a choice.  I can either be mad at God for not completely healing me through His power or be thankful for answers.  I am told that I will be completely well by January.  My life circumstances is not where I want them to be, but I do believe we go through trials for a reason.  I also believe I will learn something through this process.

Life is all about perspective.  It is believing that God is with you, no matter what!  I know that God will carry me through this difficult season in His arms.  I will feel His heartbeat with mine.

The things is, life is unpredictable.  Sometimes life may be misunderstood.  We ask the “why’s” instead of the “how’s”.  We expect life to be smooth when God needs us to grow in Him through some hardships.  The truth is, life is unfair, but is it all about how we look at it.  It is all about how we respond to bad news.

Do we put our trust in God?  Or do we let our emotions get the best of us?  Right now, that is a hard question to ask myself.

So…Life…How are you living it — with Christ or in the world?  Life is so much better with God in it!