young-professional's blog

The Power of the Easter Story

“But the angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead'” (Matthew 28:5–7 ESV).

Easter is a special season to reflect on the power of the Resurrection story. The life Jesus bought for us through His death and the hope He restored in us through His Resurrection give us cause to celebrate all year long!

Many good stories include a hero who sacrifices himself in some way in order to save the world. The power of the Easter story is that the Hero is still alive. Our Hero sacrificed everything in order to save the world. He died on a cross to redeem people that hated Him. He became a curse for us to save us from the curse of our sin (Heb. 3:13).

The power of the Easter story is that it is about you and about me. It is about each one of us, and a God who wants a relationship with us so desperately that He was willing sacrifice everything.

Unlike other faiths, we worship a God who is alive. Your relationship with Him is as real as any other relationship. With Jesus there is no pretense at all. He shows us Who He is and all we have to do is embrace Him. He knows everything about who we are and who we have been and loves us in spite of our unloveliness. He wants to shape who we are going to become.

Unlike other religions, we are not bound to a series of rules and regulations in order to reach heaven and our eternal reward. We are freed by our faith to live an abundant life on earth that pleases God and will continue to flow for eternity. Our eternal reward begins the moment we accept Jesus as Lord. He enters into our lives in power and desires true relationship with us. We do not have to wait until heaven to commune with God; we have Him with us every moment!

Blessings!
Amanda-Grace

Pleasing God

In my last post, I talked about the importance of developing a godly definition of success. If our definition of success is too narrow, we will live in fear of failure. In every season of life, success is going to look a little different for us. Right now success for me does not have anything to do with raising my children well, because I do not have children. It does involve setting a good example for those around me and investing in relationships with the girls in my Acteens group. The parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14–30) teaches us that ultimately, success means using whatever we have been given to please our Master and Lord.

There are many passages in the Bible that tell us how to live a life that pleases God. When I take my life and hold it up to any one of those passages, I am often disappointed in myself. For example, I might look at the list of fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22–23 and discover that I do not measure up as much as I should (“love” —ok, “joy”—usually, “peace” —ahh…, “patience”—not so much). When I try to please God by following rules or living up to a standard, I always fall short.

Pleasing God is not primarily a function of obeying rules. Pleasing God is a function of faith. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek Him.” If we believe that God has the power to redeem us, we must also believe that He has the power to sanctify us. God Himself empowers us to live a life that pleases Him. He is the one who grows the fruit of the Spirit in my heart. My job is simply to focus my life on Jesus Christ, believing that He rewards those who seek Him with abundant and eternal life in His presence.

Blessings!
Amanda-Grace

How Do You Define Success?

The world defines success in terms of money, power, and fame. If you grew up in church like I did, you probably learned that these three were the “big no-no’s” of the Christian life. Not to say that money, power, or fame is intrinsically wrong, but seeking these things before or instead of God is destructive.

Success is nothing to fear. The Bible does not condemn success. In fact, Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (ESV). In other words, you will succeed. Human beings are hard wired to try to succeed in everything we do. A church might define success in terms of how many people get baptized each week. An employee might define success in terms of productivity. A family might define success by how much quality time they spend together.

The problem with defining success is that it always has a flip side. If success means “this,” then anything short of “this” is failure. If our definition of success is too narrow, we will live in fear of failure. Jesus condemns the fear of failure in the parable of the talents (Matt. 25). One of the servants was afraid to lose his talent, so he buried it. His definition of success was “do not lose what you have been given.” By his own definition, he succeeded, at first. But when the master came, he condemned the servant for his wickedness and took the talent away. Because he was afraid to fail, the servant failed to please his master and lost the very thing he was trying to protect.

I believe the wicked servant in this parable had an inadequate definition of success. He should have tried to please his master, instead of just trying to protect the talent. His definition of success was too narrow. I believe our definition of success defines how we live life. There is nothing wrong with wanting people to get baptized, to be productive, or to spend quality time with your family. These are all good things! Just like money, power, and fame, the problem comes when we put our focus on these things instead of on Jesus.

Spend some time this week evaluating your definition of success. Read Matthew 25:14–30. Search the Scriptures to develop your definition of success. Does your life reflect a godly definition of success? Are you afraid to fail? Don’t just give the Sunday school answer, really think about this.

Even after we develop a godly definition of success, there are expectations all around us that pressure us to start looking at success the wrong way. Like the servant in the parable, it does not matter if we say we want to please our Master; how we live life reflects our view of success. If we are afraid of failure, we should probably reevaluate. Remember Proverbs 16:3. If we focus our eyes on Jesus and commit our work to Him, He will establish our plans and give us true success.

Blessings!
Amanda-Grace

Firmly Planted

In Matthew 13, Jesus told the parable of the sower: The sower scattered seeds all across his field. Some seeds fell along the path, where the earth was packed hard and dry. Other seeds fell among some rocks where the soil was shallow or in a patch of ground filled with weeds and thorns. Other seeds fell on good soil that had been plowed and fertilized and made ready for planting.

Birds came and ate the seeds on the path. The plants that grew in shallow, rocky soil were scorched by the sun, because they had no root. The thorns grew up and choked the plants that tried to grow among them. But the seeds that were planted in good soil grew into a great crop, multiplying the sowers’ investment thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times!

Jesus explained to his disciples that this parable illustrates different ways that people may respond to the gospel. Southern Baptist missionaries follow the model of Matthew 13 as they share the gospel throughout the world. This week, March 2–9, 2014, Southern Baptists observe the Week of Prayer for North American Missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®.

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) focuses on spreading the gospel in the United States and Canada. NAMB missionaries generously sow the seed of the gospel across the field of North America. They work tirelessly to build up new believers and to plant churches that are deeply rooted in the gospel.

This year’s Week of Prayer emphasis, “Firmly Planted,” challenges us to examine our commitment to Christ and to participate in the work of sowing the gospel. Our prayers and financial gifts help to prepare and support missionaries who are reaching their cities for Christ. Six church-planting missionaries are featured during the week of prayer. Be sure to read their inspiring stories, including videos

This week, pray especially for North American missionaries and their families. Pray for new believers and new church starts to become firmly planted. Pray for your church to see the needs in your community and to faithfully sow the seed of the gospel. Consider giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering to support missions in North America. If your church does not collect this offering, you can give online at the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering website

Finally, think about your relationship to Christ. Are you firmly planted? Is the gospel so much a part of your life that everyone around can see it, even if they aren’t sure what “it” is? Are you sowing seed? Visit namb.net to learn about NAMB’s Send North America strategy and how you can be involved.

Blessings!
Amanda-Grace
 

Mentoring

“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (Titus 2:7-8 ESV).

In Titus chapter 2, Paul describes what a body of believers should be like. The older generations should be teaching younger generations how to live godly lives. I have had many women over the course of my life pour into me, teaching me life skills and truths that continue to shape who I am today. I am so thankful for these women.

Another important group of women in my life are the ones God has given me to pour into. Two of my Acteens® will be graduating high school in May. In July, the three of us are going to participate in Eastern Kentucky FamilyFest. During their four years as Acteens, Kristen and Haley have participated in numerous missions projects, but this will be their first missions trip. Both are super excited!

In order to raise money for the trip, the girls decided they would like to make scarves to sell to their friends. So a few weeks ago we picked out some colorful yarn and met in a coffee shop one Saturday afternoon so I could teach them how to crochet scarves. It was a new experience for all of us—they learned to crochet and I learned how to teach it! 

I love spending time with these girls. They are so full of life and potential. I cherish opportunities to teach them about the Bible and missions, to pray for and with them, and to just hang out. I’m not sure if crocheting is an “important life skill,” but we had a lot of fun. I know this summer’s missions experience will be life changing for all of us. I want to leave my fingerprints on these girls’ hearts as so many women have done for me.

Who in your life has impacted who you are? Whose fingerprints are on your heart? Who has shaped what you believe by the way they live their life?

Mentoring is a great challenge, responsibility, and privilege. And it is not a concept only for “old” women or for women with children. As young professionals, we can begin passing on a legacy today. If you have your own children, that is a great place to start. If not, perhaps there is a girl at church or in your apartment complex who could use a friend. It is easy to get bogged down in the business of life, but we cannot let that keep us from impacting a girl’s life and helping her become all that God created her to be.

Blessings!
Amanda-Grace

#pray4sochi

The 2014 Winter Olympic Games are being hosted in Sochi, Russia this month: February 8-23. In March, Sochi will host the Paralympic Games. Sochi is a beautiful city situated between the Caucus Mountains and the Black Sea. The costal venues include the main arena and two ice rinks. Just over an hour away, the mountain venues will host skiing, snowboarding, and other mountain events. Hundreds of thousands of tourists, trainers, athletes, reporters and enthusiasts will gather in the city as millions more watch the proceedings from the comfort of their homes.

The International Mission Board initiative “Engage Sochi” is a strategy for evangelism and church planting before, during, and after the Olympics. Last March, I was able to be part of a team helping in the preparation phase of “Engage Sochi.” During my ten days in Sochi, our prayer team walked each of the Olympic venues, worshiped with Sochi believers, led a children’s Bible class, and assisted the missionaries with an English class. The main purpose of the trip was to help a local church host a special women’s event to encourage women in the church and build foundational relationships with the community.

During the games there will be a massive evangelistic push using Olympic trading pins. Each pin represents an opportunity to share the gospel. People come from all over the world to watch the Olympics. Volunteers will be encouraged to collect contact information from people who make faith decisions or show interest in learning more about the gospel for follow-up after the games.

An event on the scale of the Olympics brings a spotlight to the host city in more ways than one. Perhaps you have heard about Sochi on the news because of recent threats on the city. Maybe you are excited to watch the broadcast of your favorite winter sports. Maybe you are passionate about seeing people come to know Jesus. If any of these are true, I want to invite you to join me in praying for Sochi during the next two months, and beyond.

Pray for the missionaries and volunteers as they prepare to share Christ’s love with multitudes. Pray for the athletes, trainers, judges, and spectators to discover the Christ is worth more than the gold. Pray for the safety of the city. Pray for your lost friends who may watch the Olympics from home, and pray for an opportunity to share Jesus with them. You can find some great prayer resources at www.engagesochi.org/pray. You can also find “Engage Sochi” on Facebook and Twitter.

Let’s make #pray4sochi a trending hashtag this month, and cover the event in prayer!

Blessings,
Amanda-Grace

Human Trafficking Awareness Month

How much do you know about human trafficking?

If you type "human trafficking" into a search engine, you will get about 70 million results. According to the 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report, about 40,000 victims of trafficking were identified last year in the 188 countries that were included in the report. However, it is estimated that there are actually 27 million men, women, and children trafficking victims in the world at any given time. Trafficking victims are hard to identify because of the secret nature of the crime. Traffickers can use coercion and fear to keep them quiet and obedient. Many victims become dependent on their traffickers and would not identify themselves as victims.

When I look at the stories and statistics of human trafficking, I am overwhelmed. I honestly cannot wrap my mind around the concept. How many men, women, and children are forced to live in substandard conditions in order to feed the desires of other people? How many are consistently abused and neglected? How many have never experienced happiness, love, hope? How many are trapped in a cycle of fear, hopelessness, and shame?

This is not how the world was meant to be.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness month. The only way to stop the slavery that is human trafficking is to bring the darkness to light. How can one person make a difference in the fight against human trafficking?
 

  1. Be aware. Do some research about trafficking in different parts of the world. Don’t forget to research your state and hometown. Are there ministries in your area that work with trafficking victims? Does your state have laws to protect trafficking victims?
  2. Pray. Pray for victims, their families, traffickers, and law enforcement officials. Pray for believers to open their eyes, stand up, and fight back the darkness. Ask God to help you embrace opportunities to end human trafficking wherever He leads you.
  3. Get involved. If there are ministries in your state that combat trafficking or work with victims, find out what kind of needs they have and how you can meet them. Another ministry that helps fight human trafficking is WorldCrafts™. WorldCrafts sells fair-trade products allowing artisans around the world to have an income with dignity. WorldCrafts has an entire line of products that highlights artisan groups working with victims of human trafficking
  4. Raise awareness. Share what you know about trafficking with your coworkers, family, and friends. Host a WorldCrafts party or other event at your church. Enlist prayer warriors and encourage positive action to combat human trafficking.

Our God hates injustice. Human trafficking breaks His heart. With His help, you and I can help fight back physical and spiritual darkness in this world.

Amanda-Grace

“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute” (Psalm 82:3 ESV).
 

Recipe for Resolution

The beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect on the successes and failures of the past year and to resolve to live a better life in the year to come. All too often, New Year’s “resolutions” are little more than wishful thinking about what we would like to see happen.

What are the ingredients of a good resolution? I think we have an example in Daniel, chapter 1. When the Babylonians conquered the nation of Judah, the smartest, best looking, and most promising young men, including Daniel, were brought to the palace. They were to be fed the same food as the king, educated in language and culture for three years, and presented to the king to serve in his court.
Daniel knew that some of the king’s food was unclean according to God’s laws. So, he made a resolution.

“But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank” (Daniel 1:8 ESV).  

Because he was a captive, Daniel needed permission to eat food that would please God. The man in charge of their care was afraid that Daniel would not be as healthy as the other young men if he did not eat the king’s food. So, Daniel suggested that he be given only vegetables and water for ten days as a test.

The Bible says “And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs” (Daniel 1:9 ESV), and he agreed to Daniel’s suggestion. After ten days of vegetables, Daniel was healthier than the men eating the king’s food. He was allowed to continue having vegetables and water instead of the king’s food and wine. God blessed Daniel’s faithfulness with good health, wisdom, and knowledge, and great favor with the king.

Here is Daniel’s recipe for a successful resolution:
 

  • Resolve. Daniel’s resolution was to follow God’s plan for healthy living. Make a firm decision about what you are going to do.
  • Reason. Daniel wanted to honor God by observing the food laws that God had given his people. Think about why you need to make this change. A good reason makes a resolution easier to follow through.
  • Plan. Daniel took the necessary steps to make his resolution a reality. Find out what it will take to make your resolution a reality. Set small goals and make plans.
  • Pray. God helped Daniel by giving him favor with people in authority, good health, and learning. Ask God to help you reach your goals and hold fast to your resolutions. Also be willing to change your plans if your resolution does not line up with God’s plan for your life. (See Matt. 1:19 for an example of a resolution that had to change.)

Whatever resolutions you make this year, let’s resolve to keep Jesus at the center of everything!

Happy New Year!
Amanda-Grace
 

Totally His

I grew up in a loving Christian home. My parents read the Bible to my sister and me every night. My dad was a music/youth minister, so we were at church every time the doors were open. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior when I was 7 years old. Ever since, I have struggled to follow God’s plan instead of my own. I know His plan is always better, but I still find myself wanting to do things my way.

Your story may be different from mine, but God wants all of us to love Him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27). He wants us to be totally His.

An example of someone who was totally His is Charlotte Digges Moon. “Lottie” gave her entire life to reaching the lost people of China for Jesus Christ. Her 39 years of missionary service were marked with sacrifice, love, and passion for her Savior. You can learn more about Lottie Moon here.

Every December, Southern Baptists honor her memory by observing a Week of Prayer for International Missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®. One hundred percent of this offering goes directly to support missionaries who are totally committed to taking the message of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.

Jesus gave everything for me, but what am I really willing to give Him? I am faithful to give Him the time that is convenient and the money I can spare. How often do I really give sacrificially of my time and resources? If I am totally His, it means that there is no part of me or my life or my world that does not belong to Jesus Christ. God gives us freedom to make choices, but He wants those choices to reflect His heart. Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30 ESV). The truth is that if we are not building the kingdom of God, we are tearing it down. If we are not fighting for Jesus, we are fighting against Him. Part of being totally His means holding nothing back and trusting God to provide.

How can we be part of building the kingdom of God? We can give sacrificially to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and other offerings that support missions around the world. We can pray for these missionaries and read their stories. We can find ways to share our faith in our community and workplace.

Wherever you are this Christmas season, please take time to pray for missionaries who are building God’s kingdom. Thank God for everything He has done in your life and be open to whatever He may call you to do to be totally His.

Blessings!
Amanda-Grace

“How many there are…who imagine that because Jesus paid it all, they need pay nothing, forgetting that the prime object of their salvation was that they should follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ in bringing back a lost world to God, and so aid in bringing the answer to the petition our Lord taught his disciples: Thy kingdom come.” — Lottie Moon, “The letter that started it all,” September 15, 1887.

Holiday Perspective

I love Christmas. I know that the quest for the perfect gifts, the stress of preparing for family get-togethers, and a variety of service opportunities can be overwhelming. Is your holiday full of joy, light, and peace? Or is it so stressful that you just can’t wait for it to be over?

Remembering what Christmas is all about can help keep some holiday perspective: “ ‘Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests’ ” (Luke 2:11–14).

Christmas is not the only time we celebrate by giving gifts. If the quest for finding THE perfect gift for everyone on your list is keeping you from enjoying the celebration, try something different. Give a gift card to their favorite store or fill a stocking with their favorite treats. Don’t let gift shopping be the center of your holiday.

Christmas is not the only time we can spend with family and friends. If you are hosting a Christmas celebration, don’t let the stress of cleaning and decorating take over. Invite your closest friend over for a cleaning party, or ask a high school student at your church to help you over a weekend.

Christmas is not the only time of year when people are in need or when service projects are available. If an extra trip to the homeless shelter won’t fit into your December schedule, ask them about serving in February. Adopting a child at Christmas is great, but why not find out about other ways to help children in your community? Find out if there is a backpack program to help feed at-risk children. Ask about sponsoring a child for her birthday. We are called to serve every day, not just at Christmas.

When we let ourselves get stressed out over the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we lose sight of what is really important. Trying to do everything can spoil the celebration. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus this holiday season and look for ways to shine His light throughout the year.

Blessings!
Amanda-Grace

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