Community

Community, does it exist in this modern age?

I live in the suburbs of a small? but spread out city. I love my current location, but I would be willing to move to a big city in a heartbeat. When I go into the tiny town where my school is located, the sense of small town community is evident. Yet, the more I explore bigger towns and cities the more evident that community is going away.

In this day and age as a society, we are losing the effort to get to know your next door neighbor, the members of your church who aren’t in your “group” of friends, and the people who are around you on a daily basis, but don’t even know your name.

Over my holiday break I had the privilege to spend the afternoon at a dear friends house. Now this friend knows what it truly means to embrace, connect, and expand the community around her. When I arrived at the house I came to have coffee with this friend; something that’s not unusual for me to do. Over the course of the afternoon, others kept arriving to this home. If I counted right, at the peak of guests arriving, twenty people where at the home. People were just dropping by and they knew that they would be welcome.

As I reflect on my visit I wonder, what has happened to true community? Has society became so industrialized that we don’t try reaching out to others?

My answer to this are two simple words — “staying comfortable.” We create our little group of friends and get comfortable in it. They laugh with us in good times, and cry with us in hard time. Often times these people look like us, maybe have the same occupation, or religious beliefs. I mean this is great to a degree, however, when one tries to join your community, are you willing to let them in? If they don’t look like you or have the same social status. For anyone, this generally can be uncomfortable to do.

In the end, we are all the same. We are all human, we are all sinful, and we all have hidden stories that haven’t been told. Why do we not embrace each other as children of God? How are you going to make a difference to embrace those who are not in any community? Will you stay comfortable, or make a difference in another’s life?

A Drowning Ship

“Oh, be careful little eyes what you see… For the Father up above is looking down in love, oh, be careful little eyes what you see.
Oh, be careful little feet where you go… For the Father up above is looking down in love, oh, be careful little feet where you go.
Oh, be careful little hands what you do… For the Father up above is looking down in love, oh, 1be careful little hands what you do.”

You may be familiar with that little song. Recently I was pondering this little song. Many times younger children are taught this little song, but do those basic principles stay with them  as they grow up?

I recently came across an idea that has made me thinking. “Ships don’t sink because of the water around them. Ships sink because of the water that gets in them.” As humans, living in a broken world, we are constantly surrounded by sin. It doesn’t matter how much you try to isolate yourself from the outside world, you are around sin. Humans are sinful creatures by nature, but it’s how you handle being around the sin that makes you different. It is learning from a young age right from wrong and remembering it when you are old.

Parents, are you teaching your parents by example where the water is near your ship?

Everyone else, are you showing others how to keep water out of your ship by your testimony? You are always an influence on someone else, no matter how hard you might try not to.

Is the water around or in? Are you being careful what your eyes are seeing, feet are going, and hands are doing for the right reasons?

When I look at those who call themselves Christians, so many times they appear to have water outside their ships, but are drowning in sin when no one is watching. This greatly bothers me.
As I try to reason why so many Christians have two sides of them, I have come to realize that Christians get so consumed with looking good for their friends, peers, and others in the church that they forget whom they should actually be living for. It becomes a competition to see who can live the “purest” life for their friends, but who are you when only G-d is the one who is there watching?

It is easy to “forget” as a Christian who you are actually living for. Satan uses individuals in the church as a tool to distract you from G-d. I see my peers from my Christian private school, churches, and other followers of Christ easily falling into this trap.

Two-face Christians, what are you truly accomplishing by doing this?

It is vital to learn as soon as you become a Christian to be careful what you see, where you go, and what you do. When you use caution as to what you watch and read, where you go with your Christian and non-Christian friends, and essential every aspect of your life your ship will not drown.

Baby, It Says It’s Positive

“She is so young.” “She is a good girl. Good girls don’t get in trouble.” “She should take care of it.” “She made a mistake.

Well, if you haven’t figured out this weeks topic is teen pregnancy. Gasp! And no, I’m not making a pregnancy announcement.

I love others! G-d has given me a heart for teen girls who are struggling with consequences of their own actions and the consequences of others actions. I, as has everyone, in some form have dealt with both. Naturally, teen pregnancy is an area that is in this wide variety of topics.

Recently, a friend introduced me to the television show“Once Upon a Time.” In one of the episodes one of the Princess’ was pregnant at a young age. In one scene her boyfriend’s father did not say nice things about the her bring with child. This particular scene bothered me.

Society says that expectant mothers who are not in ideal situations made a mistake. This is a stigma that I believe should be changed.

When you call these ladies as “making a mistake,” the child will believe that they are a mistake. Biblically, the Bible never says a baby in- or out-of-wedlock is a mistake. Even though in some instances once the child comes into the world, loved ones will see the situation different; children who are born into this situation will one day hear unplanned pregnancy as being a mistake. By association,  when you say this about one expectant mother who is not in an ideal situation, you are saying this about any mother who has ever walked in the same or similar shoes.

Think about it, G-d said that He knew you before you were born! Notice He didn’t say that “I knew you before you were born if your parents saved their virginity for marriage.” He said I knew YOU – not giving any conditions on the way that you were conceived.
Also, He said that He knit you together in your mother’s womb, does that sound like a mistake to you? He knew you! And He knew the situation that your birth parents would be in when they conceived you.

This Christian culture points out teen parents and yet says that they are pro-life. This is extremely hypocritical. If Christians were truly pro-life, they would embrace rather than judge; offer to help instead of offering certain passages of the Bible: and lastly, love instead of hate. If we truly believed that babies were created by the heavenly Father, Christians wouldn’t be as quick to judge.

I simply do not understand this. When a woman finds out that she is with child, she basically has four options: she can keep the child, have a closed adoption, open adoption, or abort the infant. Christians judge if they choose the fourth option and yet continue to judge if they choose the first option. Christians do not remember that G-d’s son who came to save the world came from an unwed teenage mother.

Think about it, when Mary found out that she was pregnant and not married, she was probably a social outcast. The fact that she said that was a virgin, too… she was probably seen as a crazy person! Today, in some cases someone such as Mary would be a social outcast. Two hundred years ago someone who was not married and pregnant would be a social outcast, let alone
two thousand years ago! 

Mary did amazing amazing things for her times. She did amazing things for any time period! In this Christmas season, I challenge you to reflect not only on Yeshua, but also on Mary. She was given a task by G-d that was not easy by any means. A young virgin gave birth to a Son who came to save first the Jews and then the Gentiles. How’s that for a positive pregnancy announcement? Who would ever say, “She made a mistake” after that?

Three Pointers

High school basketball. A social event that is dear to many but not me. Last night I went to my first home basketball game of the year with a friend. I was excited to watch one of my friends on the other team play. The friend whom I went with and I both agreed that we would rather come for the pep band then the game, we had no idea what was going on, and we cheered when everyone else is playing. Needless to say neither of us are athletes especially not basketball players.

In a heart beat I would go to the symphony over a sporting event but I do acknowledge that the atmosphere of sporting events are fun. The point of basketball is to aggressively through the basketball into hoop right?

While watching this high school basketball team I observed several concepts. The first is athletes are tough! They are not afraid to be aggressive to steal the ball. The second is, it takes alot of strategy in order to succeed! And lastly and most importantly, it does not matter how much talent a player has, you won’t go anywhere if you don’t communicate and work well with the team.

This concept goes much further than on the court. In life, these three things will make you go far.

1)You have to be tough. I never saw any of the players go and cry after being pushed down. What did they do? They simply stood up.
2) You have to have have strategies. Do you know where you are heading in life? If you don’t have a strategy, the other team will get the ball.
3) Teamwork. How well do you work well with others? I have learned that you don’t really have to like someone in order to work well with them. So often people who excel in one area of life and don’t work well with others, do not go as far as their potential. I’m not saying to always have everything you do be a team effort but you need to find a balance between independence and asking others for help.

If you follow these simple steps you will score many three pointers in your life.

Be Someone Who Points Others to Christ Without Ever Having to Carry a Bible

You are doing holiday shopping at the mall. The lady who is in front of you in line is thin, has a juicer in her cart, and is wearing running shoes. Just by the looks this person may be an athlete or someone who is devoted to healthy living.

On to more shopping; you go to the store where you are able to find hard rock and emo music records. In the store dozens of teenagers are in there and most of them are wearing an outfit along the lines of skinny jeans, band t-shirts, dark and thick eyeliner, and extravagantly dyed hair.

Your holiday shopping is almost over, but you have been out for several hours and you need a break. You decide to try the new coffee shop in town for a middle of the afternoon coffee break. You arrive to the coffee shop and the other customers in the store are representing a crowd that you haven’t seen yet today. Your barista is a nice young man. He is probably in his early twenties. His hair is styled, is wearing a sweater that looks like it came out of his grandfathers closet but he pulls it off, and is wearing Tom’s brand shoes.

All of these groups of people are completely different. They have different communities, values, and lifestyles. No one in ether of these communities would have to verbally portray their lifestyle based off how they dress, hold themselves, talk, and treat others. You can tell alot about others based off of these basic elements.

Over the past high school years I have tried to be a part of several different communities. I have tried to act/dress similar to a hipster, rocker, country, artsy, and currently “classy” (whatever that means). What I have learned is…
1) Buying a pair of thirty dollar boots, but continuing to be afraid of dirt does not necessarily make me a country girl.
2) It is hard to strive to be a “rocker” when you play violin and go to the symphony on Sunday afternoons.
3) I’m not cool enough to be a hipster.
4) I’m kinda artsy.
5) I really have no idea what it means to be classy.

When I tried to join almost all of these communities (minus the artsy one) those who were truly a part of these social groups could easily tell that I didn’t belong in any of them. Many people who were not in those communities could tell that I wasn’t cut out to be a part of it. I have learned that I am me,and trying to become someone else to “fit in” will never work even tell I still try.

Just as you can tell much about a person by the way they dress, you can tell a lot about a person by how they put on the armor of G-d. One who puts on the full armor of G-d is able to point others to Yeshua without ever having to carry a Bible around and visibly showing others. They have a light that is so bright that it can’t be dulled because that light is shining from the same light that Jesus has.

They treat others with respect without compromising the truth, show everyone love, knows the Bible, is a listing ear, and a helping hand, intelligent about the Bible,and ministers to the lost and hopeless, and is never ashamed of Christ, and most importantly, they draw others to the love and relationship with G-d instead of pulling them away.

Putting on the armor of G-d is not easy. It is a constant spiritual renewalbbecause the stronger you are rooted into a relationship with Him, the more the devil will try to destroy you. Satan hates it when you put on the armor of G-d but it’s a battle you can win through Christ’s blood.

What’s in your wardrobe?

Eight Days of Presences

Person: “Do you have your Christmas tree up yet?”
Me: “My family does Chanukah…”
Person: “So does that mean that you don’t get Christmas presents?!?”
Me: “Well, I get Chanukah presents…”
Person: “DOES THAT MEAN EIGHT DAYS OF PRESENTS?!?”
Me: “Yeah, but that’s not really the point of Chanukah.”
Person: “Okay, that’s it! I wish I was Jewish, so I can get nine days of presents!”
Me: *Sigh*

Growing up in a Messianic household I have had hundreds of conversations similar to this. The last Christmas that my immediate family has celebrated Christmas I was three years old. Therefore, growing up around the December holiday season I have always had a loneliness because most of my friends have Christmas trees in their homes, wake up early on December 25 to spend time with family, and have other American Christmas traditions that I am not aware of. It is a feeling of being left out of having the traditions and memories that my Christian friends. Each year after attending my synagogue that feeling has faded away more and more. In some ways I wish that I could completely observe this holiday. I honestly cannot remember the years that my family completely celebrated Christmas, but I also don’t think that I could ever really do that because of the strong roots of the Messianic faith that I have been raised in. I know several Jews who are offended by a Christmas tree solely based on the Christmas tree’s pagan history that is NOT talked about among Evangelical circles and even secular circles.

“So if you don’t celebrate Christmas does that not mean that you believe in Christ’s birth?”
That is a question that I have been asked many times! Especially by conservative Christians. My answer? I do believe that Christ was born, lived a sinless life in this broken world, and died for my sins on a cross, and rose again on the third day. Does that sound like I believe in Christ’s birth? During the council of Nicaea, it was decided when Christmas would be celebrated. Messianics believe that Christ was probably born during the fall, maybe during Sukkot.

When I am asked about the Chanukah presents I tend to get slightly annoyed. Personally, I don’t really enjoy getting a present from someone. I would much rather have a hug than a Chanukah gift. From someone who has to explain this a lot of times, Chanukah is not about the gifts. It is about the miracle that the oil lasted for eight nights! It is a celebration that G-d prevailed and supplied enough. How cool is that?

During this season of “presents,” I challenge you to be reminded of G-d’s presence! With faith in G-d anything can happen. The Bible says that with a little bit of faith you can move mountains. Where are your mountains moving?

Eternal Flames

“This little light of mine. I’m gunna let it shine”

In honor of Chanukah, I am going to write about the festival of lights.

If you are not familiar with this holiday I’ll give you a brief summary of it. During the intertestamonial period (400 years of silence) the Jews only had enough oil to last one night. Miraculously, the oil lasted eight days. Just enough time to get more oil. That’s the short version of the complex holiday. The bible only mentions the Chanukah one time. It is a holiday that is tradition based. Traditionally, the game Driedle is played because this little game came out of this period. Instead of lightning the Menorah only on Shabbat, the Hanukiah is light at sunrise during every night of the week. On the first night, one candle is light. On the second night, two candles are light. This goes on until every branch of the Hanukiah is lit.

In this world, the enemy has been fighting hard to destroy G-ds people. The devil has always tried to destroy G-ds children. In more recent times, the Messianic Jewish community lost Nicholas Thalasinos in the San Bernardino shooting that happened December 2, 2015. At Shabbat, my Rabbi drew attention to this for the congregation to be aware that the enemy is working. While my Rabbi was speaking about this I subconsciously realized that in my personal life, I have been dealing with spiritual warfare. During the service I had to make a choice. I had to decide if the Devil would win or if Christ’s blood would fight this battle.

Please keep the Jewish people in your prayers. They have and continue to go through more persecution then anyone should go through. When one of G-ds chosen people pass away, it does not hurt just the immediate family of them. It hurts all of them. The history of nation of Israel, and the descendents of Israel is filled with hardships and persecution.

In this season of the festival of lights, I challenge you to look at how long your light is shining. Is it shining only during church when your friends can see? Or do you keep shining when the Devil tries to stop your light. During Chanukah, the oil burned despite the odds of it going out. That is exactly what made Chanukah a miracle.

How long will your oil burn against all odds?

image

“Forever Alone”

“Forever alone.”

A phrase that high schoolers fear will happen to them if they are not in at least a few relationships in high school. In my personal life, I see more teenage boys worried about this phrase then young ladies, but young ladies are concerned about this, too.

More and more I am seeing something that is concerning me about this generation. I am seeing girls who are settling for something that is less then what they deserve. I’m seeing teenagers who say that they are lonely or “forever alone” but once they are in that relationship their significant is doing more harm then good. I’m seeing girls in relationships with boys (notice how I said boys, not young men or “guys”) who clearly don’t respect her. Who keep profanity in their lives constantly, and don’t present themselves in neat matter. This worries me because the way that the significant other treats themself and treats others is a total reflection on how you view yourself. If you feel like scum, you are going to be in a relationship with someone who treats you like scum. If you truly believe that you are one of G-d’s beloved child, you will find one who too, knows that, treats you with respect, and loves you in a Godly matter. Ladies, you are worth more then settling for someone who has a lack of respect for you and others, and doesn’t love you in a Godly matter.

When I see my peers who are/have settled,  they seem to believe that they will find fulfillment, happiness,  or a purpose in a relationship. But the truth is having a boyfriend or girlfriend won’t do that. Yeah, they might make you happier, but you will never find a purpose, or fulfilment   in a romantic relationship with anyone on this earth. Only a personal relationship with Yeshua will bring you any kind of true fulfilment, purpose, and happiness.

Satan will disguise what true fulfillment is. He will lie, deceive, and try to fool you, but keep in mind that deceiving you is his goal!

When you make decisions in who you peruse, keep in mind what your motives are. It’s better to be single now and live for G-d, then to settle for someone who will pull you away from Him.