Ah, Thanksgiving. A traditional holiday of parades, dog shows, and getting the family together to lie around and stuff your gut. There are people who don’t like Christmas or New Year’s, but Thanksgiving is just one of the day’s that’s loved all around. Why wouldn’t...
“Ugh, my hair looks gross today,” Sydney said, running her fingers through her curls. “It’s so oily.” “No, your hair looks so good!” Julia countered. “Honestly, I need to get it cut,” criticized Sydney. “It makes my face look...
revelation| rev·e·la·tion | ˌre-və-ˈlā-shən a. :an act of revealing or communicating divine truth, b. :something that is revealed by God to humans (Merriam Webster Dictionary) The book of Revelation is one of my very favorite books in...
Whether it’s during the school year or the summer, Christmas or Halloween, or even in everyday life, there’s always somewhere we’re supposed to be. You could be rushing out the door on your way to soccer team, volleyball, theater rehearsal, piano lessons, knitting group, a drum...
We often hear people say “Jesus loves you”, but have we forgotten to what extent? When we hear John 3:16, are we overlooking the importance of the first six words: “For God so loved the world…”? Do you know how valuable you are? How much you’re worth in the...
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. The tempter came to Him and said: “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But He answered...
Ever heard of A Tale of Two Cities? Well this is a tale of two Suzys: Suzy Y. and Suzy Q. Both quite the same but vastly different. Suzy Y. is a tenth grade girl who has problems like a lot of others: her parents argue often, and her schoolwork has become harder this year. Suzy Y. is a...
Can you save?Can you save my…Can you save my heavy, dirty soul?– twenty one pilots Whether I’m in the car or doing my chores, I love to have music in my ears. But when I hear this song come on, I stop what I’m doing and I immediately start dancing, jumping, head...
Loneliness is something that most people feel at some point. It’s something that can be a backdrop to life, or the main act. It can place us in depression, and even make us feel empty inside, as if there’s something missing. We are often taught in church that God is with us in every...
“With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” You’ve heard this classic line. Although this quote is best known as advice to a web-slinging super hero, it applies to Christians as well. Jesus said to his followers in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy...
A traditional holiday of parades, dog shows, and getting the family together to lie around and stuff your gut. There are people who don’t like Christmas or New Year’s, but Thanksgiving is just one of the day’s that’s loved all around. Why wouldn’t it be? It’s a holiday solely focused on being thankful for what we’re given and what we’ve gotten.
But here are some good questions to ask as Christians: Where does Christianity come into play? Can Christianity have a role in Thanksgiving if the holiday came around after the Bible was written? What does the Bible say about thanks?
Psalm 107:1 says: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Not only does this psalm tell us to thank God, but it gives us a reason too! We should thank God because of His goodness to us. I can think of many ways that shows God’s goodness to me, past, present, and future. I was born on American soil and into a loving family. I have good, Christian friends that stick by my side, and I have the hope and promise of heaven. And that’s just naming a few! Ask yourself: “What might I be taking for granted that God has blessed me with?”
We should give Him thanks because His love never ends. It hurts when it seems like the people around us, no matter the reason, have stopped loving us. But God never will. We have the promise that God will never abandon us, holding us in a love that’s eternal. Even when we sin, He will still love us no matter what.
Psalm 107:8-9 adds: “Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” The psalm is telling us we should thank God, not just for His love, but for all that He gives us. Notice how at the end of the verses, it says that God “fills the hungry with good things”. God doesn’t just give us the things that keep us going, but things that satisfy us. We need air to breathe, but he didn’t have to make the trees that supply our oxygen so beautiful. We need food to nourish us, but God didn’t have to make it taste so good. Even when we feel lonely, God will reveal his presence to us. He doesn’t have to, but He wants to! These all sounds like reasons to be thankful to me!
Ephesians 1:15-16 says: “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” In these verses, the apostle Paul is thanking God for fellow Christians. You can be thankful for pastors/leaders at church for guiding you, Christian friends for supporting and loving you, Christian parents for raising you in God’s Word, or the one/ones who have helped you on the path of salvation and strengthened your faith. I thank God for a spiritual leader I knew named Jeff Nevin for teaching me more about God and leading a Bible study through the book of James that changed my way of thinking. And I thank God for a friend of mine named Kaitlyn Sharo who’s not just someone I enjoy talking to, but someone who will listen to me, calm me down when I’m going nuts, and is a godly influence for me.
Some of you may not be able to relate. You may have a really messed up family life, you might not have godly parents or supportive friends, and because of these things you might dread the holiday seasons. I get it. It’s easy enough to thank God for our phones, food, our talents, loved ones, good grades, or when life is dandy, but what about when life gives you a bag of lemons and smacks you in the face with it?
We tend to forget all about our blessings when we’re wronged, when we get caught up in our bad circumstances, when we lose something or someone, or when we just feel down.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Give thanks in ALL circumstances? Yep, ALL of them. Why does God want us to give thanks in the midst of hardship? I’ll tell you the answer flat out: God knows what is best for us, so by giving thanks, we get off of our sad selves and onto His goodness. In that way, it serves to guard against depression and loneliness. When we give thanks to God, our focus is turned away from the bad things and onto the good things in life. This increases our hope and faith in the Lord.
If you want to make giving thanks your habit then be purposeful about it. Make this Thanksgiving Day a turning point in your life. Here are some ideas for how to do it:
- Count your blessings every morning when you wake up or each night before you close your eyes. Count them physically on your fingers. You may even need to use your toes! See how many you can come up with.
- Write out your blessings in a journal every day after or before you do your homework, or chores, or dinnertime, or right before bed. Set a regular schedule to do this and stick to it.
- Purposely tell a loved one or special friend that you thank God for them and tell them why. Make it a point to do this regularly and it may just become a habit!
- Practice telling God “thank you” in the moment.
- when He gives you a good idea
- when your little brother says or does something funny or weird
- when you just tripped but you didn’t fall
- when you fell but no one saw it!
- when that difficult person does or says something that you believe will help you to grow in patience and love
- when that teacher or coach is challenging you to be better
- when you see something (or someone)beautiful
- Thank God out loud! Set aside a special time of praise once a week. Not to ask for anything, but just to express thanks to Him for everything you’re grateful for from the past week, big or small.
Naomi’s Nugget: When something happens that is disappointing, STOP! Thank God for all of things in your life that are going well or for His promise to never leave you nor forsake you.
“Ugh, my hair looks gross today,” Sydney said, running her fingers through her curls. “It’s so oily.”
“No, your hair looks so good!” Julia countered.
“Honestly, I need to get it cut,” criticized Sydney. “It makes my face look fatter than it already is.”
Julia smiled pityingly. “You’re not fat. I am. I need to work out or something because I am so overweight.”
There was a small pause between the two girls, until Sydney said: “You know who is super thin? Becky.”
“Yeah, she looks so good.” Julia agreed. “No wonder she’s so popular.
“Right? She’s thin, popular, nice, and pretty, too. Of course everyone loves her. She’s so sweet! I can’t believe she hangs around Jessica.”
“Oh my gosh, Jessica is so weird. If anyone needs to get their hair cut, it’s her.” Julia scoffed.
“Did you hear she’s trying out for the school play?
“What? Her voice is garbage!” Julia exclaimed.
“I heard she’s going for the lead,” Sydney continued.
“Seriously? She’ll need to lose some weight for that role.”
“Image Is Everything” is a popular saying in marketing, and kids our age tend to heavily focus on their image. They do this by styling their hair or makeup according to what’s “trendy”, buying jeans, sneakers, or hats that make them look “cool” and “hip”, or even buying certain coffees or energy drinks because Instagram says it’s cool. Sometimes we try to change our identity by altering our image, but that’s just altering what’s on the outside. Identity has more to do with what’s on the inside, especially for a Christian.
Sometimes it’s fun to pretend to change our identity when we’re acting as someone else in a play or taking a quiz on Buzzfeed, but the characters we play and pretend to be do not make us who we are any more than sitting in the driveway makes us a car.
There’s nothing wrong with acting like someone else for fun, as long as we’re not trying to change who we are and become someone we’re not. The fact of the matter is, there is most likely something you don’t like about yourself. And I’m not talking about your outside like your hair, weight, etc., because those things are about image. I’m talking about character traits like negativity, cowardice, a lack of confidence, anxiety, greed, selfishness. Things that we struggle with as human beings.
The things we change on the outside have no power to change who we are on the inside. Our image is not nearly as important as our identity. As Christians, we should be more concerned about identity than image. For help with those things that we see on the inside that we want to change, we need to understand our identity in Jesus Christ.
Questions of Identity
In the dead of night come the questions of identity,
It’s telling me to be myself but that’s not who I want to be,
If I could be someone who’s free to change the person that they are,
There isn’t much I’d keep the same I’d be as different as a star,
After all, I mean really, to my core I’m strange,
Both on the outside and the in, there’s things that I would change,
I have many nagging traits I wish were never mine,
But without them who am I? They help me to define,
The who, the what, the why, the where, interlink, connect, and share,
My definition, who I am, they all are mine but I don’t care,
I want them gone and out sight, yet I see them still despite
I clean my mirror hope to see, some change but clearer I see me,
Sometimes I wonder if forever I will be the same,
I don’t want to be me, but there’s just One that I could blame,
I’ve heard it said that God’s the One who’s made me who I am,
And if it’s true that God’s the One then I don’t understand,
If God is perfect, purely righteous, doesn’t make mistakes,
Why would a perfect God give me such undesirable traits?
They’re things that I have deemed a hindrance and completely worthless,
Yet somehow God has deemed them mine and said they have a purpose,
If God is Lord then changing who I am is close to treason,
God gave me qualities that I have and for them has a reason,
To figure out why God designed me this way adds frustration,
His Word says I was planned this way even before creation,
Maybe these traits will someday lift me up when I fall down,
Or maybe they’re a test of if my faith’s on solid ground,
They could be something I was meant to conquer or overcome,
Or in the end it could be all of these or even none,
So in the present, I do not know what God has in store,
Sometimes I’m driven mad not knowing what these traits are for,
But now I know that it’s not I who lives, but Christ in me,
God has a plan so I know He’s made me accordingly,
My looks, my traits, and tendencies can cause me to feel blue,
But in the likeness of my God, He has made me new,
So as I lay awake at night, questioning identity,
I am reminded that I’m just who I was meant to be.
Naomi’s Nugget: Identity is what is important. Remind yourself of who you are in Christ. Meditate on and memorize these verses:
- 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
- Philippians 2:13 For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.”
- Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
revelation| rev·e·la·tion | ˌre-və-ˈlā-shən a. :an act of revealing or communicating divine truth, b. :something that is revealed by God to humans (Merriam Webster Dictionary)
The book of Revelation is one of my very favorite books in the Bible. It has been for years now, and one of my favorite scripture verses comes from Revelation 4, saying: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
What is the book of Revelation about? Its main theme is about when Jesus returns, also called the Second Coming. There is a lot of debate about what some chapters mean, what is implied, when this will take place, that sort of stuff. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about why you should read the book of Revelation, so let’s get into this.
Revelation 1:1-3 says: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”
First off, what an honor it is that God has given us a glimpse into the future of the world! Secondly, God has given us this book of the Bible. Though sometimes the book of Revelation can be hard to understand, God gave it to us to read for a reason. God is preparing us for what is to come and giving us hope for His return.
Below are my favorite themes in the book of Revelation:
Jesus, the Son of God, the Perfect One who we tortured and executed, is coming back to us because of His great love. In Revelation 22:12, Jesus says: “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.” We tend to focus on all the wrongs we’ve done, but Jesus does not forget the times we have been faithful to Him. It’s stated all throughout Revelation that Jesus will reward those who have worked to please the heart of God.
Speaking of repaying, Revelation 20:10 says: “…and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Sometimes we can feel down watching the news or looking at the world around us. This earth is swarming with sin, but Jesus has not forgotten about our enemy. The book of Revelation speaks of His plan for Satan as well. In a world of lawlessness, deception, mass murder, racism and injustice, the book of Revelation reminds us that our God is a God of justice. When you or a loved one is wronged, reading Revelation will remind you that God is coming back to bring justice and to right was is wrong.
When Jesus comes back, we’re going to be forever content. In Revelation 21:4, the Bible says: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Then in Revelation 7:16-17: “‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, ’nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”
Friend, your time in this world is as bad as life is going to get for you if you are a Christian. In this world we suffer from the sorrow of losing loved ones to disease or war, we are heartbroken over starving and dying children, and some of you have even suffered from being neglected and even abused by those who are supposed to love you. God has not forgotten us. He is our Heavenly Father, and does not want to see his children suffer. In fact, He has already planned for the end of our suffering. Therefore, He is coming back so that He can give us comfort and love for eternity with Him. When you experience the pain and sorrows of this life, you can open the book of Revelation and have peace and hope knowing that your pain is temporary.
We know from the book of John that Jesus is preparing a place for us. “When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”(John 14:3) God has prepared a place just for you! Spending eternity with Jesus in Heaven? Sounds good to me.
But wait, it gets better!
Revelation 19:9 says: “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Personally, much thought has been given to this subject. God’s not just preparing a place for me, but He’s also preparing a feast? I get to sit and eat with Jesus Christ? Well golly gee, even better! When I read passages concerning this supper, I often wonder what we’ll eat. For me, a meal without meat is just not complete. How can we eat meat if there is no death or dying in heaven? Or does that mean we won’t eat meat, but something even better? Will vegetables taste wonderful, or will we eat something totally new?! I enjoy speculating about these things, and although God doesn’t specify any of these little details, it sure is something to look forward to.
I encourage you to read and enjoy Revelation. Never be afraid or refrain from reading all of God’s Word. God is telling you something specific in every book, chapter, and verse. The book of Revelation may encourage you or fill you with determination when you feel week. It will give you comfort in your times of trouble, and hope for your future.
Naomi’s Nugget: Do you like kings and kingdoms? Heroes, action, and adventure? Victory and justice? Beautiful imagery? Battles, swordsmen on horses, angels and demons? Crazy-cool creatures and fantastic beasts? Well I can tell you where to find them. You’ll find all of the above in the book of Revelation.
Whether it’s during the school year or the summer, Christmas or Halloween, or even in everyday life, there’s always somewhere we’re supposed to be. You could be rushing out the door on your way to soccer team, volleyball, theater rehearsal, piano lessons, knitting group, a drum circle, or even just school. I’m a homeschooler and even I have places to be! I have to go to the YMCA to swim, I’m rushing out the door for Krav Maga classes, and sometimes I’m just late for a movie. And hey, I’m thirteen, I like my time at the mall. Life sure can be busy with activities. So in all this busyness how do we set aside time for God?
I’ve been in the practice of spending time alone with God since I was little. It’s been a habit of mine for a long time because I was brought up that way. I have my God appointment every day. I understand everybody wasn’t raised the same way, so in this blog, I’m going to teach you about making and keeping your God appointment.
Mark 1:35 says: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” And Matthew 14:23 says that, “After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.”
Notice how both verses say that Jesus went to a place that was separate from other people. Jesus would separate himself from crowds of people and even His disciples. When we want to talk to someone about the things that mean the most to us, we talk in private. You want them to have your full attention and vice versa, so you separate yourselves. You need to do the same thing when you make your God appointment. That way it’s just you and God, and there’s a much less chance of getting interrupted or distracted
It can be difficult to find time alone out of your day when life is busy, but if the Son of God found time, I’d say it’s pretty important we do too. As busy as He was ministering, the verses say that Jesus went to have time with God in the “evening” and “very early in the morning”.
There are different accounts in the Bible where it says Jesus went into the mountains, or the wilderness, or into a garden to pray. Your bedroom is one of the best places to have your time, but what if you share a bedroom? Go into that room that no one really goes into unless company is over, like the living room. Doesn’t work? Then get creative! Escape to the garage, the basement, even a closet!
Now there are some places that might not work for you. Personally, I can’t have my God appointment outdoors because I’d be too distracted weaving together pieces of grass, making shapes out of clouds, and chasing birds. Make sure you’re not in a place where your mind can easily wander from the reason why you’re there: to be alone with God. The important thing is find a place that suites you.
Here are my Top Tips for Setting Time:
- Set aside a specific time. Nobody forced Jesus up a mountain to pray. He knew being alone with God is important, so He was committed. Once you’ve found your time, make it part of your daily schedule. That makes it easier if you have your God appointment at the same time every day.
- Get up earlier. Set your alarm 10, 15, even 20 minutes earlier than your normal wake up time. Don’t you think He’s worth it?
- Right after school. You can set aside time before or after homework.
- Have time before bed. Not a morning person? Then have your time alone with God be the last thing you do before you go to sleep. This may require turning off the TV earlier.
- Have someone hold you accountable. Get someone to ask or remind you to set aside time with God. Tell your mom to remind you after school. Have a friend text you at night, asking if you’ve kept your God appointment.
- Use some of your chill time. I’m sure there’s some point in your day where you waste time watching TV or are on social media. Friend, it’s time to get off of Snapchat and onto chatting with God. Take advantage of extra time!
- Be consistent and don’t give up! Make setting aside time a life habit. That way, you’ll be in the routine of having it every day. Don’t be discouraged when you miss a day, a few days, etc. Sometimes our daily schedule is thrown off by Aunt Mildred and the triplets visiting, or going on vacation, or getting sick. Instead of feeling down, jump back into the swing of things as soon as you can.
Naomi’s Nugget: I’m pretty sure I just gave you seven.
We often hear people say “Jesus loves you”, but have we forgotten to what extent? When we hear John 3:16, are we overlooking the importance of the first six words: “For God so loved the world…”? Do you know how valuable you are? How much you’re worth in the eyes of God?
I encourage you to (yes, right now) read Psalm 139. You can open up a new web page and search for it, do the old fashioned thing and grab a Bible, or, if you’re just that cool, recite the full thing from memory and wow the person closest to you.
If, for whatever reason, you can’t read Psalm 139 now, set a reminder for yourself to do it later. It’s an important chapter to read and know. Why? It tells just how important you are to God. Below is a poem I wrote inspired by Psalm 139:
As We Walk By the Water
I must be of worth, for You are the One,
That says to me: “Child, you are so very loved.”
If I could measure Your love it would outnumber the sand,
And that’s how I know I am safe in your hand,
Left in my sin, I would have been dead,
But because of Your love You gave Your life instead,
You knew the great cost, yet you paid what was due,
That’s how I know I’m of great worth to You,
I must be important, for You never stray,
No matter my travel, there’s no far away,
If I were to dive in the ocean to hide,
Like the sand and the water You’re right by my side,
When the storm picks up, and when the tide has raised,
You are right there with me beneath crashing waves,
When I fall, I know if I reach out my hand,
You’ll push the waves back and You’ll help me to stand,
You promised never to leave, no matter where I drift to,
That’s how I know I’m important to You,
I must be of value, for look what You’ve done,
You created the water that reflects the sun,
You created such beauty in which I delight,
To help me through darkness You gave me the light,
You know me and my heart, You know every thought,
You’ve supplied every need, and my freedom you’ve bought,
From You I deserve nothing, yet here I stand with this view,
That’s how I know I’m of value to You,
You’ve shown outstanding mercy to save me from fire,
You’re my comfort and peace when my forecast looks dire,
You call me Beautiful, Precious, I call You Heavenly Father,
I am special to You as we walk by the water.
Naomi’s Nugget: I pray that Psalm 139 and this poem show you to what extent God’s love reaches. Know that God loves you for who you are, and because of that, and no matter what you do, His love will never change. God is with you in every circumstance, trial and hardship, which is something that we can forget. In these times, it’s beneficial to meditate on Psalm 139. Sometimes, when God doesn’t feel close, I’ve found it helpful to just ask God to feel his presence. Ask Him to remind you He’s always near.