The Temporal vs The Eternal: Tuning Out the World and Tuning into the Spirit

Hollywood held the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony this Sunday, but not many tuned in to see it. In fact, recent polls reveal that the majority of Americans have not even seen or heard of any of the films nominated at the Oscars. This is, of course, very good news.

Ten-plus years ago, I remember hearing of the films that won awards at the Oscars and being somewhat familiar with them. Back then, I watched the short clips of humorous moments that had happened at the ceremony that were still family friendly and did not alienate half of the country because of different values and beliefs. Things are very different now, and the polls that show most Americans did not watch the Oscars or the nominated films may be a sign that the culture of celebrity worship is dying as the average American is more concerned with keeping their job during the pandemic and spending time with their family.

So, why is the tuning out of Hollywood significant for us as Christians?

Because it’s an indicator that many more conservative, centrist, and/or Christian Americans are waking up to what truly matters in our life: the physical, mental, and yes, spiritual wellbeing of ourselves and our families.

One writer on Facebook wrote about how refreshing it is that Hollywood is becoming completely irrelevant to Americans. Many no longer look to the Oscars for entertainment or obsess over films and celebrities that took home several awards.

Instead, they go to work, take their kids to the park, attend church on Sunday, and completely forget that the Oscars were even coming up or happened at all.

This is a sign that our lives truly do not and should not revolve around materialism, consumerism, and temporal things, such as Hollywood, in order for our lives to be fulfilling and purposeful.

Indeed, it is true that the more we spend time in God’s presence and reading His Word, the more we feel fulfilled in Him. The more we focus on living a life that is pleasing to God, the more we invest in our eternity with Him, and the more we tune out the distractions of this world, the more our purpose will come into focus and the more our lives will become balanced and our minds at peace.

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”

Matthew 24:35 (KJV)

The decline of Hollywood and celebrity worship culture should inspire us to keep our minds and affection set on things above. Nothing in this world will remain, which means that nothing in this world is worth sacrificing eternity in Heaven with our King Jesus. When we tune into the Spirit, then we can understand the importance of investing in things eternal over things temporal.

Robert Frost wrote a famous poem in 1923 called “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” essentially about the fleeting and fading nature of life. Part of the poem reads, “Then leaf subsides to leaf/so Eden sank to grief/So dawn goes down to day/Nothing gold can stay.” Frost was referring to the golden buds or flowers on trees that turn to leaves before withering away and to the idea that nothing beautiful or seemingly innocent will last. Our lives are but a vapor, after all.

The gold in Frost’s poem takes on a new meaning when thinking of the Oscars. The awards celebrities give themselves take the form of literal golden statues, but each award becomes irrelevant by the time the next awards season rolls around, and they gather again in hopes of receiving yet another award. You see, when you tune into materialism and gorge yourself with a worldly appetite, the accolades and praise from society’s echo chamber become shallow, unsatisfying, and meaningless. When you fail to invest in the Kingdom, life becomes hollow. You lose out on what truly matters, and your spiritual wellbeing falls into decay just like the grass that withers and the flower that fades.

“When you tune into materialism and gorge yourself with a worldly appetite, the accolades and praise from society’s echo chamber become shallow, unsatisfying, and meaningless.”

Hollywood is fleeting. The films they make are not forever. Their fame, fortune, and success will not last.

But the things of God will stand forever while the things of this world will pass away.

So, to those investing more in temporal things and to those in Hollywood obsessed with acquiring their collection of awards, I say: remember—nothing gold can stay.

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.”

Matthew 6:19-20 (KJV)

“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

Colossians 3:2 (KJV)

2 Truths and a Lie: Easter Edition

The cross at Calvary sits between the crosses of the two criminals crucified with Jesus.

Resurrection Sunday is less than one week away, and while we’ll be celebrating the resurrection of our King Jesus, there are still so many who will be celebrating Easter as a fun spring holiday about egg hunts and Easter bunnies.

Now, I love the fun aspects of Easter (like egg hunts, special chocolates, and picnics), but Easter is, of course, not about those things in the same way Christmas is not about receiving gifts or simply gathering with family.

It’s all about Jesus.

Sadly, there are many who forget that. There are many who fail to recognize the significance of this holiday, perhaps because they have fallen away from serving God or because no one has reached them with the truth. There are many forms of “truth” roaming around, especially around religious holidays, and there are many lies that distract people from focusing on the truth.

Today, we’ll focus on one lie that the enemy tells to keep people from finding Jesus and two truths that disprove this lie.

The lie: the days of New Testament miracles and spiritual gifts are over.

This is called cessationism, which is the belief “that spiritual gifts ceased after the closing of the biblical canon” (Apostolic Study Bible). Of course, we know this is a lie due to the truths below.

1. Jesus Christ is alive, and so are supernatural gifts and miracles!

Jesus Christ was crucified but rose again and reigns today. If He is alive, and His power still exists, then so do the miracles, signs, and wonders that all stem from His power.

Through the Holy Ghost, we have the power to reach the lost, tread on serpents, discern spirits, prophesy, and interpret tongues among many other things (see Acts 1:8, Luke 10:19, and 1 Corinthians 12). The fact that God’s people can pray for the sick and they be healed and that God’s people can rebuke spirits and perform other miracles is the evidence of Christ’s reigning power and presence.

Jesus is still performing New Testament miracles through His people, which brings us to the second truth.

2. Jesus Christ is still raising people from the dead.

Yes, that means both physically and spiritually. A person can suffer two deaths: physical and spiritual, but the spiritual takes place before the physical. While a physical death does not necessarily resign a person to eternal death (hell), a spiritual death can lead to eternal death if left untreated.

But our God does not abandon the weary, the broken, or the spiritually dead.

When I was struggling with the darkest depression I had ever experienced, I worried I was lost. I worried that there was no way out of that seemingly endless pit because I couldn’t see it. A mix of various emotions consumed me—grief, bitterness, despair, hopelessness. I found myself in a dry wilderness where there was no life and no peace.

But God breathed new life into me.

Through a series of sermons, He began to speak life into me again. After studying certain Scriptures, I began to feel His love and mercy again. After calling out to Him on several occasions, I began to get closer to Him than I had been before, and He brought me out of darkness into His light.

He renewed me. He resurrected me.

If He did it for me, He can do it for you.

Those are the truths we must remember, especially as we celebrate His Resurrection.

Jesus Christ is still on the throne.

He is still healing the sick.

He is still mending broken souls.

He is still saving the lost.

He is still reviving the dead.

He is still moving, and He is not done.

For our God is alive!

Happy Easter, everyone! Thank God for His blood that He shed to cover our sins and give us the chance at eternal life with Him!

I pray you all have a wonderful time celebrating our risen King this Resurrection Sunday!

“And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said….”

Matthew 28:5-6a (KJV)

3 Scriptures to Speak Over Anxiety

Anxiety

What will the future hold?

That’s a question we often ask ourselves when life seems more uncertain than usual.

Bills pile up. We’re saving for trips, home maintenance, or a new home or car. We’ve got work and school responsibilities, or we’re in need of a job or financial blessing. It seems we often waste our days away in nervous expectancy for what won’t or could happen. But that’s not what God wants for us.

Anxiety can absolutely consume our thoughts and affect our physical health. I sometimes get more stressed just thinking about stress, and then I try to put away all those things causing me anxiety, which causes me more stress because I know they’re still out there.

For those who struggle with anxiety, overcoming our worries often involves a process of reminding ourselves throughout each day that God knows what we’re going through and has a plan for us. He is our Provider and Comfort.

If you’re battling anxiety, here are 3 passages of scripture to study and speak over your fears so that the Lord can calm the troubled thoughts within your busy mind and speak peace over the storm in your life:

(8) I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.
(9) Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
(10) Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about.
~Psalms 32:8-10 (KJV)

(3) Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
(4) Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:
~Isaiah 26:3-4 (KJV)

(6) Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
(7) And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 4:6-7 (KJV)

Our God has a plan for each of us. He is faithful, and He never fails.

No matter what you’re facing, rest assured that He is right there with you.

He will guide you.

He will keep you.

He will give you peace.

Setting the Right Goals in 2021

2021 is finally here, and many are already starting on those special resolutions they’ve set for themselves, but before you start on your new resolutions, here’s something you might consider:

Don’t.

Seriously, don’t make any resolutions. Instead, make goals, and instead of making goals that are glorified resolutions, strive to set goals for yourself that are practical and have a real purpose to them.

For example, I once set a goal at the beginning of a new year to exercise to a specific workout video every day. I did it for about a week, and then I began skipping a few days here and there. Those few days turned into an entire week, and before January was over, I’d completely abandoned my new year challenge.

“Well, that’s just you,” you might say.

Maybe that is just me. Maybe I have a deeper passion for delicious food than taking up running marathons, but maybe many of us have the habit of setting goals for ourselves out of flimsy desires that are simply unrealistic.

But I learned some time ago to choose a specific goal for which I had a passion and burden, and I developed a few steps to achieving success in completing said goal.

1. Start small.

Last year, I decided to study the Word more, so rather than commit right away to analyzing Isaiah or Revelations in depth, I chose one of my favorite shorter books—Esther. I knew it would be a book that I could easily commit to studying due to its short length (only 10 chapters), and I chose to read a few verses each day and study those verses only.

2. Set time aside each day.

I made a schedule to read Esther over the course of several weeks and estimated the time I would spend each day reading the verses and then set time aside to study each verse individually, taking notes and using Bible study tools to help me.

At the same time, I’d made a goal to pray more, so I set a realistic time to pray each morning. The set time sometimes changed, depending on the day of the week, but I knew that specifically writing down my goals and the time I would set aside for them would help me achieve them.

3. Gradually increase time allotted each day and effort necessary to complete the goal.

After about a week, I gradually began to increase how much time I spent in prayer. Sometimes, it was by five minutes or by ten minutes or by fifteen minutes, but the more I prayed and focused on prayer, the easier I found it was to increase my prayer time.

4. Approach with firm resolve and understanding—don’t quit.

I didn’t always pray as long as I needed to or study for as long as I could have, but I didn’t give up. Why? Why didn’t I give up the same way I gave up exercising to that new exercise video after a couple of weeks? Because I didn’t set a goal that was only linked to fleeting desires or insecurities. Instead, I made sure to set a goal linked to my own identity and lifestyle. I am a child of God, an Apostolic Pentecostal, and as such, I seek a stronger relationship with God through prayer and studying His Word. I understood the value of the goal I set.

When I failed one day to meet my goal, I began again the next day with a resolve to try harder and do better. By the end of the year, I’d managed to read through and study more of the Word, such as the book of Genesis and themes like comfort. Because I didn’t give up or revert to doing the “same-ole-same-ole,” I was able to reach a breakthrough in my prayers and spend more time in His Presence, getting closer to Him than I’d been before.

Don’t underestimate the importance of writing down your goals and setting schedules.

I’m a visual person, anyway, so putting down my goals and plans on paper helps solidify them in my mind and helps me take those goals seriously.

Your goals don’t have to be big, but your passion does.

If you don’t truly, really, deeply care for achieving your goals deep, deep down, then chances are you’ll give up on them.

After 2020 let down many people, I believe it’s acceptable to set small, realistic goals for 2021—something simple like spending more quality time with loved ones or taking a short vacation (or even staycation) that was cancelled last year due to lockdowns.

2021 will certainly be better than 2020 if we set that as a goal for ourselves and charge forward in faith and with purpose. We have an entire year ahead of us, and we can’t control what happens outside of ourselves. But we can control our determination.

Let’s do this, 2021!

Why Things Happen

Why?

This may be the question we ask God the most. Why did “x” have to happen? Why couldn’t I have gotten that job? Why did you let me fail that test when I studied so hard? Why did so-and-so have to die? Why are you letting bad things happen to me? Why, why, why?

We wonder, we fret, we pity ourselves, and we ask “why, God?” until our eyes are swollen, and depression consumes our spirit. We see through a glass darkly, so we sometimes cannot see that there is always a purpose behind our pain. Ah, yes—the statement no one wants to hear when they’re going through something, but we humans often only learn things the hard way, especially young adults, and our struggles exist to make us stronger if for no other reason.

Physical pain can be a good thing. It tells us that something is wrong and that we may need medical attention. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I never felt a literal pain as in aching bones, but I felt a mental pain. I was fatigued and nauseous (among other things), and the very sight of my weary self signaled to others, like the receptionist at urgent care, that something was wrong with me. Miserable is the word I typically use to describe how I felt then, but if I hadn’t felt that way, I might not have known for quite some time that I had diabetes. My pain served a purpose, but it’s often emotional pain that is the hardest to see through and understand.

During and after the spring semester in 2018, I felt an emotional and spiritual exhaustion that threw me out of sorts, and it set me on a path to realign my focus. I had just entered a four-year university to get my bachelor’s degree, and the shift in the atmosphere from a small community college to a very liberal university was palpable. All semester, I was stressed from classwork that involved treating subjective, liberal studies as legitimate, evidence-based coursework, which greatly conflicted with my conservative and Christian beliefs. But I felt an exhaustion deeper than simple stress due to papers and exams, and it escalated that summer.

Never before had I been tired literally every day. It is an understatement to say that I slept a lot. Practically all I wanted to do was sleep, and when I wasn’t sleeping, I was tired and disturbed in my spirit. I loathed college—loathed it—for the atmosphere and for its inefficient system, and I knew I simply couldn’t continue college past a bachelor’s degree to get two master’s degrees (long story there, but that’s where I was headed) in order to teach college English and write professionally. I was done. I was miserable. I was lost. It’s only now after having finally finished college that I have come to truly appreciate the experience for what it taught me and how it helped me grow.

After realizing I didn’t want to continue the path to becoming a full-time English professor in this liberal society, I prayed (a lot), and I looked to different avenues. I made an alternate plan to apply for work at a local publishing company after graduation, but then COVID happened. The company went on a hiring freeze. Great. I scoured the internet for job openings in editing, tutoring, and copywriting, and by the grace of God, I found a company that was hiring part-time tutors. The future is still uncertain, but all of my searching and pain and misery and growth has helped me grasp a simple concept that I hadn’t realized I didn’t truly “get” until I went through something difficult: trust God.

Sometimes, we don’t truly understand a concept or truth until we have no other choice but to embrace it head on. C.S. Lewis once said that “God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way.” Of course, having grown up in church, I’ve always known we should trust in God to guide us through life, but somehow, I’d formed my own contingency plans for everything to get where I wanted and expected everything to work out as I planned—until it didn’t. I can look back now at all those moments I was worried and miserable and exhausted to my core and understand that God let me go through those things to teach me that no matter what happens in my life, I still need to trust in Him and let Him take the reigns of my life, that I need to believe it’s okay when things don’t go my way, that if something tragic happens, I am going to make it as long as I trust in Him.

I still wonder why things happen sometimes. But now I understand that I am not alone in whatever trial I’m going through. Whatever happens—no matter what happens—I can rest in the assurance I have in Jesus. It’s okay to be not okay. It’s okay to wonder about why things happen, because in those moments, God fills me with His Peace and whispers, “trust me,” and He draws me closer to Him than I’ve been before.