What It Means To Be A "Christian"

What It Means To Be A "Christian"

Do you qualify?
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You go to church, but that doesn’t mean you are a Christian. You don’t go to church, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t a Christian.

What is church anyways? A sanctuary, a building, a place Christians herd through on Sundays. I like going back and searching for basic definitions, because they help me understand bigger concepts. Church can be a place where we go on Sundays, but you should think of it as a common ground for fellow believers to meet and worship God.

It’s a place that reminds us of God’s grace.

It gives us comfort, reassurance, wisdom, but more importantly, it is a place we can be with God. Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

I grew up going to church regularly, but it wasn’t until I was a junior in high school that I made my own decision to attend. Despite the unfortunate circumstances my family was under, I developed a strong desire to go and listen to the pastor. I wanted to study the bible more, and by doing so, I developed a personal relationship with God.

The habit of going to church with my family always facilitated my learning about Jesus, but our family unit broke up towards the end of high school. No longer did I have someone taking me to church. I had to made that decision on my own. The act of deciding to go on my own represents making the decision to put my faith in Jesus. I grew up going to church, but that doesn’t mean anything.

What defines someone as a Christian is not whether they go to church every Sunday or not, it’s whether or not they believe that Jesus is the Son of God and they desire to grow closer to Him. If I have a basic understanding of the bible but I don’t follow it and try to live my life according to it, then how can I call myself a Christian? Delving deeper into this question of “What makes someone a Christian?” leads me to scripture.

Look at Matthew 19, because there’s a story about a rich man who asked Jesus how to attain eternal life in heaven. In verse 21, “Jesus said, ‘If you want to be complete, go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come follow me.’"

Should we take that literally and get rid of everything in our possession?

While as believers we tithe and be generous in our offerings to the Lord, this verse has another meaning. We should get rid of anything that stops us from following Jesus wholeheartedly. God should be the center of our lives, regardless of our circumstances.

In Acts 2:38, “Peter replied, ‘Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” I remember a Sunday morning in first grade, my sisters, my mom, and I listened to a church sermon on the TV.

After it was over, my mom asked me, “Madi, have you ever asked Jesus to come into your heart and forgive you for your sins?” She explained that I had to do that on my own and that she couldn’t do it for me. I felt like I was too young and I didn’t want to do something so radical, but she said I wasn’t too young and every person needs to ask Jesus that. So I did.

My question for you is this: have you asked Jesus to come into your heart and forgive you for your sins? Can you say that you have a personal relationship with Him? If you can boldly proclaim that you believe Jesus is the Son of God and he is your savior, then you are a Christian.

I don’t care if you go to church, I don’t care if you make mistakes. It doesn’t matter if you’ve sinned in the past, because Jesus forgives our sins. But, only if you ask Him. Romans 10:9 says, “Because if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and in your heart you have faith that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”






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To Everyone Who Hasn't Had Sex Yet, Wait For Marriage, It's The Right Move

If you have not had sex yet, wait.

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Premarital sex is not a new concept, no matter how much people like to pretend it is. You can trace scripture and historical texts back thousands of year to see that lust and fornication have been a problem since… well, since we humans have been problems.

They tell you in sex ed that sex causes you to form a bond with someone. They throw some big chemical names at you that are apparently in your body and cause that emotional attachment to happen, then you move on (or back to) how important condoms are and why STDs are so scary.

As a middle schooler or teenager, you can't understand what it means to become permanently connected to someone as a result of a quick, physical act.

If you haven't even had your first kiss, you really can't imagine what it's like to develop such a complex and intimate connection with someone because you have yet to feel the butterflies in your stomach from a kiss. So you really don't know what it's like to have a whole different type of feeling in your stomach.

You never forget your first love. It's one of the most cliche things you consistently hear, but it's true. Ask anyone. I guarantee your parents can still spurt out their first love's name in a few seconds. And most people never forget their first time. I know all my friends can recount that often awkward and slightly terrifying moment as if it happened an hour ago. When you mix those two, especially if you are in your teens, oh boy.

You never forget that. No matter how hard you try.

Everything you hear about sex is true: it's amazing, fantastic, life-changing, etc. There's a reason people have done it as frequently as they do, for as long as they have. But every time you sleep with someone, you leave a piece of yourself with them. Every time you choose to take that final physical step with someone, you cannot go back and collect that piece of your dignity and soul that you left with someone.

So, imagine what happens when you break up with someone you've slept with. Or that you just hooked up with. You have given someone a little slice of yourself forever. And you can never get it back. And imagine what happens when you do that multiple times. You give a piece of yourself to five, 10, 15, 20 or more people. Then you meet the person that you want to spend forever with. And you no longer have that whole part of you. You've given pieces away, and you can no longer give those to the love of your life.

So, save those pieces for your future spouse.

If you have not had sex yet, wait. If you have, consider not giving more pieces of yourself away to people who are not your spouse. Sex was created to be between two spouses, nobody else. So we need to try to maintain its integrity.

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8 Misconceptions About Hanukkah

It is so much more than "Jewish Christmas."

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Happy Hanukkah! A lot of people don't seem to understand what the holiday entails, resulting in some pretty interesting misconceptions. I am here to debunk them.

1. The Myth: Hanukkah is just like Christmas, but Jewish!

The truth: Hanukkah is nothing like Christmas. It wouldn't make sense for Jewish people to celebrate anything similar to Christmas. Jewish people do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, so no need to celebrate his birth. The only thing the holidays have in common is the fact that they take place in the winter, that there's some form of lighting involved, and there are special prayers and food.

With that in mind, wouldn't a number of holidays be "a lot like Christmas?"

Hanukkah is a commemoration of when the Holy Land was ruled by Greeks over 2,000 years ago, who tried to force Jewish people to accept their culture and abandon their own. Despite that, the Jewish people drove the Greeks away from the land and sought to light a menorah, only to find one tiny bit of olive oil. It was only supposed to last one day, but instead lasted for eight days!

Note that Hanukkah is by no means an anti-Greek holiday; it's about celebrating Jewish victory. Tons of Greek Jews exist and they happily celebrate Hanukkah.

2. The Myth: Hanukkah is a major Jewish holiday.

The truth: Not really. Yom Kippur, Passover, and Rosh Hashanah are much more important. That being said, Hanukkah is still an important day. It just is by no means a major holiday like Christmas or Easter is for Christians.

3. The Myth: Jewish children get large amounts of gifts every single night! It's like eight Christmas mornings in a row!

The truth: Nope. Jewish children typically tend to get gelt (chocolate coins and/or real money) and dreidels, but that's it. It isn't a gift-giving holiday, and that's okay! That being said, in Christian-centric countries, the amount of presents given at Hanukkah has increased due to December being Christmastime and a gift-giving season. This is NOT A SIGN of Jewish people "conforming to Christian norms;" it's to prevent kids from feeling left out this time of year.

Even if gift-giving was a commonplace Hanukkah tradition, it still wouldn't be "eight Christmas mornings in a row," unless maybe the Jewish family in question was made up of multimillionaires. Think of how much money and time goes into buying gifts for just ONE Christmas Day! Hanukkah would probably be more like giving out one large amount of gifts spaced over a period of eight days, rather than eight back-to-back days of large amounts of gifts.

4. The Myth: Hanukkah is connected to Christmas.

The truth: Nope, not at all, as I explained in point one. People tend to think the two holidays are connected because they take place around the same time. This begs the question, do you think that New Year's Day and Martin Luther King Day are connected? They both take place in January!

What about Easter and Memorial Day? Sometimes, they're only a bit over a month apart! Thanksgiving Day and Veterans Day both happen in November, so they must have a big connection, right? Wrong!

5. The Myth: Anyone can celebrate Hanukkah!

The truth: Hanukkah is a strictly Jewish holiday and it doesn't make sense for gentiles to celebrate it. Now, don't get me wrong; if you're Christian, or Muslim, or Buddhist or something else, and your Jewish friends invite you to partake in their celebrations, that's great and I encourage it!

If you're looking to convert to Judaism and want to celebrate before conversion, even better! What I mean is that there is no point to someone celebrating if they have no connection whatsoever to Judaism. Refer back to my first point, where I explained what Hanukkah celebrates. It's about Jewish people celebrating a holiday for themselves and overcoming assimilation.

There's just no need to celebrate if you're not Jewish, and this is in no way intended to be a rude statement. I mean, have you ever seen people who aren't African-American celebrate Kwanzaa? Have you ever seen a non-Muslim fast for Ramadan?

This misconception comes from the fact that a lot of non-Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter. Christmas and Easter, at least in the U.S., have become cultural holidays so that secular people may want to celebrate them. However, this isn't the case for Hanukkah. Jewish people aren't being mean by saying it's a holiday only for them; it's just facts.

However, if you want to give us latkes despite not being Jewish, I'm sure we wouldn't refuse.

6. The Myth: Dreidel games were invented for Hanukkah only.

The truth: In the 19th century, the Torah had been outlawed. A rabbi decided that Jewish people could play with a dreidel to fool people if someone tried to catch them reading it. They could act as if they were merely gambling rather than practicing their religion.

7. The Myth: There's only one correct way to spell the holiday.

The truth: There's Hanukkah, Hanukah, Chanukah, and Chanukkah. Technically, the correct way is חנוכה, but that may be a struggle for those who don't know Hebrew.

8. The Myth: Hanukkah starts on the same day every year.

The truth: It doesn't, at least not if you're looking at a Gregorian calendar. On the Hebrew calendar, it DOES start on the same day: the 25th of Kislev. Months on the Hebrew calendar are based on the moon, and due to the ever-changing moon cycle, it'll be on a different Gregorian day every year! Speaking of, Hanukkah always starts at sundown.

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