Following The Stars

Following The Stars

The three wise men followed their star, have you been following yours?
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It is so easy to loose sight of what is important at Christmas; it just turns into countless Christmas parties, finding the ultimate gift and gorging yourself on food, when, really, it is all about Jesus and it took a really intense church sermon yesterday for me to see this.

Instead of telling the normal Christmas story, my pastor focused about the relationship between the stars and the three wise men. (Shout out to Blue Ridge Church) You see, the three wise men were astrologists, they knew all the stars in the sky and they had tracked the patterns of these stars for years. So when they saw this new star signifying the birth of Jesus Christ, they immediately wanted to find the source and celebrate this. God loves those who seek him, and those three wise men were doing just that. It's crazy how one little star led them to such a miracle, they didn't need anything but a star to see the truth. Without a star, they would have never looked to find the source, never found Jesus, and never made it into the nativity scenes we put up each year.

God plants stars in our everyday lives that point us toward him and this past year, it seems I have had a million of these stars. But given my supremely stubborn nature, I often chose to not look at these stars and follow my own path. There were so many times when a star was particularly bright, and I chose to look away, choosing to try to forge my own path. I was constantly seeking earthly comforts this year, instead of just looking forward to my most recent star. I am so embarrassed to say that I fought Him almost every single day. And it finally took Him making me lose someone close to me, as my final star of the year, to seek Him. It's almost as if He tried to do every possible thing to make me see Him, and then when we realized my eyes were closed, He had to do something drastic to jolt my world back into place. I would be lying if I said it wasn't painful and that everyday I think about the pain that the star is causing me, but I need to follow Him and not question, just like the three wise men did.

Later in the sermon, Pastor Scott was praying for us all. It was a beautiful prayer, but instead of focusing on the words, I cried out to the Lord asking why my star was so painful, why he couldn't have chosen a star that would have been easier for me to heal from. I realized in that moment I was hopelessly broken and there was nothing that I could do to fix it. In that moment, I knew God felt my pain and he wanted nothing more than for me to be whole again. It wasn't up to me, it was up to Him. Up to His grace, and His love and His loving Holy Spirit. Christmas isn't about gift giving or eggnog, it's realizing that Jesus is love and even though we are so broken, he will love us back together. Look for your stars, and follow them mercilessly.

Finally, thank you to Blue Ridge Church and Pastor Scott for opening my eyes to what Christmas means, and changing my perception on so many things.

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12 Bible Verses For Faith In Hard Times

Remind yourself that God is always with you.
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Lately, I have felt lost at what God wants for my life. Ever since I've come back to UWG everything has been horrible. It seems that I can't catch a break. I'm trying my best to focus on school, work, and extracurricular activities. But it's hard when I'm having issues with my apartment/roommates and knowing my family back home is struggling and needs many prayers. All, I keep thinking is maybe Carrollton isn't where I belong anymore. I've asked God if He can guide me in the right direction. Below, I have found Bible verses that have helped get me through these rough, past couple of weeks.

1. Isaiah 43:2

"When you go through deep waters, I will be with you."

2. Psalm 37:5

"Commit your way to the Lord. Trust in Him, and He will act."

3. Romans 8:18

"The pain that you've been feeling, can't compare to the joy that's coming."

4. Proverbs 31:25

"She is clothed in strength, and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future."

5. Joshua 1:9

"Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous."

6. Ecclesiastes 3:1

"There is a time for everything and a reason for every activity under the heavens."

7. Isaiah 41:10

"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand."

8. Isaiah 66:9

"I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born, says the Lord."

9. Psalm 91:4

"He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings, you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."

10. Psalm 62:1-2

"My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from Him, He alone is my rock and my salvation."

11. Philippians 4:13

"I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength."

12. Jeremiah 29:11

"For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Cover Image Credit: pixabay.com

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A Christian's Thoughts Traveling Through Michigan

"...there isn't a centimeter on this planet where the glory of God is totally absent."

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Psalm 19:1-2 says "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge." These precious, God-breathed words weighed heavily on my mind this past week during a trip my family and I took to Michigan. We took what was essentially a beach vacation for my birthday and the 4th of July, where we spent five days in the town of Grand Haven, Michigan.

I had heard that Michigan was a beautiful and picturesque state filled with all sorts of natural wonders, and I have to say it didn't disappoint. We were in the state just ten minutes and I could already tell that we had entered a whole new world, so to speak, and had left Indiana. Now, none of this is to downplay the very real and notable natural beauty of Indiana, as I grew up and live in Indiana and enjoy it for the most part. I suppose it's just familiar to me and I have wanderlust without a doubt. My aim here is just to give brief comment to the beautiful piece of artwork that the Lord has been kind to paint that is the state of Michigan.

From a very early age, I had developed a passion for nature and basking in its rays for prolonged periods of time. As far back as I can remember, I've deeply enjoyed hunting, fishing, camping, and hiking. But by far my favorite of the four is hiking. I love to hike, in one sense, because there's almost no tension in it apart from when a hill is hard to climb, perhaps, or that off chance you get lost. When you hunt you have to be quiet and be sure all your movements are careful and when you camp, you have to take large chunks of time to set things up and what not, but one of the great things about hiking is you just get to walk, at no fixed speed and to no fixed destination, and delight in the things that God has crafted, the taste buds of your heart, so to speak, tasting all the sweetness of creation.

In Michigan, there was what appeared to be a wide variety of flowers and trees of various kinds, many of them pines, that decorated the town we were in and dotted the sides of the highways and roads. As weird as it may sound for a relatively staunch conservative such as myself to say, I've always been fascinated by trees. They are some of the most basic things to us because we see them everyday time and time again, yet it is just about impossible to plumb the depths of all that is going on in and with a simple oak tree; all the cellular activity and the root systems and the process of photosynthesis...it is breathtaking to consider it. If I cannot even fully grasp a tree, how can I fully grasp the artist that designed and intelligently brought about the trees and everything else around me? This thought sprouted up during my stay in Michigan.

As the trip was essentially a beach vacation, my family and I spent a great deal of time on the beach, soaking up the sun, enjoying the relaxation, and taking in the sights. Perhaps the latter is what I benefited from the most, though I've come to love the beach and simply laying out on it and taking in the experience of merely being there. The whole time on the beach I couldn't get enough of the soft sand, the great big blue sky, the sights of great flocks of seagulls, and the miles of water directly before my eyes, as far as they could see.

As the Hillsong lyrics proclaim, "if creation sings Your praises so will I." The first night of our trip, we went to the beach to see the sunset and I cannot commend that enough; it was the greatest sunset I think I've seen thus far. As I think back on all of this, I am speechless at the tiny snippet of God's creative genius and power that I was privy to during the vacation and I am very saddened by the number of unbelieving scientists and philosophers, men and women that for a living study and think often on a variety of matters oftentimes including the natural world. How can a person be so brilliant and so well-read and still be so recalcitrant to prefer irrationalities and improbabilities over against the good and wise God who made them and call it "science."

The unbelief is heartbreaking to me, as I've tried to think from their perspective and weigh their points against the evidence and simply cannot intellectually agree with them, regardless of how otherwise intelligent they are. This line of thinking that concerns what apologists, philosophers, and theologians call the Teleological Argument for the existence of God was on my mind a great deal in Michigan.

Well, as I said earlier, I am a man aching to travel and experience the world. I have oft dreamed of going to Israel, where my Lord lived and ministered, going to Greece and Rome, places with so much rich intellectual and literary history, and traveling around my own country, a place I am largely glad to call my earthly home. Thus far I've been to 12 states out of 50, just about a quarter of them, and unfortunately never to another country, but seeing the sights has fed into my desire to travel and see the glory of God in what else He has made. So far my favorites have been the beautiful beaches and warm, welcoming vibes in Alabama, the awesomeness of everything I experienced in Texas, and the gorgeous, memorable scenery in Michigan.

Traveling, though it's a somewhat new thing in my life, has shown me that the hype so many people have about it is definitely warranted. Though according to Scripture, the world is fallen and splintered by sin and is subject to futility, something I do believe with all of my heart, I am confident that there isn't a centimeter on this planet where the glory of God is totally absent. God is too zealous for His glory to permit His artfully crafted, intelligently designed world to utterly fall apart and become a place devoid of beauty and wholesomeness. As the early Christian theologian, and one of my favorites, St. Augustine said "All things proclaim Him, all things speak. Their beauty is the voice by which they announce God, by which they sing 'it is you who made me beautiful, not me myself but you.'"

So, my concluding exhortation is for all readers to travel if at all possible. Don't become obsessed with it and become impoverished through foolish spending, I would never encourage that, but if the opportunity presents itself, definitely jump on it. It is well worth the gas money and the time spent packing, unpacking, and driving. It may not be for everyone, but I cannot commend it enough to those that have the ability. God shows His glory through what He has made and there is a lot that's been made to ultimately point back to Him that is out there, as it were, ready to be discovered and enjoyed. That's something I think I learned in Michigan.

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