What We As Christians Need To Hear

The Truth, No Matter How Difficult, Is What We As Christians Need To Hear

The truth, and only the truth, is what sets people free and shows us where we can improve.

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This past weekend at church, the preacher said something that hit me hard. I immediately felt conviction, and as we all know, conviction is no one's favorite feeling. In fact, a lot of us try to avoid it like the plague. Sometimes we even go far enough that we try to avoid truth to avoid the feeling of conviction. This is not what we should do though; conviction has some positive aspects if we look at it the right way.

My pastor has always said that even though conviction doesn't exactly feel great, it is another way that God lets us know that we are His. If you sin and do not feel convicted by the Holy Spirit, then there may be something lacking and you should pray about that. That guilty feeling after disobeying God initially is not something I enjoy, but it is further indication that I am a born again believer and have a heavenly home waiting for me.

The main purpose of conviction is to let us know when we are wrong so we can learn to better serve God in the future. If God never let me know when I was wrong, my spiritual growth would be stunted. The same goes for other Christians as well. God loves us too much to leave us alone in our walk with HIm. He does not expect us to figure it out on our own, so He gives us the conviction of the Holy Spirit along with His Word to guide us in the right direction.

If we are all honest here, none of us like to be wrong and especially do not like to admit when we are wrong. Conviction ultimately leads to repentance, when we confess to God that we were wrong and need His help to live for Him and Him alone. The peace that comes when we finally lay our pride down at the foot of the cross is truly the peace that passes all understanding just like He promised. It is such a win-win situation when we finally make things right with the Lord: He gets the glory, and we get Him which is the best thing possible.

An issue I see with Christians today is that we dislike the uncomfortable feeling of conviction so much that we go as far as to avoid pastors and writers whose words are convicting. Instead, we turn to those who "tickle ears" and just say what they know people want to hear. We need to go where the Spirit of the Lord is and where His truth is preached. That is where we will find progress in our walk with God and become closer to Him.

This is not to say that all messages should be condemning and not uplifting, but this is to say the truth has to be embedded in encouragement. It is often said in the Christian community that grace and truth go hand in hand, and I believe this with all of my heart. The truth of the matter is we do not deserve God's love but through His marvelous grace, we have it. Do not be upset the next time the Holy Spirit convicts you; see it as an opportunity to learn and become more like Jesus.

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What Easter Is Like As A Wiccan

For the majority of people, Easter is the celebration of Christ rising from the dead. But for witches, it's about something very different.
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One thing that can be quite irksome about being a part of the American school/college system is the fact that, for the most part, we are only given time off for holidays recognized by one religion, that being Christianity. I'm not saying these holidays are bad or that Christianity is overrated; far from it. But when you think about the holidays celebrated by Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists or, in this case, Pagans, it makes you wonder how everyone else chooses to celebrate their own holidays in the midst of the all-mighty Hallmark-centric holidays.

Before I converted to Wicca, I never quite understood why the majority of Americans chose to celebrate the gory death and alleged resurrection of someone during the spring, much like how we choose to celebrate Christmas in December even though many historians believe Jesus Christ was born around June. Although anyone can celebrate their own holidays for their own reasons, I think its also important to understand where these holidays may have really come from and how other religious holidays can be represented during this Easter weekend.

Instead of celebrating Easter, myself and millions of other people who identify as Pagans celebrate the holiday Ostara. This holiday is mostly celebrated around March 21, but fell on March 20 this year. During this time, Pagans celebrate the Spring Equinox, when winter ends and the bright colors of spring are allowed to come forward for the year -- when "Night and day stand equal, The Sun grows in power and the land begins to bloom and the powers of the gathering year are equal to the darkness of winter and death."

Ostara is one of the eight Pagan Sabbats marked by the Wheel of the Year. Each Sabbat marks a new season, equinox or solstice, which are used to signify the cycle of life, love, death and rebirth between the Mother Goddess (Gaia) and the Father God (also known as the Horned God). With Ostara in particular, it represents a new age of fertility, as the cycle of life and death of the Horned God starts up again.

There are many ways witches and warlocks from the multiple branches of Paganism choose to celebrate Ostara, but the majority of them choose to celebrate the Sabbat of rebirth by basking in the fresh spring flowers. For many, they can choose to have a ritual in their hard garden or simply enjoy the world around them.

You may be wondering, well what does some holiday about spring have to do with Easter? I'm glad you asked! As it turns out, like many other pagan traditions, the Christian religion got a few inspirations from the Pagans, one of them being the beloved Easter Egg.

What the rabbit represents for Ostara is fertility, magic and sexual energy, seeing as the main theme in the Spring Equinox is fertility and sowing seeds. Many believe that both of the holidays' names come from the goddess Eostre, who is sometimes associated with fertility and is loosely connected to both eggs and rabbits. There are also many sources, such as Jacob Grimm (one half of the Brothers Grimm), who believe that the egg is one of the symbols of early Paganism.

So how exactly do Pagans celebrate Easter, considering it's usually a week after Ostara? Well, for many, they just use the holiday to reconnect with family and celebrate some much-needed time off. For me, I just celebrate with food.

Lots and lots of food.

Happy Easter and Merry Ostara everyone!

Cover Image Credit: Lucid Source

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Death Is Hard To Process, Even As A Christian

How should we respond to death and loss as followers of God?

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Everyone is aware of the cycle of life. We are born, we live and we die. Sometimes, however, that cycle is abruptly altered by the very powerfully sad event of the death of someone in your life. This obviously can affect anyone: my own sister was lost after she had what was supposed to be the last of the major surgeries she was supposed to undergo.

Death, however, will always raise questions. Why? Why did this have to happen? Why in this fashion? Why, if God exists, did He not step in to assist us? These are very real questions I grappled with when my sister passed away. How do we, as Christians, respond to death without resorting to clichés and empty platitudes?

First off, death, regardless, should never be responded to with the idea that "it was their time." It comes off as insensitive and rude. It is a response without emotional weight: death does not always have to happen.

Now, as Christians, responding to death could start with the idea that we have confidence in God's mercy and wisdom. If we have confidence in God's mercy, we shouldn't have anything to fret over. Christ died to destroy death so that death is not an end to who we are. That obviously isn't easy, though. This doesn't answer all of our questions when we ask why we're going through such a painful time.

The Bible features that same question. In the Book of Job, he laments the loss of his family and asks the same question of why suffering must occur to those who have not merited such a punishment. Job, of course, gets a response about how God's reign over the cosmos is a heavy and difficult task.

Sometimes, suffering like death remains unexplained. But God wants us to trust His wisdom, His omniscience, above all else.

Now, that might not satisfy us. But Jesus eloquently states that we are going to suffer: that the human condition is predicated, in part, on suffering. He spends a significant amount of time preparing his disciples for that reality. So many of the Epistles prepare us for suffering as well. Death is not treated as something that not only should be prayed over, but also

This still begs the question: what is the point to it all? Is there a point? Is it due to human sinfulness? The snares of the devil? That is a conclusion all of us must come to separately. I still haven't come to a conclusion yet either.

For now, we must remember that, as Christians, they are reunited with God. One with Him, as part of the church triumphant. No longer do they suffer: no, they rejoice in the heavens above us with those who preceded them in death.

Death remains a hard topic to master. The purpose of suffering caused by it, the pain we feel in loss, remains unknown and undetermined. However, as Christians, Christ's victory grants us solace: this loss is temporary, for death has been defeated. We will be reunited someday with those we love and lost.

That day where my sister and I will reunite will come. For now, we wait and do God's work on Earth.

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