The Jesus Difference May 13, 2013Posted by Jen Krausz in General.
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A prominent political figure recently asked, “What difference does it make?” I am not going to get political here, but her question got me thinking in a spiritual direction. What difference does Christ make? How are you different because of knowing Jesus?
The pastoral staff of my church is preaching this month on Colossians. This little letter written by Paul talks about how Christ is central to the things that happen in our lives. A catch phrase they used is Nothing + Jesus = Everything and Everything – Jesus = Nothing. It might be a catch phrase, but it resonates with me.
We don’t always live like Jesus is central to our lives, do we? Sometimes the moment comes: we have the opportunity to trust Him in a real way in our lives. We can see the next step in our faith, but do we take that step?
Even though I have been afraid to step out in faith sometimes, I know that I am different because of knowing Jesus and having a relationship with Him. When worries begin to paralyze me or the world crowds in with all its (perceived) glamor and greed, I have somewhere to turn. When other people let me down, when Murphy’s Law* governs my day, I know that I have a hope that will never disappoint me. When things seem too difficult and the road seems blocked, I can remember that far beyond what I can see and feel is another reality governed by Someone who cares about me more than I ever though possible, more than I can even know.
In Philippians 1:6, Paul says that we can be confident that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
And in Ephesians 3:20, we are told that God is ”able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.”
In my life, evidence is mounting that Jesus does make a great difference in every way. As I learn to listen to the still small voice within me, I sense the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Sometimes the Spirit nudges me to do something differently than I would otherwise know to do. Over time, I have seen relationships improved and strengthened because of these nudges. I have become more sensitive to the emotional needs of family and friends with the help of the Spirit’s discernment. I have also seen my writing grow and develop in different ways as a result of that guidance.
Jesus has also given me strength when I have needed it most. Those times when I wanted to give up on a relationship, on a situation, even on myself, I have been able to ask for strength and help. Any time I have done this, my prayers have been answered. With all my heart, I can claim the verse from Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I have come to rely on this strength to accomplish the tasks that God has laid out before me. Christ’s strength enables me to do what I could never do on my own power.
Christ doesn’t just make a difference in my life. The way I see it, He makes all the difference. I would really enjoy hearing a few words from my readers about the difference Christ makes in your life. How is your life specifically different because of Christ? Take a moment and leave a comment to share your experience with me.
*Murphy’s Law, in case you aren’t familiar, is the idea that anything that can possibly go wrong, will do so.
A Mom’s Faith May 10, 2013Posted by Jen Krausz in Faith, General, Growth.
Tags: Bible, children, Christian, Christianity, faith, God, Jesus, mom, mother, salvation, scripture
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My church emphasizes the importance of sharing your faith, and my congregation contains many people who are comfortable talking to others about God and salvation. It’s kind of intimidating. I’m a writer, but not really the best speaker or one-on-one counselor. I’ve felt for a long time that I’m quite ill-equipped for evangelizing to people. Maybe it’s just a misconception on my part or some kind of mental block about how people are going to react.
I can talk about my faith with other Christians, but with people who don’t believe as I do? I feel at a loss about how to convince them to share my views of God. How can someone who doesn’t have faith understand putting your trust in a God you can’t see or hear? How can a non-believer understand my love and devotion to my God, the deep emotion that underlies my faith and how foundational it is in my life? I think that’s why I write and blog about faith. In writing, I get a chance to explain it without having to see the other person just not getting it.
So if you thought I was some great faith-sharer just because I write this blog, guess again. I’m still working on it, asking God to grow me in that area.
With my kids, however, I have always felt comfortable talking about faith. In fact, I talked about God and Jesus to them probably before they could even understand anything about them. Then again, they have definitely surprised me with their understanding even at a very young age. When my oldest, Emily, was about 8, she used to tell me that God was talking to her, that she could actually hear His voice. She wouldn’t tell me what He said though. My middle child, son DJ, asked me about Heaven when he was only two years old. As we were riding in the car, I explained Heaven as well as I could, including the fact that it’s where people who believe in Jesus go after they die and that it’s a place where we get to be with God forever. To which he replied, “Well, I believe in Jesus.” His faith only grew from there, and he was baptized at age 6.
Kathryn accepted Jesus at age 4, at Christmastime as we read one of her books, which contained John 3:16. I read that verse to her, then asked if she understood what it meant. She did not, so I explained the concept of salvation in 4 year old terms (asking Jesus to come into your heart). Then she asked if she could do that, and did. She was baptized this past February.
I’m not tooting my own horn. Far from it. I know that salvation comes from God and not from ourselves. We don’t save anyone; God does. We’re just the vessel sometimes, if we’re fortunate. However, on this Mother’s Day weekend, I want to encourage moms. I want you to understand that not everyone is great at evangelism out there in the big world. I’m certainly not! But as moms, we can let our lights shine so that our kids see our own faith. We can teach them about God and faith the same way we teach them about other important things in life. We can let our love for God flow out of us so that they can’t help but see it. To tell my kids about Jesus is one of the greatest honors of my life, and to see them grow in their own faith as they get older gives me great joy.
I owe a great deal of my own faith journey to my mother, who came through a struggle in her beliefs with strong faith and then taught me about how God cares personally for us and wants to know us. We had many, many late night talks about God and Jesus and faith, and she greatly shaped my understanding of what it means to follow Christ. Still does from time to time, in fact. Thank you for that, Mom! (she reads my blog, so I know she will see this)
In 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul writes, ”I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” Because of faith passed down from mother to daughter and daughter to son, Timothy accomplished great things for Christ. And that is a great legacy for any mother to leave to her children!
The Thankfulness Trick May 8, 2013Posted by Jen Krausz in Faith, General.
Tags: blessings, God, negative, positive, thankful
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Most of the time I am a pretty positive person. I think, though, that we all have some moments where it is difficult to have a positive outlook on life. Maybe it’s a situation in your life that just frustrates you to no end. Maybe it’s a boss or co-worker that sucks the enjoyment right out of your workplace. Or for me, there’s just that one day of the month when I realize, usually too late, that I am not seeing the positive side of anything that day.
When I find myself in a negative frame of mind, I have a very simple trick that I use to turn things around. I call it the thankfulness trick. I force myself to stop what I’m doing and write down, usually in one of my journals, three things that I am thankful for.
That’s it. That’s the trick. But it is powerful. It works. Before I know it, I am praying a prayer of thanks for all the things, usually far more than three, that I have written down. My mind shifts from the negative things that were weighing me down, to positive things that lift me up. There’s far less mental space for negativity when you fill up your thoughts with thankfulness.
This trick has never failed to help me stop a pattern of negative thinking or turn a dark mood into a lighter one. I know I am an incredibly blessed person who lives in an incredibly blessed nation. Some of my so-called problems are even due to my many blessings. I have clutter because I have been blessed with an abundance of possessions. I carry some extra pounds because I have been blessed with more food than I reasonable ought to eat. I have too much work (during a time when many people can’t find enough work). My kids are too busy with activities that are helping them grow and learn about life. You see what I mean.
The thankfulness trick helps me remember the true state of my life. It turns my focus back onto God and His blessings in my life rather than on negativity. I encourage you to try it next time life seems to be getting you down. I think it will make all the difference.
The Bottom Line May 3, 2013Posted by Jen Krausz in Books, Faith, Growth.
Tags: apologetics, doubts, experience, faith, Jesus, Lee Strobel, questions
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I’m a bottom line kind of person. I think America is filled with people like me. I get impatient when people talk about an issue or a choice too much or for too long. “Just give me the bottom line,” I often want to say.
In my own faith, I went through a crisis period, as many young people do, during my college years. I had to take religion classes, and the professors had us read books that questioned the truth of the Bible and set forth mind-numbingly horrifying ethical dilemmas. My crisis was a muted one, and almost entirely internal. It didn’t really feel or look like a crisis. I didn’t stop attending church or believing in God. But looking back, I realize that it was a crisis of faith that I went through during that time.
I came to a point where I had to decide how to assimilate all this new data, especially about Jesus. Did He really say what the Bible says he said? (say that 5 times fast) Did he really rise from the dead? Could I trust the Bible, or was it part fact and part fiction? And if it was part fiction, what part was fiction?
In the end, my “bottom line” way of thinking saved me from turning my back on my faith. I decided that even though I was confused and lacked answers to many of my questions, I could say I knew a few things for sure.
I knew that I believed in God. I believed that Jesus was the Son of God, and that He died on the cross for our sins. I knew God was real because I had experienced His presence in a real way. I could never turn my back on God after knowing Him personally that way. And I decided that knowing these things with absolute certainty was good enough for me. That was my bottom line.
Now I have since come to reject the scholarship that wants to pick apart the Bible and decide that some things are true and some are not. I have decided that the evidence for the resurrection is overwhelming to me. I became strong enough in my faith to challenge my then-pastor when he said things that I considered contradictory to scripture, and to leave the church I had attended all my life to join one that better reflected my thoughtfully considered and well-studied beliefs about Jesus and faith.
What is the bottom line for you when it comes to your faith? I believe that it’s very important to take time to think about, investigate and figure out what you believe and what is the basis for what you believe. Even though it was uncomfortable and scary to have doubts and questions at the time, I know that my faith is far stronger for the experience.
If you have questions about whether the Bible is true or whether Jesus said or did many of the things the Bible says about Him, I highly recommend you read some of Lee Strobel’s books. He is a journalist who investigated the claims of the Bible about Jesus. Strobel had many doubts about God and faith, and through his research He came to know God and believe in Jesus himself. His two most famous books are The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith, but he has written others as well. His books and other information can be found at LeeStrobel.com .
Are Christians Public Enemy #1? April 30, 2013Posted by Jen Krausz in General.
Tags: Bible, Christianity, faith, God, media, scripture
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I am usually the first one to point out the increasing hostility of society toward Christians and to lament it with great anxiety about what the future might bring for those following Christ. However, an experience I had yesterday gave me a different perspective on that subject.
Yesterday I drove down to Washington DC with members of my church to participate in a scripture reading marathon in front of the Capitol building. This is done every year; over 3 ½ days leading up to the National Day of Prayer, the entire Bible is read aloud at the Capitol by various groups of Christians from different churches and groups.
While we were waiting for our turn to read, we were approached by a Capitol policeman, who began by thanking us for coming to read scripture. He proceeded to tell us that he has seen all kinds of groups come before the Capitol to “hold signs” and do various things. When he looks out in the morning and sees the Bible reading booth, he said, he knows it’s going to be a good day. He told us that when Christians come, people are more respectful, more peaceful. Not Westboro Baptist Church, he said, but other than that.
In the times I have gone to read scripture there, with hundreds of tourists passing by, we have never had a negative word said to us. People stop by and ask if they can join in reading. People come off the street to pray with the organizers of the event.
I think we can get so wrapped up in whatever the media is saying about our society that we miss what else is going on in cities and towns and homes all over this country. We already knew that the media is twisted all around by its liberal ideology, and if we look at things from that perspective it makes us pretty depressed and fearful about the state of the world and our country.
I was greatly encouraged by what the Capitol policeman said to us about the respect and even appreciation given to Christians by the passersby of Washington DC. It gave me another perspective about what this country is and what it believes, and the media cannot twist that around on me, because I was there and I experienced it. God is still at work in this country, and I choose to focus on that rather than on the slanted (and apparently untrue) media perspective.
Thank God that He is sovereign no matter what the world says or does. I hope to keep my eyes focused on Him rather than on the world.
Isn’t Being Good Enough? April 23, 2013Posted by Jen Krausz in General.
Tags: Christian, foirgiveness, love, morality, people, religion, sin
A Facebook friend (you know who you are) started a conversation about whether religion is a moral guide. It was a pretty deep conversation for Facebook, but that happens every so often, especially if you’re a college student who needs to write a paper. Does religion serve as a moral guide for people?
A friend of hers who is not a Facebook friend of mine, commented that she is agnostic and her kids are very moral, even though they were not raised with any religion. And I will not argue her point. It is entirely plausible to me that a person could be highly moral without any religious influence. After all, social mores are passed along in our culture and absorbed by children starting before they can even talk and interact.
I think agnostics and atheists can be some of the most moral people on the planet. I think they may take morality even more seriously than many religious people. You’re waiting for a but here. Really, there isn’t one. I’m not writing this to take down atheists or their arguments against religion.
The whole conversation made me think about what drives our moral behavior. People follow laws and moral rules; why? They don’t want to get into trouble. They know they are “supposed to,” that God wants them to. Maybe they are afraid of what will happen if they don’t, even beyond getting in trouble. If they do reckless things, they may hurt other people or themselves.
I think a lot of our motivation for our basic cooperation with societal rules comes from habits and wanting to go along to get along. We all come up against situations, however, that cause more of a struggle in our hearts about what to do. Eventually, I think each person will come to a choice that is too difficult to make alone. That’s when being good and doing right may turn out not to be enough.
In those situations, I am so glad to have a relationship with my Heavenly Father. His guidance has made all the difference to me when those difficult decisions get me turned and twisted and confused. Prayer, godly counsel and reading the scriptures have led my life down a path very different from the one I would have taken using just my own logic and wisdom. I am thankful for God’s guidance in the moral decisions of my life. I am thankful for the motivation of wanting to please God, which helps keep me making right decisions even when societal dictates and religious rules are not strong enough to keep me going in the right direction.
And what about those times when I still do something wrong? Being an imperfect person, this is bound to happen sooner or later. As humans, we are good at denying and justifying our behavior. I do this often, even though I do have a relationship with God. But eventually, these defense mechanisms break down and we have to admit that we have failed to keep to our own moral standard. What then? My need for God becomes glaringly apparent in these times. And how grateful I am for His grace (through Jesus) and His forgiveness, which allow me to move forward. It’s my relationship with God that motivates me toward morality, and that same relationship redeems me when I inevitably fail.
“. . . in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37
Seasons April 16, 2013Posted by Jen Krausz in Faith, General, Growth.
Tags: Christians, God, relationship, seasons, waiting
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It’s finally warming up some here in Eastern Pennsylvania, and not a moment too soon. The winter seemed long and cold this year. We’re almost out of oil in our tank and really hoping not to have to fill it up again until off season when the prices (should) drop. I pulled out all my summer clothes one day last week, and now I want to wear them.
The changing of the seasons brings to mind how our faith can have seasons, too. My goal each and every day is to get just a little bit closer to God, to grow in my relationship with Him. I am aware, however, that some days I will just not hit that mark despite my best efforts. Sometimes it’s because of circumstances beyond my control, and sometimes it’s for other reasons that I do need to take responsibility for.
If I decide to sit and watch TV or take a nap or read a book, or even do chores/work/something productive instead of spend time with God, it will make a difference in how close I feel to Him. If I yell at my kids or nag my husband or cut someone off on the highway, it doesn’t really put me in the right frame of mind to draw near to God who is love, does it?
All that being said, I truly believe that we can try our best to do everything right, but things still happen to draw us away from God. Life is just never going to be a smooth road where everything goes according to plan. In those times, I am so thankful for God’s grace. I have learned to accept the seasons of the Christian life while not (usually) getting complacent or neglecting my faith. (We all have our moments.)
I won’t ever try to tell you that I have it all figured out, theologically or otherwise. But I don’t feel that God condemns me in those seasons where I am not as close to Him. I condemn myself much more, usually. My best course of action seems to be to look for for the next opportunity to draw close to Him, and take hold of it with all I’ve got. To trust Him through the uncertain times that He really does have it under control. There are lessons in the waiting, and I don’t want to miss them any more than I want to miss the close times, the certain times.
May God bless His waiting people, those who are close to Him and those who would like to be.
Building up Your Faith April 12, 2013Posted by Jen Krausz in Faith, General, Growth.
Tags: Christians, commitment, faith, faithful, Holy Spirit, love
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“But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” Jude 1:20-21, NIV
I found this verse yesterday on a search, and it spoke to me then. Now, I’m trying to remember what I was thinking of when I read it. I can tell you that it’s been a great week for me, spiritually speaking. And here’s how it came about.
It was an extremely busy week. So many things were (some still are) happening or being required of me all at once. I touched on that in my previous post. However, instead of becoming overwhelmed and going into survival mode, I decided to stay the course. Survival mode would have meant only doing what I absolutely needed to do until the schedule cleared a bit. Which would have meant not writing, at least for a few days. Instead, on Tuesday I made a decision to write anyway, as I had committed to doing. It was a good decision that resulted in a new blog post, and I felt that I had made the right decision. Somehow everything that needed to get done, did get done. I clearly saw that God would be faithful in making my schedule work if I stayed faithful in my commitments.
Turns out that was only the tip of the iceberg. I sat down to write the next day, and discovered that I had inspiration to work on my manuscript in progress after several weeks of not being able to do so and approaching it each day with dread and writer’s block. I knew that if I had not been faithful to write on Tuesday, this would not have happened. My spiritual senses were on high alert, and I felt strongly that this was the case. Also, I knew that I would probably be working on a blog post that day if I had not posted the day before, which confirmed that the spiritual tug I had felt was correct. My act of faithfulness the day before had very clearly enabled my progress today–progress that has continued through the rest of the week as ideas have flowed freely.
This is the inspiration I’m taking from the above verses. When we act in faithfulness, God responds with even greater faithfulness. Praying in the Holy Spirit, we find the strength and courage to make our faith real, to act as though God’s promises are true. Then we find out just how true they are! That’s what kind of week this has been for me, and I pray that you will also find a step to take that will lead to a great response from God.
I praise Him for taking my mustard seed of faith and growing it exponentially through His goodness and grace.
Time Crunch April 9, 2013Posted by Jen Krausz in Faith, General, Growth.
Tags: busy, Christian, commitment, family, obligations, schedule, time
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One of the things that keeps me (or my thoughts at least) far from God is my schedule. I am a wife, a mother of 3, and I hold 2 part time jobs. I own a house with my husband. I am involved in my church. Sometimes all these things stack up nicely and make for a manageable schedule. Most of the time, 3 or 4 things hit at once and make it seem impossible to get everything done, let alone find time for God or for the things God wants me to be doing with my time. Finding myself in a time crunch is probably the thing that hinders my relationship with God the most.
Today is one of those days. I have marking period grades and taxes hanging over my head, undone. On top of a time-intensive prep week, I committed myself to doing an after school craft class for my middle schoolers, which has required shopping, preparation and a longer than normal schedule. Then our school is hosting a fundraising night at one of the local fast food places, but I had already committed to go to the minor league ballpark and procure my husband a “bobblehead” since his schedule won’t permit him to get to the game early enough to get one. Then there are the usual errands–a drop-off at the post office, a deposit at the bank. Making sure everyone has the right clothes and snacks and gets where they need to go on time.
And in the middle of all of that, my dedicated writing time comes after lunch, while the house is quiet and calm (even though I am filled with stress and anxiety). The very last thing I want to do is get quiet and take some time to write. I feel like the characters in the original Star Wars movie, when they are inside the garbage compressor. I am pressed on all sides, and I want to be anywhere but in the middle of all that trash. Maybe I should just use my writing time to check off a few more things on my to do list. Not even maybe. How can I do anything else?
These situations are more than just a stress cocktail, threatening to explode. They are opportunities to trust God, to make the right decisions even when they seem impossible. We can take a deep breath and decide to stay faithful to a commitment, or we can let the current push us along until it’s even harder to stay afloat.
Don’t let me make this sound easy. So many times I’ve chosen the wrong way. But looking back over those experiences, I can honestly say that choosing the schedule never works out the way I think it will. Sometimes I do accomplish more, then feel like I have missed out on what was most important. And many times, I actually end up further behind because of unexpected problems.
God has given us the time we need to accomplish His purpose. We need to think and pray carefully about the things to which we choose to give our time. The Holy Spirit will guide us to make the right choices. We can choose not to let our circumstances define our reactions or our schedules define our choices.
And when we really do need to pre-empt our spiritual commitments to handle life, we need to think very hard about how to restructure life so that it doesn’t become a habit to do so.
I hope we won’t deny ourselves the blessings that come when we choose God over our schedules. I enjoy watching God work to make seemingly impossible things become reality. So many times God has worked things out so that I can get everything done that I need to do. So often I forget that He is so much better at working things together for my good than I am. Oh me of little faith! Help my unbelief.
Thank God for my oldest child, who often steps in to help me when I start asking God how to divide myself in half. She will be taking the other two to the fundraiser night while I go to the ballpark, where I will take advantage of what could be my only chance to relax all week.
And thank You, God, for my busy life. For all the opportunities to serve You and my family. For giving me a calling that brings me right to your feet, day after day. Help me to be faithful and trust you each day. Amen.
Father, forgive them . . . they don’t know April 8, 2013Posted by Jen Krausz in Faith, General, Growth.
Tags: Christians, faith, forgiveness, Jesus, judgment
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As Jesus hung on the cross, one of the things he did was ask God to forgive those who were mocking him. I would imagine that if I was going through the most physically and emotionally torturous time of my life, being mocked would not put me in a forgiving mood. But as I contemplated Jesus’s words, it led me to notice something about how He judged people (or didn’t) during His life.
I noticed that Jesus had a very different attitude toward those who “don’t know what they are doing” (common people and Gentiles) than He had toward those who had knowledge of scripture and of Jewish history (i.e. the Pharisees and the other religious leaders of the day).
I believe His actions were an example of how we should also treat others.
Much has been made about Christians being “judgmental” when people don’t act the way we think they should. Sometimes we get defensive about our tendency to do this. Aren’t we just trying to have some sort of standard? Surely Jesus doesn’t have an “anything goes” attitude toward people who are not following His ways? We can’t just let people do whatever they want, can we?
And in truth, Jesus didn’t just look the other way when he came across someone whose lifestyle didn’t match up to what the Bible and the law said was right. He obviously had a standard, a very high standard. He was the only one who could meet that standard, it was so high.
However, His attitude toward those he was trying to reach was quite different.
When Jesus says “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing,” He is not saying that they are excused since they didn’t know any better. What He is saying, is that the correct approach for those who “don’t know” Him is love and grace, not judgment and condemnation. People make much of Jesus calling people out for their sins, but look at who He called out. The Pharisees, the religious leaders. Those who should have known better! Not the lost who were seeking to know Him.
Jesus approached the lost with love and compassion, and we need to do the same. If we as churchgoing Christians are going to judge anyone for wrongdoing, it should be ourselves and our church leaders. Jesus made it very clear that we who know Him bear much responsibility for the things we do. And although I hope we are not holding slavishly to the letter of the law while completely missing the spirit of it, as the leaders in Jesus’s time did, I know that we do miss the mark sometimes. We are supposed to speak the truth in love, but sometimes we remember the truth and forget the love. Sometimes we don’t want to send the message that the behavior is okay, so we react negatively. Sometimes we avoid certain people or groups of people altogether because we aren’t sure how to treat them. Ignoring the situation doesn’t resolve it either.
As I get closer to Jesus, I am trying to take on his attitudes and ways. It is difficult for me. I am naturally quick to point out when someone is doing something I know is wrong. However, I truly feel that many people have not come to know Jesus personally because they can’t hear His voice over the voices of judgment that are much more quick to point out their failings than to tell them that Jesus loves them anyway. I need to keep working at reaching out to everyone the way Jesus would. As people approach Jesus and get to know Him, the Holy Spirit will convict them about things in their lives that need to change. Such conviction comes best from the Spirit anyway, not from us.
This post was also partly inspired by the following blog post:
I encourage you to read it as well, if this topic speaks to your heart.