Peace 2In a world where fear is tormenting so many in this generation, YOU don’t have to afraid. It doesn’t matter what the job market looks like, how much you owe in student loans, or what craziness is being reported in the news. If you know what the Bible says about peace, you can be fearless in fearful times!

Read more from today’s post here.

Hearing Wisdom's Voice Above It AllHave you ever strained to hear a familiar voice in a crowded room? Maybe you were at a party and couldn’t find your best friend. Or perhaps you were searching for your spouse among the myriads of people at a big social event. And I’m sure we can all remember one time or another when we lost our moms at the mall or the park. What a scary moment that was for both our mothers and our little five-year-old selves!

Whenever you’ve lost sight of someone and were searching for him or her, do you remember how you found that person? You might have caught a glimpse of her bright red sweater or his tall, lanky frame. But more than likely, it was their voice that somehow drew you to them. You might have heard her unique laugh, his deep-baritone sound, or her high-pitched chatter. Because you were so in tune with this person’s voice, you could hear him or her over almost anything else. The grinding beats of the music, the tinkling china, the clamor from hundreds of conversations…nothing could drown out the sound of the one whom you were searching.

Discovering wisdom is much like trying to find a dear friend in a crowded room. Wisdom is always present, but we have to know her voice in order to find her.

CONTINUE ARTICLE ON MY BLOG HERE: Hearing Wisdom’s Voice Above It All.

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy.” -2 Timothy 3:1-2

44176-1416857677246Thanksgiving Vs. Commercialism

As we approach Thanksgiving on Thursday, most of us are reminded to be thankful at least once this week. Whether it’s during our own quiet time or around the dinner with family and friends, at some point in the next few days, most of us will give thanks for all the blessings we’ve enjoyed in our lives this past year.

While Thanksgiving is a national reminder to remember our blessings with gratefulness, most Americans will rush through this moment of gratitude to get to the next big part of the holiday celebration. We’ll cheer at the games on TV, we’ll rush through our family time to be the first one in line on Black Friday, and we will probably complain over the overworked sales clerk that rings up our 25% off doorbuster flat screen. The emotion of thankfulness will last a split second and will all but be forgotten in the hours and weeks that follow as the busy holiday season enfolds us with sales, ads, parties, and commercialism.

I find it rather ironic that in recent years, the national day of Giving of Thanks has turned into a self-satisfying day of materialism and greed. Whatever happened to contentment, thankfulness, and a grateful heart?

Friends, this is simply a sign of the last days.

Unthankfulness: Characteristic of the Last-Days Generation

The Bible warns us that as the day of Jesus’ return approaches, the world will be marked by perilous times, which include all kinds of evil desires and attitudes. While describing the characteristics of the end times and listing such vices as selfishness, pride, and blasphemy, the Apostle Paul includes one small word that may surprise us all: unthankfulness.

Unthankfulness is simply the opposite of thankfulness. According to the dictionary, being thankful means to feel or express gratitude, to be appreciative. Gratitude comes from the word grateful, which describes a person who warmly or deeply appreciates kindness or benefits he or she has received. By extension, ungratefulness depicts a person who is unappreciative, who refuses to display gratitude, or who does not give due return or recompense for benefits conferred. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Sadly, my generation is marked by this disturbing behavior of unthankfulness. It’s rare to find young adults who consistently express gratitude towards their elders, their teachers, their pastors, or their mentors. In fact, Millennials are characterized by an attitude of entitlement. Instead of being thankful for what was given to them, they demand and expect people go out of the way to serve them and meet their needs. They expect churches to cater to their whims or alter their entire services just to fit their schedules. They demand their parents pay for their activities, hobbies, and interests. They even pompously require that God bend his Word just so they can justify their sinful lifestyles. Yep, it is definitely a self-serving, self-oriented generation where thankfulness and gratitude have taken a back seat to entitlement, self-exaltation, and self-centerdness.

This, my friends, is exactly what Paul warned us would happen in the last days. And it’s not just in the world where this would take place. If we read the Scriptures carefully, we understand Paul was admonishing the Church to be on watch, because this would happen inside the church walls as well in the end times.

Becoming People of Thankfulness

When Paul warned us of these things, he not only gave us insight into how things will be around us, but he also showed us the ungodly attitudes that would mark the last-days generation. By giving us this warning, he showed us what we as Christians have to be on guard against in our own lives. If we aren’t careful to guard ourselves in the Word of God, we will slip along with everyone else and live contrary to the standards God has set for us in Christ.

Thankfully, there is hope! We can look around our generation and compare their actions and attitudes to the Word of God. If it’s not condoned in the Word, then we toss it. It’s as simple as that!

Although unthankfulness might be prominent in our generation, we don’t have to adopt that attitude or behavior. Just because we live in this world doesn’t mean we have to be like the world! We CAN be people of gratitude and thankfulness.

So how do we become examples of thankfulness in our own generation that demands entitlement? Here are three keys to help us move from ungratefulness to thankfulness:

1. We must Adjust Our Hearts

Just like entitlement and self-centerdness is a heart issue, so is thankfulness. If we want to become people of thankfulness, we must first take inventory of the condition and motives of our hearts and adjust accordingly. Proverbs 4: 20-27 gives us some great instruction on guarding our hearts:

My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.

 Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart.

For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.

Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.

Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.

Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.

Thankfulness first begins in the heart and is reflected in the life. If we make the adjustment on the inside first, we’ll begin to show it on the outside. Actions and words of thankfulness will only come if we change our internal status first.

2. We Must Watch Our Words

Once we’ve adjusted our hearts and established thankfulness within, we must begin to speak it out with our mouths. Over and over again, the Bible talks about the importance of our words and our confession of faith. If we believe something with our hearts, we speak it with our mouths!

If you’re still not certain that you should actually give voice to your thankfulness, take a look at these scriptures:

“Therefore will I give thanks and extol You, O Lord, among the nations, and sing praises to Your name.” ~Psalm 18:49

“That I may make the voice of thanksgiving heard and may tell of all Your wondrous works.” ~Psalm 26:7

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men.” ~1 Timothy 2:1

“By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” ~Hebrews 13:5

While these are just a small sampling of scriptures dealing with thanksgiving, it’s obvious from God’s Word that we are to give thanks at all times!

3. We Must Change Our Actions

Thanksgiving is not just an attitude of the heart or a word spoken from the mouth, it is also an action of our lives. When we are truly thankful, our actions will show it!

The Bible shows us how thankfulness will affect our actions and lifestyle:

“Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.” ~Eph. 5:4

“Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” ~Col. 2:7

“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.”  ~Col. 4:2

As we establish ourselves in thankfulness, our entire lifestyle will begin to change. No longer filled with griping, greed, or selfishness, our lives will begin to flourish in the light of thanksgiving!

Be Aglow in Christ!

So when we sit down with our families over Thanksgiving dinner, or when we run to the store for the midnight madness Christmas sales, let’s remember Thanksgiving isn’t just a day for turkey and dressing. It’s a reminder to set ourselves apart from an unthankful generation and to be aglow in Christ, full of thanksgiving!

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” ~1 Thess. 5:18

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Four Life Lessons from Ezra the Scribe“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” -Ezra 7:10

A Biographical Sketch of an Old Testament Legend

Over the last year or so, I have been completely captivated by the story of Ezra. While he is one of those obscure Old Testament authors, his influence wraps itself around a key piece of Jewish history, primarily the exile and restoration period of 458-444 B.C.

A contemporary of Nehemiah and Malachi, Ezra was a prominent figure in the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity. Dispatched by the king of Persia, he led the second wave of Jewish exiles back to Jerusalem, completed the beautification of the Temple, brought spiritual reform to the people, and initiated the last great revival in the Old Testament. He was both a priest and a scribe, a leader, a revivalist, and an intercessor. Widely respected as an editor of the Old Testament who helped to contemporize the language of some of the older books, Ezra furthered his legacy as a prolific Biblical writer by penning four books of the Old Testament (Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 Chronicles, and 2 Chronicles).

Although Ezra retains a special place in my heart because of his writing gift, it is his love for God’s Word that trumps all of his accomplishments. Because he greatly honored God’s commands, he found favor with both God and men and became a highly influential leader in his time. While Ezra might have lived thousands of years ago, his life still speaks today, showing us how to cultivate a heart set towards the eternal principles of God’s Word.

There is so much to say about Ezra and his compelling story, but Ezra 7:10 unveils his secret in one simple but profound sentence: For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments. This succinct verse is the key to Ezra’s incredible success.

Let’s take a look at four key elements in this short but powerful scripture:

1. Ezra Prepared His Heart

Have you ever looked at a recipe that said Bake time 30 minutes, prep time 45 minutes? As much as you would like to throw all the ingredients into the oven and have it magically mix and bake itself, you can’t successfully bake anything without properly following the preparation directions. While it may be time-consuming, preparation is absolutely vital to a correctly baked dish.

The principle of preparation rings true even in spiritual matters. Notice our verse says Ezra prepared his heart. According to the Strong’s Concordance, prepare means “to establish, fix, direct, fasten.” This word also implies being “faithful, fitted, or ready.” These words are all very important for they paint a picture of Ezra’s discipline to prepare himself and his heart.

Before Ezra was ever used by God in a significant way, he was behind the scenes serving God faithfully. He took time to establish his heart towards the things of God. He directed his affection on God’s Word and fastened his eyes on the will of God. And when God needed a man who could lead a nation into His next great purpose, guess who was equipped and qualified? Faithful Ezra who had prepared his heart.

Interestingly, the word prepare in the Strong’s also implies “to be erect or stand perpendicular.” I find this definition extremely insightful because of the intensity and position it renders. A prepared person stands erect and perpendicular. He has learned that even when culture sways one way, he will refuse to bend to its demands. Rather, he will stand erect, unflinchingly set towards God’s Truth. His perpendicular position will make him stand contrary to the world’s system but will bring him parallel with God’s standards.

With a heart that was prepared and aligned with God’s purposes, Ezra was a perfect fit for his divine mission!

2. Ezra Studied God’s Word

The second element of Ezra’s success was his disposition towards the Word of God. The Bible says he prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord. Several other translations render this phrase as “tenaciously studied,” “determined to study,” “worked hard to know,” “and set his heart to study.” In other words, Ezra was a student of God’s Word.

The Strong’s Concordance gives further insight into the verb to seek and provides the following definitions: “to tread or frequent, to follow for pursuit or search, to ask or seek, to diligently inquire.” With these words in mind, can you just imagine Ezra searching through the ancient scrolls of the Torah and the writings of the old prophets, diligently seeking to know God’s words and His heart? Whether by the dawn of the morning sun or by the flickering light of a midnight candle, Ezra was at his post, absorbing, searching, and pursuing frequently the Word of the Lord. He treaded in the waters of the Law and, by daily practice, became an expert in God’s Word.

When the time came for God to bring a revival to the Jewish people, whom did He choose? Ezra, the young man who had diligently searched out God’s Word for His Truth, His message, and His heart.

3. Ezra Obeyed God’s Word

Have you ever bought a new piece of furniture that required at-home assembly? Usually, those projects come with a clear-cut manual that includes precise directions for building the aforementioned piece. However, have you ever read through the manual, threw it out, and then tried putting together the furniture piece on your own? Didn’t turn out so well, did it?

Well, that’s what happens to so many Christians today. They read the Bible, throw it out, and try to do life their own way. Nothing works as it should and they wonder why their lives are in such a mess! Well, they wouldn’t be in this crazy predicament had they obeyed the manual’s instructions in the first place.

While studying is great, it won’t amount to much without proper application. James warns of this peril in the first chapter of his book: Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (James 1:22). If the Word is only heard but not obeyed, deception will creep into the minds and hearts of believers. Deluded by their own knowledge, Christians who throw the manual out and try to do life apart from God’s Word will have nothing to show for their knowledge because they never acted upon what they knew.

In our story of Ezra, we see that Ezra was not only a student of God’s laws but also a doer of them. He had already set his heart towards God and His Word, and he further committed himself to God’s ways by continually practicing the knowledge he received.

Ezra’s faithfulness to obey God’s commands was one of the prerequisites to his success in life. God was looking for a person who would not only study His words diligently but also take them deeply to heart. And guess who He found when He needed a leader to take the charge for the next generation? Ezra, the doer of the Word.

4. Ezra Instructed God’s Word to Others

By now, we see the sweet disposition of Ezra’s heart to God’s Word. He took the time to establish his convictions, searched day and night for God’s Truth, and obeyed with gladness God’s instructions. Although Ezra was well on his way to the path of success, he was not satisfied. His heart yearned for one more thing: To teach his people the statutes and judgments of God’s Word.

While statutes and judgments may run together in our minds while reading this verse, these two words actually convey two distinct components. According to the Strong’s Concordance, statute implies a decree, ordinance, or law, whereas judgment conveys a verdict, a manner of the law, or a crime and the penalty. In other words, Ezra prepared his heart to teach his people not only the law of God, but also the consequences of disobeying God’s law.

In this day of extreme tolerance, we are so used to hearing that it’s okay to live however we want. Even the church world at this time is almost numb to sin and wrongdoing. However, God’s Word is established as a command because disobeying it brings severe consequences. It is in His wonderful mercy that God gave us His Word to show us the way to life. Disobedience to His Word leads to sorrow, heartache, distress, trouble, and eventually death. No temporary fleshly pleasure is worth the pain and heartache disobedience brings to those who choose to sidestep the Word of God.

Our hero, Ezra, understood the significance of honoring God’s Word, studying it daily, and obeying it without question. He knew the great blessing God’s Word would bring to those who loved it and lived by it. On the other hand, he also recognized the grave severity of distress and problems that would arise if God’s Word was not accepted and acted upon. It is with this great heart set towards the simplicity of carrying God’s Truth to his generation that we find Ezra in position to be God’s next man in line. When God looked over to find a man He could use to bring restoration to His people, guess who was ready, willing, and able? Ezra, God’s man of compassion and conviction.

It’s Our Turn Now!

With Ezra as a shining example of obedience, let’s learn to shape our hearts like he did towards God’s Word. Let’s stand erect for our Lord Jesus Christ in a generation that prefers the profane over godliness. May our sights be ever set on the Word of the Lord, daily drinking in His words and His heart. May we act upon His every word without doubt or hesitation, and may we boldly lead others into His truth. Who knows…when God needs a mighty man or woman to carry out His purpose on the earth in this hour, He might just tap us on the shoulder and whisper to our hearts: “Go! It’s your turn now!”

NOTE: My blogs have been updated and repackaged on my own website at http://www.micacharityolinghouse.com/. To subscribe to the blog, please click here.

 

Pink notebook black penA few weeks ago, Sarah Soon (a member of the writing group I lead at church) invited me to take part of a writing process blog tour. Excited to bring in other members of our group into the tour, I gladly accepted her invitation. (You can read more about Sarah on her blog www.writebygrace.com.)

As part of this tour, I am to answer three specific questions regarding my writing experience, projects, and style. Below are my responses to this challenge:

1) What are you working on?

As a professional writer/editor and the owner of Millennial Media, my hands are involved in a variety of writing, editorial, and management projects. Since I specialize in writing and editing content for ministries and churches, my day-to-day activities range from book editing to writing for social media.

This week, I celebrate the final touches on a book project I did for a client who is a professional Christian life coach. After editing the original manuscript and then altering according to the author’s revisions, all that remained of the editing process was proofreading the final pre-typeset copy. It’s on those insane proofreading days that the hours stretch long into the evening with the tedious analysis of the final manuscript. Searching for spelling, punctuation, and capitalization errors can be seriously exhausting to the eyes and the brain! However, the price of perfecting copy fades in comparison to the satisfaction of presenting excellence to my clients and to the general public. All you editors can understand the overwhelming release I feel every time I insert the final correction into the document and send it off to a client!

In addition to filling my workdays this week with final edits and proofreading, I’ve also been overseeing communication between my client in Texas, the typesetter in Hawaii, and the other proofreader in another part of Texas. As the owner of a small LLC, I provide my clients with the additional services needed to publish their books by outsourcing to other freelance professionals on my team. Although the details can sometimes be overwhelming, I enjoy the camaraderie of working with others on creative projects.

Today, my work schedule is a little less intense but more varied: I’m writing this blog, creating an editorial calendar for future blog posts, editing copy of a weekly e-devotional for a client in Louisiana, and writing social media content for some local clients. All my work today is being done from the comfort of my home office while I listen to the latest David Crowder album. :)

2) Why do you write what you do?

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved the English language. I’ve been surrounded by books and journals for as long as I can remember. In fact, when I was just two years old, my dad found me sprawled out on his office floor scribbling in one of his favorite books. (This story has now become one of his favorites to retell whenever he’s talking about his first-born. I always tell him that, somehow even at the age of two, I was expressing my God-given gift!)

Although I could have channeled my gift into writing stories of fiction, I couldn’t override my passion for telling truth. Born out of my love for God and His Word, my writing gift and calling has taken me down the road of communicating the truth of God’s Word to others. The freedom, peace, and power found in Jesus’ redemption of mankind ignites my heart every time I put pen to paper. Thinking about the hurt and brokenness so many walk in everyday brings tears to my eyes. And so it is with every word I write and every project I commit to that I pray others are brought into a living reality of a relationship with God. This is essentially why I have spent the majority of my life consistently disciplining my writing through education, experience, and professionalism. It is one way in which I can bear the light of Jesus in a dark world.

3) How does your writing process work? 

The process really depends on what project I am working on. If it’s a ghostwriting project taken from transcripts, I usually take several weeks to comb through the information and organize the content into a book skeleton. After that process is complete and the rough table of contents is established, I begin building the book paragraph by paragraph and chapter by chapter. This is perhaps one of the most challenging services I offer to clients, and I find that sometimes the process takes way longer than originally estimated! Once the book is built, I then begin the editing process, which involves tightening the writing, reorganizing content, and sharpening the overall focus of the book. After the edits are complete and sent off to the author for his approval, I then make final corrections to the manuscript based on the author’s review. Upon final changes, the manuscript is proofread and then sent off to the typesetter or client for the remaining steps in the self-publishing process.

Of course, other simple editing and copywriting projects follow different processes. Some projects involve more research than others, while other copywriting projects, such as some of the feature stories I’ve written for ORU’s Excellence magazine, require interviews and creative angles. As a freelancer, I’ve learned to be flexible in my schedule and to diversify my skills. The more excellent services I can offer my clients, the more in-demand I become to my industry.

As part of our blogging exercise in my writing group, I am selecting three other young ladies in our writing group to continue the writing process tour by answering these same questions in their blogs. You can read their postings in the next few weeks here:

1. Alexandra Garcia

http://chickenscratchedthoughts.wordpress.com/

2. Jewell Griffith

http://www.jewellgriffith.com

3. Danyelle Wilson

http://promisegirl88.wordpress.com

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