What You Thought Was Dead

Check out this week’s podcast @ https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/jasmine-lozano-seeking-god-loving-others/id1562418663

In 2016, we moved into our current Midwest mansion. It’s not really a mansion but was one of the few houses we looked at where our visitors didn’t have to use our bathroom so it was a mansion to me!

One of the major selling points of our house was the beautiful apple tree in the front yard that didn’t yield crab apples but actual, grocery storish looking and tasting apples. 

Fast forward two years, and my storybook apple tree stopped producing apples. It looked tired and dry and my husband thought we would have to cut it down. 

Before giving it the axe, he decided to try a few things first. He removed the old mulch and replaced it with new mulch. He cut off the parts of the tree that were clearly dead. And lastly, (and you better not laugh at my man!!) he spoke to the tree. He told it to come to life and produce apples. He told it to do what it was created to do. 

And by the next summer, we still didn’t have apples. I know I set you up. You were expecting a harvest of apples like we were. But it didn’t happen. But he continued to talk to the tree. 

This summer, guess what happened? WE GOT APPLES!!! And this fall, WE ARE EATING APPLES!!! 

Our tree didn’t start coming back to life immediately. It took time. It took patience. It took faith. 

I’m reminded of the story of Lazarus in John 11. You can check out my podcast for a more in-depth discussion on this (small plug!). But when Jesus got to Lazarus’ town of Bethany, he was beyond dead! The Bible says he had been in the tomb for 4 days. 

When Jesus saw Lazarus’ tomb, he spoke 3 simple words to his friend. “Lazarus, come forth.” And I love that the Bible tells us that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is in us (Romans 8:11)! 

There are dreams in my life that sometimes seem like they’re dead. Or are at least on life support underneath all of my responsibilities. But I think about what Jesus told his disciples when he heard of Lazarus’ death. “He’s sleeping” (John 11:11)

Could it be that what you thought was dead is just sleeping? That business, that book, that blog, that podcast, that invention or service? They’re not dead; they’re sleeping, waiting on a word of life to breathe on it and wake it up!

I believe that our apple tree began producing apples again because my husband told it. Neither of us is particularly skilled at gardening but we do know that power of words. And you can speak to the things in your life that aren’t producing and I believe with you that they will come forth!!

Stop Pacifying the Pain; Fix the Problem

Check out this blog on my podcast: Seeking God, Loving Others https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/jasmine-lozano-seeking-god-loving-others/id1562418663?i=1000534243735

At about 9 weeks from my first marathon, I am knee deep in training. How appropriate that I’ve begun to have some discomfort in my right knee. I was having a great training cycle and even though the miles were increasing, I was looking forward to the challenge. Then after running about 20 miles in a 4 day period, my knee signaled to me that something was wrong. I put ice on, massaged it, elevated it, did all of the things I could think to do to treat an injury until after some research, I found that I wasn’t actually treating my injury. I was treating the symptoms.

I will spare you the scientific, medical terminology and explanations and give you a run down. There is a connective tissue in the leg that runs from the hip to the knee called the Iliotibial Band, or IT Band for us common folk. Basically, this tissue is what we use to make our leg do the motions for running or cycling. So it’s kind of important. 

I found that pain on the outside of the knee (exactly where I was having it) was a symptom of IT Band Syndrome, or ITBS for short. I know, it sounds super scary! ITBS happens when the muscles surrounding the IT Band are not strong enough to support the activity you are trying to do. Basically, it happens when you do too much too fast and your body isn’t prepared. 

The only way to truly recover from this injury is to strengthen the muscles that support the IT Band. You can ice, medicate, stretch, even rest, but you will only be treating the symptoms and never addressing the real issue.

This “healing” approach is not unique to just this running injury. Year after year, many people do everything they can to pacify pain, rather than fix the problem. 

  • We think we don’t make enough money (symptom) when really, we never learned how to manage money (problem).
  • We think losing weight is just too hard (symptom) when we haven’t addressed our unhealthy relationship with food (problem).
  • We think we’re too busy to put time into spiritual growth (symptom) when truthfully, God is not a priority for us (problem).

When we go through life just trying to stay on top of the symptoms, we never experience the true healing that God offers. In the 11th chapter of 2nd Samuel, King David encountered some major issues when he attempted to only treat the symptoms of the affair he had with Bathsheba.

This is an abridged summary (Please refer to an actual Bible with an officially recognized translation)

David was supposed to be at war with the troops but stayed home and saw a lady taking a bath on her roof. He asks who she is and is told she is the wife of one of his soldiers, Uriah. He has her come over and gets her pregnant. Then he starts freaking out (treating the symptoms). 

But he has a plan! He can ice it; he can find something to cover up what’s really going on. He has Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, brought home from battle so he will sleep with his wife and think the baby is his. 

But when Uriah comes home, he refuses to rest in comfort while his fellow countrymen are on the battlefield, and sleeps at the city gate. But David has more home remedies for this setback.

He gets Uriah drunk and tries again to have him go home to sleep with his wife, but when this fails, he moves to more extreme measures. He arranges to have Uriah put at the front of the battle so he is more likely to be killed.

Once his plan is “successful”, he thinks he’s remedied his problem. He thinks he’s taken care of the problem that is plaguing him. But he has only treated the symptoms. 

The prophet Nathan comes to David and pretty much checks him. He lets David know that God is not pleased and because of his sin, the sword will never leave his household (constant drama) and his unborn child will die. 

When David hears this, he finally takes the ice off, locks up the ibuprofen, and finds the root of his problems.

“Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”” (2 Samuel 13:13) 

David’s problem wasn’t Bathsheba, the affair, the unplanned pregnancy or even the murder. David’s problem was that he sinned against God. He had drifted away from what he was known for his whole life: allowing God to be his strength. He spent so much time trying to treat the symptoms of his sin, rather than going to the only cure for it.

Like recovering from an injury, it’s important to assess what is really going on in our lives when we experience discomfort or pain. Have we strengthened our faith muscle to be able to rely on the power of God when things get tough? Have we paused to be sure we’re not overextending ourselves?

My husband taught a message this week and one of the points was to “Pay Attention to the Tension”. Tension or pain isn’t meant to take us out. They are signals that something is not right. They are an opportunity for us to course correct and get back on track. 

While I recover from this small injury, I’m being mindful to not just treat the symptoms but to strengthen the area that needs to be built up. Otherwise, this will be an unnecessary, ongoing problem. Decide today to stop treating your symptoms and fix the problem.

Training Tips

Check out my podcast, Seeking God, Loving Others! This weeks episode based on this blog: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/jasmine-lozano-seeking-god-loving-others/id1562418663?i=1000534243735

This week in my marathon training, I had a midweek 6 mile run and unintentionally chose a path that has a few hills. I’m a lazy runner if I’m being honest and typically, I try to find routes that stay pretty even or go down in elevation! But being that my November marathon does feature some intense hills, I know I have to get more effective at running them.

As I was running up a steep hill, I began to regret my decision. Hills are hard! Hills hurt. Hills take more effort. Hills slow you down. Why can’t all races be on a level course that requires little to no effort? You already know where I’m going with this, don’t you?!

Life does not progress on an even course. There are times when we are running well and times when all we can do is walk. There will be times when there is plenty and times when we get to practice contentment! We don’t always get to run downhill. Sometimes we will have to tackle hills.

Jesus told us this in John 16:33. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

Jesus wanted us to know that in this world, we will have trouble. Not we might have or could possibly have trouble. WILL. Look at his life! The Pharisees were constantly stalking his every move. The Sadduceus’ main mission in life was to try to trip him up. His own disciple turned him in to be arrested. The people laughed at and mocked him and don’t forget he was put on a cross by the same people who laid palm branches under him!

It’s easy to say we want to live like Jesus, but do we though!? Jesus was able to endure all of this and more because he had already put in the training. He had already practiced on the hills! 

Jesus spent time in prayer and fasting. He knew the Scriptures like no one else! He prioritized communion with his father. He surrounded himself with like minded people (although they sometimes got on his nerves!).

His life was neither smooth nor easy. And neither will ours be. I wish more than anything it could be, but instead of wishing for the impossible, I’d rather prepare for the inevitable. 

Just like I’m preparing my body to run 26.2 miles by eating properly, sleeping well, and training up for the distance, we can prepare our lives to weather the storms life will send. 

No matter what you are going through, know that God has given you everything you need to overcome. It won’t always be uphill.. But if you train for the difficult seasons by staying consistent in his word and staying connected to him, you will make it to the top. 

On the Path

On Saturday mornings I run with a running group. It’s one of the favorite parts of my week. We run in a different location each week, then have coffee afterwards. After taking a long break from running, it’s been really refreshing to be running with my group again. 

Every week, there is a Facebook post telling us where we’ll be running, where to park and the route we can take. Some of the routes we run, I’m familiar with and others, not so much. Sometimes I run with a partner that has a similar pace but when there’s no one who I can run with, I just settle in between the faster runners and the walkers. 

This Saturday, I tailed a guy who’s a bit faster than me but not too fast that he’s not usually within eyesight. It also helped that he was wearing a neon yellow shirt! About halfway through the run, I lost sight of him. And this was a route that I’d never run. There were some twists and turns on the path that caused me not to see him.

While I had never run this route, I knew that as long as I stayed on the path, I’d be ok. I knew that even though I couldn’t see my “guide”, I wouldn’t get lost as long as I stayed on the path. 

I’m in a season where I don’t always know what I should be doing or not doing. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing exactly what God wants me to be doing and other times I feel like I’m just coasting in complacency. But lately, he has been reminding me that as long as I stay on the path he laid out for me, I don’t have to stress.

Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way.” I know, with 100% confidence that God has ordered my steps, and knowing this helps me to stay encouraged even when I don’t see him moving. I know that the path he’s posted will get me to my destination.

Who’s In Your Boat? Part 2 of 2

LISTEN TO THIS PODCAST @ https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/jasmine-lozano-seeking-god-loving-others/id1562418663?i=1000528345473

Last week, I talked about what happens when the wrong people are in your boat or your life, using the story of Jonah. Jonah never belonged on the boat to Tarshish and his very presence put others’ lives in danger.

If you have a specific destination or goal for your life, it’s imperative that you only take along the right people. The wrong people will only cause you unnecessary problems, setbacks, and cause your route to be filled with disorder, devastation, and delays. 

“You are only going to be as good as the people you surround yourself with, so be brave enough to let go those who keep weighing you down.” -Ziad K. Abdelnour

This week, we’ll discuss what kind of people you should not allow in your boat and also, what kind of people make good sailing companions. If you know me, you know I love some good alliteration, so for your reading and podcast listening pleasure, they all start with “C” (You are welcome). And they’re Biblical, too! 

WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BE ON YOUR BOAT:

COMPLAINING PEOPLE

Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. (Numbers 11:1)

It is easier to complain than to do something. It’s true. Complaining about something only takes your opinion. Changing something takes action. There is a time to speak up when something needs to be corrected, but I’m talking about complaining just for the sake of it. 

I live in Wisconsin where we really have just two seasons. We have about 3 months of people complaining how hot it is and 9 months of people complaining how cold it is. We have entire websites and apps dedicated as places to complain. Have you ever noticed how many 1 star reviews places get? People often spread bad news faster than good news. 

When the Israelites were in the desert after leaving Egypt, they were set to take over the promised land but the Bible tells us that a group of complainers spread a bad report through the camp that caused the people to become fearful. As a result, they wandered the desert for 40 years.

Complaining is contagious. Why? Because misery loves company. Instead of figuring out a solution to a problem, complainers only talk about why something is the way it is. These type of people will not add value to your goals, they will only place unnecessary obstacles in your path.

COMPLACENT PEOPLE

The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” (Exodus 16:3)

Let me start by saying I am not talking about contentment. Contentment is defined as a state of happiness and satisfaction. It’s being grateful for what you have. I recently watched a documentary featuring a man living independently with Down Syndrome. When asked if he wished his life was different, he responded, “I’m happy with my life right now until something better happens.” That is my definition of contentment.

But complacency is something entirely different. “A complacent person is very pleased with themselves or feels that they do not need to do anything about a situation, even though the situation may be uncertain or dangerous” (collinsdictionary.com). 

The Israelites were reminiscing about the food they had in Egypt but they forgot one thing. THEY WERE SLAVES THERE!! They were longing for the complacency they had in Egypt. They were promised a land flowing with milk and honey, but they were longing for meat with a side of bondage. 

We’ve been promised an abundant life (John 10:10) but many believers have become complacent with a life far below the abundance we can receive. Complacent people often won’t challenge you to do and be better, just good enough.

CARELESS PEOPLE

“Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” (Proverbs 4:26)

I am a planner. I like to have an idea of what to expect for the day, week, month and year. As an aspiring writer, podcaster, ministry leader, business owner, and homeschooling parent, planning helps me to see my endeavors grow. 

One of my favorite quotes says that if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. Careless people will definitely keep your boat from arriving at your destination. Careless people very rarely have a vision or plan for their life. 

I was talking to someone who has a dream that to some looks insurmountable. It is a big, bold, “only God can do it” dream, and they’ve encountered some push back from people they’d hoped would encourage them. I shared this with them: People who don’t have a goal or vision for their own life often won’t add much value to yours.

CONTROVERSIAL PEOPLE

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” (2 Timothy 2:23)

“What do you think about Christians drinking?” This is a trick question. When someone asks you this, they don’t really care what you think. They want to open the door to lay out their seven point presentation about the Troubles of Tonics. 

Some Christians love arguing about the Bible. Not defending it to unbelievers or debating it with an atheist; arguing with other Christians who despite their different beliefs on baptism will still be with them in heaven.

I steer clear of people who are intent on being argumentative because I know that it doesn’t get us anywhere. Controversial people often look for faults in others rather than seeing them through the loving eyes of God. They see the world as us and them. People who think like they do and everyone else is stupid or wrong.

WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE SHOULD BE ON YOUR BOAT:

CONSECRATED

“‘Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 20:7)

Holiness is not a bad word. I say this a lot because it is true. I am holy. And if you are saved, you are too. My kids don’t have to do anything to prove they are my kids. They are my kids because they lived in my womb for nine months and share my DNA. But because they are my kids, I do have expectations of them. 

And yes, God has expectations for his children. The Bible calls us a peculiar people. That doesn’t mean we are supposed to be weirdos who freak people out as we chase them down with a track entitled, “Be Right or GET LEFT!!!”. But there should be something distinguishable about our lives. 

I have friends from all walks of life, but have to be very mindful of who I trust with my vision and goals. Like-minded, consecrated people will give you the encouragement you need and you can trust it because you know they’ve been with God.

CONSISTENT

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain”. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Consistency is key to reaching your goals. You need faithful, hard working people around you that will help encourage you and keep you accountable. 

COMPETENT

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16,17)

God wants his people to be well equipped and prepared to serve. I think some people never reach their full potential not because they can’t but because they don’t prepare. 

My kids are still young but I’m teaching them how to prepare for a productive life. I want them to know how to organize their life and their thoughts. I want to show them how to build their relationship with God and the importance of serving him well. 

COMPASSIONATE

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

In my opinion, compassion is one of the characteristics of Christ I’d love to see implemented more in the church. Jesus was a compassionate leader. He looked at the people around him that were hurting and he didn’t blame them or shame them; he had compassion for them. 

I’ve been very fortunate to know many kind, compassionate followers of Christ that have given me grace when I needed it. You need people in your life that will pick you up when you fall. 

My pastor used to say, “We’re a fellowship. All fellows in the same ship.” When we take inventory of who is in our boat, we can see why we’re making headway towards our destination or experiencing delay.

Keep Going

Sometimes you can’t see changes as they’re happening. I started taking a picture of this tree after every run starting in March. Good runs, bad runs: Same picture. The first picture is from March; the second from today. I didn’t notice much change in this once barren tree from day to day, but 4 months later it is full and providing shade and comfort.

I don’t always feel like I’m moving forward with my goals but one thing I know is that consistency will get me closer to them. I’m learning that I don’t have to sprint to the finish line. I can continue to move towards it at a sustainable pace.

We are becoming better each day. Each day is not perfect and it never will be. And that’s ok. But as long as we keep going, keep doing, keep loving, keep growing, we will see results!

Happy Monday!!

Free Indeed

It was a Monday morning, June 19, 1865. Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived on the island of Galveston, Texas with a proclamation: All enslaved people were now emancipated and free to leave the tyranny of slavery.

It is estimated that at this time, there were over 250,000 enslaved Black Americans living in Texas. This day, known as Juneteenth, has been celebrated for over 150 years, in remembrance of the end of slavery in Texas.

As a Black American, I have always found this day to be bitter sweet. For centuries, blacks were violated, treated as property, separated from their families, and forced to work and live in uninhabitable conditions. The end of slavery is definetly an occasion to celebrate. But what saddens me is that this news of emancipation came 2 years, 5 months, and 18 days after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect on January 1, 1863. 

For almost two and a half years, blacks in Texas continued in the lifestyle of slavery simply because they had no idea they had been freed. They experienced two and a half years of physical and mental mistreatment; two and a half years of families being separated; two and a half years of unlivable, unsanitary conditions. So if you see me looking a bit distraught at a Juneteenth barbeque, this is why.

I’d like to say I can’t imagine living in slavery while I was actually free, but I don’t have to imagine it; I lived it. For years, I lived in slavery. I wasn’t being beaten and forced to work without pay, but I was being held bondage by chains I didn’t even know I had. I was in bondage to my sinful nature. I was being held by chains of defeat and destruction, but the worst part was that I knew I could have freedom. I knew about the freedom that was available through Jesus but I was choosing to stay enslaved.

I don’t have any statistical data or research for this next point, but I stand by it. When a person is not experiencing freedom when it has been made available to them, I believe it’s for one of two reasons: They are not aware of their freedom or they have chosen to remain in bondage.

Unlike me, the over 250,000 enslaved blacks in Texas had no idea that the invisible chains their “owners” used to keep them in bondage had been broken with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. They had no clue they were free.

Today as we celebrate Juneteenth, I’m reminded of not only of the freedom of my ancestors but also of the freedom I have in Christ. The chains that once bound me have been broken.

BOOT CAMP: Wk 2 Bible Study

Check out this week’s podcast @ https://anchor.fm/jasmine-lozano4/episodes/Boot-Camp-The-Importance-of-Bible-Study-evkn6i

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”Hebrews‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In November 2019, my family visited Newport State Park in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. It was one of the most magnificent experiences I have ever had. The park is located on the very tip of the Wisconsin Peninsula.

Because this park is designated as a dark sky location, artificial light is heavily discouraged. They ask that if you must use a flashlight, be sure it’s pointed to the ground. There aren’t even any lights on the bathrooms or in the bathrooms, which made it pretty difficult taking my 6 year old to use the unlit bathroom in 28° weather!

Because the weather was so cold at night, we would go back to the car for a few minutes to warm up, but encountered a major problem. Every time we’d turn on the car, my dim lights would still remain on. We knew there had to be a way to turn these off, but we just didn’t know how.

I’ve always been paranoid about keeping the owner’s manual in the car and with the help of it (and google) we found the way to keep the lights off when we started the car.

The owner’s manual for your car helps you to figure out the details of your car that you don’t know. Most of us know how to put the car in drive and we can figure out how to turn the windshield wipers, but there are some areas of our car that we have no knowledge of.

The same is true in life. For many people, there are areas where they are simply not knowledgeable. Maybe you grew up in a home where finances were never discussed so as an adult you struggled trying to make ends meet, get out of debt, or save money. 

Maybe you grew up eating fast food every meal, and now that you’re in your 30s or 40s, you’re finding out that type of diet is not sustainable. Whatever the case may be, we are privy to a wealth of information. Looking up how to solve almost any problem it’s just a few fingertips away. But there are some problems that go deeper than just a Google search. 

For me, there is no other book that can help me understand my money, help me to flourish in my relationships, help me to raise my kids, help me to change my diet, and a host of other problems that plague many of us. That book is the Bible; the word of God. 

2 Timothy 3:16 says “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 

That means every word of the Bible was inspired by God. There is a point to every book, chapter and verse, even the long, boring ones that seem to go on forever! (I’m sorry if you’re offended I called some of the Bible boring, but if you disagree, you’re lying. Come on, Leviticus!?) But they are there for a reason. 

We’ve been given the word of God as a tool to hear the voice of God and familiarize ourselves with his promises and yes, even his consequences. While we have been redeemed from the curse of the law (Galatians 3), there are still consequences to disobeying the word of God, just as there are benefits to obeying it.  

Isaiah 40:8 says “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” 

We see nature changing all of the time in front of our eyes. We also see culture, trends and opinions change just as frequently. While everything around us is unstable and subject to change, the Bible is the one constant we can rest our faith on.

I challenge you to make reading your Bible everyday a priority this week. Decide beforehand how long you will read, where you will do your reading and what book you will read. Don’t leave your spiritual development up to chance. Be intentional about pursuing God’s word and see the difference it will make in your day.

Let’s chat: What are some obstacles you face when trying to be consistent in your Bible reading?

BOOT CAMP: Week 1 Fellowship

Check out this week’s podcast on Fellowship! https://anchor.fm/jasmine-lozano4/episodes/Boot-Camp-The-Importance-of-Fellowship-eujl2r

You need to go to church. Period. No nice introduction or anecdote, no statistics or kind encouragement. If you are physically able, you need to take your body to church.

As I’m writing this post, I am aware that many churches have been closed for a period of time due to the coronavirus pandemic. During this time, many believers have had to worship around their TVs, computers and phones.

Technology really came through! Many churches were forced to rethink their approach to reaching the masses and as a result, many were able to reach more people than ever before.

My husband and I love watching other services online. We like to see what other churches are doing, what their stages look like, what they’re teaching, the songs they’re singing. 

But as much as I enjoy watching different services online, there is nothing like being in the physical house of the Lord. While I’m grateful that we were still able to worship virtually during the time it was necessary, we were never meant to walk this Christian journey alone. 

Paul had Silas. Mary had Martha. Peter had James and John. And we need connection. It is so important to be surrounded by people who can help encourage you and strengthen you when you need it. 

Jackie Hill-Perry said it best. “God himself has never been alone. He has Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We are never less like God than when we isolate ourselves.”

The Bible is full of examples of believers gathering for worship and encourages us to stay connected. Hebrews 10:25 ESV says, “Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

When I first became a believer, I lived at the church! Youth chaperon needed? Sign me up! Sunday night classes? I was there. I wanted to learn everything I could about faith and how to live this new life. I needed to find people who had experience. I needed to find people to grow with who were new to faith like I was. The bottom line, I needed to find connection.

I also needed accountability and encouragement. I was amazed that after a bad day, I could turn to a sister in Christ rather than a substance. I learned very quickly why the believers in the New Testament were always together and breaking bread.

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:42 ESV

When the Holy Spirit first came to the new Christians, the Bible says they were together and on one accord. While they were not necessarily meeting in what we would define as a church building, they were together; they were the church. 

My faith was strengthened every time I heard an encouraging message Sunday morning; it was strengthened everytime I went to a Sunday night Bible study; it was strengthened every Wednesday night when I heard testimonies of God’s provision and protection. 

Physically going to church and developing relationships with people in all levels of faith helped me to continue to grow and develop my own.

I often hear people give countless excuses as to why they couldn’t make it to church. My volleyball coach used to say, “Excuses are like belly buttons. Everyone has them and they’re all full of lint.” I’ve been told there is a harsher analogy for this, but this blog is rated PG! But he was right. 

We can tell ourselves and others countless reasons as to why it is so difficult to get to the church, but most times the hard truth is this: If you didn’t make it to church, it’s because you didn’t want to go.

I know. It sounds tough. Where is the grace? I’ll lighten up a bit.Thankfully, we are not made righteous by what we do or by what we don’t do, otherwise, we’d be saved by works and not faith. Our righteousness (right standing) is received by the simple act of salvation, our relationship as children of God.

I think about my own children. Neither are old enough for a cell phone so I’ll ask my son if he will text me when he gets one. He said, “Oh, you know it! I’ll blow you up!” He recently got his own ipad and has proven he was not lying. I wake up to about 10 texts on average every morning!

My daughter, on the other hand, is not much of a chatter. When I ask her the same question, my heart sinks a bit. “Maybe,” she’ll say casually without even a smirk to let me know she’s joking. I really hope she is!

But this is how many Christians approach corporate fellowship with God. Maybe they will go to church this week. Maybe they will give. Maybe they will join the Bible study. Despite the relationship with him as his children, many people have put off making a commitment to church attendance and involvement, leaving it up to how they feel when they wake up Sunday morning. Read this passage from Psalm 92:

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing. -Psalm 92:12-15

So what is the opposite of being fresh and flourishing? Spoiled and withering. What a contrast. Am I saying your life is going to completely crumble and fall apart if you don’t go to church? No. I know non-Christians and Christians alike who don’t regularly attend church and they seem to be doing okay.

But as a believer, God did not call us to just do okay. He called us to a better life. John 10:10 tells us he came to give us a life that is more and better than we ever dreamed of. 

While personal discipleship is important for growth in faith, corporate discipleship helps to expound on that growth. When I became a believer, I made a decision that I would be at church every Sunday. Period. My Sunday morning attendance was not based on what external factors may have happened the night before or morning of. I was going to be at church. I was going to meet with my father.

Just as we commit to our jobs, appointments and even sports teams, God’s children must commit and prioritize their decision to follow him. Not out of obligation or requirement, but out of love and honor. 

Do you face challenges when it comes to prioritizing weekly church attendance? Let’s chat in the comments!

BASIC TRAINING

Listen to the podcast episode for this blog post: Welcome to my Podcast! https://anchor.fm/jasmine-lozano4/episodes/Welcome-to-my-Podcast-euiitg

Christians are often called the army of God. We sing songs as kids about being in the Lord’s army; we are told in scripture to fight spiritual battles with spiritual weapons (Ephesians 6:10); we read about God strengthening his followers’ hands for battle (Psalm 144:1).

The Bible is filled with language and imagery about battle and war. There are few groups that form the bond and unity like the military. While one of my least favorite genres of movies is war movies, I have seen my fair share of them (often not of my own volition). 

Consider the United States military. There are different branches and ranks. Soldiers are equipped to perform different tasks based on their abilities. There are snipers and skilled weapons specialists, but there are also clerical and medical experts. There are soldiers who disarm bombs and soldiers who prepare meals that are the bomb (I’m from the 90’s, sorry!).

But there is one thing every member of the military has in common; THEY ALL COMPLETE BASIC TRAINING.

Basic Training or boot camp is designed to prepare military recruits for service.  Depending on the branch of the military, recruits are put through months of training tailored to that branch to give them the basic skills they will need to be able to perform effectively.

The different branches vary in what is required physically to complete Basic Training. The Navy has a requirement that recruits must be able to tread water for 5 minutes. But all branches require a timed run ranging from 1.5 to 3 miles. 

Whether a soldier is swabbing the deck (I got that from a movie, though it may have been a pirate movie) or filing a report, they all need to be able to run. They all need to be able to endure long distances.

As the church, it seems we have discounted the importance of Basic Training for the believer. Once someone finds their faith and is planted in church, it is crucial to train new recruits in what’s required and expected in the army of the Lord.

Could you imagine joining the Army and immediately being put on a plane to a combat zone, given a gun and dropped off? You would be totally unprepared. 

But unfortunately, the church does this to many new believers as they sign up to join the Army of God. They come to church and are bombarded with cliches and theologies when they can’t even find the book of Matthew yet.

If we want to be effective in sharing the gospel with hurting people, we have to be trained in the basics of our faith.

When I was saved 15 years ago, I was very privileged to be at a church that invested in Chrstian education. I was able to take classes about prayer, serving, and evangelism that helped build the foundation I needed to be able to serve the Lord and run well.

This is an area of faith I am so passionate about. Teaching believers the basics of faith. How to pray; how to study the Bible; why we give and serve. For many people, the benefits of the Christian life stop at the point of salvation. They can trust Jesus to save them from hell, but are not taught how he can sustain them on earth.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a Boot Camp series on basic training for Christian living. God has such a great life planned for his children and we learn about it through his Word, fellowship and prayer. 

My prayer is that you will not jog casually through your faith journey, but run well with endurance. I hope you can join me in the comments for some good discussion!