The Ten Commandments

Yes, so often we forget the 10 Commandments… Why? They are so important.

a whisper in the wind

The Ten Commandments were given to the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai.  To this day they provide, not just a code of conduct for a religious group, but a foundation for ethical behavior that has stood for thousands of years.  Today, however, it is being removed not just from our public buildings but from many of our lives.  Today I hope to reinforce the foundation of our code of conduct, The Ten Commandments.

I.  Our Relationship to God:  Deuteronomy 5:6-15

‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

‘You shall have no other gods before Me.

‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow…

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Empty Happiness.

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Talking about God with a friend is lovely, isn’t it? Its a blessing to be able to sit around and tell someone where you’re at and what is going on in your life and what God is doing in your life.

I am very blessed to have friends like that.

While I was talking with a wonderful friend the other night, that I trust and confide in, I was reminded that I was not always here. It wasn’t always easy to have conversations like that, and I wasn’t always in this place where I was happy and excited about what God was doing in my life.

Two years ago, my sophomore year, was a year I struggled with empty happiness. If you had asked me if I would relive that year on that last day of sophomore year, I would’ve told you, “Not in a million years”. I was very lonely, depressed, lost, and confused. School was something I dreaded. Not a lot of people know this about me. Freshman year, I was also very depressed. And I was having a hard time with the friends I was close with. No one seemed to understand when I wanted to talk about God and where I was at. No one wanted to talk about God. I loved church. Some of my friends didn’t want to hear about my experiences at church.

When you get to high school, life is all about where you are in the food chain at school. Are you at the top or the bottom? Who do you hang out with? Who is your group of friends? I found so much identity in my group that I was struggling to find it in my relationship with Jesus. Who I was in Him was not what I was reaching for. And I didn’t want to chase down the boys like a lot of my friends did. I wanted to chase Jesus. But I wasn’t. It was an empty place. I wasn’t chasing what my friends wanted but I also wasn’t chasing Jesus. I wanted to, but I was caught in this middle ground.

God really tugged at my heart for those two years. I tried to talk to my friends about it, but I didn’t have the people around me that I trusted to tell them what I was feeling. Thats a hard place to be in. You’re a Christian and your friends may or may not be too, but they’re not chasing Jesus. And you see that. What do you do? Well you talk about it. Invite them to church, talk about Jesus…

The number of friends I had that year slowly decreased and I lost contact with a lot of people I saw everyday. I’m sure not a lot of them noticed because it was something that happened over time. Sometimes you just lose contact with people. But there was this invisible wall that grew between me and a few people. You can’t see it, but you can definitely feel it. Sometimes, you run right into that wall and it hurts.

It really did hurt.

I was lonely. I felt forgotten. But in that time, God shouted loud and clear,

“I’m here with you!”

And He was. He was there. God walked with me through this empty time of my life. Even when I sat alone in class or sat home alone on Friday nights, knowing that God was with me outweighed the loneliness.

It was never easy, it was always difficult. But its truly beautiful when you can go through something like that with a friend. And I did have a friend in Jesus.

With that being said, I want to clarify that there was never a time in my life where I didn’t have friends. I talked with friends from church and I met new people when others stopped talking to me. But everyone had their “group” of peeps. I understood. So I floated around. Then God did something amazing.

He brought me my best friend. A person who was going through the exact same thing I was. And she was distanced from her friends as well because she was chasing Jesus. For some reason, we started hanging out. At lunch we sat by each other and shared what God was doing in our lives.

My best friend was one of the first people I talked to about Enlightened and  she stood beside me to get everything together and set for what God did that night. She shared her story that night, about her lonely path during her first two years of high school. It was amazing how we realized that God has been calling us to great things and we needed to pursue Him to do that. We knew that pursing Him instead of that empty happiness was worth it. And He brought along a friend to encourage the other during the journey.

I now have a group of really close friends in my life that love Jesus and are chasing Him. Ones that I can share with about what God is doing in my life and they can share the same with me. I share this because I’m thankful. Thankful that God provided me with these friends to talk to, get to know, and spend time with.

Even if I didn’t have these friends, I am still thankful that I went through that lonely period of my life. God taught me so much. He taught me how to rely on Him and spoke to me in those quiet, peaceful times.

I want to encourage you. If you are a Christian, there are times that your life is going to be really lonely. You may be all by yourself or you may lose friends when others make decisions that you don’t agree with. High school is all about “memories with that group of friends you hung out with”. That’s great, but that’s not why we’re here. We’re not here to be comfortable and find our identity in a group. I am thankful that I have a group of friends that knows that and doesn’t want to chase an identity in something other than Jesus.

You can find those friends. God will provide those friends. He doesn’t want us to do this alone. But it’s important that we were never alone in the first place. At the start, He was there. In the end, He’ll be there.

In the times that you feel lonely, seek Him. Don’t sit in that middle ground where you’re not chasing anything. Chase Jesus.

Proverbs 3:5

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

John 15:18-19

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

John 14:6

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”

Why You Could Be A Bad Friend

For some Christians, sharing their faith with the people closest to them makes them freeze and then retaliate. When I see that I don’t understand. Then I freeze and retaliate. When I learn that someone is a Christian, I kind of expect them to love talking about their Savior, Jesus, to others. And when I don’t see that, a part of me hurts inside.

I hurt inside because being a Christ follower is dong exactly that: following. Jesus didn’t stand still. He didn’t sit around His whole life waiting for lost people to find Him. They were lost! Sure, people did find Jesus, as we read in the Bible. But He knew the importance of choosing the path God had before Him and taking that path because there were lost people who needed help along the way.

If you are a Christian, you are not called to stand still. No, not literally. You are not called to stand still in your faith. You are called to go and tell others the truth that you possess. The truth that you hold in your hands. Proclaim the Word that you claim to believe yourself.

Talk is trash. People can throw it away. Not everyone has a perfect memory and can recite the Gettysburg Address. The words you may say to someone may mean something then but may not stick with them.

I’m not saying words of wisdom, sermons, or kind words are not worth it. What I’m saying is to only tell someone you love them but never show it to them will get thrown away into nothingness (just like trash). What is the point when actions show so much more to people? We like to see that you mean what you say.

As you hear so many pastors and preachers and leaders say, God is calling you to action.

Go and tell your friends about Jesus with words and by who you are. If your faith in God is the most important thing to you, it will shape who you are. It will change the way you think, feel, act, and respond to certain things. Isn’t that what we asked Jesus to do when we asked Him into our hearts?

I say all of this because I care. I say all of this because as a Christian, you have a responsibility. I say all of this because there are people out there that need to know Jesus.

If this is all scary, seems demanding, or is too much for you, you have the choice of turning back. You really do. You have that freedom. But if you follow Christ, these things shouldn’t seem abnormal to you. Being called to action should not be crazy. Being a Christ follower is not normal! So why do we expect so much to be like everyone else and retaliate when we are called to be different? That is not what we signed up for!

I don’t know what you are thinking right now. If you think I sound angry or mean or like I’m pointing my finger at you right now, I just want you to think about why you feel that way. I want you to know that my intensions for writing this is not to say that I’m perfect in this area of my life, but to say that as followers of Christ, we have an opportunity to proclaim truth and spread love.

Love isn’t always easy and fruity and bubbly and fun. Love is caring enough to help someone when they’re stumbling. Love is caring enough about a friend to tell them about Jesus because you know the other option is hell.

This is a serious thing we have to think about as Christians. Do we believe in God? And do we believe in hell? Do we fear both?

Proverbs 9:10- To fear God is the beginning of Wisdom.

A prominent leader in my life, Michelle, shared with our small group this last week a vision she had about her unbelieving friends. She said that she imagined people from every nation standing in line on Judgement Day to meet with God. A friend, who didn’t know Jesus, turned to her with fear in her eyes and asked,

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

That was a powerful message for me to really observe how important sharing my faith is to me. Am I telling everyone I can about Jesus and the love He has to offer? Or am I too worried about crossing boundaries and making them feel suffocated?

That is a word I hear a lot; “suffocated”. It is usually followed by “my parents” or “this weird person at school that talks about Jesus ALL THE TIME”. But we can’t fear this word. We can’t fear how people will react to hearing God’s word. They need to hear it. Right now I’m remembered a great quote from a great movie I used to watch as a child (and still do):

“Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game” -Cinderella Story.

(I know that what we’re talking about isn’t a game, but we can relate it to a game because this quote is so true!)

For me, this article was very difficult for me to publish because I know of people in my life, who are Christians, who would be offended by what I have to say. And if I told them this to their faces, I don’t think they would like me anymore. That is exactly why I needed to write this. Because there is something really messed up about that.

If you have this truth, don’t go and shove it in people’s faces. But don’t sit back and wait for people to come to you magically one day and ask about Jesus. There is a fine line between the two and we need to be there.

Sharing your faith is too important to worry about what others are thinking. If Jesus would’ve kept quiet during His life here on earth, we wouldn’t be able to look forward to an eternity of life with God. He saved us. And He wants to save your friends too. And maybe, just maybe, you were put in a friend’s life to be the one who tells them about this Savior.

John 3:16- For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever may believe in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

Jeremiah 1:7-8- But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.”

Matthew 28:19-20- And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

1 Peter 4:18- And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

Matthew 25:31-46.

Best Part of Enlightened.

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We had been there for almost 3 hours by the time my friend Kaley and I became desperate. Sitting in a restaurant with our empty soup bowls and nothing but Britney Spears’ song “Hit Me Baby One More Time” ringing in our ears, we felt defeated. We needed a name. A name for this event that was at the very edge of starting a fire. A name to start it all and to shape the very thing that God wanted to say on the night of this event.

My pen was tapping on our crowded table of scattered papers with drawings and random words that we were brainstorming about. We were silent. But the Britney Spears song was still blaring throughout the empty restaurant. Kaley looked at me and said “What are we gonna do?”

At that point, my brain was fried and my eyes had a hard time staying open. It was only 4 pm. But I had felt like I had been there for a lifetime. 3 hours of nothing. So I started joking around.

Give me a sign,” I sang along with Britney. “Hit me baby, one more time!”

And there we sat. And sat. And sat some more. Nothing.

“We need something before we talk to our principal. And we need flyers as soon as possible,” I said. My eyes were scanning the room, searching for a pinch of inspiration in something… Anything! We had already talked about the salt shakers at our table but couldn’t think of any cool titles with the word ‘salt’ in it. Thats when I saw my sign.

It was literally a sign. On each table was a sign about being “enlightened about food” or something like that. But I saw that word and I knew that this was it. Thats what we needed to talk about.

“Enlightened!” I said. It was amazing how fast me and Kaley had ideas for the night after that sign. We talked about Salt and Light and what that could look like in our schools. We talked about songs that dealt with light, people we thought of, verses we thought of… And we turned right to Matthew 5:13-16:

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Here we are on October 6th, a dark, rainy day in Michigan. It couldn’t feel any brighter after what happened last night. Last night being the most amazing night of my life.

I can’t even describe in words what happened in my public high school’s auditorium, but I can tell you that people walked out enlightened. Not because of the band or the speakers or the videos or the hosts. They walked out enlightened after experiencing God and connecting with our God that has a perfect plan and purpose for every single person.

Not everything went as planned last night. But it was perfect. It was perfect because it was what God wanted it to be.

Its still unbelievable that over 600 people gathered together in my school’s auditorium to worship Jesus. That was why they were there. Most of the people that walked in those doors had no idea what they were walking into but knew that there was an opportunity to worship. They had no idea about the lights and the songs and the lamps and the games and the messages. Seeing that turn out for worship was encouraging. But that wasn’t the best part.

Last night, His children were crying out to their Father. I heard it. I saw it. The wonderful privilege of leading worship is witnessing people’s hearts being displayed as they worship. It was a beautiful, beautiful experience. The way everyone sang, “I’ll stand with arms high and heart abandoned” was a moment I will never get out of my mind. The voices are still ringing in my ears. I can still see people raise a little candle to the sky as they devote everything to their Savior. But that wasn’t the best part.

I got to stand next to my best friend and lead worship with hundreds of my friends last night. Kaley saw this vision from the beginning and God used her to make Enlightened what it was. Her beautiful testimony was truly God speaking through her. But being able to stand next to her while we sang “The Stand” was such an honor and touching moment for me. God brought us together as friends during really lonely times of our lives and she has been there for me ever since. Always praying and encouraging. Even though that aspect of the night was incredible, that still wasn’t the best part.

We challenged everyone in the audience to action last night. There were candles on the sides of the stage (fake, battery-powered candles) for people to take and light if they wanted to make their own personal commitment to God. Before the service, I felt like God wanted this commitment to be what each person needed it to be. Whether it be giving their life to Christ, surrendering a relationship, committing to do what He is asking them to do, talking to someone about Christ… Whatever that is, everyone had something different. And hundreds of students stood up from their seats to grab a candle and hold it high. As I looked out into the crowd, I saw a lot of candles shining a warm glow of yellow. They all looked the same but none of them were the same. That wasn’t the best part either.

The best part is yet to come.

Its happening right now. The lights that flickered in that room are now walking through the hallways of 8 different schools, 17 different churches and several different communities. And thats what Enlightened was and is. Its not over. It will keep going. Because Enlightened is not mine. Its not Kaley’s. Its not anyone else’s that was on that stage. And because its not ours and belongs to the Ultimate Creator, it will go on.

Two years ago I was at a conference called The Follow Tour. This event had thousands of students gathered together in a hotel to worship and hear messages from inspiring men and women of God. That event changed my life. I couldn’t tell you why that weekend was so powerful for me. The worship was awesome, yes. And the speakers were awesome, yes. But God was calling me to something that I couldn’t figure out and I couldn’t shake it.

That weekend I re-accepted Christ into my life because I wanted my life to take a stand for Him. When the preacher said “Stand if you want to make that decision” I stood because I knew that I was not living my life that way. I was not standing for Him. Especially in my school. So I stood and I told God that I would always stand for Him. And that when I got home, I would stand when He called me to.

On the last night of that conference when everyone was drying their tears from the last worship song and saying their goodbyes, my youth pastor, at the time, confronted me. He said,

“God was talking to me during worship tonight and He wants you to know that in a few years, you will be up on that stage”. He pointed to the big stage in the front of the massive room.

I said, “Wow, that would be cool!” And I laughed. What could I say to that? I had no idea what he was talking about.

“You’re going to be up on that stage, Olivia. And right now is the grooming process. You need to get ready for what God is going to do. You may be losing friends and school may be hard, but God can use that for preparing you and for you to draw closer to Him” he said.

For the past two years, I had always thought my pastor was talking about my future after high school. And I have been waiting to see what that meant for my life. What stage God was talking about.

Yesterday afternoon, as I was preparing my message to speak at Enlightened, God revealed to me what my pastor was talking about.

This, Enlightened, was the stage that God has been preparing me for. And it was my turn to challenge others to stand in their schools. That passion that He gave me in that moment when I stood at the Follow Tour was what I needed to share with my peers.

God is beautiful. He had this whole night planned for longer than I can imagine. And He has been preparing the words, the songs, the messages, and the theme of Enlightened for every single person that was in that room. He is so good. I cannot express how grateful I am to have had the honor of being apart of this beautiful story of how God is calling disciples to rise up.

It was all Him. The whole time. And He is the reason we need to keep going. The reason we need to keep shining that light. He has called us all to do so. Not just some of us. Not just the ones on stage or the ones that play sports or the ones that seem to have it all together.

He is calling all of us.

And last night, everyone in that room heard it.