Beyond Easter

By Guest Writer Alicia Hayes (one of niNe. magazine’s Speakers):

55843725It has been almost a week since Easter. Easter clothes have been hung up and hopefully you’re rationing your candy. It’s time to get back to the post-Holiday life. For Christians, there is a challenge following Easter. What’s next? How do we follow something as grand and exciting as Easter? In a way, Jesus’ followers faced the very same questions following Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus came back to life, appeared to various people, and spent time with His followers for 40 days, then ascended into heaven. Think about that; He died, shocked everyone by coming back to life, was around for a little over a month and then disappeared. It’s no wonder the disciples went back into hiding, at a loss for what to do next. How do you follow something that amazing? What does the resurrection look like in your everyday life? Here are some examples that you can take from the early Christians:

Community

While early Christians knew that their relationships could not be exclusively Christian, they also knew the importance of spending time with people of the same beliefs. They started churches, friendships, families and support systems with one another. While your friends at school are important, it is equally important to be involved with your church, youth group, or your school’s Christian club. Finding a support group of followers will help you as you live out life as a Christian.

Practice

James 2:17 says that, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Many Christians have blown this verse out of proportion, acting as if what you do determines how much you love God. Other Christians have become so frustrated with this mentality that they steer away from all ministry and acts of faith. While your actions do not determine your love for God, they often reflect what your relationship with Him is like. Jesus calls us to serve others, and if we are not doing that, we are not following His message. Even with limited time and resources, there are many things you can do with your youth group, church or school club to pour love into your community and those who are hurting.

Encouragement

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” Encouragement is just as important for you as it was for the early Christians. Maybe there are times when you feel like you’re not a strong enough Christian, or sometimes unexpected hardships arise that make it difficult to believe in a loving God. During times like these, we need other Christians to pray with us, point us to scripture or just to be a listening ear.

Prayer

Carrying out Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness in our daily lives is much easier if we bring Jesus into our daily lives through prayer. Prayer develops a personal relationship with Jesus, which then carries us through the ups and downs of life.

If living your life as a Christian intimidates you, do not be discouraged. Learning how to live your life in the light of God’s love is a never-ending journey, but it is full of grace and mercy from God. You are not alone. We would love to encourage you! Tweet to us @niNeMag with your need of encouragement and we will tweet back!

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Yet He Opened My Eyes

By Alicia Hayes, Speaker for niNe. magazine

Yet He Opened My EyesToday is Good Friday. In mainstream, American culture, this may be the only day of Easter that is widely associated with Jesus because schools and businesses are closed for religious observance of the day. Today, we remember Christ’s betrayal, trial, and death. The same people who had praised His entrance into Jerusalem called for His death a week later. It’s difficult to imagine such a shift among these people, but it’s actually more relatable than it seems.

Judas strongly held these believes as well. There are other speculations about Judas’ beliefs about Jesus that led him to betrayal, but they all have one thing in common; Jesus was not who Judas expected him to be. This still happens to people today. Jesus is so complex that often people grasp onto one facet of His character and exaggerate it to the point where it contradicts His message. Jesus promised freedom and healing, so instead of hearing Him say, “Take up your cross and follow me” they assumed that He was going to make everything in life easier. Trusting in Jesus means that we cannot be offended when He does or says something we don’t understand.

My favorite example of total trust in Jesus is found in John 9:1-41. Jesus heals a man born blind. There’s an uproar in the community and the synagogue. The Pharisees put the man on trial for his healing. No matter the accusations, the man holds to his testimony, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I do not know. One thing I do know; I was blind, and now I see!” The man even goes as far as to ask the Pharisees to follow Jesus. The Pharisees explode in anger, saying, “We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from!” The man replies with what I believe to be one of the most simple and profound statements of trust and belief in Christ: “That is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes.” To this man, Jesus was the Christ, and whatever that looked like was the truth of God’s nature.

How do you see Jesus? Is He a well of good health and wealth that can be tapped into at any time? Is He a moral compass? Is He a label? Is He someone to talk about at youth group? Take some time in prayer to examine your heart and see if you have any misconceptions of Christ. Ask Jesus to open your eyes to His true, deep and amazing character. Peace be with you.