Little thoughts: Pray in Public

*Recently, I’ve found that I have a lot of topics for posts, but very little material to expand on them.  So I figured, at least for now, I would create a little series where I just put these “little thoughts” out into the world., rough cut and short.*

Pray in public.

Pray when you go out to dinner.  Pray when you’re eating a picnic.  Pray when you’re with friends.  Pray when you’re with your family.  Pray when you’re on a date.

Praying in public is a very vulnerable expression of faith.  I know, as Christians, we need to be bold about our faith.  But I’m more comfortable with wearing a shirt from Walk in love. and posting verses and praise songs on my social media, than I am with praying in public.

It’s vulnerable because you are allowing yourself to immediately be judged and criticized.  In an active form of faith, you are putting your guard down and opening the door for attacks.

But.  Pray in public.

Do it.

Still your hands, bow your head, close your eyes, and verbally pray to God.  Show the world who you are thanking and praising.

Let me tell you: It’s a way cool thing to pray with my boyfriend when we’re out to eat.  It’s something I’m not used to, and it’s strengthening my relationship with God.

Be bold, and pray in public.

Pray out loud.

Don’t make a show of it, and don’t demand attention.

But pray.

Pray in public, because you don’t know who may need to see, or hear, it.

Last night, some of my friends and I went to a local Friendly’s for dinner.  When our food came, we prayed together.  As we ate, we goofed off and had fun.  And a good bit of time into our meal, one of the surrounding tables got up, and one of the patrons walked over to us.  It was an older woman, and she told us that she saw us praying.  She said it made her really happy to see the younger generation still praying and being connected to God.  She concluded by saying we had blessed her heart, and made her night.

That made us all really happy, and shocked.  Something as simple as praying, and praying in public, had such an impact on a complete stranger.

I will say it again; pray in public.

Don’t let the fear of being judged keep you from praising and thanking God.  He deserves more than that.

Pray.

 

 

Religion and Politics: Survey Results

*I want to dedicate this post to every single person who completed my survey.  Your responses helped me test my hypotheses, and understand the relationship between religion and politics.  I am forever grateful to every single one of you.  Thank you.*

I started this study with the aim to analyze the connection between religious beliefs and political beliefs.  I was interested to see if the strength of one set of beliefs influenced the strength of the other.  This was my main hypothesis.  However, as I began compiling my survey, I became curious of other variables, and their effects.  Did age play a role?  What about gender?  If someone isn’t religious, does that impact which political party they most agree with?  Does different religious beliefs affect politics?  Does religious beliefs influence more conservative or more liberal beliefs?  And finally, does the amount of time one set of beliefs was held, impact the other?

I believed these variables would be statistically significant (important, statistically unique, different than normal).  I thought the stronger someone believed one set of beliefs, the stronger the other set of beliefs would be.  For example, I thought that if a Christian held very strong beliefs, they would also be a very strong, conservative Republican.  (This was based on prior observations and patterns.).  I thought age and gender played a role in each set of beliefs, but I was unsure to that role.  I thought the type of religious belief, be it religious or non-religious, would have an impact, but I was unsure what that was.  And I thought people that had beliefs from their family for one belief, would hold the other for the same reason.

Several prior studies influenced my knowledge prior to analyzing the results.  For example, a study conducted by Driskell, Embry, and Lyon (2008) suggested that religious beliefs about an involved God and many world issues are significantly related to political participation on a national scale (Driskell, Embry & Lyon).  Another study conducted by Evans (2014) concluded that religious people tend to disagree in terms of political policies, but they have the tendency to agree with the process of reaching those policies (Evans).  Friesen and Ksiazkiewicz (2015) concluded that society functions the best when people follow traditional values, and also was able to conclude that individuals tend to interpret religion as an important guide for one’s life (Friesen and Ksiazkiewicz).  Fitzgerald and Wickwire (2012) were able to conclude that people of specific religious and political groups tend to favor, or express more trust towards others of the same groups (Fitzgerald and Wickwire).  Finally, Meyer, Tope, and Price (2008) concluded that nations of people who tend to be strongly religious are less favorable towards democracy (Meyer, Top & Price).

A total of 193 people responded to my survey.  However, of the responses, 20 responses were discarded.  These responses did not meet all the criteria, such as being 18 or older, or not providing all information.  (All the surveys were completed.  However, 18 of the 20 responses chose not to specify their religious affiliation.  This was an optional spot, but was a factor I was interested in examining.). I chose 18 as the minimal age, because in America, that is the age when teenagers are allowed to vote.  The vast majority of participants were female and between the ages of 18-30.

Of the participants who identified as religious, the vast majority specified their beliefs as “Christian” (non-denominational/ denominational).  However, I also received responses such as “Catholic”, “Spiritual”, “Norse”, “Methodist”, “Mennonite”, “Christo-pagan”, “Baptist”, “Lutheran”, “Jewish”, “Former Mormon”, and even “Catholic with Celtic beliefs”.  Of those that identified as non-religious, the most common responses were “Agnostic” and “Atheist”.

Politically, I asked participants which political party they most aligned with, and then asked them to place themselves on a conservative/liberal scale.  I was interested to see if religious beliefs affected that ranking.

When gathering the responses, I was really focused on not getting a biased sample, such as too many millennials, or too many Christians, or too many Republicans, etc.  (Given where I live, those would have been the most likely biases.). So, I placed my survey on my Facebook page, and thus it was shared by many of my friends.  I also linked it in several of my blog posts.  Finally, I asked one of my previous professors to pass it out to his students.  The responses were kept completely anonymous, apart from asking for age and gender.

I was expecting my sample to slightly biased, with more Republican Christians.  However, I was surprised to find that the split between Republican and Democrat beliefs to be rather equal.

When I had finished analyzing my results, I was disappointed to find my hypotheses were generally not statistically significant. *I’ll apologize here: I seem to have deleted the file with all my graphs and whatnot.  So, unfortunately, I am unable to share with you any of the visual data.*. The strength between religious beliefs and political beliefs was not statistically significant. (For those of you interested, r=-.087.). This was fascinating to me, as I could see participants of similar religious beliefs rating the strength of that belief very high, but then ranking their political beliefs differently and opposite ends of the spectrum.  Also, I saw many responses where on set of beliefs was ranked high, and the other was ranked low.

The effects between “religious and political beliefs” and “gender” were not statistically significant, and neither was the interaction between them.  This was interesting, because based on previous patterns and observations, I expected females to be more religious, but also slightly more liberal.

When I analyzed the interaction between “religious beliefs”, “political beliefs”, and “age”, the interaction was not statistically significant.  However, when I analyzed the main effect of “religious beliefs” on “age”, this was statistically significant.  (For those interested, F (4, 170)= 2.76, p = .03, and h2 = 0.024.).

Finally, I analyzed the relationship between “religious beliefs” and “political beliefs”.  This correlation was mildly statistically significant (r = .19 at p = .013).  This was interesting, because it demonstrated there is indeed a relationship between “religious beliefs” and “political beliefs”.

*Unfortunately, I did not quite get the chance to analyze all the varied variables I wanted to, such as the different types of beliefs against political beliefs, or how long those beliefs were held against the strength of the beliefs.  If I have the chance to re-do this study, I would fine tune the variables I want to explore.  I made the mistake of adding more and more “variables” as my study went on.  I didn’t start with a strict set of things to investigate, and I think that is why so many of potentially interesting insights were ignored.  I ran out of time, and to a degree, resources, thus negatively effecting the validity of my results.*

I think, overall, this study brings some really interesting things to light.  For example, I began to understand that the interpretation of religious texts is often more impactful than just the religious beliefs.  There were participants who were nearly identical in religious beliefs and in their belief strength (sometimes even in age and gender), but completely opposite in terms of political beliefs and conservative/liberal ranking.  (I may even be so bold as to say that it is this split in interpretation that is leading to the split in Christians today …… corresponding blog post to come …..)

Also, it is also possible that race, economic status, and living environment (rural, city, urban, etc.) further impact the relationship between religious and political beliefs.

———————

I had quite a lot of fun organizing this study, analyzing the results, and understanding real life applications.  It has opened the door to many other questions I would like to pursue, and may at some point.

I’d love to know your thoughts about these results.  Do you think there is a bigger connection between religious beliefs and political beliefs?  Or do you think it’s smaller?


 

religion-in-politics

Ciao for now,

Julia

P.S. I am interested in do a post on modesty, but from guys’ perspectives.  If you are a single, or yet unmarried Christian guy, I’d be honored if you’d fill out this short questionnaire.  Please pass it around to your friends! I will be giving credit where credit is due! Thank you!

Religion.

This wasn’t the post I had planned for this morning.  I was actually going to write something very different.

But before settling down to write, I stumbled upon a video by SoulPancake.  Those of you that have been with me for awhile know I really like this organization, and I often look to their book for prompt ideas.  This particular video is titled “Do we need religion?”, and well, it made me happy.

As a Christian, I believe it is important to hear other people’s perspective on religion.  I think it is important to understand why they believe what they believe.

Do we need religion?

You know, I think human beings, in their very essence, desire something to put their faith into.  People put faith in science, in reason, in other people, even in the human race, and in god-like deities.  And its from that faith that religion is born.  I understand religion to be the act living out that faith, and doing life with other people with the same faith.

I am not a Christian because my parents are, or because my grandparents are.  I’m not a Christian because I’ve been going to a church my whole life.  I am a Christian because I, myself, have faith that Jesus Christ is who He says He is.  I am a Christian because I, myself, have faith that the Bible is the living, breathing Word of God.  And I am a Christian because I, myself, believe in God.

Like many of the people in the video, I believe that religion helps people make sense of their world, and it adds meaning to their life.  And I believe that religions helps anchor people.  My life has felt rather messy and out-of-control at times, and other people can be really quite mean about religion (particular Christianity).  And when I question and doubt, sometimes seriously, there is always some indescribable thing that calms my mind and heart, and guides me back.  My faith in God and living out my Christian religion always seems to re-balance and re-settle me.

And I am sure that is the same for every other religion.

The conversation of religion always opens the door for “right” and “wrong” labeling.  I know some Christians who are content to adamantly claim other religions (or lack thereof) are wrong, and are more than willing to say so.  This is not meant to be a theological discussion, or a lesson on evangelism.  But no one wants to be told what they believe is wrong; they stop listening to what you have to say.

Yes, as a Christian, I believe my faith is “right”, and I believe that there is ample enough proof, outside of the Bible.  But Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, even Agnostics and Atheists believe their faith (or ideologies) are “right”.  If they didn’t believe that, they wouldn’t have faith in it, right?

I believe in God, and at my former job, I have a friend who believes there is no God.  We know each other’s beliefs, but we are still friends.  I think this is so important, because at the end of the day, we are just trying to understand our world, all the horrible, tragic, and good.

In Christian teachings, we are supposed to bring unbelievers to God, but we are supposed to do it through love.  We believe our faith has eternal consequences, and if we ask you to come to church with us, it isn’t (mainly) because we think what you believe is wrong.  We ask you because we love you and care about you, and we want to spend eternity with you.  We pray for you, because we love you.  We do life with you, because we care about you.  And we share our faith with you because we want you to experience Heaven with us.

Do we need religion?

I think so.  I think religion gives us hope.  It gives us something to look to when life gets hard and bad things seem to press in from every side.  It gives us something to put our trust in when people do bad things.

I think we need religion because we need faith.

What do you think?

Ciao for now,

Julia

(P.S. I apologized this felt rather unstructured.  These are my unfiltered thoughts.  Plus, the more I wrote, the more I realized I could probably split this topic into a few other posts.  We’ll see what happens.)

 

 

Shepherd by Crowder (ASL)

I have mentioned many times that I am working on a couple of big projects.  And finally, one is finished!! I’ve very excited to share this with you guys, and I hope it touches you, or inspires you in someway.

I have been learning (American) sign language for a little less than a year, and I have fallen in love with it.  One of my favorite ways to practice, is to sign along to my favorite worship songs.  I hope to make this an on-going series, as I really think it helps me both improve my skills, and better understand the Deaf community.

One of my most favorite bands of all times is Crowder (formerly David Crowder), and this song is one of my favorites of the newest album, American Prodigal.  I hope you enjoy! 🙂

Ciao for now,

Julia

Happy Easter!! He is Risen, hallelujah!!

In Honor of Holy Week.

For Christians, this week is one of the most important times of the year.  Easter is the time we remember Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, and what His resurrection truly means.

This week, I am surrounding myself with religious songs and placing myself in the proper state of mind for Easter Sunday.  So, to respect that, and to focus as much as possible on Jesus’ sacrifice, my only other posts this week will be prevalent to Easter.  I am beginning to feel like Jesus is getting pushed to the side a bit in my life right now, and I want to re-focused myself on Him.

In honor of Holy Week, I want to leave you with this song.  We sang it in church yesterday, and it struck right at the heart.

Ciao for now,

Julia

What happened to sin?

In church this morning, my pastor referenced a book titled Whatever became of sin? by Sean Fagan.  That title really caught my attention.  Coming hot off my Morality Problem post, with all that research still buzzing through my head, I was a tad caught off guard.  I wanted to say, “But Pastor Jerry, our culture is so sinful!”.  But then I listened to what he was truly saying.

He was saying that sin is more prevalent than ever, but it’s no longer called “sin”.  It’s reasoned away and labeled as something less negative.  Lying is evident on every stage and level, but hardly ever publicly punished.  Sexual immorality is now acceptable promiscuity (i.e. see modern music).  Lust is now Fifty Shades of Grey.  Adultery (i.e. cheating) is seen in popular movies, heard in popular songs, but not socially condemned.  Abortion, though never outright labeled as a sin, goes directly against God’s teachings, but many Christians continue to condone this practice.  And, because I am a Christian and believe the Bible is God’s living breathing Word, I believe homosexuality is a sin.  And, in modern culture, it is accepted and boldly broadcast.

What happened to sin? Modern culture’s desire not to offend anyone, or make anyone feel bad for their actions, that’s what.

Sin was big enough to turn the young world on it’s head, but today, we insist on minimizing it into a label for actions.  But the thing is, when we minimize sin, we minimize God and the incredible power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

And the sad thing is, people today seem so focused on themselves and other people.  This even includes Christians.  They want to seem like “good” people, and “good” Christians.  They want to fight for equality, justice, tolerance, love, and a whole host of other (wonderful) things.  But being a Christian isn’t about the world, or the world’s problems.  Yes, as Christians, we are called to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).  We are supposed to love our earthly brothers and sisters as our own flesh.  But in terms of the Great Commandments, this is only second.  The greatest and most important commandment of all is Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Mark 12:29-31)Being a Christian is about God. Plain and simple.  It’s about loving Him, praising Him, adoring Him, and desiring to please Him.  And the biggest thing that separates us from God is …. wait for it …. sin. 

How can we form a relationship with God, if we can’t acknowledge our sins, if we don’t know what they are?  As I’m sitting here writing this, I’m struggling to come up with examples of sins that non-Christians would understand, besides the obvious “Don’t kill”, Don’t steal”, etc.  Why is this?  Is it because sin truly isn’t talked about?  And if that’s the case, why doesn’t that shake us to our God-loving souls?

What happened to sin?  What happened to our world that sin became explainable?  What happened to us that we let sin get this way?

Sin, as ironic as it is, is so crucial to our relationship with God.  It is because of sin that we need God’s overwhelming grace.  And it’s because of sin that Jesus died for us.  Without sin, suddenly, Jesus’ sacrifice becomes nothing.  And as I’m typing that out, I suddenly feel like crying, because His sacrifice is everything.

In order for us know God and love Him, we need to admit we have sinned and “fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  As Christians, we need to admit we have sinned.  But that is so hard, and all but impossible, when sin is apart of mainstream culture.

And because we are called to “be fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18-20), and bring our friends here on earth to God, we need to be able to point out sins.  We need to be able to tell someone (gently, of course) that what they’ve done is wrong.  It’s like guiding a child’s behavior; you have to point out their bad behavior so they can learn and grow.  If we reason away every type of behavior and not tell anyone that they’ve done anything wrong, how does anyone learn and grow?  And if we don’t equip anyone with the abilities to recognize that behavior in the future, what stops them from repeating it again?

The thing is, there is no salvation if there is no condemnation.  There is no good without bad.  There is no redemptive grace without sin.  So what happened to sin?

Churches, why don’t you talk about sin anymore?  Yes, I know it’s talk about it in Sunday School classes and you mention it in the services and sermons.  But can everyone that attends your church provide an explanation/example of sin?  Christians, why don’t we acknowledge sin anymore?  Why are we so quick to thank God and to praise Him, but less quick to admit our sins?  And Christians, why are we so hesitant to stand up against sins in our world?  Or rather, why are we so quick to explain it away?

And sometimes, Christians, standing against sin means standing against other people and telling them they are wrong.  Sometimes, fighting against sin means, maybe, being seen as intolerant or unfair or unloving.  But that’s when we have to weigh what is more important to us.  Because we can’t be Christians without sin, and we can’t fight for Christ if we aren’t willing to stand against sin.  Because Christianity isn’t “love-centered”, “people-centered”, or “world-centered”; Christianity is “God-centered”.

The existence of sin is a daily reminder of how much we need God.  We are a fallen people, fallen from the blameless, Garden of Eden existence, and fallen into a world of actions and desires that upset God.  It all makes full circle here, because being a Christian is about desiring to please God, and sin displeases God, so we should desire not to sin, right?  Obviously, yes.  But what is sin?  How does it apply to culture and society?  And now we’re back to the beginning with asking what happened to sin. 

I have several friends who are atheist/agnostic.  How am I to invite them to church and explain what sin is, if it’s become a part of modern culture, and modern Christian culture just brushes over it like it’s no big deal?

I think it’s time that Christians stop being afraid of coming across as “unfeeling”, “xenophobic”, “intolerant”, “unjust”, “hateful”, etc. I think it’s time to start talking about sin again.  I don’t want to whittle my God down anymore.  He is so incredibly big, and I think it’s time we re-acknowledge that sin is too.

What happened to sin? I don’t know, but I’m ready to see the conversation change.

Ciao for now,

Julia

what-is-sin

(P.S. For one of my classes this semester, I am required to conduct a research experiment/study.  My study is focused on the relationship between politics and religion.  I think it would be really cool to have you guys be a part of my research (but please do not feel obligated!).  If you are interested, the only stipulation is that you be an American citizen (sorry, but my topic is relevant to Americans).  So, if this is something you are interested in, you can find the survey here: Politics and Religion.  Thanks!! 🙂 )

 

 

God Thoughts

Hey guys, happy New Year! How’s everyone? I took some time away from the Internet and social media over Christmas, then I was in Atlanta, Georgia for a conference New Year’s Day.  And then this past weekend, my family and I explored Washington D.C.  The beginning of my year has been busy, but very wonderful.  I have quite a lot of wonderful, and challenging, things to share with you, so get ready! It’s going to be epic!

Right off the bat, I want to share with you some of the things that really touched my heart while at the conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  This conference is called Passionand is a gathering of 18-25 year old students from all over the place.  This year, there were over 55,000 college students, from various states and countries, packed into the Georgia Dome, with thousands of others streaming online.  It was intense, and just a small glimpse of Heaven.

We heard from some incredible speakers: Christine Caine, John Piper, Louie Giglio, Levi Lusko, Beth Moore, Francis Chan, and Katherine and Jay Wolf.  We got to worship with incredible bands: Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Hillsong United, Chris Tomlin, Passion band, and Crowder (who was at one point joined by Carrie Underwood!).

So tonight, I just wanted to share some thoughts from each speaker.  They’re pretty powerful, and have pretty heavily shaken up my heart for the new year.

Christine Caine christine-1

  • “We, as followers of Jesus Christ, do not need to grow weary or faint-hearted, because Jesus already endured it all for us.”
  • God is not in Heaven freaking out about anything.  Nothing surprises Him.
  • You don’t build endurance through the path of least resistance.
  • Is the race that is set before us, enough for us?
  • Don’t obsess over where I’m going.  Just follow Jesus.
  • Where you start, and how you start, determines where, and how, you end.
  • Stop looking at the world–LOOK UP.

John Piper98667a57-d3d1-4335-98da-93188b645796-jpg-_cb522772874__sl300__

  • Until you know, see, understand, and hate the evil in your own heart and in the world, you are dumbing down and minimizing the power and majesty of God, the triumph of Christ, and the glory of your own life.
  • The essence of every temptation is the belief that God is withholding something wonderful and exciting.  We don’t want to be denied what we want more than God Himself.
  • If you see “commandment following” as good and “commandment breaking” as bad, you will never know why you do what you do.
  • God turned “delighting in His character” as a commandment, so thusly, it is right to delight in God’s character above everything else, even obedience to commandments.
  • The battle I need to be fighting is one focused on what I desire, not the one focused on what I do.
  • Can you call anything “good” if it’s stripped from God?

Beth Moorebeth-circle

  • Will I be willing to follow the plan of the Living God?
  • Jesus Christ alone is my calling.
  • I know the one in whom I’ve placed my trust.  But I will by my biggest betrayer.
  • The Devil is ultimately after my faith, and he will use everything else to get to that.

Francis Chan1

  • Amazing things happen when we speak to God.
  • If I truly knew the hope into which I have been called, nothing, ever, could get me down.
  • The highest thought I have of myself, is nowhere close to God’s lowest thought about me.  His thoughts are so much higher than I could ever even fathom.
  • Stop listening to yourself and trust God.

Louie Gigliopassion-20172

  • God doesn’t want us to just be 40% or 50% Christian.  He wants us to be 100% in love with Him.
  • The cross is devastatingly beautiful because it is the only place where dead people come alive.
  • The cross is devastatingly beautiful because it cancels out shame.
  • The cross is a devastating power.
  • You know God loves you based on Jesus’ circumstances, not by your circumstances.
  • The cross is devastatingly beautiful because it ends one story, and begins another.

Levi Lusko

  • It takes endurance to be the fragrance of Christ.  And to make a fragrance, you have levi-lusko-aboutto take something precious, and crush it.
  • Courage is contagious.
  • Fear is faith in the enemy.
  • Jeremiah was destined for impact, and so am I.
  • I was saved, not just to be freed from my sins, but to shake up Hell, and to embrace my inheritance in Heaven.
  • You cannot be surprised for the calling God has prepared you for.
  • God’s favorite math is multiplication.  But in order to multiply, He must first break.
  • Don’t rely on willpower, because we have God’s power.
  • Far too many Christians come only through Calvary, and not through Pentecost, so they end as butterflies, instead of the eagles God called them to be.

I pray that something here has touched your heart, and is propels you back into God this year.

Ciao for now,

Julia

2017-01-16-23-10-05

Here are the full sermons:

Christine Caine (Please checkout her newest book.  It’s powerful.)

John Piper

Beth Moore

Katherine and Jay Wolf (Please check out their book.  It made me cry.)

Francis Chan

Louie Giglio

Levi Lusko (Please check out his book. It’s so good.)