Sparkles by Ashlee: faith, funny, + fulfilling dreams

Welcome to Sparkles by Ashlee, a Christian lifestyle blog over faith, funny, and fulfilling dreams. I'm Ashlee Staerk, and I'm a teenager in love with Jesus and writing stories for His glory in Iowa. Grab your fave drink (I'll take a Dr. Pepper), and peruse my blog, where I document what God is teaching me, encouragement He lays on my heart, the good and the bad in life (always keeping it real), and my journey of trusting God with my dreams!

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The Power of Jesus

I feel like I could go run ten miles. And this is why you don't go by your feelings, kids, because the reality of that is I'd probably die by the time I made it to one. And that's being optimistic. ANYWAY. I at least feel like I'm having a sugar rush. While I am definitely guilty of consuming way too much sugar, normally I don't get sugar high. And I haven't even had a lot of sugar tonight! Mom and I went to Casey's on our way home, and I refused to get anything. That is a huge accomplishment for me! Unfortunately then I had half of the candy bar she bought, but hey, we're making some progress.

So why do I feel this way??? Well, I just noticed that I haven't blogged since I returned from my trip to Canada. It's actually not the trip making me feel that way, although the trip was awesome, and I will blog about it very soon. I'm also leaving to go see my Gramps and Grams tomorrow for two weeks, which I am also very excited about. And I am procrastinating very well. It is 9:31 pm, and I have not a thing packed. Yay me!!

So what on earth is making me feel this way???

To some of you it may seem lame or even freaky, butttt I just got home from church tonight, one of my Wednesday classes that I have with some amazing people. And it just makes me feel awesome. Blessed. Humbled. Thankful. So, so thankful. Joyful.

Lots of times people in this world don't even stop to think about what Jesus has done for them. It just goes in one ear and out the other. I've been guilty of this. Sometimes I hear it so many times I'm just like yep Jesus died for me uh huh awesome thank you Jesus now let's check Facebook...! Horrible right? I know.

So these are the nights I'm reminded that I suck. That I'm a total horrible person. That I am so desperately in need of Jesus's grace and am so thankful for it. Nobody tells me that I suck, by the way. Quite the opposite. The people at my class are awesome and so encouraging and so genuine and so REAL. It's humbling. They admit their sins and understand it's horrible. They're not afraid to say that. They don't hide things. And I hope I can be somebody like that. I try to be. I understand that they are human, but man, they are HOT in their faith, and Jesus works through them.

I want to be like that. I want to be somebody that points to Jesus and what he's done for us. Our country is chasing all the wrong things. I am guilty of caring about worldly things, but at the end of the day, I hope Jesus reminds me that the one thing I should care about is other people. People are what matters and not just their happiness. If I have to shatter somebody's happiness with the truth of Jesus, so be it. I'll do it in love, and I'm not trying to make people miserable, but they need to know the truth. The truth won't always make you feel happy and give you all the sunshine and unicorns feelings. But in the end, it will be so much better than that.

Going to my class just reminded me of that. Every time, really, it teaches me these three things. Hopefully you'll think about some of these too.

1. Jesus is the only way to heaven and to life abundantly.

I saw a quote one time that said, "Good people don't go to heaven; forgiven people do." Amen! I can't tell you how many times I've heard something like this, "She/he is a good person, they'll go to heaven." Excuse me?!

What defines a "good person"?

No one is a good person! And your definition of good may be different from mine. My definition of good is maybe that somebody loves others. Yours may be that somebody hasn't killed anyone. How do you define good? The Bible says nobody is good.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
— Romans 3:23 NIV
Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
— John 14:6 NIV
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
— John 10:10 NIV

Only by repenting and putting your faith in Jesus will you have eternal life and life to the full. You certainly won't have an abundant life without Jesus. Mark 8:36 NIV says, "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"

I want you to know Jesus. I want everyone to. I don't say that because I have something to gain by converting you. I don't. I truly just want the best for you, and I will not sugarcoat it: Jesus is the only way to eternal life and abundant life. I hope that doesn't sound like some commercial, but if it does, I'm not apologizing for it because it's true. Instead of buying more clothes and cool gadgets we see in advertisements how about we buy a Bible and dig into it?

I don't want to sound smug when I say I am so thankful I know Jesus. I'm not trying to be smug. I'm not trying to be like, "I have Jesus and you don't!!! Na na na na na!" To be honest, being a Christian - a Christian ON FIRE for Jesus - is a lot harder than being an atheist in my opinion. On this earth, you probably have more to lose as a Christian, easily, than you do being an atheist or a Christian not so serious about Jesus. But who cares! Mark 8:36, people! I'd rather have a horrible life here and go to heaven and show others the power of Jesus versus having it all here and being condemned to, well, hell.

2. We need a generation of Christians on fire. Hopefully not literally. Let me explain.

Let me first say that good works don't get you to heaven. We've been studying other religions at my class, and that's a common theme in most of them. They think in order to be saved, you have to do good works. This isn't true (Titus 3:5 ESV). Even if we did good works, they wouldn't be enough to save us (Romans 3:23 NIV). BUT I am seeing a bad theme in our generation.

Let me mark my religion as "Christian" on Facebook.

Fine, I'll put "God" in my Instagram bio with the praying hands emoji.

Ughhhh, I'll check in to church on Sunday because that's what everyone says to do.

Actually, I'm too busy for church. I can't go.

ACTUALLY... Church isn't that important. I'm still saved; I don't need to go.

I have a Bible. I don't read it much, but at least I have one.

Fine, I'll take my Bible to church.

FINE. I'll look up this verse as my homework for youth group.

I'm just so busy! I don't have time to read my Bible! I'm sure God will understand.

I'm saved. I believe in God. I'll go to heaven. Isn't that enough?!

With the above list, I'm not trying to judge you. I'm not saying those things are required to get you to heaven. They're not. But, guys, wake up! You're too busy? For what?! Work that is draining you? Then find peace in God's Word! You're too busy running your kids to sports games that will at the end of the world mean absolutely nothing?!

Get prioritized. Don't be a lukewarm Christian. Get lit on fire for Jesus! Wouldn't you say that he was on fire for you when he died for you? We won't ever be able to repay him for that, and that's not what doing this stuff is about. It's about being passionate about him. It's about giving him the worship he alone deserves. It's about telling others the hope for this life. It's about being joyful even when you're not happy. It's about the one thing that makes sense in this life. The one and only real God that is deserving of praise.

When I was younger, I was an idiot. I still am an idiot even pursuing Jesus, but imagine me without doing that! I was a drama queen (okay...I still am), but I would be so worldly at school. I would start drama. I would gossip. I used to think that church didn't matter and it was overrated. I used to think reading the Bible was not a necessity. And let's examine my life. At school, I had it made. I had friends. I had a social life.

Let's look at me now. I am still an idiot, but I know I need Jesus, and I am doing my best to pursue him and the things he wants me to do. Maybe to the world I am "religious", but I know that these things don't get me to heaven. I don't want to be religious; I just want a relationship with Jesus. But, if that makes people think of me as religious because I am striving to do the things he wants me to, so be it. At school, I try not to create drama. I try to witness to my friends. I'm not better then them; I just want them to see how amazing Jesus is and how much he's helped me. I will never, ever doubt church again.

Our church is not perfect, but it's amazing. There are passionate Christians there. Our pastor is amazing. And just seeing how Jesus emphasized the importance of church. I'm so, so thankful for church. I hate the Sundays I miss out. Scrolling on my iPhone is so dull compared to how we worship Jesus there. I do think reading the Bible is a necessity, not to be saved, but to be renewed. Do you think you're fine without the Bible? Try reading it. Try not reading it afterwards. Something will be missing.

When my mom would get grumpy, I'd ask her, "Have you done your devotions yet?" Actually, I'd probably start with, "Are you on your period?" (Come on now, the struggles are real.) But you get the point. Every time I finish reading the Bible for the night, I just tell God, "Thank You for this." What more can I say? I'm in awe of it!

Ever since I started doing these things and living my life for God, my social life has pretty much died. Most people don't know who I am. I lost some friends this year because of my faith, and I'm sure they think I'm a religious, holier-than-thou, judgmental freak. Ah, well. I've never felt lonelier. (Read here and here for more on how hard it's been but also what God has taught me. If you think my life has no problems, think again!)

So now that I've scared you and made you not want to be serious because of the possibility you might lose all your friends, let's look at my overall life when I was younger and how joyful I was.

Answer: I don't think I was. We had a lot of stuff going on back then, and I remember worry consuming my life. Some nights I was happy, but it was fleeting. I would go insane from all the drama. My life was headed nowhere. (Read this post for more on wasting your life.)

There are still nights now when I am sad. One night I was being attacked by the devil in the sense that he was putting lies in my head and fears in my head about my friend situation. He was telling me that my pain was never going to end. I would always be alone, and God wasn't going to fix anything. The devil will attack the people on fire for Jesus. Why would he attack the ones who aren't? They're already distracted by the world, so why does he need to get them? He really doesn't. He wants to get the strong Christians. He wants to make us doubt God.

It made perfect sense that he would tell me those things. Ashlee, your situation will never change. As long as you're serious about Jesus, people are going to ignore you, so you better turn away from God! Ashlee, God is not doing anything to fix this; He must not care.... He must not be real....

Oh, what a bunch of bull. The things he'll tell us. Well, I realize that hasn't done anything to convince you to be passionate about Jesus. Great, Ashlee, I'll lose all my friends, and Satan will always be after me. Sounds like an awesome thing, pursuing Jesus.

But you guys, it is. That night, Mom had me listen to these beautiful lullabies that just sang verses about God protecting me and God working, and then I started crying again because I realized I am so thankful to be serious about Jesus. Christians that aren't are running around chasing the wrong things, and they're missing his peace. They're missing the joy. They're missing the blessings. Yes, they'll be saved, but at the end of the day, who is comforting you if it's not Jesus?

I just cried because I was so thankful for God's love. I was so thankful that He chose me, redeemed, protected me.

And guys, I've never been happier. Some nights I may fall in bed crying, but my tears will be wiped before I fall asleep because God is protecting me. He loves me. I love him. And my life on earth is for Him alone.

Some times, Christians at my school that merely use that as a title and don't do anything to pursue Jesus will be so stressed over grades, boys, friends, and the list goes on. Those things get me concerned, too! But I wish they would find the peace of Jesus. I wish they would be passionate about him because when I have those worries, he takes them away. He is fighting for me. Even on the darkest nights, I've seen proof of that, and it just makes me want to cry thinking about it because I wish people could see that! Not because I'm holier than thou, not because I'm judgmental and think it's what they ought to do, but because I know. I've gone through trials, and he is the only thing that makes sense. The only thing that helps me through.

The news scares the crap out of me. I'd like to just cry over our world. But then I remember Jesus. He wins in the end! Because of him, WE win in the end!

And sometimes I get so mad when I see Christians that aren't living for Jesus. I think, well, I'm doing the hard work! I'm losing my friends, I'm becoming more and more alone, I'm being persecuted for my faith, and yet you aren't doing anything for Jesus and are having a good life! But then I have to remember...

A) I am working for the Lord, not for men (Colossians 3:23). It's not about the reward. God already provides for my needs; that's enough. AND yet when I do good works, He does reward me! I don't deserve that, so I need to share how amazing He is whether I get a reward or not. But the awesome thing is, by obeying Him, we do get rewarded! James 1:12 says that those who persevere under trial will receive the crown of life. And God has blessed me so much.

B) God is near to those who are near to Him (Psalm 145:18).

C) And  I wouldn't trade being near to God for anything. He is with me and blesses me (Genesis 26:3). He loves me like nobody else ever could (Jeremiah 31:3). He guides me (Isaiah 58:11). He keeps me (Isaiah 42:6). He upholds me (Isaiah 41:10). He provides for me (Genesis 22:14). He will never leave me (Deuteronomy 31:6). He strengthens me (Psalm 29:11). Guys, I could go on all night, which probably isn't a good idea right now anyway because it's 10:46 pm, and that packing won't do itself....

The world needs your faith. Don't be lukewarm. Jesus loves you so much, so why aren't we giving him the love and praise he deserves? Show your faith (more on that here)!

3. There is incredible power in the name of Jesus, and we, as believers, have that!

I don't mean that we're equal with Jesus or anything like that, but we as Christians that are putting on the armor of Jesus and humbling ourselves and praying and getting real... We can move mountains! I've been praying so much for our country. I've been praying for so many people. And when we as believers unite, we can do incredible things! Being with my little group of people that go out and share Jesus, that are truly living their lives for Jesus...maybe that's why I'm feeling a sugar rush, just seeing how Jesus IS working!

We all take turns praying at the beginning, and everyone prays so honestly and so real. No one hides their sin, and nobody likes their sin. We are a group of people with a hunger for Jesus, and it is amazing how Jesus fills that (Psalm 107:9). We all know we're broken people, and we are humbling ourselves before God because without Him our lives are meaningless and we can't do anything of meaning (John 15:5-7), which is why I'm stressing the importance of passionate believers. If you're a Christian and it says that on your Facebook bio, great, but start living it out! I told my group today that the greatest compliment they can give me is telling me that they can see that I love Jesus. In fact I about bawled when they encouraged me.

It warms my heart when I think of Franklin Graham's Decision America Tour or Ken Ham's Ark Encounter or Karen Kingsbury's writing or David Jeremiah's ministry and just on and on. We are in the minority, but we are not alone. God is for us, and He will protect us and never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6).

So, to the people at my church, thank you so much for all you've done for me. For the short time I've been at my church, you've reminded me the importance of humbling myself. You showed me how important a godly church is. Every Wednesday you leave me feeling encouraged, and that is because God is working through you. I know you're not perfect, and I pray for your faith, but I want you to know that you are all such role models for me. Thank you for serving like Christ calls you to do.

Well guys, it's 11:01 pm now. My mom has been very patient with me as I write this. She understands the importance of needing to write, of when God lays something on our heart, and I'm so thankful for her too. I may be alone at school, but it could always be worse. My church was a godsend. I don't think I could ever go back to Sundays without church, to nights without reading the Bible.

I've got so much to learn. The people in my group are so wise; I feel like an idiot compared to them and so grateful I can listen to them, which is also how I feel about Jesus.

Anyway. Yeah. I think that's what I wanted to say for the night. The world is an evil, dark place. My heart shatters for people who don't believe, and for the Christians that aren't pursuing Jesus, I just wish they could see how much they're missing. Yeah, they'll be saved, but I don't know where they're getting their hope. They're just surviving.

But there is light, and I'm so thankful to have it. It's time for me to go spread it and you, too! We aren't meant to keep quiet! 

Alright guys. I really need to pack. You're in my prayers, guys. I'm here to talk whenever.

Here's to many more sugar rushes! Fine, Mom, I understand it's 11:10 pm at night. Maybe tomorrow.