Embracing Little By Little

I finished reading Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life by Lara Casey about a month ago. Here’s a snippet from the back of the book: “Welcome to the journey of getting messy in the rich soil of possibility — embracing imperfect, grace-filled progress to grow a life of joy. . . Find the joy and the freedom that comes in cultivating what matters, little by little, with God’s transforming grace” (emphasis by me). The book is filled with Lara’s own anecdotes, action steps toward cultivation, and prompts and thought questions for her readers. The biggest theme in this book is the concept of growing a garden. But what strikes me the most is the emphasis on small steps causing big change, progress over perfection.

The Discontent Cycle

Our society as a whole is completely engrossed with the idea of getting what we want and getting what we want now — which isn’t a new concept. With this, we’re each searching for a purpose. Unfortunately, it’s easy to look for quick fixes to our problems and try to cover up scratches with Band-Aids that we think will get us by instead of looking for the root of healing. The scary thing about this is that the more immediate gratification we look for, the further we are from purpose.

It comes from a place of impatience and discontent.

In the 8-10 year-old Bible class I’ve been teaching at church, we’ve talked about the Israelites in the context of what God is good at. Right now that’s life and bread. The Book of Exodus tells us that God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and guided to Canaan (the land promised to Abraham for his descendants). The Israelites picked up the habit of complaining about pretty much everything, especially food and water. It was a vicious cycle, but even though these people complained, God still provided. Each time God provided, they were happy for while, and then discontent set in.

God’s plan was to take care of them, but they were looking for instant gratification and overlooking their Provider.

There were consequences to their sinfulness, but God still offered a way to deep joy and contentment if they chose to accept it: Himself.

On the other hand, Hannah, who was infertile and yearning for a child of her own, also knew the Provider. Instead of complaining and becoming bitter, she chose to pray and trust God, and vowed to dedicate her child to the Lord if He blessed her with one. As with the Israelites, God provided and blessed Hannah, but unlike the Israelites, she praised God, kept her promise, and dedicated Samuel to God’s service in the temple. Hannah let each part of her situation grow her faith instead of becoming selfishly complacent. She remained faithful and God was continually with her (1 Samuel).

What the Israelites demonstrated is no different from those Band-Aids. We move through life discontented until we see that God has provided us a good thing. So, we take that good thing, thank God briefly, and keep going in the same direction, bandaging instead of going to the Provider. It’s a process of constant taking and never giving, never living in thankfulness.

The Israelites lived on surface-level faith, while Hannah dwelled in deep faith that was so obviously her root. The difference was fully embracing God and His plan.

God has provided the same way to joy and contentment for us as He did them so long ago (something Hannah recognized): again, it’s Him. To cultivate this within ourselves, we have to learn to go deeper into our hearts to figure out what needs to be tended to and trust God to guide us through the process.

Progress + Little-By-Little

Once we’ve started digging deeper, trying to find the root to cultivate, it’s easy to get caught up in the cycle again. We’re eager, we hit the ground running, pray our way through it, think we find the fix, and forget God. Inevitably, more challenges arise; at this point we have two choices:

give up completely or give it completely to God.

 

Acorns are pretty common around my house. We trample them underfoot, dismissing them as squirrel food. But an acorn cultivated can become something mighty. In John’s Island, South Carolina, stands the massive Angel Oak tree that is more than five hundred years old, sixty-six feet tall, and twenty-eight feet in circumference. It produces shade that covers 17,200 square feet. And it started with a common acorn.

There is power in a single seed.

A kind word spoken.

A leap of faith taken.

A goal cultivated.

And in the simple yet profound act of taking one step forward.”

(p. 75, Cultivate, emphasis by me)

It takes one step, and then another, and then another. . . until we reach the end goal — in this case contentment, embracing God’s plan.

little by little.

When you read the Bible as a whole, you understand that all sixty-six books point to Jesus Christ. God created the world with a purpose for mankind, and He began Jesus’ lineage with the seed of one man: Abraham. Besides Abraham, there are several men and women — some of whom aren’t even named — who took one step forward in faith, but left profound legacies. Many of them didn’t know that their little-by-little was going to be recorded as a faith-builder for the rest of time, but because of their little-by-little, we can rest assured that God will carry us through.

progress.

As the Bible story unfolds, we see that not every action leading to the eventual death and resurrection of Christ is elaborate, and many story-changing people weren’t well-known by the people of their time. The Bible is an unfolding plan of progress with the most beautiful outcome. While the people in God’s story weren’t perfect, His plan is. This perfect plan we read about them is the same plan made for us — our purpose. So, we, imperfect people, have to embrace the little-by-little as progress toward our purpose, no matter what that little-by-little is and no matter what it might bring.

purpose.

And this is where we give it to Him.

God’s perfection.


Copy of Embracing Little-By-Little

On Change, Bitterness, and Standing on the Rock

Things have been getting more real over here on the blog lately. I don’t enjoy writing about things that I can wrap in beautiful paper and tie up with a bow because it’s not real life. That’s just not how it goes, and I don’t always want to write about my highlights and list the great ways I choose to do great things. I’ve been challenged by an encouraging friend to be more thoughtful and intentional in my writing because that’s when I and others will reap the most benefits (she doesn’t know she did this — hi, Rebekah 🙂 ) Sometimes writing and posting is therapeutic while giving others hope that they’re not alone and that there’s a solution. That’s simultaneously what I’ve been trying to do and why I haven’t posted as often. So, these posts that are more open and raw aren’t pleas for encouragement or compliments or recognition; they’re just me sticking closely to the premise of my blog, speaking the truth in love: inspiration for seeking souls.


After we moved to Arkansas in 2016, I wrote a post called Bloom Where You Are Planted. I was excited and motivated and ready to face new change and challenges — something that’s a little out of character for me, but I embraced it fully. In that post, I described plants being uprooted and given the choice to grow or fail where they’ve been planted. I said:

“Just like those plants, if not more so, we have the ability to bloom where we’re planted. And we can grow taller and more beautiful than they can because God will help us if we trust Him. It doesn’t matter if you’re living at home, in high school, in college, recently married, moving away or about to do any of these things – we are all in different seasons of life than we were before this moment, and we have to learn to bloom right there. Because you can’t change your situation but you can change yourself.”

In the past two years, I’ve been replanted four times, which is two times more than I expected — home from college, home to a new town with my husband, new town to another new town, another new town to another new town — you get the picture. Almost nothing has gone the way that I anticipated when we got married, and I think that’s been teaching me about the unpredictability of life and walking through God’s will. My patient husband consistently reminds me that life is full of change, and not much is going to go the way I’ve planned; God’s ways are higher than my ways.

As many of my readers know, we moved from Arkansas to Mississippi five months after adjusting and making friends. Our new town is smaller, with far fewer places to shop and eat, and slim to no Christians my age. It’s just different. Before you think I’m complaining: the church here has been more than accommodating, we like small-town feels and really don’t care to shop that much anyway, we probably like Zaxby’s more than sit-down restaurants, we’re close to our families, we keep in touch with our distant friends, and God blesses us richly. But I have to admit,

I haven’t been blooming.

I’ve been that plant that gets replanted and is like, “Whoa, no, stop. I don’t like it here; I’m just going to shrivel up instead.” I’ve struggled to answer when people asked me if I like it in my new home; all the things I don’t like have come sliding through my mind like a PowerPoint, and I just mumbled some kind of answer like, “It’s OK, I guess. The church is good.” I’m not naturally an optimist. I’m actually inclined to be more of a realist-pessimist, so I have to work at finding the joy and beauty in situations instead of looking at all the little things that went wrong and catastrophizing the fact that I spilled something in the floor. So, when we moved here, I was excited, motivated, and slightly less ready to face changes and challenges. For the first few months, I soaked it all in, got used to the roads and back ways to my favorite places, took time to try new things. But, I had been through that a few times already, and it was losing its appeal. I’ve become more like one of my struggling petunias outside that’s kind of alive, but kind of has dead leaves and stems, and has kind of happy petals occasionally even though it gets watered all the time (I like plant analogies. *insert shrugging emoji here*).

Instead of finding joy and thanking God for blessings, I’ve buried them and piled negativity on top.

Instead of being excited to wake up and walk my dog in the mornings, I’ve dreaded rolling out of bed.

Instead of joyfully going about my daily tasks, I’ve let them pile up and then complained when I felt overwhelmed.

Instead of asking God for satisfaction through His word, I’ve looked for satisfaction in Instagram feeds and an organized life.

Instead of looking ahead to the future with confidence, I’ve constantly looked over my shoulder for what has been.

This is a recipe for bitterness and the world’s most unpleasant person, and it’s simply one of the things that I deal with.

Once we got used to the new place and got everything situated, I started having these snowballing feelings, but I couldn’t put a finger on why (typical me), and I let them happen instead of confronting them until I felt consumed by them.

Finally, after about six months, I became fed up with them. I figured out the problem: I went from getting used to extra socializing to getting used to not much at all, which is a sensation I have never experienced.  Before, I could text a friend and within a few minutes, we could meet up for dinner or a movie or just a cup of coffee on the couch. Because I’ve lived a comfortable life with friends minutes away and regular coffee dates, I’ve become blindly accustomed to leaning more on other people for support and less on God. That’s disheartening to think about and even more disheartening to write. But it’s true! It’s probably true for many of us. And it’s something we have to get a handle on for the sake of our souls and the Kingdom of God. I have to learn to find a healthy balance between letting myself be edified and encouraged by God’s people, but leaning wholly on God instead of totally relying on God’s people and sometimes being edified and encouraged by God.

What if every Christian chose to keep pressing forward with God instead of living in stagnant dissatisfaction with the world? What if my attitude looked like this?:

Instead of putting minor inconveniences on top of God’s blessings, I praise Him anyway and thank Him for all good and perfect gifts.

Instead of dreading the next day, I joyfully put my feet on the floor and tackle the day’s challenges.

Instead of letting my daily tasks pile up, I get them done immediately without complaining and keep myself from laziness.

Instead of looking for satisfaction in my “highlight reel” and a perfectly organized schedule and home, I accept imperfection and seek satisfaction through God’s word.

Instead of living in the past, I look forward to the future of my life and God’s Kingdom and reach for Him.

That is a major paradigm shift. It’s a necessary and simple and concept, but it’s never easy to adjust a habit-formed mindset. But, imagine the spiritual and physical work that can get done if I intentionally think this way! I’ve experienced it on good days, but rarely when my day goes sour, and that needs to change.

If we live with our feet in ever-shifting sand instead of standing on the solid Rock, then we’re going to be unstable if life doesn’t go the way we expect.

I want to include a snippet from my friend Rebekah’s blog post about her move states away from her comfort zone:

“As you are working through the transitions of your move, it’s important to keep two different “Better Day”s in mind. First, there’s that day somewhere off in the future when you’re driving around town and you think, “Whoa. This is that Better Day I read about in some random blog post about moving.” It’s that day when you have somehow managed to turn the anxiety down and the town feels like home and you’re genuinely excited about your niche. Granted, these days still kind of come and go for me (and really, they do for everyone) but that’s when it’s most important for me to lean on the best “Better Day”:

It’s that Better Day when God’s presence fills every hole of loneliness and doubt. It’s that Better Day when I am finally in an assurance so strong that I am no longer vulnerable in any shape or form. It’s that Better Day when I achieve the unmerited success as a “good and faithful servant”. It’s that Better Day when I am finally able to say, “This is it. This is the place I’ve been looking for.””

In the past six months of dealing with bitter and uncomfortable feelings, I forgot this important piece of truth: the point of blooming where you’re planted isn’t just so you can feel comfortable. It’s so that you can glorify God in every situation you find yourself in. So that you can say, “I did this thing. God helped me through. Everything is always going to be OK because of God.” So that you can work toward the true Better Day that Rebekah talks about above and you can please God in all aspects of your life — no matter what changes you experience.

Philippians 4:8-13 (NKJV)

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. 

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity.11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Count your blessings, give God the glory, and keep moving forward. Giving up is never an option.

Philippians 3:14 (NASB)

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

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Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. All glory goes to God. If you want to see more like this, follow me on Instagram and Pinterest.  Feel free to print, pin, and share my posts on all platforms; I only ask that you link it back to this site. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day. 🙂

Guilty of Comfort

This will be the most me-focused, raw post to date, so if that makes you uncomfortable, I won’t make you keep reading (I don’t always put myself out there in this way). But I encourage you to stay and let yourself be challenged like I have. There’s something that has been on my mind lately, that I haven’t quite been able to put a finger on — until last night.


At our Wednesday evening worship services, we usually have a Bible study with different classes based on age, singing, prayer, and a short sermon or message before one last song and a closing prayer. During that small sermon, our preacher took us to Luke 18:18-23; that’s the story of the rich young ruler.

In this story, there’s a man who is very rich, and he wants to know how to receive eternal life: “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answers by saying that no one is good but God (a humble response from our Savior, always pointing to God), and he lists some of the commandments that we also find in the Book of Exodus. Ruler (I’ll call him this to make typing and reading easier) replies that he’s kept all of these things since he was young.

This is what followed:

“So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.” (vv. 22-23)

There are a couple of points our preacher made last night that I want to bring out. The first is that Ruler’s sorrow was symmetrical to how rich he was — he became very sorrowful because he was very rich. He based so much trust and love and comfort on the stuff he owned that he was equally as sad to be told to give it all up. How sad is that? The more he had, the less he was willing to sacrifice.

Next point: People often think (and I’m guilty of this), “I’m so glad that Jesus wouldn’t ask me to do that.”

Think again.

The attitude behind this way of thinking is appalling. Who are we to say what Jesus would ask of us? How great do we think we are? If this is something I’m guilty of thinking, then this is exactly what Jesus would ask me to do, because we have to give things up to follow Christ. If I’m putting more stock in what I own than what Jesus offers, then that’s what I need to give up the most.

Upon hearing these points, I asked myself what this thing is for me, what I find the most uncomfortable to give up. What would I say, “I’m glad He’d never ask me to do that” about?

You know what I came up with? Comfort. Just comfort. And the more comfort I find, the more uncomfortable I feel about giving up even a small portion of that; my comfort level is symmetrical to my sorrow. I’ve lived most of my life in my comfort zone, looking for more ways to be comfortable instead of ways to move through discomfort gracefully. It’s funny that the thing holding me back the most is something that seems so innocent, something we all feel entitled to. It’s not even something that’s tangible. I can’t hold comfort and I can’t see comfort. But I can feel it. It’s there, and it can be a stumbling block, even a brick wall. I was never promised comfort. I was promised persecution; comfort is only a luxury.

Feelings and emotions or states of being, things like comfort, can be my fiercest enemies if I don’t treat them as a tool instead of a fact. They can make me hobble along, or they can be a foundation on which I can build along with truth and growth. As a shy, sensitive introvert, my emotions like to remain front and center, and comfort is like gold. It can hold me captive: comfort in my own home, comfort with the things I love, comfort with my people, comfort sticking to myself in a large crowd, comfort scrolling through my phone instead of challenging myself to get up and do hard things, comfort only associating with Christians for fear of having to speak up, comfort not sharing the good news because I’m comfortable. The list could go on, but it’s crazy how something as simple as comfort can be so complicated. It’s an idol and an obstruction in my relationship with God.

I know I’m not the only one.

The devil can use your own personality against you. He can pick the thing you feel most strongly about and he can use it push you backward. And he will.

Christians need to be OK with being uncomfortable. We need to be happy about being uncomfortable if that discomfort means that we’re serving God with all that we are and all that we have.

There’s no doubt that comfort is partially, if not entirely, the reason that Ruler became sorrowful; he was comfortable with his abundance and his excess, and comfort became his wall. The rest of his story is sad, yet motivating. I don’t know that he ever decided to give up his riches, but I do know Jesus’ response to Ruler’s sorrow in verses 24-29:

“And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'” (v.24)

The more we own, the harder it is give it up. I have to recognize that the things I own aren’t truly mine. I have no more right to it than anyone else, even my own comfort. It all belongs to God. The more excess I have, tangible or not, the harder it will be to give it up and give it to God.

The people who heard Jesus’ response asked, “Who then can be saved?” Basically, “if that guy can’t be saved, then who can??” Jesus indirectly answered, but he answered nonetheless. “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Jesus is still saying to forsake all else, He’s just saying that even though it might seem impossible, with God, it’s more than possible. He also implies that it’s more important to give it up than to have it all. Peter then said, “See, we have left all and followed You.” Peter points out that they’ve already forsaken everything else for Jesus’ sake, and he wants to Jesus to know this.

It’s possible with God. It’s feasible with God. I can do whatever the thing is with God. I can give up comfort because God is with me. I can choose to put myself in personally uncomfortable situations because God asked me to and because He won’t abandon me there — if only I’ll trust Him.

Jesus’ reply to Peter’s statement is what’s most edifying, especially after watching Ruler turn Jesus down because he loved his material possessions more.

“So He said to them, “’Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.'” (vv. 29-30)

No one. No one who leaves all he has, people included, for the sake of the kingdom of God will not receive many times more now and eternal life.

There are a lot of things that make me uncomfortable, but what makes me the most uncomfortable, what hurts the most, is that I see myself in this rich, young ruler. No, I’m not rich and I’m not a ruler. But, I have said no to Christ simply so I can say yes to my own comfort, yes to my own insecurity. I’ve kept quiet when I should have spoken up about the gospel and the truth. I’ve given my meager, earthly self priority over other people’s souls and Christ’s crucifixion. That’s what’s really uncomfortable.

In the end, what is my comfort really worth? Not much. And I can say for sure that my comfort is worth giving up for the cause of Christ. Giving up my comfort to share the gospel with others and to be the salt and light and to follow Jesus with all that I am is worth all that He is. Who cares if I have to feel uncomfortable if it means God is being glorified through me? All that I have and all that I am already belongs to Him, and it’s nothing in comparison. I don’t want to care more about the things I enjoy, tangible or not, than I do following Jesus.

(related: Be Holy, For I Am Holy)

“Nothing you have not given away will ever really be yours.”

-C.S. Lewis

There are people who need what I have — they need the good news. I cannot allow myself to be selfish with it. And if my comfort gets in the way, then by all means, I ask the Lord to take it away from me and to help me do it afraid. I’m tired of the devil using my personality against me, and I’m tired of this world hungering and thirsting for the truth with no one pointing them in the right direction. This world needs every Christian — every comfortable, stubborn, scared, searching Christian. We need to shine brighter in more darkness — on every platform.

It’s not OK to hide behind comfort, behind a screen, and say that I’m doing enough. Following Christ requires more — more giving, more doing, more praying, more talking, more of me. So, I want to challenge myself to be OK with uncomfortable. I want to focus on that and be what God really wants me to be — a servant and a light — no matter what I need to do to make it a reality and whatever happens as a result. It’s time to get over it.

 

// What’s your brick wall? What’s your crutch that keeps you from serving God fully? You don’t have to tell me here, but I want you to think about it. No matter how old or young you are, no matter what stage of life you’re in, think about what holds you back the most, what Jesus would have you give up if you asked Him what you need to do.

And then get rid of it.


Related: Journey to Joy: A Resolution // It’s Not About Us // To the Work // Bloom Where You Are Planted

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Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. If you want to see more like this, follow me on Instagram  and Pinterest.  Feel free to print, pin, and share my posts on all platforms; I only ask that you link it back to this site. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day.🙂

Be Holy, For I Am Holy

The design of the graphic was simple and attractive. Sitting on a blank, white background were two sentences in black, cursive font: “I didn’t ask you to be her. I asked you to be you. -God”

It was given as a direct quote from God.

When I read this, something didn’t seem right. I read it a few more times, and then it clicked.


The quote likely has two meanings. One is harmless, while the other is not. My concern is with the interpretation that you should be yourself, unapologetically, being our own example, with the quote credited to God. I have no problems with being unique — everyone is unique in some way because God created every person with a combination of different interests and personalities, and that’s the beauty of His creation. What I am concerned with is that the quote seems to have more of an inward focus and not enough upward focus; this was my first impression of the quote. If it was my first impression, it’s likely others’ too.

I’m sure the writer had good intentions and that the quote is meant to be inspirational or uplifting, and maybe even instill some kind of faith in God. But I find one mistake.

God never asked you to be you.

Of course, He still didn’t ask you to be her — but He also didn’t ask you to be “you.” Aside from the fact that this quote is offered as a direct quote from God, a quote we don’t find in the Bible, God didn’t communicate this principle in the Bible. What God asks us to do is deny ourselves, be holy, and be like His Son. I don’t see “be you” anywhere in “deny yourself.” They are not synonymous. If we pay attention to the Bible story, we’ll find that God, through various writers, says that we are to imitate His Son. And to imitate His Son is to put ourselves aside.

Sin

Because of that pivotal moment in the Garden of Eden, there is sin in the world; all humans have the capacity to sin — and we do all sin (Romans 5:12 & 3:23).

(Jesus was the only person on earth never to sin — 1 Peter 2:22 — because He was God’s Son and He had prophecies to fulfill, a literal God-sent mission to accomplish; He was devout and determined.)

Relying on ourselves in this sense makes us incredibly vulnerable to Satan’s tricks, the last thing we want to be if we’re trying to be faithful Christians. If Adam and Eve hadn’t chosen to listen to Satan (and themselves) instead of God, leading to “death spread[ing] to all men”, we probably could be us because we would be without sin! But because we do have sin, we need someone to blot it away, and that person is Jesus Christ. Because we have sin, there’s a higher expectation we should be trying to reach (see Romans 6).

Denial

Luke 9:23 says, “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”

To deny yourself means to refuse to be a sinner, to refuse your earthly cravings and wishes, to not be yourself. To be holy is to be set apart, different, sanctified in Christ — not set apart because of your unique human traits, but because of your unique spiritual ones. To follow Christ means to go or strive after Him, to pay close attention and conform to Him. It means that you are no longer conforming to yourself.

Denying yourself opens to door to being something better than your human self, better than anything you could imagine.

Being a follower of Christ, both in New Testament times and modern-day, requires taking up your cross daily,as the verse states. Jesus carried his own cross down a cruel road to the spot He would take His last breath. Although we likely won’t be taking up our own physical cross anytime soon, we have a figurative cross to bear. When Jesus took up His cross, He was making a statement that He would not submit to His own fears or feelings; He was bending to the will of  His Father, and denying His earthly self.

Imitation

If we’re denying ourselves, we need something new to imitate, right? Jesus asks for it to be Him.

Here’s a light anecdote for you: When I was little, one of my biggest role models was Hilary Duff, especially when she was acting as Lizzie McGuire (I’m sure all my friends reading this will be either laughing, nodding their heads, or both — #totalEAmove). I had posters of her album covers on my walls, not to mention I owned all of her albums, watched every episode of her show, and I went so far as to get my haircut just like hers. You know, the layered, full-bangs style. I thought she was the absolute coolest. I liked this one TV star so much that I practically wanted to be her, so I imitated her. 

As a Christian, I am not supposed to imitate Hilary Duff, but I am supposed to imitate Christ. God didn’t ask me to be her, but He does ask me to be like Christ.

Value

This is not to say that you, as a person and a soul, are not valuable. But when you become a Christian, you choose the responsibility of reflecting Christ and shining His light and you become eternally valuable because you are now God’s child; if you truly strive, His Light and your light will become one as you bend to His will.

The point is that God values you. He values each and every person He created. He values you enough to bring you out of your sins, if you choose to accept, because He knows you’re worth more than your sins.  David acknowledges in Psalm 139 that, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” and He praises God for it; He recognizes that without God, He would be nothing (related post here).

God sent His Son to be a sacrifice for each and every one of us. He values our souls so much that He wants us to be with Him eternally. It’s a privilege and a relief! Because He values you this much, He asks you to be something better than yourself; He knows you can be something beautiful in Him. You don’t have to figure out who you are or where you “fit into” society when you become a Christian because you already know (and you don’t have to) — you’re a valued child of God, set apart from the world, and you’re going to be transformed one day.

The reality is that if we are fully following Christ, we shouldn’t even want to be ourselves — because what’s the point of being yourself if it’s all going to pass away? The point of becoming a Christian is recognizing that there is more to life than this life, praising the One who saves, and taking a giant step toward being transformed into something glorious in the heavenly Kingdom of God through imitating Jesus. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” We should want to be just like Him and be a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:16-17).

We need God to know the difference between right and wrong, and we need God to maintain godly reasoning. Just like that day in the Garden of Eden, if we rely on ourselves, we’ll inevitably fall. Sure, have individualized interests, keep your distinct personality, but find your confidence and worth in Christ. Because nothing you are, could you be without Him.

So, if you need an inspirational, faith-instilling quote, come to Jesus. If you’re looking to be truly unique, different from the world, come to Jesus. Let yourself be changed by the power of God. He never asked you to be her. He never asked you to be you. He asked you to be holy.

“…but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16)


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Related: Shine Your Light // It’s Not About Us // My Self-Esteem Comes from God

Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. If you want to see more like this, follow me on Instagram  and Pinterest.  Feel free to print, pin, and share my posts on all platforms; I only ask that you link it back to this site. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day.🙂

Shine Your Light

We’re just past the Christmas season, the time of year when people start being kinder, more generous, more thoughtful and more loving, and reaching for the new year. More people give out of the goodness of their hearts, with the intention of receiving nothing back, shining their light (God’s light) in darkness, and forgetting about the cares of the world for even just one second because that’s what God’s light does for a person. And for many people, including myself, the start of a new calendar year (although nothing about the physical change of a calendar makes a change of heart) signifies a fresh start and grows a resolve to do better and be better in the next 12 months. These two ideas are closely tied together.

I have to admit that the idea to write this post came from wearing the message “Shine Your Light” on a t-shirt made by Blair from Blair Blogs (it’s amazing what wearing Truth will do for your attitude, by the way). Though I always try to be a light to the world, heading in to the new year, I’ve been meditating on and actively pursuing being a light-shiner (aside from chasing joy) even more. All of us have the potential for kindness and love to shine from our hearts and positively impact people along our paths. God made us with the incredible potential to pursue light and be light, to shine His glory in every circumstance, and He gave His Son so that we would have the opportunity to reach that potential!

Every good and perfect gift comes from the God who has no darkness in Him at all (James 1:17 & 1 John 1:5), and the choice to shine His light shows that His people are real and are longing to reflect Christ and be like Christ. If the very God we worship has no darkness in Him at all, how could we ever choose to hide that? If we are truly His people, how could we ever choose to spread our earthly darkness, whatever that may be, instead of radiating His life-giving light? Christians have the responsibility to shine Christ, the ultimate Light, on the ultimate darkness that’s increasingly growing in the world. We have the responsibility to speak only what builds up, to spread joy, to share truth, to be good stewards of all He’s given us, to be responsible with His word. Nothing about being on this earth is about us — it’s all about giving the glory to God and bringing the lost to Christ, and that’s why our Christian lights are so very important. If we’re not shining His light, what are we communicating and are we glorifying God? Without shining His light, we’re only magnifying ourselves instead of our Creator, and we’re essentially saying that God doesn’t truly matter to us, which is exactly what the enemy hopes for.

Although the kind and cozy holiday season is ending, we should still work to be kind, generous, thoughtful, loving, and Christ-like people all 365 days. The holiday season shouldn’t be the only time we choose to reach out to others and shine our lights with whatever talents we have.

“One of the greatest blessings we have is hardship.” – Paul Hutcheson

I recognize that shining your light isn’t going to be easy 100% of the time. But, I also recognize that it’s worth it 100% of the time. Shining your light is hard, holy work that brings about beautiful results. It’s a responsibility that God has the expectation for us to uphold in any season of life, with any blessings or challenges — as a matter of fact, sometimes our lights shine the brightest in our darkest hours. Jesus’ light (who is the Light) shone incredibly bright throughout His life on earth, but that light’s climax was when He sacrificed Himself on the cross, His darkest, most tragic moment, for you and you and you and me. Sometimes, when we want to give up more than anything, when we want to throw it all out of the window, get rid of any hope we had to continue in the light, but we choose to press on through difficulty…that is when others truly see Christ, and see that He, not circumstances, is the Lord of our lives.

So, next time you want to give it all up or you’re afraid to keep going through the hardest season of your life, remember the souls you could impact for Christ — that even their souls are worth your pain. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, what you’re going through, what you think can’t do, you have a light worth shining. Remember that trusting Him is better than trusting yourself or the world or your possessions. And remember that being with God is worth more than earthly comfort.

“When I’m zoomed in on my fear, I can’t see the faithfulness of God and the steadfastness of His covenant.” – Amanda Bible Williams, She Reads Truth

Choose to be a life-giving soul instead of one that drains. Choose to put away fear and comfort and show Christ through you. Choose what’s good and right and holy. Choose joy and choose light.

Matthew 5:13-16

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Philippians 3:14

“I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”


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Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. If you want to see more like this, feel free follow me on Instagram and Pinterest.  Feel free to print, pin, and share my posts on all platforms; I only ask that you link it back to this site. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day.🙂

Journey to Joy: A Resolution

Psalm 16:11

“You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Joy has a few defintions, all of which are correct in some way, but only one is real. Sometimes we think happiness and joy are the same thing. However, I’ve come to understand that joy — true joy — is more than being happy. Sure, it’s also an emotion resulting from good fortune, but God’s joy is more than a feeling. It’s a content satisfaction in the Lord that we can have no matter our situation. Theopedia calls it “an orientation of the heart” and “a settled state of contentment, confidence, and hope.” It’s an attitude we have the power and the choice to set in our hearts and minds.

The Beginning

True joy starts with an open heart for God and the decision to become a Christian and a child of God, because without being one of His children, we won’t experience His joy. It comes from total surrender to Him, knowing that we won’t have every answer when we want it, every schedule go as planned, or every person as our friend. Joy is planted in our hearts the moment we realize that God has us, and that we don’t have to excessively worry about earthly things — as a matter of fact, God tells us not to. We find joy when we read our Bibles and come to an understanding of His word through prayer and meditation. It comes to fruition when we put realization into action, taking advantage of every tool God gives us for communication with Him and weekly, even daily, fellowship with brothers and sisters. It becomes real when we take ourselves out of the frame and place God there instead.

The Result

Joy results in contentment, whether or not we’re comfortable in every situation. It results in an obedient attitude; whining, complaining, and bitterness are taken away and replaced with confidence in Christ and ourselves, and hope in our salvation instead of in the faltering ambitions of the world. We’ll have a changed countenance and an understanding that we can get through each day because we’re in the family of God! Joy results in a mindset of praise, not just a mark in the calendar and a check off the list. When we have joy, we have love and peace that pass understanding, and we are thankful (thankfulness and joy walk hand in hand!). It results in a hunger and thirst for God’s word and for the righteousness He tells us about. It’s manifested in the lives of every Christian who completely trusts in God, no matter their circumstances, and it’s passed on through our words and actions and how we treat others. True joy results in a Christian who is passionate about her walk with God and consumed with zeal on the path to heaven with a heart that’s at peace, knowing that “it is well with my soul.”

// A large part of being a Christian is a journey that takes effort and intentional growth, especially when we’re choosing joy. Christians should be the most joyful people on earth because we have hope! Nothing about it is easy, so that’s why I want to make a conscious effort to be a joyful Christian.

I’ve had this overwhelming joy before, and I want to keep it. So, I’m making an ongoing resolution (new year or not) to find it all the time, in the big things and the small things, the good and the bad, the day-to-day and the incredible. And I want you to join me! I’d like to make my blog a place for encouraging, active communication. I want to interact with you; so, if you decide to make this resolution with me, I would absolutely love to hear about it! Let me know in the comments below, or send me an email, and we can connect through our common love for Christ.


journey-to-joy-pinterestThank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. If you want to see more like this, feel free follow me on Instagram  and Pinterest.  Feel free to print, pin, and share my posts on all platforms, so the gospel reaches even further. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day.🙂

13 Ways to Stay Godly During College

This post is important. It’s important to me because each and every part of the list comes from something I’ve experienced firsthand, and I want to use that to help other current or soon-to-be college students. So, if you’re in that season of life, and you want more tips for remaining pleasing to God, this is for you! If you’re not in college, but still want to make the most of someone else’s experiences, then read away. 🙂

I’m not quite two years out of college, but I can say that what I learned during my college years was and is still valuable. College is a great time for learning on many levels because it’s when you’re thrown out into unfamiliar territory, let loose, and figuratively told to run as fast as you can. There are plenty of awesome tips for surviving college on a secular level, but I’m not here for that.

I’ve always learned best hands-on, through trial and error (a lot of error). I learn well from seeing results from my particular situation, but I’m also hesitant to get started without sound advice. Keep in mind, I moved away from home for college, so this is where my experience comes from, although I believe it can be applied even if you stay home. some of the tips might even prove useful for those not in college — I still use them. While, I don’t claim to know it all or be perfectly wise, I have learned a lot in just the past five years, and I think my experiences can be helpful.

Without further ado, and in no particular order (minus number 1), here are 13 ways you can stay or become more Christ-like while you’re in college.

1 | Remember who God is

Ecclesiastes 12:1

“Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth,
Before the difficult days come,
And the years draw near when you say,
‘I have no pleasure in them’:”

God is your Creator and your sustainer. He gives you life and blesses you more than you realize. Remember His goodness and His severity, and submit to Him. You can’t put God on the back-burner and say, “Oh, well I’ll just get through college and then get serious about my life.” No, no. It doesn’t work that way, and it will catch up with you sooner or later. Future-self will thank past-self if you take God seriously during some of the most trying years of your life (especially if you go away from home). Take my word for it!

2 | Remember who you are

1 Peter 2:9-10

 “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”

For as long as I can remember, my dad said this to my brother and I when he dropped us off at school. It didn’t matter how late we were running or what dramatic event went down that morning, he didn’t forget to tell us to remember who we were, even before we really understood what he meant. Shortly after I set up my little apartment bedroom, I wrote this on a piece of paper, stuck it in the frame of my full-length mirror, and it stayed there until I moved. It was the best reminder of both my dad and the fact that I am a child of God, wearing Christ’s name, and I need to act like it. We all need to act like it, which can be hard to remember during those crazy changes you experience in college.

 3 | Make solid friends

I’m not sure I can stress how important this is. Of course, you should be making an effort to find solid friends at every stage of your life, but in college, it’s especially crucial. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.'” Just as much as evil company corrupts good habits, good company encourages good habits. I had awesome friends before I went to college, but after I got there, I found that there are so many more Godly people in the world that I could learn from and serve through being friends with them. In Auburn, I attended worship with the University church of Christ, where there were probably around 100 college students when I got there, most of whom were completely fired up to jump in and serve God. It was refreshing and incredibly encouraging to worship on Sundays and Wednesdays partly because I had good Christian friends who wanted to help me get to heaven.

4 | Go to church

Speaking of church — GO! Make the effort to go every single time your congregation assembles. Go to as many “extracurriculars” as you can without burning out and being worthless (I’ve been there). And genuinely put your heart into it. There are four reasons for this:

1 | God deserves your worship.

Psalm 145:3

“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
And His greatness is unsearchable.”

 

2 | You get to take time out of the most ridiculous schedule you’ve ever had to worship God.

3 | You’ll encourage the other Christians who see that you want to be there among your ridiculous schedule.

4 | You’ll encourage yourself.

God created the church for a reason. We aren’t supposed to be alone in our faith and our journey to heaven — He wants Christians to be able to collectively worship Him and each Christian to be encouraged whenever possible. So, take advantage of the opportunities your local church provides you with to worship, and make sure you know when they’re offering extra Bible studies or gospel meetings/singings (when a group of Christians gets together to study, hear a sermon, or sing praises together — this is what I grew up calling them).

Hebrews 10:24-25

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

5 | Take every opportunity to do good

1 Kings 15:5 says that David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the days of his life. It’s a good example of a humility and following God no matter what season of life you’re in. This would include doing good for others.

Galatians 6:10

 “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

If you’re in a college town, chances are you have several opportunities to serve in your church and in the community. Even if you’re not in a college town, you should be able to find opportunities, even if they don’t just fall into your lap. Where I went to church, we had opportunities to teach classes, clean the building, and visit elderly and sick people. We had a campus Bible study called Truth Seekers (still going on if you’re in the area and want to check it out here), and we had every opportunity to invite classmates to study with us and learn more about the Word. Take all of these opportunities! Take advantage of the open doors in front of you whether it’s within your local church or on campus. I will say that I didn’t take near as many opportunities as I should have, and I wish I had.

6 | Listen to people who have been there

Hint hint 😉 Just kidding, but seriously. Listen to the people who have been in your shoes — the ones who have just graduated and the ones who graduated 30 years ago. They’ll all have valuable insight, and you won’t regret taking their advice. Find someone you look up to or a mentor and go to them when you need it. Chances are they’re more than willing to encourage you. Pay attention in sermons and Bible studies — the people leading those have most likely studied hard and have experience in the area; they may be able to offer insight that you’ve never noticed or thought of before, and that’s a blessing. As I said above, the church is here for a reason; the Bible gives instructions for older people to teach and encourage the younger, for Christians to admonish one another. On the flip side of that, you have to be willing to take that encouragement, even if it mean you’ll be corrected.

7 | Read the Bible

The Bible is your guide to get through life; it contains everything you need to be and stay Godly during college. I’ve been stressing this constantly in my recent Armor of God series because it’s that important. God gave us the Bible to learn from, be comforted by, examine ourselves through, and obey. Use that to your advantage. College is the prime time to learn how to examine yourself through God’s lens and start making a solid effort to fix  heart problems and mend any soul holes you’ve made on your way there. It’s a huge transition time, when you’re likely re-evaluating parts of your life or at least learning to ask questions to make your faith your own. Once you get into the real world (college isn’t quite real yet), you’ll want to be grounded and have yourself in check. Make sure you’re taking time out of your day, not just fitting it in, to read the Bible and read it for profit.

8 | Pray, pray, pray

My parents taught me how to pray and the importance of prayer when I was little. But, when I got to college, and had more responsibility than I thought I could handle, I really learned how to put those prayer lessons into practice. I learned to pray whenever and wherever. If you’re sad, pray. If you’re happy, pray. If you’re angry, pray. Whatever you’re feeling, at whatever time of the day or night, talk to God about it. Sacrificing even more beloved sleep to go to God in prayer is more than worth it. This was one of my first blog posts; I wrote about putting trust in God through actions and prayer because I was learning how beautiful life is when you totally surrender your life for Jesus. (Related post from Blair Blogs here about writing down prayers and keeping track of how they’re answered)

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

9 | Talk to your parents and take their advice

Your parents aren’t stupid. Honoring your parents doesn’t stop just because you’ve graduated from high school (see Matthew 15:4). Most of them have been in your shoes, and they want the very best for their children, especially if they’re Christ-minded people. When they give you advice — even if your mom texts you to tell you it’s going to rain that day — just take it. Seriously. Take it, and thank them. And don’t forget to text or call them every so often! It does you as much good as it does them to take some time out to talk to your parents; they’ll likely have encouraging words and advice for you that you hadn’t thought of yourself. College is a great time to develop a solid relationship with your parents and put their teaching into action. Remember that you’ll always need your parents (they’re also gifts from God), and that they helped you get to where you are today.

10 | Listen to hymns

Colossians 3:2 – “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”

One year, because I was feeling a strange mixture of discouraged and encouraged to be better, I decided that for a set amount of time, I can’t remember if it was a week or a month, but I was only going to listen to hymns/spiritual songs unless I couldn’t control what music was on. Let me tell you something: that was one of the most encouraging weeks/months I’ve had, simply because of the music I was listening to! I don’t think most people, including myself, realize that the music we listen to can have such a big impact on our attitudes and Godliness. All I did was cut out mainstream music for a short time, and I was more uplifted and motivated than I had been in a long time. (Fun fact: that was also the year I started my blog.) Now, I’m not saying that you can’t listen to mainstream music if it’s not ungodly, but just try cutting it out for a period of time and pay attention to the results.

 11 | Choose to be content

Happiness is a choice (related post here). Contentment is a choice. And I think they’re tied together. There’s a great peace that comes with being content with joy in Christ. Sometimes they’re both hard choices in college when you think you have to add up to everyone around you (girls, especially). But you don’t! The only person you have to please is God, and if a person or group is purposefully excluding you, chances are you picked the wrong group to hang out with in the first place (see number 3). Don’t let your situation turn you away from focus on God. Take a note from Paul, and choose to be happy in whatever state you’re in. I chose to be unhappy in several situations, and now I know that my life, and others’ lives, would have been a million times easier if I had just made up my mind to get over it and be OK.

1 Timothy 6:6

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Philippians 4:11

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:”

12 | Don’t let yourself feel lonely

Related to the previous point, loneliness can lead to bitterness, and bitterness can “make you a crazy person” (Larry Rouse, the preacher at University church of Christ). Do not let yourself get to that point. Sometimes it’s more likely to happen, especially if you move away and feel like nobody knows you, understands you, or wants to make an effort to. To keep yourself from feeling this way, be friendly and make friends; sometimes getting away from loneliness takes effort on your part instead of waiting around for other people to notice. If you start feeling lonely and bitter, talk to someone within the church and let them know that you’re struggling. In my experience, no one actually knew I was having a hard time, and once I spoke up, they jumped on the chance to encourage and befriend me! Sometimes it really just takes some effort to reach out, and being surrounded by faithful Christians makes it that much easier. Keep in mind that you’re new to them, too, and because they don’t know you yet, they won’t always be able to tell that you’re feeling anything other than normal. Besides, you always have God, and you can pray to Him for comfort and guidance — see number 8.

13 | Keep a journal

Not everybody likes to write or a keep journals, but if you do, this one is for you! I’ve off-and-on kept journals for a lot of my life, and I love to take notes. So, when I was in college, I kept a journal of sorts — I used a notebook given to me by a sweet friend, and I basically wrote stream-of-consciousness style most nights right before bed. I struggled with staying positive because change isn’t always exciting for me, so I often wrote about my blessings and Bible verses or portions of hymns that were on my mind, and sometimes I just doodled my feelings away (whether good or bad!). When I wrote out my blessings, I was able to go to sleep a little more at peace and with a better perspective of my life state. This is especially helpful if you deal with worry and anxiety. You could keep a prayer journal, write about your day, write about your fears, whatever it is, but try to keep it faith-focused and see if your perspective becomes more Godly.

// Your time in college can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life if you make it that way! Make sure you always keep a consciousness of God and act according to His will, and everything else will fall into place (Romans 8:28).

Galatians 5:22-25

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

Related post: Home of the Soul


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Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. If you want to see more like this, feel free follow me on Instagram and Pinterest. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day.🙂

 

The Sword of the Spirit + Prayer

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints…” (Ephesians 6:14-18)

What is the Sword of the Spirit?

Swords were offensive weapons used in battle. They have a long, double-sided blade and a sturdy handle. Roman swords were similar to the swords we know and have seen, but their points were further sharpened in order to puncture sturdy armor and defeat the enemy (source).

Verse 17 plainly states that the sword of the Spirit is the word of God, and it’s the only weapon that Paul mentions in the armor of God — everything else is simply for defense.

Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

The Hebrews writer gives us a visual of just how powerful God’s word (our spiritual sword) is — it’s even sharper than any two-edged sword. It can pierce something much more significant than armor, and that’s the division of soul & spirit and joints & marrow. Because God’s word is a discerner of our thoughts and intentions, it can divide even the smallest and closest-knit parts of us. It can divide what we want and what’s right, us from our family and friends, and even churches, all based on what God says is right. God’s word is the authority for everything we do, and following it will bring change if we follow it accurately. And that Godly change is what we need to defeat the Enemy.

Why do we need it?

We need the sword of the Spirit for several reasons, besides the fact that God has said we do.

Through His word, God created the world, through the Word (His Son) He brought salvation, and through Him (the Word, because He and Christ are one), we have a standard and find our authority — see John 1 and 2 Timothy 3.

God’s word is truth. I wrote about the Belt of Truth a few weeks ago, and I said:

“Truth is needed to combat the lies of the world which come from Satan himself. As I mentioned in the preface to this series, the devil walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Any lies the world tells us are planted by him; Satan is the influence of evil and he will stop at nothing to make sure he succeeds.  He may use a relationship, social or entertainment activity, or temptation we have (probably all of the above!) to pinpoint our weaknesses and attack us where we think we’re strong. He will be successful if we don’t know and gird ourselves with the truth.”

This is why we need the sword of the Spirit. With it we’ll have the truth and be able to fight back against Satan.

We already have everything we need to defend ourselves against the devil (belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, and helmet), but the spiritual war is always active, and we have to participate. God has given us everything we need to know in His word! The word of God should be our only weapon, and He expects us to know it, understand it, and use it. In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he says that all scripture is from God and that with it, we’ll be complete and thoroughly equipped. 

2 Timothy 3:16-17

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

His word is the standard for every area of our lives. We can have all of the defensive mechanisms we need, but in order to win, we must know God’s word.

God’s word is also the seed for growing other Christians (Luke 8). If we want to bring other people to Christ, we have to go to God’s word and present that to them. If they have good, ready hearts, they’ll receive it and see its power.

How do we use it?

Read it

The first thing we do with God’s word is simply read it (or even listen to it being read) so we can know it and come to an understanding of it.

Pray about it

I don’t think I do this near enough, but it’s important to ask God for wisdom and understanding in reading His word. If we ask Him for this, I truly believe it will be granted — because He wants all people to understand it and be closer to Him (Matthew 7:7; 1 John 5:14; 2 Peter 3:9)!

Understand and appreciate it

Understanding God’s word is what leads to a stronger appreciation of it and the tools to continue in the truth. After we read it and pray for understanding, the next step is to try our best to understand what God is telling us. If we don’t understand at first, we need to keep reading, praying, and making a solid effort to understand it, because eventually we will (it won’t always come overnight or even over a day).

Grow in it

Growing is always, always necessary. It doesn’t matter how young or old we are, we have to keep growing in His word, and growing into the fullness of God — being complete in Him (Ephesians 3). Growing is why understanding is so necessary; we’ll remain stagnant if we don’t understand what God is telling us.

Teach it

When we understand it, even just part of it, we have a story worth telling. We now have the tools we need to teach others and shine our lights to the dark world so that more people turn their hearts to Him. Sometimes what stops us is thinking that we have to be scholarly experts before we can share it — (although it can be helpful) that’s just not the case. If we know the gospel and we’ve been impacted by that, we have a responsibility to share it. If we know a little more than that, we have a responsibility to share that as well. We share what we know, and grow in it together.

Rejoice in it

Psalm 119:162-163

“I rejoice at Your word
As one who finds great treasure.
I hate and abhor lying,
But I love Your law.”

Psalm 19:7-10

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”

The Psalms are full of songs about rejoicing in the Lord, loving His word, and desiring His law. They’re great examples of the attitudes we should have, especially among trial. God’s word is designed to be wanted and rejoiced in. We’ll see much better results in our spiritual lives if we focus on rejoicing instead of always wondering why God tells us to do what we do.

Prayer

Verse 18 says, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints…” Two things really stick out to me in this verse:

-Being prayerful (for ourselves and other saints)

-Being watchful

The Bible says to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16). Our relationship with God is a two-way street; He’s already given us His word, so we have to do our part and continue communication with Him. Prayer is how that’s done, and it should be done all the time, in every situation, before every decision, and for everyone.

We are to pray for fellow Christians. Supplication means “the act of communicating with a deity (especially as a petition or in adoration or contrition or thanksgiving); a prayer asking God’s help as part of a religious service; a humble request for help from someone in authority” (source). I’ve even seen it described as begging. So we’re to be humbly and urgently petitioning to God about our brothers and sisters in Christ. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” The church is a unit that works together to encourage and fight with each other.

When fighting in a battle, soldiers have to be watching at all times for someone to turn the corner or sneak up behind them. My family and I watched Saving Private Ryan after Thanksgiving (which I don’t recommend watching without some kind of filter service, like VidAngel), and in several scenes, people died because they weren’t paying attention, ready to defend themselves or fight back — some were cowards and some just dropped their guard, leading to fatality. They have to be ready for any situation, which means having their minds and weapons ready. It’s no different in the spiritual war. Christians need to be ever-conscious of Satan’s sneaky techniques and random attacks because most times they’ll show up when we least expect it. If we’re not ready, we’ll lose our footing and give in to temptation, sometimes fatally. Along with wearing God’s armor, we have to use our hearts and minds and pray to Him, knowing that He delivers us; we don’t deliver ourselves.

This takes perseverance! Perseverance is a big theme throughout the Bible because being a Christian isn’t meant to be easy. Keeping God’s commandments in the Old Testament certainly wasn’t easy. Following His word and bending to His will isn’t always easy today, but it’s doable because of Christ’s sacrifice and God’s help. But if we persevere with the deliverance of God and the help of our brothers and sisters, we’ll be able to see the true Light at the end of the tunnel and make our way to heaven.

//

Throughout this series, I’ve loved watching all of the parts of armor work together. At times it’s been challenging because they intertwine so tightly, but I think that’s how it’s meant to be. If we lose one part of armor, we’ll lose it all. Everything in God’s armor is important and necessary to being a faithful Christian.


This wraps up my Armor of God series. Thank you to everyone who read all the way through, commented, shared, and supported me! I hope these posts have been beneficial. 

Related: Preface: Armor of God + Resisting the Devil ; (related posts here and here) // The Belt of Truth // It’s Not About Us // The Breastplate of Righteousness // The Shoes of the Gospel of Peace // The Shield of Faith // The Greatest Commands: Pt 4 from Through My Lens // The Helmet of Salvation

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Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. If you want to see more like this, feel free follow me on Instagram and Pinterest. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day.🙂

The Shoes of the Gospel of Peace

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace…” Ephesians 6:14-15

What are the shoes of the gospel of peace?

Roman armor footware consisted of heavy-soled, sandal-like shoes. Ironically, they looked similar to what girls wear now for fashion, gladiator sandals, but they were obviously sturdier, and had closed toes. Soldiers wore these specific shoes for support, protection, and health of the feet. They were used as the foundation of the rest of the armor, giving the soldier “firm footing” (source 1 for armor + source 2 for armor).

The English Standard version of this passage says, “and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” What we’re really putting on is readiness and preparation for battle which are given to us by our shoes, the gospel of peace. 1 Peter 3:15 says:

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”

What gives us this readiness is the good news of Christ — the gospel. The good news is that Christ came! He came and sacrificed Himself on the cross for you and me and our brothers, sisters, friends, acquaintances, enemies, and anyone else who is (or isn’t!) in our lives because we were all sinners. He then rose from the dead after three days of being in the tomb. He lived, died, and rose so that all people would have the opportunity to be saved. There is a Kingdom of God in heaven that’s coming for all those who heed this news and are saved. That is the gospel of peace, and praise God for it! (see the whole New Testament and this page).

Shoes help our feet stay safe when we’re walking, running, or in this case, fighting in a war. These gospel shoes are going to support and protect us (save us) from being lost in battle. They’re the foundation for every other part of armor we wear.

Why do we need them?

 1 | They protect us

If we wear the spiritual shoes, we’ll be protected from losing our souls among the violence of the spiritual war. They’ll give us “firm footing” so that we can stand against the devil and his adversaries without wavering. Having and living out the gospel keeps our minds focused on the goal and watch for imminent danger.

2 Corinthians 4:9-10

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”

 2 | They keep us healthy

Roman soldiers’ shoes were designed in a way that would prevent blisters and other foot ailments that inevitably hindered the soldiers while they fought. The gospel is a foundation that can’t be moved or harmed. With the gospel as our foundation, we can avoid a weak, crumbling foundation; not only will the gospel not hinder our fighting, it also won’t let our fighting be hindered through spiritual blisters or diseases if we focus on it.

1 Corinthians 3:11-13

“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.”

Philippians 4:13

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

3 | They save us

Just as in the story of the Philippian jailer and his family in Acts 16:25-31, the gospel also gives us the knowledge that we have a way to come to repentance and be in the presence of God when our time on earth is over. With the knowledge of the good news, we can take the necessary steps toward salvation and a life in Christ — because if we didn’t first know of Christ and His sacrifice, we wouldn’t know that or why we need saving. Once we have salvation, we can truly know Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:1-2

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.”

How do we use them?

First of all, we need to be proactive when we learn the gospel, before we even put on the shoes. That means believing it, understanding it, being baptized for the remission of sins, salvation, and working toward being a faithful servant of God & follower of Christ. If we don’t do this first, we will in no way be prepared with the gospel — because we don’t have the gospel in our hearts! (If you haven’t heard of some of these things or want to know more about it, or even if you disagree, that’s why I’m here! I’d love for you to ask me about it.) 

Once we do these things, we can push forward into the battlefield with our shoes on.

1 | Have an ever-present consciousness of the gospel

We need to be constantly thinking about what Christ did for us and living for that. After all, our souls depend on it even though we didn’t deserve it. So, as we’re following Christ, we must always remember that we don’t save ourselves. Christ does. This is what will keep our foundations firm and protect us from Satan’s lies.

2 | Spread it to others

If we have this firm foundation, surely we want other people to have it too. We need to be telling our fellow humans about this good news! This comes from a heart of love. If we love both Christ and others we won’t hide our new shoes. 😉  We’ll wear them and show them off, and we’ll want other people to have something that keeps us this safe and healthy. Because we know that God and Christ love us that much, we should follow their example and love others the same.

Mark 10:45

“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Romans 5:8

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

3 | Live like Christ

Jesus Christ was and is the perfect example of a godly life — the gospel is truly all about Him! As always, the best way we can both live out the gospel, spread it to others, and live faithfully is to live as Jesus would live. This comes from having a conciousness of the gospel; if we’re always concentrated on the gospel, we’ll live more like Christ every day. It’s what Christians are called to do, and what will magnify our walk with Him.


This is part three of my 6-part Armor of God series. I’ll post one installment each week, with the Sword of the Spirit and Prayer combined (it should wrap up around Thanksgiving).

Related: Preface: Armor of God + Resisting the Devil ; (related posts here and here) // The Belt of Truth // It’s Not About Us // The Breastplate of Righteousness

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Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. If you want to see more like this, feel free follow me on Instagram and Pinterest. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day.🙂

The Breastplate of Righteousness

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,” (Ephesians 6:14)

What is the breastplate of righteousness?

According to Merriam-Webster, a breastplate is a piece of metal that covers a person’s chest and was part of the protective clothing that soldiers wore in the past. Although it’s only called a breastplate, implying protection of the chest area, was more like a torso covering. It would have been large, covering both the front and back of the torso so that the soldier would be protected from attacks on either side. The breastplate would have been very important because the heart is located inside the chest. If the enemy were to successfully aim for your heart, you probably would have died immediately.

It translates well spiritually; if the enemy (Satan) is going to attack us, one of the first parts he’s going to aim for is the figurative heart because that’s where our loyalties come from. One of the ways we can guard our hearts is by wearing the breastplate of righteousness.

 Luke 6:45

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

If you’re righteous, according to secular definitions, you are “acting in accord with divine or moral law; free from guilt or sin; morally right or justifiable” (source). These defintions align well with the Biblical definition. God is righteous. In both the Old and New Testaments, God is revered as righteous. Because He’s righteous, He should be our ultimate source of defining the word. God is holy, pure, just, completely free of sin, faithful, loving, and longsuffering, among other things. Because all of these things describe God, they also describe righteousness. Each Of God’s characteristics leads to being in accord with moral law, free from guilt or sin, and morally right or justifiable.

So, if we wear a figurative breastplate of righteousness into battle, we’re wearing a torso-protecting piece of armor made of everything that aligns with God’s moral law or truth. (See my post, The Belt of Truth.) This means that we, ourselves, will be aligned with the truth, full of righteousness. It will protect us from everything that’s opposed to God’s Word, even though we’re targets.

Why do we need it?

Psalm 18:20

The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands
He has recompensed me.

God rewards the righteous. This is apparent in every Bible story of a righteous person. If you read Hebrews 11, you’ll find what many people like to call the Hall of Faith. Throughout Hebrews 11, verses begin with “By faith Noah…” or “By faith Abraham…” Each person listed in the Hall of Faith was rewarded because of their faith in God. This faith they had inevitably led to righteousness.

Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Diligently seeking God is involved in being righteous — being free from guilt and sin, morally right and justifiable. Because we can’t be any of these things without seeking God. Some of these people received longer lives, prosperity, and children, and all of them will receive the “heavenly country” (11:13-16). We can look forward to this if we also dwell in righteousness. We may not be blessed with all of the earthly things we desire now, but the point of living in righteousness is 1) to glorify God, and 2) to live forever with Him in heaven. That will be the ultimate reward.

As I mentioned earlier, Satan will try to attack our hearts because that’s where our loyalties come from. Everything we say and do comes from our hearts — that means that what we set our minds on, we’ll inevitably do. We choose in our hearts who we will love and serve, and if we don’t have the protective shell of righteousness surrounding our hearts, we’re going to be in huge, spiritual trouble.

How do we use it?

1 | Devote ourselves to God

The idea of devotion is to be fully committed to a person or thing. Your loyalty will not waver toward what’s unnecessary when you’re devoted to someone or something, you tend to adhere to their values. When Christians are baptized into Christ, they put away former ungodly and unrighteous conduct, and put on the “new man,” which was even created in righteousness (Ephesians 4). We repent — we make a dedicated change and fully devote ourselves to God. This means constantly praying, reading His word, and acting on it. If we truly love God, we’ll be devoted to Him and only Him.

Luke 10:27

So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’

2 | Pay attention to what’s right and wrong

“Without God, there’s no virtue because there’s no prompting of the conscience.” -Ronald Reagan

In order to be righteous, we have to know what’s right and wrong according to God. And to do that, we have to read His word every day. We have to fully rely on His inspired word to give us the standard for how we act and think because without Him, we think we can do what we want, when we want, and how we want it! God has given us everything we need to know in order to be faithful servants of His.

It seems the world’s standards of right and wrong are found on an individual basis, give or take major issues. But God’s standards always remain the same, and God’s way is perfect, so we have to pay attention to what He says.

3 | Strive to be like Christ

In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul says, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” Paul was constantly looking to Jesus’ example because he knew that was the only way to be truly righteous.

Jesus is the ultimate example of moral character. I say this in so many of my posts because it’s really what should define a Christian. A Christian is someone who follows Christ and is completely devoted to Him in word and in deed. When we follow someone in this sense we tend to adhere to that person’s way of life; it’s just part of worshiping, idolizing, and revering someone. And if righteousness is going to flow from this type of following, then we’re going to have to choose to follow Christ and only Christ, in turn being like Him.

4 | Keep our guard up

If you were on the battlefield, would you even think about taking off your breastplate? Absolutely not. Because the minute you take that off is the minute you’re fatally hit. Well, God’s war is going on 24/7. Satan is always watching, and he’s always ready to attack. Friends, we can’t afford to spiritually relax. We can’t afford to say, “Today, I’m going to take a break from all this fighting and thinking and praying.” We just can’t. Because the minute we take let our guard down is the minute Satan has us; that’s when he starts to win over our souls.

Proverbs 4:23

Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.

 

*Note: None of these things are meant to be harsh, but I want them to encourage us (myself included) to remember that not only is Satan always attacking, but also that God is more powerful.

And with Him we can conquer.

Matthew 19:26

“But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'”


This is part two of my 6-part Armor of God series. I’ll post one installment each week, with the Sword of the Spirit and Prayer combined (it should wrap up around Thanksgiving).

Related: Preface: Armor of God + Resisting the Devil ; (related posts here and here) // The Belt of Truth // It’s Not About Us

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Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. If you want to see more like this, feel free follow me on Instagram and Pinterest. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day.🙂