"You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love." -Galatians 5:13
Happy 4th of July everyone! This is one of my favorite times of the year. The sun is usually out in full force, picnic and cookout foods abound, and fireworks encourage me to get out and enjoy the glorious summer nights.
It's on this holiday that we as Americans celebrate our freedom as a nation, and the many freedoms that come with the privilege of living in this country. I am so thankful for those freedoms, and for the many men and women who have given their lives over the years that we may obtain and continue to maintain that freedom.
There seems to be something in all of us that craves freedom. We celebrate it as a nation, and we long for it in our personal lives. In fact, the Bible is full of people who were looking for freedom, and nations who God lead to freedom.
All of this, though, pales in comparison to our ultimate freedom, which is found only through Jesus Christ. Our sin debt was our ultimate enslavement, and with it the guilt, shame, and separation from God that only aided to the bondage of our souls.
As children of God, we can rejoice that Jesus paid the debt for our sins (John 3:16). When we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, we are forgiven of our sins, and our relationship with God is restored (Romans 10:9-10). What an amazing gift! And now that we have been set free, Scripture tells us to use our freedom wisely.
In a nation of freedoms, and in a relationship with the living God who provides our ultimately freedom, we can forget that while we are free, it doesn't mean we should be free to do whatever we want. Paul clamps down on this point so well in Galatians 5 (I'd encourage you to read the whole chapter if you get a chance today). In verse 13, we're told to not use our freedom to indulge the flesh, but to serve one another.
In our freedom, we can get self-centered very quickly. We are free, but so many others are not. While our fellow Americans may enjoy the freedoms of our country, they are still spiritually in bondage, looking for hope. When they see us, may they not see self-centered Christians who are quick to give others a list of rules to follow. Let them see a person who has been genuinely set free and willing to extend a hand to help them experience that same freedom. And let us, as Paul continues to say in verse 13, to do so in love.
Freedom is a priceless gift, but it comes with responsibility. Let us use our freedom to benefit others this holiday weekend, and may we never forget that freedom is not free. It wasn't free for our country, and it wasn't free for our salvation. Let our set-free lives be lived in honor of those who paid the price for us, and to point to the only One who can set us free for all eternity.
Until Next Time,
P.S. I'd love to hear your 4th of July plans! Let me know in the comments below.
"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
How much of our waking hours do you think we spend thinking about circumstances beyond our control? I don't have any scientific numbers to back this up, but I know that for most of us, thoughts about what is going on around us, or worrying about what is ahead of us, takes up a great amount of time in our brains on a daily basis.
What's funny about these thought patterns is that they never really accomplish anything. Think about a time when you played a situation out in your head. When it happened in real life, did it look like anything you thought it would? Probably not. The truth of the matter is, life often happens way differently than we could ever think it would.
So instead of entertaining ideas in our minds that emotionally drain us and make our wheels of worry spin out of control, let's think of what a better use of our time could be.
Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to pray continually. Other translations of this verse tell us to pray always. I wonder what would happen to our fear and worry if instead of worrying about everything that could go wrong, or trying to brace ourselves for everything we're expecting to go wrong, we instead fill that time with prayer.
In Philippians 4:8, Paul also tells us, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." When I read this, I don't see how worry fits into any of those categories, but I do see how Jesus fits into those categories.
We don't need any fancy words to pray, or be in any certain place at any certain time. God hears our cries from anywhere. He knows how anxious our hearts can get, but He also knows that if we bring our concerns to Him, He will prove to be faithful. God is not capable of failing us as His children. Let us be more intentional about where our thoughts go, and when we find them starting to wander, let us bring them back to Him.
Until Next Time,
"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You." - Isaiah 26:3
"For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” -Romans 8:14-15
Today is Father's Day, a day we celebrate the father and father figures in our life. It's an amazing time to stop and remember everything our dad's have done for us, how they've always been there, and how they're raising the next generation.
Growing up without a father myself, father's day has always been a day when I reflect on the goodness and love of my Heavenly Father.
It's interesting that throughout Scripture God is described just as that--as our Father-- over and over and over again. He could've chosen any way to describe the relationship He has with His people throughout the Bible, yet He chose to Father.
In the New Testament, we see Jesus calling God Father when He prays in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39-42), and Paul describes our relationship with God as being adopted into God's family, and thereby making us His children. In the Old Testament, we see God being a Father to the nation of Israel, promising that He will be their God.
It's no wonder that when raised around Godly men who surrender themselves to God we get a beautiful picture of what our heavenly Father looks like. In fact, I believe God created it this way. But when we're raised around men who aren't pursuing God, the image of God being a Father may be a hard one to grasp, and maybe even a painful one.
No matter the relationship you have with your earthly father, there is a heavenly one who is everything your heart has ever needed in an earthly father--and more.
Father's are strong. Father's are dependable. Father's are providers. Father's are defenders. Father's are handymen. Father's are adventure buddies. Father's are security. Father's are comfort. Father's are love.
When we look at God, we find Him more than able to be all these things. In fact, at the very core of His nature, He is all these things. And at the core of our hearts, we'll find if we seek Him, He is able to fulfill the longings we all long for in a father.
To all the father's out there, I want to thank you for what you're doing. You are truly changing the next generation, and as hard as we try to fill it, the void a father leaves is just not the same as having one around, just like God intended. We celebrate and honor you today!
And for those who are, for any number of reasons, without your father today, know you have a Heavenly one waiting and capable of being everything you need. Today and everyday.
Until next time,
P.S. For more on this topic, I'll link a blog I wrote about a year and a half ago. It came out of a season where I was really needing an earthly father, and found the arms of my Heavenly one. I hope that can encourage you today, too
"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." -Galatians 5:6
We can make life so complicated, can't we? As if life were just one long, running checklist of things we need to do, places we need to be, and people we need to see.
While certain things in life do need to get done, I think sometimes we over-complicate and make things more stressful than they need to be.
I love today's Scripture that comes from Galatians 5. Paul is reminding the church at Galatia that in Christ, we are set free (vs. 1). That means the long checklist of religious obligations that they once had to follow is now void--it doesn't need to be done anymore. Now it's all about living in the freedom that Christ has provided and using that freedom to serve on another in love (vs. 13). Talk about lifting a huge burden off your shoulders! Yet think about this: what if we could live in that same freedom, even today?
Last week on the blog we talked abut the importance of throwing away our own comfort and convenience to serve in the places where Jesus would likely be if He were on this earth today. Paul's reminder goes right along with this idea: to serve one another in love. Jesus Himself told us our greatest commandment was now to love God and to love our neighbor (Mark 12:30-31).
This week in the middle of your hustle and bustle, in the middle of your summer vacation planning, and throughout your sleepless and stress-filled nights, take a moment to breathe and remember what is truly important: Loving God and loving others. When we ask for God's help in doing both of these things well, it'll be amazing how simple life really can become.
Until next time,
"Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." -John 12:26
As followers of Jesus, it's really easy to get into a pattern of reading the Bible, praying before meals, and going to church on Sunday's. We think of Jesus as a convenience rather than a lifestyle. We view serving as a way of feeling better about ourselves. We attend events to make sure other people notice us, so that we can get their gold star of approval.
If any of this sounds familiar, know that at one point or another, we've all been here. It's our natural sin nature that wants approval from others, convenience instead of sacrifice, and routine instead of risking change.
But when we study Jesus in the Gospels, we see a very different kind of life. We see Jesus living a life of service and inconvenience. We see a life that was focused solely on the mission of God and the pursuit of people, the truth of the Gospel, and love.
In John 12:23-26, Jesus is answering a request brought to Him by His disciplines, Philip and Andrew. The Bible tells us in verse 20 that there were some Greeks who had come up to worship God at the Passover festival, and they wanted to see Jesus. What's interesting is, when Philip and Andrew bring this request to Jesus, He never directly answers it. Instead, He tells them that the hour has come for Him to be glorified (vs. 23), that unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds (vs 24). And finally that anyone who love their life will lost it, while anyone who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (vs. 25).
Right after saying this, Jesus says this: "Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant will also be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." Jesus uses the words "serves" and "servant" three times in this verse, all in reference to Himself. In the next chapter, we see Jesus doing this exact thing when He takes the job of a slave and washes His disciples feet.
I don't know about you, but washing dusty and worn down feet doesn't sound like the most convenient thing to do. Yet, this is the example we find Jesus setting. This is where Jesus was--and this is where we should be, too.
Going back to John 12:26, Jesus makes the statement, "Where I am, my servant will also be". If you look around at your life today, is it a true statement to say you are where Jesus would be? Jesus calls out in particular a few groups of people in Matthew 25 that are close to His heart: the hungry and thirsty, strangers in need, those who lacked clothing, those who are sick, and those who are in prison (vs. 35-36). He wraps this up saying, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me" (vs. 45).
It's easy to think we're serving Jesus by posting words of encouragement online from our air conditioned houses while we sip our iced coffees, and it's easy to think that by donating to the church on Sunday mornings, we're doing our due diligence to keep ministries up and running. While these things aren't bad, I would suggest they're simply not enough if that's all our hearts are desiring to do on a daily basis. If Jesus was here, where would He be? What would He be doing? And as followers of Jesus, are we in those places, doing those things on His behalf?
This week, take some time to evaluate what your service to God looks like. If it's merely made up of things that are convenient for you, maybe consider going to God in prayer and asking Him what He would have you do. Is there a buried desire you have that could lead to service? Is there a spiritual gift that you could use to fill a void near your neighborhood? Following Jesus doesn't necessarily mean moving across the globe to reach people for Him (though it might!). It might just mean we get a little bit out of our comfort zones to reach the hurting and broken right close to home, the people the world would define as dirty and unworthy, and meet Jesus right at the intersection of service and inconvenience. We can be assured that whatever we do for His Kingdom will be rewarded many times over.
Until next time,
"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." - Hebrews 11:6
I don't know about you, but I have been so distracted.
I was reading my Bible last week when it all hit me, and since then, like a tidal wave, it's continued to hit me. My focus has been off. My mind has wandered. I have become distracted.
So many of us had to fight distraction this last year. The thing about distraction is you don't often realize it's happening until it's too late. Hours have gone by and you're still on social media. It's three in the afternoon and you're still in your pajamas. It's been a whole year and you still haven't gotten to that home project you wanted to get done. Where has the time gone, and what's happened in the meantime?
For me, distraction has looked like spending too much time on social media. It's also looked like spending to much time thinking about what I want my future to look like instead of actually preparing for that future. And in the midst of all of this, I've faced heartbreak, disappointment, and discouragement.
When we become distracted, it's because we've lost our focus. We've forgotten that this earth is not our eternal home. We've forgotten there is a Kingdom that is coming, and a King who awaits us in there here and now. That we have a God who has a perfect plan for our lives, if only we'd stop wasting our time and start being intentional about preparation and surrender.
I know this all sounds intense, and of course we're allowed to have fun and take a break throughout our day. But the point is, what choices are you making today that are preparing you for the future God is calling you to? How are you spending your time today that is growing your relationship with God and allowing Him to work on your heart to impact people on this earth for His Kingdom?
I read a quote that woke me up from my distracted slumber, and it went like this: "Patient is getting under a burden or affliction and turning it into glory." (author unknown).
I read this from an article in my Study Bible, and I knew exactly what God was trying to tell me. Instead of waiting around, wasting my time, there was purpose in my current season. The lessons I've learned are stories to be shared. The afflictions that have plagued me are worth writing about so that His glory may be known.
So my turnaround goes like this: Less time worrying about what my future looks like, more time using my gifts to serve people in the season I'm in. That's why I'm starting to blog again. It's part of my plan to stay focused on the here and now and tell of the lessons I'm learning in my current season.
What does your turnaround look like? What has been distracting you, and how can you be more focused? Do you want to get married someday? Chances are, this is a good time to start learning how to be a good spouse. Do you want to pursue a career that'll take experience? This would be a great time to start equipping yourself with the knowledge and experience it'll take.
Where do you want to be in five years, and what can you do today to get there?
Take your dreams to God in prayer, with an open and surrendered heart, and ask Him to show you where you're distracted, and what you need to do to align yourself with all He has for you.
No distraction is worth delaying what God has for you. When we recognize that we've wasted or time, we'll be a lot more diligent on staying focused. And that's my prayer for us this week. We stop wasting time and start getting focused. God has great things in store for us when we do.
Until next time,
It's been almost a year to the date since I last sat down and wrote a blog.
What happened to me in the last year? Sorta what happened to everyone as a pandemic swept our nation. While there are many things that I want to share about the last year, I will save those for later blogs. For now, I want to welcome all of my readers back to a brand new, upgraded, and rededicated space. A place where I'm committed to sharing words that'll help you love Jesus and live like it.
You'll notice my website has a new name! You'll also notice I now have a Shop page available on my website. This will allow you to purchase items either made by me or written by me. This shop page will be updated as time goes on.
But for now, I want you to know that my blogs are coming back. Words are coming back. And my commitment to sharing the love of Christ online is in full swing again. In addition to this blog, I have created a Facebook page dedicated to sharing more words throughout the week in addition to new blogs every Sunday, just like we used to do.
Thank you for stopping back in! I'll see you on my Facebook page, and then with a new blog right here next Sunday :)
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” // 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Hey guys! I have a little bit of a different blog for you guys this week, (as you can probably tell by the title). We’ll get to that in a minute! First, I want to take a moment to express my thanks to all the men, women, and families who have given their lives for the freedoms we have here in America. On Memorial Day weekend, you are close to our hearts and are in our prayers. We are so, so thankful to each and every one of you. We talk about the price of freedom not being free, and it’s true. Not only is it a beautiful demonstration of love, but a demonstration of the sacrifice Jesus ultimately made for all of our freedoms, for which, we are eternally grateful. May all our military families feel the love, comfort, and closeness of our Lord this weekend, and always.
Alright, with that said, I have some exciting news! I was nominated this past week for the Ideal Inspiration Blogger Award by the wonderful Elizabeth Jacobson! She has become a great friend since we first met on the Twitterverse, and runs a great blog built on the Bible and well thought out research. I hope you’ll check out her corner of the blogging world!
The Ideal Inspiration Blogger Award is an unofficial award that was started by Team Ideal Inspiration and is awarded to bloggers by their fellow blogger-peers whose writings they find to be inspiring, and is a recognition of the impact their blogs have on so many lives. Needless to say, it’s an honor to not only be recognized for this award, but to be able to pass on the award to others. The rules are simple, and as follows:
Soooo without further a-do! Let’s get started!
This has been so fun, and again I’m so honored to have been nominated for this award! It’s humbling to know God is using my words to make a difference. I would like to nominate the following bloggers for this award. Please check them out!
My questions for them:
Thanks again for joining me this week! I hope my blog always encourages you and pushes you closer to Jesus. It’s all about Him, and it’s an honor to be allowed to link hands with you and walk this journey together!
Until Next Time,
“By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work.” // Genesis 2:2
Happy Sunday, Friends!
I don’t think I’d be too far of a stretch to say these last couple months have been anything but ordinary. What’s been interesting about this time is we, as a whole entire planet, are going through the same thing, at practically the same time. Nearly every nation on planet earth has been living through this thing called quarantine, social distancing, Cornavirus.
The other interesting thing is that this pandemic has hit everyone differently. Some have had to deal with the economic impacts. Others or their loved ones have experienced the actual virus themselves. But all of us have been impacted by this one way or another. And while I’m a firm believer that God has a purpose and a plan behind everything, I think it’s our job as a Church to be listening to what He wants to say to us during this time.
One thing I’ve been noticing through this quarantine is how nice it’s been to be able to rest and not feel guilty about it. Instead of thinking I should be out on a Friday night doing something productive, I’m resting, reading a book or just laying on my bed while observing how beautiful the blue sky is through the blinds. And honestly…it feels really, really good.
It reminds me that God has built rest into the fabric of creation, and the fabric of our lives. We were not made to drive on high speed for days, months, or years at a time. We were meant to stop, pause, rest. Physically, spiritually, and mentally.
We are only human. And the beautiful thing about rest is that it reminds us of that very fact. We are only human. None of us were made to go at this world alone, do our work alone, accomplish our to-do list alone. We were made for reliance. Reliance on God and His Word. Reliance on prayer and reflection. Without stopping to physically rest and spiritually rest in God’s presence, we’re going to get burned out. We won’t be as effective. And not only will we be affected by it, but everyone around us likely will, too.
None of us know how this whole thing is going to end, but when it does, I hope we can look back and see all the things God was doing through it. I hope we don’t forget the lessons God is weaving into our stories during this time. I hope we can learn that rest is good, and maybe we can work that into our lives whether there is a pandemic or not.
I hope you and your family are all doing well and staying safe during this time. Remember, God loves you. He sees you. He is for you. This week, try physically taking a rest from the things you’ve been striving to do, and let Him sing over you (Zep. 3:17). Let His arms wrap around you, like a father to His child. Be still enough to hear Him. Be quiet enough to feel Him. You’ll be glad you did.
Until Next Time,
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” // Psalm 23:4
I don’t think it goes without saying how we are truly in one of the most, if not the most, difficult season our country and our world has faced in a very, very long time. I’ve been just like the rest of you these past few weeks: Glued to the news and social media feeds, left shocked and heartbroken by the things going on around us. People have lost their jobs. Small business owners have lost their dreams. Many of lost access to health insurance, and many have lost access to their own health.
COVID-19 has gone through quite the transition, at least here in America. We all kind of went from joking about it with memes, to finding the toilet paper aisles empty, to now staying inside and hearing the death toll could reach up to 240 million people in America alone. As I’ve sat and thought the past few days, so many possibilities have crossed my mind. We truly don’t know what the next few days, weeks, or months bring. We are truly in uncharted territory. And as much as I’d love to comfort us all by saying God knew this was coming and that He is in control (because both of those things are true), I think God is giving us a little more substance to anchor our souls in today–because you know as much as I do, we need an anchor for our soul now more than ever.
Today is Palm Sunday and marks the start of Holy Week. Easter is my favorite holiday, even over Christmas. The emotions of Good Friday and the joy of Resurrection Sunday are days I look forward to all year. I can’t help but notice the timing of the Easter season this year, and how it collides directly with what could possibly be the worst week America has seen thus far in the amount of lives that will be lost, and the amount of cases that will be reported. It seems so interesting to me that one week in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago started off just like many of our weeks did before this whole thing happened: celebratory, joyous, excited for the future. But every day that Jerusalem moved closer to Passover, the more tense the air got, the more fuel that was added to the fire against Jesus, and finally it all accumulated in the darkest day of humankind: the day Jesus died.
The last month has felt somewhat like an elongated Holy Week. Most of us started off March pretty great. Then it got darker. And darker. And darker.
At the time I’m writing this, we have lost more than 8,000 lives in America due to the Coronavirus. And by the end of this week–by the time we are observing Good Friday–we could–and probably will–lose thousands more.
Isn’t it something that the week we will be observing the One death that paid our sins once and for all will be happening simultaneously along the world’s worst pandemic in nearly 100 years? Every day that we get closer to remembering Jesus’ death, we will be watching people die all around us. And how many people will we lose that very Friday as we reflect on Jesus’ death?
All this to say this: We are in the darkest valley right now. I’ve read Psalm 23 over and over and over again since this year started, and today I read verses 4-6 in a little bit of a different light, and I wanted to share that with you. The verses are as follows, bolded words are mine:
"Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
We will walk through dark valleys–that’s guaranteed, and everyone in the Bible did. David did, and as he details this in the above verses, there are some things we can take away from it. As we walk through the darkest valley right now, here’s what God is doing, and here’s what we can hold on to:
What happened on the worst day in history didn’t stay that way. Jesus died, but He didn’t stay dead. Sunday did come. Resurrection did come. Eternal life did come. We may be in the darkest valley now, but this won’t last forever. Because bad days never have the final say. Death never has the final says. Valleys never have the final say.
Resurrection has the final say. God has the final say. So let’s hang on. Sunday is coming.
But for those who might not make it to Easter Sunday this year, can we pray for them? The reality is so many people are questioning their own mortality in these times, and there’s never been a more opportune time to tell others about the hope and the life that Jesus freely offers to anyone who calls on His name (Romans 10:9-10). Pray for your friends and family. For healthcare workers, and our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. For those who’s eternities are hanging in the balance as they await the next week. God is still doing miracles. And we need salvation to flood this country. That will be my prayer this week: That the blood poured out on Calvary’s tree 2,000 years ago would flood America anew this Holy Week and Easter season. It’s not too late for anyone. Let’s do all we can to bring this message to those who need it, before it does become too late.
Thank you for being here during these trying times. If you ever need someone to talk to or pray for you, please feel free to reach out. Comments below are always welcome, as are DM’s on my socials. Remember, we are all in this together, and I’m loving and praying for you all. Please stay home, stay safe, and be wise.
Until Next Time,