True Freedom

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Guest Post by Stephanie H.
Freedom is a word with a very different meaning for the soldier than for the child. The latter is keenly focused on wanting to do the opposite of what they are told (and often, what is right and good), and seeks freedom as the opportunity to indulge whims rather than heed the wisdom of his parents. The freedom of the mind of a soldier is a far different thing. During the Civil War, with rumors of a draft to take place, many men enlisted in the army so that there would be no doubt about their loyalty to the honor of their nation. They considered it a shame to need to be forced to do what they considered they highest honor and most basic duty to their nation. The freedom exercised in the life of a soldier looks suspiciously like slavery to the wayward child.
Consider then, the freedom of Christ. We dearly like to talk about the freedom of Christ allowing us to let loose, and forget the laws laid out in the Old Testament. We embrace the freedom to indulge. We are free to state our opinions in whatever manner we like, regardless of ramifications, because we are free to think our own thoughts. We can season our conversation with profanity, because we are free to speak. We can sleep late, eat this or that, sit back, relax, and do unto others as they do, because we are free. We are not required to atone for our sins and selfish quirks, so what have we to fear?
In choosing this freedom, we choose to return to the slavery of the natural man. For centuries, the Israelites kept a very close account of right and wrong, and had very specific penalties and payments when they were transgressed (though many generations turned away). When Jesus came, there were many who seemed to be able to meet the standards laid out to Moses in the wilderness. Jesus did not remove that standard so that the prostitutes and tax-collectors could get in too. He did not reverse the order so that the righteous in deed would be cast out while the sinners were proclaimed righteous. In the fifth chapter of Matthew, Jesus reaffirms the standards God had given the people centuries before, and then raises the bar to include the merest sliver of selfishness that could hide in our hearts. Even if we think we have kept the laws, there are countless ways in which we have mortally sinned against it, without our even being aware. Yet He has given us freedom in that He will be the strength when we choose to pursue His righteousness. In comparing the two, the new covenant is impossible in our own strength, far beyond the difficulty of the old covenant which dealt so greatly with the actions and appearances rather than the heart.
Yes, we are free to choose Christ, or our worldly loves, but that does not mean either path is equally blessed. When it comes up in conversation that I do not do, or have given up certain things, it is not uncommon for the conversation to turn to “freedom in Christ”. True, I am not required to slaughter a lamb or pigeons if I play video games or read fiction or watch television. But I pray that I might use my freedom like a soldier. That when the Lord would ask of me a mile, I would be willing to give Him two at least. When He gives an order, I have a choice to obey or not. Am I wrong to obey simply because I have been given the freedom not to hear His voice? Willingly, I have signed my life away to the One who signed His away for me. His blood has given me the freedom to choose a path so difficult, as to kill my own flesh, and has most often ended in the painful deaths of those who have gone before me. I accept.

Holding Back Our Feet From Evil

 

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Well, here I am again, after a long silence! I apologize for my lack of posting lately. Life has been incredibly crazy (and I only foresee it getting crazier as baby #2 joins our lives sometime in the next few weeks), and I have been longing to post, but haven’t had the time or energy…and it has been making me so very sad. But today, I seized a little spot of time I had, let the clothes sit in the dryer for a little longer, asked my daughter to quietly read a book in her room…and I just want to share with you one little verse that I’ve been pondering the past couple days. I’ve been reading through Psalm 119 again this week, and this is one verse that stuck out to me (and perhaps I’ll share more at some point too, because Psalm 119 is chock-full of good stuff!):

“I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep Your Word.” Psalm 119:101

This verse implies a purposeful holding back of oneself from evil…on purpose (did I mention on PURPOSE??)…just because we love God, and love His Word, and His commands! Now, I point this out because it is easy to fall into the mindset – especially for a new Christian – that once you pray for Jesus to be your Savior and Lord, things will change, and you will become free from all sinfulness and sinful desires. And, while it is true that Jesus sets us free from the power sin once held over our lives, and gives us hearts that can desire what is right and good…it is also true that we still have to purposefully keep ourselves from what is evil. Because the devil is not passive in his attempts to deceive us, and turn us back from doing what is right, and following Jesus….and on top of that, our sin nature is still very much intact, and it takes a lot of discipline to get it to come under submission to its new Ruler. It’s also a misconception to think that keeping God’s Word will just come naturally to us, without any real effort. Doing what is right, and resisting the temptation to sin and do what is wrong will always be difficult…because temptations to sin are always something that appeals to and/or gratifies our flesh…and doing what it right doesn’t usually have immediate gratification for those sinful desires — “only” the peace and joy that God will fill us with, which can never be found apart from doing His will.

So, first, we must read God’s Word so that we will know His standards and what He wants us to do and not do. It never works to call ourselves Christians and to try to live like one without really getting to know our King, and reading His Word. We must understand what He asks us to do, so that we can understand what we must do in order to live in a way that honors and blesses Him.

And second, we must purposefully obey His Word…even when it is hard, and even when it is something that doesn’t come naturally to us. For instance, if someone does something hurtful to you, it is only natural to be angry, to hate them, gossip about them, snub them, and hold onto bitterness in your heart. That is the easy way. BUT, God’s way is to love them, pray for them, forgive them, let go of bitterness and anger, and even seek reconciliation and friendship with them again. But this is the difficult way, and it takes work to do this — HARD work. It takes work to keep ourselves from thinking angry or bitter thoughts. It takes work to cultivate love after your heart has been wounded. It takes work to stop yourself from gossiping about the ones who hurt you to all your friends, in an effort to make yourself feel better and more justified in your distain. BUT, it is what we must do, if we wish to honor the Lord’s commands and live as a true Christian. As Jesus said, “A tree is known by its fruit.” We cannot do all of those things that go against real love and still call ourselves a Christian, because a Christian is a lover and follower of Christ…and to love and follow Him, we must love and follow His commands, and His good character.

We must hold back our feet from every evil way…asking God for His strength and the power of His Spirit to resist the temptation to sin…and asking Him to show us how to keep His Word.

And those, friends, are my ponderings of the day. 🙂

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Spring Cleaning the Heart

 

Spring Cleaning

It’s that time of year again: SPRING! Unless you’re in Canada (where there is still snow floating around), hopefully you are seeing blossoms peek through the ground and cheerful little birds popping around on the treetops. I live in an area that’s nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and I LOVE Spring here. Dogwood Trees, Redbuds, Weeping Cherry Trees and every other kind of budding tree make such an incredible display every single time I set foot outside my door. It is glorious.
 
But, along with these happy thoughts, most people also think: SPRING CLEANING. *Insert the moans and groans of housekeepers everywhere* You know – that week where you spend time cleaning areas you didn’t even KNOW existed? Those places where you don’t even think to look? I mean, who cleans their baseboards anyways? Like REALLY cleans them?
 
Just as the faithful housekeeper tends to the nooks and crannies of her home, there is a spiritual cleaning we need to remember to do. Even more than once a year, WE – the up-keepers of this earthly vessel – need to tackle frequently the nooks and crannies within our own hearts. The places we didn’t even know were in existence. The DEEP parts of our heart.
 
When we become a Follower of Jesus Christ, it SHOULD go without saying that things are going to look different in our lives. I mean…Jesus and the World (aka: the way our lives looked normally before we allowed Jesus to take the lead in our life) don’t mix. There’s no way they can mix. One is Light and the other is Darkness (2 Cor. 6:14). Our “old man” (Romans 6:6) has to begin to die, and we have to pack up and move out our old desires. Our old ways. Our old sins. Things must leave in order for the aroma and Light of Christ to fill our hearts.  It is an ongoing process, which never actually stops–no matter how “spiritual” you think you are.
 
However, as we mature in our faith, often we forget to do basic maintenance. We forget to “check the fence-line”. When farmers have a large herd of animals, they have to make it a routine to check ever square foot of the fence line. Not only are they looking for holes, but looking for weak areas in the fence. This enables the farmer to keep his herd safe, MEANWHILE keeping danger OUT. As we pursue Christ, we need to check our own “fence lines” within our lives and hearts. By doing this, we are required to humble ourselves (seeing ourselves for who we truly are) AND keep the devil OUT.  We have to clean out these hearts so he has no place to hide among the dust and clutter!
 
Three steps to start your Spiritual House Cleaning:
 
1.) Ask. YOU may not see any areas of “blatant” sin, but you would be surprised at the things that sneak in. ASK the Lord to reveal any areas of your life that you have (a) withheld from His Lordship OR (b) any areas where you are unknowingly sinning. It may not be adultery that you have committed, but lust (even lusting via Romance Novels) is a sin (Matthew 5:28). You may not have killed anyone, but hatred IS a sin (Matthew 5:21). Harboring un-forgiveness (intentionally choosing NOT to forgive someone). FEAR–which is not trusting the Lord. Greed. PRIDE. GOSSIP. Vanity. These are just a few of the things that sneak in – often before we even realize it. ASK the Lord to show you areas where you need to repent.
 
2.) Examine. Spend a few moments thinking about your relationships. Think about what you are investing your time into – with work OR leisure time. Who are the people you chose to spend time with? What do you and your friends do when you are together? Is your conversation pure, or do you “push the limits” with inappropriate remarks (Phil. 4:8)? Do you actually make an effort to speak well of others (which can be really hard), or do you join right in “bashing” the character of someone else (James 4:11)? What do you do when no one else is around? Do you feel like you have to hide your activities from others – especially your parents? What are you watching on TV? If you had a godly woman sitting beside you, would you be ashamed to tell her what you’re watching? Are you seeing good things – good fruit –come from your words, your actions, and your decisions? Or do you see rotten fruit (Matthew 7:16-20)?
 
3.) Respond. A house doesn’t get tidy by the housekeeper sitting down and pointing out all the areas that need to be cleaned. It’s when she stands up, puts on her “shnazzy” yellow gloves and TACKLES that grime -THAT is when the real change happens. In the same way, there is almost no point in doing anything if we are not willing to ACT. When (and I say when, because there is always something to apologize for – we aren’t in heaven yet!) the Lord shows us these things, we can’t just say “woe is me” and then pull the rug over our pile of dirt. We are offered forgiveness when we repent. If we leave these things standing in the way of our relationship with Christ, it truly hinders our walk with Him. It hinders our growth, our discernment, our relationships, our Souls. Everything. It prohibits our ability to produce eternal fruit. In the Gospel of Matthew, it says to “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Repentance is crucial. When we repent, it is going against our human nature by (1) humbling ourselves, (2) admitting we were wrong, (3) asking for forgiveness, (4) and choosing to acknowledge that God’s way is better. By HIS strength, we choose to follow HIS better way. His perfect, incredible way.
 
We have to let go of anything that ties us down, dear friend. We live in perilous times–there is not time to “mess around” and waste our lives. People are dying. Spiritually and physically. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us (Hebrews 12:1). We must lay aside the things that continue to “trip” us up, in order that the Kingdom of God may expand!
 
 
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” (Acts 3:19)
Article By: Anna Faith

Christ Will Not Divorce You

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Recently, I was visiting my mom, who read me the following quote from a devotion she has, written by the faithful Puritans of the past, and it really stuck out to me:

“Your sins shall never provoke Christ to give you a bill of divorce.  They may provoke Him to frown upon you, chide you, correct you, but they will never provoke Christ to give you a bill of divorce.”  Thomas Brooks

As I pondered this quote, the truth of it resounded more and more clearly in my soul.  The analogy of a divorce is one that rings true to our lack of commitment in our relationships with the Lord.  “…if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

For it is Christ Himself who said, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” Matthew 19:8  Jesus does not believe in divorce.  He’s not a fan.  His heart is grieved by it just as much in our relationship with Him as with one another.  He made our relationships on earth to reflect our relationship with Him…and He intended from the beginning that they would be steadfast, immovable, and committed until “death do us part”.

Christ will never let go of us, give up, or send us away.  Even when we have sinned, and we think we cannot possibly return to God, for surely He has given up on us and, essentially, “divorced” us…even then, it is we ourselves who are doing the excluding.  Christ has shown us His heart in this matter yet again, when He said, “Return, faithless Israel, declares the Lord.  I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the Lord; I will not be angry forever.” Jeremiah 3:11

WE are the ones who do the wandering, as God waits patiently, hoping — longing — for our return.  We get tired of God’s ways, and begin to wander after other “loves”.  We decide we’ve had enough, and that we don’t want to hold fast to our commitment.  We start looking for loopholes in our commitment, and start looking for a “divorce”.

“But I have this against you, that YOU have abandoned the love you had at first.” Revelation 2:4

If we have a broken relationship with God, it is not God’s fault.  It is because of our own hardness toward God, and our own lack of commitment and love.  But God has made the simplest way imaginable for us to return and be reconciled again, if we have wandered or sinned!  It is as simple as turning back, repenting for our sins and our wandering hearts, and learning to DELIGHT in Him again (see our post: The Delight Challenge), as a new bride delights in the husband of her heart!  Then you will find your relationship with God restored, the weight of sin and the loneliness of separation from Him removed, as well as the joy of first love again flooding your heart!  It is never too late to return, because Jesus remains faithful even when we are faithless, and stubborn.  He is SO good!

 

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The Delight Challenge

This is less of a blog post today, and more of a musing…and a challenge…

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“Delight yourself in the Lord….”

Delight.  It’s one of those words we can so easily skip over, mentally substituting it with “love” or a vague feeling of affection.  But we miss so much when we skip over it.  I was just recently pondering the phrase above, found in Psalm 37, and the word “delight” jumped out at me.  And as I sat, pondering it, I realized that I so often have not really paid attention when reading this scripture.

What does “delight” actually mean?

One definition says, “a high degree of pleasure or enjoyment; joy; rapture”.

I would take it even further than that though.  If I “delighted” in my husband, I would be noticing all the little details about Him that I love and appreciate.  I would be fascinated with his character and everything he does and thinks.  I would be rejoicing for such a wonderful husband and friend, and having specific moments and parts of who he is running through my mind, as I sang for joy!

And I believe it should be the same thing between us and God. So…I challenge you to DELIGHT yourself in the Lord today.  Purposefully.  Fully.  Immerse yourself in His goodness.

Here are 3 challenges for you as you learn to delight in the Lord:

  1. TAKE NOTE.  Sit down and make a list of all the little details that you so love about God.  It can be a physical list in your journal, or you can make a mental list; though if you don’t write it down, I suggest going somewhere that you can say each thing as it comes to mind out loud to the Lord.  Take note of the things that make Him so wonderful and endearing.  Take note of His careful planning and creativity in creation.  Take note of His love on display in your own life, and through the words of the Bible.  Take note of His faithfulness, and mercy.  Take note of specific moments when His good character has been on display in your own life.  Take time to really think about every detail that you can, just like you would for a guy you were madly in love with.
  2. BE FASCINATED.  Take time to go on walks outside, and let yourself be fascinated at the complexity of the things God has created.  Set aside time each day to delve into the treasure chest of God’s Word, and let yourself be fascinated with the intricacy of His plan throughout the annals of history, and the depths of His love on display throughout the pages of Scripture.  Let yourself be like a little child — don’t overlook the familiar — soak in every detail, every moment…and saturate yourself in the wonder of the height and breadth of His love.
  3. REJOICE!  As you ponder God’s goodness, and greatness, and all of the wonderful details of His character…turn it to praise and rejoicing in Him!  Sing to Him, shout to Him, let your heart dance within you as you let yourself overflow with the gladness and joy of your delight in the Lord!

Facing Discouragement as a True Friend of God

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I don’t have a normal life.  In fact…my life is incredibly crazy.  I don’t usually like to write much about myself, but here’s just a little peek into our lives, as just a little bit of background for what I’ve been thinking about today.

We travel a lot, because of my husband’s family being a musical group.  We go anywhere and everywhere we’re invited.  And that leads to some pretty…interesting…experiences.  You probably wouldn’t believe the crazies we see.  People think that traveling and sharing the gospel and playing music must be so glamorous and exciting.  WELL…it’s exciting because we’re doing it for the Lord, and we get to see real and lasting fruit from our labors.  But…it’s not glamorous.  We chuckled today as we recounted some of the places we’ve stayed — from squishing nine people into one dilapidated motel room, to camping in tents next to alligator-infested waters, to…well…basically, if you can dream it up, it’s probably happened to us…and then some. 😉  We also find ourselves presenting our shows in many different places, to many different crowds.  Sometimes we’ve had a jam-packed full theater with four hundred people all riveted throughout the show.  Other times, we’ve had churches, partially filled, but with people who had tears streaming down their faces by the end of the night because the Lord had so touched their hearts.  And other times…well…other times, it can be downright discouraging.  Like last night.  We had a miscommunication with a newspaper that was supposed to run our concert ad for two weeks in a row, and it only got run one week……the day of the show.  We had eight people come.  In a large auditorium.  Eight people is not a lot.  In fact, it’s downright awkward in many ways.  But we thanked God for those eight people, and did a show for them anyway.  But afterwards, several of our family were feeling pretty discouraged.  It’s times like these when you’ve given all your own money and time and lots of effort and sacrifice for what you think the Lord wanted you to do…and held on in faith till the last moment…and then, things don’t go the way you thought they should, that the devil slinks in and begins to fill your mind with doubts.  Suddenly, you wonder…did you really hear from God??  Do you do the wrong thing?  Did you not have enough faith?  Should you even be serving the Lord at all?  Maybe there’s someone else who is better qualified…someone who could actually have the success you had hoped for…maybe…maybe…

 

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But as I pondered the night, the only thing that came to my mind, again and again was a quiet whisper of, “But…the Kingdom of Heaven is made of such as these.”

I paused…and pondered.  Yes.  It’s true.  The Kingdom of Heaven is made of men and women who have given everything they had for Jesus…and many of them never saw any fruit for it.  The Kingdom of Heaven is made of those who have laid down their very lives for Jesus, and never lived to see the salvation of many hundreds which has come from their sacrifice.  The Kingdom of Heaven is made of those who have had many disappointments and those who have looked like complete failures to those looking on, for the sake of Christ…..and yet…..He looks down with the greatest love, tears pooling in His eyes, His heart overflowing with gratitude that He has found true friends; those who are willing to suffer with Him for the sake of some that might be rescued.  It is not an unusual thing for the children of God to encounter trials…but we must press forward, and not lose heart.  Trust…and obey.

So, may you be encouraged.  Whether you are in ministry, or whether you think God may be leading you in that direction, or whether you are simply trying to be faithful in reaching out to those God puts in your path — yes, there will be difficulties, hardships, disappointments, and much testing of our faith…but the Kingdom of Heaven is made of such as these.  God’s heart is so gladdened to have true friends, who love Him more than the comforts and success and acclaim of the world.  Friends who are willing to suffer with Him.  And God doesn’t say that if we have difficulties or what seems like failures we HAVE failed.  He just asks us to be obedient, to not lose heart, and to press forward in what He has called us to do.  We can trust Him, and entrust the fruit to Him.  He will bring forth a harvest for all that we entrust to His care…for any fruit that springs up can only come by Him and through Him anyway.  If you’ve ever tried making something happen in your own strength, you can attest to what I’m saying. 😉

 

Feel free to share what God has been teaching you lately in the comments, and what He has encouraged you with in the midst of your own difficulties and disappointments. 

 

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Turning Away From The Mirror (and to God’s Word)

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Post by: Anna Faith

 

Ever have one of those days where you just want to avoid the mirror? I don’t care WHAT size you are, we can always find things to dislike about ourselves. “I am too overweight,” “I am too skinny,” “I have a huge nose,” “my eyes are too far apart,” “my hands are huge,” “I’m so stupid,” “I walk weird,” “I hate my laugh,” “my hair is so frustrating,”…and on and on the list scrolls. You probably thought of a few to add just now, didn’t you?

The teen years were a difficult self-image period for me. I was always “curvier” than my other friends, and my closest friend happened to be a “00”. I would squirm when we would go shopping. My friend had the hardest time understanding why I would always have a difficult time finding clothes that “looked right”, when she would quickly fill up an entire cart. I would pile on about three layers of black t-shirts and black sweatshirts, kind of hoping I wouldn’t be noticed that much. I would avoid mirrors because it just reminded me of an area where I felt “lacking”.

As I have gotten older, I have had some health issues which caused me to actually lose a lot of weight (at one point I was the same size as my 15 year old sister is now). But even though my size had changed, my perception of myself didn’t change. Even years later, my mindset–all those thoughts I crammed down and believed in my heart–is often that of “you’re still not as beautiful as they are. You’ll never be like them”. At my smallest, I felt the same as when I was at my heaviest. But even on top of the whole “curvy vs slim ‘n trim” issue, (in my opinion) I’ve got a big nose, tiny fingers that are continually cold, one of my bones in my foot sticks out, and I could continue. I’ve memorized every part I don’t like about this body.

“Anna, I don’t like my nose…It’s just a weird shape and I wish I had a different nose!” my little sister’s voice chimed in from the backseat. What? What is she talking about?As we continued to chat, she kept coming up with things she didn’t like. ” Well, Spudnut (my nickname for her), did you realize you are critiquing something that God made? He made you with your cute little nose, and He made you the height you are. Did you know that?” I said gently in reply. “But, YOU don’t like certain things about yourself…..”

WHAM.

Talking about hitting close to home. She hit it out of the ballpark. I had no idea what to say in reply.

But the truth is, when we critique ourselves, we ARE criticizing what God has made. Something He has invested time into designing. Something that He loves.

Today, as you are faced with yourself in the Mirror, here are three things to remember.

1) YOU are a treasure. You have been bought with an unbelievably high ransom–the Blood of Jesus Christ. His Righteousness and Mercy now cover your shoulders, and you can walk in Purity, Joy and TRUTH. God loves you with an UNCONDITIONAL love–one is not based on what we are able to do for Him, but because of what HE has done for US. Your walk with Jesus is not based upon how trendy you are, how skinny you are, or how even your eyes sit within your face. You have the Creator of the Milky Way for a Heavenly Father…and sweet friend, you cannot imagine how dearly He loves you. How dearly He wants YOU to truly know His heart.

2) YOU are usually your biggest critic. Often the main reason we batter ourselves with all the reasons we should be different is because we are holding ourselves up to someone else. Who are you comparing yourself to? Your cute little sister? Your attractive co-worker? The super-trim-blogging-homeschool mom who always seems to have it together while you’re trying to figure out how to get your kids to stop screaming? We see the outward, but we don’t realize the internal struggles. Maybe that sister struggles with intense depression, or maybe that co-worker just found out some horrible news? Maybe that mom has a marriage falling apart. Don’t judge what you merely perceive with your eyes to be the Truth.

3) YOUR outward body will not last forever. I’m sure we can all recite the scripture “charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting….” verse (Prov. 31:30). But do we really take it to heart? We don’t know the time frame that God will allow us to be on earth. As Christians, our very core should be burning to seek and save the lost. Those whose are truly without HOPE. We can be healthy and exercise (which does make you feel better, by the way!), but there has to be a point where we turn our eyes from fretting about ourselves and turn to JESUS. One day (soon) we will be in the presence of the Lord and all these things–the worrying, the self-loathing, the comparison–will be as a mist. It will disappear. We will receive NEW, Healthy, beautiful bodies and be filled with JOY unspeakable for all of Eternity!!!!

So, sweet friend, today, have mercy upon your outward appearance. Instead of skimming over familiar places with disgust, remember that God invested time into your creation. No matter what you look like–no matter if you have bumps, freckles, frizzy hair, curvy or skinny–YOU belong to the King of Kings. You are His. Seek to love Jesus above all. Put scriptures around your room and ON YOUR MIRROR to remember Who it is that you should reflect: Jesus. Let the desire to hold man’s approval slip from between your fingers as you focus on Christ. Seek FIRST His Kingdom. His Will. HIM.

We would love to hear from you! What are some ways that you re-focus your attention on Christ when you have “bad days”? What are some encouraging scriptures that you have found to be helpful? Share them below in the comments! 🙂

Let your beauty be not just the outward adorning of braiding the hair, and of wearing jewels of gold, or of putting on fine clothing;but in the hidden person of the heart, in the incorruptible adornment of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God very precious. 1 Peter 3:3-4

I praise you, for I am fearfully (awe or reverence) and wonderfully (marvelous, astonishingly) made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

 

Photo credit: {✿D-Munkhuulei✿} via Foter.comCC BY-NC-SA

When?

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This is a journal entry of mine…and I hope it is a blessing to you!

It can be so easy for us to go through our lives, just trying to be people’s friends. Giving them a big smile and some cheery small-talk, and hoping it will change their lives…somehow. Hoping that maybe they will see Jesus in that look. That smile. (And, by God’s grace, sometimes they do! And that is always a blessing.)

We give smiles and hugs out freely…and that is good — needed, even! But what about the one thing that will actually change their lives and give them lasting joy and hope for the future? We give them food and medical aid and clothing…..When will we also give them Jesus? We are so careful – so cautious, because, well, we don’t want to offend them! We don’t want them to be turned away! And so, we are silent. Day after day goes by…but the reality is, in desiring to not turn them away, are we selfishly taking from them the chance to be right with God, and to be free of their heavy burdens?

It is worth pondering. What is the real reason we are silent? Why do we withhold Living Water from their souls? Is it because of fear? Are we afraid of rejection – our OWN rejection? Are we afraid of their anger, or losing their friendship or respect?

Jesus Himself had to deal with all these things while on earth – and has to deal with them continually to this very day. Can we not sacrifice our own pride or respect in the eyes of others for His sake…and theirs?

It is a good thing to be a friend. It is good to give a ready smile, or a needed hug – even physical help and aid. But when…when will we give them Living Water? When will we introduce them to the Healer of their souls? He is the only one who can heal their hearts, and make them new and full of joy! We all have a limited time here on earth – and we cannot tell when a life may be cut short. I have already had several friends whose lives have ended too soon.

So what are you waiting for?

When will you tell them?

Pray and ask God to show you any selfish or fearful reasons that you have been silent…and ask Him to give you courage to speak, and to give your friends soft hearts to understand.

Don’t let your heart be plagued with the distress that comes when you miss a chance that never comes again.

And ponder this: when was the last time that you shared Jesus with someone? ”Tomorrow” may never come – so ask God to show you what you can do today!

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From participating in the Tuesday@Ten challenge.

Are You a Competitor or a Co-Laborer?

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By: Anna Faith, an Unshakable Girl Staff Writer

 

I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest. Nowhere else can you inspire your culinary skills, realize what goes into sewing a dress, discover what the color “sea foam” really looks like on a wall, and realize how little you exercise. All at the same time. You can go from “I want to do that!” to completely overwhelmed by your inadequacy in .37 seconds. [Side note: Check out the Unshakable Girl Pinterest page, for inspiration and encouragement.]

 
Sound familiar?
 
In a world swarmed with a suffocating amount of pressure to perform–to succeed–to do well in all things, sometimes it feels like a hopeless case just being a girl! As I scroll through my media sites yesterday, I felt completely done. Who am I compared to these Diploma holding, fit, super stylish women? They’re hip enough to be trendy, yet personable enough to be relate-able. But it is not simply a comparison of lifestyle to which we fall victim. Even amongst other Christians (!), we play the comparison game. We compare even our relationships with God based off of what we perceive in other’s lives. The glossy, edited versions of their lives that we see flood our screens. The “put together” smiles they seem to show when we pass them at Church. How many scriptures do they post on Social Media? How unique are those verses (bonus points if they’re an Old Testament verse!) ? How many people do they mentor? How many girls are in their Bible Studies? What kind of reviews do they get on their blog? How many places do they volunteer at?
 
We measure ourselves by our perception of others. We test the worthiness of our lives by a “Pass or Fail” label. Little do we realize, in “testing” ourselves, we are also quietly opening deadly doors within our hearts. If we grade ourselves as “Pass”, we are saying (even in our hearts) that we have become better than another person. We are more fit, Spiritual, a better friend, more fashionable, funnier and quietly pat ourselves on the back. Woosh! The door swings open as the suave figure of Pride saunters into our heart. In just a few seconds, we have held ourselves in esteem over another person. On the flip side, when we find ourselves lacking, we stamp a “Fail” onto our outlook.  We aren’t as beautiful, fit, healthy, Spiritual, talented, happy homemaker as they are–and we feel DONE. We crawl into a dark hole of depression and self-pity. 
Creeeeeeaaaaak. The dark, woeful silhouette of Despair crosses the threshold of our hearts. 
 
As uncomfortable as it is to admit it, I am guilty of this exact thing. I have frequently found myself measuring my own life in a “Pass or Fail” standard that I have set. More often than not, I find myself wrestling with Despair as the label “Failure” is sealed on my mind.

 

Sisters in Christ, do you see how painful a cycle we set for ourselves? And how typical of the Deceiver to creep in and turn us into rivals? For we are not rivals, but instead instead co-laborers! YOU are my co-worker, in Christ. For those who are seeking earnestly to expand the Kingdom of Heaven, we are working in the same line of work! We are planting seeds, cultivating, and (by God’s grace) watching the Holy Spirit grow eternal fruit! What an incredible blessing to realize! We are  not working against one another–but WITH one another!
 
So what do we do with all of these thoughts bombarding our minds and infiltrating our hearts? What do we do when we fall into depression?
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1) Repentance. No matter how “good” we may seem to others, we have to get our hearts right with God. Hearts that are full of sin and deceitfulness (Jeremiah 17:9). Simply by looking at others, we puff ourselves up with pride OR we begin to doubt God and His character (through despair, which is the “absence of Hope”). We must realize that our attitudes–our secret striving to be better–is not streaming from a godly heart. We must ask the Lord to forgive us–to fill us with the sweet humility AND Joy which is found in His own dear character! 
 
2) Take Every Thought Captive “to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).  Now, I’ve never really heard of someone “accidentally” binding up a prisoner, nor have I heard of a situation where a man was simply walking through the woods and happened upon the VERY person he was hoping to capture. This being the case, we actually have to be looking for those sneaky little thoughts. Carefully on the watch. Although avoiding people forever may seem appealing at times, we technically can’t live in a cave. We have to learn how to bind up those prideful or despairing thoughts–and refuse to let them stay in our minds. When you’re faced with a thought of “wow, I’m so glad I love the Lord more than they seem to” OR “wow, I’ll never be as beautiful or Spiritual as they are”, take that thought and force it out of your mind. Say “NO, I refuse to indulge the devil in his schemes! I belong to Christ and I refuse to dwell on these things!”
 
3) Put On A Garment of Praise. One way the Enemy gets us distracted from our mission of pursuing CHRIST and seeking to bring people TO Christ is getting our focus OFF Jesus. He gets us wound up in our problems. Our feelings. Instead of listening to these emotions knock on the door of your mind, what if we filled our hearts with songs of Worship? What if we poured out actual thanksgiving to a God who cannot lie–a God of Truth, Mercy, Justice and Purity in Heart? Pop in a worship Cd–one that focuses on CHRIST and not on how YOU feel–and let the adoration of Christ fill your room! 
 
4) Practice Honoring and Encouraging. We, as humans, tend to look at numbers. In the Body of Christ, one of the Church’s biggest stumbling block is often “attendance”. How many numbers they can get (and maintain) in their buildings. When we stumble across other blogs or sites, we often look at how many “followers” they have. What if–instead of scanning to see what they have–we viewed it as their “field”?  Those girls that they are surrounded by–what if we view them as the “seeds they are nurturing”?  PRAY for those women you see which hold a high degree of influence. Pray hard for them. Whether they realize it or not, they hold a position of authority within their sphere of influence. Pray that the Love of Christ would be their true desire. Pray for humility. Take time to encourage them with a kind word (or comment on their website)! 
 
It can also be so very easy to look at someone who the Lord is blessing in certain areas and, instead of rejoicing with them and being glad for God’s blessing on their lives/ministry/etc., we are jealous, grumbling, criticizing — perhaps without even realizing it — because, deep inside, we want what they have. We think, “I’m serving God just as much as they are…so why did God bless THEM in that way, and not ME?” “I have been working longer and harder than they have…but I haven’t seen nearly as much fruit as they have in just a few short weeks/months/years.” “We both love the Lord, but why did God bless HER with an uber-godly husband, and leave me still laboring on my own? She shouldn’t have more blessing than I have!”
 
Again…this self-righteousness and pride can so easily slip in – especially when you begin serving the Lord, and find out what a long road of self-denial and labor pains it really is…and how firmly you must hold fast to the Lord’s promises in faith, when everything around you looks bleak and difficulties arise and surround you.
 
But we MUST fight against these attitudes, because we are not trying to promote ourselves! We are called to simply be faithful in whatever God has called us to, proclaim the Gospel, and leave the rest up to Him. Fruitfulness is not the ultimate test of our calling and purpose. The ultimate test is our FAITHFULNESS. And the only way we can truly remain faithful is to fix our gaze on Jesus, and rest in His good character, and hold firmly onto His promises, which will never fail us. We cannot measure our success, or the greatness of God’s love based on outward signs of fruit and favor and everything always going perfectly for us (or the lack thereof)! But we look to His promises, which are unchanging, and trust in His love, which does not fade. And remember, that we are all working together, in the unique ways that He has called each of us…and we are called to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep”. Not gazing at ourselves and our own struggles continually, but forcing ourselves to look outward — into Heaven, and into the needs and blessings of others…and loving them with HIS love.
 
Above all, pursue Christ. Truly pursue Him. Not just in a “I’ll get around to having a close relationship with Him one day. I’m just too busy right now”. No. TODAY is that day! Sisters, if we are to be Salt and Light in a world that is (very quickly) perishing before our eyes, we must set our priorities straight. We must thwart the schemes of the Devil by building one another up in a true sacrificial Love. A love where we think LESS about ourselves–our feelings–and more on serving others with JOY. The world is to know us as Christians by our love for each other (John 13:35). Let us seek to Love Christ with all our hearts, souls and mind–and to truly love our neighbor (or Sister in Christ) as ourselves.
 
Side note:
I do want to mention the fact that if you are struggling with a particular issue, PLEASE email us. We are here to pray, encourage and love on YOU. Yes, YOU. We want to be a friend, true sisters, and a blessing to you. If you are going through a difficult season of life, if you are struggling with self-hate or depression–please contact us. We would love to connect with you and pray for you personally. 
Also, please share this post, so that we can spread the truth and encouragement of God’s Word far and wide! There are “Share” buttons below to make it quick and easy to share this post with your circles of friends.

How to Make Time to Pray

 

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[If you are encouraged by this post, don’t forget to share it!! Easy share buttons at the end of the post below!]

It happened again this morning.

I got upset. My heart felt thin and cold…and I lost patience with my daughter, and those around me. It wasn’t a big explosion, or an argument…in fact, I didn’t really even say anything. It was just my heart hardening, and raging, and really, just feeling sorry for myself.

I moped away, crying. It was a totally un-related situation that caused the hardening to surface…and yet, as I stewed, I just kept telling myself, “All I wanted was to be able to pray. All I wanted was to have a quiet morning to pray, and to not have to deal with the ceaseless chatter of my daughter…and now? Now I have the weight of my sinful heart to deal with on top of it all! How wrong can it be to just want peace and quiet, and the ability to pray?”

I was hoping for a “magical” opening to pray this morning. Feeling the need of it even stronger than usual, after a restless night, and a headache on top of feeling so, so weary this morning. Not even coffee could make me feel like I could face this day.

I knew the feeling. I’ve gotten quite familiar with it now. It was my spirit longing to be close to it’s Maker. It was my spirit panting for living water. And…it was also my very human heart feeling a tinge of guilt for having not made more of an effort to get up earlier to pray before my daughter woke up…and feeling like I had lost my chance…and not really wanting to own up to my own laziness. I decided it was easier to blame those around me for the way I was feeling, than to admit that my utter emptiness was because I had made excuses, and put forth the effort I needed to, to be filled with the Strength that is not my own for this day.

The truth is…there’s never a “magical” opening to pray, where your environment and circumstances all end up aligning to create that perfect “prayer room” atmosphere. Least of all, when you’re a mommy, and/or have a demanding job, and/or school work that has taken over every free grey cell of your brain. Yeah…I know. I know it all too well. Why? Well, it’s the same for every single one of us. We all think that there’s something “special” or “unusual” about our current situations that gives us an excuse for not having a closer walk with Jesus. We think, “If I can just make it through this ______ (day, week, year), I am sure there is a time coming when I can *actually* just ENJOY spending time with Jesus, and actually have a chunk of time to use each day for seeking Him earnestly.”

BUT…the truth is…we will never find time to pray.

Never.

Ever.

Nope — not gonna happen.

We must make time to pray (yes, I am preaching to myself here, too…as usual). And often, this will include having to wrestle for it, as if it were a 300 pound octopus; with every.drop.of.strength we can muster.

We have to say, “My time with Jesus is the most important part of my day, and I’m going to treat it like that. I can’t live, or have any joy or peace in my day by trying to plow through it in my own strength. I already know that – as much as I may try to ignore it. I know that everything I try to do by myself ends up being unfulfilling, or exhausting, or taking way longer than it should, or just plain being a total flop. I NEED Jesus.”

And then, we must do whatever it takes to take that time captive.

For me, this morning, it meant saying to my 2-year-old daughter, “Can you please go play quietly in your room for a little bit? Mommy just really needs to pray for a while.” And, to my surprise, she went…and I sat on the couch and prayed through my tears…and shouted many, “Hallelujah’s” out loud. Even when she crept back into the living room, she whispered to herself, knowing that I was praying, and needed to not be interrupted. (There went all my distress over being *certain* I had missed my ONE chance, and wouldn’t be able to even think over her rather loud, bubbly chatter all day long.) I am so grateful that she has grown up in a house of prayer, and that she is beginning to understand, even just a little, the seriousness and need for earnest prayer.

For you, it may be different. Maybe you have many more children…or perhaps, you have children who don’t listen when you ask them to be quiet (as I’ve frequently experienced with mine as well — today was a mercy from God!). Don’t give up! Susanna Wesley had 19 children (yes…you read that right: NINETEEN children), and she would frequently feel that same nudge in her spirit that I felt today, and the one that perhaps you are feeling even now; that thirst and desperate heart cry for Living Water. And, right in the middle of the chaos, and commotion of everyday life with a house FULL of children, she would sit down in her chair, and fling her apron over her head to create just the smallest bit of personal space to be with Jesus…and she would pray for as long as she needed. Her children came to realize that when mommy had her apron over her head, that meant that they were not to disturb her. You CAN do this too, in whatever way you need. It is *not* neglecting your children, it is receiving the strength that you can’t manufacture on your own to be the mommy that they need.

Perhaps your situation is different entirely. Perhaps it is the busyness of school, or work that seems to crowd out your time with Jesus. The principal is the same: Do what you must, but don’t neglect that most needed time with the Lord. Sacrifice an hour of sleep to pray early in the morning. Use your lunch break. Don’t go to sleep without sweet communion with the Lord, and soaking up His Word. Surrender your time to surf the web, and pray instead. Don’t watch that TV show — pray! Do whatever you must…but pray. Oh, dear fellow child of God…we must not neglect time to really, earnestly pray — it is our life, and our breath! And even in the most extreme situations, don’t despise grabbing just 15 minutes here and there. A little time to pray is better than none at all! And it will add up! It is remarkable what battles can be won, and what peace can be obtained in just 15 minutes of concentrated, earnest prayer.

So be encouraged to seek the time with Jesus each day…and to take hold of it!

What are some ways you can “capture” that time to pray in your own day?

 

[Don’t forget to share this post! And leave us your thoughts below! We LOVE to hear your comments and questions!]

Esther, from Wellness Mom Life says in the comments: “Such a beautiful post. I too used to think that I would magically be given time to pray – that somehow it would be dropped in my lap. I’ve now realized that does not happen, as you said. I do my best to get up earlier now, so that I have specific time alone with God before I start my day. And I also do my best to talk to God all day long. To acknowledge Him in every part of my day – not just when I have a crisis. But this is a great reminder that moms CAN make time for prayer – we just have to be intentional about it!”

 

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