Faith Worth Replicating

I think the life of Daniel is so inspiring. He faced extreme obstacles — many were even life or death, and yet his faith stood strong. He would not bow down to the gods of the culture around him. He continued to worship the one, true living God.

And what was God’s response?

He protected Daniel, gave him favor, even elevated him to some of the highest ranking positions of the kingdom.

And do you know what else God did?

He used Daniel’s faithfulness to bring faith to others.

God’s glory was on display through Daniel because he trusted the Lord with his whole heart.

He had many opportunities to compromise his commitment to God in order to save his life.

And honestly, life would have been a lot easier for him if he just lived like everyone else was living.

But he didn’t. 

He knew who God was. He knew the power of God. He knew the character of God. And he trusted that whatever God had in store for his life was the best thing for him.

What about us today? Where is your faith in the Lord? Are you trusting Him? Following Him? Committing every decision to Him?

God says in Proverbs 3:5-6 that when we trust Him with our whole heart and acknowledge him in everything we do, He will show us where to go.

Every choice we make either brings glory to God or glory to self. There is no in between.

Every choice we make either brings glory to God or glory to self. There is no in between.

We can take the wide path and live like the world is living — it’s not a big deal right? Everyone else is doing it. Everyone else is watching it. Reading it. Listening to it. Laughing at it.

But what if there was another path? Something greater? Something a little harder. Something more… narrow?

Perhaps the life lived around us isn’t real life at all, but a mirage.

Perhaps true life is found in the small, unnoticed acts of obedience to the Creator of all things.

Perhaps life is experienced in the ‘no’ to flesh and ‘yes’ to what we know to be good, true, and right.

Perhaps real life is found in the trust of the One who made the stars and the moon.

Perhaps real life is found in nail-shaped holes and an empty tomb.

We serve a God who can do anything. Look what He did with the life of Daniel. An ordinary man that the Lord used in extraordinary ways, thousands of years ago — one act of faith, trust, and obedience at a time.

And we’re still talking about it today.

He Who Calls You is Faithful

Have you ever noticed that in much of Paul’s letter to early Christians, he doesn’t pray for their suffering or persecution to go away, but for God to work in it?

In 1 & 2 Thessalonians Paul encouraged the church to continue to grow in their faith and love for one another in the midst of their persecution for following Jesus. He didn’t ask God to take the persecution away, but quite the opposite. He asked that God will “enable you to live a life worthy of His call,” and “give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11 NLT)

Why does Paul pray this instead of asking God to take the persecution away?

So that “the name of our Lord Jesus may be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with Him.” (2 Thessalonians 1:12 NLT)

We are so quick to pray our hardships away. We don’t like discomfort. We don’t like it so much that we will do anything to avoid it — hence the rampant addictions to drugs, alcohol, social media, video games, gambling, pornography, buying stuff we don’t need, food, entertainment, etc.

We like to numb. To unplug. To turn-off.

And the reality is, it’s okay to not like persecution, suffering, or discomfort. It might be odd if someone did! 

BUT what if there was something valuable to be found in the midst of these trials? 

What if the very thing stealing your comfort is the very thing that could lead you to the everlasting Comforter?

Paul knew this as he wrote to the Thessalonians. The church decided to turn away from their old life and follow Jesus; to live a life pleasing to God. And with this new pursuit came persecution from their communities, families, and friends. It also meant dying to self. 

They no longer lived for the short pleasures of the flesh, but lived for eternal pleasure that awaited them in Heaven. 

Paul reminded the Thessalonians that Jesus was coming back soon and although things were tough, by God’s power they had the ability to “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 ESV)

They developed an eternal perspective. They knew that that although they may experience momentary affliction, something more valuable was happening inside of them. 

They had a stronger, deeper faith in the finished work of Jesus and by the power of His spirit, they could get through anything. 

They looked and lived more like Him. 

They were being prepared for their eternal home of no more pain, sorrow, or suffering. But joy forevermore with Him.

It’s only by pain that we know pleasure.

It’s only by sorrow that we know joy.

It’s only by death that we know life.

It’s only by darkness that we know light.

I don’t know what trial you might be facing today (we’re all facing them at some point), but I do know that God is not a life waster, but a LIFE GIVER. 

He makes beauty from ashes. 

He brings to life that which was once dead.

And He will redeem all things to something more glorious than before.

If you’ll follow Him, He will make everything in your life beautiful in its time. How do I know? Because…

“He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Read Through the Bible in a Year

Yesterday I shared on my Instagram story that one of my biggest goals for 2022 is to read the Bible again from Genesis to Revelation. I have done it multiple times in the past, but haven’t read cover-to-cover in the last few years.

After I shared that, I had quite a few gals message me asking questions like what Bible version I use, which reading plan I’m following, am I using a journal, tips, etc.

So I thought it might be helpful if I shared a few tips and resources in hope that it might encourage you. 🙂

TIPS
Consistent Time: I know this one can be challenging for some. But I like to read early in the morning before my day starts. I know if I don’t spend intentional time with the Lord in the morning, it probably won’t happen as my day gets going. I hate saying that, but I know how I am. So that means I wake up extra early to read and pray. Some mornings are harder than others, but I am always glad I did it. Mornings are helpful because I know that no matter what the day brings, I started it with Jesus. My mind isn’t cluttered with the world yet and I often think more clearly and focus. Some folks thrive at night! Which is great! Some have spare time when their kiddos are napping. Whatever it looks like, I have found that being consistent with the time of day has been beneficial to my walk.

Heart Check: One thing I have found helpful before starting a goal (like reading the entire Bible) is to remind myself of the intention. I don’t want to read just to say I’ve read the entire Bible. I want to spend time with and learn about GOD! I read the Bible to know HIM! Having a goal in sight (like reading the whole Bible in a year) is wonderful, but ultimately, even if I go over a year, it’s okay. I just want to be with Him. I think that is helpful to remember and takes the pressure off.

Don’t Give Up:
I think it’s fairly common for a Christian to take on a big endeavor (like reading the entire Bible in a year) and feel motivated and excited at first. And then, by the time they get to a book like Leviticus… they’re bored, busy, missed a few days… and then throw in the towel. DON’T! Spending time with God is not a race and it doesn’t have to look Instagram-worthy. If you miss a day (or a week), pick back up where you left off. Consistency is key. Just like any other goal, we must work through the challenges.

The “Boring” Books: Yes, I’ll be real. Some books you may find less exciting than others. But one thing I say to myself is, “If it’s God’s words, then it must be important for me to read.” I don’t think God is a time-waster. He is the creator of time. I think about the verse in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” He says ALL SCRIPTURE, not some, not most, but all. So when it comes time to read the “boring” parts, ask God to show you Himself in those and teach you for the training of your righteousness.

Pray: I pray before and after every time I open my Bible. It reminds me to rely on HIM to teach me and it focuses my heart on Him. If I don’t understand something, I pray and ask Him to help me understand. I often will ask Him to point me to a commentary or help it “click” as I re-read the passage a few times. And I’ll be real, He answers.

Here are a few more answers to the questions I received….

What Bible do you use?
I enjoy reading from the ESV Study Bible mostly. I love study Bibles because it helps me understand the cultural and historical context of the text. Other translations I will use at times are NKJV, CSB, and NASB. I have found these to be the closest word-for-word translations to the original Hebrew/Greek/Aramaic. You can find any of these translations, including the ESV Study Bible on Amazon, ChristianBook.com, or just do a Google search!

Aside from a study Bible, I will sometimes use a commentary. Commentaries are amazing as they will often breakdown keywords and/or verses. I like to use a few different ones as I sometimes will get different theological perspectives. I currently use The Moody Bible Commentary and The MacArthur Bible Commentary.

Do you follow a plan? If so, which one?
Well, if you read 3 chapters a day, you’ll finish the Bible in about a year. But yes, this year, I am following a plan by The Daily Grace Co. Here is a link to the plan. I am enjoying this one so far because they also have a Facebook group of over 25k women doing the same plan and sharing thoughts. They also have a new Podcast where they review the daily reading each day. So for instance, today is January 2 and they reviewed Genesis 4-6. I like it! BUT there are all sorts of plans out there! You can read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, Chronologically, or even a mix of Old Testament and New Testament. If you click on the links, it will take you to a few I found. 🙂

Do you journal? If so, how?
YES! I am a HUGE FAN of interacting with God’s word. I have journaled every single day I’ve read the Bible for over 10 years. I often write out my favorite verses, summarize sections, write out prayers, confessions when I feel convicted – anything that goes on in my mind while reading. It’s really helped the Word sink in deep. This year I’m using the Give Me Jesus Journal from Well-Watered Women. It’s my first time ever using it and I love it! I’ll be real, it’s a bit pricey ($30), but they have sales sometimes! I got it for around $20 during Black Friday. But if you can spare the $30, it’s worth it to me. The sections are fun to write in and they encourage me to think even deeper about what I’m reading. Before this journal, I would use just normal notebooks and they worked fine!

This year I also starting Bible Highlighting! I have always underlines verses and wrote a few comments in the margins of my Bible. But I decided to create a highlighting guide and get a few Bible highlighters. It’s been so fun as if makes me pay even closer attention to the text to ensure I highlight with the correct color. You can find Bible highlighters that don’t bleed through pages on Amazon or Google. I use the ones from The Daily Grace Co. and they have worked great.

FINAL THOUGHTS

These are just some tips and resources that have been a blessing to me in my time with God’s word. But the reality is you don’t need any of these things but a Bible to have a rich time with the Lord. He can do so much in and through your life just be sitting down and reading the words He wrote to you! That’s how I became a believer! I literally ordered a Bible off Amazon and started reading it. No joke!!

I pray that whoever might stumble upon this post will be encouraged and motivated to spend time with our God. He is better than we could ever think, hope, or imagine! His mercies are new every single morning. How great is our God!

P.S. I’m not sponsored by any of the ministries or authors listed above. Just some resources I have personally found helpful!

Are you half-hearted?

I love this verse so much! It tells us who Jesus is (Lord over our lives), it tells us our purpose in all things (to honor Him), and it tells us who we are (we are the Lord’s).

There is no better way than to live our lives for Him. And I don’t just mean the times when it’s easy, I mean the times when it might cost us something – our reputation, our sleep, our time, our resources, our friendships, our jobs, or even our life.

“That sounds extreme…”

We are either a Christian or we’re not. There is nothing in the Bible that encourages half-hearted Christianity.

In fact, Revelation 3 speaks to lukewarm Christianity:

“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm…I will vomit you out of my mouth.”

Wow. It seems like Jesus would rather people choose Him or not, and it would be worse to be in the middle!

Could you imagine if you were “kinda committed to someone?” Oh wait, we have a lot of that going on in the horrendous dating culture of 2021. It never ends well, does it?

BUT God… being rich in mercy gives us the ability everyday to pursue a life with Him through the Holy Spirit!

Anytime I’ve tried to live life my way, it never ended well or be what it could have been if I would have relied on God. The moment we step out in faith and give our life to Him, everything changes.

Whether we live or die, we get to belong to Him. And that is the best news we will ever hear. 💗

Bible Study Tips for the Serious Christian

Here are some tips I often use in my personal time reading God’s Word. This is by no means the “perfect” or “right” way to read the Bible. But I started incorporating these things almost 10 years ago (which was the first time I read the Bible), and I have seen much fruit in my life!

You’ll need a Bible (I encourage you to get a good study Bible) and a journal.

I often hear people wanting to get closer with God, and well, the best way to do that is read the words He wrote for you. And read them everyday.

His word truly is LIFE! It is full of truth, love, mercy, forgiveness, kindness, thrill, excitement, and surpassing joy.I think about how privileged we are to freely read the Bible; many countries don’t have that luxury.

What a gift.

There will be nothing more important in this day than the time you’ve spent with God.

We try to fit God around our life, but shouldn’t it be the opposite? Shouldn’t we schedule our day around the non-negotiable time we spend reading His word, praying, and worshipping Him? I know it can be a challenge because we are “always busy” – but we make time for what we love.

Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. He will never leave you nor forsake you (no matter what your circumstances may bring). He is the Alpha and Omega; beginning and end. He created all things and holds all things together.

The culture has Christianity very wrong. It’s sad. But for those who are seeking truth, open the Bible today. Start with the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). God bless you!

If you love Him

John 14:15 is one of my favorite scriptures. It teaches us a little about the human heart and the life of a disciple.

Jesus makes one of the greatest claims in all of psychology. He links love to behavior

As believers, we know love is much more than a feeling. In fact, feelings are a small aspect of true love (1 Corinthians 13). Love is action.

When we have the feeling of love (that I think is often infatuation), it can make us do CRAZY things! Things we never thought or imagined we would do. 

I don’t think Jesus is talking so much about infatuation here (we can often ascribe infatuation to love), but rather true, deep, undying love. The type of love that is not only, patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast – but the love that is dedicated; singularly minded; devoted to Him.

The type of love that you’d give your life up for.

The type of love that would gladly die to self.

We can tell what we exalt as lord in our lives by what we obey. If we obey our phone notifications, the scale, bank accounts, sex drive, material possessions, our bodies, etc. that is what we love.

The things that consume our thoughts, our time, our money, and our actions are what we love. 

But Jesus invites us to make the only thing that can truly give us identity, hope, comfort, joy, and peace to be Lord over our lives – He invites us to Himself.

What we obey is what we truly love.

We know we are true disciples of Jesus by how we keep His commandments. His commandments are the BEST thing for us. He gives us instructions on how to flourish in this life! His commandments may not always “feel” easy or good, but they are the greatest gift to us.

His commandments tell us how to be close with God!! I hear girls say all the time how they feel distant from God. And then we take an inventory of their life and usually it leads to “Yea, I can see why you’re feeling distant, you’re not doing anything He said.”

If we call ourselves followers of Him, and I mean REAL followers, not the wishy-washy “Christian” that is pervasive in our culture right now. But I mean true, narrow-path followers of Christ – we will learn His commands and follow them no matter what.

BUT we cannot follow Him on our own, and luckily He doesn’t expect us to. That is why He has given us the Holy Spirit which gives us a desire for God and enables us to follow His commands. And we get the Holy Spirit when we are born again (i.e. spiritually alive).

I lived the first 24 years of my life dead. I know that sounds like an oxymoron. But I did not have the spirit of God and anything without God is dead. But once I realized my need for God, I believed in what Christ did for me and was born again into a new life. This new life has transformed every part of me (including my allegiance). I wanted to obey God and the more I obeyed His commands, the closer I’ve gotten with Him and the more I love Him.

“When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?…. It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all… After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:60-71

What does it mean to take up my cross?

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? – Matthew 16:24-26

People write entire books on this, but for this post, I’m going to keep it short and simple. (Matthew 16:24-26)

What is the cross? 
It was an instrument to kill the flesh. 

Jesus is saying to anyone that desires to follow Him, they should deny self (not focus on loving self) and kill the flesh (not gratify with fleeting, earthly pleasure)

When we deny our flesh, we live by the Spirit.

Jesus says over and over again “If you love me, you will obey me.” We obey what we love.

Jesus is the designer of life. He knows the best way to live it for human flourishing.

Could you imagine taking a boat and putting it on a road? Sure you could sit or even live in it, but it will cause accidents. The boat will never be what it could have been on the water. The boat was not designed for the road.

When we bow down to our flesh, we are not living the life we could have had in the spirit – so much better and closer to God.

We live in a time where loving self is our god. It’s an OBSESSION. It also often leads to depression and anxiety (hence why those statistics have progressively gone up).

“What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”

Jesus offers something so much better than self-love, earthly pleasure, or earthly success. He offers Himself.

He offers freedom, true identity, value, purpose, meaning in this life, hope, comfort, and peace. He alone offers all the things we look for in this world (and never truly find).

Everything on earth will waste away. Everything new and exciting gets old and boring. But He offers a salvation that will live forever. 

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. – Matthew 16:25

It can’t mean to us what it didn’t mean to them

When we read scripture, it can be SO tempting to make it about us, our life, the people we are mad at, or the things we should do. Don’t get me wrong, the Bible speaks into all of that.

But when we approach God’s Word, we have to remember the context. This is why anytime I’ve led Bible studies, we spend the first session understanding the 5Ws:

Who wrote this text?

Who was it written to?

When was it written?

Where was it written?

Why was it written?

All of these details tell us a little bit about the culture, the people, the time period, and the reason it was written to begin with. When we have this understanding, , we can approach the text in the way it was intended to be read and understood.

Can we often apply the same principals and promises to our lives today? YES. But not all of them. That is why understanding context is crucial to biblical literacy. I also briefly review the 5Ws at the beginning of each bible study as a reminder of how we will observe the text.

Think about it this way, we wouldn’t open a random page in a novel, read a paragraph, and then assume we have a good understanding of what is happening in the story, right? So how could we do that with the Bible?

That is why understanding context is crucial to biblical literacy.

When we read scripture through our personal filters, we often give meaning to the verse that is not there. We miss out on the riches of His story and His mercy because we want it to say something directly about us.

But remember, we read the Bible to first know about God. It’s about Jesus. Is it applicable to our everyday life? ABSOLUTELY! But it’s only through the lens of understanding what it meant to the original audience. Scripture cannot mean to us what it did not mean to them.

How do you know when you’re making a verse mean something to you that it didn’t mean to them? In your own words, explain (either out loud or by journal) the context around that verse and how it relates to that audience. By that, you will know the true intent and meaning. If you’re unable to explain this, there is a chance you could be giving it your own meaning.

The moment someone starts a sentence with “To me, it means…” That is a sign that they might be understanding the text incorrectly. BUT the reality is, we are all growing and learning!! People who have spent their entire lives studying the Bible learn new things all the time.

We don’t have to be intimidated when approaching scripture, we just have to be hungry to learn it! And like anything, it takes time and consistency.

I highly encourage any believer out there who desires to be a real student of God’s Word to get a great study Bible and at least one commentary. Right now, I personally use the ESV Study Bible, as well the Moody Bible Institute Commentary and the John MacArthur Bible Commentary. Commentaries and study bibles can he helpful tools in our growth and understanding of God’s Word!

But remember, we can’t be student’s of His Word without getting in the word! Even 10 minutes is better than 0.

As you understand the meaning of scripture as it is intended, trust that the Holy Spirit will teach, convict, counsel, and lavish upon you the riches and glory of His love and truth.

What are popular verses you’ve seen taken out of context?.

Single-minded: Boasting in the Cross of Christ

“The opposite of wasting your life is to live by a single soul-satisfying passion for the supremacy of God in all things.” – John Piper

Is this you today? Did you wake up with a passion and zeal for the Lord? How about striving for His glory and being satisfied in Him in whatever He has brought you today? 

As Christians, we will have very set apart lives. Our interests will look vastly different than the interests in our culture. We don’t value the same things or hold to the same hopes or have the same desires.

Ladies, we don’t boast in our bodies, diet plans, workout routines, being a super mom, climbing the corporate ladder, obtaining rewards or degrees, nice nails/hair, having nice possessions, or even how good of a Christian we can be. 

Those things may happen or be given to you as little gifts from the Lord, but we know all of that is fleeting and does not even come close to the value of the cross of Christ.

He is our true boasting. The goodness and the graces of Him in our ordinary day is worth shouting from the mountain tops! 

And in turn, when we recognize that nothing in this world is worth boasting for apart from Him, the world will not really find us all too appealing either. 

We won’t look the same, think the same, use the same words. We won’t be entertained by the same things. We won’t laugh at the same jokes, watch the same shows, listen to the same music. We will be women who belong to the Lord – vastly different, but more loving and giving towards others than this world knows what to do with. 

So when we boast, let us brag about how sweet our Savior is.

When our children do something awesome, or boyfriend gives us a gift, or when we lose 20 pounds – bring glory to God for those things.

But know that even the best of moments on earth will never compare to the best (and worst) moment 2000 years ago – the only thing really worth boasting about – when Jesus laid down His life for you and for me.