Life in the Spirit: 3 Reminders From Romans 8

School and work are often drudgery.

Back-to-back tests and papers due. Piles of work that lead to overtime. New company policies that are confusing and make your work harder. It can make your life seem completely miserable at times.

As children of God, however, we have an avenue to living a purposeful and rewarding life even when our school and work responsibilities try to drain the life from us.

Today, we’ll look at three key reminders from Romans 8:1-18 of what it means to be alive in Christ.

1. Through Christ, we are free.

You might feel like a prisoner to the drudgery of life, clocking in and out of work in robotic fashion or dragging yourself to school every week, but we are not meant to feel like prisoners in this world.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!

In fact, Romans 8:1-3 explains that we are free from “the law of sin and death.” When we believe in and live for Jesus Christ, the sins of our past no longer have a hold on us. Without Christ, we are prisoners to sin, and eternal death is an inevitability. With Christ, no matter what mistakes we may have made or difficult circumstances we may have to endure, the consequences of sin and the ways of this world no longer have us bound.

The weight of this world and of the things that accompany life in this world do not have to keep us down or burdened because our God already defeated sin and death and has overcome the world (see John 16:33). “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” has made us free (see Romans 8:2), and so we can walk in the freedom we have through Christ each day no matter how stifling life may seem on earth.

2. We must continue to walk after the Spirit.

When group projects and research papers pile up, when the customers are rude and your boss keeps giving you more responsibilities, and when traffic is backed up after a really long day, we must continue to walk after the Spirit—yes, even when we are tempted with road rage. If you live in or near Springfield, Missouri, then you might understand the frustration that accompanies dealing with mindless drivers who pull out in front of you while you’re doing 60 and they’re doing 35 or who cruise in the fast lane and refuse to move over. Truth be told, many a Holy Ghost-filled Christian has almost lost their Holy Ghost when dealing with rush-hour traffic.

Walking after the Spirit means living a righteous lifestyle every day. Simple, right? Not when we feed our carnality more than the spirit, but when we pursue righteousness and a closer walk with Jesus on a daily basis, it becomes more natural to maintain a spiritual mindset.

Having life through Christ means forsaking our carnality.

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

Romans 8:5-6 (KJV)

If you follow your flesh, it will lead to death. If you follow after the Spirit, then it will lead to eternal life and the peace of God. We cannot expect the peace of God and His blessings if we follow our own lusts and desires. Verse 8 goes on to say that “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

Ouch.

Want to please God? Pursue Him. Pursue righteousness. Even when people annoy you and schoolwork overwhelms you and your job is miserable, pursue a lifestyle that reflects His Spirit within you.

3. As His children, we have a divine inheritance!

The more we walk after the Spirit, the more we realize another truth of what it means to have life through Christ.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”

Romans 8:14 (KJV)

Those who walk after the Spirit are called the children of God. Our salvation is not based on a “once saved, always saved” ideology. Walking after the Spirit means that we continue pursuing Him and practicing a righteous lifestyle every minute of every day. If we do so and are filled with His Spirit, then we have what verse 15 calls the “Spirit of adoption.” Being “adopted” by Christ not only means His Spirit dwells within us but that we have 1) a loving relationship with Him and 2) a divine inheritance.

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Romans 8:17-18 (KJV)

Being joint-heirs with Christ means that we join in suffering with Him and that we also get to experience the benefits of what we may have to endure on earth—eternal life with Him. No amount of suffering we may experience here can compare to the glory that awaits us in Heaven with our King.

As the old song says, “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ. One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrow will erase. So, bravely run the race till we see Christ.”

No matter what you’re facing, whether you’re going to school or working or both, encourage yourself with these truths.

Through our God, we have freedom, and our past mistakes cannot keep us bound. Through Him, we have everything we need to maintain a righteous lifestyle. Through Him, we have the promise of eternal life.

The weight of this world no longer has a hold on us. We are alive through Christ!

BPR Post Update + Thought of the Day

This week’s post is just a little blog update for all my readers and subscribers. I’ll be at Missouri’s senior youth camp this week, so there will be no blog post this Friday. However, I’m working on a Bible study post for Friday of next week that I hope you’ll enjoy.

My family and I are back from our vacation to the east coast in South Carolina, and as we were driving back in the rain through Tennessee, I had a thought that I wanted to share with you.

How often do we shut the windows of our heart and soul when things get a little uncomfortable? It starts pouring, life gets hectic, or God moves us in a direction that shifts us out of our comfort zone, and sometimes, we decide that we can’t take it all at the moment, so we close the window.

God, I don’t like this. I just can’t deal with it right now.

We don’t want the discomfort that comes with getting wet. After all, who wants that uncomfortable feeling of being in wet clothes in the rain?

Sometimes, the rain of His Spirit is pouring down, but we still have that window closed. We don’t want the discomfort that can accompany spiritual growth. So, we keep the window closed and prevent more of His Spirit from flowing into our lives.

If we want more of Him, we’ve got to open the window in our hearts and let Him in to nourish us, clean us out, and help us grow.

Just as a plant needs water for growth, so do we need the living water of God’s Spirit to pour into our lives and transform us into who He wants us to be.

Transformation and spiritual growth aren’t necessarily comfortable, but they are necessary.

My prayer is that we succeed in resisting our fleshly desires for an “easy way out” and instead continue to grow in Christ no matter what may come our way.

Again, there will be no new blog post until next Friday the 18th, but I encourage you to go back through the Breathe Pray Repeat archive and read any post you may have missed!

Thank you to all the BPR readers and subscribers who are still here. I appreciate each of you and pray this blog has blessed or encouraged you in some way.

Have a great week, everyone!

3 Helpful Bible Study Methods

Reading and studying the Word should be a daily commitment if we want to grow closer to God. When I was a teenager, I found myself becoming satisfied with reading a short chapter here and there and calling it good. (Woo-hoo! I read an entire chapter of Psalms! I’m good for the day!) Everyone has to start somewhere, and there is no shame in a child reading a chapter of Psalms a day to develop a daily habit of reading the Word, but as we grow older, we must become more dedicated to studying the Word in depth.

As always, we must remember that God is calling us deeper.

Sometimes, figuring out how to study the Word can be difficult when you’re out of the habit or don’t know where to start. For today’s post, I thought I would share with you three Bible study methods that I have adapted and that have helped me dig deeper into the Word.

1. Summarization

This involves what we English majors like to call “close reading.” When you’re reading a chapter of the Bible, ask questions about the chapter and write down your answers. I like to use the typical 5W1H method.

  • Who are the people involved in this chapter? Who is speaking? Who is the author? Who is the audience?
  • What is taking place in this chapter? What are the implications of the events? What Biblical principles or lessons does this chapter explore?
  • Where do the events in this chapter take place? This question can refer to an actual location or where the events take place within the story’s timeline, which brings us to the next question.
  • When does this chapter take place? When did the author write this? (This also helps you understand the context of the chapter as you look at the events in the surrounding chapters.)
  • How can I apply the principles or lessons this chapter teaches to my life?
  • Why are the events in this chapter important? This question helps you under the significance of the passage both within the context of the story and within your own life.

2. Cross-referencing

This method involves going from verse to verse, often across different books, to study key terms and concepts. It helps to have a Bible that contains references within the page that point you to related verses. I recommend the Apostolic Study Bible, which is what I use.

Here’s an example of using this method:

In the footnotes of Psalm chapter 7 in my Apostolic Study Bible, it directs me to read the related verses of II Samuel 18:19-33. David wrote Psalm 7 in reference to the news of his son Absalom’s death, which we read about in II Samuel 18. Through cross-referencing, I can read and study the situation to which David is referring in Psalm 7 to better understand the context of both passages of Scripture.

You can also use this method on your own by using the concordance at the back of your Bible and finding multiple verses throughout the Bible that discuss a particular topic.

3. Word Study

What I like to call the “word study” method involves using a Strong’s Concordance to study the root meanings of words in the original Hebrew or Greek texts. When I use this method, I simply begin by looking up a word in a particular verse in the Strong’s Concordance. (I use the Bible Strong’s Concordance app on my phone, but I also have a physical copy of Strong’s Concordance in my home library.)

This method helps you understand how a word is used differently in the Bible and what its different uses mean. For example, “love” in Romans 12:10 is from the Greek word philadelphia, which means fraternal affection or brotherly love. In John 15:10, we find that the love mentioned here is unconditional love (or agape). Here, Jesus is giving the command that we abide in the kind of unconditional love He has for us, whereas the love mentioned in Romans 12:10 specifically refers to love toward members of the church.

The above Bible study methods and tips are designed to help you understand the context of a passage of Scripture, what lessons a particular passage teaches, the connection between verses, how multiple verses extend the same topics, and how we can understand a word or concept based off a word’s original meaning. If we devote even a little bit of time daily to studying the Word, then we will come to understand Him more and how He wants us to live.

Studying the Word fosters a love for the Word and Godly living, allowing us to bury His Word within us so that we might reflect His glory to others and share the Gospel message.

BPR Schedule Update: There will be no blog post next week as I’ll be on vacation. To see how I’ve applied the word study method to my Bible studying time, check out the “comfort” series in the “Bible Studies” column.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

4 Books for Your Summer Reading List

Many schools have already ended the semester, graduates have thrown their caps into the air and received their diplomas, and summer is soon upon us. For some, that means more down time and summer vacation. You might take a trip to the beach with family, go on a road trip across the country, or simply take a stay-cation and do some much-needed yard work or catch up on your summer reading list. If the latter applies to you, then you might be in need of some ideas to fill up that reading list. In fact, no matter if your summer is busy or slowing down, no matter if you’re in high school, just graduated college, or are working all through summer, you can always add more books to your “to be read” list.

It always encourages me to see more young people wanting to read these days, and so I have compiled a short list of a few books that are perfect for adults and teenagers. Comprised of both fiction and nonfiction, below is a list of four books I’ve read and enjoyed that you can add to your summer reading list:

1. In His Steps by Charles M. Sheldon

A classic in Christian literature and the first Christian-based fiction novel I fell in love with, In His Steps is a story about ten people across two cities who explore their faith and its impact on their lives as revival begins to break out around them. Charles Sheldon was a pastor and writer in the late 19th century, and in this book, he wrote the phrase that has since become common in the Christian community: “What would Jesus do?”

There’s romance, drama, tragedy, and spiritual breakthroughs that testify of the blessings that pour into our lives when we surrender ourselves to living for Jesus. In His Steps is the first book that made me want to become a writer, and I highly recommend it to everyone. Luckily, it’s only $5 on Amazon! Check it out here!

2. While We’re Far Apart by Lynn Austin

In this 2010 historical fiction novel, you’ll read about life in New York City for a young woman caring for her friend’s children, the daughter of a soldier fighting in World War II, and an elderly Jewish man worrying about the fate of his son and daughter-in-law as Hitler’s troops invade Europe in search of Jews to capture and kill.

These three characters form familial bonds as the war rages on, and While We’re Far Apart teaches readers about enduring tests of faith, waiting on God, trusting in His Will, and even about Jewish culture!

This book is one of my favorites and gives great insight into the Jewish lifestyle and horrific experience of living through the Holocaust in Europe. It is a must-read for those who love history!

3. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

Of course, those familiar with Christian-based fiction have either read or heard of Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series, which follows several characters as they explore and defend the fantastical world of Narnia.

Lewis drew from many biblical themes in his series and made Narnia a kind of Christian allegory, making this a perfect series for younger readers. If you’re going to start reading Narnia, the best place to start is the beginning with its first book The Magician’s Nephew.

This first book in the Narnia series takes readers on the journey of young Digory as he and his friend Polly discover another mysterious world that is just beginning. The Magician’s Nephew presents the themes of adventure, bravery, and purpose from a child’s point of view, and you’ll get to see how Aslan created the world of Narnia. With its descriptions of worlds that are dying and worlds between worlds with small pools in an endless forest, this book is a fascinating read for those with a rich imagination.

4. A History of Christian Doctrine by David K. Bernard

For those with an interest in nonfiction, this is a great book to read this summer. This book is an abridged history of the church and of the various doctrines and denominations that have formed across time since the days of the Apostolic church in the New Testament.

Bro. Bernard, the general superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church International, shows readers how man’s ideas and doctrines began to influence churches. This in turn led to the creation of different denominations, such as Catholicism and Protestantism, throughout the Post-Apostolic Age, the Great Reformation, and the Pentecostal Movement of the 20th century.

A History of Christian Doctrine is an enlightening read and helped me better understand how different churches formed and beliefs originated across history. Check it out here if you want to add a study of the church and Christian doctrine to your summer reading list.

Whether you’re an avid reader or you read sparingly, I encourage you to check out at least one of these books this summer. If you do, tag me (@caitlinhale_bpr) in a photo of the book cover in your stories on Instagram and let me know your thoughts.

Happy summer reading!

5 Things To Help You Overcome Depression

Mental Health Awareness Month takes place the entire month of May, and the theme this year is “You are not alone.”

For those who struggle with depression, overcoming it is not as simple as others might think.

There are those who might say, “Everyone gets depressed. Just get over it,” or, “If you really wanted to be happy, then you would be,” but they don’t realize that overcoming depression does not come so easily as simply wishing for it to happen. As someone who has struggled with forms of depression and who has many family members who have as well, I’ve seen and experienced the difficulty in trying to force yourself to “be happy” even though you feel sad, heartbroken, abandoned, and alone. It often results in burying emotions that need to be worked through and addressed only for them to rise again later and leave you more broken and shattered than before. Forced healing is not lasting healing.

Because May is mental health awareness month, I’ve decided to share with you and those who are struggling five things that have helped me in the process of overcoming feelings of depression. Of course, this post may not be entirely applicable to those who are suffering from severe or clinical depression. If you or someone you know is suffering from clinical depression, please know that there is no shame in reaching out for help, receiving support from a psychiatrist, or asking for prayer. Depression is nothing to be ashamed of because, yes, many people do suffer from various forms of depression and feelings of sadness to varying degrees.

“Forced healing is not lasting healing.”

Instead of trying to ignore or bury those feelings, here are five things you might try to help you begin the process of overcoming it:

1. Listen to music.

Now, some of these tips may seem basic, but just hear me out. When I’ve struggled with depression, almost every single time, I’ve managed to find comfort and feel God’s presence through new Gospel songs I found. One song in particular that spoke to me when I was struggling was “Defender” by Francesca Battistelli.

Listening to music, or music therapy, has proven calming effects that can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. When one listens to music, be it instrumental or soothing music, it can help that person experience his or her emotions on a deeper, more visceral level. It may even help clear the mind and make one’s emotions easier to understand.

Just any music doesn’t prove helpful to me, however, which is why I encourage listening to Christian music. As Christians, we understand that our help comes from God, but when we’re struggling with caring for our mental and emotional health, it sometimes becomes necessary to plug into other avenues that help us connect better to His presence. Don’t just listen to the music, but meditate on it. Find new songs that speak to what you’re going through and let yourself praise Him as you listen.

2. Listen to sermons.

We listen to messages over the pulpit every week, but sometimes, it helps to search for an extra word from God throughout the week when we’re feeling overwhelmed with sadness or anxiety. God can minister to us today even through an old message posted to YouTube five or more years ago. One such sermon that I heard when I was struggling and that I’ve returned to often is Victor Jackson’s message at General Conference 2019 called “The Forgotten Anointing.” For those who are weary and full of grief, this message may just be the word from God that will help you begin to heal.

Whether you search for sermons based on what you’re going through or by a preacher you’re familiar with, consider taking notes while listening to the sermon. Write down how God might be speaking to you through the message and ways you can apply it to your life moving forward.

3. Do focused Bible studying.

This one might seem like another no-brainer to those who study the Word consistently, but doing some focused Bible studying is a great way to work through what you’re experiencing by researching it in the Scriptures.

When I found myself in a dark place once, I realized the one thing that might help me get through it was if I could just feel the comfort of God again. So, I began doing a word search for “comfort” in my phone’s Bible app that contains the Strong’s Concordance. As I read verse after verse and studied the original Hebrew meanings of “comfort,” I immediately felt God’s presence. By the next morning, the heavy burden of grief and sorrow that had weighed me down had lifted immensely.

Doing some focused Bible studying on key terms or events in the Bible can help you understand the biblical approach to what you’re experiencing and will take you closer to the presence of God.

4. Get (and stay) involved in church.

It’s natural to want to take a step back from responsibilities at church or even not to want to attend a service or two when you’re struggling with depression, but it’s when you’re struggling that you need that foundation and consistency in your life the most.

Find new ways to get involved in ministry or new ways to use the gifts God has given you for His Kingdom. Go to every service. Continue worshipping God in the worship service and at the altar call. Attend special events or services. Keep in touch with your pastor and church family.

Although it may be difficult and you may feel at times as though you have to put on a smile and pretend you’re okay, the consistency of fellowshipping with the people of God and serving in His Kingdom is one of the most important steps in overcoming depression. The consistency and strong foundation that come with being involved in church bring much needed comfort and peace when you’re going through turbulent times or spiritually dry periods.

5. Do fun things.

Depression can make you feel as though you’re barely surviving and are unable to enjoy even the simplest parts of life, but don’t stop trying to find positive and uplifting things that can make you feel a little less sad for a little while.

Listen to music as we already explored above, or go out to breakfast or lunch with family or friends. Go for a walk at a park. Read a book. (If you need some reading inspiration, stay tuned for next week’s post when I’ll share some book ideas for your summer reading list!) Take a short trip on a day off and go to the lake or hiking or for a simple country drive. Write down your thoughts in a journal.

Whatever you do, do something that takes your mind off your stress and grief and pain if only for a moment and bask in that moment of relief. Every little moment of peace adds up, and eventually, you might find yourself going from feeling sad to being just okay to finally realizing that you are and can be happy in your life in spite of what you’ve gone through.

Overcoming depression is not an easy process and does not look the same for everyone. If you find yourself struggling harder with overcoming depression, try the above tips that have helped me.

Remember that our God is a God of peace. We can find the comfort we need in His presence and in the presence of our church family. Even though you may feel alone, you are not alone. You can overcome depression and be stronger than you were before.

“And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.”

Deuteronomy 31:8 (KJV)

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

Hebrews 4:16 (KJV)

How to Overcome Self-Condemnation: Appealing to the Mercy of God

A man seeks God's forgiveness in prayer.

Sometimes when you make a mistake, the hardest part of forgiveness is forgiving yourself. If you’re like me, you might tend to beat yourself up for mistakes you’ve made, mulling over them at night and asking yourself how you could be so stupid. Self-condemnation completely hinders the process of forgiveness.

When we make a mistake, we must ask God for his mercy and strive to resist temptation and live according to His Word, but sometimes our own thoughts can make it much harder to feel forgiven when we imprison ourselves in our own guilt. What we forget in those moments is how much God truly loves us. In order for us to move forward with peace and in confidence, knowing that He has forgiven us, we must recognize His love for us and that His mercy has no end.

Two examples in His Word show us what it means to appeal to God’s mercy.

When Lot and his family escaped Sodom and Gomorrah, he asked God to save a nearby city so that they might flee to it and be saved.

“Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken. Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.”

Genesis 19:19-22 (KJV)

One of the first things Lot said to God was a reminder that God had granted Lot grace and that He had “magnified [His] mercy” by saving Lot’s life. When Abraham went to God to try to convince Him not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, he appealed to God’s justice, asking if God would destroy the “righteous with the wicked” (see Genesis 18:23). Abraham did not succeed in his intercession for Sodom and Gomorrah, but Lot succeeded in his intercession for Zoar by appealing first to the grace and mercy of God when he was in danger and needed to be saved.

In the New Testament, Jesus told a parable of humility and mercy when comparing the Pharisee to the publican.

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican…. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.”

Luke 18:10-11, 13 (KJV)

In this parable, the publican acknowledged his sinfulness and asked that God would show him mercy. He showed humility and an understanding of his own faults and need for a Savior.

These examples remind us to appeal to God’s mercy when we are facing difficulties and when we need forgiveness. Lot appealed to God’s mercy when he needed salvation from circumstances. The publican appealed to God’s mercy when he needed salvation from sin. Neither Lot nor the publican were perfect men, but in Lot’s case and in the parable of the publican, both men were sincere in their appeals, and God showed them His mercy. When we make a mistake and ask for forgiveness, we’re stating that we cannot make it on our own. Our appeal to God’s mercy becomes a declaration that we need Him.

Messing up again and again is human nature. God knows this. Of course, our human nature is not an excuse to sin, but rather it is a reminder that we need Him in order to resist temptation and receive forgiveness.

God is just and faithful to forgive of us our sins as His Word says in 1 John 1:9.

What these accounts remind me of is how much He wants to forgive us. Our God longs for us to surrender to Him and serve Him in righteousness and sincerity, and when we do, then He will forgive us of our sins. We need not walk in guilt and self-condemnation because He already paid the price for our sins and freed us from guilt and shame.

We can overcome guilt and self-condemnation by appealing to God’s mercy, by recognizing our flaws and inadequacies, and by understanding that it is only through the grace, love, and mercy of our Savior that we move forward and walk in confidence with Him. Self-condemnation will keep us from accepting His forgiveness, but the self-realization of our weaknesses and His great love for us keeps us under His blood and walking in newness of life.

*****

Post Schedule Announcement:

Lots of things are coming up as my schedule will be getting busier over the upcoming weeks, so posts will be on Fridays only until further notice.

I’ve seen there are some newer readers and subscribers to Breathe Pray Repeat, so I also want to say “welcome,” and I pray these posts bless you and encourage you to get closer to God as you seek Him more and study His Word.

If you have any post or Bible study requests, don’t hesitate to comment below or send me a message and let me know! God Bless!

3 Qualities of a Good Servant

A man opens his Bible.

What makes a good and faithful servant?

Is it simply someone who does good deeds and tries to be kind to others? Is it someone who serves their community? Is it someone who prays an hour every day and fills journals with Bible study notes? Is it someone who goes to Bible college and becomes a preacher or worship leader?

What does it take to simply be that good and faithful servant the Lord will welcome into Heaven?

Well, a person can certainly be a good and faithful servant by doing any or all of the above, but pleasing and serving God does not mean that we have to attend Bible college or that we have to become a preacher or singer. Those things are wonderful things but are specific callings rather than general requirements for all Christians.

When we study the Word, we see many examples of various people who were faithful servants—Abraham, Job, and Mary are a few that come to mind. One man in particular who appears very early in the Bible shows us three qualities of a faithful servant that are a good foundation upon which we can build and develop a strong relationship with God.

“And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: And I will make thee swear by the LORD…thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac…And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning the matter.”

Genesis 24:2-4, 9 (KJV)

1. Attentiveness

When Abraham was old, he tasked his eldest and most trusted servant with finding a wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac. Here, we have an example of a servant who was not only attentive to his master’s requests and needs, but he was also mindful of Abraham’s requirements to accomplish his task.

After he met Rebekah and her family, he faithfully repeated to them his errand, detailing every aspect of his oath (see Genesis 24:34-41). A testament to the servant’s mindfulness in completing his task, he even refused their request to let Rebekah stay with her family a little longer:

“And her brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go. And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the LORD hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master.”

Genesis 24:55-56 (KJV)

In order for us to be good servants, we must not only listen to our Master’s commands, but we must be mindful of how we go about our work for the Kingdom. Abraham’s servant carefully heeded each aspect of his oath to his master. Even though some might deem it unkind to not allow Rebekah to stay with her family a few more days, Abraham’s servant was persistent in fulfilling his task, mindful of the time and his master’s needs. Abraham’s son needed a wife, and it was his job to deliver on his task—pronto!

When we serve in the Kingdom, we must be mindful of how we go about our ministry and of how we answer to God’s commands, which brings us to the second quality Abraham’s servant displays.

2. Obedience

Abraham’s servant was obedient to the letter. He swiftly went about finding his master’s son a wife and made sure she was of the same household as Abraham’s family as his master requested. Now, we know Abraham’s servant had a reputation of faithfully obeying his master because Abraham trusted this man with all of the goods of his house (see Genesis 24:2, 10). Over the course of the chapter, we see that Abraham’s servant was forthright as he set out to the well to find Isaac a wife and was very thorough. Before assuming Rebekah was the one God had chosen for his master’s son, Abraham’s servant watched Rebekah carefully and questioned her about her family:

“And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not…And [he] said, Whose daughter art thou?…And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor…And the man bowed his head, and worshipped the LORD. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren.”

Genesis 24:21, 23-24, 26-27 (KJV)

Abraham’s servant waited for confirmation to ensure Rebekah was the one God had appointed for Isaac, and then he praised God and continued with his task. A good servant obeys, yes, but a good servant must pay close attention to every detail to ensure complete obedience.

3. A Relationship with God

Finally, a good servant must commune with God. We see throughout chapter 24 of Genesis that Abraham’s servant regularly spoke to and praised God. In fact, he spoke to God and worshipped Him three times in this chapter, showing his trust in God and a thankful spirit.

First, Abraham’s servant surrendered the situation to God by asking God to show him the woman He had appointed for Isaac (see Genesis 24:12-14). Second, he praised God when he realized God had blessed his journey and led him to the right woman (see Genesis 24:26-27). Third, he worshipped God when Rebekah’s family released her to accompany him back to Abraham and marry Isaac:

“Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the LORD hath spoken. And it came to pass, that, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, he worshipped the LORD, bowing himself to the earth.”

Genesis 24:51-52 (KJV)

Through each aspect of fulfilling his work, Abraham’s servant gave the glory to God and surrendered his task into God’s hands.

A woman throws her hands up in surrendering everything to Jesus.

In order to become the child of God that He wants us to be, we have to start somewhere. Applying to our own lives the qualities that Abraham’s servant shows us will help us begin a foundation for building a healthy and strong relationship with God. When analyzing your own walk with Him, ask yourself these questions: Am I heeding and obeying God’s commands in my life? Am I faithful in my work in the Kingdom? Am I seeking the Lord faithfully? Have I given Him honor and worship for the things He’s done for me?

If we build a strong relationship with God and follow His guidance and instructions for our lives, then He will ultimately bless us with the greatest reward—hearing the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” as we enter into His Kingdom to be with our King for eternity.

The Temporal vs The Eternal: Tuning Out the World and Tuning into the Spirit

Hollywood held the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony this Sunday, but not many tuned in to see it. In fact, recent polls reveal that the majority of Americans have not even seen or heard of any of the films nominated at the Oscars. This is, of course, very good news.

Ten-plus years ago, I remember hearing of the films that won awards at the Oscars and being somewhat familiar with them. Back then, I watched the short clips of humorous moments that had happened at the ceremony that were still family friendly and did not alienate half of the country because of different values and beliefs. Things are very different now, and the polls that show most Americans did not watch the Oscars or the nominated films may be a sign that the culture of celebrity worship is dying as the average American is more concerned with keeping their job during the pandemic and spending time with their family.

So, why is the tuning out of Hollywood significant for us as Christians?

Because it’s an indicator that many more conservative, centrist, and/or Christian Americans are waking up to what truly matters in our life: the physical, mental, and yes, spiritual wellbeing of ourselves and our families.

One writer on Facebook wrote about how refreshing it is that Hollywood is becoming completely irrelevant to Americans. Many no longer look to the Oscars for entertainment or obsess over films and celebrities that took home several awards.

Instead, they go to work, take their kids to the park, attend church on Sunday, and completely forget that the Oscars were even coming up or happened at all.

This is a sign that our lives truly do not and should not revolve around materialism, consumerism, and temporal things, such as Hollywood, in order for our lives to be fulfilling and purposeful.

Indeed, it is true that the more we spend time in God’s presence and reading His Word, the more we feel fulfilled in Him. The more we focus on living a life that is pleasing to God, the more we invest in our eternity with Him, and the more we tune out the distractions of this world, the more our purpose will come into focus and the more our lives will become balanced and our minds at peace.

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”

Matthew 24:35 (KJV)

The decline of Hollywood and celebrity worship culture should inspire us to keep our minds and affection set on things above. Nothing in this world will remain, which means that nothing in this world is worth sacrificing eternity in Heaven with our King Jesus. When we tune into the Spirit, then we can understand the importance of investing in things eternal over things temporal.

Robert Frost wrote a famous poem in 1923 called “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” essentially about the fleeting and fading nature of life. Part of the poem reads, “Then leaf subsides to leaf/so Eden sank to grief/So dawn goes down to day/Nothing gold can stay.” Frost was referring to the golden buds or flowers on trees that turn to leaves before withering away and to the idea that nothing beautiful or seemingly innocent will last. Our lives are but a vapor, after all.

The gold in Frost’s poem takes on a new meaning when thinking of the Oscars. The awards celebrities give themselves take the form of literal golden statues, but each award becomes irrelevant by the time the next awards season rolls around, and they gather again in hopes of receiving yet another award. You see, when you tune into materialism and gorge yourself with a worldly appetite, the accolades and praise from society’s echo chamber become shallow, unsatisfying, and meaningless. When you fail to invest in the Kingdom, life becomes hollow. You lose out on what truly matters, and your spiritual wellbeing falls into decay just like the grass that withers and the flower that fades.

“When you tune into materialism and gorge yourself with a worldly appetite, the accolades and praise from society’s echo chamber become shallow, unsatisfying, and meaningless.”

Hollywood is fleeting. The films they make are not forever. Their fame, fortune, and success will not last.

But the things of God will stand forever while the things of this world will pass away.

So, to those investing more in temporal things and to those in Hollywood obsessed with acquiring their collection of awards, I say: remember—nothing gold can stay.

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.”

Matthew 6:19-20 (KJV)

“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

Colossians 3:2 (KJV)

3 College Tips for Finishing the Semester Strong

Missouri State University
The trees in front of Meyer Library at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri, with Strong Hall in the background.
Photo taken May 2020.

It’s that time again when I share tips from my years in college that helped me get through it with good grades and my sanity intact.

The last few weeks of a semester are always busy and stressful. I remember it well—prepping for finals, freaking out when you see how much material the exams cover, calculating what your overall grade might be based off the lowest score you could possibly get, skimming through piles of books and resources you’ve read throughout the semester, stressing over how many papers you have to write at once, planning classes for the next semester. Just bringing it all to memory now makes me a little anxious and weirdly energized.

Every semester, I was convinced my GPA would drop or that I would barely pass an exam or finish a paper on time, but somehow God carried me through it all. Below are three tips that helped me make it through the roughest moments during the end of a semester and prepare for the next one.

1. Don’t forsake the importance of note-taking!

Now, not every student is a note-taker. There were some classes during which I didn’t see the need or simply failed to take notes. As I advanced through college, however, I realized that note-taking was essential to my success. If a professor spent several minutes discussing an important term or event, I jotted down as many details as I could. Taking notes during classes helped me highlight important terms and information for upcoming tests and papers.

If your professor moves too quickly for you to take a lot of notes, consider recording your lectures. Toward the end of a semester, I recorded many lectures in my history and English classes to catch important details about what might be on the exam and how the exam would be structured. This method is especially helpful in preparing for finals because you can always go back to the recorded lecture and write down more in-depth notes!

2. Talk with your professors regularly.

Don’t be afraid to ask your professor every single question or bring up every single concern you have about the exam or final assignments. Really. Ask questions like, “Will such and such material be on the exam? How long of an essay response do you expect? Can we use notes on the exam?” Ask about the paper’s length, referencing style, and amount of sources. It may seem like you are bombarding your professor, but more often than not, your professor will want to help ease your concerns about the exam and give you guidance for how you should prepare for it and your papers.

It also lets your professor know how determined you are to succeed, which always factors into how they perceive you as a student and into your overall success in class. Constant communication with my professors always helped me determine how prepared I needed to be for finals and final assignments, how difficult the exam would be, and what my professors expected in the paper.

3. Prepare for the next semester.

Before registration for the next semester opened, I spent time looking up desired classes and schedules so that once registration day came, I would already know exactly what kind of schedule I wanted and register for it immediately. Classes usually fill up quickly, so don’t hesitate until the last minute or even a week or two after registration opens to plan the next semester.

Once, because I wasn’t at home when registration opened, I had my father do it for me as I coached him on the phone. Get others involved if you need help!

When you schedule classes, here are 3 things to consider: 1) the professor, 2) the time between classes, and 3) the distance between classes. You can use websites like ratemyprofessors.com to look up professors from your university and find out what to expect from each professor—how they grade, what kind of workload they give to students, and even how friendly they are. If you keep the same professors in classes of the same subjects, you’ll be able to develop a good working relationship with your professors, which will help you do better in classes in the long run!

Pay attention to what time each class you’re scheduling takes place and where they are located. During the fall semester of 2019, I had a scheduling issue after the semester began and quickly had to enroll in another class that took place only 15 minutes after my first class…at the OPPOSITE end of the campus! Needless to say, I was always rushing across campus to get to class in time, making my blood sugar drop constantly! If you schedule your classes in advance, aim for at least 30 minutes between classes that are in different buildings (15 minutes for classes that are close to each other), and try to schedule at least an hour break between a couple of classes if you are on campus all day.

Bonus tip: Do all the extra credit you can! This will help you keep your grade up in the class and keep your GPA stable should you not do as well on a final exam as you has hoped.

Siceluff Hall at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. Photo taken August 2018.

Preparation and scheduling are the two most important factors to alleviate stress at the end of a semester. If you take notes, communicate with your professor, and prepare for both the finals and the next semester, you will be able to maintain good grades and be successful in college. As you look back in each semester, you may even find that preparation and a proper schedule has boosted your confidence for the next one.

And don’t forget what is perhaps the most important piece of advice regarding finishing each semester strong: when it’s all over, treat yourself to some cupcakes or cookies and take a well-earned nap to celebrate!

Just breathe, pray, and repeat.

5 Scriptures for When You’re Hurting

A woman dealing with grief

When you’re in pain, sometimes there are no words that can adequately describe what you’re going through.

Whether it’s a physical pain or emotional pain, that feeling of hurt can reach so deeply that it stretches far past the limits of your vocabulary.

People may ask, “How are you feeling?”

And you don’t know what to say. You may not even be exactly sure how you feel.

But we have a Savior who knows our hurt better than anyone. We have a God who experienced physical and emotional pain and who understands grief, hurt, anger, and suffering. We have a Comforter whose words are the only ones that can stretch past the limits of our vocabulary, reach into the deepest trenches of our anguish, and ease the burden of pain and sadness.

If you’re struggling with hurt, here are five Scriptures from His Word that offer an encouraging perspective:

“My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.”

Psalms 73:26 (KJV)

“He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.”

Psalms 147:3 (KJV)

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”

Matthew 5:4 (KJV)

“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”

1 Peter 5:7 (KJV)

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Revelation 21:4 (KJV)

God is our strength when our heart fails and our body cannot carry us any further.

He is the Healer of our heart and the Mender of our brokenness.

We are blessed even in our mourning. For when we are in pain and sorrow, He comforts us.

When it’s too much for us to bear, we can surrender all our grief and despair to Him because our God truly cares for us. If it matters to us, it matters to the Master! He knows the pain we’re feeling even when we can’t put it into words or understand it ourselves.

And when our pain seems to overwhelm us, He reminds us of the promise that one day, our God Himself will wipe all tears of sorrow from our eyes, and we will no longer feel any more sadness, grief, or pain.

Just a little bit longer, and we’ll be with our King in eternal joy and freedom forever!

“There’ll be no sorrow there, no more burdens to bear, no more sickness, no more pain, no more parting over there; And forever I will be, with the One who died for me, what a day, glorious day that will be.”

“What a Day That Will Be” by Jim Hill

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Schedule Update: There will be no blog post this Friday.

If you’d like to read more about Scriptures on comfort, check out this post from my series on studying comfort in the Bible.