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!

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)

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.

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.

How to Overcome Doubt with Determination

Overcoming doubt with determination by studying the Word.

Ever feel like bad things always happen to you, or like you just aren’t as lucky as those other people on social media who are living the dream and have it all together?

Ever doubt that things will work out because it seems they never do?

Sometimes, we make things harder for ourselves when all we focus on is the negative. It interferes with our ability to trust God and give Him our cares. Doubt can be crippling.

As someone who’s teetered between pessimism and optimism, I know the back-and-forth can make you emotionally and physically exhausted.

“God, I just want something good to happen in my life for once!” I’ve said before.

Our doubt blinds us from seeing how God is working, and it keeps us from moving forward with determination.

Doubt damages our determination.

After all, why bother embracing the future when you can’t see what’s ahead or when it seems bleak and uncomfortable? Why trust that things will work out when it seems nothing good ever happens?

You know, we often get stuck on patterns. If there’s a pattern of negative events in our lives, we come to expect negative things, and negativity becomes the lens through which we see life. As humans, we like patterns because they’re predictable. They give us a feeling of control. If we can predict what might happen, then we can prepare for the worst.

But God does not operate according to the predictions of man. His ways are higher.

When we learn to trust that God always has a plan for our lives, then we can turn our doubt into determination—the kind of determination that says, “I will trust in God no matter what happens.”

God's ways are higher than ours.

We say Thomas doubted that Jesus really had risen from the dead with a kind of disdain for Thomas’ attitude, but I’ve always found Thomas relatable here.

Think about it: Jesus Christ, whom the disciples had hoped would help them overthrow the government, was crucified three days prior. Their movement seemed hopeless and crushed. Bad things kept happening. And all of a sudden, a man stood in front of Thomas claiming to be the resurrected Christ. Perhaps many of us, if we had been Thomas in that moment, would feel it was too good to be true. After tragedy and disappointment, we might have responded to Jesus’ resurrection with hesitation and doubt.

Have you ever asked God for a sign if something really was Him?

God, if this is You moving, send me a sign!

Thomas declared that he would not believe until he had seen the scars in Jesus’ hands and touched His spear-pierced side. How did Jesus respond?

“Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.”

John 20:27-28 (KJV)

If we are to see Jesus, we must reach out and touch Him.

If we are to overcome our own doubt and pessimism, we must get closer to Him and believe.

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God!

(See Romans 10:17.)

When we study His Word, we begin to hear His voice. When we hear Him, our faith in Him grows. As our faith grows, so does our trust and our confidence in Him.

The more we seek Jesus in determination, the more our doubt will diminish.

4 Ways to Be Consistent in Prayer

How often do you attempt to organize your day perfectly, so you can spend quality time with God, and you fail?

Consistency can be difficult when we get overwhelmed with life and busy with distractions, but it is the key to having a strong prayer life.

Today’s post is taken from Bro. David Brown’s pre-sermon message on this past Friday night at Missouri District Youth Convention. Below is the transcript of an excerpt from the beginning of Bro. Brown’s Friday night message as he describes 4 ways you can be more consistent in your prayer life.

*****

1. Make it a priority.

You’ve got to make prayer first. And I know that all of you, you have things that you do right when you wake up. Hopefully, it involves something like brushing your teeth.

But I wonder if you’re struggling to make prayer a priority in your life, I wonder if you could make up your mind just between you and Jesus to say, “You know what? Before I (fill in the blank).” It could be brushing your teeth. I promise Jesus doesn’t mind your stank breath. But say, “Lord, before I brush my teeth, before I pick up my phone, before I check a text message, Lord, I’m going to spend time with You in prayer and with your Word.”

So, make it a priority.

2. Place—designate a space and time to fully be with the Lord.

I would encourage you to designate a space and a time to be fully with the Lord. Have a place, whether that’s in your bedroom or a specific place in your bedroom. Maybe it’s even in your closet. But have a place where you can eliminate distractions, and you can set aside time just to be with Jesus.

3. A.C.T.S.—have a plan.

I don’t know about you, but at some point, I got tired of going into that time of prayer, and I say, “Hallelujah, thank you, Jesus,” about 1,000 times, and I say that’s prayer. So, I just have a very simple plan. I can’t even remember the first time where I saw it, but my plan is very simple: it’s A.C.T.S.

I start my time with the Lord by adoring Him, by worshiping Him, by just talking about how awesome God is. Then, I go into confession, and I confess the things I’ve done that I shouldn’t have done and the things I should’ve done that I didn’t do, for to him that knows to do good and doesn’t do it, to him it is sin. And I also confess each day that I could not live this day without Him.

And from confession then I move into thanksgiving, and I begin to thank the Lord for the incarnation, that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. I thank God for the life of Jesus Christ that though He was tempted in every way as I’m tempted, He was without sin so that He might present Himself a sinless sacrifice. I thank God for every spiritual blessing, every good gift, every perfect gift. I thank God for every spiritual blessing, material blessing, physical blessing.

And after I thank God, then I begin to seek Him. I begin to seek the Lord, and I usually begin by putting on the armor of God, putting off the works of the flesh, and putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. And then I allow the spirit of God to lead me where to pray and what to pray. So, a plan.

4. Playlist—Helps Clock Disappear

And last but not least…this is totally odd-school, but it’s helped me, and perhaps it will help you.

Have a playlist, a set of songs that you pray to, that you don’t necessarily sing to, but they just serve as a means of getting rid of the clock. You forget about the time because you build a playlist—you know exactly how long it is, and so if you’ve got to be somewhere in 30 minutes, have a 30-minute playlist. If you’ve got to be somewhere in 45 minutes or 60 minutes, have a playlist that serves that time.

And typically, I build my playlist to follow my plan. The first song is all about worship, and the second song about confession, and the third song about thanksgiving and seeking the Lord. Before you know it, if I’m praying a playlist, and I’m praying confession or adoration during a song, six minutes and seven minutes and five minutes passes, and before you know it, I’ve spent 30, 45 minutes with the Lord.

*****

The above tips from Bro. Brown are excellent helps for taking a practical approach to be more consistent in your daily prayer life.

If we want to get to the altar and allow God to change us, we must first be consistent in prayer. We must 1) make it a priority, 2) have a place and time designated to be with God, 3) make a prayer plan, and 4) build a playlist to pray along with.

Bro. Brown also mentioned that subscribing to Spotify or Apple Music might be worth the investment if you want to build a prayer playlist so that advertisements do not pull you out of the presence of God:

“There’s nothing like being there with the Lord, and all of a sudden an advertisement for Home Depot comes on. You’ll get out of the altar real quick!”

Bro. David Brown

If we build consistent prayer lives, we’ll be able to develop a closer walk with Jesus, allowing Him to mold and lead us according to His Will.

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;”

Ephesians 6:18 (KJV)

“Pray without ceasing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV)

2 Lessons from the Lame Man and the Blind Man: Learning to Recognize Jesus in Your Life

Holding the Bible up to the sky.

What will it take for you to see God in your life?

In the book of John, we see two examples of Jesus healing two separate men—a lame man and a blind man—who both had opportunities to recognize Jesus as their God who had personally touched their lives. Only the blind man recognized God. As for the lame man, there is no record of his salvation, but there is record of his disobedience and lack of gratefulness. When we look at both accounts together, we can see from their differences how important it is to not only glorify and recognize God in our lives but to do whatever it takes so that we can see Him. There are at least two ways the lame man and the blind man differed.

1. They differed in their responses to their peers.

A man looks over the mountains, and a caption reads, "One thing I know: I was blind, now I see."

Both the lame man and the blind man were honest when answering the Jews’ questions about their healings, but the lame man cared more about the interests of his peers while the blind man was able to see through the Jews’ questioning and recognize their antagonistic motives.

“The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. The man departed, and told the Jews that is was Jesus, which had made him whole.”

John 5:10-15 (KJV)

“Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight. Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not….They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.”

John 9:10-12, 17 (KJV)

The now-healed lame man was at first unable to identify Jesus by name after he deferred blame to Him, but once he learned who it was who had healed him, he went back to the Jews to inform them that it was Jesus “which had made him whole.” The blind man appeared to care more about pleasing the Jews who were after Jesus than obeying Him. The healed blind man, however, knew Jesus by name and (inadequately) described Him as a prophet.

As they questioned him further, he discerned the Jews’ motives to catch Jesus and remained true to his testimony, refusing to be swayed by his interrogators. Pay attention to his response below:

“He answered, and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see….Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes….Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.”

John 9:25, 28-30, 32-33 (KJV)

The formerly blind man was now defending Jesus against the Pharisees’ accusation that Jesus was a sinner, discerning their attempts to disprove his story and smear Jesus. He pulled from his theological knowledge to expose the flaws in the Pharisees’ argument, confirming to them that if Jesus had been a sinner, He would not have been able to heal the blind man, proving that He was “of God.” The healed man’s bold and clever responses to the Pharisees resulted in them casting him out of the synagogue (ex: “They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out” [John 9:34, KJV]). Even though the healed man knew what might happen to him, he stood his ground against the Pharisees.

2. They differed in their responses to Jesus.

Jesus bends down and draws in the sand.

While both men initially obeyed Jesus’ instructions to be healed, the formerly lame man disobeyed Jesus later and failed to recognize who He is, whereas the formerly blind man responded to Jesus with both recognition and praise. Notice the blind man’s response to Jesus below:

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.”

John 9:35-38 (KJV)

The now-healed man recognized Jesus as Lord and worshipped Him, eager to believe. When Jesus told the formerly lame man not to sin anymore, the man turned right back around and tattle-taled on Jesus to the Jews.

One man recognized Jesus as Lord, and the other man failed to see who Jesus is, and his information to the Jews resulted in the Jews’ plan to persecute and kill Jesus.

From both of these accounts, we can glean at least two lessons:

1.) We must value God and the things he wants from us above all things, even if it costs us.

2.) We must not forget to give Him the glory for all He’s done for us.

The formerly blind man recognized and praised Jesus even after the Pharisees had excommunicated him from the synagogue for his defense of Jesus, but the formerly lame man did not recognize or believe on Him. He placed more value in pleasing the Pharisees. In fact, he showed no interest in obeying or praising Jesus whatsoever, perhaps proving he was the true blind man as were the Pharisees for lacking spiritual vision (see John 9:39-41).

A boy looks up at the sunset over the trees. A caption reads, "What will it take for you to see Jesus?"

What will it take for you to see God in your life and give Him the glory?

We may find ourselves going through the motions and doing what we’re told (as both men initially did when Jesus gave them instructions to be healed), but as we learn from the account of the lame man, we can still fall short of recognizing God at work in our lives.

Each day, we must look inside ourselves to ensure we are placing Jesus above all things in our lives. Getting closer to Jesus requires an attitude of willingness, devotion, dedication, and sacrifice. The kind of attitude that says, “No matter what it may cost me, I will stand by Jesus and testify of this truth.” The kind of attitude that makes us willing to remove anything that might keep us from recognizing Jesus. The kind of attitude that says, “I will do whatever it takes to follow and obey Him no matter what.”

If we want to see Jesus, we must devote ourselves to Him, give Him the glory, worship Him alone, and tell the world of His greatness.

2 Reminders For When You’re Dealing with Stress or Imposter Syndrome

Matthew 19:26 in the King James Bible.
Matthew 19:26 reminds us that all things are possible with God!

Do you ever feel as though you’re the camel carrying the basket of straw about to burst and that the straw that will break your back is only moments away?

I am not enough.

You might say this silently to yourself or to God in prayer as you wearily reflect on all the things you have to do and your limited abilities.

I can’t do this.

It’s true.

You are not enough…on your own. You can’t do this alone.

When I’m struggling with imposter syndrome, worrying people may realize how inadequate I am, or when the stress of life weighs me down, here are 2 reminders that give me strength to carry on:

1. Everything I do I must do for Jesus to the best of my ability.

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.”

Colossians 3:23-24 (KJV)

Imposter syndrome causes a person to feel like a fraud, doubting his or her own abilities or accomplishments. I’ve struggled with this often, but each time I do, God reminds me that it doesn’t matter what others may think of what I can or can’t do or of what I have or have not accomplished. What matters is that no matter what I do, I must do it wholeheartedly for His glory.

Whether it’s your work or ministry, as long as you keep your focus on God and direct your efforts and attention toward Him, then you will be able to overcome feelings of doubt and inadequacy.

2. All things are possible with God.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

Philippians 4:13 (KJV)

When you have a heavier load than usual, it can seem impossible to get everything done. On our own, we cannot fulfill each of our duties and maintain peace of mind, but with God, we can do all things because He is our strength.

Sometimes, life presents us with seemingly impossible tasks. But God has equipped us with all we need to do all He’s called us to do.

God has given us everything we need to live in this world according to His Word—Himself.

When we become worried about failure or inadequacies, we must put our focus on Him.

Redirecting our focus to Jesus reminds us what this is all for and why we’re here. It’s for Him. We work, go to school, and survive in this world to support the Kingdom and become stronger members of the Kingdom. He gave each of us unique abilities and placed us in specific locations to serve Him and His Kingdom.

We are enough to our God!

When we serve God and give ourselves and abilities to Him, He makes up the difference in our lives. We may have the weight of the world on our shoulders, but He’s got the whole wide world in His hands.

How to Live for Jesus in a Sin-Sick World

Walking with Jesus.

How can you be in the world and not of the world?

How do you live in the world and not love the world?

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed more and more young people I’ve seen grow up in the church or come into church as teenagers proceed to turn away from church once they reach the young adult years. As Christ’s return quickly approaches, it is disheartening to see these young people leave their love for the Lord and righteousness and give into worldly lusts. Yes, the world has many temptations, and it can be hard to resist the things our friends or society tell us are popular or fun. But if one loves God and attends church, how it is possible that he or she might end up choosing the world instead? How does one manage to live right in a sin-sick world and not fall into darkness?

After all, there are temptations and spirits of darkness everywhere, trying to pull us away from the Lord.

Well, it all boils down to one thing: your personal commitment to and relationship with Jesus Christ.

In order to stand firm in your beliefs and live for Jesus rather than the world, you must develop within yourself a love of righteousness, holiness, and the Lord and His Word.

Here are 3 ways you can resist the world and live for Jesus:

1. Don’t let yourself develop an appetite for worldly things.

The things we consume will influence our appetite and priorities.

Is that show or movie you’re watching coming between you and your relationship with God? Is the music you’re listening to causing you to speak or think more about worldly appetites than wholesome thoughts? Are you more enthusiastic about a tv show than talking with your friends about Jesus? Are you more exuberant in your praise at a football stadium than at the altar in a worship service? If you don’t let yourself love the things of the world more than the things of God, you’ll be able to be in the world and still stand for righteousness and holiness. Understand where those worldly things & behaviors lead you.

2. Develop an appetite for the things of God.

In order to do this, you can begin by replacing unhealthy habits with righteous ones. For example, instead of listening to worldly music on the way to church, listen to music that brings you closer to God. Instead of looking at Bible studying as a chore, find ways to make it more enjoyable by using study guides, Bible journals, and other interactive Bible study tools. As you read the Word more and apply it to your life, you’ll begin to see how His Word & Spirit will change you, and you’ll find yourself no longer wanting the things of the world but the things of God.

3. Surround yourself with God-first people.

My church school gang at a reunion.

One of my lifelong spiritual leaders has always said this phrase:

“If you can’t change your friends, change your friends.”

This doesn’t mean we can’t associate with and witness to people of the world. Of course, we absolutely should! But if those people with whom we’re spending most of our time are beginning to have a negative influence on us and are taking us further from the Lord, then it’s time to step away from those relationships. This doesn’t mean that we’re shutting them out and turning up our nose at them in a self-righteous attitude. It does mean recognizing that for our own salvation, we may need to distance ourselves from negative influences while still praying for those friends and their salvation.

You will become like the people with whom you surround yourself.

If you surround yourself with people who mock righteousness and holiness and resist the things of God, then you’ll drift further away from Him. If you surround yourself with Godly, God-first, and God-only people, then you’ll be able to grow in your relationship with God, loving and longing only for the things that please Him.

The world is intoxicated and diseased with sin. It’s dying, and it’s pulling so many lost souls into eternal suffering.

But when we live for Jesus and resist the world, we tell people that there is so much more to life than worldly pleasures and living for ourselves.

Temporal pleasures are, of course, fleeting. They don’t last. But the love of Jesus within us gives us lasting joy, contagious joy that spreads and overcomes the allure of this world.

When we live boldly for Jesus in this world and love Him more than the things of the world, we’re sending His message of hope to the lost that sin and death no longer have power over us when we surrender to Jesus Christ.

3 Ways to Maintain Our Spiritual Health

Chainmail, Soldier, Spiritual Battle, Protection

No one likes their flaws exposed. We wrap ourselves in armor to protect our egos, but are we wrapping ourselves in the armor of God to protect our souls?

“You don’t want people seeing the chinks in your armor,” I wrote in a creative nonfiction class last year. “Chinks. What does that mean? A weak point, a place of vulnerability, an opening for an attack from the enemy. A minor flaw, so says the online dictionary, or weakness in a plate of armor. A detrimental flaw. A special flaw. There’s an interesting phrase. A special flaw. It’s a special point of weakness that directs the enemy where to attack an otherwise invulnerable person. Are you invulnerable?”

Vulnerability is something of which many of us afraid. After all, who welcomes an attack from the enemy with open arms? We don’t want to be vulnerable, but sometimes, we allow ourselves to become vulnerable when we do not take care of our spiritual well-being. One missing or weak link can be deadly.

In a history class on the Spanish Conquest in 2019, I held a coat of chainmail as my professor lectured on the weapons of the Conquest. It was a small section of a coat of chainmail—about a 12-inch square. Remembering my professor’s lecture, I later described in my essay for a creative nonfiction class how the Europeans manufactured the chainmail while they rested between battles: “A blacksmith would take thousands of tiny metal or steel rings and carefully interlink them by hand. A single coat of chainmail could take months to finish if a skilled blacksmith worked 10-hour days.” If the blacksmith didn’t do his job correctly, it could spell death for the unlucky soldier wearing the flawed coat of chainmail. I became so fascinated with the concept of the process of creating a coat of chainmail that I reflected on its significance—and spiritual parallels—even more in my own writing.

“You imagine the misery of knitting steel for a living in 90-degree weather with 60-percent humidity in the Yucatan Peninsula,” I wrote, “trying to get a piece of chainmail done for a hotshot conquistador so he’s a little more likely to survive the arrows or stabbing spears of the Mayans than the footman who came over for gold and glory with only a helmet and a crossbow….You imagine the fever of smallpox getting to you while linking those steel rings and skipping a section right where the coat will slip over the conquistador’s left shoulder. If the Maya or Aztec crossbowmen spot the opening, the glory-seeking conquistador won’t last long. One small missing chink in his armor, and the obsidian arrow blade will tear through the chainmail as though it were linen instead of steel. A special weakness.”

At this point, you may be wondering why I’m going on about the history of developing chainmail in the Spanish Conquest and including excerpts from my own writing. As a deeply private person, vulnerability has always been a relevant topic to me. Those of us who like to keep things close to the chest tend to guard ourselves with more caution. But there are times when we may all be guilty of caring more about preserving our pride than protecting ourselves from spiritual attacks.

When we’re not prepared and protected, we give the enemy an opportunity to attack. There are at least 3 things we can do to ensure our chainmail is not missing any links:

1.) Stay prayed up.
2.) Stay well-read.
3.) Stay clothed in the armor of God.

(11) “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
(12) For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
(13) Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
~Ephesians 6:11-13 (KJV)

Do we have on the helmet of salvation? Are we carrying the sword of the Spirit? How’s our daily Bible reading? Are we keeping up a daily prayer life?

The armor of God is necessary for our spiritual protection. We are warriors in the Lord’s army, and our battles are spiritual. Just as soldiers must keep their armor in its best condition to protect themselves from harm, so must we keep our armor in its best condition through daily prayer & Bible reading. This also requires frequent checkups of our armor to ensure we’re not missing a crucial piece.

If we aren’t maintaining our spiritual armor, then we are allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks due to our own laziness or carelessness. Without a helmet on, we expose our minds to sinful thoughts. If our shield of faith is missing, then we expose ourselves to the enemy’s arrows.

Proper preparation and protection will help us repel the enemy’s attacks.

Though God is always with us to win the victory, we cannot use His protection as an excuse to be careless with the upkeep of our spiritual well-being.

We may labor under harsh conditions as the blacksmith labored in the Spanish Conquest to develop a flawless coat of chainmail, but our labor is not in vain when we approach our work with purpose and dedication.

We labor in the Kingdom, we pray, and we study the Word so that we can withstand the attack of the enemy, so that there are no chinks in our spiritual armor, so that there are no missing links in our coat of chainmail.

One missing link can be deadly.

So, examine yourself each day and ask this question:

Are you vulnerable?