2 Priorities for 2023

2023 is a week away, and I’m already thinking about personal challenges and goals for next year.

At the beginning of every year, many people make what we call “resolutions” that usually involve getting healthier or making more time for important things like family time or projects around the house. Many make spiritual goals as well, such as reading the Bible or fasting more. Of course, all of these goals are great, but we often get distracted by mid-year and abandon those resolutions. The older I get, the more I simplify my life. I’ve got a few small things I’d like to work on in 2023, but the two largest priorities I have and that I believe are essential for us to make every year are 1) spiritual growth and 2) financial security.

Let’s face it – the Christmas season is stressful mostly because many of us have maxed out credit cards or overspent our paychecks trying to buy presents for friends and family. And there are often other expenses that come due this time of year that add to the stress. Money seems to be on the brain more than the reason why we celebrate Christmas. Stressing over our finances takes the joy of Christmas away when instead of seeing the joy on your loved one’s face when they open their gift, all you see are dollar signs.

And it’s also true that when we’re busy with life, we can often neglect our spiritual health and relationship with God.

I made one major goal for myself in 2022 and that was to study the Word more in-depth and get closer to God, and having done so throughout this year has reminded me of the importance of properly ordering your priorities. It all comes down to stewardship. How well am I managing what God has given me? Am I saving money? Am I investing in the Kingdom both financially and spiritually? We should be able to look back over our life at the end of each year and see how God has drawn us closer to Him over the past several months. And we should be able to look to our future every year knowing that the present choices we’re making are to ensure future financial security.

Yes, God will always provide for our needs, but He wants us to be wise with our money – it all belongs to Him, after all. We have the responsibility to invest financially in our future for our own sakes and for our family’s.

“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”

1 Timothy 5:8 KJV

In order for us to be able to provide for our families and be able to give to the Kingdom, we have to start making wise financial decisions now. If you’re young, that might look like going to trade school or college and pursuing a stable career. If you’re a bit older, it might look like investing in your kids’ future needs over yours or their present wants. For all of us, making wise financial decisions involves having a good work ethic so we can earn raises and promotions, saying “no” to our flesh when we want to buy something completely unnecessary and ridiculously expensive, saving money consistently, avoiding charging everything to credit cards, and cutting out little unnecessary expenses that add up over the year (like weekly Starbucks runs or fast food for lunch every day). Regardless of where you’re at in life, it is never too late or early to start saving, spending wisely, investing in your future, and investing in the Kingdom.

If you take care of your relationship with God each year and make wise financial decisions, He will take care of you. Rest assured, your future will be secure, and everything else (where you’ll live, who you’ll marry, when you’ll get married, where you’ll be in five years, etc.) will fall into place according to God’s timing and perfect will.

In 2023, let’s focus on God and wise investments and see how He continues to pour out His blessings upon His people as we pursue Him more and spread this Gospel to the people around us. May the Light of Jesus shine so bright in us that it snuffs out the darkness and ignites our communities and families with the Holy Ghost!

*****

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my Breathe Pray Repeat readers! I pray these posts have blessed and encouraged you this year. This will be the last BPR post until February as I’ll be taking a break in January to focus on some themes and direction for this blog in 2023.

See y’all in the new year! God Bless!

~Caitlin

How to Be Thankful in Seasons of Loss, Pain, and Waiting

Being thankful isn’t always easy.

Most of us have lost loved ones or lost relationships once very valuable to us. Many have suffered financial hardship or emotional or physical pain. And there are those who are in a season of waiting for an answered prayer or who may be going through a spiritual valley. It’s hard to feel thankful sometimes when everything seems to be falling apart. When our thoughts and feelings dwell on our circumstances and on what seems impossible, we can lose a spirit of thankfulness. So, how do we maintain it or get it back?

Praise.

What is thanksgiving, after all? It is the expression of gratitude and showing appreciation. And what is praise? Showing admiration or great approval. When we offer praise to God, we tend to move into a spirit of thanksgiving. We praise Him for what He’s done. We praise Him for who He is. Praise and worship are the keys to maintaining a spirit of thanksgiving.

Job lost everything but still declared, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15a KJV). Job’s children were killed, and yet he could still bless the name of the Lord (see Job 1). In his season of loss, Job recognized the sovereignty of God.

When you focus on who God is instead of your circumstances, you will find that praise comes naturally. How can we not praise God for all He’s done, for who He is? Because no matter what we may go through, nothing changes that He is worthy, that He is faithful, that He loves us, and that He is good.

Our circumstances change; He does not. He remains.

There have been moments in my life in which I lost so much. Perhaps like many of you, I’ve lost loved ones and relationships. And I’ve dealt with anger, hurt, sadness, loneliness, and all the various emotions that accompany seasons of grief, depression, and waiting. The words “just be thankful for what you have” are not easy to hear or adapt to your life when you can hardly get out of bed in the morning and when grief muddles your thoughts and leaves you feeling sicker by the day. But as someone who’s gone through some of those seasons, I promise you that turning your focus from what you’re going through to who God is will bring some joy back into your life. It will allow you to feel more thankful because you’re no longer putting your focus on the natural but on the supernatural. You’re no longer putting your focus on the impossible but on the one who makes things possible.

And God is always a good God, no matter how trying times become. He’s never left me, and He never will.

I recently came across a song (linked here) that speaks so much to experiences I’ve had, and it demonstrates the faithfulness of God. Just look at the verses below:

“I have seen a lot of things, and I’ve been a lot of places. I’ve seen people come and go. I’ve been through a lot of changes. One thing I can always say, You’ve been here every step of the way. I have heard a lot said and sometimes believed the wrong things. I’ve made choices I regret, and I’ve doubted Your mercy. One thing I can always say, You’ve been here every step of the way. After all these years, You’re still good to me.”

After everything I’ve been through, God is still with me. After the things we’ve all endured these past few years, God is still present with us. When we remind ourselves of how good He is every day, we can maintain a spirit of praise and thanksgiving even through hard times.

The circumstances in your life may seem to grow worse or more complicated year after year, but hold to the promises in His Word. He will never leave us, He will never fail, He works all things for our good, His promises are “yes” and “amen,” He will provide for all our needs, and His mercies are new every morning.

We have much to be thankful for.

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, And into his courts with praise: Be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; And his truth endureth to all generations.”

Psalms 100:4-5 KJV

A Tale of Four Teens: How Committed to Christ Are You?

The youth respond in an altar call at a youth rally at the Apostolic New Testament Church in Mount Vernon, MO. (Photo courtesy of the Apostolic New Testament Church Facebook page.)

How much do you want to live for the Lord, really?

There’s a group of 4 teens. We’ll call them Jane, Mary, Mark, and Joe.

Jane and Mary come into the church as young women. Jane goes all in. She studies the Word. She’s engaged in every church service, but Jane doesn’t just keep it to herself. She takes the Word with her and starts reaching her friends. She connects with the people at church, and the longer Jane attends, the more she seeks after God at home. Jane gives God her all, and she reaches her full potential in Christ, living for Him and making an impact on those around her to grow the Kingdom. Mary chooses to keep a door open to the influence of the world. She doesn’t close every door to her past. And because Mary keeps that door open, she doesn’t receive a full understanding of what it means to live for Jesus. After a few months, she leaves church altogether and goes back to the world.

Mark and Joe were both raised in church. As Mark grows up in church, he falls in love with the Word, developing a walk with God from a young age. He seeks after God every day. He dives deeper in Bible studying and fasting. He tells others about Christ. He gets involved in ministry. Because Mark stays connected to the body and grows closer to God as he grows older, he remains steadfast in the faith and in living for God. But Joe takes it all for granted. Sure, he goes to church every week, and sure, he seems to walk the walk and talk the talk, but he opens a door to worldly influences. It’s all in good fun, he thinks. Church becomes just a social club to Joe. He falls in love with the world rather than the Word. And soon, Joe leaves God and church behind, thinking he doesn’t need God anymore.

You might think this is a rather generic, simplified tale of four teens, but I’ve seen each of these scenarios play out with young people in the church. Too many young people or new people in Christ take living for God for granted. Too many take His mercy for granted.

Oh, God loves me anyway, they think, so I can just do whatever I want.

They seek instant gratification over self-sanctification. They seek worldliness over holiness.

But we must seek God while we can, especially when we are young, be it young in age or young in Christ. Don’t wait until you are older to take God seriously.

I wish I had read the Word more fervently when I was a teenager. I wish I had prayed more earnestly then.

Young person, study the Word every day. And I mean, study it. Don’t just read a few verses of Psalms at the beginning or end of the day, mark it off your Bible reading chart, and call it good. Invest your time in the Word. Read a chapter and then write down what it means. What is God saying to you through His Word? How can you apply it to your life? Likewise, don’t just say a few words of prayer and then be done with it for the day. Seek Him in the morning. Set time aside later in the day as well to spend more time with Him. Don’t rush through your prayer time. It takes time to develop a relationship with Him.

Get involved in your church. Use your social media page to promote church and living for God. Tell your friends about the Gospel. Vest yourself to the Kingdom of God. Make Jesus and the Kingdom your priority in life now while you are young.

I’ve seen too many teenagers come into church and leave the door open to past influences or get offended and return to the world. They go back to the world more devoted to sinful lifestyles than before. I’ve seen too many young people who were raised in church never really take it that seriously or become personally involved in a relationship with Christ and with the church, and at the first real struggle in life, they abandon God and the body of Christ. And they turn to the world, allowing drugs, bitterness, and impurity to consume them.

Don’t take living for God for granted. God didn’t put you on this planet to waste your life away on frivolous pursuits. God comes first. Reaching the lost should be your top priority. Getting closer to Him should be your daily focus.

Every so often, we all need to do a heart alignment check. What am I focusing on most? How often am I spending time with God? Have I been applying His Word to my life? Have I been invested in every service or distracted? Am I vested to the cause of Christ?

Being vested means to have a right of ownership that is not conditional. We must not be just invested in living for God and reaching the lost, but we must take ownership of our part in His Kingdom. We must fully commit to and take responsibility for the role we have, living wholeheartedly for Jesus and giving up ourselves to bring more souls to salvation.

There’s a song by Gas Street Music (linked here) that goes, “Every idol, hit the ground/Cause there’s only space for Jesus/When He clears the temple out/So turn the tables upside down/This is my surrender/Only one King to be crowned.” Make God the center of your daily life.

How much do you want to live for the Lord, really?

Jesus is calling you to a closer, deeper walk with Him. Will you answer?

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

Revelation 3:20 KJV

On Anger and Forgiveness

They hurt you.

Maybe they meant to. But it’s hard to move on and forgive when they seem to forget all about you. Or maybe they didn’t mean to, but it doesn’t matter. You can’t forget. And so you remember, and you seethe, and you stew, hoping someday they’ll get what’s coming to them. And the years pass on your anger, but nothing seems to change. Their life moves on, and you find yours does, too. And all that’s left is the semblance of anger turned to indifference.

Yes, they hurt you, but who cares about them, anyway? They’ll pay. Indifference turns to pride, pride to arrogance, arrogance to vengeance.

But vengeance only belongs to the Lord.

I’ve learned a lot over the past few years about forgiveness.

When I was going through a struggle and believed someone had wronged me, I wanted vengeance. I wanted to see them crumble. My circumstance made me believe they were my enemy, and how could I hope that anything good could happen for them? How could I want them to be successful? How could I want anything but destruction for them?

Well, I was wrong.

Let go and let God. It’s a cliché these days, but it’s exactly what you need to do when you believe someone has wronged you. Maybe they did. Maybe they really hurt you, but for your sake, you have to forgive and let God take care of it. It isn’t a matter of, “well, what if they don’t get punished?” If a wrong has truly been committed, rest assured, God will take care of it either now or on judgment day. But you should hope that that person gets right and is forgiven for what they’ve done because you shouldn’t want anyone to have to suffer for eternity.

They’re only human, after all. Like you. How many mistakes have you made in your life? And how many times have you asked God to forgive you? And yet you want to hold a mistake over another’s head?

Forgive them.

Jesus taught Peter what forgiveness really is about in Matthew 18.

“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”

Matthew 18:21-22 KJV

Of course, Jesus did not mean for Peter or anyone to literally count up to 490 until they could stop forgiving a person for wrongdoing. It’s not about the numbers or keeping track. It’s about always having a spirit of forgiveness.

“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:”

Ephesians 4:26 KJV

Anger is not sinful in itself, and it is okay to be upset when someone wrongs you, but holding onto hurt and anger leads to bitterness.

I had a conversation once with someone about an offence that was believed to have taken place. This person told me they had begun to pray for the one who had allegedly committed the offence and that they had told another confidant about it. They relayed to me that the confidant had allegedly asked them, “Why would you pray for them to be blessed? They’re your enemy.”

Whether this was truly said or not, it was the wrong sentiment about such a situation. You shouldn’t want anyone to have to suffer or possibly spend eternity in hell. When someone hurts you, pray for them. If they’ve truly done wrong, pray that God changes them and that they receive His forgiveness for what they’ve done.

“But I say unto you which I hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”

Luke 6:27-28 KJV

This passage in Luke 6 and the subsequent verses are a great study on the spirit of forgiveness. It takes strength to truly forgive someone who has hurt you, but the more you do it, the more Christlike you will become. The more you forgive, the more your love for people will grow. You’ll begin to understand people better. You’ll begin to truly care about people more. We are to be merciful as He is merciful (see Luke 6:36). When someone hurts you, give yourself time to sort through your anger maturely and privately, and then forgive.

Love people even when it’s hard. Let God change their heart and yours. Let God handle the offence. And let the matter go.

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice. And be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Ephesians 4:31-32 KJV

“Before You Curse the Rain” and Other Poems by Camrie Houck

Before You Curse the Rain

Before you curse the rain for daring to
visit,
The raindrop for plopping onto your head,
Remember,
Every drop that descends from the sky,
often to your dread,
Is a reminder of every promise of God.
Just like every raindrop waters the grass,
Bringing forth the springtime bud,
So is every promise.
A word of God descending, falling, and watering.
And in due time, it too will bring forth the new bud of
the old promise.

Closer to the Cross

With every stride, I want to be closer to the cross.

Life isn’t perfect, sometimes far from it.

I don’t want to be number one; I don’t want to be boss.

I’m not perfect, but I’m not about to quit.

 

Life isn’t perfect, sometimes far from it.

My spirit is willing, my flesh is carried off by every whim.

I’m not perfect, but I’m not about to quit.

Less of me, more of Him.

 

My spirit is willing, my flesh is carried off by every whim.

I’m disciplining myself with fierce focus.

Less of me, more of Him.

Fear and the devil have the world all hocus-pocus.

 

I’m disciplining myself with fierce focus.

Losing our version of fun, it’s no loss.

Fear and the devil have the world all hocus-pocus.

With every stride, I want to be closer to the cross.

The Best Decision I’ve Ever Made

Falling in love with Jesus, the best decision I’ve ever made.

Sunshine and rainbows, it’s not.

It’s a bright spot in this world through which we must wade

With sacrifice and blood, it was bought.

 

Sunshine and rainbows, it’s not.

It’s peace in the midst of a violent storm

With sacrifice and blood, it was bought,

Desiring to be close to him and in my proper form.

 

Its peace in the midst of a violent storm,

Crashing waves, rolling squall lines, still Jesus has not left my boat.

Desiring to be close to him and in my proper form,

Reading and Praying, this time not by rote.

 

Crashing waves, rolling squall lines, still Jesus has not left my boat.

I’m not doing this for some more achievement; it’s not for a grade.

Reading and Praying, this time not by rote.

Falling in love with Jesus, the best decision I’ve ever made.

*****

Today’s guest post was written by the wonderfully talented Camrie Houck. Be sure to check out her past guest post on BPR here! You can also follow along with her writing on her Instagram blog @camrie_writes!

What Does “Jesus Over Everything” Mean?

“Jesus over everything,” you say as you forget to spend time with Him that day.

You say you put Him first, but you spend half the day without a word in prayer. Then, you pray, but you’re distracted.

What is it that’s consumed your attention? Your Instagram account? Tik Tok? The news? Or perhaps it’s the load of laundry you still need to put on? Maybe it’s the garage that needs cleaned out, or the yard that needs mowing, or the half a dozen other projects you still have left to do.

So, what then, does Jesus over everything mean to you? Does it mean Jesus over everything, except your “me time?” Does it mean Jesus over everything, except your house chores? Does it mean Jesus over everything, except your job or your family? What do you think everything means? Oxford defines it as “all things; every single thing.”

That’s what it takes to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. Putting Him above all things, above every single thing in your life.

The rich man left Jesus in sorrow because he couldn’t put Jesus above his riches (see Matthew 19:16-24).

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

Mark 8:36 KJV

Others couldn’t put Him above their family.

“And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:59-62 KJV

So what can’t you put aside to follow Jesus? What is keeping you from giving Him everything?

If you want to get closer to Jesus, He must come first. His Kingdom must be your number one priority in life.

He created you to worship Him and reach the lost. Other things in this life are important, yes, but He has promised to supply all your needs. If you want to follow Him, you must trust Him to take care of you. If you want to follow Him, you must give Him your sacrifice of time and sacrifice of praise.

He must matter more to you than earthly gain. To see His face in glory, Jesus must stand first in your life over everything.

Until then, all your words and efforts are in vain and your promises empty.

Is “Jesus over everything” a daily declaration to you? Or is it an empty phrase you use to fool yourself into thinking you put Jesus first while you really serve the world or yourself?

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Joshua 24:15 KJV

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: Try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.”

Psalm 139:23-24 KJV

4 Tips to Thrive in God’s Kingdom: Notes from Missouri Youth Camp

Photo cred: MO Youth Facebook page

Missouri Youth Camp ended last week, but I’m still thinking about the powerful services we had. In every service, there was a heavy spirit of expectancy, depth in every message, and an outpouring of the Holy Ghost in every altar call. It was without a doubt one of the most incredible weeks I have experienced. Mike McGurk, the morning speaker, taught one message in particular that detailed a few tips that, if applied, can help each person (and each young person, especially) truly thrive in the kingdom of God. For today’s post, we’re going to go over these tips again.

1. Transparency

Don’t keep the things you’re struggling with to yourself. This one’s actually hard for those like me who prefer to “suffer in silence.” It’s the noble, mature, strong thing to do, we tell ourselves. But actually, keeping deep struggles to yourself makes you more vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks and makes it harder to overcome those struggles.

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”

Proverbs 28:13 (KJV)

Talking to a trusted spiritual leader, such as your pastor or youth pastor, about something you’re struggling with gives you a source of support and guidance. Openness and honesty are underrated qualities in any relationship. How are you to develop a working relationship of trust and transparency with your leaders or even colleagues or friends if you do not let them in if something is going wrong? The more you keep things to yourself, the more time you give to the devil to mess with your mind and bring confusion.

Bro. Mike McGurk spoke of self-destruction. If you keep things to yourself, then the lies of the devil can cause you to break down and self-destruct. There is strength in going to a trusted spiritual leader like your pastor with your personal struggles with sin or an emotional or spiritual issue.

You do not have to be perfect, for as we know, there is none perfect save for God.

We are incapable of perfection, and your pastor knows this. Because of our human nature and constant struggles with our flesh, we will always need encouragement, correction, independence, and guidance. We need encouragement for our self-esteem, correction to overcome our weakness and mistakes, independence to allow us to make our own decisions, and guidance to lead us in the right direction.

“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (KJV)

You’ve heard the saying that no person is an island. Learn to be transparent and trust your pastor to help you and pray for you when you’re struggling.

2. Influence

Be careful with the people and things that you allow to influence your thoughts, feelings, and actions. You’re heard “love the sinner, hate the sin” and the fact that Jesus ate with the sinners and publicans. This is true. However, Jesus called us to be separate from this world.

As another common saying goes, we are in the world but should not be of the world, meaning that while we are in the world, we should do the things we must to survive, build relationship, families, careers, etcetera, but we should not conform to the lifestyles and beliefs of the world. Bro. McGurk explained in his message that when it comes to those you may be around at work or at school who live like the world, you should love them and eat with them, but do not live like them or let them influence how you live. For example, if you’re out to lunch with your coworkers, but they talk about going out later to drink and party, don’t let their lifestyle choices influence yours. The sign of a confident Apostolic Christian is one who influences their friends and coworkers and draws them toward God, not one whose friends and coworkers draw them away from God.

There is one saying my Bishop used to teach about that some might take issue with, but I’ll mention it here and then explain: if you can’t change your friends, change your friends.

If the people you hang around are becoming negative influences in your life, then you should not spend time around them anymore. For example, if you have a teenage son and he starts hanging around kids who do drugs behind the school every day, you would want your son to stop hanging around those kids. That doesn’t mean he should be rude to them, condemn them, yell at them, or throw the Bible at them. It does mean he should set healthy boundaries in his life so that he can maintain a strong walk with God and show others that he is committed to living for God and not like the world. Having strong principles, convictions, and morals is a good thing, not something anyone should be ashamed of.

Lot allowed his surroundings to influence him, and it led to his wife’s demise.

“And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.”

Genesis 13:10-13 (KJV)

The appearance of the land was pleasing to Lot, and so he allowed what pleased his eyes to influence his actions. He pitched his tent toward a place that was filled with wickedness. Much can be said and written just from this account in Genesis (and indeed much already has), but just six chapters later, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with Lot barely escaping with his daughters. His wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. Most of us know this story, but its message will forever ring true.

Want to know the direction your life is taking? Look at the things you allow to influence you.

The problem with influence is appetite. What you consume is what you put on display through your words, actions, and thoughts. In order to walk with God, you must change your appetite so that the things of the world – entertainment, personalities, trends, money, attention, etcetera – no longer influence you.

3. Pursuit

If you pursue God and allow the things of God to influence you, then you will thrive in His Kingdom. This point goes back to the previous point about influence. Your life will go in the direction of the things you pursue. If you pursue fame and attention and money, then your life will be filled with self-absorption and materialism. Pursuing God means putting God and a godly lifestyle above everything else.

You should get a job. You should make an income. You should try to have and raise a godly family, but those things become idols when you pursue them above God. So, how do you pursue God?

Read the Word. After all, the Word is God (see John 1:1). The Bible is His Living Word, and if we want to get to know Him more, we should read it every day. Don’t just read it, though. Study the Word. Pray the Word. And while you read the Word, journal. I have a journal set aside for Bible journaling, and when I open up the Word to begin my study time, I have the journal in one hand and the Bible in the other to write down thoughts, revelations, or specific verses while I’m reading. This is a pretty common and simple concept, but it is vital to understanding His Word more and committing key scriptures and biblical principles to memory.

When you pursue God, He will open up His Word to you and welcome you into a deeper relationship with Him.

“Draw night to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”

James 4:8 (KJV)

4. Purpose

“Your hands need to be so full of purpose that you have no room to reach for anything else.”

Mike McGurk

We exist to worship our Creator, have a relationship with Him, and reach the lost. When we make living for God and growing His kingdom our purpose and top priority in life, then we will be too busy to become enamored with the distractions of the world. We will struggle with our flesh every day, but there are things we can do to become purpose-driven in the kingdom.

Be involved in your church. Help with the media team. Be part of the music team. Teach Sunday or Wednesday school. Clean the church. Contribute to your church’s social media page by taking pictures. Help in the kitchen. Go to outreach functions. Invite your friends and coworkers to church and special events. Go to special events yourself rather than skipping them because it’s your Friday night. Teach Bible studies. (Lord knows, we should all be doing more, especially on that last one, including yours truly.)

Whatever it is, be active in your church and be active in the kingdom of God. We find our identity in Christ, and when we make His mission ours, then our purpose will become clear.

Each of these four concepts is essential to thriving and growing in God’s kingdom. So, in order for you to apply these to your life, here are some questions you might ask:

  • Out of these four points (transparency, influence, pursuit, purpose), is there one or more that are lacking in my life?
  • What am I doing or what can I do to address this issue?

2 Principles of Spiritual Growth

Where do we grow from here?

This was the title of Rev. Victor Jackson’s Friday night message at Missouri Youth Convention a couple of weeks ago. At every youth convention, congress, or camp, there are always powerful messages from anointed preachers. Through each message, God ministers, and He moves. But there is always at least one message in particular that stands out. Everyone has their own “favorite” message that spoke to them in particular. Well, ever since the Friday night service of Missouri Youth Convention, I’ve been thinking about Bro. Jackson’s message on growth.

Growth has been a topic I’ve thought about often over the years as God has helped me navigate various life struggles and situations. So, for today’s post (which I know was supposed to go live yesterday—my apologies for the delay!), I wanted to share with you an extension of some of my notes from the message “Where Do We Grow From Here,” highlighting two principles of spiritual growth. Also, I do share post updates and topic ideas on my Instagram, so please be sure to go ahead and follow me there if you aren’t already so that you can find out when posts may be delayed or about upcoming topics. (You can find my Instagram account by clicking here.)

Without further delay, here are two principles of spiritual growth.

1. Don’t make a small start your identity.

Everybody’s gotta start somewhere, right? Whether it’s in your ministry or personal relationship with God, you must begin small. In order to grow your prayer life, for example, you may begin by praying 15 minutes a day consistently and extending that over time. As Victor Jackson said, however, “It is a blessing to begin small. It is a curse to end small.”

We should all start out at small beginnings, but that isn’t where we should end up.

“If you’re not growing, you’re living outside of God’s purpose for your life.”

Victor Jackson

We are meant to be producing spiritual fruit. An apple tree will not produce apples if it stays in the state of a small seed or the size of a twig. When we grow, we become stronger and produce spiritual fruit. The righteous man experiences spiritual growth like what the beginning of Psalms describes when comparing the godly versus the ungodly:

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Psalms 1:3 (KJV)

2. Don’t put limits on your elevation.

People often limit how you can grow. As soon as God starts using you more and growing your ministry, there are people who judge you. They place limits on how much a person can grow in his or her walk with God. We may even fall privy to the idea that we should only grow to a certain extent and no further so as to prevent others from believing we’re trying to make everything about ourselves or to try to prevent ourselves from becoming prideful. So, we stay small and claim it’s out of humility.

Humility is an essential attribute of a true Christian character, but Bro. Jackson pointed out that we are not meant to use our humility as an excuse to remain small and refuse to grow into what God wants us to be.

“Humility is not a destination; it is an attitude,” he explained. “If you don’t want to grow, your humility in remaining small just became disobedience. Obedience is a pathway. You’re supposed to be going and growing. Get to growing and knowing this is what the kingdom is.”

Indeed, spiritual growth is about letting God use you more in the ways that He wants to so that His Kingdom can grow through each of our efforts. That’s why we should teach more Bible studies, pray more, fast more, become more involved in ministry, and do all that He asks us to do. As we mature in Christ and grow, we become more well-rounded Christians and more effective in ministry and in the Kingdom.

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:5-8 (KJV)

Follow after God’s direction in your life, and you will grow. Spiritual growth is stunted when you stop putting effort into your ministry and walk with God. A lack of effort leads to a lack of growth, and a lack of growth leads to spiritual death.

“You were destined to grow. You were destined to go beyond.”

Victor Jackson

We must always be striving to do more for the Kingdom, more for God, more for others, more in our ministry, and more than we’ve done yesterday and ever before in order to reach this lost world and get closer to Jesus. We cannot forsake the importance of growing in every aspect of our lives.

We were destined to grow.

How to Study the Word More Thoroughly: The Re-Reading Method

Hey, BPR readers! As you’re reading this (that is, if you’re reading this on Friday, April 15, 2022), I am at Missouri Youth Convention with our church youth group where young people across the state of Missouri are worshipping God together, receiving the Holy Ghost, and hearing anointed messages from the Lord for their lives.  As such, today’s post is a bit simpler, but I hope you find it helpful!

Today, we’ll be diving into one Bible study method I’ve been using that’s helped me study the Word more thoroughly. One of our associate pastors at my church once mentioned the phrase “digging for diamonds” when mentioning Bible studying and how we ought to dig deep and truly search the Scriptures for understanding if we’re going to know the Word and draw closer to God.

I dubbed this Bible study method the “re-reading method.”

Read, then re-read, then re-read, and then re-read again.

That’s right. It seems like a pretty basic Bible study method. Just read the Word, right? Well, there’s a lot more to it than that. Last year, I read the Bible through, but I’ve always found it difficult to truly study the Word when I’m just trying to get through a certain number of chapters in a day so I can meet my goal.

So, this year, I’ve been reading through Romans, and I’m on my 3rd go-round now. The re-reading method involves at least 5 steps, but you can alter this to suit your style.

1) Read the book you’re focusing on straight through.

Yes, the first step is really that simple. Set a daily reading goal and read the book through within a week or a month.

2) Start from the beginning again, taking brief notes along the way this time.

The notes can be as simple as rephrasing a key verse in your own words that you want to highlight, jotting down a recurring theme or purpose, or noting how you can apply a verse to your life.

For example, when I went through Romans chapter 6 for the second time, I took these quick notes as I read verses 15-23: “Grace compels us to righteousness. The more God gives us grace and mercy, the more we want to live righteously for Him. As we grow in righteousness, it leads us to a greater desire to reflect His glory and Christ-like character.”

3) On the third read-through, take more time with each section of every chapter.

Write more thorough notes about what is going on in the chapter and how it relates to other verses, chapters, and concepts. I recommend using a concordance or the Apostolic Study Bible for this step as the footnotes and cross-references are great resources to study the Word more thoroughly.

When I read Romans chapter 6 for the third time, I took more detailed notes, referring to the footnotes in my study Bible for more information on the concepts of being dead to sin and living righteously.

4) On this read-through, study a collection of verses a day, whether it’s 4-8, and break down each verse.

I like to call this the word study. It’s a study of certain words that might stick out to you, for which you’ll need a Strong’s concordance or Bible dictionary to get to the root meaning of each word. On this step, you might write down how the original text’s definitions enrich and deepen our understanding of Scripture. By now, your notes will begin to build off each other from the previous read-throughs, resulting in a more layered Bible study approach.

5) Read through the book again using a related daily devotional or study book.

The final step in the re-reading method is optional, but it involves re-reading the book again but with a corresponding devotional or study book on the specific book you’re reading.

For example, I have a devotional from The Daily Grace Co on the book of Colossians that I’ve used to answer prompts about the verses as I read through the chapters. Reading someone else’s study of a particular book or passage in the Bible and using the prompts they give you can help you think more critically as you ponder how to respond to a prompt about applying a verse or concept to your daily life.

By the time you’ve finished with this method of Bible studying, you’ll have re-read the same book several times in a row, digging deeper into the Word each time and hopefully gaining a greater understanding of what God is telling us through His Word. If we are going to draw nearer to God and become who He wants us to be, we must study the Word – not merely read it each day to check off a box on a to-do list but really, truly, earnestly study the Word and search the Scriptures.

After all, Jesus is calling us to a deeper relationship with Him.

“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”

Psalm 119:11 (KJV)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)

5 of My Favorite Things

Head on over to my Instagram (@caitlinhale_bpr) for more Christian lifestyle and modest fashion content!

It’s Friday, it’s almost spring, and in southwest Missouri, we’re having the last night of our annual camp meeting services tonight, so today’s post is going to be a fun one! 

If you all like this post, I may be posting a few more fun ones throughout the year. Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next BPR post on March 4th where we’ll be talking about perfectionism, mistakes, and the background of my creative post from last time!

People often ask each other questions from what I like to call “The Favorites Game.” What’s your favorite song? What’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? It can get monotonous at times — especially when you’re an introvert and you have to try to think of your answers quickly in order not to look like an idiot in front of your history class on the first day. Case in point:

Mrs. Teacher clasps her hands together and asks, “So, Caitlin, what’s your favorite color?”

“Uh…” I say, scratching my head. 

“Yes?”

“Cheese.”

“Cheese?” Mrs. Teacher takes her glasses off. 

“Yeah.”

“You mean yellow?”

“Yellow?” Now, I’m confused. “That’s not a pizza topping. Yellow what?” Bell peppers maybe?

“Pizza topping? We’re on colors now.” 

“I thought we were on pizza toppings.”

“But that’s not even on our questions list.” She flips through the pages on her clipboard. “Where did you—?”

“Chocolate.”

“Chocolate isn’t a color! Well, it could be…” She pushes her glasses back up the bridge of her nose, glancing over her notes.

“Oh, are we not on ice cream flavors now?”

“No, no,” she says, rubbing her forehead with two fingers, still clutching her pen in hand, “we’re still on colors.”

“Oh.”

“Now, Caitlin. I’ll ask you again. What is your favorite color?”

“Uh….” Beads of sweat begin to trickle down my hairline. 

“Yes?”

“Hmmm.” Could she be staring at me any harder? 

“Go on,” she says, leaning over her desk, with a bit of a break in her voice that suggests she’s either about to cry or lunge over her desk and strangle me. 

“I…don’t think I have one.”

Mrs. Teacher throws up her clipboard, ripping her glasses off again. 

The above example may be fictional, but suffice it to say, The Favorites Game was a nerve-wracking game to play in person when I was in school, and I much prefer it in an online forum! Below are five of my favorite Christian-related things. Read through the list and think about what your answers would be!

1. Who is your favorite person in the Bible (other than Jesus)?

I know. This is a hard first question. 

There are so many great people written about in the Bible that’s it’s hard to choose just one, but I’m going to go with Esther.

She risked her life for her people, and her story is an example of a true, godly woman. What’s the thing the young kids say these days? “Go, Queen?” Well, it so applies to Queen Esther!

2. What is your favorite Christian music genre?

Worship. 

Yes, that sounds vague. But I’m not talking about contemporary, radio music, Christian rock or rap, or sleepy, lullaby songs.

I’m talking old-fashioned, hair-pin flying, shoe-kicking, tie-swinging WORSHIP songs where all you want to do is throw up your hands and surrender everything to God. The kind of music that makes you want to jump or shout, dance or cry, and just give God the glory. The kind of songs that you don’t care who’s watching you when you sing along and worship our King!

Songs like “I Give You Glory,” “Jesus Said It,” “He Made the Difference,” “Shake The Foundation,” “But God,” and a medley of “I’ve Got It,” “Bless That Wonderful Name,” “He Brought Me Out of the Miry Clay,” and “Joy Unspeakable.” 

(For the record, though, I do love a ton of other Christian songs and genres!)

David danced and worshipped unashamedly before the Lord, and we ought to, too!

3. What is your favorite book or Scripture in the Bible?

This is a two-for-one question. One question, one possible answer to either of the two parts of this question. 

My answer is Psalms and Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (which you can read a post about here). 

4. What is your favorite Christian song?

This one is a bit of an extension of question 2, and it’s also a hard question for me to answer. So, I’m going to go with one of my classic favorites: Eddie James’ “Breakthrough.” 

With scriptural lyrics like “You are the undefeated one/My light and my salvation/When the wicked, my enemies and my foes/Came upon me to eat up my flesh/They stumbled and fell!” and powerful lyrics like “Breakthrough in my weakness/Breakthrough in my struggle/You are the God/You are the God of the/Breakthrough!” this is a classic praise and worship song! Plus, it brings back memories of being out-of-breath on the praise team as we would take off our shoes and jump and shout in worship while singing this song!

He is the God of the breakthrough!

5. What is your favorite Christian-based film?

Amazing Grace is hands down the best Christian-based film ever. You’ve got a historical drama with enough humor, romance, action, legal drama, and history to satisfy, well, anyone! It’s such a stirring, moving film about the true story of William Wilberforce’s part in the movement to end the slave trade in England. Plus, it also features the true story behind the classic hymn “Amazing Grace!”

It’s truly a top-notch film that you can and should watch with your family again and again. Aaand now I may have to go rewatch it soon!

Honorable mention: The Prince of Egypt. Another stirring and beautiful film based on the biblical account of Moses! Love this one, too!

All right, I’ll stop babbling now (insert goofy face emoji here).

If you have any favorites in these categories, let me know what your answers are in the comments!