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)

3 Responses to 1 Question: What Shall I Do With Jesus?

“What shall I do then with Jesus?”

Pontius Pilate asked this question in Matthew 27:22 when the Jews took Jesus to Pilate before they crucified Him. This past Sunday morning, my pastor – Pastor Tony Wyatt of Apostolic New Testament Church in Mount Vernon, Missouri – taught a Bible study about this crucial question. It forces us to make a decision we all must face: how to respond to the reality of Jesus and salvation in His Name.

What will you do with Jesus?

For today’s post, let’s go over three responses to this question from Pastor Wyatt’s fantastic lesson, which you can watch in its entirety by clicking here.

1. Avoid Him

There are people who choose to avoid thinking about Jesus in their lives. These may be people who call themselves agnostic, believing that God may exist, but they choose not to live for Him anyway. And there are people who avoid thinking about Jesus by claiming He doesn’t exist.

Pastor Wyatt described three kinds of people who will not be in Hell: atheists, unbelievers, and make believers. An atheist in Hell is no longer an atheist. Those who did not believe Jesus is God will no longer be an unbeliever. Those who only pretended on earth will no longer be able to pretend in Hell. Once they arrive in Hell, it will be too late to accept that Jesus is real, that He is God, and that they should give their lives to Him.

Those who avoid Jesus may do so because of past hurt or because they don’t want to believe that people will be ultimately judged for their sins, but avoiding the truth does not make it go away or protect you from the consequences of ignoring the truth.

2. Evade Responsibility

Pilate had the responsibility upon him to decide what to do with Jesus, but he wanted to pass it on to someone else. So, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod to let him take care of the situation.

When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilean. And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.

Luke 23:6-7 (KJV)

Pilate tried to evade the responsibility he had by trying to find an easy way out. He had Jesus scourged to try to appease the crowd, and he tried to see if the crowd would let Jesus be released instead of the murderer Barabbas, but on both counts, Pilate’s judgment was wrong (see Matthew 27 and Luke 23). The crowd did not want Jesus to be merely punished. They were seeking to kill Jesus and nothing less.

Just as Pilate tried to shirk his responsibility, we cannot do the same when it comes to our salvation. We cannot rely on someone else’s relationship with God to save us. We are all responsible for our own salvation and our own relationship with Jesus.

“Those who go into eternity without God will have no one to blame but themselves.”

Pastor Tony Wyatt

3. Accept Him

Finally, there are those who accept who Jesus is and answer the call to live for Him. He is our Savior, our Healer, our Restorer, Redeemer – He is our everything!

“If you believe something, you’ll do something about it.”

Pastor Tony Wyatt

The most important question you can ask yourself is “what am I going to do with Jesus?”

Ignore Him? Mock Him? Not believe in Him?

If you believe in Jesus, you’ll choose to serve Him. Those who believe they will spend eternity in either Heaven or Hell will do something about it! And those who choose Jesus have rewards on earth. We are delivered from sin, we become joint heirs with Christ, and we have the promise of eternal life (see Romans 8). We need to fall upon His grace and mercy while we have the opportunity to repent, be baptized in Jesus’ Name, receive the Holy Ghost, and live for Him!

No matter what you may go through, only Jesus can take care of each situation in your life. No matter what you’re facing, Jesus is the answer!

I encourage everyone to listen to the full Bible study (which starts at the 13:00 minute mark) as Pastor Wyatt goes over the history behind Jesus’ arrest and trial and those involved as well as what Jesus endured and why He came. It’s important for us to study and know what Jesus went through for us, how He came and died and rose again so that we could live forever with Him.

Oh, how He loves us!

The Burning Bush Experience and Four Points of Reflections on Exodus 3:1-4: A Guest Post by Dr. Rafael Machuca

Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.

Exodus 3:1-4 (KJV)

1. Stay faithful in the things of God.

As the above passage of scripture opens, we find Moses traveling to the backside of the desert. He was traversing a hot, barren place alone, leaving behind him the comforts of home, companionship, and support. Regardless of his circumstances, Moses continued to faithfully take care of the flock that had been entrusted to him by his father-in-law. He was a support for his family even though it put him in a difficult situation. As he put the care of the flock before his own comfort, he was completely unaware that he would soon be called to lead God’s flock, the children of Israel.

Any time we do work for the church or support the leaders over us, it is important to remember to do it all unto God. It is not unusual to experience situations that make you feel like you are working alone in the desert. Maybe you are the only one showing up for prayer, willing to teach a Bible study, or participating in evangelism. It can be easy to wonder where everyone else is. If your eyes are not on the Lord, the work can become very wearisome in your own eyes. However, when you do it unto God, you can take comfort in knowing that God notices your hard work and determination. He knows exactly where you are and the work you are doing to further His kingdom.

2. God will utilize all parts of your life for His Glory.

The mountain Moses came to was called Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai. Even though Moses had been raised by Egyptians and then spent decades as a fugitive in the desert, God knew that every experience he had and every land he learned to traverse would be beneficial to help lead the children of Israel out of captivity. When God uses us, He does so knowing every past experience will become a skillset to be used in the future.

Do not let yourself believe you have no skills or talents to offer.

God can use your Bible quizzing experience, years of living faithfully, your secular work experience, and even the knowledge born out of learning from mistakes. The key is to give ourselves totally to God so He can use us for His purpose and His glory.

3. God uses your surroundings to get your attention.

A bush burning in the desert would not have been an unusual sight. It would have been easy for Moses to see the fire but shift his focus back on moving the flock away and continuing with his daily tasks.  However, he gave this situation enough attention to realize something was different, and doing so, he witnessed a “great sight.”

God used a seemingly normal occurrence to get Moses’ attention as he was going about his day. What in our surroundings is God trying to use to get our attention? It may be a situation at work or with family or friends. At first sight, everything may appear insignificant and normal. But further inspection may reveal the Lord at work getting our attention for a greater purpose.

4. When God calls, answer.

As Moses turned aside to witness the bush burning yet not being consumed, God had succeeded in getting his attention. However, the Lord’s intentions went far beyond that. God does not just want to get our attention. All who are willing to stop and turn toward God can have the opportunity to hear Him calling. It is a call filled with love and a purpose, and all who hear will get to choose if they are willing to answer that higher calling.

This passage in Exodus 3 paints a beautiful picture of how God will set things in motion to get your attention. From the burning bush to the call, don’t be too busy living life that you miss what God really has for you. He is just waiting for you to look toward His direction to call you into a deeper walk and a deeper life with Him.

*****

Dr. Rafael Machuca is a VA Hospital Chaplain at the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. He studied and received his Doctor of Ministry degree at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in 2020. Dr. Machuca served his country in the United States Marine Corps from 1993 – 1997 and has been honoring and paying tribute to U.S. veterans ever since.

How to Overcome a Victim Mentality: A Guest Post by Kayla Carmichael

(Photo courtesy of Kayla Carmichael.)

The sad part is this: not everyone actually wants to be healed.

Some are okay remaining exactly who they are and the way that they are. A victim mentality has stolen more lives than I believe we would like to admit. It takes work to heal, it takes work to work through our own dysfunction, it takes work. Thankfully, we are not alone on our journey, but we do play a part in it.

There was a time in my life not too long ago that I was a victim to my own story, to what happened to me, to the pain that people had caused me. It is so easy to become a victim, and when we have been hurt, we often can have a longing to feel justified for being a victim. I mean, we are hurting, after all.

Does anyone see me? Does anyone care about me? Does anyone know that they are the reason why I am the way that I am?

I learned one morning as I began to speak to God about some things that had happened to me. I was just so sad. I simply did not understand why this happened to me. I then remember feeling this thought of, “Kayla, do you realize that you do not have to feel this way? You do not have to remain in this mindset. Do you realize this? It is time to close the doors to your past.”

Now, this does not mean that we are not to deal with what has happened to us accordingly. We do not dismiss our pain, but we release it to the Lord, and we become vulnerable in His presence. We decide that we are no longer going to be a victim of what has happened to us. Of what someone has done.

Victory is a choice.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. If I am not walking in victory, it is because I have decided not to walk in victory. However, walking in victory does not mean I am now “no longer hurting.” It simply means I am going to pick my head up and yield completely to the Lord as He heals me and as He restores me.

So, what will I decide? Will I decide to continue to worship my pain, or will I decide to worship my God? The God I choose to worship is the God who will determine my outcome.

Every. Single. Time.

You are a victor, not a victim.

********

Kayla Carmichael is an Apostolic writer and a great example to younger generations of what it means to love and live for God no matter what. Moving from Ohio, she came to Urshan College in Florrisant, Missouri and is now in her senior year, majoring in Christian ministry. Her goal is to pursue a master’s in counseling. Between devoting her time to school and church, Kayla is also writing her first book. Be sure to follow along with her insightful posts on Facebook and Instagram (@k.carm12)!

Welcome to 2022: A Bit About The New Year, Jonah, and Forgiveness

Happy New Year 2022 from yours truly!

Welcome to 2022!

This first post of 2022 is going to be pretty simple and casual because, to be honest, things are already starting to get crazy busy, and my mind can’t focus long enough this week to spend 3+ hours writing anything!

First order of business, I just want to say thank you to everyone who is reading this and beginning the new year by keeping up with Breathe Pray Repeat. It means SO much to me! Second order of business, I wanted to share a thought with you today on something that’s been on my mind for a while now, and it involves perception, forgiveness, human nature, and the account of Jonah.

From all the things I’ve heard said about Jonah throughout my life, I’d say the dude gets a pretty bad rap. Of course, he did literally try to run away from God’s commandment and was angry when God wanted to show others mercy, only being truly distressed when his plant died. But if I’m going to be completely honest with you, I have to say that I find Jonah incredibly relatable. You see, it’s easy when we read the Word to separate ourselves from the people we’re reading about as though we would never act or think like they did when they made mistakes. Sometimes, it’s easy to think of them as mere 2-D historical figures playing out a role in our heads rather than real, regular people. When we do that, we forget our own human nature.

Jonah did NOT like the people of Nineveh to say the least, and as I read a little about Nineveh, I began to understand why Jonah felt as he did. Nahum called it “the bloody city,” and witchcraft, murder, fornication, and other evils were abundant in Nineveh’s society (see Nahum 3). Suffice it to say, they were a truly wicked people committing unspeakable horrors and egregious evils. It’s completely understandable why Jonah, who knew full well what kind of people the Ninevites were, would not want God to pardon them (however wrong he was in his response).

Put yourself for a moment in Jonah’s sandals. You’ve seen and heard what the Ninevites do, and then all of a sudden, God tells you to go preach to them, and knowing God, you KNOW He will show them mercy. And (because you know how much evil they’ve done), you don’t want them to be given mercy. No. You want them to be punished. After all, how could they do all that evil and then get a free pass?

Ay, but there’s the rub. Therein lies the flaw in your thinking. And therein lies the point of the book of Jonah.

It isn’t about all the bad things the people of Nineveh did. They truly repented, and God always honors true repentance, and He offers forgiveness and mercy even though we don’t deserve it.

What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

Romans 9:14-15 (KJV)

Our human nature doesn’t want to look past people’s mistakes. That’s why we often want to hold grudges against others for hurting us. That may even be why we may want to judge Jonah for the mistakes he made. Our expectations of others can make us forget our own human nature and flaws.

God extended grace and mercy to the people of Nineveh as He does to you and me. He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins if we turn from our wicked ways and seek after Him. Jonah shows us an interesting study of human nature, but it also shows us that God wants us to be forgiving towards others as well.

No matter what so-and-so did or said to hurt you or others, forgive them. No, they don’t deserve mercy, but neither do you. God GIVES us grace. We don’t earn or deserve it. Our flesh causes us to judge others and hold grudges, but it’s the Spirit of God within us that helps us show mercy and love.

So, that’s it for today! It’s true that even after what we know about Jonah, I still relate to the dude for how real and imperfect he is. There is an account out there that states he came to his senses after the end of the recorded book of Jonah and praised God, so there IS hope even for us stubborn people!

Thanks for reading the first BPR post of 2022! There should be a guest post on here in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned for that as well.

God Bless,

Caitlin

The Reason Why Jesus Came: Reflecting on 2021

This is the last post of Breathe Pray Repeat…

…of 2021.

2021 has been an interesting year. For some, it’s been better than 2020, but for others, not so much. There’s been a lot of grief and loss for far too many this year. I know quite a few people who have lost loved ones, and my own family has been affected by grief after my grandmother and uncle passed away this summer. People are suffering, and just when it seems that burden has lifted, something else often happens to cause more grief.

As I began to reflect on this Christmas season and the mood many are feeling at the end of this year, I thought again of the song my church’s youth group sang for Christmas:

“For the broken, the unworthy, You came. Jesus, You came. For the wounded, for the hurting, for the lost, and for the lonely, You came. Jesus, You came.”

When I think of all the pain and loss many of us are feeling at the end of this year, I remember we’re exactly the kind of people Jesus came for. As Jehovah, He hadn’t experienced the same kind of sadness and grief and weariness until He wrapped Himself in flesh and became the Messiah, our Savior Jesus Christ. He chose to walk and live among us and suffer sadness, grief, and persecution ALL for us. When Lazarus died, Jesus cried. So, He knew and knows what loss feels like.

You may feel defeated, weary, and weak, but Jesus came to lift that burden and give you hope. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

We have hope we’ll be reunited in Glory with our loved ones who have passed. We have hope we’ll get through every trial and come out of it stronger than before. When the joy of the Lord is your strength, you can learn to find joy and gladness even in the midst of less-than-ideal circumstances.

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

Romans 15:13 (KJV)

As I look back over this year, I see a lot of sorrow and hardship for my own family. But I also see a lot of good memories. I see a lot of good people who have been there for us and with us through it all. I see how God carried us through our loss. I see how God blessed me with a job that I desperately needed. I can see the blessings of God even through the bitterness of difficult times.

And that gives me hope—hope for a great 2022 even if some things don’t go my way.

As you’re reading this, if you’ve suffered some kind of hardship this year, I want you to know Jesus came for you. He came to be your comfort on those sleepless and sorrow-filled nights. He came to be your strength when you can’t stand another day. He came to fight your battles against spirits of depression, infirmity, and despair. He came so that you might have life more abundantly, and He came to give you salvation and a future with Him.

Jesus, our Jehovah, had the first word in the beginning, and He has the final say.

This Christmas and New Year season, remember that you are never alone in whatever struggle you’re facing or battle you’re going through. Remember that you’re the reason why Jesus came.

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Matthew 1:21-23 (KJV)

*****

Thank you to everyone who has read Breathe Pray Repeat this year, and a very special thank you to every person who wrote a guest post on BPR! You are all amazing, and I’m so thankful for you. I hope to bring more great content to you in 2022 and more great posts from guests that will encourage you and draw you closer to our God.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

~Caitlin

5 Ways to Avoid the Pitfall of Pride

“Everyone, look at me! I did a thing!”

That’s what many of us may often think or even say when we want people to pay attention to our accomplishments. Don’t get me wrong—I believe it’s okay to acknowledge when you’ve done something halfway decent. After all, it certainly isn’t helpful to tear yourself down when you’re doing your best. But attracting others’ attention to your own strengths or talents often leads to pride. And what follows pride?

Destruction.

We’ll go over 5 ways you can avoid the pitfall of pride in your walk with God. Today’s post is inspired by and taken from notes to a lesson by Tony Wyatt Jr, an associate pastor and the young adult leader at my church. (You can check out a full guest post by Bro. Tony on spiritual food for the soul through this link.)

1. Seek God in the good AND the bad.

“Lord, I need you,” is easy to say when things aren’t going so great. It’s easy to run to God when life is falling apart.

Now, I’ll admit it. I’ve certainly struggled with maintaining consistent, quality prayer time and Bible reading when things were going great. You may know how it is. You don’t have a pressing, dire need at the moment aside from the usual future goals and desires. You start to get a little distracted. Your prayer times don’t seem as fervent as they were just a few months ago. You’re reading fewer chapters of the Bible a day. Maybe you’re even going a day or two in a row without really connecting with God.

Whether it’s your job, school, kids, or other responsibilities, life tends to find extra things to distract us with when the status quo is pretty manageable. But the less we pray and study the Word, the more we’re almost telling God, “Eh, I got this for now.”

Cue narrator voice: “She did not have this for now.”

It seems as though many of us may feel we need God less in the good times. We run to God when the going gets tough, but when things are looking up, we prefer to rely on ourselves.

You see, those bad moments will test our faith and hopefully strengthen it, but those good moments will prove our resolve to have a strong relationship with God. When you seek Him in the good times as well, you’re showing God that you understand you still need Him and that you WANT more of Him. If you find yourself in a rut because things are pretty peachy, and you’re getting distracted, choose a time of day when you can give God your full attention and seek Him harder than before. Continue to fast, continue to pray, continue to study the Word, and God will take you deeper than before.

2. Let go of your desire to prove yourself.

Pride often develops through the desire to prove to yourself and others what you can do. When we focus on proving our talents or accomplishments to others, we’re obsessing over our abilities.

“I can do it. Just watch me. Look what I can do. Just wait. They’ll see.”

We don’t have to prove ourselves to others. The only one we should truly seek to please is God.

Jesus was literally God wrapped in the flesh, but he approached others, especially those who argued against him, not with a prideful attitude but with a meek and gentle spirit.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it now robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

Philippians 2:5-7 (KJV)

Jesus made himself like a servant, and so we should follow His lead. Instead of trying to prove yourself to others, focus on serving others and pleasing God.

3. Don’t boast about your accomplishments.

This one takes us back to the opening of this post. Boasting about what you can do emphasizes the self.

It’s all about me. Look how talented I am. Susie can’t sing like I can. Bobby isn’t as smart as I am. I’m leagues above them. Pay attention to me!

Here’s a good thing to practice each time you accomplish something or improve a skill: tell yourself, “It’s because of God that I could do this. It’s His power and ability, not mine.”

When I was in college, every time I passed a test that I was terrified I’d fail, I knew it was God who got me through it. Trust me. I took an advanced Spanish class as part of my degree requirements, and while I can speak baby Spanish, I couldn’t speak it fluently to save my life. The final was a ten-minute, one-on-one conversation with my Spanish professor. To this day, I have no idea what I said during that conversation, and I have no idea how I passed with flying colors. I’ve joked that it’s because my professor must have taken pity on me, but truly, I know it was God.

Every good thing you do, every accomplishment, every skill you earn, remember that it’s because of God that you can do those things. In a culture that is all about the self, be the one that makes it about Jesus. Be the one that boasts of His power and accomplishments.

You may have a lot of talent and great achievements, and it’s okay to be pleased with a job well done, but remember this: God is the one who blessed you with your accomplishments and abilities.

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

1 Peter 1:5 (KJV)

4. Put others before yourself.

You should also be the one who puts others before yourself. This society loves the term “self-love.” Now, it’s true that you can’t truly love and help others if you hate yourself. However, people tend to go overboard with the self-love concept nowadays.

“I need that $500 spa treatment. The kids can go without a few essentials this month. It’s my time.”

Remember the old saying you might have learned in Sunday school? J – O – Y.

Jesus.

Others.

You.

Put Jesus first. Put others second. Then comes you.

Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2 (KJV)

Jesus’ ministry was all about helping others, healing the sick, showing mercy, and loving the needy. And that is what the church should be all about—reflecting the character of Christ, pointing people toward Him.

Pride is all about putting yourself first. True love is all about putting others first.

5. Be happy with what God gives you.

Finally, you do need to be content with what God has given you. Now, don’t mistake complacency as the same thing as contentment. I believe complacency and a lack of drive or willingness also bring about destruction as pride does, but contentment is about accepting what you have and finding ways to be pleased with it. (Side note: that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to be better or improve the skills God has given you.)

A prideful spirit boasts as though the things you have are because of your abilities, but it isn’t just that God is the one who has given you skills and abilities, He’s also the one who has blessed you with a home, food, clothes, and a job and provided for all your needs. And if you have such a need, He is the one who can fulfill it.

Matthew 8:20 shows us that Jesus didn’t even have a house or place to stay every night, but he was content: “And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”

Paul wrote of his contentment even when he was imprisoned in Philippians 4:

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Philippians 4:11-13 (KJV)

In verse 13, Paul hit at the key to avoid being prideful. I can do all things through Christ. Many people think of this verse as referring to just accomplishments or skills when Paul says, “I can do all things.” Sure, it does apply to those things, but Bro. Tony made the connection here between this statement and Paul’s circumstances when he taught this lesson recently.

Paul was able to endure his circumstances through Christ. It’s through Him that we can do all things, meaning we can endure hardship, overcome trials, experience loss, pain, disappointment, and heartbreak, and still trust in God, be content with what He’s given us, and finish the race strong through Christ who is our strength.

We don’t have the ability on our own to achieve great things. We don’t even have the ability to endure difficult times on our own and come through them stronger and wiser. It’s His Spirit within us that gives us that ability.

So, what’s the key to avoid being prideful?

Practice giving everything back to God—the praise, the glory, the credit.

He, not you, deserves it all.

Why You Should Put God First

I didn’t think it was that big a deal back then.

All summer long, year after year during my early teens, I often spent my mornings playing old video games. It was the first thing I’d do each day. I’d wake up, pop Spyro the Dragon into the PlayStation, and for several hours, I would do nothing else. When I got older and played video games less, I spent weekends watching movies and tv shows all day. Prioritizing my time well at 15 years old didn’t seem to be that important. I didn’t understand then that it was holding me back in my relationship with God.

Esau placed instant gratification over pleasing God. In Genesis 25, we read how he sold his birthright to his brother Jacob simply because he was hungry:

And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.

Genesis 25:31-34 (KJV)

Esau had no self-control nor did he place enough value in the things of God. Instead, he cared more about pleasing his flesh. We must be careful of the things we allow ourselves to consume lest they consume us. This often leads to idolatry. (In case you missed it, check out this post on how to get rid of the idols in your life.)

I know today’s post is rather simple, and most of you may have heard the story of Esau selling his birthright 100 times already. This post has been in the middle of my post queue for several months now, but I felt the need today to share it with you all. Perhaps this reminder is just for me, or perhaps it’s for someone reading this who has found that their priorities are out of order.

There have been many times (especially in college) when I became busy and started each day without prayer and studying the Word. Those days tended to be very chaotic, my mood wasn’t that great, and I never got everything done that I wanted to do. And I remember thinking by the end of the very bad, no good, and horrible day that if I’d just put God first, if I hadn’t let myself become distracted, if I hadn’t sacrificed the things of God for my own self-satisfaction, then the day might have gone better.

Putting God first doesn’t mean we won’t have bad days, but it ensures that our minds stay focused on what is most important. When we tend to our relationship with God, God will tend to the things in our lives that need His care.

Putting our flesh before God leads to sin and a lack of spiritual growth.

We can’t mature spiritually if we don’t endeavor each day to spend time with God and read His Word. Those who are spiritually immature often find themselves experiencing dry periods as well. When I’ve been in a spiritually dry period, it’s often because I had some growing to do. It takes a dry place to make one realize she needs to read and pray more in order for God’s Spirit to pour into and revive hers.

We must seek the rain of His Spirit and the well of His living water when we’re in a dry period, whether it’s due to mixed-up priorities, distractions, or what have you. We must examine ourselves and get rid of anything holding us back. God will take us to deep places when we seek after more of Him.

Some things to consider today:

  • What is your morning routine like?
  • How are you putting God first in your life?
  • Is there anything holding you back in your relationship with God?

The things of this world are fleeting as are the little pleasures that satisfy our flesh. But putting God first will bring us eternal joy and peace through a healthy relationship with Him.

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

Mark 8:36 (KJV)

This Is My Testimony

Don’t stop praying.

Recently, I came to understand the significance of persevering in prayer when God fulfilled a great need in my life. And with it, He increased my faith and gave me a testimony that I hope will bless and encourage whoever who reads it.

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Lately, I’ve been singing the song “Jireh” a lot, but it has taken on new meaning for me ever since August 23rd. On that Monday, God blessed me with the full-time job I’d been praying about for over a year.

You see, I graduated college in May of 2020 and still had not found a full-time job. God blessed me with a part-time job as an online writing tutor last summer, and in the meantime, I had applied for hundreds of jobs in writing, editing, teaching, marketing, communications, clerical work, and the like.

Until about spring of this year, I never had a call back. Zilch. Nada. Nothing but rejection emails. I desperately needed a job.

As a diabetic still on my mother’s insurance and who will soon turn 26, my mind kept going to worst-case scenarios in which I wouldn’t be able to afford insulin and would end up back in the hospital. I went through cycle after cycle of applying for a round of jobs, believing God would open the door, hearing nothing back, getting discouraged, and taking a week or two off of applying until the pang of fear motivated me to search and apply for more jobs.

2021 came, and I set a deadline. God would bless me with a job by June. Come late spring, promising opportunities started to arise. I got calls back and emails that said employers were interested. Come summer, I started getting interviews. Still, nothing worked out.

June passed.

Then, I landed an interview for my dream job as an editor for a Christian company. I was the only candidate, so I was SURE this was the job God had for me. The interview went very well. The lady and I talked for an hour. I knew I could handle every job responsibility we discussed. She seemed very pleased. The following Wednesday, I received the rejection email:

“Thank you for your interest. Mrs. __ is declining to extend an offer at this time, but she wishes you the very best.”

How thoughtful of her.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t crushed. The news hit me harder than I expected. The following day, I hardly left my bed.

What was I going to do? Where else could I apply?
I’d tried everything else. All I could think was, God, help.

I sought counsel from trusted spiritual leaders, and when God helped me get back up again, I applied for more jobs the following week.

July passed.

The deadline to enroll in private insurance was getting closer. I needed a job right away, not in a couple of months, not by the end of the year. NOW. Unfortunately, my options were limited. It may sound picky to say, but I knew I wasn’t cut out to work in a customer-based role, and the thought of working a job that had nothing to do with my degree and that I wouldn’t be able to use my skills in nearly defeated me.

I knew what I’d prayed for so many times.

God, I need a full-time job with good pay, that I can use the skills I have in, and that will give me good insurance so I can keep my doctor.

I’d prayed that prayer since the beginning, and after all my worrying by the end of the day, I knew that God knew exactly what I needed. And He would supply. Somehow.

My sister put me onto an opening at an insurance company where she works. An associate underwriter job. I looked over the job description. Not exactly related to my degree, but unexpectedly, the description of the role and duties fit my experience as a writing tutor perfectly. Put very simply, I’d be working from a queue and reviewing documents for changes and accuracy. Nothing I wasn’t familiar with as a remote essay-writing tutor. My sister also checked the available doctors through the insurance the company offered and found all of my doctors were in-network, which was very important to me.

In that moment, I thought about my specific prayer for God to provide me with a job that would allow me to utilize the skills and experience I had and that would provide me with good insurance. Then, I applied. After a day or so, a recruiter contacted me to begin the process of interviewing me.

Take these tests. Set up a phone interview. Set up a video interview. Video interview went well. Oh, but you won’t hear from us for at least a couple of weeks while we interview others.

Great. And here I’d been praying that they’d call me the next day to hire me.

A week went by. The insurance deadline passed. All the while, I kept seeing posts on social media about a 12th hour miracle and that God was about to open doors for someone.

So, I claimed it and did everything I could to squelch fear.

God will provide, whether it’s with this job or another. He knows what I need, I kept reminding myself.

Sunday, August 22nd. I heard a minister in my church talk about speaking in faith in pre-service prayer. He told the story of a man who needed a job and prayed for one in a Sunday service. After the service, a woman came up to the man, offering him a job.

I wish that would happen to me, I thought.

That night, I prayed again in faith that the company would call me the next day to offer me the job. On Monday, I was out with my mother at Walmart when they called me.

Oh, no. This is it.

Worried, I let it go to voicemail.

What if it’s a rejection call? What if they just want another interview?

I’d been through so many interviews, I could hardly stand the stress of going through another.

I got home and called back right away, and the hiring manager said the words I’d been praying to hear for a long time:

“I’ve got an offer for you.”

I sat down on my bed and just listened as she detailed the job. Though I wouldn’t have expected it, it was exactly what I had prayed for all along.

This was taken the day before I got the good news, but this was 100% the face I made when I heard the recruiter say those wonderful words!

You see, even though there were many moments when I worried, doubted, and even feared that God might not fulfill my need on time, I did not quit praying for my miracle. As a wonderful mentor reminded me during a low point, we have to pray past our nothing—that moment when you’ve prayed until your body is limp, and yet nothing seems to change.

God is faithful. God will provide for you. He knows your needs, and He will never fail you. He knows your desires and wants to bless you with them if you will first delight in Him.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by feelings of disappointment in the waiting, but don’t let your emotions make you forget God’s neverending love for you. As a father loves to see the light in his child’s eyes when that child opens up gifts at Christmas, so does our Heavenly Father love to bless us with good desires that bring us joy.

David described an example of God’s endless love for us and of His goodness in Psalms:

“Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”

Psalms 37:3-5 (KJV)

David also said several verses later that, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psalms 37:25, KJV).

If we are ever going to see a victory, we cannot give up in the waiting. Continue to pray. Don’t underestimate the power behind speaking in faith and declaring your victory in the Name of Jesus. Live for God according to His Word and Will and walk forward in righteousness.

He fights our battles for us and wins the victory. All we have to do is praise Him for it in advance. Our Jehovah Jireh is enough.

He has never failed me and never will. My God came through for me, and I know He will do it for you.

Don’t stop praying!

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:19 (KJV)