How God Changed Me

My childhood friend, sister, cousin (in the back), and me a very long time ago.

I hate change. As a super nostalgic person, I’ve always had a habit of romanticizing the past, of looking back at my childhood through rose-colored glasses.

It’s true that I did have a pretty awesome childhood. God blessed me with Apostolic parents who raised me in a good church with leaders who followed God and His Word. I spent my days annoying my older sisters, playing with my cousins, and writing short stories about—wait for it—dogs and their owners going on adventures. Yes, it’s true. I went through a weird phase in which I was obsessed with dogs and dog stories. 10-year-old me adored Homeward Bound and thought it was one of the best movies ever. I spent my summers digging in the mud outside, playing catch and frisbee, running around the backyard with my dogs, and playing Spyro the Dragon on our PlayStation. Ah, yes, the early 2000s. What a wonderful time.

I spent my teenage years going to my church’s private school that consisted almost entirely of my sisters and our cousins for several years, and we constantly tried to stall our teacher (also my cousin) from starting class each day. We threw notes to each other in class, watched silly videos on the old computers during breaks, and laughed at the boys as they picked on each other among other shenanigans. Of course, there was learning going on, and I didn’t earn the nickname “Ms. Perfect” from my cousins for nothing. I was very adamant about getting all gold stars (which stood for a grade of 100%) on my test score chart. From the 5th grade until the 11th grade, I spent practically all day at church almost every day of the week.

My church school gang in 2011.

As a lifelong Apostolic Christian, my church was my second home. I went to school there, and I played with my cousins there as we roamed around the halls downstairs in the dark (as if it was scary) while our parents participated in music practice upstairs. When I got a little older, I became more involved and went to music practices and youth events in addition to spending all day at church because of school. Church was my life, so one might think that I had a super close relationship with God and that I was super spiritual from a young age, right?

Wrong.

No, I wasn’t a rebellious child who didn’t like my upbringing. I loved church. I loved God. I loved living for God. I just wasn’t truly digging deeper into my own relationship with Him. Instead, I rode the waves of the high I was on during that time of my life. After all, most people’s teenage years tend to be a breeze compared to the adult world. Life was great, so I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking that I needed to change anything in my personal life.

I went to church twice a week faithfully. I mean, I practically lived there. I was involved in ministries. I skimmed through a chapter or two of the Bible almost every day. Sure, I talked to God a lot. But I wasn’t breaking through. I wasn’t seeking God with all of my heart.

Why? Because I was also giving my heart to something else.

“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other….”

Matthew 6:24 (KJV)

I was the biggest movie buff. Not only did I watch a movie or a few episodes of one of my favorite tv shows every evening, but I researched film and television trivia all the time. I obsessed over my favorite films and characters—I was a HUGE Marvel girl, and I may have chanted “Loki” along with the crowd at San Diego Comic Con several years ago when I watched it on my phone as Tom Hiddleston, dressed up in character, screamed to the delight of his fans, “Say my name!” Being a fangirl of various movies and series was not something I shared with many, but it pervaded my thoughts constantly as I geeked out over new stories and plots and characterization (because I’m a writer with a very vivid imagination, and I couldn’t resist that type of stuff).

Now, I’m not explaining all of this to tell you, “DON’T WATCH ANYTHING EVER AGAIN YOU HEATHENS, OR YOU’LL ALL BE CONDEMNED!” After all, I know many people who watch films or series every once in a while with their family, and it doesn’t affect them or take them away from God. But if it does, then it becomes a problem. Know who and what you are serving. If the answer isn’t God alone, then it becomes a problem.

I needed to change, and once I began my early young adult years, and my life began to get harder, and my family and I began to go through things I had never faced before, I realized I needed much more of God than I had. You get out of your relationship with God what you put into it. And so I examined my life and realized that I had not been progressing in my walk with Him. I wasn’t getting closer to God. I wasn’t really hearing from Him. I wasn’t digging deeper into the Word. I had let myself become obsessed with things of the world all the while trying to serve God.

For many years, I thought I was “just fine” in my relationship with God until the rubber met the road, and I needed more of God but was farther away from Him that I realized. That’s when I knew I needed to change.

“A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

James 1:8 (KJV)

Change is not easy. It’s a long process, filled with mistakes and trial-and-error and going back to God for forgiveness and asking Him to give you the strength to do better and live right. With His help, I put away those obsessions. I began to pour myself out so that He could fill me. I began to study His Word more closely, searching the Scriptures to be closer to Him. I began to pray for longer than five or ten minutes each day. I began to search for Him with everything I had, and through that process, He began to change me.

God’s been so good to me, and now I’m privileged to be a youth worker and spend time with great kids who love God and want to serve Him more.

You see, when God changes us, He gives us new and better desires to please Him in all we do. He takes us to a deeper level where we receive revelations and a greater understanding of what it means to walk with Him. There were things I no longer watched anymore. There were songs I no longer listened to. He changed the way I spoke about others and my attitude toward them. He helped me understand the habits I had that were not wise.

The more time I spent in His Word and His presence, the more I came to love His Word and His presence. The more time I spent putting away old habits and trying to live a righteous lifestyle, the more I came to love holiness and living for Him.

Of course, I still have so many moments in which I need my Jesus to help me overcome my flesh. Just as none of us are perfect, I (in absolutely no way) claim to be nor do I claim to be super righteous or have it all together. Of course, there are still some things I will watch with my family and enjoy every now and then (I do love Star Wars, but my sister has not been drawn to it—yet!). But those things, those old habits no longer have a hold on me.

My God delivered me and changed my mindset and attitude. And He will do the same for you if you will put away those unhealthy habits, sacrifice your flesh on the altar, and draw near to Him.

Free Indeed: 3 Freedoms We Have in Christ

A Bible lies open under an American flag.

Freedom.

It’s something we Americans are so privileged to experience while living in this blessed country, and this coming Sunday, we’ll be celebrating America’s 245th birthday. As a proud American, I’m excited to celebrate my beautiful home country, but I’m also excited to share with you today and remind you what freedom means for us as children of God.

In Christ, we are free indeed, but what does it mean to be “free in Christ?”

There are many different explanations of this concept. Below are three particular freedoms we have as children of the Most High King that I wanted to remind you of this weekend.

1. Freedom from Sin

As the Timothy Reddick song says, “I’m free indeed, in Christ, I’m free indeed, no chains are holding me, it’s who I choose to be.”

In Christ, we have freedom from sin. This means that no matter what you’ve done, the sins of your past cannot hold you back once you’ve truly repented and given your life to Jesus.

Once the blood of the Lamb has covered you, you are no longer a slave to sin!

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

John 8:36 (KJV)

We are free from sin and have become the “servants of righteousness” and servants to God (see Romans 6:18 and Romans 6:22). Remember—there is no condemnation to those who are born again and believe in Christ (see Romans 8:1).

When Christ died for us and shed His blood at Calvary, He covered all our sins, and when we are baptized in Jesus’ Name, our sins are completely washed away. The chains of a sinful lifestyle that once kept us bound are broken, and we are free to move forward in righteousness and serve our King!

2. Freedom from the Result of Sin

Freedom in Christ also means that we no longer have to live in fear of the result of sin or of death. We no longer have to fear going to Hell over a sinful lifestyle because Jesus has given us a way out through complete surrender to Him, repentance, baptism, the infilling of the Holy Ghost, and a lifestyle of holiness, separation, and righteousness.

In Christ, we are free from what sin inevitably leads to. In Christ, we are free from fear.

Freedom in Christ allows us to completely put our trust in Him, knowing that He has covered us with His blood and paved the way for us to spend eternity with Him in glory.

3. Freedom from Ignorance

In Christ, we are also free from ignorance.

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

John 8:32 (KJV)

No, I don’t mean ignorance in general. (As you might be aware, because we’re still fleshly beings, there are many ways people can still be quite ignorant even while serving God!)

Through Christ, we have freedom from spiritual blindness. Paul wrote about this to the Corinthians.

“And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.”

2 Corinthians 3:13-16 (KJV)

Here, Paul spoke about the Jews’ inability to understand Jesus’ identity as God and to understand God’s divine plan. Jesus revealed Himself to Paul as the Lord when He spoke to Paul as Paul was on the road to Damascus, and Paul was able to understand Christ’s identity (see Acts 9:1-6). When people turn to Christ and seek after Him, He gives them the ability to understand who He is.

Freedom in Christ means that we have spiritual awareness of who He is, what He has done for us, and how His plan for us is that we live for Him so that we can someday be with our God forever.

“Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

2 Corinthians 3:17 (KJV)

Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. In His presence, we find liberty, peace, understanding, and everything we need. We are free from our past, free from the weight of our sins, free from bondage, free from death, free from fear, and free from spiritual blindness.

And not only are we free in Christ, but He has also given us the freedom to choose to serve Him or not. That makes our decision to live for Jesus so much more meaningful.

He didn’t make us live for Him. He died for us all but gave us the freedom to choose to live for Him, and so our choice to serve Him comes from a genuine desire to live for Him, from genuine love for Him, and from a heart of thanks and gratitude for who He is and for all He’s done for us.

We choose to be free when we choose to live for Jesus!

“No more shackles, no more chains, no more bondage, I am free!”

“Freedom” by Eddie James

I hope all of my readers in America have a wonderful weekend celebration as we celebrate the foundation of our great nation, and I hope all of you can take a moment to thank God especially for the freedoms we have because of all He’s done for us.

God bless you all, and God bless America!