How to Handle Peer Pressure

If we live boldly for Jesus, we’ll stand out like a green leaf full of life amidst leaves that have dried up and begun to wither.

What do you do when you want to fit in but know you were called to stand out?

Welcome to the world of peer pressure where people you want to impress want you to do something that you don’t feel right about. Many of us who perhaps went to public school know what this is like. Now, I attended private school from the 5th grade and on, but until the 4th grade, I went to public school like most kids do and experienced a bit of peer pressure early on.

It was the first grade, and I was in Mrs. Patton’s class—a wonderful teacher. She was young and sweet and had us do action songs for fun. During one particular song (when I was wearing a matching cardigan, tank top, and skirt set), the boy and girl who sat next to me kept motioning me to remove my cardigan, which would leave my arms exposed in the tank top I had on underneath. I did not quite understand modesty or separation at this time. All I knew was that I was raised not to reveal my shoulders in public.

I remember the boy looking back at me and smiling as he nodded when I reached up to my cardigan to begin to remove it. I was a bit confused, unsure of what he and the girl meant at first. I liked them. They were cool kids. They made me laugh. Still, I had a sense that I shouldn’t do what they asked.

Then, the boy said, “Do it,” as he clapped to the action song.

So, I did, and he and the girl nodded again and cheered me on before looking back at Mrs. Patton to see the next action in the song. I don’t remember how long I kept my cardigan off, but I know I had it on when I left school that day. I never told anyone. What I did seemed harmless, but something inside my first-grader mind knew that my mom would be disappointed if she knew.

That was the only example of giving into peer pressure that I have from my public school years, but it helped me understand as I got older how to handle and how not to handle peer pressure.

1. Fall in Love with Pleasing Jesus

If we are to resist peer pressure, then we must first fall in love with Jesus and living a life that is pleasing to Him.

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

1 John 2:15-17 (KJV)

When I first caved to peer pressure, I didn’t fully understand what I believed or why I believed it yet. As I got older, stayed in church, and developed a love for reading the Word, my love for dressing modestly to reflect His glory grew stronger. Eventually, I didn’t imagine what I might look like if I didn’t wear skirts or if I did wear makeup. Eventually, I didn’t groan and complain about having to find dresses with modest necklines. Eventually, I didn’t care about what others thought of the way I dressed because I fell in love with a lifestyle that was pleasing to my God.

2. Don’t Cave

I caved to peer pressure in the first grade, but it taught me a lesson not to do that again. I was lucky that I wasn’t pressured to do much worse when I was in public school, but many are not so lucky.

Some students may be pressured to smoke or do drugs. Some students may be pressured to go too far with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Some adults may even be pressured to do these things by coworkers or to go to a coworkers’ outing where they drink and party. Whatever you do, don’t cave in to others’ demands that make you uncomfortable and that you know are not pleasing in God’s eyes.

Paul wrote in Romans that we are to be a holy and acceptable living sacrifice to God:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Romans 12:1-2 (KJV)

It is only reasonable that we live for God in righteousness and resist the ways of the world. Sometimes, our flesh finds a way to confuse us, however.

I can remember times when I was a teenager and was around others who were listening to inappropriate music and talking about movies I wouldn’t dare share with my parents. I can remember feeling they shouldn’t be doing those things, but still I bopped my head to the music with them. I can remember thinking that I shouldn’t have been with them, but part of me wanted them to like me.

If you cave to peer pressure, then even if that thing that you end up doing doesn’t seem that harmless, it may invite spirits into your life that will linger with you longer than you’ll realize. And those spirits may influence you to do or say things in the future that will take you further from God.

Caving to peer pressure is dangerous for your spiritual survival.

3. Stand Strong and Love Others

Boldly embrace a lifestyle of separation from this world.

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”

2 Corinthians 6:17 (KJV)

The older I became, the more I loved being a born-again Apostolic who doesn’t look, dress, talk, or act like the world. By this time when peer pressure came knocking, I was able to keep from even opening the door and inviting it into my living room. However, as one lives a lifestyle of righteousness and separation, one should not become too prideful of that.

When friends or coworkers invite you to a bar to hangout, don’t respond by turning up your nose in a self-righteous attitude. That does not reflect the character of Christ, and it certainly does not make others want to go to church with you. As we stand strong in this faith, we must love others like Christ does.

Love those who invite you to those parties that you know you won’t go to. Decline politely, and if they ask why, take that moment to share your beliefs. Witness to the peers who pressure you out of love for them, not out of condemning them. They need to know that there is a better life than giving in to worldly lusts, and we are the ones who can show it to them by standing apart from this world.

After all, it is the love of Christ through us that compels people to live for God. We can resist peer pressure by becoming more like Jesus and hiding His Word in our hearts, and when we do, His love in us will draw others to Him.

4 Steps to Remove Idols in Your Life

Whom do you serve?

As Christians, we are to serve our God Jesus Christ alone (see Exodus 20:2-6), but sometimes, without even realizing it, we find that we have built altars to idols in our lives. The Bible speaks often about idolatry, and this is an issue the people of Israel struggled with a lot. They were called to serve one God—Yahweh—but all throughout the books of Judges and 1 and 2 Kings (among many others), we read how they began to serve false idols and little gods rather than serving their Creator alone.

“Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. 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 24:14-15 (KJV)

There are countless examples of idolatry in the Bible from Aaron making the golden calf for the Israelites to worship while Moses was on Mt. Sinai (see Exodus 32) to the young man who would not sell his possessions to follow Jesus (see Matthew 19:16-25). However, idolatry is not only a thing of the past. Sure, many of us may not be serving literal statues in our homes and praying to them every day, but many have built altars to idols of money, success, and fame. Idols come in all forms today.

We see people make idols of other people. I read a comment from a woman on social media a while back, and in this comment, this woman said she repeated to herself as a mantra when she became scared of the current virus rampaging the world, “I trust Fauci. I trust Fauci.” Indeed, many have made political figures and celebrities idols in their lives, investing more of their time in thinking about these people and having more hope and faith in these people than the very God who created them and the entire universe.

People make idols of ideas and ideologies. They worship a scientific theory as though it is Bible. They hold onto a political belief system with greater conviction than the Word of God.

People make idols of things—things like social media, expensive cars, or even (Lord, help me) their phone.

People also make idols of their habits and of themselves. As my pastor has explained, even something as seemingly harmless as going fishing can become an idol if you give all of your time to it. If a hobby or habit takes up most or all of your mental energy, your thoughts, your time, and your passion until it controls you and compromises your walk with God, then it is an idol. If you can’t say “no” to it, it’s an idol. And if you have set yourself and your desires and plans above God, then you have made an idol of yourself.

So, how do we get rid of idols that we have set up in our lives, whether we did so intentionally out of rebellion or ignorantly out of distraction? Thankfully, God’s Word shows us clear steps we must take to remove idols in our lives:

1. Examination.

When king Josiah of Judah was about 20 years old, he began to purge “Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images” (2 Chronicles 34:3). In order for Josiah to get rid of the idols, he had to seek them out first.

The first step to removing idols in our lives is daily examination. We must search our hearts each day and ask ourselves these questions: To what or to whom am I giving my time? My treasures? What are most of my efforts going toward? For what or for whom am I most passionate? Is there anything in my life that I cannot say “no” to?

2. Recognition.

In order for Josiah to purge the land of idols, he had to do a thorough job, which required recognizing which things were idols or were related to idol worship and had to be destroyed. After searching high and low for idols and destroying them all over the land in II Kings 23, Josiah even went so far as to destroy the high places that king Solomon had built for the false gods Chemosh, Ashtoreth, and Milcom (see also 1 Kings 11). Solomon failed to recognize the gravity of what he was doing as he turned away from God and toward idols.

After searching our hearts and lives for idols, we must be able to recognize what counts as an idol. In order for us to remove idolatry in our life, we must ask God for the wisdom to discern what we have made an idol, and we must be honest with ourselves. For example, if we allow playing video games or watching sports to take up more of our time and passion than praying to God, studying His Word, and investing in His Kingdom, then we must exercise wisdom, discernment, and good judgment to understand that those things are idols that we must remove.

3. Eradication.

King Josiah was very thorough in removing idols from the kingdom. He removed horse and chariot decorations in the Temple, broke the altars and images of false gods, and even killed the priests of the high places of false gods upon the altars and “burned men’s bones upon them” (II Kings 23:11-20). Josiah put away those who were “workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem” (II Kings 23:24).

If we are to remove idolatry from our lives, then we must do so in completion, holding nothing back for ourselves. We must totally remove the idol (be it a habit or an obsession), leaving no trace of it for us to return to in a moment of weakness. For example, if a person is obsessed with sports to the point of committing idolatry, but this person only stops obsessing over baseball and basketball but still places football above going to church or praying to God, then they have not totally eradicated that idol from their life.

4. Re-dedication.

After we have examined ourselves, recognized the idols in our lives, and totally eradicated them, then we must re-dedicate our hearts to the Lord. After putting away idols out of Judah and Benjamin, king Asa “renewed the altar of the LORD,” and the people renewed their covenant to seek the Lord (II Chronicles 15:8-12). King Hezekiah repaired the Temple, restored worship to God, and had the people sanctify and cleanse themselves before God (see II Chronicles 29). After Manasseh turned to God from a life of wickedness, he took away the idols and “repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel” (II Chronicles 33:15-16).

Our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost, and when we remove the idols from our lives, we must then recommit ourselves to God.

Rebuild your altar to God. Sanctify it with prayer. Commit yourself to studying the Word and following His commandments. Sacrifice your time, talents, treasures, and passions and give it all to God. And renew your covenant with God to serve Him alone.

This world is all about serving yourself, worshipping your desires and plans, and elevating yourself and man’s creations above God. But we are not called to be like the world. Though we be in this world, we are not of this world.

Our God created us, came for us, died for us, and rose again, defeating death and overcoming the world all because He loves us and wants us to live with Him in His Kingdom for eternity. The least we can do is serve Him and Him alone.

7 Things to Do at The End of Your Rope: A Guest Post by Jake Walden

We’ve all heard the expression, “I’m at the end of my rope.” And we all get to the end of our rope at some point. How do we get there? Life, usually. Things happen. We get tired, worn out, burnt out. Or maybe we do it to ourselves. We let ourselves slip to the end of our rope. No matter how we get there, the end of our rope is a place where we have nothing left. If we get any lower, there’s no more rope to hold on to.

The end of our rope is not final, however, and I’ll tell you why. Here are 7 things to remember at the end of your rope:

1. Don’t let go.

This is very important to remember. Letting go at the end of your rope is definitely not the answer. As the old saying goes, “When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on!”

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

Galatians 6:9 (KJV)

Don’t stop coming to church. Don’t stop praying. Don’t stop fasting. Don’t stop giving. Don’t stop seeking the face of God. Tie a knot in the Word of God and hold on! Letting go is not the answer to your problems.

2. Don’t blame God.

Too often, when people are at the end of their rope, whether life got them there or they got themselves there, they start to blame God.

“Why did God let me get here? God must not care about me anymore. God must have more important people to help. He must not have His hand on me anymore.”

All are lies that we can begin to tell ourselves if we aren’t careful and don’t keep our hearts right. Job’s wife told Job to curse God and die when he was at the end of his rope, but he would not curse God. The Bible says that in all this Job did not sin with his lips. The Bible also says it rains on the just and the unjust.

God tells us, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11, KJV).

“Don’t stop seeking the face of God. Tie a knot in the Word of God and hold on!”

Jake Walden

3. Forgive yourself.

We’ve got to learn to forgive ourselves. We will get nowhere if we cannot forgive ourselves. Maybe you condemn yourself because your decisions got you to the end of your rope. Or maybe you cannot forgive yourself because you simply feel that you were not strong enough, and now you’ve ended up at the end of your rope.

Whatever the case, you’ve got to forgive yourself. You’ve got to realize who you are to God. You’ve got to realize that He will not hold your shortcomings against you, and you shouldn’t hold them against yourself.

His mercy endures forever. He loves you. And it is not wrong to love yourself enough to forgive yourself.

4. Let go of the past.

Even if you have forgiven yourself, you’ve still got to let go of the past. What has happened has happened. Sometimes, we have the opportunity to make amends, and that’s good. But you’ve still got to let it go.

Stop dwelling on what got you to the end of your rope. Stop losing sleep over it. Stop worrying about it. The only way to ever escape it is to let it go and move forward. You can’t change what has happened, but you can control what you will do next!

5. Surround yourself with Godly influences.

When you are at the end of your rope, don’t go to the people that are going to fill your mind with a bunch of mess.

Don’t go to someone like Job’s wife who will tell you to blame God. Don’t go to someone who is going to turn you on your brothers and sisters. Don’t go to someone who will gossip about and trash talk other people or gossip about and trash talk your church. Don’t go to someone who will tell you to let go of what you believe in. Don’t go to anyone who will tell you to lash out at people.

Don’t go to someone who will tell you to do ANYTHING that contradicts the Word of God.

Like the Bible says, don’t be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. Surround yourself with Godly, positive influences—someone who will pray for you and with you, someone who will encourage you and lift you up. Like the Bible says, seek WISE counsel.

6. Trust God.

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”

Proverbs 3:5 (KJV)

This is a very important step. Even when you don’t understand why you’re at the end of your rope, trust God. Like the Bible says, lean not unto thine own understanding. It also says right after that, “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:6, KJV).

God’s ways are higher than our ways. We do not know more than God. Sometimes, things happen, and we end up at the end of our rope, wondering, “Why am I here? This was not my intention.” But God knows right where you are, and He knows exactly what He’s doing. He isn’t punishing you. He won’t let us carry more than we can bear. Things just happen sometimes, and we end up at the end of our rope. But don’t ever stop trusting and believing that God has got you. 

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Romans 8:18 (KJV)

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.”

Psalms 121:1-3 (KJV)

Romans 8:28 says ALL things work together for the good of them that love God and are called according to His purpose.

7. Bless the Lord at all times!

Job said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21, KJV). One of the most important things you can always remember is to bless the Lord at ALL times.

David said, “I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalms 34:1, KJV).

When you’re at the end of your rope, don’t stop praising. Don’t stop worshipping. Don’t stop giving God the honor and the glory. There is power in that, and it gives us authority over the voice and influence of the enemy.

Don’t stop saying, “Blessed be the Name of the Lord!”

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Jake Walden is a licensed minister with the United Pentecostal Church, the youth pastor at Restoration Apostolic Church in Winterville, Georgia, and the Section 3 youth director for the Georgia District Youth Ministries. He is also the host of the podcast What Was I Thinking? with Jake Walden in which he covers Biblical topics with an informal, easygoing demeanor. You can follow along with his ministry on Instagram (@jakewalden39). Be sure to check out his podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcasts and subscribe today!

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.

Life in the Spirit: 3 Reminders From Romans 8

School and work are often drudgery.

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

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

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

1. Through Christ, we are free.

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

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

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

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

2. We must continue to walk after the Spirit.

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

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

Having life through Christ means forsaking our carnality.

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

Romans 8:5-6 (KJV)

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

Ouch.

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

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

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

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

Romans 8:14 (KJV)

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

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

Romans 8:17-18 (KJV)

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

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

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

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

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

3 Qualities of a Good Servant

A man opens his Bible.

What makes a good and faithful servant?

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis 24:2-4, 9 (KJV)

1. Attentiveness

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

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

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

Genesis 24:55-56 (KJV)

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

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

2. Obedience

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

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

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

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

3. A Relationship with God

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

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

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

Genesis 24:51-52 (KJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 24:35 (KJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 6:19-20 (KJV)

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

Colossians 3:2 (KJV)

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

Holding the Bible up to the sky.

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

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

1. They differed in their responses to their peers.

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

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

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

John 5:10-15 (KJV)

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

John 9:10-12, 17 (KJV)

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

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

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

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

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

2. They differed in their responses to Jesus.

Jesus bends down and draws in the sand.

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

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

John 9:35-38 (KJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BPR Schedule Update, 03/26/21

BPR Logo Announcement

Due to some issues with scheduling, I am postponing today’s blog post until tomorrow evening.

Tuesday’s blog post will come out on schedule.

However, there will be no Friday blog post next week as I’ll be at the Missouri District Youth Convention in St. Charles, Missouri, with my church’s youth group. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my Instagram here for additional Breathe Pray Repeat content, modest fashion, and some updates while I’m at Youth Convention next week.

One quick thought for today: things don’t always go according to plan. In fact, they often never do. As I was talking with God earlier today, in a moment of frustration, I mentioned that it’s difficult being a little human down here on earth with no knowledge of what might happen tomorrow. It’s hard not knowing. But I felt the Holy Ghost remind me that that is, of course, why I have Jesus, why I need Jesus.

His ways are higher, and the more life doesn’t go the way I want it to, the more He reminds me how much I need Him, how much closer to Him I need to be, and how much more I need to trust that He has everything under control.

When we surrender to Jesus, He gives us peace and assurance that even though our situation may seem impossible, He has a plan so that it will work out for our good according to His perfect will.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28 (KJV)

How to Live for Jesus in a Sin-Sick World

Walking with Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The things we consume will influence our appetite and priorities.

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

2. Develop an appetite for the things of God.

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

3. Surround yourself with God-first people.

My church school gang at a reunion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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