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 Helpful Bible Study Methods

Reading and studying the Word should be a daily commitment if we want to grow closer to God. When I was a teenager, I found myself becoming satisfied with reading a short chapter here and there and calling it good. (Woo-hoo! I read an entire chapter of Psalms! I’m good for the day!) Everyone has to start somewhere, and there is no shame in a child reading a chapter of Psalms a day to develop a daily habit of reading the Word, but as we grow older, we must become more dedicated to studying the Word in depth.

As always, we must remember that God is calling us deeper.

Sometimes, figuring out how to study the Word can be difficult when you’re out of the habit or don’t know where to start. For today’s post, I thought I would share with you three Bible study methods that I have adapted and that have helped me dig deeper into the Word.

1. Summarization

This involves what we English majors like to call “close reading.” When you’re reading a chapter of the Bible, ask questions about the chapter and write down your answers. I like to use the typical 5W1H method.

  • Who are the people involved in this chapter? Who is speaking? Who is the author? Who is the audience?
  • What is taking place in this chapter? What are the implications of the events? What Biblical principles or lessons does this chapter explore?
  • Where do the events in this chapter take place? This question can refer to an actual location or where the events take place within the story’s timeline, which brings us to the next question.
  • When does this chapter take place? When did the author write this? (This also helps you understand the context of the chapter as you look at the events in the surrounding chapters.)
  • How can I apply the principles or lessons this chapter teaches to my life?
  • Why are the events in this chapter important? This question helps you under the significance of the passage both within the context of the story and within your own life.

2. Cross-referencing

This method involves going from verse to verse, often across different books, to study key terms and concepts. It helps to have a Bible that contains references within the page that point you to related verses. I recommend the Apostolic Study Bible, which is what I use.

Here’s an example of using this method:

In the footnotes of Psalm chapter 7 in my Apostolic Study Bible, it directs me to read the related verses of II Samuel 18:19-33. David wrote Psalm 7 in reference to the news of his son Absalom’s death, which we read about in II Samuel 18. Through cross-referencing, I can read and study the situation to which David is referring in Psalm 7 to better understand the context of both passages of Scripture.

You can also use this method on your own by using the concordance at the back of your Bible and finding multiple verses throughout the Bible that discuss a particular topic.

3. Word Study

What I like to call the “word study” method involves using a Strong’s Concordance to study the root meanings of words in the original Hebrew or Greek texts. When I use this method, I simply begin by looking up a word in a particular verse in the Strong’s Concordance. (I use the Bible Strong’s Concordance app on my phone, but I also have a physical copy of Strong’s Concordance in my home library.)

This method helps you understand how a word is used differently in the Bible and what its different uses mean. For example, “love” in Romans 12:10 is from the Greek word philadelphia, which means fraternal affection or brotherly love. In John 15:10, we find that the love mentioned here is unconditional love (or agape). Here, Jesus is giving the command that we abide in the kind of unconditional love He has for us, whereas the love mentioned in Romans 12:10 specifically refers to love toward members of the church.

The above Bible study methods and tips are designed to help you understand the context of a passage of Scripture, what lessons a particular passage teaches, the connection between verses, how multiple verses extend the same topics, and how we can understand a word or concept based off a word’s original meaning. If we devote even a little bit of time daily to studying the Word, then we will come to understand Him more and how He wants us to live.

Studying the Word fosters a love for the Word and Godly living, allowing us to bury His Word within us so that we might reflect His glory to others and share the Gospel message.

BPR Schedule Update: There will be no blog post next week as I’ll be on vacation. To see how I’ve applied the word study method to my Bible studying time, check out the “comfort” series in the “Bible Studies” column.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

5 Things To Help You Overcome Depression

Mental Health Awareness Month takes place the entire month of May, and the theme this year is “You are not alone.”

For those who struggle with depression, overcoming it is not as simple as others might think.

There are those who might say, “Everyone gets depressed. Just get over it,” or, “If you really wanted to be happy, then you would be,” but they don’t realize that overcoming depression does not come so easily as simply wishing for it to happen. As someone who has struggled with forms of depression and who has many family members who have as well, I’ve seen and experienced the difficulty in trying to force yourself to “be happy” even though you feel sad, heartbroken, abandoned, and alone. It often results in burying emotions that need to be worked through and addressed only for them to rise again later and leave you more broken and shattered than before. Forced healing is not lasting healing.

Because May is mental health awareness month, I’ve decided to share with you and those who are struggling five things that have helped me in the process of overcoming feelings of depression. Of course, this post may not be entirely applicable to those who are suffering from severe or clinical depression. If you or someone you know is suffering from clinical depression, please know that there is no shame in reaching out for help, receiving support from a psychiatrist, or asking for prayer. Depression is nothing to be ashamed of because, yes, many people do suffer from various forms of depression and feelings of sadness to varying degrees.

“Forced healing is not lasting healing.”

Instead of trying to ignore or bury those feelings, here are five things you might try to help you begin the process of overcoming it:

1. Listen to music.

Now, some of these tips may seem basic, but just hear me out. When I’ve struggled with depression, almost every single time, I’ve managed to find comfort and feel God’s presence through new Gospel songs I found. One song in particular that spoke to me when I was struggling was “Defender” by Francesca Battistelli.

Listening to music, or music therapy, has proven calming effects that can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. When one listens to music, be it instrumental or soothing music, it can help that person experience his or her emotions on a deeper, more visceral level. It may even help clear the mind and make one’s emotions easier to understand.

Just any music doesn’t prove helpful to me, however, which is why I encourage listening to Christian music. As Christians, we understand that our help comes from God, but when we’re struggling with caring for our mental and emotional health, it sometimes becomes necessary to plug into other avenues that help us connect better to His presence. Don’t just listen to the music, but meditate on it. Find new songs that speak to what you’re going through and let yourself praise Him as you listen.

2. Listen to sermons.

We listen to messages over the pulpit every week, but sometimes, it helps to search for an extra word from God throughout the week when we’re feeling overwhelmed with sadness or anxiety. God can minister to us today even through an old message posted to YouTube five or more years ago. One such sermon that I heard when I was struggling and that I’ve returned to often is Victor Jackson’s message at General Conference 2019 called “The Forgotten Anointing.” For those who are weary and full of grief, this message may just be the word from God that will help you begin to heal.

Whether you search for sermons based on what you’re going through or by a preacher you’re familiar with, consider taking notes while listening to the sermon. Write down how God might be speaking to you through the message and ways you can apply it to your life moving forward.

3. Do focused Bible studying.

This one might seem like another no-brainer to those who study the Word consistently, but doing some focused Bible studying is a great way to work through what you’re experiencing by researching it in the Scriptures.

When I found myself in a dark place once, I realized the one thing that might help me get through it was if I could just feel the comfort of God again. So, I began doing a word search for “comfort” in my phone’s Bible app that contains the Strong’s Concordance. As I read verse after verse and studied the original Hebrew meanings of “comfort,” I immediately felt God’s presence. By the next morning, the heavy burden of grief and sorrow that had weighed me down had lifted immensely.

Doing some focused Bible studying on key terms or events in the Bible can help you understand the biblical approach to what you’re experiencing and will take you closer to the presence of God.

4. Get (and stay) involved in church.

It’s natural to want to take a step back from responsibilities at church or even not to want to attend a service or two when you’re struggling with depression, but it’s when you’re struggling that you need that foundation and consistency in your life the most.

Find new ways to get involved in ministry or new ways to use the gifts God has given you for His Kingdom. Go to every service. Continue worshipping God in the worship service and at the altar call. Attend special events or services. Keep in touch with your pastor and church family.

Although it may be difficult and you may feel at times as though you have to put on a smile and pretend you’re okay, the consistency of fellowshipping with the people of God and serving in His Kingdom is one of the most important steps in overcoming depression. The consistency and strong foundation that come with being involved in church bring much needed comfort and peace when you’re going through turbulent times or spiritually dry periods.

5. Do fun things.

Depression can make you feel as though you’re barely surviving and are unable to enjoy even the simplest parts of life, but don’t stop trying to find positive and uplifting things that can make you feel a little less sad for a little while.

Listen to music as we already explored above, or go out to breakfast or lunch with family or friends. Go for a walk at a park. Read a book. (If you need some reading inspiration, stay tuned for next week’s post when I’ll share some book ideas for your summer reading list!) Take a short trip on a day off and go to the lake or hiking or for a simple country drive. Write down your thoughts in a journal.

Whatever you do, do something that takes your mind off your stress and grief and pain if only for a moment and bask in that moment of relief. Every little moment of peace adds up, and eventually, you might find yourself going from feeling sad to being just okay to finally realizing that you are and can be happy in your life in spite of what you’ve gone through.

Overcoming depression is not an easy process and does not look the same for everyone. If you find yourself struggling harder with overcoming depression, try the above tips that have helped me.

Remember that our God is a God of peace. We can find the comfort we need in His presence and in the presence of our church family. Even though you may feel alone, you are not alone. You can overcome depression and be stronger than you were before.

“And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.”

Deuteronomy 31:8 (KJV)

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

Hebrews 4:16 (KJV)

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

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

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

I am not enough.

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

I can’t do this.

It’s true.

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

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

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

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

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

Colossians 3:23-24 (KJV)

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

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

2. All things are possible with God.

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

Philippians 4:13 (KJV)

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

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

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

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

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

We are enough to our God!

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

3 Ways to Maintain Our Spiritual Health

Chainmail, Soldier, Spiritual Battle, Protection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One missing link can be deadly.

So, examine yourself each day and ask this question:

Are you vulnerable?

3 College Tips for Newbies & Pantsers: Midterm Edition

Strong Hall
Missouri State University
College
Strong Hall on a rainy day at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri.
Picture taken May 2020.

If you’re newer to this blog, you might not be aware that at certain points during the semester, I post some tips for those who are new to college or who tend to fly by the seat of their pants and put things off until the last minute. I believe it is essential that we try our best in every aspect of our work to reflect a godly character and strive toward excellency in all we do. Many of these tips are also applicable to those in high school, and we can even apply the lessons these tips explore to our lives beyond college.

*****

Midterms are almost here, and so are many big exams and paper due dates. Here are 3 tips I found helpful in preparing for exams and papers throughout my 5-year college experience:

1) Highlight key points & terms in textbooks or sources where you can.

For example, one history professor I had always provided us with a master list of terms we would need to know before each exam to properly define and describe them in paragraph form. Of course, we had no way of knowing which terms she would choose, and the list included some 60 terms out of which she would choose only a handful. Now, I felt she was pulling a Satan move on us, but after freaking out, I was determined to do well on the exam.

I searched through every document and page of every source we’d read thus far, highlighted each term, and wrote everything down about each term that I could find. The areas I focused on were the following: who, what, where, why, when, and how. Then, I wrote down the significance of each term. Doing so helped me prepare and pass my professor’s rigorous exams.

As you read your sources, any term or definition you come across is always worth highlighting and remembering just in case it comes up again later.

2) Plan your essays.

Do it. Even if you tend to be a pantser. A brief outline that simply states your essay’s topic and supporting points will go a long way in helping you create an organized paper that may earn you a good grade.

Brainstorm your ideas. Do some freewriting. Write down ideas for your essay’s intro paragraph and support for your main points. Write down the sources you’ll use to support each main point. Write down ideas for the significance of your essay’s topic that you will reflect on in the conclusion.

If you plan your research and an outline at least seven days before your paper’s due date, then you’ll have at least five to six days to write a page or two each day and finish just in time.

Pro tip: if you prepare two weeks in advance, you’ll have time to send your draft to your professor to get his or her tips on what you should change before the due date.

3) Take time every day to relax.

My ethics professor once explained how he never allowed himself to study so much in college that he couldn’t make time for his social life or to relax throughout the week. This was one of the best pieces of advice any professor had ever given me. I found that through applying his advice, I managed to enjoy my life even when I was juggling several papers and exams due at the same time.

College is stressful. You should be responsible and do your work on time. However, you should also take the time to be around your family and friends and (most importantly) spend time with God. If you study well and prepare for your papers, you’ll find you have more time during the week to relax for an hour or two each evening.

Read a book. Chat with your family. Spend more time in prayer. Take a nap.

Just breathe, pray, repeat, and relax, and you will get through it.

*****

The above are tips that apply to far more than just college experiences. Preparing for important projects in the workforce and adult world is essential for success. Taking the time out to enjoy your life with family and friends is essential for your mental and emotional health. Prioritizing your time with God is essential for your spiritual health.

We must never let ourselves become too lazy or too stressed or too busy that we don’t approach our work and relationships wisely and seriously.

If you know someone in college or even high school who’s struggling, share these tips with them as an encouragement. College is not forever, but the lessons one learns in college will help them get through the rest of life.

3 Steps to Mastering Consistency in Your Life

Prayer, coffee, and the Word.

When we’re stuck in a spiritual rut, life always seems to get out of focus. Our days are rushed, our mind is busy, and no matter how hard we try, moving forward is practically an impossibility. How do we juggle our hectic lives, overcome our flesh, and maintain a healthy relationship with our Creator? The answer is both simple and complex—consistency.

We have to learn to be consistent in our lives in order to live a life dedicated to serving the Lord and His Kingdom while fulfilling earthly duties, such as work and school. Consistency is the key to unlocking our potential as children of God and living a purposeful life. But there are three components, three steps we must take in order to master consistency in our daily lives.

Step 1: Consistency in Thought

We must make up our mind every day that we will serve the Lord.

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” ~2 Corinthians 10:5 (KJV)

When we keep our mind stayed on Christ and our thoughts in obedience to Him, then our lifestyle, our actions, and our words will follow suit. We must choose every morning to serve the Lord, and throughout each day, we must continue in righteous thoughts, remembering our resolve to serve Him and only Him. Consistency must begin in the mind.

Step 2: Consistency in Word

Consistency must also continue into our speech. If we only act the part at church but speak unwisely outside of church, then our words betray us and reveal our heart.

(34) “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

(35) A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.

(36) But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

(37) For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”

~Matthew 12:34-37 (KJV)

Our speech must exalt the King and reflect His Spirit within us. This is why it is essential that we maintain righteousness in thought. If we first determine in our minds to follow and serve the Lord, then we begin to allow His Spirit to dictate our words to others. His Spirit within us helps us guard our tongue and keep our speech in check. Consistency in word will lead to a more righteous life.

Step 3: Consistency in Deed

Of course, it is not enough to mentally choose each day to serve God or to pay only lip service to serving Him, but our actions must follow suit as well, and we must become consistent in our deeds.

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

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

~Colossians 3:23-24 (KJV)

Consistency in our actions requires not only a conscious, daily decision to serve the Lord, but it also requires making smarter choices. We can replace unhealthy or unhelpful habits with spiritual ones. For example, instead of starting the day on our phone for half-an-hour, we can begin our day by reading the Word. Consistency in deed requires making decisions to put God first, such as building consistent prayer lives and daily Bible study sessions. Consistency in these areas should then carry over into our actions around others, showing the world His character in us through our righteous actions.

Once we have learned how to become consistent in each of these three areas, then we will truly be able to show the world the transforming power of our God. When we become consistent in living for Him, others will notice, giving us the opportunity to become active soulwinners and grow the body of Christ. Becoming consistent is not easy, and there will be days in which we will fail. And that’s okay. But we must then become consistent in our determination to get back up each time we fall and strive harder to serve Him more.

Consistency brings results.

It brings us closer to God, and as we become consistent in our daily walk with Him, we learn to love Him and His Word more. We learn to replace old habits with spiritual ones. And we learn the value in making up our mind each day to live for God in righteousness, in checking and guarding our speech (and our thoughts!), and in choosing each day to become more like Jesus and to become the people He has called us to be.