How to Help Each Other Heal

Photo courtesy of the Help Me Heal Ministries Facebook page.

Healing should not be a solitary process.

Can you think of a time when you were healing from a difficult experience and managed to go through that process alone with no outside help? Whether it’s the prayers of others, financial or emotional support, or having a group of friends to find comfort in, we need each other to help us through the healing process.

Last week, I attended the Help Me Heal Conference in Springfield, Missouri, in which there were many lessons and sermons on the various aspects of healing, taking care of your physical and mental health, and dealing with different kinds of trauma. It’s an important annual conference that you should certainly attend if you’re in the greater Springfield area! We all have trauma in our lives and difficult circumstances that we’ve had to face. No one has experienced life without having to go through some kind of grief, loss, trauma, or physical or emotional issue, and we are all in need of healing.

Reverend Carlton Coon, who has authored many books one of which is titled Encountering Depression (which you should definitely check out!), spoke about healing and its connection to the members of the church on the first night of the conference. He explained that helping each other heal “is the ministry of the saints.” Indeed, as the body of Christ, we are to help each other along the healing process. None of us are scar-free, sadly, and we all have some healing to do.

So, why not help each other during this process? The church is meant to be a place where the hurting can go and find healing in the presence of God and comfort among the people of God. Often, we let our flesh and personalities get in the way of what the church is meant to be. Rather than help each other heal, we tend to tear each other down, criticize, or dismiss each other’s backgrounds and experiences altogether. Something I’ve become more aware of as I’ve gotten older and experienced more difficulties in life is that you simply may never know what someone else is dealing with or has gone through. Kindness and a smile can go a long way in helping comfort someone who is in need of healing.

How can we truly help each other heal?

1. Be mindful of the things you say to each other.

We’ve all been on both the receiving and the giving end of helpful “advice.” Sometimes, though the words may be well-intentioned, one’s “advice” to someone going through a difficult time can do more harm than good.

The following sayings are often used as advice to the hurting:

“Just move on.”

“Get over it.”

“It could be worse.”

The first two statements imply that healing is easily achieved by making a single decision, as though that decision is also easily made. There are things in my life that have caused my family and I to experience a great deal of emotional trauma, and to this day, we are in many ways not “over” it. How can one simply move on from loss? How can one simply get over a traumatic experience?

Healing is not simple, and we must rely on a close relationship with God to give us strength to navigate each day and each part of the process.

The third statement dismisses a person’s feelings and belittles his or her experiences as though they are not as bad as they seem, and this may be true. However, if someone is going through depression because they lost a loved one or a job, for example, telling them their situation could be worse may indicate to them that you are judging their reaction to their situation.

There is a right time to remind a person of the things they still have to be grateful for and a wrong time. If a woman suffers a miscarriage, it would not be wise to say, “Well, at least you’ve got another child. It could be worse.” But there may be a moment when this woman is ready and able to find comfort in her other children during the healing process.

This is why it is essential that we give careful thought to the impact our words may have on someone who is trying to heal.

2. Don’t underestimate the importance of your prayers for the hurting.

It is a great comfort to know people are praying for you and truly care for your emotional well being. When my grandmother passed away last year, although I was of course saddened from knowing that I would not see her again in this life, I remember feeling a sense of peace and comfort that I couldn’t explain. Somehow knowing that there were people out there praying for my family and I helped us heal.

It’s easy to say that you’re going to pray for someone and then never do it. You get busy, you forget, and maybe you later mention them in passing in your prayer time. But how much more impactful would your prayers be if you really spent time lifting up the name of someone in need of healing to God in prayer?

You may never know the comfort these words can bring to someone in pain: “I just want you to know that I am praying for you.”

When someone has ever said this to me, it reminds me that someone out there does care and that just maybe I’m not alone after all.

3. Don’t judge someone stuck in the healing process.

Everyone handles difficulties and different emotions, well, differently. Two people may go through the same experience and be in different stages of the healing process. Person A may have been able to accept the situation while Person B may still be angry about it. It wouldn’t be helpful or very understanding for Person A to say, “Why hasn’t Person B moved on yet? What’s wrong with her? I’ve moved on. Yesterday she was fine, and now she’s upset about it again. She needs to let it go.”

And then out come the unhelpful bits of “advice” that people tend to give.

Healing is not linear. It’s not a ladder but rather a circle, and you may go back and forth between anger to sadness to acceptance to denial to sadness to acceptance to anger over and over and over again. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to healing, and there is no easy solution.

It is true that you may never truly get over or move on from a loss or from trauma, as though all that is required to “move on” is the passage of time. We often expect that after a few years or so, a person should just magically be able to move on now.

“All right, Bob, it’s been four years since your wife died. You should be over it by now.”

Not exactly the right mindset when it comes to helping others heal or understanding how someone may struggle with healing. You’ve heard the saying, “Time helps heal all wounds,” and that is partially true. But I’ve found that time sometimes only gives a person distance between them and the moment of trauma, and all it takes for their scabbed over wound to bleed again is a memory or seeing someone tied to that situation again.

The passage of time does not guarantee healing.

We have the responsibility to help each other heal.

We can pray for one another, point others to The Healer, spend quality time with someone who is hurting, or give them needed space. And we must let them have time to heal.

We are all in need of healing, and it is God’s plan for His church to be the place where the hurting can find the healing that they need.

Will you stand in the gap for the hurting and be the person who helps others heal?

2 Principles of Spiritual Growth

Where do we grow from here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victor Jackson

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

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

Psalms 1:3 (KJV)

2. Don’t put limits on your elevation.

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

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

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

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

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

2 Peter 1:5-8 (KJV)

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

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

Victor Jackson

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

We were destined to grow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 119:11 (KJV)

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

2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)

“Are You Invulnerable?”: A Brief Essay on Flaws and Expectations

Last month, I asked through a poll on my Instagram stories who might like to read more of my own creative work and hear more about their background and topics related to the content within my past writings. The response was a unanimous “yes,” and so for today’s post, I’m sharing with you all one of the short essays I wrote for a nonfiction writing class in 2020. I’ll be sharing a bit more in the near future about the story behind this particular short essay and delving into the topics of perfection, expectations, and imposter syndrome. Let me know in the comments or on Instagram what you think of this essay and what you think it means!

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You don’t want people seeing the chinks in your armor.

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?

You’ve held a coat of chainmail—last fall in your history class on the Spanish Conquest. The professor brought in a bit of chainmail for everyone to handle so you all could know how hard the stuff must have been for Europeans to fight in and wear in the heat of Mexico over their wool clothes while holding heavy swords and lances, that is if they could get their hands on one. You put the chainmail on your arm and held it there for a minute. It was a bit like when you stuck your finger in the bowl of cold ice water that the Titanic Museum in Branson, Missouri had cooled to 28 degrees Fahrenheit—the temperature of the water the night the doomed ship sank. You held it there when you were about 14 to see how long you could last.

About 30 seconds.

You lasted with the chainmail on your arm about that long, too, because it started to get heavy, and your wrist started to twitch, and the classmate behind you wanted a chance to hold it, so you passed it on.

(Picture courtesy of Dr. John Chuchiak.)

It was a small section of a coat of chainmail—perhaps about 12 inches wide and long. Dr. Chuchiak lectured on how the Europeans manufactured it 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.

You imagine the misery of knitting steel for a living in 90-degree weather with 60 percent humidity in the Yucatan Peninsula, 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 because that’s all he could afford and figured the gold he’d take from the natives would make him rich enough for 20 crossbows, 50 horses, and a land grant. 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 in an otherwise invulnerable person.

No.

You don’t want people seeing the chinks in your armor, but it’s not because you’re afraid they’ll attack you. You don’t want to let them down or let them see you’re just as human and weak as they are. You’d rather not cry under pressure or in front of others. You say you’re like a machine, doing what you’re supposed to.

But machines break down, and sooner or later, you’ll crack, too.

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Stay tuned for more posts like this and a special study on depression and mental health coming in the near future. Be sure to follow along with the counterpart to this blog on my Instagram for more Apostolic lifestyle content!

Don’t forget to share your thoughts with me on this post in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!

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

(Photo courtesy of Kayla Carmichael.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victory is a choice.

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

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

Every. Single. Time.

You are a victor, not a victim.

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

3 Keys to Endurance

You’re going to make it. Just hold on.

Things you tell yourself when the going gets tough and your resolve is wearing thin.

Sometimes, life can be just too much, you know? Your finances are tight, there’s not enough time in the day or the week to get things done, and your bones begin to ache from all the stress. Maybe you’re tired from work, family drama, or just life. Maybe you’re tired of hearing about all the negative things in the news. Maybe you’re tired of waiting for things to get better.

Sometimes, you just want to lie down, escape, forget about all the stress, struggles, and negative news. Sometimes, you wonder how you’ll get through this.

When will I get to the end of this situation?
When will things finally get better?
How does one endure to the end?

Whether it’s life issues you’re struggling with or anxiously awaiting the day when the Lord calls us home so we can finally be free from this sin-sick world, here are three keys that may help you in unlocking your ability to endure to the end.

1. Though you may be tired, maintain your walk with God every day.

When I was without a full-time job for over a year, the waiting was getting pretty tiresome. There’d be days where I’d feel more confident than others, but on the days where I felt the deadline getting closer and the fear of being jobless with no insurance setting in, I often just wanted to take a nap, watch or read something, or do ANYTHING to take my mind off my fears.

What I discovered was the only thing that gave me peace and strength to overcome that situation was when I met with God each day and dove deeper into the Word.

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7 (KJV)

Keeping up our prayer time then allows God to fill us with His peace that, in turn, keeps us going.

When you’re waiting for a blessing or just trying to get through a trial, perhaps the most important key to enduring that time is keeping up your relationship with God every day. It seems simple, but often our flesh needs simple reminders to get us back on the right track.

Often, my flesh wanted a quick and easy distraction, but those quick and easy distractions didn’t give me strength. They didn’t increase my faith in God. So, I studied Job. I read through the epistles. I made a point to set my phone aside and out of sight during my prayer time in order to get closer to God. And during that time, I grew. I developed my relationship with God.

Through prayer and reading the Word, we increase in the strength we need to endure.

2. Though you may feel overwhelmed, keep up your church attendance.

As my childhood pastor and lifelong spiritual leader Bishop Eddings has always said, “Church attendance is critical to survival.”

God never intended His church to be made up of scattered saints who never congregate together. It isn’t His Will for us to go to church only when we feel like it and to skip service and stay home when we “just can’t deal.”

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

Hebrews 10:25 (KJV)

As we get closer to Christ’s return, we must be committed to attending church even more.

Sure, we’re human. I’ve certainly woken up on Sunday mornings and wished I could sleep in and not have to dress up and go anywhere that day. For many people, when they have a lot on their plate, attending church is the first thing they bump off their list.

But as the song says, “I need you, you need me. We’re all a part of God’s body.” We need each other to survive. When we fellowship with the saints of God, when we worship together, pray together, and glean from the Word together, we increase in strength.

Instead of skipping church when life has you overwhelmed, get to church early to pray with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes, going to church and fellowshipping with your church family can be the healthy distraction you need to get through a difficult situation.

3. Though you may want to isolate yourself, confide in a friend or mentor.

Trying to endure financial, personal, or spiritual struggles alone will deplete your strength and wear thin whatever resolve you have left.

We must talk to God and read His Word, yes, but God doesn’t want us to be without His church. We must keep up our church attendance and fellowship with the saints, yes, but even that may not be quite enough to help us endure a trial.

Tell someone you trust what you’re going through and ask them to help pray for you about it.

This doesn’t come easy to introverted people like me who prefer to “suffer in silence,” as they say. The longer I was without a job and the more rejection emails I received, the more desperate and miserable I became. Though I was keeping up my devotional time and attending church, I needed a bit more help.

Finally, I mustered up the courage to reach out to a trusted mentor and spiritual leader whose advise and kind words and prayers encouraged me. Suddenly, I had a new confidence and assurance that everything was going to be all right. I believed again that I was going to make it. I would endure.

Find someone–a friend or mentor–to support you. If you have no one else, you should definetly always go to your pastor for guidance and prayer, and even if you do have someone, don’t forsake the importance of seeking wise counsel from your pastor.

So, if you’re reading this and feeling weary of an internal struggle or external pressures, you will endure if you do not give up.

Pray. Study the Word. Go to church. Talk to someone.

Endurance requires daily commitment to resisting distraction and defeat.

So, then, how committed are you to enduring until the end?

“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

Matthew 24:13 (KJV)

Why You Should Put God First

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

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

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

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

Genesis 25:31-34 (KJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some things to consider today:

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

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

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

Mark 8:36 (KJV)

Spiritual Food for the Soul: A Guest Post by Tony Wyatt Jr.

One of my favorite questions to ask someone is “What is your favorite food?” What is your favorite restaurant? Food is one of my favorite subjects to discuss.

Why? Because I love food!

Whether it is a huge burger piled with bacon and cheese or my favorite Mexican restaurant, I want food!

As I am typing this, I am thinking about what I am going to put in the smoker today to cook. Will it be chicken wings tossed with Suckle Busters Clucker Dust? Maybe a bacon wrapped pork loin stuffed with jalapenos and cream cheese. Or we could go with a beef brisket cooked to absolute perfection.

Photos courtesy of Tony Wyatt Jr.

Okay, I’ll stop boring some of you with all these details as some of you may just eat to survive only.

Food is essential to life! You cannot thrive physically without food.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Just as you need food physically, you also need to feed your spirit man. You can starve to death if you do not eat. The question is what kinds of food are you consuming spiritually? You will be offered food from this world to eat, but you cannot survive spiritually on the world’s food.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

1 John 2:15-17 (NKJV)

One of my favorite dudes in the Bible is Daniel. He made a choice to refuse food that was not good for him. Instead, Daniel chose to eat what God wanted him to eat.

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

Daniel 1:8 (KJV)

We have to refuse what this culture puts in front of us to consume if we are going to survive. Reject the bad and feed yourself with the good.

How do we feed ourselves spiritually? I’m glad you asked!

1. Consume the Word of God every day.

Your spirit needs to eat.

Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.

Jeremiah 15:16 (NKJV)

Don’t starve yourself by neglecting the Word. If you have to, start small. You don’t have to feel that you’re required to read an entire book of the Bible in a day.

My mom always used to get on to me for inhaling my food so that I could go back outside and play.

Slow down. Consume it slowly. Enjoy the food.

Quality over quantity. You get more out of the Word if you study it deeply than by just trying to check off a box on a reading plan.

Food for thought: Devotionals are also a good way to get into consuming the Word of God daily.

[Editor’s note: Check out this great devotional at the Pentecostal Publishing House for starting out!]

2. Prayer

We have to pray if we are going to survive. Don’t starve yourself by neglecting prayer.

“Pray without ceasing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV)

Prayer is like lifting weights physically. You get more powerful the more you do it. However, to hear the voice of God in prayer, you must turn off the noise and distractions.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Matthew 6:6 (KJV)

So, go set that phone in another room. Turn off the TV and feed your spirit man some food.

Bon appétit!

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Tony is an associate pastor at Apostolic New Testament Church in Mount Vernon, Missouri, and before that, he served as the youth pastor for more than 20 years. He is also the current Hyphen leader over young and single adults. You can hear his sermons by following the Apostolic New Testament Church Facebook page. To get a taste of Tony’s barbequing and meat-smoking skills and to keep up with his ministry, check out his Instagram: @tonycwjr.

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.