All Things New

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold , all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

When I first heard that verse, it shook me. It sounded great to be a new creation in Christ, but I had accepted Jesus and didn’t feel like I was a new creation. I was 12 years old. Turns out, I didn’t really understand salvation (I still don’t have all the answers and won’t until Heaven) and so a few years ago, while watching Star Trek (The original series), I got to thinking about this verse and went to God in prayer. Instead of begging Him to take a burden I didn’t know I had or a burden I didn’t understand, I surrendered to Him and His Will, to His Love, and accepted His free gift. When I opened my eyes, what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:17 made sense.

I was a new creation in Christ.

As we enter a new year, a new decade, I found myself on what I call a “growth journey.” I choose the word journey because this is not a spurt like a sprint done in a day, this is not a marathon that feels more like work and dragging yourself across the finish line. It’s a journey with hills and valleys and places to run wild and places to walk and enjoy the view, places to rest and soak in the Presence of God. This journey of growth was placed on me through the loving words of my close friends, or as Sheila Walsh would call them, my safe-place sisters (I LOVE that!). My friends came to me with love and hurt and told me I wasn’t living right, I was hurting those I love and I was hurting me. How did this happen? How did I go from a new creation in Christ to hurting myself and those I love?

I stopped growing.

When a tree is planted it must be tended to in order to grow. If the tree doesn’t grow, it dies. Relationships and especially our relationship with God works the same way. If we don’t tend to our relationships (sometimes daily), they wither and die. I let my relationship with God get pushed to the back-burner and it withered, I’m so doing I stopped living right. Growth isn’t always sunshine and rainbows either. Ask any growing child and they will tell you, growing pains hurt. Growth in a relationship isn’t always easy, sometimes hurts, but is worth it on the other side.

Thus the growth journey began.

It started a couple weeks ago when we left work for break. That’s when my friends (my Bonus Fam) set me on this journey. I sought Christian counseling to get an outside perspective and I dove into God and His Word. I prayed and cried out to Him, letting Him hear all I had to say. I grabbed books by Christian authors and surrounded myself with words from God to help. Through some deep digging within myself and my difficult past, God unearthed feelings I thought I was passed. He helped me to accept myself and love myself again. God helped me to embrace my royal title as Daughter of the King.

I began to grow.

Now, two weeks in and 5 books later, I feel like a new creation again. That mountaintop feeling is alive and well. The new year began and I’ve got new habits to keep feeding. A daily routine of confession and prayer and reading and filling up with the Holy Spirit…except that all changes tomorrow. We go back to work tomorrow. The journey changes, it doesn’t end. As I go back to work and my routine shifts to add in this new dynamic I feel an excited peace about it (because that makes sense, right?). I am excited to get back to my work and the office I feel called to, the work I love, the people I care so much about. I am at peace with the fact that this new dynamic will be a new challenge to take on, a challenge I could never face without God in me. My routine may change, but Jesus never will. Praise God for that!

This new year and new decade is a time for change, a time for growth and a time to focus in on God. I don’t know what this year holds for any of us, I don’t know what the last year or decade has held for you. Maybe you’ve faced a season of heartache and pain and a journey of growth sounds incredibly impossible right now. Or maybe you’ve had a time of joy and rejoicing and a growth journey sounds like an exciting opportunity to try. Or perhaps you fall somewhere in the middle and growing closer to God sounds good some days but not every day. That’s okay. We all face different seasons, we all face things in different ways. What I know is this, God is with you even when you don’t feel Him. He’s there, feeling the pain you feel and loving you through all of it. He’s there, celebrating with you and rejoicing during the good times.

He’s there.

Wherever life has you right now, know that I am praying for you in this new year. I am praying that your relationship with God would grow and that He will come close to you. I pray that this new decade would hold a glorious blessing for you and His glory.

We are a new creation in Christ, may we all grow closer to Him each day.

Actions Speak Louder

‘Actions speak louder than words.’

This is a phrase I’ve heard countless times from my Momma. See, she’s my Sunday School teacher as well and there has been so many times during a lesson that she will ask the class, “what’s our phrase?” To which the class will respond (sometimes in that tone you use when your parents say the same thing over and over and over again…you know the tone) with “actions speak louder than words.” She would say this, because there are so many times in our life that we can easily say ‘I wouldn’t do that’ or ‘I’m going to do that one day’ or even ‘God wants me to do this thing but I’ll get to it later.’ The other side of this is that we say things on social media or we proclaim we are Children of God but yet don’t live that way.

We say it, we don’t live it.

In the book of James in the Bible, James talks about the works of Christians and how they need to be a part of our Christ-like walk. It’s so easy to say the words and not do the work. The work is hard, scary even and we let fear enter the arena and then we get unsure and uncertain and begin to doubt and think ‘did I really hear God right?’ ‘Did He really say that?’ ‘I don’t think I can do that.’ ‘Maybe God said something else or meant someone else.’

Stop!

Tell fear to take a hike and push fear out of your way, let God lead and listen to Him. Don’t say no to Him. God’s got you and He’s not gonna lead you wrong. God loves you so much and He only wants what is best for you.

Follow Him. Let Him lead.

Don’t let your words be all you give God. Give Him your actions, give Him your all. God wants all of you, so let Him have your whole life, not just the easy parts. When God calls you to share Him, then share Him. Fully. Completely. All of you given over to Him and His calling in your life.

No matter what God wants you to do or where He wants you to work or where He wants you to go, then go. Live for Jesus out loud not just in words, DO what He wants you to do. Because only you can do what He is calling you to do. God’s Will will come to be with or without you, if it’s without you though you will miss out on a blessing.

When you accept Jesus, live for Him…out loud because like my Momma always says, “Actions speak louder than words” and she’s right. I used to live with just words alone and I lost friends and broke trust with others because I wasn’t living up to what I was saying. I would even tell Jesus and make Him ‘promises’ that I wouldn’t uphold and then would miss out on so much…so much. I don’t ever want to tell God to ‘wait’ or tell Him I’m only going to do part of what He wants. I want to do all He calls me to do, no matter what because I know He’s got me and He loves me and whatever He has planned for me is what is best.

God knows what’s best, so give Him your all and not just in words, let your actions be louder than your words.

The Key to Planning

Making plans is not something Christians tend to talk about, partially because of the old saying ‘we plan and God laughs.’ While this is true, we shouldn’t use this as an excuse not to discuss how to actually plan…with God.

Let’s break it down.

To make plans with God is not to go to God and say, ‘ok God, here’s what I’m going to do and I want you to bless it.’ That’s the wrong way to do it. To bring what you’ve planned out to God and asking Him to bless it is to take His Will out of the equation. That’s telling God to follow your will, not His.

I know so many people that make their plans, start acting on them and the pray over them to God and wonder why they don’t always work out like they hoped. Just because something sounds like a good idea to you, doesn’t mean it’s part of God’s Will.

So how do we plan with God?

Go to God first. When you feel that nudge to move or when you feel uncomfortable or are unhappy or frustrated, go to God. Seek Him and His ways.

When you feel comfortable and joyous and happy and content, go to God and seek Him and His ways.

See that?

What you do when you’re ready to move is the exact same thing you need to do when you’re comfortable and content. Remember, God’s timing is not always the same as your timing.

God will nudge you to move when His timing is perfect and if your in His Will already, it will feel right and perfect because you are already seeking Him and doing His work. God has the perfect plans for you, He knows all and sees all, so trust Him to make the plans and to help you act them out. Don’t try to do it on your own, it’s too big of a burden to carry.

Let God make your plans. Let God bless what you do in His Will. Did you catch that? His Will. Not yours.

Seek God and what He wants for your life, not what you want. Let your wants and desires be to live out God’s Will for your life and your heart will align with His and your plans will become His plans.

Let God plan.

The Trap of Excuses

‘It’s ok, I can just do it later. No big deal.’

‘I don’t need to study right now, I can finish this game.’

‘I’m gonna read my Bible later, I want to watch this movie first.’

‘ I plan on finishing that tomorrow.’

‘I’ll get all caught up on that tomorrow.’

‘I’ll do that tomorrow.’

‘Tomorrow.’

‘Tomorrow.’

‘Tomorrow.’

We are so good at making excuses to make ourselves believe that putting work we need to do off is ok. That putting our wants or desires above the work we need to do is ok. That having fun can be placed above doing God’s work.

These. Are. Lies.

These lies come from the devil and are used to keep us from doing God’s Will and furthering His Kingdom. The devil wants us to get lazy, wants us to keep tied up in the temptations and fun of this world to put off doing God’s work. This is dangerous because we need to be ready and willing to do His work, because if we don’t…who will?

As God’s Kingdom and servants of His Will, it is our calling to do God’s Will, to grow His Kingdom. When we listen to the devil and place temptations and the ways of this world above God’s Will is to step away from the Great Commission given by Jesus. Let us all be brave and wise in seeking God’s Will and living it out, placing God above all else.

Let us further His Kingdom and do His Will. God’s Will is the most important part of any Christian’s life.

Let’s live it out by stopping the excuses.

Let’s evade the trap of excuses.

To All People

Jesus has given us a mission, to share the Gospel with all people. Not just some people, not just the people you deem worthy, all people. Jesus never said, ‘I only want you to share the Gospel with people of the same race, same economic background, same style choices, and same political affiliation as you.’ No. Jesus said “Go and share the Gospel with all people. (Matthew 28:19-20, paraphrased)” The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t just for people you agree with, the Kingdom of Heaven is for all people that accept Christ as Lord and Savior and freely choose to live for Him. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6)” That means that anyone that goes to Jesus and accepts Him and repents of their sins to Him, will be saved. Anyone.

When did we decide that only a select few deserve the Gospel? When did we decide that only the people we deem worth deserve to be saved? Deserve to be loved by Jesus? When did we decide that we are Jesus? Last time I checked, I haven’t met anyone with nail-scarred hands, is perfect, and can perform miracles and can create everything at will…have you? We aren’t Jesus, we were never meant to be Jesus, we were meant to be the church and to grow the church. We are members of the royal family, we are part of the Kingdom, we are not the King. God is the judge, not us.

In today’s society, there is so much anger and hatred toward one another that is based upon assumptions at first glance, assumptions based upon the ugliest of stereotypes and the most radical individuals. Society wants to take these assumptions and push them on each other to keep us apart, for what? A moment of pride or glory to make ourselves feel that we are right? That our opinion is the only one that matters? Have we learned nothing during all of creation? Pride kills. Selfish pride kills and glory should only be given to God, not man. Read the Bible and every story in it where man is prideful and glorifies himself it leads in punishment and destruction, every time.

So what do we do?

We stop tearing each other apart and start sharing love, love that only comes from Jesus with each other. Stop being the judge and let God do that. Share Jesus and the Gospel with all people, not just your select group. Pray for everyone. Pray for the lost, all of them. Fight the battle that matters, the one that Jesus wins in the end-the spiritual battle, through prayer and studying the Bible and spending time with God. Spend more time with God than on social media. Pray for those you don’t agree with, try to understand them and then show grace and share Jesus and His teachings. Stand up for Christ, in a Christ-like way, not with hatred.

Pray for all people, share the Gospel with all people.

Be the church, grow the Kingdom.

Faith > Fear

I’ll admit, sometimes when God calls me to do something, I panic and give God a multitude of excuses. I get fearful of the opinions of others and wonder what they will think of me if I step out in faith and do God’s Will. Here’s what happens though: I miss out on growing closer to God when I do that.

In Genesis, we learn of Noah. Everyone knows the story of Noah and the ark God called him to build. Imagine, for a second if Noah had given God a list of excuses to not build the ark or if he had put it off. What might have happened? Without the ark, entire species could have been lost, the human race could have been entirely wiped out. Would God have let this happen? Of course not, His plan will always come to fruition but it would not have been through Noah.

When we make excuses and put off what God has called, we miss out. We miss giving God our all. When we let the world dictate our actions, we push ourselves further from God instead of growing closer to Him. A big reason for this: Growth isn’t Comfortable.

To grow is to stretch, to stretch is to go through a small pain so that bigger pain is less likely. When I wake up in the morning, I stretch really big and sometimes a muscle will be stiff from not moving in a while. Although it hurts a bit to stretch, it helps so that when I begin my day, I’m not in pain. Think back to when you’re a kid and you’re growing, remember those growing pains that you thought meant you were going to lose that leg because it hurt so bad? Your body needed to grow and although it hurt, the pain didn’t last and you were able to grow. Spiritual growth isn’t comfortable and sometimes includes a bit of pain, but the payoff is that you grow closer to God and that helps to ease other pain from other trials later.

Let your faith be bigger than your fear, let your faith be louder than your fear. Listen to God instead of the world. Let yourself grow closer to God, trust Him. Don’t put off what God calls you to do out of fear, trust Him and do His Will. Don’t miss out on your growth opportunity.

Remember, Jesus has overcome all things, so your faith can be greater than your fear.

The Little Blue Checkmark

Likes. Retweets. Shares. The little blue checkmarks. Things we all use to show that we have made it. Why do we seek the approval of others so much? When I was growing up, I can remember so many slogans that said, ‘Believe in yourself! It doesn’t matter what others think of you, only what you think of yourself!’ or ‘Be different, even if your alone!’ and yet, now, all the world holds as important is popularity and letting the opinions of others drive our opinions of ourselves. Why did we let go of the idea that what we think of ourselves is more important than what others think of us? When did we decide that the opinions of others is more important? The whole idea of social media was to bring people together, to connect with friends and family that are separated by distance. To share our lives with others to supplement our time spent together, not to count the number of likes, shares, comments, retweets, and clicks that small pieces of our lives get.

It’s time to listen to the One opinion that really matters. The opinion from God. Not the opinion of preachers, pastors, Sunday school teachers, friends, family, or co-workers. God’s opinion is the only opinion that really holds value on our lives. Sure, the opinions of those closest to you are important, but none can compare to the opinion that God has of you. God loves you and wants what is best for you, when you live for Him, it brings Him joy.

The next time you feel disappointment from zero likes on a post you think is amazing, remember, God loves everything you do that is in His Will. When your actions align with God’s Word, He is glorified. So, go and glorify the Father in all you do, both in real life and the digital one.

The Bible in a year

So I decided to finally read my Bible, the entire thing…in a year. I’ve never done this but I am so excited! I’ve read the New Testament and bits of the Old Testament but never the entire Bible, it always seemed overwhelming to read it all. Although it may be daunting, it is so worth it and is already becoming a great idea for this year!

I decided to follow the reading plan in the She Reads Truth Bible as compiled by the late Reverend Robert Murray M’Cheyne, M.A. This plan involves 4 chapters per day and mixes between the Testaments in a way that allows for connections to be made between prophesy and fulfillment.

It has only been one day and four chapters but already I have seen, more deeply how God planned everything for eternity. Do I know His plan? Of course not! What I do know is this, God knew everything before He ever began His work. He knew He would need to send His Son. He knew it all and still chose to follow through. Why? Because of His love for us. God loves us more than we can ever comprehend and it is because of that love that we are able to live freely for Him. We are free to choose how we live, Jesus is there to hold out His gift for us and patiently waits for us to accept it.

Why wait? Accept Jesus and begin a life for Him. Part of a life for Jesus includes studying His Word, so open your Bible and dig in!