how do we “get to” God?

Let me begin this post by saying, whether this is the first time you’ve been here or you are a regular visitor, I value your time. I deeply appreciate every pair of eyes that read across my words, because these words come straight from my heart, and the thought that anyone would take time to read them brings tears to my eyes. I pray that I would only share thoughts that are uplifting and encouraging to you, because I can imagine that is exactly what you are searching for.

So with that, here’s my thoughts today….

The topic of this post is somewhat fragile ground for me to tread on: How do we as humans “get to” God?

In other words, what do we have to do to reach Heaven?

This is somewhat scary for me to write about because Christians are so divided on the topic of salvation. It causes lots of tension and animosity between different groups and denominations, because salvation is the end goal of our faith and life. Deciding what to believe about salvation is more than a life or death situation, it’s an eternal life or death situation. Which is why I’m somewhat compelled to share the truth that I believe to have.

Please understand that I’m writing this with complete sincerity and humility. If you have any questions or even arguments, please leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail. I would love to chat 🙂

How do we get to God?

Is there a way for humans to actively move towards God?

Yes, actually.

John 6:44 says “no man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him”

how-do-we-get-to-god

This verse tells me that a man can come to Jesus, but only if God draws him first. God must pull a person towards Him, because a person cannot come to him of his own will. A human being in their natural state – a sinner- has nothing within them that wants to draw near to God. How do I know that?

Because Romans 3:10-12 says “there is none righteous, no not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.”

Also, Ephesians 2:1 tells me that I am dead in sin. To be dead in sin means that you have no desire nor ability to desire spiritual things. All you have inside you is your sinful nature. Each human’s natural state of living is “dead in sin” until God intervenes. This sinful nature is referred to as the “natural man” in this verse:

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14

This verse states that we as natural worldly humans have nothing inside us that desires to seek God. We only begin to seek God and have faith until God takes action. Do you know what dead people can do? Nothing. Dead people cannot make themselves come alive, only Jesus can bring the dead to life. So if I’m naturally dead in sin, and if there is nothing within me that desires to seek God, nor has the ability to seek God, how did I end up where I am today: seeking and following after Christ?

I didn’t do it.

I had nothing to do with the transformation that took me from dead in sin to alive in Christ.

If you keep reading chapter 2, you find in verse 8 that you are “saved by grace through faith” and not faith that you created yourself, faith that was given to you by God. Keep reading on into verse 9 and you find that no part of this salvation “process” had anything to do with your actions.

Nothing you said, no good deed you did, no action, and no profession of belief has any part in securing your home in Heaven.

Your place in Heaven was secured by the fact that God chose to love you. God chose to reach down and pull you out of eternal wrath.

Ephesians 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love…”

God decided long before you were born, and long before the world was created, to love you and to give you a home in Heaven. He didn’t do it because of anything you did, or anything He knew that you were going to do, but simply because that is the true definition of love. True love is making sacrifices for those who can do nothing for you. That is the perfect picture of love, and Christ illustrated that for us on the cross.

Think about this: why would God leave it up to our actions to confirm our salvation? How could He give us sinful, clueless, creatures the power to choose between Heaven or Hell? I cannot let myself believe that God sent His son to die for our sins, to pay the price for our salvation, and then somehow still put another requirement on us to officially become “saved”. That just does not make sense in my head.

You know the Fruits of the Spirit? Love, joy peace, patience, goodness, etc… (Gal. 5:22) They are called “Fruits of the Spirit” because you only have those traits inside you if the Holy Spirit dwells inside you. And I don’t think it’s Biblical to say that God would allow someone to go to hell even though they have the Holy Spirit inside them. So these Fruits of the Spirit must be evidence that you have Jesus and the love of God in your heart, and God would not, could not send someone He loves to hell.

Let’s work out that thought a little deeper: God would not send someone He loves to hell.

We know that God’s love is everlasting, and that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

“The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

So if God loves everyone, and some people still end up in hell, then either God loves them in Hell (which is not Biblical because Hell is eternal separation from God) or that God’s love actually isn’t everlasting. Since I know that neither of those options are found in the Bible, I have to believe that if a person is in Hell, God never loved them to begin with.

Following that train of logic, I have to believe that all the people that God loves are without a doubt going to have a secure place in Heaven. And God doesn’t choose who He loves based on actions or words. He chooses who He loves according to His own good pleasure and will. However, that absolutely doesn’t mean that God loves a very select few people. You can see in Revelation 7:9 that Heaven holds “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues”.

This collection of somewhat scattered thoughts is not complete in itself. My intention is not to convince anyone that the way they may believe is wrong, or that the way I believe is right. My only intention is to propose some ideas that hopefully convince you to dig a little deeper into God’s word and decide for yourself what to believe. Salvation is such a tricky subject, and I think it’s important to remember that no matter what beliefs you hold or what church you go to, we all have the same goal: to seek truth and to serve God as best we can. So instead of judging and looking down on each other, let’s build up and encourage one another. I am so completely open to comments, questions, and arguments (as long as you’re nice about it :-)), so feel free to leave a comment or even email me if you want to talk deeper.

 

 

Advertisements

the view from above

I have spent the last week exploring the South West of America. We saw a lot of dirt and not a lot of trees, beautiful mountains larger than life, a small band of 13 faithful Christians holding their church service in a conference room of the YMCA, a glitzy city called Vegas packed to the brim with LOTS of people, a stretch of 106 miles in Utah with no towns, rest stops, or even gas stations, and one of God’s many miraculous wonders called the Grand Canyon.

It was the farthest away I’ve ever been from my small Alabama town and probably one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced.

the-view-from-above

From the top of the Gateway Arch, you can see the order of everything. You can see the way the roads connect and overlap one another and the thought that was put into planning each pathway. You can see the layout of St. Louis and the planning that went into its organization. You can see the paths that tiny looking people are walking and what their destinations will be.

From the top of the Las Vegas High Roller, you can see the city lights go on for miles and miles until they finally fade out into the surrounding desert. You can determine the beginning and end of the city.

From the top of the Grand Canyon, you can see the dips and ridges and valleys. You can see the pattern of the rocks and the layers upon layers of sediment that it took to create the height of the gorge. You can see the years and years it took to carve the canyon into what it is today.

Here on the ground, life can get spinny. You know?

There are people everywhere walking around you with all different opinions, backgrounds, culture, family systems, and beliefs and values. They argue and complain and condescend and discourage. There are deadlines and meetings and events and parties and people to please and standards to meet. There are decisions to make and success to create and a reputation to uphold and friends and family to care for.

And everything just sorta twirls around you all the time and you don’t ever think you’ll get a break because life is so demanding and just moves way too fast…

But from up above, it’s different.

It’s calm. Peaceful.

You can’t hear the noise below. You can’t hear the complaints and demands of people or the cars whizzing by or the booming parties drawing you in or the buzz of the due dates and events drowning your planner. You can’t hear the clock ticking the time away or the pressures and demands of life crying your name.

Everything has order and purpose.

We just can’t see that from the ground.

Which is why I’m glad that Someone is up above, without the noise and confusion, who can see the order and purpose in my life.

In fact- not only sees it- but arranges it.

While I’m down here running around clueless trying to go, go, go and do, do, do- He’s up there planning the beginning and ending of my story, and taking care of me all the steps of the way through.

This is why I can give my complete trust fully over to Him, because He does have a purpose and a plan. It’s a beautiful and immensely comforting thought to me that God watches over my life the same way as I looked over the streets of St. Louis- seeing the order and the plan.

The city is doing some major construction around the park surrounding the Arch. It took us a long time to figure out where we were going and how to make our way through all the construction zone mess. It didn’t look like it was going to be anything spectacular- there was fencing up everywhere and piles of dirt and bricks and machinery. There were sections of pathways that lead to nowhere and pipes sticking out of the ground. It just looked like a big mess and I thought how are they ever going to finish this, much less make it look appealing?

Once we got inside and traveled to the top of the Arch, I could see it. I could see how the pathways would eventually all connect and what each section of the park was going to hold- where different ponds, structures, flower beds and trees were going to be placed. Walking through it on the ground, none of it made sense- but looking down from the sky, I could see the layout of this grand design.

Which is exactly how God sees your life- orderly, planned out, and purposeful.

I don’t know what your life looks like right now- whether it’s messy and confusing, or maybe you’re looking down several different pathways and don’t know which to choose. Maybe you feel like you’re at a crossroads, maybe a big change is coming or maybe you feel as if your life is on hold. Maybe you’re looking at your current situation and you have no earthly idea how it could possibly work out.

Whatever the case may be, rest in the fact that your loving, all knowing, Father is looking down at your life at this very moment, and He can see the purpose, plan, and most importantly, the beauty in everything. Trust in His unwavering providence and grace in your life. Trust that He will guide you through the mess- so that you will eventually see the purpose and beauty and also the honor and glory of God through it all.

 

you don’t have to be pretty like her

I have a story.

On one particular Wednesday morning, I was running late for class. Having an hour long commute to school, and an 8 AM class preceded by a 5:45 AM alarm, this not an uncommon occurrence for me.

you-dont-have-to-be-pretty

This morning, like many other mornings, my eyes were doing this really cool and unique thing where one is slightly more open than the other. I can wash my face, I can stretch my eyebrows, I can apply lotion, but nothing solves this problem. It’s great.

So, I have two options: put on a full face of make-up to the point where the smaller eye looks like it’s caved in (not a good option) or wear no make-up at all (a worse option).  On this particularly rushed occasion, I chose the latter.

So I run down the stairs after throwing on an outfit that I’m highly dissatisfied with because it makes me look like a safari tour guide and I begin to make my cup of coffee. My cup brews, so I pull out the milk and pour some in. And then I smell something.

And I look down at the expiration date and realize that I just poured spoiled milk in my coffee.

So no coffee today.

So here I am, no make-up, one eye half closed, unhappy with my outfit, and no coffee. And away to school I go.

In my first class that day, I meet a girl. She’s tall, literally the size of a toothpick, with a beautiful face, hair piled into a cute messy bun, and perfectly polished fingernails. She’s wearing athletic clothing, so she obviously must be in perfect shape, and her blonde straight hair definitely beats out my frizzy, air dried, semi-waves in any kind of imaginary beauty competition.

And I put her image up against my own in my mind. And nearly every ounce of self-esteem I had inside me drains out.

Lies spill into my heart telling me that I am not as pretty as I should be. I don’t try hard enough to look presentable for class. Why do I ever skip the make-up? I know I don’t look good without make-up. I am not who I should be. This girl must have her life completely together, I mean just look at her. She’s probably less clumsy than me, more feminine, more organized. She’s probably happier. Probably never misses an assignment. Probably has a clean room. Probably has a nicer car. The list goes on and on and on…

Unfortunately, this type of situation is not a rare one in my life. And I have a feeling it’s not rare in yours either.

What I’ve been trying to convince myself since that day, and the thought I hope you can sink into your heart is this: You are, by no means, under the obligation to strive to reach someone else’s standards of “perfection”. Because you are not placed on Earth to be someone else. You are not placed on Earth to please anyone else.

Someone else’s beauty does not take away from your own beauty.

Someone else’s skills and abilities do not take away from your own talents.

Someone else’s cute outfit does not take away from your own unique sense of style.

You don’t have to look, talk, dress, or act like that girl. You can look, dress, talk, and act like you.

You don’t have to be pretty like her. You can be pretty like you.

I have another story. It’s about a girl named Leah. Leah was a young woman who always seemed to come in second place to someone else.  The Bible tells us that Leah was pleasant, but her sister Rachel was beautiful (Gen 29:17). When a man named Jacob asked their father, Laban, for a wife, he was promised Rachel, but received Leah instead. When Jacob realized this he said, “What is this thou hast done unto me? Did not I serve with thee for Rachel? Wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?” Not only was Leah not as beautiful as her sister, but she also became a newlywed who was rejected by her own husband.

Don’t you have days that you feel a lot like Leah? Don’t have days when you feel as if you’re always second place to someone else, like you’re supposed to be so much more than you really are?

I have those days too.

God eventually blessed Leah to give Jacob a child. Despite the fact that this man has rejected her, Leah praised and thanked God for blessing her with a child to give Jacob (vs 35). Leah understood something that is should be such a precious reminder for all of us.

Leah understood that she was not placed there to serve people. She was not there to serve Jacob, to please her Father, or to try to live up to her sister’s standards. God placed Leah on Earth to serve and praise Him. And that’s exactly what she did. Leah was not beautiful like Rachel, but she was beautiful because she was a young woman who remained faithful to God and served and praised Him.

When you allow yourself to believe that you are not as good/pretty/skinny as other girls, you begin trying to please people more than you are trying to please God. You are admitting that others’ approval is more valuable to you than God’s approval.

Dear friend, you do not exist to please people around you.

You do not exist to win beauty contests, to win over all the boys, or to win anyone’s approval.

You exist to serve God.

You are not beautiful because of the color of your eyes, the color of your skin, the style of your hair, or the shape of your body. You are beautiful because God created you for Himself. You are beautiful because God is pleased by your praise and faithfulness. You will become so much more content with who you are when you have a firm grasp on what your purpose is- to serve God, to spread love, to honor and worship the One who made you beautifully and perfectly.

writing your own version of success

I have found lately that one of the most common things that people my age worry about is their success. Between conversations with many friends and family members, it seems like everyone spends all their time and energy on “making the mark”. They have to reach the goal. They have to make the grade. They’re worried about graduating on time or what they’ll do after they graduate. And if something doesn’t work out the way they’ve planned it, that automatically means they have failed.

success

The world defines success as: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose; the attainment of popularity or profit; a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity.

That definition of success sits heavily inside me. The thought of my life being measured by whether or not I attain popularity or prosperity places a heavy burden on my heart. If you at the same stage as me in life, there’s a lot of pressure to begin figuring out what your life is going to look like and to start paving your “road to success”. You’ve got your five year plans, and benchmarks, and long term goals.

There’s a weight on a lot of us to make the grade, get the diploma, marry the rich guy, or get the 4.0 GPA. And your joy can easily be consumed by the wave of other people’s success. Other people’s success forces you to try to reach their standard. It causes you to push yourself farther and farther down a path that is eventually going to be damaging to your well-being.

We so often try to reach the mark that other people set for success. We try to measure up to their definition of success, the world’s definition, and not our own.

Well I’m writing my own definition of success. Because I don’t believe that my life is measured in bank accounts or report cards. I believe my life is measured in something less tangible, something that is more easily seen than felt.

I believe my life is measured in love.

My definition of a successful life includes building lasting relationships, learning all I can about life and love and people. It includes soaking in all the life-changing experiences that I can, and learning more about myself and what kind of person I want to be. I want my success to be defined by the moment that I can wholeheartedly announce, “God has been faithful and loving this far, and I trust that He will continue to be for the rest of my days”. I’m deciding that even if I don’t make the grade, have a 4.0 GPA, or get the dream job once I graduate, I will still lay claim to success as I have defined it.

Your definition of success isn’t going to look like everyone else’s. Your success doesn’t have to be measured in dollar amounts, diplomas received, job interviews scored, or trophies placed on your shelf. The success of your life can be measured in people, in the depth of your relationships, in the number of laughing fits that brought you to tears, and in the warmth of good conversations with your people.

I find that the Bible does not place a lot of importance on worldly success.

Colossians 3:12-14 says, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness”

I cannot find anywhere in the Bible that says “go make lots of money and find a standard 9-5 office job with a three figure salary and only then will you be happy”.

In fact, Luke 12:15 tells me that “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth”. Your life is not solely made up of the abundance of your riches. Your identity and your worth as a human being can never be placed on the amount of Earthly possessions you have.

That takes the pressure off. That statement alone relieves you of the burden to be successful. The weight of attaining the world’s definition of success can be crushing. It causes you to feel like a failure when you only barely missed the mark. The world’s definition of success will tell you that you’ll always have something or someone to measure up to, and since you fell short this time, that means you’ll always be a failure.

Your life is not measured in possessions.

Your worth is not measured by the success that the world has to offer.

It’s found in love. It’s found in the things penned down in Colossians: kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and patience. That verse in Colossians places importance on who you are, not what you have. Success as the world defines it will drain the life out of you. I wholeheartedly believe that rewriting your definition of success will cultivate more joy in your life that anything else ever could. Because this new definition of success brings you closer to God.

You know when I feel closest to God? When I’m pouring out love, forgiveness, and patience. When I’m kind and when I reach out to those in need. I don’t feel close to God when I’m studying or checking my grades or when my paycheck rolls in. I believe that our success as a person largely has to do with how much of God’s love we can fill ourselves up with, and then how much we can pour out.

At the end of my life I don’t care about being able to say that I made lots of money or had lots of diplomas or medals. I want to be able to say that I touched lives, that I gave love to people who maybe had never received it before, that I helped those in need, and that I poured out God’s love to everyone around me.

Find purpose and meaning in the definition of success that you find in God’s word, and let it sink into your heart. Relieve yourself of the pressure to “measure up” to those around you, and rewrite your own version of success. Remember that your worth is not found in tangible things like a bunch of “important” pieces of paper. Your worth is measured in something that’s a little harder to see, but much easier to feel, and much, much more valuable to God: love.

how to respond when your dreams crumble

I experienced a break up this year.

In March actually. For a little over 12 hours.

break up

As I’ve mentioned in many relationship posts, I’ve learned this year that choosing another imperfect human being to experience life with is not a task for the faint of heart.

It takes more patience, understanding, and forgiveness than I could’ve ever imagined…and we’re only two years in and not even married. So without elaborating on details: conflicting schedules, minimal communication, and semi-long distance caused me to believe that our relationship was falling apart. I trust now that the real reason is that God needed to teach me something.

I know I don’t have to describe this feeling to you. The devastation that swallows your heart when you can feel something failing, whether it’s a relationship, friendship, job prospects, your dream school, scholarship opportunities, basketball try-outs, nursing school admission… whatever you want to fill in the blank with. Feeling lost. Feeling like a disappointment. Wondering what in the world am I even supposed to be doing?

It’s crushing. It’s heartbreaking.

Because you know that you were born to be a nurse…

Because this was your chance to prove your talent…

Because you’ve always dreamed of getting a scholarship to that dream school…

Because you really did love him…

So now what?

Because you felt like this was really God’s plan for you, and everything just fell perfectly into place up until now, and it just felt right, and you were doing so good, and everyone was cheering you on and expecting you to succeed, marry them, get the job, make the team, get into the school or program… Maybe you’ve been dreaming about this your whole life, or maybe it’s something that your parents have always wanted for you, and everyone has these expectations of you to succeed, and now it’s all crumbling.

And now what are you supposed to tell everyone? You’ll have to explain to everyone what happened and what you did wrong. You’ll have to let everyone down. They’ll be disappointed. They’ll say, “well, it was never going to work out anyways”. Everyone will wonder, just like you are, how something that seemed so perfect just fell apart. You’ll have to explain to everyone just exactly how you failed.

But here’s the new hope that you need to let sink your heart: sometimes God lets things fall apart, so He can put them back together.

I think failure shifts our focus. It makes us ask:

What went wrong?

Was it something I could’ve done better?

What can I learn from this?

How could God be preparing me for something?

What other plans could God have for my life?

That dream school may put you in a place that distracts you from God. Those countless rejection letters are only proof that God is saving you for something better. That friendship crumbled because they were no longer building you up, maybe they were pulling you down. Maybe God was giving you room for new friendships. Maybe God needs your focus somewhere more important than that sports team that you “weren’t good enough” for.

When my dreams crumbled, a new, greater hope was eventually placed in my heart: giving your hopes and dreams over to God is the absolute best way to guarantee a joyful, meaningful life.

God called me to let go of something that I had made my idol, something that I had wrapped my entire life around. He ended something that had become my only source of fulfillment. When I put my hopes and dreams in His hands, and I did what He was calling me to do, He built our relationship back up in a much more beautiful and Godly way.

I’m not saying that God is always going to give you back what you lost. In my specific situation, He did. But that isn’t necessarily true for all cases. He may build your plans back on a completely and totally different pathway than you started out with, or He may put you back on the same path with a lesson learned. You have to trust that He has your best interest in mind. Because He does. And when your plans crumble, that doesn’t always mean you failed. It just might mean that God needs to redirect your path.

In these months that have followed our break up, we have grown in our faith and beliefs as well as our love for each other. We’ve learned to love each other in a more Godly way, we’ve learned more about each other’s needs, and much more about our Savior and the place He holds in our relationship. I’ve learned that a relationship with another person, no matter who it is, can never be my only source of fulfillment. I’ve learned that when my relationship becomes an idol in my heart, it actually does more harm than good for both people involved.

Allowing something that you’ve invested months, years, or maybe even a lifetime into to crumble may be one of the most difficult and earth-shattering things you’ll ever have to do. But coming through to the other side of the heartache, where God’s plan is waiting for you, provides an immeasurable amount of joy and peace.

When you face the heartache knowing that God may be using it to build you something greater, it becomes something strangely beautiful. And I cannot begin to explain what it feels like to experience the blessings that God gives once you decide to follow where He leads. You cannot imagine the joy, peace, and contentment that I feel knowing that putting my trust in God created something beautiful.

Each and every one of us will experience failures throughout our whole life. I hesitate to make the claim that everything happens for a reason, but I am convinced that absolutely everything about your life is subject to God’s control. The heartaches and crushed plans don’t seem so devastating when you can put total hope and confidence in God’s providence in your life.

And trusting in God’s providence gives you this new hope: maybe things only fall apart so God can put them back together His way.

 

 

do you struggle with a smug soul?

Titus 3:2-4 says, “To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared

do you struggle with smug soul

Isn’t smug a fun word? Smug.

It’s fun to say but absolutely not fun to feel.

No matter what your personality is, where you are in life, or how much you have in life, we all have little smug feelings in us sometimes.

When we tip the waiter lower than we know we should. When we don’t thank someone for holding the door open. When we don’t return a stranger’s smile or wave across the street. When we worry more about our reputation than spreading the Gospel.

I’ve been struggling with several seemingly separate heart issues lately- I’ve been judgmental, ungrateful, pessimistic, apathetic, etc… I’ve found that they are all actually connected in one problem -and it’s found in the cute little word, smug. How can such an adorable word have such damaging effects?

For those of you who don’t know, smug (adj.): contentedly confident of one’s ability, superiority, or correctness

The verses in Titus above call us to not spread unkind gossip, to live peaceably, and to show gentleness and kindness to everyone we meet. These things are fairly standard commandments sprinkled abundantly throughout the whole Bible. There are so many more verses that command us to do the same things.

The reason that this particular passage stood out to me is the why. Why should I show kindness to them? Why should I refrain from spreading gossip? Why should I tip the waiter a fair amount? Why should I return a stranger’s smile?

Because verse 3 tells me that I, myself was (and still am) disobedient, living in envy, hateful, and serving my own selfish desires. This tells me that I am in no position to withhold love or kindness from anyone, because honestly, I am not always worthy of love. Never, actually. I’ve never been worthy of love.

But God loves me anyways.

He doesn’t love me because of anything I’ve done (if you keep reading you see that in verse 5), or anything I am, but because of who He is and what He’s done.

God saw how lowly and full of failures I am and decided to keep loving me anyways.

He sees all the weakness in you too, friend. And he continues to love you anyways.

Show kindness to them, no matter what they’ve done, because God shows kindness to you through his grace and mercy. Don’t spread hateful gossip about anyone, because any shortcoming you see in them, you also have a little of in you too. Your money is not too good to be given as a tip to the waiter. You are not so above anyone as to not return their friendly smile.

Here’s a hard truth to embrace in every-day life: You are not above God’s commandments. You are no better than any other soul on Earth, and it is not up to you to decide how to treat others.

That sounds very harsh, but it’s the honest truth. When we don’t follow through with what God has commanded us to do, we are implying that we are above His commands.

There it is again- our smug little soul.

Do y’all notice the sequence of events? We ourselves were foolish and disobedient, and after that the kindness and love of God appeared toward man.

After you lived in malice.

After you were hateful.

God showed his love towards me after he saw how lost I was.

Humans have an unreasonably low tolerance level with each other. Most of the time, the minute I see an imperfection in someone, I write them off. I immediately judge their character by the one failure I see in them, without remembering that I have the same failure in some degree within me too.

Who am I to decide that others are not worth my love and kindness?

Despite the fact that God saw the worst in us and still decided to love us, we still sometimes think that we have the power to withhold love from someone that we have deemed “unworthy”. If you keep reading on into verse 5, it says “not by works of righteousness which we have done”. We did nothing to earn God’s love, so how we do have the right to make others work for ours?

God’s love, grace and kindness toward us is unmerited, unconditional, and undeserved. Yet we are so stingy with our own love and kindness. If God forgives the worst in you, and still chooses to love you, you are not only compelled, but called to do the same for others. Please don’t let the smug side of your soul prevent you from showing love towards everyone, no matter who they are or what they’ve done.

 

 

2 easy ways to spread joy

Hello friends 🙂

Current self-care goal: spread joy

If you’re trudging through life with negativity, selfish attitudes, or irritability, this post is for you!

When you struggle with things I listed above, you can’t live a joyful, fulfilling life and you certainly cannot serve God to your best ability.

spread joy

I struggle with joy a lot. Which is kind of why I made the transition to Filled with Greater Joy (a story you can read about here). Life is hard and people are mean and the world is sad and sometimes life is just…not good. You know? Sometimes it’s hard to find the silver lining. Sometimes the world crumbles around you and you’re left with a ton of missing pieces and only band aids to fix things. And sometimes, the world is not actually crumbling, it just looks like it is. Sometimes we get relaxed in our comfortable lives and one small bump in the road completely crashes our ride. Sometimes we simply forget to be grateful. Sometimes life seems hard because we’ve forgotten how much we’ve been blessed with.

And part of my struggle with joy is having a negative attitude.

I like to complain.

Don’t you?

Especially when everyone else around me is complaining. I love to join in on pity parties and agree that “it seriously is way too hot today” and “we definitely should get paid more for this”. It makes me feel like I’ve contributed something meaningful to the conversation. We love to feel included, don’t we? And misery loves company.

Complaining contributes to this attitude of negativity that is rampant, y’all. RAMPANT. We can all agree that the world is already full of negativity, right? So let’s spread a little optimism. Let’s spread a little joy. Yeah?

I believe that spreading joy comes down to two things:

  1. Focus on adding life to others with your words and actions.

Well that sounds great and flowery, Bets. But what does that mean?

It means that before you act or speak, you consider whether or not that action or word is going to add value to someone else’s life. Maybe complaining about your job to your neighbor isn’t the best way to add joy to their day. Maybe spreading gossip about that girl you hate doesn’t leave a positive impact on those who hear you.

Spreading joy begins with turning the focus on others instead of yourself. You know, start with little things like opening doors for others and giving compliments. (Side note, GIRLS: give. each. other. compliments!!!!! life is not a competition)

What adds life? Words of affirmation. Encouragement. A listening ear to someone’s struggles. Gratitude instead of complaints. (check out choose love // choose people) 🙂

  1. Focus on serving God with your words and actions.

This one is more self- explanatory. Serve God instead of yourself. Choose actions that bring glory to Him instead of yourself, and speak encouragement and love that draws attention to Christ. If we always act with ourselves in mind, it becomes extremely difficult to spread joy. No one likes to be around someone who’s only concerned about themselves, you know? Self-centered people are not pleasant people to be around.

If you turn the focus of your actions towards Christ, joy and encouragement will automatically follow.

Ok, but what does that really look like in real life?

In your daily interactions at school, work, or wherever, demonstrate qualities of Christ. Forgiveness. Patience. Love. Grace. Understanding. Stop spreading gossip, stop holding grudges, stop being so quick to judge others.

My little sister had speak life written on her rearview mirror for the longest time. Shout-out to you, RG.

I think that’s an incredibly simple reminder for how to live while spreading joy: speak life.

Don’t act or speak in a way that takes away value from someone’s life.

Speak life. And serve God.

 

what does self-care look like from a Christian standpoint?

Our society is in a huge “self-care” surge at the moment. Since the world promotes a somewhat self-centered attitude, this obsession with self- care conveniently fits in perfectly. Sometimes self-care is simply selfish attitudes or actions disguised as a healthy lifestyle.

self care

I used to see all the cutesy little self-care and self-love graphics and scoff and think that’s just egotistical.

But I’ve started wondering, what if self-care is a Biblical concept? And here’s what I found:

In John 9:13-25, Jesus heals a blind man, in John 5:1-9, Jesus heals a lame man, and Jesus is often described as our Ultimate Healer.

We are told in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 to respect our bodies because they are “the temple of the Holy Spirit”.

Many of the Old Laws established by God in Old Testament, such as the dietary laws, were given to the people in order to keep them healthy and safe.

I have to assume that God values physical health and safety.

But we’re also told in 1 Timothy 4:8, that “bodily exercise profiteth little, but godliness is profitbale unto all things”.

So while physical health is important, spiritual health is even more important.

christian self care

What kind of picture of self-care does this give us?

It’s a picture of simply putting in the energy and time to keep your body healthy and safe. I’m not talking about lifting weights every day or running 3 miles every morning. I’m not even talking about cutting ice cream and Coke out of your diet. I’m talking about respecting your body and taking care of it in a way that is comfortable for you. I’m talking about being mindful of the state that your body is in, and taking care of yourself when you need to. Don’t be apathetic about your health, instead be intentional with your body.

If that does look like lifting weights and running until your legs fall off, great. But if not, that’s great too.

Maybe your version of self-care looks like choosing a salad every once in a while, going for a short walk a couple times a week, or taking some extra vitamins. Maybe it looks like making yourself to go to the doctor when you’re sick instead of avoiding it, or taking a break from your Netflix binge (guilty).

You don’t have to be a gym rat or health guru (but if you are, kudos to you). You simply need to remember that you were bought with a price, your body is a temple and deserves respect, and that you can serve God best when your body is healthy.

Mental self-care is a heavier ball game. I’m still trying to figure it out, and I’m fairly positive that I’m not very good at it. Maybe once I discover more, I’ll write a new post about it. But for now:

I believe that ultimately, all of our mental health relies on our spiritual health.

And I firmly believe that spiritual health is a large part of self-care.

I 100% believe that *most* mental struggles like anxiety, depression, anger issues, focus problems, insecurity, low self-image, emotional problems and attitude problems can be overcome with a healthy spiritual life.

I think self-care in this area looks like a lot of time spent with God. It looks like separating yourself from the problems of whatever or whoever you are facing and diving into God’s word. It can also include letting someone you trust know what you’re struggling with, and seeking godly counsel. It can be simply realizing that you (just like myself and everyone else) are broken on your own and only Christ can fix you.

Emotional and mental self-care includes holding on desperately to God’s truths. The truths that tell you to have peace, because Jesus has overcome the world (John 6:33). That it’s ok to be angry, but do not sin in your anger and don’t let the sun go down on your wrath (Eph. 4:26). The truths that tell you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and that you are greatly valued in God’s eyes.

I promise that the Bible holds an answer to every mental or emotional struggle that you face.

*But also let me say, that sometimes you can’t find these answers on your own. Sometimes you need to talk to people you trust about your struggles.*

I think spending time with God and His Word is the ultimate self-care tip.

Maybe that means you wake up a couple minutes early to start the day with Him. Maybe you listen to worship music on the way to class, or listen to Christian podcasts on your afternoon run. Maybe you gather your friends for a Bible study at Starbucks or maybe you study alone.

Whatever it looks like for you, make it happen.

Because I’m learning that physical and mental/emotional self- care really is important. God gave you one body to run this race of life with, and it’s important to take care of it, physically and mentally. You are valuable and your health and safety is important. And given the fact that your Creator loves and cares more about you than you ever thought possible, I believe that self-care looks less like love for yourself and more like love for God.

if you wish you were a spoon, but you’re only a plate

Dear girl, you have been formed for a purpose. You have been molded and crafted by the Ultimate Creator to fulfill a purpose that only you can.

if you wish you were a spoon

In Romans 9, we see a picture painted of the Potter and the clay.

*Now this verse is taken slightly out of context, but I believe the principle is still true 🙂

The potter has complete control of the clay. The potter can take any particular lump of clay and turn it into anything he sees fit, to serve any particular purpose that he sees fit.

He can turn it into a bowl, a pitcher, a mug, or spoon- all created for different purposes.

And the formed clay is not going to be effective as anything other than what the Potter intended it to be.

A pitcher wouldn’t make a very useful spoon.

A plate wouldn’t be a very efficient pitcher.

A mug would make a terrible spoon.

There’s no use in the spoon wishing it was a plate, or the pitcher wishing it could become a mug. Because the spoon, plate, pitcher, and mug were all created the way they are for a specific purpose designed by the Potter.

People benefit from the spoon being a spoon, they do not benefit from the spoon trying to be a plate. In fact, a burden is placed on them when their spoon is acting like a plate.

To be a bit more realistic, here’s an example:

I am a cheerer, a calm, observe-from-the-sidelines kind of girl. I’d rather support and cheer on others than ever, ever, ever setting foot on a court or a field.

And I promise you, everyone else would rather me sit on the sidelines too.

Others would not benefit from me trying to be something I’m not: an athlete. I’d probably get people hurt, we would lose every game, etc… you get the idea 🙂

Others do benefit from me acting as what I am: a supporter, encourager, lover, and cheerer.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10

You will find the most joy, peace, and contentment in yourself and your life when you are acting as who you were created to be. God receives the most praise when you live your life striving to fulfill the purpose He’s placed within you. You can do the most good for others, you can form the best relationships, and you can have the most contentment in your life as long as you are living as what God created you as.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul tells us about all the different gifts given to the members of the church. In verses 4-6 he writes, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” (NIV)

Everyone is given different ways to serve the Lord. He says some are given wisdom, some knowledge, others faith, and some gifts of healing, etc… You can have the gift of easily spreading joy, showing compassion, giving advice, maybe you’re a peacemaker, you can settle arguments easily, whatever your gift may be- others need you to be who you are and use that gift.

Maybe you’re a good writer, speaker, singer, dancer, runner, or athlete. Whatever gifts and talents God has given you, use to them to serve others and ultimately to serve Him.

I firmly believe that God has placed you exactly where He needs you to be in His Grand Design. I firmly believe that He calls you to follow Him wherever He takes you, whether it’s moving across a stage or court, moving music notes in songs of praise, or moving across the country or even the world to serve others. He has a purpose for you, and He has created you exactly the way He needs you to be to fulfill that purpose.

Don’t look at your friend the Spoon and wish you were her. Don’t look at your sister, brother, acquaintance, or classmate – the plate, mug, or pitcher and think that your life would be easier if you were them. Don’t think that you could do more if you were different or that others would like you better if you weren’t you.

You are specifically designed. Every part of your heart and mind was carefully crafted by the Almighty Potter.

You are you because God wanted you to be you. And that’s a marvelous reason to love who you are.

p.s.- the most important thing that the Potter made you into is a child of God, and that’s also a marvelous reason to rejoice 🙂

This post not enough? Part 2 is coming soon on your purpose and role in your relationships with others!

 

the art of Getting Along with Others

I have Romans 12:9-21 sectioned off in my Bible and labeled as “how to get along with others”.

People (including me) seem to have such difficulty with this. Getting along with others is something that adults and guardians drive into our brains as soon as we become functioning, social beings. Share your toys. Say “please” and “thank- you”. Wait your turn. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Somewhere between preschool and adulthood it seems like this art of “getting along with others” is either somewhat forgotten, or completely lost altogether. Why does it become harder to get along? Why does it get harder to treat others politely, and with kindness?

Maybe it’s because we grow up and realize that not everyone is as good as we thought. Maybe it’s because everyone begins to develop more diverse personalities, which makes it easier to clash with one another. Maybe as we age, the world seems to get colder and people seem to get harsher. We realize that not everyone can be a winner, and since we all want to be a winner, we do everything we can to beat down the competition.

Whatever the reason, it’s a shame (to put it in my dad’s words) that the simple art of “getting along” is such a hard concept for most of us to grasp.

So, for the world’s convenience, and built around scripture found in Romans 12:9-21, I have put together the Comprehensive, All-in-One, Complete Lesson and Guide to Getting Along with Others 🙂 if everyone would read this, the world’s problems would be solved right?

Right.

Lol.

getting along with others

Starting in verse 9,Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (10) Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Seems fairly simple, right? You know, in the King James Version (my fave version, btw) love is replaced with charity. Charity is any action that may require sacrifice of yourself for the benefit of others.

Charity is goodwill towards others without worrying about what kind of sacrifice you have to make for yourself. So love others with sincerity. Place the happiness of others before the happiness of yourself, hate what is evil, and cling to what is good.

Don’t fall into the pressures of sin. If people around you are engaging in a particular sin, leave them, but continue to love them from a distance. Cling to the goodness. Cling to the good you see in others. Cling to the love, joy and peace of God, and then throw it around like sprinkles on everyone else’s ice cream.

Verses 11-13 are centered around your relationship with God. Which makes sense, because your relationship with God is the foundation for all other 3elationships. “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” I’ve noticed that my attitude towards others changes when I’m in a low period in my relationship with God. I’m more impatient, less forgiving, and less cheerful when I’m not focused on God. Human beings, despite how frustrating they can be at times, become much more lovable when you look at them through God’s love.

Verses 14-20 are pretty self-explanatory, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’”

Bless those who persecute you. I have this mindset that when others ridicule you or speak badly of your good deeds, it’s either because they see something in you that they are jealous of, or they something in themselves that they hate. This mindset gives should give you all the more reason to love on them. Whatever ugly things they have to say about you only show their true colors, and also just proves how much more love they really need.

Mourn with those who mourn– this one is easy. Rejoice with those who rejoice– this one is not. Don’t ask me why. I guess it’s just our human nature to automatically be jealous when good things happen to other people. The solution to this is to look at everyone around remembering that they are children of God, and precious in His sight. If they are precious to God, they should be precious to you. If their life is important to God, it should be important to you, and rejoicing with one another’s victories is the sweetest proof of love.

Do not take revenge when someone hurts you, instead, give help to them when they need it: “if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Or in other words, kill them with kindness. The focus of this point is, repaying good for evil is an awesome testimony of God’s love. It paints the perfect picture of mercy and forgiveness. Instead of hurting those who hurt you, be an example of a life lived in a better way. Give them a reason to wonder what you have that fills you with such grace.

There you have it! Betsy’s Comprehensive, All-in-One, Complete Lesson and Guide to Getting Along with Others. Seems pretty simple. Yeah? I just solved all the world’s problems, right?

I love, love, love these passages of scripture, and the lessons taught here can be found in so many other places in the Bible, specifically in Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7.

I am a huge believer that your day-to-day living is the greatest testimony you have. The way you live your daily life is proof of where your focus is and where your heart dwells. You can choose to show others that your heart dwells in the world, or that it dwells in Jesus.