Doing as Jesus Did

After Jesus washed the disciples’ feet in the Upper Room, He told them “I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again… that where I am, there ye may be also.” Thomas heard these words and asked Jesus how they would know where to find Him if they didn’t know the way, to which Jesus responded, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Poor Thomas. He wanted instructions. Thomas wanted directions, a list, a plan.

Thomas sounds a lot like me. I need black and white. I need an instruction manual and detailed to-do lists. If Jesus tells me to do something, I want a step by step process of exactly how I need to do it. Because I know my flesh is strong, and without clear instructions, I know I can’t do it. My heart wants Jesus to sit down next to it and say, “Betsy, when this situation occurs, make sure you follow plan #189, and here’s the script of exactly what to say when someone treats you unfairly. Don’t forget to study the map directions to a happy and successful life. Oh, and here’s your checklist of good deeds for this week.” But despite mine and Thomas’s pleas, Jesus doesn’t say any of these things. He simply says, “I am the way.”

Instead of sitting down next to me and giving me rules, Jesus comes and dwells within me and gives me love. He tells me not to follow a law or a set of guidelines, but instead to do as He did, love like He loved, serve as He served, pray like He prayed and treat people like He treated people. Jesus doesn’t command me to act out this specific lifestyle over here or there, and do this many acts of service a day.

He simply calls me to do as He did.

And you may be screaming internally: How am I supposed to always act like Jesus in every situation? How do I know what to do and say, how to respond to hatred, how to serve others, and how to love people the way they need? And not only do I not always know what to do, but I’m not always strong enough to actually do it. People are mean and life is hard and my sinful nature seems like it’s raging at times, so how do I do it? How. How. How.

And my heart screams back to yours: I feel you.

I feel weak and inadequate and unprepared to do this life the way God calls me to. I feel like I’m failing and lost and running around in circles trying to be that “good Christian” that others and God expect me to be. I want to follow Jesus with my whole heart, touch lives, be a light, and serve God. But how can I, when I feel totally inadequate and incapable?

Because we are lost and unprepared, we want our checklist and our instruction manuals. We don’t want to try to do it on our own, because we know we can’t. It would just be so much easier to have a rule book to go by.

But here’s the thing: you and I are not actually doing this alone.

Instead of sitting down next to you and giving you

This is why your relationship with God is so vital. He doesn’t just throw you out there into the world and tell you to go copy Jesus. No, he dwells within you and moves you to love, serve, pray, act, and believe. You are not moved to act by being given rules and restrictions. You are moved to act by Love Himself. This movement inside of you compels you to act out of God’s love and not because of a rule book. You move others to into joy and love and life because God has put those things in you Himself.

Jesus puts this movement within you- a purpose to create life and love and relationships; a purpose to uplift, comfort, and rejoice; a movement to move others to be moved by Christ as well. The way you live – the things you say, the way you treat others, the thoughts you think and the way you love – is not because of a rule book or a set of laws. This movement is not dictated by rules, checklists, or detailed directions. This movement is a relationship with Christ compelling you to follow in His footsteps.  The way you live comes from Love Himself making a home in your soul and moving you to do as He did.

So now the question is: How do I keep my relationship strong enough? And first, remember this– in your weakness, God is strong. He never leaves you no matter how far you fall away. And second- you are who you spend time with. If you want to look like Jesus, you need to spend time with Him.

The Christian life is not a set of laws. Once Jesus came to Earth, lived and died, and tore the veil between God and men, He made a relationship with Him accessible. God doesn’t call us to act out of obligation, He calls us to act out of love. Truly living like Christ and doing as He did means living out of genuine love, not out of laws and instructions. When you spend time with Jesus, you will strengthen your relationship with Him. When you strengthen your relationship with Him, you will feel Christ’s love move within you. When Jesus moves within you, you will move others towards Him.

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hey you, I know you

I know how you look in the morning every day and all you see is your healthy tummy and your cellulite-loved thighs. I know that you sit by your phone constantly checking for his texts or counting your number of likes. I know you can’t speak, I know you can’t laugh, I know you can’t tell a joke or ask a question without your brain telling you “shut up, you just sound stupid.” You cut others down because you’ve been cut down. You judge others because you’ve been judged. I know you feel unworthy because he told you he loved you, but his actions proved otherwise. I know what they said about you.

“I don’t know how she even has friends”

“She’s gotten fat”

“Of course he dumped her, she was weird anyways”

hey you

I know she was your best friend, but then stabbed you in the back. Everyone else understands that class, but you keep failing every test. I know that the reason that you are so sensitive is because you let yourself believe these lies. And every criticism you hear is just one more added to your never-ending list of failures. You feel like all eyes are on you, constantly waiting for you to fall, to embarrass yourself again. I know you feel stupid, because you never should’ve believed him or trusted her. You’re too loud, annoying, quiet, awkward, and clingy. You’re not fun enough, smart enough, nice enough, or skinny enough.

You have your guard up continually because you can’t believe that anyone can see you as anything other than broken and flawed. You follow your friends into places that you know you shouldn’t because it makes you feel accepted. I know you skip meals and claim you’re not hungry.

You’re hurting yourself, you’re hurting the people who love you, and you’re damaging your relationships all because of the way you see yourself.

But God…

God does not see you the way you see yourself. When God casts His eyes down from Heaven and gazes on His children, he sees you: blameless, worthy of love, forgiven, and washed white as snow. I’ve written about this before (which you can find here), but just to remind you again: you’re already accepted.

You’re already loved. You are called worthy and blessed and beautiful. You can stop all this. You can let it go.

Giving into these lies and listening to the judgments of the world does more than just damage your heart, it damages your relationships. Instead of facing disagreements with courage and love, you beat yourself down and give up. When you mess up, your guilt swallows you even deeper and instead of humility, you retaliate with pride and anger. You get jealous more easily. You crave attention more often. Trying to cover up your insecurities causes you to act in dangerous and hurtful ways towards others.

I know, because I’ve been there. Actually, I’m still there.

Dear girl, you are L O V E D more than you could ever possibly imagine. And when you fully understand that you ARE LOVED, you will begin to LIVE LOVED.

When you live loved, you love others well too. When you see yourself as somebody loved deeply and unconditionally, you will love others deeply and unconditionally. Because you know you are accepted by God, you won’t crave acceptance from others. You won’t follow your friends to places you shouldn’t be to feel accepted. You won’t give pieces of yourself away to boys who don’t care, because you understand your value.

When you live loved, you won’t need to measure yourself up to others. You can laugh, talk, smile, and cry without worrying about other’s opinions because you know that their opinions are not the ones that matter.

You were chosen before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. God literally thought about YOU before he even created the world, and designed you with purpose. He designed you to thrive, praise Him, to spread love, and to live loved.

God did not design you intricately unique for you to stare at yourself in the mirror and reject all of it.

You were bought with a price, and your worth is far more than rubies. There is no amount of riches in the world that compares to your worth in Christ. Who are we, the creation, to look back up to the Creator, and tell him that he didn’t do it right? Who are we to say that there is something wrong with us, when our Creator tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made?

This web of lies that you allow yourself to believe may seem impossible to fight your way out of. The insecurities run so deep and you’ve been weighed by their chains for so long, that it might seem like you’ll never be free.

You have to sink yourself in God’s Word. You have to dive deep into the truths that the Bible claims about you, and you have to hold on to them dearly. If you want to be free from your insecurities, and if you want to be able to live loved and love well, you absolutely have to spend more time with Jesus than you do with the world. You have to build a meaningful, genuine, strong relationship with your loving, understanding, never-failing Savior. The world will never make you feel loved, but Jesus always will. If you want to feel loved, spend quality time with Him.

I know how exhausting it is to live under a burden of insecurities. There is freedom to be found in your worth in Christ. You can let go of the burdens of self-doubt and fear. You can live well and you can love well when you begin grasp the depth of love that your Creator has for you (which you can only *begin* to do, because no one will ever fully understand it; that’s how DEEP it is). You just sink yourself deep into his loving truths, rather than the world’s lies.

(Ephesians 1:4) (1 Corinthians 6:20) (Proverbs 31:10) (Psalm 139:14)

to the girl who feels lost, and like God is silent

Dear girl who feels lost,

First of all, I know. I know the feeling. Maybe you’re a junior/senior in high school and you are being bombarded with questions of where you’re going to college, what you’re going to major in, whether or not you’ll continue to play sports, dance, cheer, join a sorority, or whatever other questions they like to throw at you (because don’t you know, at 18 years of age, you’re supposed to already have all this figured out??). Maybe you’re a freshman/sophomore in college (or junior/senior) and you still haven’t declared a major or found anything that really sounds appealing to pursue for the rest of your life.

Maybe you’re the “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” and all your friends are married or about to be, and you don’t even have a boyfriend. You may be at a crossroads about to make some major decision, or you didn’t get into the program that you needed to, so now you have to completely rearrange your plan. Maybe the man you were supposed to marry didn’t come through for you, and now your life seems to be at a stand-still.

And you’re sitting there, crying at God, pleading for Him to give you some divine revelation about what the heck you are supposed to be doing with your life, and: silence.

Why isn’t He talking? Everyone else has gotten “their plan” from Him, why hasn’t He given you yours yet?

I have read many, many blog posts and devotions about determining God’s will. I have wrestled with this concept and I have sat there in the same spot as you and asked why, why, why? Why isn’t God telling me anything? But it seems like the more and more you try to figure out how to figure it out, the more and more lost you feel. Does God have a specific person in mind for you? Does He have a chosen career path for you? How do you know? How does God communicate His purpose for our lives to us?

Dear friend, let me tell you something that may seem discouraging at first glance: God may or may not come to you and tell you specifically and explicitly exactly what He wants you to do, what career to pursue, who to marry, where to take a job, where to join a church, how many kids to have or whatever else you could possibly be worrying about.

God’s set of instructions to us are found in a book called…

wait for it…

The Holy Bible.

*applause and cheers*

It is completely within God’s power, and at times within His pleasure, to come to us individually and give us more specific instructions. For example, if you are called to be a pastor, or missionary, or some other form of ministry. Those kinds of things are specific duties for specific people called by God. But, for the most the part, I believe that we should not expect God to do that. God can absolutely do it, and He does sometimes. But in addition to that possibility, we already have unquestionably all the guidance and instruction we need per the Holy Bible.

Hint: that’s why God gave the Bible to His children in the first place.

The Bible is given by inspiration of God, and is a good and perfect reference for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and instructing. And by all those things we receive through the Bible, we can make better decisions about our life, and we will be better equipped to be servants of the Lord. (Find this in 2 Timothy 3:16-17)

I was told one time to not think of God’s will as a singular pathway that I am restricted to. I should view God’s will as a large passageway with many various pathways inside of it. They all lead to different lives, but at the same time, they all work within God’s will.

The Bible does NOT tell me: Betsy, you need to marry John Smith.

The Bible tells me: Betsy, marry someone who is a man of God; someone that is faithful and loving, patient, humble, and gentle. Someone that will be a leader and provider to your family and someone who seeks after God.

The Bible does NOT tell me: Betsy, you need to be an English teacher.

The Bible does tell me: Betsy, use the skills and abilities God has given you to bring honor and glory to His name.

If whatever you choose to do in life can be used to demonstrate God’s grace and glory through the skills and talents He’s given you, I sincerely believe that thing can totally be within God’s will for your life.

I suggest reading from the beginning of chapter 1, but Ephesians 1:11-12 says, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

When God made us His children, the purpose He established in us was to live “to the praise of His glory”. Our main goal while we live here on Earth is to praise God through any and everything we do. God’s ultimate will for your life is to praise Him. So, I have to believe that anything you do that can be used to praise Him, is acceptable in His will.

That thought is soooooo comforting, isn’t it? You are not bound to one specific person, career, etc… If you were, what would the consequences be if you chose wrong? How scary would it be to live like that?

That’s how a lot of us live. We try so hard to complicate God’s will. We want some divine revelation from God Himself. And honestly, dear friends, that is somewhat of an arrogant wish- that we should expect God to give us a “better” explanation than the thoroughly perfect instruction guide already provided for us.

It’s kinda like God’s thinking: ok, I’ve already given you this detailed instruction guide filled to the brim with perfectly applicable wisdom and knowledge, what more do you need??

How to Make Sure a Decision is Within God’s Will:

1. It is cohesive with teachings found in the Bible.

The End

If you feel led to something or someone, and a part of that something or someone is at odds with things you find in God’s Word, you can be 100% sure that this something or someone is not in God’s will for you. Sin will never be a part of God’s purpose for your life.

So to you who feel lost, determining God’s will for your life should not be an anxiety-inducing thought. There was a time in my life where I would sit for days and wrestle with figuring out what God is calling me to do. And each time the wrestling began, it was like, alright here we go again, bring on the stress and exhaustion. Did I think to look to the Bible? No. But I don’t believe it should be that way. Seeking God’s will should be comforting and encouraging. Mainly, because His will for you is perfect and good, and living according to our complete instruction manual makes for a godly and joyful life.

God allows you freedom to make decisions. And the most comforting thing about it is, those decisions are automatically going to be within God’s purpose for your life as long as they let you live “to the praise of His glory”.

I am in no way limiting God. He can open doors for you, He can provide opportunities, He can bring people in and out of your life, and He can place a desire on your heart, guide the course of your days, or send you a divine revelation however and whenever He chooses. But in general, if you find yourself at a point where you are afraid of making the wrong decision, or afraid to go in a direction that is outside God’s will, refer back to our good and perfect instruction guide. Everything you need to know about what decisions to make and how to live are already provided to you. It’s not as complicated as you think. You have the freedom to choose. (read: you have the freedom to choose!!)

Love,

someone who knows exactly how you feel

 

let Earth receive her King

The way Jesus came to earth is important- He came in the most humble way possible. A baby. In a horse’s stable. To a virgin mother.

The One that was going to be the Savior of the whole world, the One that prophets had been speaking about for hundreds of years, the One that our whole faith and gospel is built around, had finally arrived. I can imagine all of Earth silently rejoicing, as she welcomed the Savior of the world. I can imagine the angels singing, because Jesus had finally arrived to proclaim to God’s creation the majesty and wonder of the One who created it.

He didn’t come with thunder and lightning, he didn’t split the sky and descend down on his wings, he didn’t burst through the clouds with fire. He was born to a scared, young mother next to the horses in a manger, because nobody would give them a place to stay. He was rejected from the moment He got here until the moment He left. That’s important. In this story, that foreshadows the type of life that He will live- a life of humility, a life of a servant.

Let us embody this humility. Let us embrace this demonstration of love for humankind.

He was rejected, but he did not neglect the needs of others.

He was humiliated, but he remained humble.

He was treated like a criminal, even though he committed no crime.

The One that the Earth rejoiced to receive, left the Earth in the most painful and hateful manner. And he did that for you. He did that for me. Where is our compassion like that? Where is our humility and understanding when we’ve been wronged? Where is our love that gives way to that kind of sacrifice?

How arrogant it is that we seem to believe that we deserve more than what Jesus had. He came into this world with nothing- no Earthly home, no resting place. He was hated, beaten, laughed at, and charged with crimes he did not commit. And despite all this, He was the most loving, kind, humble, and selfless being that ever walked the Earth. Yet we are so hateful when it comes to those unlike us- we neglect those who have less than us, we reject relationships with “sinners”, and we shun people who don’t embrace our faith.

Christmas celebrates the birth of a Savior who was loving, forgiving, understanding, and humble. We, as Christians, claim to celebrate the birth of Someone who was self-sacrificing, a healer, a helper, and a friend to sinners.

So many Christians today are so unkind to others who don’t embrace our beliefs, and that’s completely the opposite of what our faith was founded on. As it comes closer to Christmas, this becomes even more evident. Christians cannot justifiably run through the streets shouting the “reason for the season” and forcing other people to embrace that, if they, themselves don’t strive to be like the One they are celebrating.  So many rant and rave about “taking Christ out of Christmas”, when for the majority of the year prior, it appeared as though they had taken Christ out of their life. You cannot try to persuade others to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, if you do not live out the true meaning of Christmas yourself for the rest of the year.

Our goal should be to embody His love and grace. Striving to be like Jesus is a form of worship.

It is recognition that He is good and holy and worthy to be praised. It’s a form of respect to who He is. Christians cannot claim to celebrate His birth if they do not respect who He is- if they do not strive to be more like Him. Christmas becomes entangled with wish lists and wrapping paper, stress, gifts to give and parties to attend. You worry about decorating, about going to see family and friends, maybe possibly planning long road trips to go see them. We stress about what to get people and whether we’re getting them enough or not…

Let’s not forget that we are celebrating the birth of a King, who the Earth rejoiced to receive- and our goal while we remain on this Earth is to become more and more like Him. I enjoy everything about Christmas- the lights, the decorating, parties, seeing friends and family, giving and receiving gifts. There is absolutely nothing wrong with all of those things. Let’s just remember that this season that we’re in celebrates the birth of a man who lived His life being merciful, forgiving, comforting, selfless, and loving. And let’s also remember to live our lives in the same way.

I Haven’t “Made It”

“I feel sorry for you, because you don’t know how to act”

“Maybe that’s why you’re such a good liar”

Those are the words that spilled from my little 5th grade mouth one day. I remember after saying those things, world seemed to pause for about .10 seconds. Where did that come from? I remember thinking. At the time, I was proud of myself for coming up with such a witty comeback during this ultra-dramatic, elementary school girl fight in the middle of the lunch room chaos. I somehow managed to break through my shy personality for the first time, and I felt like I was finally standing up for myself. Even though I was somewhat impressed with my moment of boldness, I couldn’t help but also feel a little guilty. I didn’t know that such strong and harsh language could come out of me like that.

never-ending-struggle-with-sin

Now 10 years later, I still have those moments. And they come much more frequently.

A lot of the time, I like to think that I’m doing pretty well. You know, I try to treat others nicely. I do selfless things for others every once in a while. I’ve been reading more “Christian living” books. I go to church on Sundays and bible study on Wednesday nights. I listen to worship music just as much as, if not more than, secular music. I even made a prayer journal.

I’m doing pretty good, right?

Maybe I’ve “made it”.

But every now then (maybe, actually more than that), words will tumble from my mouth like bombs, butchering relationships and cutting people down. Thoughts run through my mind like a runaway train that eventually wreck my soul and shatter my joy and compassion for others. Hateful words bubble up out of a deep place inside me that I forgot existed. My mouth says things or my mind thinks things that my heart was too slow to filter out.

And I’m literally amazed that there is still a place inside me where those thoughts and attitudes reside. I surprise myself by the hateful thoughts I still have inside me and the hurtful words I still allow to fall out of my mouth.

I can’t possibly believe those things, right? How can something so sinful and damaging still be inside me? I thought I was doing pretty well. I was doing all the “right” things, so how can my heart still be such a wreck?

Those hurtful words and sinful thoughts- surely I don’t truly think that way deep down?

But I do.

Those thoughts and attitudes wouldn’t ever come to surface if they were not rooted somewhere deep inside me. And those thoughts and attitudes are rooted deep somewhere inside you, too. You may be better at controlling them than I am, but they’re there. They are rooted in all of us. This is a common struggle with all of humanity throughout all the ages of time, and Paul describes it this way:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” (Romans 7:15-20 NIV)

You see, you and I are not alone in this battle.

One of the most challenging things about this is that you’re aware of it. You tell yourself you’ll do better. So when you do slip up, make that mistake, have a nasty attitude, or utter those hateful words, you think: Oh gosh, that was bad. I need to do something about that. I’ll do better next time.

And yet it happens over and over and over again.

Whether it’s manifested in your thoughts, words, or actions:

Pride overtakes your compassion.

Jealously drowns out your humility.

Insecurity steals your honesty.

And greed overtakes your integrity.

I often ask myself how it’s possible that such hate and malice can spring from the same mouth that also speaks joy and love.

“Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.” (James 3:10 KJV)

I used to have this idea that at some point in time, I’ll “make it”. I used to imagine that I’ll reach this point when I won’t really have to struggle with sin the way I do now. And yet, that cannot be farther than the truth. We’ll never reach a point in life where we’ve “made it”.

This battle with sin seems like a never ending struggle.

But it is not an eternal struggle.

If you ever think that you’ve “made it”, that you’re doing alright, and that you don’t really struggle with sin too badly anymore- that’s perfect evidence that you haven’t “made it” at all. That’s evidence that you need God’s grace and forgiveness just as much as you always have.

You cannot overcome sin on your own. You’ll never reach a point when you no longer have to fight against the sinful nature in your heart. It’ll always be there. However, Paul tells us that where sin abounds, grace much more abounds (Romans 5:20). Thankfully, we’re given insurmountable amounts of grace while we live here on Earth. God is overflowing with enough mercy and forgiveness to carry us farther than the days of our life.

A life struggling with sin requires lots of humility. It requires the ability to accept the fact that you will never “make it”. You must be willing to ask for forgiveness. A lot. Not only from God, but from those around you as well. You must be humble enough to recognize your need for God. You must be willing to ask God for strength to do the right thing, wisdom to know what His will is, and forgiveness when you fail. Thankfully, God has an endless supply of all of these things readily available to you when you need them.

The God that has prepared an eternal home for you, who knows you more intimately than anyone else, and who gave His only Son as a sacrifice for you is the God that reigns in your heart. And the God that reigns in your heart is infinitely more powerful than the sin that dwells within you. Remember, you are not a slave to sin. We are all going to have to struggle with sin for as long as we live in this world, but sin will never be so powerful as to enslave us. You’ve been redeemed– you have a Savior that gave his life so that you don’t have to be imprisoned by this sinful nature. You may get tangled in sin, but you’ll never be ensnared by it. It will never have the power to defeat the grace and love that God has woven deeply into your heart.

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 NIV)

Despite the depths of our sin, and no matter how many times we fail, God has enough grace and compassion to carry us into eternity.

This battle with sin seems like a never ending struggle.

But it is not an eternal struggle.

 

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.

 

 

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.

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.