Helping women live victorious lives in Christ

Posts tagged ‘Christianity’

Biblical Self-Care

By Brenna Fields Taylor

The term “self-care” has become a popular one as of late.  I recently ran across a quote about self-care on Facebook that says, “Self-care isn’t always chocolate cake and trips to the spa.  Sometimes, it’s meal planning, going to bed early or letting go of a bad friend.  It’s forgiving yourself for not meeting your own impossible standards, and understanding that you are worthy.  Always. Self-care isn’t just luxuries, but a means for survival.”

If we look at self-care as a means for survival, what does the Word of God tell us about how we can care for ourselves?  Let’s look at self-care from a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual standpoint.

Physical Self-Care

In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul says this to the believers in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT): “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”  In context, Paul is addressing a particular situation about sexual sin; he’s reminding the church that even though they came from a culture when the practice of being promiscuous was commonplace, as believers, the Corinthians should keep their physical bodies pure and ready for service to God.  What does this have to do with us and self-care?  We too should keep our bodies pure so that we can be physically able to be used by God.  That means eating healthy foods, drinking lots of water (something I don’t do enough of) and exercise.  The other day, I had a particularly stressful day at work, and I knew that, at some point during that day, I would need to get some exercise to relieve the tension I was feeling.  Instead of working out at home like I normally do, I decided to take a walk.  I walked about 4 miles, and as I felt the sun and the breeze blowing on this nice and peaceful evening, it was exactly what I needed to center myself again and relieve the stress I was feeling.  So, what are you doing to take care of yourself physically? What are you going to do today?

Mental Self-Care

Look at what the passage from Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) says: “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think (emphasis added). Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

What influences the way we think?  What we feed ourselves mentally, what we allow into our minds is what influences the way we think.  Have you ever considered thinking about what you think? In other words, have you ever considered paying attention to your thoughts?  One scientist notes that, “We are aware of a tiny fraction of the thinking that goes on in our minds…The vast majority of our thinking efforts goes on subconsciously.” This scientist also says that the way to control these subconscious thoughts that come to the surface is to focus on something specific.  For believers, what is that “something specific?” It’s the Word of God.  The thing we focus on the most become bigger; it becomes a greater part of us.  Paul says it in the verse from Romans 12:  we can be transformed if we renew our minds, so we focus on the Word of God to do that.  What are you doing to take care of yourself mentally? What are you going to do today?

Emotional Self-Care

When we think about our emotions, we think about our feelings. Have you ever heard the expression “being all in your feelings?” It means “overreacting, getting mad over something, or being distracted by one’s (usually morose) feelings.” Whether we realize or not, we can all get “in our feelings” at some point or another.  What can we do to pull ourselves out of a negative emotional state?  The scripture I want to highlight here is Hebrews 4:15-16 (KJV): “ For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” During His time here on earth, Jesus felt the same feelings and emotions that we do (He lived a fully human existence). He felt sadness, anger, frustration, impatience, grief, and disappointment. Because He felt the same emotions that we do, He can empathize with us, and can relate to what we are going through.  So, when we get all in our own feelings, we can go to the One who truly gets it…that’s Jesus Christ. Yes, we can choose to reach out to a friend or family member (nothing wrong with seeking wise counsel); but they may be only able to sympathize with us, and not empathize with us.  When someone can empathize with us, it’s more that just feeling sad for us, but it’s being able to really relate to another person’s experiences, because they have gone through it themselves.  Jesus Christ can be that Person for us because He shares the same feelings we do.  So, what are you doing to take care of yourself emotionally? What are you going to do today?

Spiritual Self-Care

Again, looking at the example of Jesus, Luke 5:16 (NLT) says that “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” The word “often” means that He did this on a regular basis.  He needed to seek God for direction and also for renewing and refreshing so He could continue in ministry. If we go back one chapter to Luke 4, we see that Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted. He emerges from that experience ready to begin His ministry: preaching, teaching, healing, raising the dead. Yet, Jesus knew he had to take time to pray, to strengthen Himself spiritually. One commentator says this about this verse: “The Son of God had to hear the Father’s voice and determine where the Father was at work.”  God has given each of us an assignment, and as we work our assignment, we must continuously seek God to give us the strength and direction we need to complete it.  What are you doing to take of yourself spiritually? What are you going to do today?

I hope by now you can see that self-care is more than just a fad.  For believers, taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually should be a way of life.  My challenge to you is to look at your life:  Are you taking care of yourself in these areas? If not, what can you do to make some changes?  Because ultimately, this is not about us, but it’s about being the best instrument we can be to be used by God, so that He can get the glory for our lives and through our lives.

Photo credit: Madison Lavern

Hold On

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

by Brenna Fields Taylor

As I write this blog, it is April of 2020, and the world is in the middle of a pandemic called COVID-19, a virus that is spreading rapidly throughout the world, taking the lives of countless people.  Because of the contagious nature of the disease, many communities are living in a complete shut-down (or at minimum, are sheltering in place, rarely venturing outside). As a result, the times in which we are living are unsettling, unusual and unprecedented.  History records that there have been many plagues of diseases that have impacted the entire world, including the flu pandemic of 1918 and a cholera pandemic that ran from 1852-1860.  While the experience of pandemics is new to us, it is not new to the world and certainly not new to God.

In the midst of these trying weeks, I have witnessed God’s healing power restores friends and loved ones, and at the same time I’ve seen when God has chosen to call others home to be with Him.  It has been an emotional rollercoaster!  What we are being told about this current pandemic seems to change almost daily, and a lot of times, we are unsure whose report to believe.  Churches don’t know whether they should meet in person or not, and sadly, there are debates among Christians on faith (or lack thereof), depending on churches’ decisions on this issue.  Vacations, conferences, class and family reunions, and weddings have been cancelled or postponed.  And since no one has any idea of how long this thing is going to last,  our lives seem to be on hold.

Even in the midst of all of this, I want to encourage you (and me) to hold on.  Isaiah 41:10 in the NLT says “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

This virus has many of us hesitant to leave our homes and to be in close proximity to other people, and rightfully so. But this particular passage says that we shouldn’t be afraid.  This virus may have some of us feeling discouraged because we see so much sickness and death around us. I will admit that, even as a minister, I have been overwhelmed by the many prayer requests for healing and comfort, even as my own family deals with the aftermath of death.

But in this passage, God tells us that we don’t have to be afraid and discouraged, because He is with us AND He is our God.  God has given us three promises in this one verse: He promises to strength us, to help us and to hold us up.  I encourage you to lean on and lean into God and these promises, that He will strengthen you, to help you and to hold you up.

What I find interesting about this passage is that it’s not just any old hand that is holding us up.  It is God’s “victorious right hand” that is holding us up.    The right hand of God symbolizes power and might.  It conveys authority and blessings.  Not only is the hand of God powerful, but it is also victorious.  So if God is holding me up with his victorious right hand, he is giving me power, strength, authority, blessings and victory, even in this precarious time.

I know we are overwhelmed, tired and unsure…but hold on.  God has promised to strengthen us, to help us, and to hold us up.  Let’s trust God together.

 

A Good Work

by Brenna Fields Taylor

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:13 (ESV)

Now that we have entered into a new year (2020), many of us have started wondering about purpose. We’ve begun asking such questions as: “What am I supposed to accomplish this year? What would God have me focus on?” And if you’re like me and have reached a milestone age (and you recognize that there is probably more of life behind you than there is ahead of you), these questions take on even more significant meaning. We may wonder, “What should I be doing with the rest of my life? What kind of legacy will I leave behind?” I recently asked myself this question as I read an article about a sorority sister of mine who recently passed away due to cancer at the young age of 52. Although the end of her story is tragic, her legacy of encouragement, support and perseverance, even while she battled cancer, is one that will live well beyond her years. To read more about this awesome woman and her life, take a look at this article: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article239071853.html

Good Work

As we begin to set goals for the year and ask ourselves about purpose, there is one thing we can be assured of…as believers, God is working in us to fulfill purpose. The passages above were written by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippian church. They were a group of Christians who were faithful to spreading the gospel and were very supportive of Paul and his ministry. He writes this letter to them to express his love for them, to pray for them, and to also encourage them.

The first passage says that God will finish the good work He’s already started. Sometimes, this good work in our lives is very evident to us, while at other times, it may not be so obvious. For example, you may unknowingly be an example for someone who’s experiencing a similar situation that you are (we have to remember that people are always watching us). You may never know how your life and actions can influence others. Or, you may be actively and openly pursuing your purpose. In either case, the first passage reminds us that whatever God has started, He will finish.

The second passage reminds us of who is working in us…it’s God! And He is working in us to fulfill His will and for His good pleasure. What does this mean for us as believers who are searching for purpose? God is the One who will reveal what our purpose in life should be, and He will also enable us to complete what He’s asked, all for His pleasure.

I highlight these two passages for a couple of reasons. First, as we set our goals for the year (and as we make goals, we should seek guidance from God), He may reveal something that seems to be outside of our reach. God may give us a desire for something that seems so massive, and we may wonder, “How in the world am I going to do THAT?” If God reveals it to us and we believe that is something we should strive for, we can be assured that God has ordained it and that He will give us the strength to complete it. Secondly, we can also be confident that the thing that God asks us to do is good. Since God is a good God, we know that everything that comes from Him is good (see James 1:17). So the goals that are ordained by God are good, the work we are to accomplish is good, and God’s will for our lives is good. Lastly, this good work that we are called to accomplish is a process and will take effort to complete (nowhere in either passage does it say that the work will be completed instantaneously). Commentator F.B. Meyer says this: “God, who began the work on the first day…is maintaining and building it up step by step.” As we advance through our purpose, God is maintaining and building it up (and us as well) step by step. While we fulfill our purpose, he is shaping us, molding us, and maturing us to become more like Him, even through the challenges we will face moving forward in our good work.

So, as we set our goals for the new year, let’s seek God for His wisdom and guidance. Let’s not be afraid of big goals! And when He reveals our purpose, let’s trust Him to complete this good work He’s given us to do.

What Time Is It?

by Brenna Fields Taylor

“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.” (Ephesians 5:15-16, NLT)

I am writing this post on January 1, and a new year is just dawning. As with each new year, there is a focus on newness, change, life improvement, and resolutions. While I no longer make New Year’s resolutions, I do try to set goals for the year. Today’s post is not about goal setting or resolutions. It’s about time.

Hourglass

About 2 ½ years ago, my family experienced an extended season of loss. Between July of 2017 and the following June, we lost 5 family members, some to extended illness and some to sudden death (which was the case with my mother). On top of that, I lost 2 very good friends to sudden death (one less than a month after my mother’s passing). The year I lost my mother (2018) was the year I turned 50, and it was also the year I realized my marriage could not be saved.

What the last 2 ½ years have taught me is to redeem the time. Look at what Bible commentator Matthew Henry says about the scripture above from Ephesians: “Time is a talent given us by God, and it is misspent and lost when not employed according to his design.” If you are reading this, God has given you a measure of time. The question is: are you using it according to His design?  You may ask, “what does God want me to do with my time?” That is a question that God can answer for you, but you must seek Him out (Matthew 6:33). Yes, there may be things we want to accomplish, but what does GOD want us to accomplish? Ask Him!

Matthew Henry also says this about the Ephesians passage: “If we have lost our time heretofore, we must double our diligence for the future.” I don’t know about you, but as I reflect on my life and my 50+ years, I realize that I did not redeem the time as earnestly as I could or should have. While looking back affords me the opportunity to learn some lessons, the past is not where I plan to stay. I believe that, while I wasn’t perfect, I did the best I could with what I knew at the time. And now, time and experiences have taught me things that have changed me for the better. So, as Henry states, I am doubling my diligence for the future. I recognize that our times are in God’s hands, and He has not revealed the number of our days to us. And since I don’t know how long my life on this earth will be, I need to take advantage of EVERY day I’m blessed to see.

I am not advocating becoming a workaholic to try to cram it all in, but I am suggesting that we must intentionally use the time we have. Do I really have to watch that TV show now, or can I record it to watch later? Can I spend less time on social media and use that time in a more productive way? Can I get up a little earlier in the morning so I can get that 30-minute workout in? You’d be surprised the amount of time that becomes available when we make a few adjustments.

So, what time is it? It’s time to redeem the time! Seek God for what He would have you accomplish this year, set your goals and let’s go! Now is the time to redeem the time!

Be Courageous!

By Brenna Fields Taylor

During a recent difficult season, a friend of mine told me that I was courageous. She explained why she felt that way, but, in the middle of my drama, I certainly didn’t feel that way. In fact, the last thing I believe I was at that point was courageous. Frankly, in that moment, I felt weak and powerless.

Courage

I recently saw an adaptation of The Wiz, and if you’ve seen the movie or the Broadway production, you know about the Cowardly Lion. Although the lion is supposed to be the king of the jungle, this particular lion did not see himself as such, and he wanted The Wiz to give him courage. As the production progressed, although the characters had not yet made it to The Wiz, little by little the Lion began to do courageous things (and he didn’t realize it). As the play concludes, the Lion realized he possessed courage all along.

As I reflect on my life and the challenges I’ve faced (many of them in the last 2 years…most of them ongoing), I’ve started thinking about courage. What is it, really?

To me, courage means stepping into the unknown. Many times, we like life to be stable and predictable. Speaking for myself, I enjoy the regularity and routineness of life. It’s safe, it’s comfortable, it’s orderly. And yet, if you’ve lived for any length of time, you know that life can be far from stable and predictable. Times come when we are shaken out of our comfort and need to move into something different. Sometimes moving into something different is what we want, and other times it’s something we must do (we have no choice in the matter). In either case, when we are stepping into the unknown, the thing we’re facing is different than anything we’ve ever experienced. We don’t know what to expect, or even what the next step will be, but we step. We don’t know in which direction this step will take us, but we step. To me, that is courage.

I also believe that courage is facing a situation you may have avoided for a period of time. I know a person who knew something was going on in his physical body, but did not seek medical attention. He ignored the situation, hoping that it would somehow go away. If we’re dealing with financial challenges, they are not going to magically get better (no money will rain down from heaven). If you’re faced with health challenges, short of a miracle, they will not just go away. Again, if you’ve lived for any length of time, you know that issues don’t just disappear. They must be faced, confronted, dealt with. Courage is recognizing there is a problem, understanding that it is bigger than you can handle, and taking steps to move toward resolution.  Recognizing a problem is looking it square in the eye and acknowledging it exists.  The issue is there, and will not go away until we admit it’s there. Once we’ve honestly acknowledged its existence, we can do things to move toward resolution, such as prayer, wise counsel, research, etc. The issue may not (and probably will not) be resolved overnight, but exercising courage means we are addressing something we’ve avoided.

The last point I want to make about courage is this: being courageous means we are taking a risk. I have a tendency to be risk averse (as I said earlier, I like stability). But being courageous means getting a little uncomfortable and moving forward in the face of fear. Conditions will never be ideal for us to make a move forward, but if we want our situations to be different, we must make a change. The time will never be right to start that business, go back to school, start saving for that house, to rebuild your life. But if you don’t start, how will the thing ever get done?

What have you been procrastinating about? What’s that one thing you desire to do or need to face? Today is the day…be courageous and take one step. After you’ve taken the first step, take the second, then the third, then the fourth. As you do that, just like The Lion in The Wiz, you are exercising courage you didn’t realize you had. Be courageous!

Reflections on 2019

As one year comes to an end and another one approaches, many people tend to reflect on what happened over the last 12 months. We assess ourselves for the progress we’ve made toward the goals we set, and look to the future to set new ones.   I normally engage in this activity every year, but this time, things are a little different for me.

2019 was probably one of the most challenging years of my life (2018 is a close second).  I faced some situations that I did not at all expect (you could not have told me at the end of 2018 that 2019 would end the way it is). So this year, in addition to thinking about what will be most important to me in 2020 (a new decade), I am spending time reflecting on the lessons I learned in 2019.

First, I’ve been reminded that with God, I can face ANY challenge.   There were times this year when I didn’t know how I was going to come out, and there were some days when I was mentally and emotionally tapped out. And yet, God carried me through. The things that happened to me could have caused a mental breakdown (literally), but they did not. God kept me ‘closed in my right mind,’ as folks from the old church sometimes say.

Related to the first lesson is this one: Never take mental health for granted. I recognize that my situation could have gone another way. I’m grateful to God that I was able to continue functioning at work, with school, in ministry and with all the other things I do, and still be successful.   Regarding my mental health, I am now more intentional about self-care and recognizing when I need to rest.  I am also more aware of the foods I eat (while my diet is not perfect, I have incorporated more fresh vegetables and fruit and try to drink more water). Additionally, I am more intentional about getting physical exercise (even if I can only do 2-3 times a week of something). I believe that what we eat, how well we rest, and how much we exercise contributes to our mental and emotional health.

Next, I have learned on a deeper level the importance of having a positive and supportive tribe. A tribe doesn’t have to be (and probably shouldn’t be) a large group of people, but they should be people in whom we can confide, those who will pray for us, and those who support us. Through this year’s challenges, my tribe was there for me in ways I could not even imagine. When I couldn’t share what was going on with me with most people, I could share with my tribe, without fear of judgment or ridicule. I know God placed them in my life for a reason, and for their love and support I am eternally grateful. I pray that one day, I can return the favor.

Lastly, this lesson is one that is in progress for me. I am learning that my goals will not achieve themselves, and that I must keep them top of mind at all times. There were some things that I wanted to accomplish in 2019 that just didn’t get done. While I’m not beating myself up about that, I am more aware of why that is…because I was distracted and spread too thin. I am now assessing what I do to determine those things that are critical to my goals and vision for my life, and those other things that are not essential. I believe this is something we should all do, if we want to fulfill the vision and calling that God has on our lives.

Yes, I will be setting some goals for 2020. But they will be set in light of what I’ve learned in 2019. I pray the lessons you’ve learned in 2019 are just as life changing as mine are. As we enter a new decade, let’s redeem the time and stay focused on what’s most important — God’s will for our lives.

I am a different person going into 2020…and I’m thankful for the lessons 2019 has provided.

Surviving the Holidays? How Did I Do?

Happy New Year! I’m grateful to be in the number of those who made it to 2019!

As I promised in my previous blog post entitled “Preparing to Survive the Holidays,” here is my follow-up on how things went.

daisy flower in the desert

I must admit that I am glad to be on the other side of the holidays (insert sigh of relief).  As I anticipated the first holiday season without my mother, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I wondered if I would be extremely sad, angry or what, as Christmas, New Years’ Eve, and New Years’ Day approached.  Shortly after New Years’ Day would also be the first anniversary of my mother’s passing (January 6).  So, all of those milestone dates were back to back on the calendar.

I think overall, I didn’t do too badly.  On Christmas Day, my daddy and I spent the afternoon and evening visiting friends. People were very gracious to us, and we had several invitations to Christmas dinner (too many to accept lol).  Overall, the day was filled with fun and laughter.

It was on New Years’ Eve 2017 when my mother went into cardiac arrest. My plan was to go to a church service this year, but the later in the evening it got, the more I knew I wouldn’t make it.  I ended up sleeping through midnight, and woke up in time to call my Daddy to wish him a Happy New Year in the Central Time Zone.  New Years’ Day was quiet…I made some of the traditional food for the holiday (collard greens, black eyed peas) and reflected on what I was doing a year ago….trying to get home to be by my mother’s bedside.   I was back to work the next day, and my busy schedule resumed.  It helped to be busy when the anniversary of her passing came.

What did I learn in this process of surviving the holidays?

Don’t be afraid to share with people what you are about to face during the holidays

I’m not saying share with everyone, but only with those who understand what you are going through and who will show you compassion. They may or may not remember that you are facing the holidays without a loved one (and that’s ok…we shouldn’t expect people to remember every significant moment of our lives).  Those who really care about you will check on you, invite you to dinner, or do something to help you get through this period.

Some people choose to share these milestones on social media.  I chose not to, because I didn’t think I would be up to responding to hundreds of responses about my loss.

Go with the flow

For Christmas, while my Daddy and I had made plans, we also let the day unfold as it would.  It was great spending time with loving friends, and we also knew when it was time to call it an evening (even though we didn’t make it to every house we thought we would).  We didn’t put pressure on ourselves to do it all…and it was ok.

Thank God for the grace He extends

Through the entire holiday period (from Thanksgiving to New Years’), God showed Himself gracious to me!  Yes, there were some sad moments.   Yes, I shed some tears.  Yes, I wished things could be different.  But God showed His love and concern by giving me the strength to face this season, knowing that He would never leave me nor forsake me.    I’m grateful to God for placing people in my life who would remember and acknowledge my loss…just the acknowledgement alone, and the fact that I was thought of, was a comfort.

 

Yes, I still grieve, but I am grateful.  And…I’m looking forward to a new year with new possibilities.

Responding to Trials

Trials, difficulties, struggles, challenges.  They all happen to each of us throughout life.  These situations come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors:  job loss, loss of a loved one, divorce, or a health challenge.  As Christians, we should not be surprised when they happen (although they do sometimes catch us off guard).  Scripture reminds us that we should not be surprised when challenges come in our lives: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you– 1 Peter 4:12, NLT. Whatever the situation, we have a choice as to how we react…we can try to embrace the challenge and push through it, or we can resist it and possibly become bitter and angry because this thing has happened to us.  The path we travel on during our situation is really up to us.  And for Christians, as we push through our situation, we do not do it alone.

In my own experiences, my trials have eventually turned out for my good.  Note I said “eventually”!  The good from my situations was not instantaneous, but was revealed over the course of time.  And as a result of my challenges, I am a better person, a stronger person, a more compassionate person, a more grateful person.   So, as we are facing difficulties, what can we do to get through them, to the point where we can see the good, and can experience the transformation that God wants to make in us?

Choose our perspective

How do we view this negative experience?  In our mind, is it the end of the world, or is it an opportunity for a new beginning?  James, the brother of Jesus, reminds us of this: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (James 1:2-4, NLT)  This trial is an opportunity for our endurance to grow!  Something good will come out of this!  We choose to look at this situation from that perspective.

Choose to trust God

As we experience our trials, we can choose go to the Word of God to bolster our faith.  When we read passages about the heroes of faith (Moses, Mary, Paul, and Joshua are just a few examples), we can see how God worked in their lives, and we are reminded that He can also work in ours (AMEN!)  We can also look back on my own life and remind myself of what God has already done for me (if we were to really count our blessings, we would lose count!)  As we read Scripture and look back at past blessings, we are learning to trust God more and more in what’s happening right now.  If He did it before, for me as well as for others, can He not do it again?

Choose to be patient with ourselves

We should remember that as we experience trials, our change may not be instantaneous (in fact, most times, it’s not).  There may be days when we feel we’ve make one step forward, and the next day we get knocked two steps backwards.  That’s ok.  We should be patient with ourselves as we trust and believe that we are being transformed by God (and that transformation happens by the renewing of our minds…see Romans 12:2).  So, be patient with the process…it is a process. We choose to be patient and to take each day as it comes, believing by faith that transformation is happening (even if we cannot see or feel it).

As we press through trials, we have choices!  We can choose to be bitter or better, we can choose to trust God, and we can choose to take things one step at a time.  It’s up to us.  Make a decision to want to be better as a result of what has happened to you. And watch what God does in you and through you.  The lyrics of this song by James Bignon remind us of this:

“On the other side of through
There’s a blessing waiting for you
Hold fast
Hold fast
Your troubles will not last
There’s a blessing
There’s a blessing
On the other side of through”

Why Should Christians Assemble Themselves Together?

We live in a world where technology affords us opportunities to do thing quickly and easily, many times with little to no help from others. We have smartphones and tablets that we can use to get the latest information on any given topic, without having to ask anyone. If we want to connect with someone, we can use our devices to do so, and when we call them, instead of just hearing a voice, we can also see them ‘face to face.’   If we want to further our education, we can take online classes (as a student in an online Master’s program, I can relate to this).  And if we want to participate in a worship service, we can live stream many churches from anywhere in the world.

Assemble Ourselves Image

Technology is a good thing, but it has the ability to make us think we don’t need to get together with other believers.   Hebrews 10:25 tells us “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near (NLT).” Since the Word of God is timeless and true, this not only applied to believers during the time this was written, but it also applies to us today.  So the question is: in spite of all the advances that enable us to go solo, why should Christians assemble ourselves together? What are the benefits of assembling ourselves together? I’m glad you asked!

As we come together in worship and praise, we receive encouragement from one another, as the verse in Hebrews clearly tells us.  Each person has had difference experiences during the previous week, and will have to encounter other types of challenges in the upcoming week.  These tests can sometimes cause us to get discouraged, so we are to build one another up as we face them, admonishing each other to “…stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV).  Assembling ourselves together is a way for each of us to get the strength we need to face these tests, “for you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing (James 1:2-4, NLT). The encouragement we can receive coming together and sharing with one another is invaluable (having recently experienced this myself, I can totally relate)!

Also, as we come together, we are given opportunities to minister to others. Worship service is not just about what we can receive individually, but also what we can give to someone else.  God can use us in unexpected ways to be a blessing to others, and we should always be prepared to minister to and bless one another.  Being prepared to minister doesn’t necessarily mean having a sermon or teaching prepared, nor is it just reserved for those who are called to ministry (although every believer has a ministry…that’s another topic for another blog).  We should ask God to send us opportunities to be a blessing to someone, and be open to recognize them when they come.  They can be things as simple as greeting someone with a smile and a hug (not knowing that your greeting is the first friendly one they’ve received in a while), holding the door open for someone, or offering to watch a baby while mom goes to the restroom.  Or you may be called to pray for someone or offer a word of encouragement to a person who’s hurting. Instead of saying, “I’ll keep you in my prayers,” why not stop right then and there and pray for them? What a tangible and real way to show someone you love them and are concerned about them!

Lastly, when we assemble ourselves together, we can learn from one another.  Yes we can certainly listen to a sermon or teaching online, but there’s nothing like sitting next to someone hearing the message or teaching and seeing the light bulbs of revelation come on!  When we’re in small groups or in Sunday School classes, we have the chance to share our personal experiences, which help us to see how the Word of God manifests in real and practical ways. We can ask questions about what we’re learning (something we can’t do over a livestream) and others can help reinforce the lessons in our minds.

Yes, life can get busy, and technology gives us the opportunity to hear God’s Word wherever we may be.  But nothing can replace Christians coming together to fellowship with each other, encourage each other, learn together and pray for one another.  So put your electronic device away, get up and go assemble with the saints of God.  I promise that you’ll be blessed by the experience and will be able to share that blessing with others.   See you in service!

Is Mustard Seed Faith Enough?

Many Christians (I’m sure) are familiar with this passage from the book of Hebrews: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, NASB). Have you ever prayed for something for an extended period of time, but subconsciously given up hope that your prayer would ever be answered?  We say the right words when we pray and we end our prayer with “in Jesus’ name, Amen,” and yet, deep down inside, we just don’t believe that our answer will ever come.  Well, I will confess that I’ve prayed this particular prayer but didn’t believe it would be answered.  Was it because I didn’t believe that God could?  No, to the contrary, as a part of my prayer, I would confess that I knew God was able.  Or, was it because I didn’t have enough faith to truly believe that God would do what He promised?  For me, it was the latter. The fact of the matter is, I’d seen God answer similar prayers for other people (and rejoiced with them when He did), but somehow didn’t think he would answer it for me (although I knew He could).

mustardseed

Then one day, during my prayer and devotional time, the Holy Spirit convicted me, and showed me that the reason I felt hopeless about my situation was because I was living in unbelief about it.  Once I was convicted, I had to pray for forgiveness and ask God to “help my unbelief,” the same thing a father said to Jesus when he brought his son who was possessed by a spirit to Him asking for help. The father said, “if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” (emphasis mine)  Jesus’ responds this way: “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.”  Immediately, the father was convicted and says: “I do believe; help my unbelief” (be sure to read Mark 9 for the entire story).  After I was convicted, I asked God to help me and give me faith the size of a mustard seed.  Frankly, I felt like I needed to start small in asking for faith in this particular situation (note: my faith has been great in other situations, but not in this one), because I felt just like that father who brought his son to Jesus.  The small amount of faith I began to ask for is mustard seed faith, which really isn’t a whole lot!

As you can see from the picture, a mustard seed is a tiny thing!  So small that it seems to get lost in the palm of a person’s hand.  Is that amount of faith enough? Shouldn’t I have a little bit more than that?  The answer to the question of whether mustard seed faith is enough, based on what Jesus said, is a resounding YES!  He says in Matthew 17:20, “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (NASB)

So, I decided to take a small step and confess that I have this much faith that God will answer my prayer.  Yes, I believe this sized faith is enough, and I’m standing on that belief and walking in faith (and not by sight).  My prayer has not yet been answered, but I now have hope about it (something I’d given up on a while ago).

Why am I confessing this to you?  I’m being transparent because someone is experiencing this same thing as we speak!  You’ve prayed and prayed and prayed, the answer hasn’t come, and at some point, you made up in your mind that it would never come.  I want to encourage you to take heart!  Ask God to help your unbelief and give you just a little bit of faith.  Stand on that little bit of faith and watch what God will do!  While you’re waiting for your answer, He’s working on you to make you stronger, wiser and better.

If you can relate to this, feel free to comment and share your thoughts.  I pray God’s blessings on you as He reveals more of Himself to you during this time.