Make Your Life Count: How One Ordinary Life Lived Well Can Make a Difference

It’s been just over a week since we first heard the news, a week full of seeing her picture online and knowing that she’s not here on this earth anymore; having perished in a terrible house fire last week, she and most of her family are now in Heaven.

I guess you could say that Mandy Kelly and I were friends, but not close friends. We worked together and encouraged one another in a small group of Christian bloggers, but I never spoke with her in person, never hugged her neck.

Nevertheless, her sudden death has impacted me in unexpected ways.

The day before Mandy’s passing, my church-planting husband and I attended the bi-annual Northeast Indiana Baptist Association meeting, where we heard testimonies of God’s work in our area and received encouragement to keep up the good work “while it is still day.”

“As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:4-5

In context, we see that Jesus is speaking to his disciples, encouraging them.

He knows His time is limited.

He makes the most of every opportunity and encourages His followers to do the same.

The next morning, I went to Ladies Bible Study and told them about an article I had read about John Piper’s now-famous sermon on how to not waste your life. As Piper stands before thousands and thousands of college-aged students, he pleads with them not to chase the American dream, but to live a life that counts!

And it weighed heavy on my heart. “Make your life count.”

Yes, I want my life to count, too.

It was only moments after I returned home that I received the news that our blogging friend Mandy perished in a house fire overnight along with most of her family – only two of their four children survived.

It was shocking.

It still is shocking.

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But Piper wouldn’t have called her death a tragedy – no – because even in her death, Mandy’s witness for the Lord continues to live on.

In the days following, I was overjoyed to read message after message on social media about the impact Mandy had on the people around her. Countless women, young and old, influenced by her passion for the Lord and her compassion for others.

Not only that, but so many mentioned following her blog and listening to her videos.

What an example her life was, but not for her own glory!

Mandy wasn’t famous.

She wasn’t a big name blogger or Bible teacher that would be recognized worldwide.

She was an ordinary wife and a mom and a leader at church and a writer who was faithful in her everyday life.

Because she knew the key – the way to make your life count – lies in those everyday choices to put Christ first.

According to Piper, “You don’t have to know a lot of things in order to make a huge difference for the Lord in the world, but you do need to know a few things that are great and be willing to live for them and die for them. People who make a difference in the world are not people who have mastered a lot of things. They are people who have been mastered by a very few things that are very, very great.”

Mandy was a woman of God who recognized the value in being a fool for Christ, a woman who aimed to “finish well.”

Listen to her own words around minute 12:00.

Yes, Mandy understood the need to keep working “while it is still day.” She wasn’t a perfect woman, none of us are, but she was a woman who was willing to put one thing above all others – the kingdom of God.

She called this Worshipful Living.

I find her ordinary life both inspiring and convicting.

The truth is that we all have a choice when it comes down to how we spend this one life we have.

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:13-14

According to the Bible, we are not guaranteed one moment more on this Earth, friends. So along with Piper and Mandy, I beg you to make your life count!

 

Because whether we realize it or not, tomorrow could be too late.

Make that decision for Christ that you’ve been putting off for so long…

Forgive the person who wounded you so deeply…

Love others well even when it comes at great cost to you…

Be willing to be a fool for Christ…

Don’t wait another moment to tell others that Jesus came to set us all free from sin, to give us new life!

We must finish well. We must do the good work while it is still day. We must live for His glory.

According to Piper, the only alternative is akin to collecting seashells.

Don’t waste your one life.

Make your life count.

All for His glory,

Jen

If you’d like to help support the Kelly family and her two surviving children, you can donate here:

Trinity Baptist Church
2003 Charleston Hwy.
Cayce, SC 29033

You can also donate via their church’s website. In the top right corner, click on the green Give button. Then choose “Kelly Fund” from the drop-down menu.

http://www.tbccayce.com

A bunch of us are gathering today to share what we’ve learned from Mandy’s life and death – what better way to honor her memory than to lift high the name of Jesus?! :)

 


Why Reading Isn’t Enough ~ Study the Bible

As work-in-progress Christians, we have several tools at our disposal to help us grow closer to God and bear more fruit.

The one tool we often fail to use to its full potential is the Bible!

Some of you may be thinking that you use your Bibles daily or even weekly, so why would I say the Bible is under-utilized?

I say the Bible is under-utilized because I’ve experienced that in my own life as a young Christian.

At the age of fourteen, I moved with my family to a third-world country so that my parents could do missionary work. As you can imagine, it wasn’t an easy move for a teenager, especially considering that I lived away from my parents during the school year.

At that age, I often read the Bible because I knew I was supposed to, but I didn’t feel like I was getting much out of it.

Bible reading simply became an item to check off on my to-do list.

However, after the move overseas, though, I really struggled with being separated from my parents and adjusting to a new life in a foreign country. I felt alone and uncertain. In my teenage awkwardness, I lacked confidence in myself and in my faith.

I wrestled with some deep, unanswered questions – like why? Why was God allowing this hardship in my life?

I began to turn to my Bible for comfort and understanding rather than just as a daily chore. My mom would send me verses that spoke to my circumstances, and I would read them over and over again.

Instead of just reading the Word and then walking away from it, I began to actually study the Bible.

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I began to read with questions, meditate on verses that stuck out to me, write notes and look up cross-references. The more time I spent studying, the more I realized the very real power of God’s Word to transform me, to comfort me, to give me wisdom for real life!

During that time of hardship, my faith became real to me because instead of simply believing what others had told me about God and His Word, I discovered those truths for myself.

My new appreciation for God’s Word led to a period of tremendous spiritual growth that formed the foundation of the faith I have today.

When I look back over my life, I see how the times I felt most connected to the Lord were also times when I really dug into His Word.

Likewise, the seasons when I struggled the most in my faith were often marked by a reluctance to study the Bible or perhaps even a busyness that kept me preoccupied with little time to really dig in.

Consider these verses from Psalm 119:9-11

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You. (NIV)

When you study the Bible, you don’t just gain knowledge about God’s characters or how to make wise choices. According to this Psalm, studying the Bible actually helps to keep us from sin!

I have to admit, taking time to study the Bible is still a work-in-progress in me – an area that can use constant improvement.

I wonder if you might be able to relate, friend?

Maybe you’re a work-in-progress woman who isn’t getting much from the Bible lately. Maybe you find it hard to understand or just wish that you knew the Bible better. I’ve been there, friend!

Or maybe you’re really struggling in your faith right now, feeling distant from the Lord, and you’re not even trying to study the Bible? I’ve been there, too.

What I can tell you is that the more you invest your time and energy into studying the Word rather than just reading it out of a sense of duty, the more you’ll experience the abundant Christian life that God has planned for you. 

Matthew 4:4 claims that the Word of God gives life itself – it sustains us!

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

That sounds like a good reason to study the Bible!

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So here’s my best advice on how to really study the Bible – treat it like you would any other text that you are going to be studying.

Get serious about it!

  1. Grab a notebook and highlighters. Don’t be afraid to write in your Bible, either
  2. Grab tools that can help you understand what you are reading, such as concordances, Bible dictionaries, Hebrew-Greek keyword study Bibles, parallel Bibles, etc. (You can actually find many resources for these tools for FREE online at sites like biblehub and biblegateway.)
  3. Don’t just read a verse and walk away! Ask questions about the background for that verse. Read the surrounding context (verses before and after). Find out the audience that particular book was written to so that you can understand the purpose of the words on the page.
  4. Learn how to do verse-mapping (one of my new favorite methods!) and other methods of bible study until you find one or two that work best for you.

And if you need help doing those things, I highly recommend the Bible Study Methods course!

My friend, Arabah Joy, has created a spectacular course to help people around the world learn to study God’s Word for themselves – it’s called Bible Study Methods: 7 Ways in 7 Days. (Disclosure – this is my affiliate link. Should you choose to purchase through this link, I will receive a commission. Thanks for helping to support the ministry of Being Confident of This!)

This practical, self-paced course comes with a printable workbook and teaching videos to show you exactly how to use the various methods being taught so that those of us who are visual learners or who need a little hand-holding can actually see how the methods work!

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You can expect this course to:

  • teach you 7 different Bible study methods
  • streamline the learning process so you don’t spend weeks or months figuring it out
  • give you tools for going deep into God’s word in as little as ten minutes a day (perfect for busy moms!)
  • provide ready-made templates and printables you can choose from
  • show you exactly how to do each method with the daily videos
  • revolutionize your time in God’s word and discover fresh intimacy with God in the process.
  • equip you to nourish yourself with the Scriptures
  • teach you how to develop your spiritual senses
  • help you establish a Bible study habit!

Do you feel like you're not getting much when you read the Bible? Is it hard to understand, or are you not really sure where to start? This Bible study course will teach you how to find a method that works for you. Don't just read it - instead, really study the Bible!  better bible study, christian women, how to study the bible, study God's Word, how to read the Bible, ways to study the bible, spiritual growth, growing in Chirst

If this is your first time here at Being Confident of This, you should know I’m very picky about the resources I recommend to my readers because I value your trust (that’s why you won’t see ads all over this site). However, I’m happy to recommend this course because I know Arabah Joy has spent years refining these methods as a missionary overseas and now a writer at arabahjoy.com. Since I’ve known her for several years, I also know her motives are genuine – to help children of God grow in their faith so that they can live out their God-given purpose in this world!

Friend, whether you decide to purchase this course or not, I pray you will seek to study the Word for yourself. I firmly believe that if more Christians better utilized the living Word of God, we would all have the confidence we need to live out the plans God has for us.

Bottom line: don’t just read your Bible, really dig into it.

Study the Bible for yourself!

All because of Christ,

Jen :)

Why Tomorrow Could Be Too Late ~ Death and Jesus

You think it won’t happen to you, at least not yet. Death.

But it happened to a friend of mine just last night; a fellow blogger and most of her family passed from this life to the next as their home burned around them.

You think you have plenty of time.

As I prepared my children for bed this evening, we read a chapter from one of our Trailblazer books about the Salvation Army. This particular story happens to be about two orphans who sought refuge from the faith-based group.

And I thought of my friend Mandy’s surviving children, how they would be going to bed this evening for the first time without any parents. My heart broke for them all over again.

Without thinking about whether it was a good time or not, I told my kiddos about my friend’s tragic death right then and there. We talked about and prayed for the surviving children who I am sure feel left behind. My daughter even asked if we could adopt them, which brought a small smile to my face.

We talked about Jesus and how happy I was to know my friend and her family were now in Heaven even though I’m shocked and saddened to realize she will no longer live in this world.

Her death is the most recent in a string of deaths that have occurred in our lives this year.

And I keep thinking, all day long, we just don’t know how much time we have left.

I’m thinking of a man who sat in front of my church-planting husband and I last week, a man who heard the gospel clearly explained, a man who told us he knew he was headed for Hell. But when we asked if he was ready to accept Christ as his Savior, he responded with an honest, “No.”

He’s not ready. He thinks he has more time.

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I’m thinking of another man who recently passed away, a man who was laying in a hospital bed, a man who would never return to his earthly home. This man, this father, he too heard the gospel message, but this man said “yes” to God. And I’m confident that he now resides in Heaven.

I’m remembering a woman we spoke with a over a year ago now who has attended church her entire life, but when asked if she knew she was going to Heaven, her best answer was, “I hope so.”

I’m thinking that lost people are all around us here and wondering what are we really doing, I mean really doing, to make sure they have that same opportunity to know Jesus Christ?

What have I done here in this space to make sure you have that opportunity, too?

You think you have plenty of time…. until you don’t.

Life is fragile and temporary, but a vapor in the wind (James 4:14).

So in light of my friend’s unexpected passing, I’m appreciating my spouse more, and I’m holding my children tighter and telling them how much I love them.

But, friend, there are things in this world that matter even more than love for family and friends, things that matter beyond this life and for eternity.

So all day long I;ve had this burden to tell you what you need to hear most in the world.

God loves you and it’s His greatest desire to have a relationship with you. He created you for a purpose.

But sin creates a gap that we cannot overcome on our own.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom. 3:23

We like to think of sin as the really bad things – like murder and rape and theft, etc. But sin is anytime we choose our way over God’s way. It’s missing the mark of perfection, and I don’t know about you, but I know for certain I am not perfect.

According to the first part of Romans 6:23, the consequence of our sin is death, separation from God both here on earth and for all of eternity.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 6:23

The Good News, also called the gospel, is that God desires relationship with us so much that He made a plan for our redemption. He provided a substitute who would pay the price of death for our sin – His one and only son, Jesus Christ, who bled red on the old rugged cross so that we might live!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom. 5:8

Not only that, but Jesus didn’t stay dead. No! He rose again, proving his power over death and His ability to keep the promise of new life (1 Cor. 15:1-8).

Here’s the part some of us fail to understand – we cannot earn salvation on our own. We cannot make ourselves acceptable to God. As a pastor’s wife, I’ve seen many who falsely believe that they need to clean their acts up first and then come to Christ.

That’s putting the cart before the horse, friend, for two reasons.

First, we can never be “good” enough or righteous enough to please God on our own.

Second, we need Jesus to help us make changes in our lives. It’s only by allowing Christ to work in and through us that we can be the people we need to be, the people we were created to be from the beginning of time.

Are there broken areas in your life?

Do you struggle to overcome addiction?

Do you seek help to forgive others and heal from old wounds?

Do you wish for whole and healthy relationships?

Do you feel like a failure who can’t seem to do anything right?

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Christ alone is the answer to those struggles. He alone has the power to transform us from the inside out!

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Eph. 2:8-9
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Cor. 5:17

But that power is only for those who accept Him. Accepting Christ means acknowledging your own sin problem, and recognizing and believing in Jesus as the only solution.

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Rom. 10:9-10

The Bible is clear that salvation is as simple as a choice to believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to reconcile yourself with God and to ask for forgiveness. There are no magic prayers to pray, no special words – just a confession that you are a sinner in need of saving, and that you believe Jesus alone can save you.

Let me offer another word of caution. Many people falsely believe that they have faith in God when what they really have is just a belief that there is a God. The two are not one and the same.

According to God’s Word, even the demons believe that God exists, and they recognize that Jesus is the Son of God. Yet we know they will not receive eternal life in Heaven. Instead, they will remain separated from God and destined for Hell.

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” James 2:19
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Mt. 7:21

Real faith in God is characterized by a belief that you are a helpless sinner, and a personal trust in Jesus’s work on the cross as a payment for your sin. Real faith humbly submits to Jesus, the son of God.

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” John 14:6

If you are a visual learner, then please watch this video for a clear explanation!

The truth is that none of us are guaranteed even another hour, and this is one decision you cannot afford to put off.

I’m asking you, friend, do you know Christ?

If you’ve never put your faith in Christ as your Savior, would you do so today? I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have – email me at jstults@beingconfidentofthis.com .

If you’ve already taken that step to trust Christ, are you living out His plan for your life? Are you telling others of the Good News?

Because the truth is that it could happen to you; in fact, someday it will happen to you.

Use your time wisely, friends.

Live a life that matters.

Jen

For more on this subject, please visit these trusted sources:

How to Begin a Relationship With God

How Do I Become a Christian?

Who Is God and What Does He Have to Do with Me?

 

 

 

How to Have Life-changing Faith

Very few of us will have a book written or a movie made about our lives. Most of us will go from day to day living out a normal (whatever that means) life with its undulating highs and lows. The vast majority of us will never have even as much as a one-column newspaper article written about the space between our birth and our death.

So, why should we be too jacked up over our legacy?

I believe the answer lies between Hebrews 10 and Hebrews 12. In Hebrews chapter 11 we find what most Christians know as God’s Hall of Faith. A beautiful recounting of the lives of God’s servants beginning with Abel and ending with nameless individuals whose acts of faith were worthy of mention in Scripture.

Check out a few:

Abel offered a sacrifice that pleased God’s heart. (11:4)

Enoch pleased God and was raptured. (11:5)

Noah acted in faith when God told him about the coming flood. (11:7)

Abraham, whew, Abraham just flat out left home and family and set out to only-God-knew-where on faith. Abe also set the bar high for obedience when he was willing to sacrifice Isaac, just because God said so. (Try that one on for size!) (11:8-12, 17-19)

Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the Israelites, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, David and so many others acted in faith and believed that God was who He said He was and that He was able to do what He said He would do.

Heart-pounding, life-changing faith.

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The thing about all of the folks named in Hebrews 11 is that they were just ordinary people going about their ordinary lives doing ordinary things when God said, “Hey you!”

These people were not stained-glass saints when God called them. For heaven’s sake, Rahab was a prostitute, Moses was a murderer, and Gideon was a wimp. These were people, exactly like you and me, who had a heart set on obedience to God. They were willing to trust that God knew what He was doing and had a plan that was for their good, even when it was crazy-scary.

Heart-pounding, life-changing faith.

It is what God calls us to when we decide to set Jesus up as Lord and Savior over our lives. Jesus said that all we need is faith as tiny as a mustard seed in order to do the impossible (Matthew 17:20). Do you know how small a mustard seed is? It is teeny tiny, yet that is all the faith we need….just enough to say ‘yes’ to whatever God is calling us to, then He will add to our faith so we can do the thing in obedience.

Heart-pounding, life-changing, legacy-building FAITH.

Faith that just might one day have our portrait hanging on the walls of heaven.

Faith that might encourage someone else to use their mustard seed.

Faith that pleases the God of heaven immensely.

Faith that leaves a legacy for those who come behind us.

Where is God asking you to use your mustard seed of faith today? Share about it in the comments. I would love to pray for you.

Speaker, Author, Mentor. Bible teacher. Jesus-follower. Wife. Mom. Friend. Daughter of the King.  Leah Adams writes at leahadams.org to point others to Jesus. You can also connect with her on social media: Facebook (Leah Adams), Twitter (LeahCAdams), Instagram (leahadams64), and Pinterest (leahcadams).

*Being Confident of This makes use of affiliate links. For more information, please see the about page. Thank you for helping to support the ministry of this site!

Enter below for a chance to win a free copy of Legacy!

Leah is generously offering the readers of Being Confident of This a chance to win a free copy of her newly released Bible study, Legacy: It’s What You Leave Behind. Woohoo!

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Let me tell you why I’m excited about this study. First, I have known Leah for several years now and have witnessed her passion for reaching women for Jesus, particularly through sound teaching and lots of grace! Second, I worked closely with Leah on the design of Legacy, so I’m very familiar with the material contained within these pages – it’s meaty, grounded in scripture, and exactly the message we need to be spreading in the world today!

Leah’s book uses scripture to teach you how life-changing faith leaves a lasting legacy.

So, who wants to win a free copy?? :)

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A Christian’s Responsibility on this Inauguration Day

Today is Inauguration Day for our new president Donald Trump. Some celebrate while others weep. I’m not here to say which camp you should find yourself in as a Christian because I’m honestly not sure how to feel myself – perhaps concerned yet hopeful best describes today for me.

Friend, whatever feelings you are experiencing, know this – we Christ-followers have a job to do. The election of 2016 showed all of us, whether republican or democrat or independent or undecided, that America is deeply divided and susceptible to a fall from within. Even now, on this Inauguration Day, we see the division, the disunity that plagues our country.

But what we really need isn’t another political post.

No, what we all really need is a call to prayer because our best hope doesn’t lie in the hands of any president, past, present or future. Our best hope lies in the Lord alone, the God who sets up kings and kingdoms and also tears them down, the God who directs a king’s heart like He directs streams of water (Prov. 21:1).

Fellow Christians, take heart in these words from 2 Chronicles 7:13-14:

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”(NIV)

When the Lord brought this passage to mind yet again today, I was curious about the context of it. What was going on with the Israelites when He offered them this promise?

As Christians, we have a responsibility this Inauguration Day, but it's probably not what you think! In 2 Chronicles, we read both a promise and a warning... as Chrisitans, we have a choice this Inauguration Day, regardless of whether we like President Trump or not, to follow God's commands. Will we heed both God's promise and warning?

In 2 Chronicles, we read that it was the day of the dedication of the temple, an Inauguration Day of biblical proportions. Solomon was leading the nation of Israel in a week of celebration during which the very glory of God descended into the temple, and the Israelites worshipped Him with praises and sacrifices.

The Lord God gave these words to King Solomon in the evening immediately following the final day of that week-long celebration. Imagine,  Solomon in the cool of the night, ready for rest. Imagine the glory of the Lord before him and this promise for tough times – that if God’s people would humble themselves and pray and walk in His ways, He would raise them up and heal their land.

We’ve likely heard these words before, but did you know that this promise is also followed by a sharp warning?

Later on in chapter 7, verses 19-21, we read these sobering words:

“But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples.  This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?'” (NIV)

The Lord God himself warned Solomon that if the king and his people followed God’s ways, there would be blessing, but if they turned to their own ways and the world’s ways, there would be destruction.

Just as the Lord warned, over four hundred years later Solomon’s temple was destroyed, a result of Israel’s continual sin and rejection of God’s ways.

Friends, we stand at a crossroads today.

The health and safety of our nation, our leaders, our churches, our communities, even our families, depends not only on our new president but on us as a nation of people who have a choice: will we humble ourselves, repent, and choose to follow God, or will we decide that we know what’s best for humanity, forsake our Creator, and bring destruction on our land?

We don’t need another political post or any more of man’s wisdom. No, what we really need is a call to prayer!

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” 1 Tim. 2:1-2 (NIV)

Fellow Christian, whatever your opinion is of President Trump, let’s bow low before the Lord today and humbly confess our own sin. Let’s beg the Father for healing for our land. Let’s put our trust where it belongs, not in presidencies but in the God of the Universe.

That’s our responsibility this Inauguration Day.

Will you join me?

Jen :)

Sharing with: Grace and Truth

The Spiritual Fruit Test

Lately, I’ve noticed something lacking in our home… well, a few somethings, to be honest. Patience and kindness seem to be in short supply, as well as joy and self-control.

And peace… yes, peace doesn’t exactly describe our home at the moment, either.

I’m not just talking about the kids who live here – I’m talking about this mama, too. I’m not seeing much evidence of the spiritual fruit that should be produced by the heart of a Christ-follower who is abiding in the Vine.

It’s a red flag, really, that something is amiss.

Have you ever tested your spiritual fruit?  Held it up to the Lamp, the faithful Word of the Lord?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

In my bible, beside this passage I have written two small words: The Test.

Do you want to know if you are walking with the Lord? Examine your fruit!  Do they pass the test? Or are you striving to produce fruit all on your own that just aren't quite holding up? spiritual fruit, the spiritual fruit test, christian living, produce spiritual fruit, abiding in the Vine, walking with the Lord

Do you want to know if you are walking with the Lord? Examine your fruit!  Do they pass the test? Or are you striving to produce fruit all on your own that just aren’t quite holding up?

All too often I find myself trying to produce these spiritual fruit all on my own. I wake up in the morning thinking, I’m going to be patient with my children today.  I’m going to be kind and loving to my husband.  And later in the day, when strength runs low, I feel frustrated and out of control. I wonder, “Why am I acting this way?  What is the matter with me today?”  as if some sort of spell has come over me, and I’ve been rendered incapable of obedience.

In truth, my fruits show that I’m not out of control, but I’m off of the vine.  I’m not abiding, not remaining in Christ.  Instead, I’ve chosen my own path, my own methods, my own power.

I’ve chosen doing rather than being, resisting rather than submitting, striving rather than resting.

I’ve somehow forgotten that most basic truth of Christianity, that we cannot produce spiritual fruit on our own, for there is nothing good in us.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh;
for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
Romans 7:18
When I lift my spiritual fruit up to the Lamp, I see it – that bruise there when I chose to be selfish rather than selfless.  The wormhole caused by putting off time alone with God.  The blackened area of sin left hidden and unconfessed.
Surprisingly, some of my fruit appears to be pretty and polished, but on the inside the core rots, the result of a valiant effort to do things in my own strength.
It’s ugly fruit.
It’s rotten and worthless.
It reeks of sin and self.
I have to toss the bad fruit out and start anew: reconnect to the Vine, drink the Living Water, break the Bread of Life.

 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2Timothy 3:16-17

Only then, in the hands of the Master, can I produce beautiful and bountiful spiritual fruit, sweet-smelling fruit.
The good news is that no matter how often I fail the fruit test, He is faithful to forgive, faithful to redeem.  His grace is sufficient for my weakness and for yours, too, friend!
Today are you feeling weary, impatient, overwhelmed, dissatisfied, or out of control?
Test your spiritual fruit.
Hold them up to the Lamp of Truth and see what they reveal.
Matthew 11:28-30
 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (emphasis mine)
We have no power to produce spiritual fruit on our own!  Instead of trying and toiling, why not take His yoke and find rest?
Turn to your Maker and Sustainer for the power to produce.
Jen :)
Which fruit is most lacking in your life?  What verses help you to rely on the Spirit rather than self?

3 Fears to Overcome When You’re Feeling Stuck

Sometimes I avoid writing just like I avoid prayer and time with the Lord. I know why I do it. I avoid these things because I’m feeling ashamed or unworthy. I avoid because I’m afraid I might not like what the Lord has to say about my wishes or my needs or my complaints.

I avoid because it’s easier than trying to change.

Do you ever do it, friend? Do you ever run like Jonah in the opposite direction? Do you hide away from the Lord like Adam and Eve and hope He won’t notice your absence?

Honestly, the last thing I felt like doing was praying this morning because I knew I had some confessing to do. The second-to-last thing I felt like doing was writing to you all because I know I’ve messed up, blown it, wasted valuable time, and squandered opportunities.

It’s the worst feeling in the world – feeling stuck – wanting to change, yet feeling like you can’t.

Last year, I set some big goals for myself, but to be honest, I only did so half-heartedly, and I failed to fully reach a few of them. I’ve always been resistant to goal-setting, a sort of inner rebellion against holding myself accountable. Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering why.

Why am I, a planner by nature, so opposed to making plans for reaching specific goals?

Why do I avoid the very process that could help me when I’m feeling stuck?

As I was praying this morning, I realized there are several fears that are holding me back from my God-given success story (because He is in the business of changing lives, after all), and I wonder if they just might be holding you back, too, friend.

Fear. It keeps us feeling stuck, unable to move, to change, to succeed. Overcoming these 3 fears will help you move toward the goals you are desperate to reach!

These three fears will keep us feeling stuck if we let them!

1. Fear of failure

If I set real, specific goals, then I’m taking the chance that I might fail, and failure is a perfectionist’s worst nightmare. We literally dream about it sometimes. The easy and safe path is to avoid setting goals at all, or to set vague goals so that we can partially achieve. What it really comes down to is an all-or-nothing mindset that fails to recognize the imperfect progress that I write about so often here.

2. Fear of self

Listen, friends, I know my own heart. I know there is this part of me that wants to achieve success so that I will look good to others. I know there is a part of me that wants success for selfish, unspiritual reasons. How do I keep fleshly pride at bay?

What if I set real, specific goals and then realize they were really my plans and not the Lord’s? I’ll have wasted all of that time, and I’ll be out of God’s will. Now, some of you may be chuckling at me at this point, but this is and has been a real fear of mine from a young age! It’s part of a perfectionist’s nature to do anything to avoid being wrong, and that plays into my spiritual life and some of yours, as well, I’m sure.

3. Fear of the hard work

If I spend time asking the Lord what He wants from me this next year, He might ask me to do things that seem way too hard! What if He asks me to uproot my entire family, or uproot our ministry, or do something really hard for a food-addicted person like me – give up sugar?!!

The truth is you and I might fail.

We might get it wrong to begin with, or we might convince ourselves the work is too difficult and give up part way through. There is no guarantee of success, no promise of perfect achievement, at least not in this lifetime.

So why take the risk?

Because the alternative is remaining stuck.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of feeling stuck.

I’m fed up.

I’m ready for real and lasting change.

I’m determined not to let the enemy’s lies hold me down any longer because I fall short of perfection. For several years now, I’ve been writing about looking for progress, yet somewhere along the line, I fell for the lie that it’s all or nothing all over again.

And as sad as I am about that, it’s okay, it really is. It’s okay because…

Grace.

Grace is what allows us to grab on to the rescue rope. Grace reminds us that when we can’t pull ourselves up, He promises not to let go. Grace teaches us to let our Father do the heavy lifting so that our burden will be light!

Those fears we have when we’re feeling stuck? They’ll still be there.

They’ll sneak back up on us late at night when we lay down to sleep. They’ll plague us when we slip back into old habits. They’ll whisper, “You can’t do it.”

The enemy of our souls seeks to devour us, but we can be protected if we’ll just put on our spiritual armor and choose to do battle in faith.

You and I? We must choose to believe the promise of God’s Word that greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. That we are more than conquerors in Christ. That even when we can’t, He can! And most importantly, that He loves us still.

He loves us still.

I don’t have all of the answers when it comes to setting goals, friend, but I know the One who does, and I trust that even if we set the wrong goals, even if we fail miserably, even if pride gets in the way, He will set us straight.

If we choose to walk hand-in-hand with Him, rather than running like Jonah or hiding like Adam and Eve, we can be confident in our direction.

Let’s get unstuck together.

Jen :)

P.S.  If you’re ready for change that really lasts, my friend Arabah Joy has created a workshop called Grace Goals for goal setting that is biblically based (affiliate).  It’s one of the things I appreciate about her most – her material is always doctrinally sound and rooted in scripture. The second-best thing I like about Arabah Joy is that she keeps her products affordable, too. ;)

If you’re tired of feeling stuck, the first step to getting unstuck is to make a real plan for change!

Are you frustrated and feeling stuck? Did you fail to meet last year's goals? Or perhaps you're not sure where to start in setting goals for next year?  Grace Goals is a biblical approach to goal setting that can take the fear right out of planning for success!

Here’s what the printable Grace Goals workbook will assist you with:

  • Identifying the key area God wants you to take possession of
  • Setting practical, godly goals to take your promised land
  • Developing a doable, personal plan for change
  • Learning why grace is the enablement you need
  • Recognizing and appropriating grace in your daily life

Let today be the day of your fresh start!

If this year wasn't quite what you planned, then you need a fresh start!  Learn how to set goals by using this biblical approach. Experience the transforming power of allowing God to lead your efforts!

 

Sharing with: Grace and Truth

 

Let Go of Holiday Guilt: Stress-free Advent for Families

If I have to add one more thing to my to-do list in the month of December, I just might spontaneously combust. For real. Am I the only one who finds it ironic that the season of “Peace on Earth” and “Joy to the World” is also known for being the most stressful time of year?

The last thing we all need during the holidays is one more thing to add to the to-do list, right?

Don’t get me wrong, I want to be the mom who does all of the fun things – the cotton ball crafts, the handmade Christmas ornaments, the sugar cookies from scratch – and especially the mom who does the important things, too, like teaching our children why we celebrate Christ’s birth.

After all, what mama doesn’t want to give her kids a good Christmas?

But there are only so many hours in a day, and I’m weary of this holiday guilt before we’ve even really begun!

Honestly, until a few years ago, we had never really attempted any kind of advent for families other than reading the Christmas story from the Bible, mostly because I knew my perfectionist tendencies would make it a burden rather than a blessing, a duty rather than a delight.

After all, I’m a professional at making lists and checking off boxes, but I also find lists and boxes stressful because, let’s be honest, how often do we create a list of things to do today that will really take an entire week to complete? :)

So, if the program of advent for families involves complicated daily activities, I’m bound to get behind at some point: cue the holiday guilt.

Here’s the thing about guilt, friends – it is counter-productive. Guilt doesn’t motivate; rather it incapacitates.  The enemy knows this all too well, and he is a master manipulator, the king of guilt-inducing thoughts, man-made rules, and unrealistic expectations.

Yes, I want to teach my children about Christ’s birth and our family traditions, but not at the expense of experiencing Christmas joy.

But I’ve found a stress-free solution…

Join me over at my friend Sarah Ann’s blog, Faith Along the Way, to find out more about avoiding holiday guilt and a simple, stress-free advent for families (plus FREE printables!).

As the season fills with busyness, how you can possibly fit in advent? Here's a simple, stress-free plan for avoiding holiday guilt. Stay focused on the true reason for the season with this simple, stress-free advent plan for families.

 

Sharing with: Grace and Truth

The Dangerous Lie You Believe About Your So-called Sin

They say the most dangerous lie is that which contains a sliver of truth, just enough to make it sound good and appeal to our conscience while deftly leading us astray.

I fear some such lies have permeated Christian culture to the point that we have turned the gospel upside down, backwards, and inside out to make it mean the opposite of what it truly is. What a coup for the enemy to use God’s own well-meaning people to pervert the greatest sacrifice this world has ever seen.

What is this lie, you ask?

It’s the dangerous lie that we’re good, that we’re enough, that we somehow deserve the Savior’s love.

I’ve heard this lie before in bits and pieces, but always mixed with that sliver of truth that caused me to question, Maybe they didn’t mean that the way that it sounded…

But when those who call themselves Christ-followers begin to say things like, “Jesus wouldn’t have died for you if you weren’t good enough,” when Christian leaders deny the Word of God and call sin “acceptable,” I feel a hollow in the pit of my stomach, an ache that won’t easily be ignored.

It’s a lie, my friend, a dangerous lie that leads to a false gospel, one meant to keep you enslaved rather than freeing you to be the child of God you were created to be.

The Bible is clear that we are all sinners and deserve death (Rom. 3:23, Rom. 6:23, Rom. 3:10-12, 1 Jn. 1:8-10). This false idea that we can be good enough on our own is as old as the Garden of Eden when Adam and Even attempted to cover their shame after their disobedience.

Have you fallen for this dangerous lie about your sin? Find out the truth about how we are often deceived about our so-called sin and why it matters so much. As Christians, we should be telling the full truth about sin and the gospel.

You see, when Adam and Eve disobeyed and their eyes were opened to their own sin, they immediately felt the shame of being not good enough. They recognized their offense to a holy and righteous God, even as they busied themselves trying to cover it up.

It’s our natural tendency to downplay our sin and exaggerate whatever good we can find in ourselves. It’s our natural tendency precisely because we are imperfect beings in need of a Savior, imperfect beings who wish with our whole hearts to be good, to be special, to be loved.

The irony is that we were created for exactly that kind of relationship – to love and be loved, to walk in communion with our Father God.  So when we walk away from Him and from His ways, we find ourselves an empty, needy, downright desperate people who are stubbornly determined to prove our worth, our rightness.

You and I see and hear examples of this every day, especially in these politically and morally tumultuous times. Every one wants to be right, right?

The danger that lies in calling ourselves “good enough” is twofold: it either tempts us to deny our need for a Savior in the first place, or for those who see so clearly their own imperfections, it tempts us to embrace a works-oriented salvation by wasting this one life we have trying to “earn” a status that is freely offered.

If the lie is true and we are so good that Jesus died for us, then why would we need His death?

Why would we need Him at all?

Thus the dangerous lie inverts the gospel, turns it topsy-turvy until we begin to believe that we must somehow save ourselves.

And that’s exactly what the enemy wants us to believe, my friends. He certainly doesn’t want us to acknowledge Jesus as our Rescuer and Redeemer. He certainly doesn’t want us to experience the power of a gospel that is both redemptive and transformative in our lives.

Instead, the enemy would love to keep us focused on…well…us.

Listen closely, friend, the heart-stopping beauty of the gospel is that we. are. not. enough.

We are not good.

We are not worthy.

We are helpless sinners who offend the holiness of our Almighty God.

Yes, that is who we are at our core apart from Christ, but praise God, it doesn’t stop there.

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He died for us, a gruesome, painful, suffering sort of death reserved for the worst of criminals.  He laid down his life willingly because He loves us too much to leave us as we are, hopelessly enslaved by our own sin (Jn. 8:34, Gal. 5;1. Acts 13:39)

What’s so beautiful about such a horrifying death?  It’s beautiful because He sacrificed for all of us, for the worst version of us, for the hidden parts that we don’t dare show to another human being because we can barely admit to ourselves the ugliness of what lies within us.

He died even for the worst of humanity – the kind of people who do things that make us sick to our stomachs. Yes, He died for them, too.

The dangerous lie about your so-called sin doesn’t lead you or others to salvation, friend. It leads you to more of the same-old, same-old – trying to cover up the darkeness within that we don’t want anyone else to see, that we won’t even admit to ourselves.

Even we who are already in Christ fall for the dangerous lie from time to time.

We fall for the lie when we tell ourselves this one little sin won’t hurt.

We fall for the lie when we abuse grace.

We fall for the lie when we choose the world’s wisdom over God’s Holy Word.

We fall for the lie when we tell ourselves we have to earn His approval.

I’m tired of falling for this dangerous lie, and seeing others fall for it, too. How about you?

Let’s start telling the whole truth instead.

Let’s tell how great the love of Jesus is, but let’s not leave out how sinful we are. If we leave out our sin, we deny the full power of the gospel. After all, how can one save someone who doesn’t need saving?

Let’s remind each other of our position in Christ – fully loved, fully accepted, always cherished, continually pursued - but let’s make it clear that these labels are for those who have actually accepted Christ. Otherwise, we unintentionally teach others to believe what is not yet true for them.

Let’s stop teaching others to be confident in themselves and teach them to be confident in Christ instead.

Let’s not be afraid to admit the depth of our own sin because when we do, we’ll fall even more in love with the Savior who chose us first, who died for us even when we despised Him and His ways.

Let’s be willing to count ourselves a needy and desperate people, hungry for a righteousness that comes from God alone and not ourselves (Eph. 2:8-9).

Let’s quit telling dangerous lies about our so-called sin.

All because of Jesus,

Jen

Sharing with: Grace and Truth

 

What You Need to Know about Your Work-in-Progress Status

It’s Friday and you’ve survived another week, maybe even another month. Sometimes you wonder how much longer you can keep at it, how much longer you can grind your way through the hard work we call life.

And some days, the hard work defeats us, owns us, and we become less than – less of a wife, less of a mother, less of a daughter of the King, less than we truly desire to be.

We’re tempted then to blame the weariness, the dead weight we’ve been dragging for so long, on our hectic lives.

I’m just too busy.

The phrase slips into my mind so easily, yet I know it’s only a half-truth. Yes, I’ve been busy, but not just with the family schedule. My mind has been busy, too – busy with worries, thoughts, plans, dreams, and even dissatisfaction.

We’re weary women, you and me, and we long for some space to smooth down our frayed edges and quiet our souls, yet we’ve somehow lost the way.

If I’m honest, I have to admit that my biggest problem isn’t my hectic schedule, though. No – the biggest problem is that when my schedule is crazy, my perfectionism and need to control kicks into overdrive. I’m tempted to think if I just work harder and longer, then I can keep myself afloat. 

If I just do everything right….

Unfortunately, I’m not perfect and neither are you. No matter how hard we try, we’re bound to fail at something along the way.

And fail, I have.

I’ve been a grumpy mama and a distracted wife. I’ve offended others in my haste and frustration. I’ve neglected to connect to the only Power Source who can really keep me going in the tough times. I’ve been trying way too hard to do something I cannot possibly do on my own, and boy, is it painful!

Why do we do this to ourselves, my sisters in Christ?  Why do we expect the impossible rather than resting in what we already know to be true?

~I’m sharing three of my favorite truths to fight against the pull perfectionism over at my friend Kaylene’s blog today. It would make my day if you’d hop on over there to find out what you really need to know about your work-in-progress status (and how to get a freebie)!

Sometimes you wonder how much longer you can grind your way through the hard work we call life. You feel too busy, like you're always failing at one thing or another. What you really need to know are these 3 truths about your work-in-progress status.

 

 

Sharing with: Grace and Truth