God's Heart for the Lost

God's Heart for the Lost

It is God’s desire that everyone be saved.

If you need convincing, consider this passage:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him,” John 3:16-17 ESV (emphasis added).

For God so loved the world. Not “For God so loved the chosen ones,” not “For God so loved Israel,” not “For God so loved the saints.” For God so loved the world.

I am certain you could probably recite that passage without error, but we absolutely cannot miss this. If we miss it, our gospel becomes exclusive rather than comprehensive and our commission becomes a suggestion and not an assignment.

To receive His heart for the lost, we have to know His heart toward them.

God’s heart for the lost is big.

In Isaiah 49:6, God says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” ESV.

Every person on this planet, every soul that does not yet know their Father, is a child that Jesus died to save. That’s why it isn’t enough for God to see just one nation saved; it is His desire that all the world would know His saving grace. His heart for the lost is big because He made every single one.

God’s heart for the lost is extravagant.

We cannot even begin to comprehend the eruption of joy in Heaven when one who was lost turns toward their Father and comes running into His arms. In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, we see a son who had broken off relationship with his father, wasted all of his wealth, and found himself deeply in need. When the son returned home to the father, prepared to be treated like a servant, this is what the father said:

“Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” Luke 15:22-24 ESV.

This is how God rejoices over His children when they turn to Him. His heart isn’t hard or cold, frustrated or meager. He doesn’t give us the scraps; He is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to lavish His love upon the ones once lost and to bless them with His abundance.

God’s heart for the lost is relentless.

Also in Luke 15, we see the Parable of the Lost Sheep. You probably know this story. The shepherd leaves his 99 sheep to go after his one that is lost. That paints a powerful picture, that each individual means so much to God that He pursues us without hesitation because of what it might cost Him. But there’s a piece of the scripture that speaks to how He pursues that lost sheep:

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?” Luke 15:4 ESV (emphasis added).

There is no time limit on God’s pursuit of the hearts He is after. He doesn’t give up after days, months, years of seeking them. He goes after them until they are found, and still He pursues them.

God’s heart for the lost is patient.

2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” ESV.

It is out of His desire for all to come to know Him that God is not in a hurry. In constant pursuit, yes, but not in a hurry. While there is urgency to His seeking, He does not become frustrated. He forgives as many times as it takes. He reaches out through as many avenues as it takes. He never runs out of grace.

Maybe the most important part is that God’s heart is for the lost.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10 ESV.

Maybe you’ve always known God. Maybe you haven’t. Maybe you were once lost. Maybe you feel like you are lost. If you’ve ever felt God’s heart for you, if you’ve ever even tasted the understanding that He wants relationship with you more than anything you could offer Him, you need to know that He feels the same way about every single person under the sun. If you’ve never felt that, if you’ve never known that God is longing for you and has a celebration waiting for you, you need to know that you’re exactly who He came for.

Prayer:

God, thank you that you are for us and that you are for every person we know and don’t know. Thank you that you’ve never stopped being for us. Help us to see all the world as your children, precious souls that you said were worth dying for. Break us for the ones that don’t know you. Fill us with hope for the rejoicing over them when they have that “yes” in their heart. Let us never forget that there is not one exception to your love. Amen.

Author | Kalli Drake

Evangelism as a Lifestyle

Evangelism as a Lifestyle

“Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized-whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ-but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!” - 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

This is our mission as a body of believers: to become servants to reach a wide range of people in an attempt to lead them into a God-saved life. At times, it's so hard to practically figure out how to live out the mission though.

If we want to live a life on mission or a lifestyle of evangelism, I believe the only place to start is with Jesus. Walking in a lifestyle of evangelism looks a lot like the way Jesus walked in His day to day life. He went city to city, observing people, touching their lives, healing them, praying, seeking, being sought, asking questions, building relationships, sharing stories, being generous, praying and loving the lost, and ministering to their ultimate need: a God sized hole in their heart.

Below are just a couple practical steps based on how Jesus walked that we can take as Christians to live a lifestyle of evangelism:

1) See people

The first thing Jesus did when He went city to city was that He saw people. He saw crowds and had compassion on them (Matthew 9:36-38). He saw Nathanael, one of His disciples, when Nathanael asked, "how do you know about me?" (John 1:47-49). And "as Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth" (John 9:1). Jesus was a man who actually saw people. He saw and felt, he saw and asked, and he saw and recognized pain. It seems like an obvious action, but Jesus was intentional about remaining aware of who was around Him at all times.

If we want to live a life of evangelism the first thing we must do is see people. We aren't hardwired to do this. We are by default hardwired to constantly pay attention to and listen to our internal monologue of thought. To then switch that default, we must make a conscious choice to begin to pay attention to and become aware of the people around us. There has to be a shift in our mentality as Christians to see others and to truly see them. All too often we live our lives just seeing through people. Many times, I find myself passing by people just trying to get to the next thing, when the best chance for us to see people is in the in-betweens. Jesus did this. He was just walking along on His journey to the next city, and because He was aware He saw the blind man. Another thing: Jesus saw people with all their hurt, sin, pain, suffering and went towards them all the same. He saw people who were thirsty. He saw people who had questions. He saw people who needed to be healed. And He didn't shy away from them, or choose to see right through them or past them because He was so focused on the next place He was trying to get to... He saw them, stopped, and entered into a conversation with them. Just imagine if we started to really see people at bus stops, around campus, in class, or even at the store. This world is full of people who are just waiting to be seen, so let's live a life on mission to see people.

2) Get to know people

The second thing Jesus did is He got to know people. He made relationships with no agenda. He talked and shared in conversation. But two very distinct things he did were:

1. He asked a TON of questions

2. He told stories

If you skim over the gospels, you begin to realize something. Jesus asked a lot of questions. Some people have counted and said He asked more than 300 questions across the span of the four gospels. He was THE ultimate question asker. He asked people questions because he understood humans at their core. Jesus was the ultimate communicator and he asked questions because they are a highly effective way to connect. They are a way to get to know people, to understand their desires, dreams, and what do they long for. Questions are also a way to engage, to get people thinking, and to guide people into discovering answers. Naturally, we love to talk about ourselves. So next time you meet someone, start asking questions, get to know who they are and what makes them tick. You'll discover so much about a person by asking questions and listening to understand who they are.

Another thing Jesus did well to get to know people and also share Truth is that He told stories, or parables. Stories are the universal language of the world and everyone has a story to tell. Today, I can look back on my life and see the thread of the Lord in every story and piece of my life. Therefore, the stories I tell people, even without mentioning that I'm a Christian, have that underlying thread of Christ. He's been in my life and always will be, that's the underlying thread in every story I tell. So, go tell your stories, go ask people for theirs. If no one has told you yet, your story matters and it's significant in an eternal since, so please, please please tell it.

One final thought on getting to know people… another key ingredient to this is conversation. The art of conversation has slipped away a bit in our world today. We can blame things like technology, busyness, television, etc. But let's claim this right now, we will be a people of conversation. And it's time it came back. To do this, take what Jesus did, asking questions and telling stories, and use them as building blocks to grow in shaping conversation. Let's start having more conversations with our peers or neighbors. Go grab coffee with someone other than a best friend and see just where the conversation might lead.

3) Be extravagant and generous with people

"And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other's feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you" (John 13:14-15)

Here's the thing, I'm not sure how it would pass if we went around Tate offering to wash people's feet. But we can definitely offer to pay for the person behind us in the Tate Chick-fil-A line. Or offer to give someone a ride somewhere. Or give our time to serve a group or community. Despite the poor college kid stereotype that gets laid on us, we have a lot to be generous with. Besides our money, we have our time, our resources, our knowledge, and even our words are things we can be generous with. Let's be extravagant with them. With no restraints, we can live a lifestyle of evangelism by being generous and expecting nothing in return (Luke 6:35).

4) Pray for people

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Colossians 4:2-6, NIV).

Finally, the fourth action we can take as Christians is to pray for people in our own sphere of influence. In every one of our lives, we have access to people and perspectives of them that other people do not. Because we have this particular perspective, we have the chance to bathe the people who surround us in prayer - whether they are Christians or not. When we pray for specific people in our lives and fight for them in a spiritual sense, it is our understanding that the power in living life on mission comes from the Lord and allows us to bring that power into our relationships. Praying for specific people in our lives will prepare us to be ready and enable us to see the connection between ourselves and the people we pray for. When we pray specifically for people in our lives it's like we're raising our hand in heaven saying, "Lord, with your help, I'm going after them". It is an honor to be entrusted by God with the hearts of friends, coworkers, neighbors, sorority sisters, fraternity brothers, peers, fellow committee members, teammates, and others that surround us (1 Corinthians 3:9). So, the next time we are physically in the presence of the people we're praying for, we can have confidence that because of our faithfulness in prayer for them the Lord is at work in their lives.

Author | Kristen Fikse

What is Evangelism?

What is Evangelism?

"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" Jesus answered him, "'Love the Lord your God with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being, and with every thought that is within you.' This is the great and supreme commandment. And the second is like it in importance: 'You must love your friend in the same way you love yourself.' Contained within these commandments to love you will find all the meaning of the Law and the Prophets." -Matthew 22:36-40

"Then Jesus came close to them and said, "All the authority of the universe has been given to me. Now go in my authority and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you. And never forget that I am with you every day, even to the completion of this age." -Matthew 28:18-20

Evangelism is a really intimidating word to many people, so let me break it down a bit more. I believe archbishop William Temple put it best when he said, "Evangelism is to so present Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men shall come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Savior and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of the church."

It is all about shifting people's perspective toward Jesus. If all that happens from the conversation or relationship is that they accept Jesus to be their Lord and Savior and they are fixing their gaze toward Jesus, that's enough. It is not your job to push them from one degree of glory to another, it is Jesus'. The biggest challenge with embracing a lifestyle of evangelism is that there are so many unfinished stories that are dealt with. You will almost never know if the person you talked to embraced Jesus 5 minutes from your conversation, 5 years from now, or never. There is no other way around it. Your job is to love the person in front of you, show them the aspect of Jesus manifested in you, and trust God to reveal himself.

Evangelism boils down to two aspects: the greatest commandment and the great commission. A heart for the lost overflows from an intimacy with God. An intimacy with God pushes us to love others well. Loving others well means partnering with God's ministry in that moment and trusting God with them.

As Christians, we stand in the authority of the Great Commission with the greatest commandment etched into our hearts. We are commanded to teach others to be disciples of Jesus, and as a body, the Christian church does that well. If Jesus chose the last words he spoke to his disciples before he ascended to heaven to be the Great Commission, that means it is just as important. Discipleship teaches believers how to eat at the table of the Lord, but evangelism shows people that there is a place reserved specifically for them at the table.

Evangelism has nothing to do with how uncomfortable we are, but it has everything to do with God's heart for the one. I don't care if I'm uncomfortable if it means that someone else knows that God's heart is for them. You have to remember that you were lost at one point, and God left everything to find you. If you pursued the lost the way God pursued you, it would change the way you lived your everyday life, and it would change what eternity looks like.

Evangelism is not an event, it is a lifestyle. You will never accidentally choose to evangelize, but as you continue to choose to step into this lifestyle, it will become normal. It will feel uncomfortable at first, and rejection is hard. However, the more times you get rejected, the less you will be afraid of rejection. You do not live for the approval of man, but for the approval of your Heavenly Father. Even if you are not an "Evangelist" who is sent to equip others to live out this lifestyle. You can still show people a glimpse of Heaven in your heart in your job, in your dorm room, or in your friend group.

Your first tries may not be conversions, and that is 100% okay. It's not your job to make their decision, but you can provide the opportunity. Are you willing to be interrupted to partner with God in his ministry to another person? Evangelism is a momentary inconvenience, so someone else can live in eternity with Jesus. Eternity would look radically different without you, and eternity would look radically different without the person in front of you that may not know Jesus.

Think about the person in your life you most want to know Jesus. Now, think of the moment when you realized the impact of what Jesus did for you on the cross. God did not give you the gift of salvation to be locked away. God created you to be a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14). You were always meant to stand out and be seen. You cannot change a world you are not a part of, and God created you intentionally to have the influences in spheres no other Christian would have influence in. A light cannot make the light any more light, a light has to be in the darkness to shine. The same way a Christian cannot help another Christian step more into salvation, they can help someone who is lost find that they have salvation offered to them.

The pressure is not on you though, it's on the Holy Spirit to reveal God. That aspect should be one of the most freeing things. All you have to do is love the person in front of you, and that is enough. Let God be their Savior, all you have to do is love them.

Author | Cristina Rosiles

Remain in My Love

Remain in My Love

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” John 15:9

In the very next verse Jesus tells His disciples that if they keep His commands then they will remain in His love for them. In verse 12, Jesus reiterates the most important command aside from loving God, “Love each other as I have loved you.” So what Jesus is saying here is that if we love each other as He has loved us, then we will remain in His love. And therein lies, I would argue, one of the greatest mysteries in all of the universe: by loving other human beings we experience and dwell in the unfathomable love God the Father has for God the Son. When we choose to love people as the divine workmanship that they really are, we also partake in a heavenly fellowship that’s existed before the foundation of the world.

More than anything, I want whoever is reading this to know that choosing to love another human being is nothing short of divine. When I read John 15:9 in light of the rest of the chapter, I realize that I cannot remain in the love God has for me unless my life expression is one of love towards humanity. In other words, I can say I love God all I want but it’s all lip service if it’s divorced from love for people. And it’s no wonder God wouldn’t have it any other way. Each person that has ever lived or will ever live on this planet is a fresh expression of His love. He is fiercely jealous for each of their affections. And He desperately wants each person to see the other as the work of love that they truly are.

I could honestly keep dissecting and interpreting this passage, but I really feel like God wants me to voice my heart of intercession for the Wesley body and specifically for those reading this blog. We are meant to dwell on the mystery that is God’s love. There is no amount of writing that any person could do to describe it. The only way that you will ever be able to experience God’s love is dwelling in it. So take this and pray it over yourself. Take time. Give yourself more time than you think you would need. Receive anything the Lord has for you.

Father, we want to remain in your love. I thank you that you are so happy to teach us how to remain in your love. I thank you that you patiently counsel us by your Spirit on how to love each person as the expression of your love that they are. I eagerly desire that each person reading this would be filled with an unquenchable thirst for your love. I ask that the deepest part of who they are wouldn’t be able to be satisfied by anything other than your steadfast love. We desperately want to remain in the love that has existed between You, Your Son and Your Spirit since before the foundation of this world and will exist far beyond the death of this life.

So Father I ask for a grace on us all to remain in your love. Would you show us how to regard loving other human beings as the most heaven-worthy calling on our lives. By your Spirit remind us again and again of the love that is shown to us by Jesus so that we may always be freely receiving so that we may freely give in return. I’m asking for you to set our minds right and to give us clear eyes to see other people more the way you see them. Would we delight in who they are in the same way that you delight in each of us. We confess our need for you to teach us how to remain in your love. Show us by your Spirit. Amen.

Author | Adam Salway

The Power of Prayer

The Power of Prayer

Last Friday I was in a time crunch. Essentially, I had 30 minutes to accomplish an hour’s worth of preparation. I had slept in, and because of that I had the time between class and work to get everything I needed to done. And that wasn’t a lot of time at all. I needed to shower, get ready, drive to Wesley, and walk the seven minutes or so it is from Wesley to Tate.

When I got home, I was dead set on doing all of these things; however, several things were working against my very limited supply of time—namely, the water pressure at my house. See, I live with 11 other guys—and if anyone somewhere else in the house is using any sort of water, my shower won’t work. Thankfully, I was able to finesse my way into the shower before anyone else, but when I went to actually shower there was water already being used somewhere.

In other words, I couldn’t shower, and I really needed to. So I did what any other respectable Wesley intern would do in such a time like this: I got on my knees and prayed for the water pressure to start working.

And God answered my prayer.

Honestly, out of all the prayers I could have had answered, this is one of the most bizarre prayers that could’ve been answered. But it doesn’t change the fact that God did answer the prayer. I use this example to show that our prayers have power. It’s kind of a mundane example—I don’t think anybody’s salvation would be at stake if I had shown up to the fundraising dinner with messy hair or smelly armpits. But I can also point to numerous examples of the prayers not being mundane and God still working in power.

God answers our prayers when we pray in alignment with His heart. As a child of God, we have access to His power, so long as our hearts are following His. He doesn’t just answer spoken prayers; He answers our wordless groans—the Holy Spirit hears these prayers and works through them. Through Christ, we have the Holy Spirit living inside us. Let me put it another way: we have that same world-changing power of God living inside us.

When we pray into things that God’s heart is for—healing, provision, identity, or whatever else you can think of—God honors those prayers. Jesus isn’t a genie in a bottle, but His heart is to provide for His children. John 15:7 says, “If you abide in me [Jesus], and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” When we pray, God listens; and when our prayers align with God’s heart, He moves. Sometimes those movements are spiritual, sometimes they’re physical, and sometimes they’re emotional. Sometimes those movements might just nudge a situation—but nudges can shift an unstoppable force from a path towards destruction to a path towards life abundant.

Prayers can move mountains (Mark 11:23-24). They can heal (Acts 3). They can inform you of things which you’d have never known otherwise (Acts 2). And they can save (Joel 2:32). “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:13-16). Jesus demonstrates His desire for us to pray so many times (1 Thessalonians 5:17, Matthew 7:7-11, Luke 6:27-28). When we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, move in alignment with God’s heart, and pray with faith, there is nothing keeping us from the abundance of life God has promised us. So pray. Pray with confidence, not in yourself—but in the God who makes all things possible and listens.

Lord, I pray that You would convict us all of the power of prayer. Convict us of the gift you have given us through the active, continual presence of Holy Spirit in our lives. Resurrect our dry bones and make us more whole in the power of Your name—and God…show us the ways You listen to our pleas. Show us your caring kindness towards us and all our earthly woes.

And thank you.

In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Author | Alex Hinton

Overcoming Discouragement

Overcoming Discouragement

Sometimes we pray for things one time and see immediate results. However, most of the time this isn’t the case. Most of the time when we pray for things, we have to continue to press in and ask God for them. But what do we do when we pray and ask God for things over and over, and still don’t see the results we were hoping for? What seems like unanswered prayers can often lead to discouragement in God and His love for us, but we don’t have to give into that disappointment. We get to choose to trust Him and be faithful, even when it’s hard.

The first step in overcoming discouragement when we don’t see the things we’ve prayed for is resting in biblical truth. We can’t trust God if we don’t know God, and we can’t know God if we don’t know His word. Reading His word and letting that be the foundation of our lives is how we know He loves us, He is faithful, and He has our best interests at heart. We can’t look at God through the lens of our circumstances. Instead, we have to look at our circumstances through the lens of who we know God to be, and we know Him through who He says that He is.

When we read His word, we find verses like Jeremiah 29:12 which says, “‘You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.’” This verse is proof that when we come to God, He doesn’t just hear us speaking, He intently listens to the words we’re saying. When we don’t see the things we pray for, we can easily slip into the thought pattern of believing that God has stopped listening to us. This verse is the biblical truth that allows us to break agreement with that lie. He is listening to us--He knows the sound of our voices and the cry of our hearts. He literally says “I will listen to you.” That is a promise that He makes to us, and it’s promise we can rest in.

When we pray, God promises to listen, but we wouldn’t know this about Him and His character, if we didn’t know His word. A big part of overcoming discouragement when we don’t see the things we’ve prayed for is simply resting in God’s word so that we can know His faithfulness and know that He cares about us. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that, “the word of God is living and active.” If you stay in the word, you cannot be cut-off from God. Staying in the word is a major component to overcoming discouragement, because when we make the choice to stay in the word, we choose against discouragement. Our strength and courage come from the Lord, and knowing the Lord comes from knowing His word.

The second step of overcoming discouragement when we don’t see the things we’ve prayed for is perseverance. Discouragement is not from God. His goal in not answering our prayers the way we think He should or when we think He should is not to hurt us or discourage us, but to get us to where we need to be. The worst thing you can do if you’re feeling discouraged is to give into that discouragement and give up. Don’t give up on God, because you feel like He’s given up on you--He hasn’t. Continue to press into Him, and allow Him to give you peace about His plans. Continue to press into Him, and allow Him to reveal Himself to you. Continue to press into Him, and allow Him to increase your trust in Him to take care of you. Whatever you do, don’t stop pressing in. Stay determined to seek Him, and you will find Him.

When we choose discouragement over determination, we begin agreeing with a lot of lies. The truth is, when we give in to discouragement and let those lies in, we put up walls that keep God and His truth out. However, when we persevere and continue to seek Him, He eventually does prove His love and kindness towards us. Choosing faithfulness here looks like continuing to give God the space to move, and trusting that He will, even if we don’t see it yet. So keep pressing in and pray without ceasing. If we shut ourselves off from God, it’ll be even harder to see His faithfulness.

The third and final step to overcoming discouragement when we don’t see the things we’ve prayed for is super important: You should not expect a certain outcome or result, you should expect God to take care of you. When we pray for things, we often think that we know what the result should be, however, Proverbs 16:9 tells us that God determines our steps. We don’t determine our steps for ourselves. God does not answer our prayers the way we think they should be answered. If we put our expectations in an outcome, and God’s outcome is different, we’re going to end up disappointed and discouraged. If our expectation is simply that God will take care of us, it doesn’t matter how He answers our prayers, we will be satisfied.

So, for those of you who feel like you’ve been stuck in the same place forever and God isn’t answering your prayers--don’t be discouraged. Take Him at His word, don’t give up on Him, and expect Him to take care of you. Your prayers are powerful, and influence God to move. He’s going to come through for you.

Author | Stephanie Stewart

How to Fight in Prayer

How to Fight in Prayer

There's that one thing you want so badly. You just know that if God were to move and do something, everything would change. Maybe it's healing from anxiety or depression, maybe is getting into grad school, or maybe it's victory over a battle you've been fighting for what feels like forever. Whatever it is, we've all been there, at the end of our rope, desperate for God to show up and scared about what will happen if he doesn't.

Jesus spent constant time interceding for humanity. Even on the cross, he begs the father to forgive us, the very ones who put him there. His life was marked by contending prayer. His prayer was fulfilled through the cross, because we have salvation through his death and resurrection. But even though Jesus' prayer was ultimately fulfilled, he didn't see everyone he knew come to believe him. People still rejected his message. That doesn’t mean his prayers were wasted, it means that we get to continue what he started. The call to ask God for salvation, healing, and deliverance is ours to claim through the Holy Spirit. It didn't end with Jesus, it continues with us.

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. - Matthew 7:7 NLT

We are called to be persistent warriors. We have been given the weapon of prayer, and prayer changes everything. Through prayer, we have direct access to our Father, who is the source of all good things. So when we face sickness and defeat, we keep on asking for healing and victory. Jesus didn’t stop asking even when he was staring death in the face. That means, we have the power to keep asking, even when we don’t know if God is going to come through the way we want him to.

So what is that one thing you want to see God do? Ask God to fill you with hope that he is who he says he is, that he is capable. And then, keep asking for breakthrough. Let your persistence bring you closer to God as you learn to rely on him and trust him. Keep on asking, the promise is yours.

Author | Emily Baker

Prayer as a Weapon

Prayer as a Weapon

Imagine standing on a battle field:

You're staring at your enemy ahead of you with no sword, no gun, no weapon of any kind. The first emotion you experience is probably terror - how are you supposed to fight when you have nothing in your hands? Nothing to grasp but the air around you?

Spiritual warfare can feel like much of the same experience. You can't fight the enemy with physical weapons, you can't beat him with your bare hands. So how do you fight when you feel like it's you against a full army ahead of you?

You turn to the Lord in prayer.

The weapons of our warfare - spiritual warfare - aren't of the flesh. Our weapons are much more powerful. They have the divine power and ability to destroy strongholds, to defeat the enemies rising up against us (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).

You may be thinking that prayer doesn't seem like it can hold that much power against the attacks of the enemy. You may be weakened, bruised, tired and hurting. You may feel like you have nothing left within you to fight off the anxiety, the depression, the physical pain, the nightmares - whatever it is that you are experiencing in your moment of warfare. But God says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28, NIV).

You don't have to feel helpless when the Lord is on your side. You don't have to fight in desperation with every last bit of your strength because there is someone greater who will fight for you. You need only to be still. His power is made perfect in your moments of weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

In Psalm 28, David talks about the redeemed, saying "they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed" (vv. 28-29). When you cry out to God, he will deliver you. He is the one with the power to end the storms and quiet the seas around you. When you feel like you're surrounded by the enemy with no where left to turn, that's when your greatest weapon is before you: prayer. Cry out to God. The warfare around you will cease, the storms will be still, the waves will be hushed. Your prayers call down God's deliverance. Your prayers bring victory. Your prayers, combined with the word of God, are more powerful than any sword or other weapon you could possibly wield.

Author | Emma Whitmer

Welcome to Waiting

Welcome to Waiting

I’ve been waiting for prayers to be answered for years now, and I haven’t seen many things happen. I’ve been dreaming big with God and setting my hopes up high, and it hurts because I’m holding onto promises unfulfilled— some of which don’t even seem possible. But I’m going to tell you everything I’ve learned and all that I know at this point for what to do in the waiting period.

In seasons of waiting, I try to be intentional about keeping my heart soft because to love is to be vulnerable and I want to love God well. To achieve this vulnerability, I ask God to help me understand or to help me be un-offended regularly. Here’s why:

If I understand what God is doing, then I feel like I have a grip on the situation. I can relax. I can be in the know. I can see the purpose behind the pain.

If I am un-offended by what God is doing, then I can trust him. I can let Him into my anger. I can give Him my deepest fears. I can guard my heart from bitterness.

I’m not going to understand God’s vision for my life or His intentional leadership apart from Him. I’m going to be frustrated when I watch my dreams crash into the ground if I’m not leaning into my relationship with Him. I need God to do a work in my heart to keep me tender when I’m tempted to shut down in offense. When you’re overwhelmed in waiting, ask God to give you the grace to understand or be un-offended.

When in doubt, give thanks. Thankfulness is one of the greatest weapons I have as I wait because some days I have no strength to give anything else. Gratitude shifts our perspective and forces us to focus on the faithfulness of God. It is wise for me to remember that I deserve hell, I received eternal life, and God has brought me to today. I was riding in the car with my mom the other day when she said, “Tell me three green things you see outside.” So I listed off the roof of a nearby building, the grass on the side of the road, and a small gathering of bushes in the distance. Then she asked me to close my eyes and list off three yellow things I saw. I knew there was a yellow line in the road because we were on a two lane road but I couldn’t remember if anything else around was yellow. When I opened my eyes, I saw yellow signs, yellow flowers, a yellow building. She told me she was learning that when we focus on the negative, we only see the negative and it’s hard to remember the positive just like it was hard for me to remember the yellow things around because I was only looking at the green. When you can’t see the positive, think of what you know that is good and focus on that. Don’t forget His goodness for you; give thanks in all things.

Okay, read this whole paragraph. Get yourself in the Word of God. I’m not kidding. Pick a time right now for today that you will read the Bible. Don’t do it because you have to but because you get to. I often hear that it’s boring or it’s hard to understand but we have the Holy Spirit inside of us who reveals the deep things of God so give me a better excuse. The Bible is funny and it’s moving and it’s wisdom. I heard a man earlier this year say that we should weep at the Word of God. I think I literally scoffed at him. But then he told the Gospel in his version and the whole room was crying by the end because we had a new understanding of the heart of God. That didn’t happen because this man is holier than we are, it happened because he believed it could and we gave God the opportunity to let it be true. God reveals Himself through His Word and it’s cool, trust me. God gives us plenty of incentives to go after His Word. Seek first the kingdom and His righteousness and these things will be added to you. Remain in me and I’ll make your joy complete. Seek and you will find. Blessed are those who hunger, they’ll be filled. All these verses are essentially saying go after God and God will give Himself to you.

If you don’t know where to start, open your Bible to Zephaniah 3:17. Pick one phrase from that verse and focus on it for an hour. Put your phone out of reach, read the verse, write it, sing it, say it out loud, pray it over yourself. Don’t read the rest of the chapter or even the whole verse, just one little part. Write all your distractions on a piece of paper and come back to them after the hour. I promise you that God will show up for you because God promised you that. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Then find me and tell me what He showed you. Maybe read Psalm 16 every day for six months and see what new revelations you get. Dive into 1 Corinthians 13 once a week and find five cross references that relate to the chapter. Imagine you are Peter or John as you read through the book of John. You don’t need podcasts or blogs to know God. You don’t need Bob or Daniel to learn about His heart or His character. He has given Himself to you because He loves you— go get Him.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick; it feels like an anchor for my soul— but not in the good way. But hope is our way out of the waiting season. Paramore sings, “Hold onto hope if you’ve got it, don’t let it go for nobody, they say that dreaming is free but I wouldn’t care what it cost me.” If that’s not holy enough for you, the Bible says that God put a door of hope in the valley. If that’s too general for you, I had a dream at the beginning of the semester that God was calling us to cling to hope. And if that’s too weird, just ask God for yourself what He is saying about hope. I know hope is hard but it’s going to be worth it. Your reward is worth it.

In Song of Solomon, this Shulamite woman goes through a rough time but by the end of it she’s coming up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved. My goal in every season is to do the exact same— lean on my Beloved. Depending on God is the safest and smartest thing I can do in every season. The best part is that we have a reward, an inheritance, that cannot be taken away. Regardless of the smaller things we hope for, we will receive God in the end. Remember all the hardships Job went through? He had everything restored to him and was more blessed than he had been at the beginning of his story. But more importantly, he had an encounter with God. Remember the promised land Moses hoped for then died right before he got to enter it? The next time we see him, he’s on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus and Elijah in glory. Jesus is actually better than our desired lands flowing with milk and honey. Jesus didn’t come to do away with the law and the prophets but to fulfill them, and Jesus isn’t shaking things up in your life to contradict or dispose of the things He’s told you. He’s going to fulfill them. There is something coming for you that is better than the good you had before or the terrible that you’re enduring now. I pray that your faith does not fail.

My last piece of advice for you is this: live your life during the waiting. God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind. You don’t have to be held back in fear that things will keep getting worse or in fear that God won’t show up for you. He is a wall of fire around you and glory within you. He is resurrection power dwelling inside of you. In your weakness, His strength is perfect. You can rest when you need to and you can yell at God if you need to, but don’t give up. Keep pressing in even when it’s hard because your reward is coming. The blessing is coming, the promise is coming, but know that the power He deposited in you is available now. The Bible says that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. So are you going to give into the flesh and ignore your spirit, or give your all to the spirit and ignore the flesh? Jesus gave you everything you needed to persevere when He gave you the Holy Spirit. Ask Holy Ghost to teach you and comfort you. You’re going to do great. Welcome to the waiting.

Author | Savannah Ugan

Sword of the Spirit

Sword of the Spirit

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

The Power of God's Word

The word of God is living and active! Wow, these are some powerful words right here. God's word has the ability to change lives and bring people out of darkness.

God said let there be light and just like that there was! Boom! Light! He spoke everything into being by using His words. He put those words into a book for us. "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

I think it is interesting that God's word is compared to a sword and coined the Sword of the Spirit. In the armor of God, it is the only offensive weapon listed. This is because the word of God has the capacity to defeat the lies of the enemy, slice through strongholds, trials and temptations in your life.

God's Word is sharp and it cuts deeply, to the very core of our being. You cannot read God's Word or hear it preached without getting cut in the conscience and rethinking your lifestyle choices a bit. Ever go to church or Wesley and the message is exactly what you need to hear? That's because it is… God is speaking directly to you.

One of the primary ways God speaks to us is through His word. It is living and active because the Holy Spirit is living and active. We must equip ourselves with God's word. If a soldier doesn't know how to use his sword, it will not be helpful when the battle comes. Therefore, he practices technique daily so he will be ready for battle. To train yourself in the word looks like memorizing scripture, applying it to your life, knowing the power of the Holy Spirit and understanding what Christ did on the cross for you!

The bible says, "your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105). These days we call that a GPS. Our GPS will guide us and provide us with the best path to take. If we don't use our GPS, we risk missing our turn, running into troubles (traffic and road work), or getting completely lost and losing our way.

Importance of Scripture in our Life

Isaiah 40:8 says, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of God stands forever."

God's word is true and never changes. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. In a world of uncertainty and where it seems harder and harder to find the truth and know what is right, we can rest in the fact that God's word is right and true. Nothing anyone says can change that.

The word empowers us to live the way God called us to and gives us the ability to discern good from evil. The devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). He is always trying to knock you down, take your attention away from God, and steer you off of God's path for you. It is imperative we know the internal battle we face. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says, "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." We cannot take down the devil's schemes without knowing God's word.

How can you stand firm in your faith if you don't know what your faith stands for?

We fight by combating the lies of devil with the truth of Bible. In Matthew 4, Jesus showed us what that looks like. He quotes scripture back at Satan. Satan tries to twist the bible for his own advantage but since Jesus's has a thorough knowledge of scriptures, He is able to stand His ground and fight the lies of the enemy.

"If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."

Jesus answered [Satan], "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:

"'He will command his angels concerning you,

and they will lift you up in their hands,

so that you will not strike your foot against a stone."

Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test." Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.' (Matthew 4:3-10)

In this spiritual battle between Jesus and Satan, we can see how important it is to keep the sword of the spirit sharp and ready for battle. After every temptation, Jesus replies with "It is written." He stood firm in the only thing he knew would take down the devil… the Sword of the Spirit. What a masterful example of how to use the Sword of the Spirit! We need to be in the word constantly otherwise we will began believing the lies the devil feeds us. Here are a few examples.

Me: It is impossible

God: All things are possible through me (Luke 18:27)

Me: I am anxious

God: I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28)

Me: Nobody loves me

God: I have loved you with everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3)

Me: I am always worried

God: Cast all your cares on me (1 Peter 5:7)

Me: I feel alone

God: I will never leave you (Hebrews 13:5)

Me: I can't break free of this sin

God: I will give you freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17)

Me: I can't figure things out

God: I will direct your steps (Proverbs 3:6)

Me: My life has no purpose or direction

God: I have a plan for you. To prosper you not to harm you. To give you a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11)

Me: I always feel shame and guilt

God: There is no condemnation for those in me (Romans 8:1)

My grace is sufficient for you (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Me: I am not smart enough

God: I will give you wisdom (1 Cor 1:30)

Me: I am afraid

God: The Lord is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid of (Psalm 27:1)

Me: I am not good enough

God: You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139)

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

If you do not know scripture, you will have no defense against these lies and many other lies the devil may try and throw at you. All His promises are yes and amen. There is freedom in Christ to break every chain! To fight your battles, be fully trained in the knowledge, wisdom, and truth of God's word.

Author | Kyle Pickett

Helmet of Salvation

Helmet of Salvation

“...and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…” Ephesians 6:17

As we enter the middle of the semester, a fourth of our school year has been written into our history books. Midterms happen, applications are put in for internships, and decisions for long-term plans are made. In this particular time of the school year, our focus isn’t fully on God. However, there is still a very real battle to fight.

This particular fight is not fought through “the power of the flesh”, but instead are much sneakier (2 Corinthians 10:4 ESV). In American culture, we fight and struggle more so with ideals, cultural values, nationalism, and status to name a few. Because of this, we, as followers of Christ, must wage war with weapons of the Spirit of God.

In Ephesians 6, Paul talks about us putting on the armor of God to defend ourselves against the attack of the enemy. Out of the six pieces of armor, five of them are defensive. One of those defensive pieces is the helmet of salvation, which we will focus on today.

1) Power of our minds

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” - Romans 12:2 ESV

God created us in his image and, even though our bodies and minds have been tainted by sin, he has still designed us to tap into the power of his Holy Spirit. Our brains are designed so that through the power of Christ on the cross, we can change the very landscape of our brains. How beautiful is that? Our brain is designed with the hope of salvation already wired in.

Thus, because our minds are built with the hope of salvation from and sanctification of sin through the blood of Christ and power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to choose life. The helmet of salvation is our defensive head gear because it protects our minds from the power of the enemy. Because the Holy Spirit moves lives in us once we are saved from sin, God is able to help us see the power of his love. He sets us free from the power of sin and death.

Through the power of the helmet of salvation, God gives us the power to pursue him through our minds, and it is through his grace that we are given the chance each and every day to choose him. That is great news! Even on days when we fall short of his glory, God still reminds us of his unending love for us. We have the option to choose that each day because of the power of Jesus’ love. How amazing!

2) Choosing obedience

“And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling.” - 2 Corinthians 7:15 ESV

Even though our salvation is final, we have a battle to fight. Daily. Hourly. Sometimes by the second. However, victory is ours “through our lord Jesus Christ”, and that means our victory is final (1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV). Nothing can change that. But even though our victory is final, it doesn’t mean that our battle is finished. God still calls us to fight. Finding salvation does not mean that our journey is over. Because we have been adopted by God through Jesus, he becomes our Father, and good fathers lovingly discipline their children, as written in Hebrews 12. And he calls us to obey him, even when its hard.

Obedience is, by definition, submission to someone else’s authority. God deserves authority because of the influence Jesus had on us through love, and from there, God calls us to obedience. This comes through constantly choosing to surrender our wills in our thought lives to God. It may be hard to do for a while, but the more you lay down your sinful ways through salvation.

3) Process of sanctification

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” - Romans 8:16-17

The process of filtering sin out of our lives is the process of sanctification. As previously mentioned, salvation is being broken free from sin. However, it does not mean that sin is suddenly dashed away. The battle that the Bible talks about is being delivered and transformed through the process of sanctification.

Again, our minds are where this battle takes place. Continuously. Powers of heaven and of hell fight to influence us all the time. But continuing to use the power of our minds and obeying God through the power of the Holy Spirit is essential. This means sometimes we have to lay down our expectations of ourselves, God, others, or all of the above to let the Holy Spirit sanctify us. And this is HARD business, folks. Sanctification hurts because it requires painful wounds to be exposed. Lies are exposed. False truths and hopes arise. But our salvation is still final.

In college, we are faced with many different influencing situations. Having job interviews and stressful midterms can influence us to have the mindset of failure and that our worth and value is from our circumstances. But, Jesus has given and continues to give us the power to be sanctified from sin, shame, lies, and death. That is the best news we have. Even when the hopes and dreams we have in this world fail, God shows us his love.

Even though we are fighting a battle, someone has emerged victorious. That is promised for us. Jesus loves us more than we can possibly imagine, and gives us the defense of the helmet of salvation to protect our minds and build strength in Christ. This comes through surrender and relying on the strength of the Holy Spirit to obey the will of God. Even though this is hard, continuing to say yes to letting God transform us leads to our sanctification. The process of sanctification is how we see the beauty of the gospel - seeing that God gives us abundant grace. Especially when that grace favors progress over perfection. You are known by him. You are cherished by him. And most importantly, even though you are still being sanctified, Jesus has already grasped your eternal victory.

Author | Brad Schiebel

Arise, Soldier | You Aren't Finished Yet

Arise, Soldier | You Aren't Finished Yet

Close your eyes. Breathe. It'll pass. Just trust me. I am still. I am strong. I am steady. I know what this is like, and I am giving you peace and telling you how to fight instead. You're going to be okay.

We have all been there.

Every one of us can pinpoint at least one single moment in our life where joy seemed to be a far-fetched notion in the reality of our life. One punch, two punches, and then three. Suddenly, we feel like we cannot get up.

Most of the time, the punches taste similar to the last ones. The enemy pulls back and thinks, "Oh, if I could just hit her one more time in this tender area, surely she'll be out." And the blow comes. The darkness clouds our vision for a second. The clock is ticking, the seconds are long. Maybe it's because we were off our guard, distracted by the things of this world. Maybe it happened because we were disregarding the power within our own strength. Or, perhaps we have just been beat up so many times, we had little strength to raise our own fist. Then there are the times when the blow is simple and direct, because the enemy hates what we are doing and will do anything to stop it.

It is true.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…"

But then, there is the second part of the verse.

"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10

Because of Jesus, we don't actually have to stay on the ground. And even better, we don't have to wait for someone else to pick us up. Though the Lord will send help time and time again, He ultimately wants to be the one to come close, whisper in our ear, and tell us exactly what to do next. Our head may be pounding, but He gives us direct access to the weaknesses of our opponent through pure faith in the power of the resurrection.

"If Jesus can get up, so can I."

Holding onto faith in who God is and who you are will give you the full amount of strength to win your battle.

He is Elohim, God of incredible power. He is Yahweh, "The Lord" of all things. He is Abba, "Daddy, Father." He is El Elyon, "God Most High." He is El Roi, "The God Who Sees." He is El Shaddai, "God Almighty." He is Yahweh Yireh, "The Lord Will Provide." He is Yahweh Nissi, "The Lord Is My Banner." He is Jehovah Rapha, "Healer, the Lord who heals you." He is Yahweh Shalom, "The Lord is peace."

This means that He is good, and because He is good, we are free.

We are more than conquerors. We have the power to heal and set captives free. We are purified, healed, and made righteous through Him. We are sons and daughters with a divine inheritance. We have the authority to choose Him over sin. We are able to have love, joy, peace, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control, and patience. We are able to hear God and speak to others by Him. We have access to the Holy Spirit and the gifts He stewards in our hearts and minds. We can dream again. We can live again. And most importantly, we are able to experience His presence and walk so dearly close to Him within the journey of our lives.

Sure, there are times when He will carry us.

There are times when He will let us choose to scale a mountain right beside Him, and He will tear down threats that come in the other direction.

Then, there are times when He will tell us to get back on our feet, stand in the face whatever is against us, and tell the thing to move.

Be steadfast in Him. In whichever way He wants to equip you for your current season, you are equipped. In whichever way He wants to equip you for the next season, you will be equipped. Even in past seasons, He has equipped you to stand strong. You are still alive.

And I promise, you will always win with Him.

"In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one." Ephesians 6:16

Arise, soldier. You aren't finished yet. Don't you remember that I am the God of all things? Pick up your weapons. The enemy's weapons are false. They seem overbearing, life-threatening even, but they actually crack at the weight of my glory. The table I have prepared for you is equipped with the finest metals. Gold and heavenly jewels mark their place in the Kingdom. The weapons I chose for you are the essence of my character: purity, righteousness, nobility, bravery, and honesty. They are brutal to the enemy's schemes.

So, lean back for a second and breathe. Center your eyes like a lion. Be compassionate for your brothers and sisters at your side, but focused to destroy the flaming lies, insults, setbacks, and temptations that the enemy sends over you and your people. Take up your shield of faith and know that I am your God. My fountain quenches the raging fire of the thief. He didn't give you your light, so he can't take it away. Remember that you shine from the inside, and he is simply no match for the power I have invested in you.

Author | Emily Helton

Shoes of Peace

Shoes of Peace

Think back to a time when you wore a pair of shoes that just hurt your feet or didn’t fit correctly. You’re standing there, wishing you could go back home and change. You don’t feel like standing for longer than a few minutes, let alone running around in those uncomfortable shoes.

Okay enough of that.

Now, think about the most comfortable shoes you’ve ever worn. Maybe they’re a nice pair of tennis shoes, or maybe they’re some very supportive boots. Whatever their type, you felt peaceful wearing them, and you were ready to go and do the things you needed to do that day.

I love how the armor metaphor in Ephesians 6 describes your shoes:

“For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.”

We get to derive our peace from the knowledge of our salvation. By understanding the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross and believing it for ourselves, we unlock the full level of peace that we have access to through Jesus. When our worth comes from God and not from earthly circumstances, nothing can hold us back anymore from walking the path He set out for us.

I can’t imagine a better pair of shoes for us to have when engaging in spiritual warfare. The peace from God is a perfect fit for each one of us because Jesus died for everyone. It’s comfortable because it never changes, and it puts our worth in eternal places instead of temporal ones on earth.

When we put on the shoes of peace and readiness, we are prepared for battle.

My prayer for you is that you choose to put on these shoes and not some cheap, uncomfortable, earthly shoes that won’t last. Don’t settle for obtaining your comfort from momentary outlets on earth like alcohol or Netflix or sex, because those things aren’t going to equip you for battle. I pray that you have the knowledge and understanding of your salvation to find your peace in Jesus.

(This is all a metaphor of course. You should probably still wear real shoes lol)

Author | Maddie Marsh

Rest

Rest

What is rest and what does it look like?

The original Greek word for “rest” means to: cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect one’s strength.

I’ll be honest... this is a hard topic for me to write on. I’ve wrestled with whether or not to write on this, but if you’re reading this, that means God has finally convinced me to put the pen to paper (or fingers to keys in this case), so here we go...

I *really* like working. I like the idea of being busy and always having something to do. If you’re familiar with the enneagram, I’m a Type One or “The Perfectionist”. It is natural for me to work and want to do it perfectly. That “wanting” to do things in perfection, can easily become a “have to” for me, leading my wanting to striving. And if I’m being completely honest, that perfectionist mentality has ruled most of my life, specifically in these last two months. On the flip side of the coin, resting is challenging for me. My mind naturally races thinking about the next thing or task I can complete. You’re probably thinking, wow this girl probably has no life outside of work. That assumption is 100% accurate, up until this past week.

Here’s the truth that shifted my perspective:

We were never meant to strive.

I’ve believed the lie that striving is natural and normal (and maybe it is, apart from Jesus).

The truth is: it is supernatural to find rest amidst the chaos. (because Jesus is supernatural!!)

Jesus came for us to experience rest, not striving.

Jesus came for us to find rest, even when it seems impossible.

He came for the supernatural to be natural.

Matthew 11:28-30 (TPT) says this,

28 “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. 29 Simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me.30 For all that I require of you will be pleasant and easy to bear.”

It was never God’s intention for us to be burdened with work or struggle to make it through our next class, next meeting, or next year. The verb “come” in verse 28 is not just an invitation; in the original Greek, it’s an imperative asking for immediate action.

—It is an urging, a pleading, a heart cry for you to experience life abundant through Him—

There is also a choice in this. We can choose to continue doing life apart from Him, or we can choose surrender, freedom, and from that: rest. Easy-peasy, right? Lol. I like how Jesus uses rhetorical questions to drive points home, so there’s my shot at typing like Jesus if He had a computer and used texting acronyms.

Back to the blogging: it is a constant battle and daily choice to choose Him. But take heart, because the best part is that we have the freedom to choose, and we are empowered by Holy Spirit to do this. Romans 15:13 in The Amplified Bible says this:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.”

“We have the promise (Matthew 11), the freedom of choice, and the empowerment to choose Him no matter what (Romans 15). Our Father designed us for relationship. Our relationship with God is true rest’s residency. As we spend time with Him, we are refreshed and renewed, filled with all joy and all peace and all hope. We were designed to be in constant, regular communion with Him.

It is our choice to cease from any movement or labor, and in return, He provides a place to recover and collect our strength.

When we choose to fight for our rest in making space for the secret place with Him, only then do we experience rest.

I know my mind immediately jumps to this (and maybe yours does too): “But I have so much to do. I don’t have time to do this.” However, when we spend time with Jesus, somehow everything else falls into place. I think Bob Sorge put it best in his book Secrets of the Secret Place: “It is the understanding that spending time in His presence does not diminish our productivity in life, but rather becomes the wellspring from which flows Spirit-empowered effectiveness and fruitfulness. It is the only abode of true rest.”.

Choose rest today, friend, by choosing to fight for your time with Him. John Mark Comer calls it the spiritual discipline of slowing: “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry in your life; hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. Slow down to the speed of Jesus.”.

Let your pace match the pace of Jesus.

Take a seat.

And soak in His presence for a while.

Author | Brooke DeLoach

Breastplate of Righteousness

Breastplate of Righteousness

In the time of ancient Rome, one of the most crucial pieces of a soldier’s battle armor was his breastplate. A breastplate made of iron tightly bound together by leather straps protects essential internal organs, including the heart and lungs.

Just like the breastplate is important in protecting a Roman soldier’s physical body, the breastplate of righteousness, which Paul mentions in Ephesians 6, is crucial in protecting us from the schemes of the enemy.

In real life terms, wearing the breastplate of righteousness looks like living a life of righteousness, turning from sin and obeying what God asks of us.

The reason God asks us not to continue sinning isn’t because we have to earn relationship with Him by “being good.” It’s because he knows the enemy will try to create separation between us.

When we choose to do something we know we are not supposed to do, it gives the enemy wiggle room to slip lies into our heads and confuse us. It’s as though we are loosening off our breastplate ever so slightly, creating a chink in our armor where the enemies attack can come through.

For example, when you sin, the enemy may attack you with shame and hope that just by placing that type of thought in your head that you would hide from God and think that God wouldn’t want you anymore.

The truth is that Jesus blood covers every sin we have ever or will ever commit, and God wants us to run to Him when we sin and turn to Him for the strength to overcome whatever we may struggle with.

The love, the grace, the mercy and the promises of God always stand true and are always available to us. God never retracts those offers, but if we do not choose to protect ourselves and turn away from sin, we hurt our ability to accept and walk into the good things God has for us.

Wearing the armor of righteousness and choosing to obey God prevents the enemy from being able to get a little foothold in our lives.

Prayer: Father I pray that you would give each of us a new perspective on sin. I ask that you would help us understand the gravity of sin and the importance of obeying you. God I ask that you would help us to understand how separate our value and confidence in salvation is from living righteously, but that walking into the freedom you have for us involves turning from sin. Holy Spirit would you fill us afresh and empower us to live lives free from sin. We love you. Amen.

Author | Lindsey Conway

Belt of Truth

Belt of Truth

When I think about what it looks like to send people into battle, I envision really strong, really prepared men. I imagine them clothed in the most magnificent armor and equipped with the sharpest swords and toughest shields. However, I do not think this is what Paul is writing about in Ephesians 6.

Paul is writing to remind us to put on the "every piece of God's armor" in order to withstand the battles and temptations that are thrown against us during our daily walks. This is not shiny golden armor that has been found to be the most reliable or dependable. This is the armor that is made up of the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit.

As a worship leader, when I think about getting battle ready, I am reminded of how they sent the worshippers in first and how it was important for them to be equipped and ready for whatever the opposing army brought to the battle field and that they fought with what they knew. They led warriors into battle with songs of truth.

Every one of us falls into the category of "worshipper". None of us are excluded from being a part of the praise and worship that God asks of us. God has called every one of us to worship and praise continuously!

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that openly profess his name." Hebrews 13:15

In order to do this, the belt of truth is one of the most important parts of the armor to remember. How are we able to lead others onto the battlefield with confidence and boldness without knowing the truth about who God has called us to be and what God has called us to do? Being able to live in the truth that God has called us to is not easy without knowing what it is that He actually wants and expects from us. To fight the battle that is our daily life, we must remind ourselves to lead with worship that is informed by truth.

In John 4:24 it says "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the spirit and in truth."

Without the belt of truth, our worship cannot and will not be given in the fullness that is expected from God. We must equip ourselves with the belt of truth in order to completely surrender our continuous worship to the Lord.

So my challenge to you today, is to ask God to reveal the truth that He has for you and then in turn ask Him what it looks like for you to live a life of worship with the belt of truth secured around you.

Author | Morgan Attebery

You are Powerful

You are Powerful

So spiritual warfare exists. There are things working against us in the world - powers of darkness, forces of evil, scary sounding stuff. While there are battles that must be fought daily in prayer, the war against darkness was won over 2000 years ago when Jesus died on the cross and pulled a fast one on satan and rose from the dead three days later. It is a story of grace and love and mercy, and it is also an epic display of the might and power Christ possesses. His show of power doesn’t end there though. Jesus takes this whole resurrection power thing to the next level when He sends us the Holy Spirit so that we can have access to the exact same power that brought Him back from the grave.

Paul writes in Ephesians 1:18-21 “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age, but also in the one to come.”

Paul’s cry is that we would live out of the truth that we are not powerless in the face of any trial that we face. We are not powerless to anxiety. We are not powerless to fear. We are not powerless to circumstances or trials. We have the same power that Jesus used to heal the sick, and calm the storm and bring Lazarus back from the dead. This is the power Christ died for you to have. No matter how desperate or dark a present circumstance, or how deeply entangled in a sin struggle you may be, the thought “you are powerless to fight this” is a lie straight out of the pit of hell. You may not have control over a situation, but Christ didn’t die for you to be in control, He died for you to have the power to fight back against the enemy. So fight like you’ve already won because your God has already declared you victorious.

Paul again references the power we have in Christ in Romans 8:37. He claims that “we more than conquerors through Him who loved us,” meaning that the enemy will do his level best to keep us from the fullness of God by trying to trap us in sin or destructive thought patterns or circumstances, but we don’t have to take it. We have Christ and His power dwelling in us, ready to be used as soon as we call out to it.

So amazing, we have this power in us, but why do we sometimes feel so powerless? Why do we feel defeated when we are supposed to be more than a conquerors, Paul?

I think Paul would say that our power is not determined by how powerful we feel. Our emotions do not dictate how powerful we are. We just are powerful because that is the identity we have as children of God. So when school is going poorly, or relationships are hard, or you lose someone close to you, take heart in the fact that you don’t have to feel powerful, you just have to exercise the power that has been given to you in faith.

So practically speaking, what does putting this power to use look like?

It means putting on the armor of God that Paul speaks about in Ephesians 6: 13-17

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground...stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

The way we fight back is to immerse ourselves in truth from the Word, stand boldly on his promises, and pray ceaselessly to our Father who will move in power in response to our cries.

So take heart. Hold fast. Be courageous. Exercise the authority and power Christ has given you.

Author | Katie Pilson