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

There is a Battle

There is a Battle

There is a battle raging around us, whether you see it or not. Spiritual warfare is as real as physical warfare happening around us. The way you perceive spiritual warfare is predicated on the personal language you have with God. There are as many ways to communicate with God as there are people. We have a bit of a framework of how God has communicated with people in the past through the Bible, but that is not an exhaustive list. We see God speaking through dreams to many prophets, through the still small voice with Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-13), and in the new testament through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. As there are many way to perceive spiritual warfare, do not discount how God is communicating to you, because God will talk to you in a way that makes sense FOR YOU.

Spiritual warfare is important, but it is not meant to weigh you down. Ephesians 6:12 instructs us that our battle is not with human beings but with the spiritual forces of darkness. As important as Ephesians 6:12 is, we have to understand that verse out of 6:10 where Paul says, "Be supernaturally infused with strength through your life-union with the Lord Jesus. Stand VICTORIOUS with the force of His explosive power flowing in and through us (TPT)."

Any spiritual warfare you come across should be addressed from a position of sonship. You are not an orphan. You are claimed. If you try to combat any spiritual warfare outside of being a son or daughter, you will lose, and not because you are not completely qualified for that battle but because you do not know who you are. There is a narrative in the Bible that speaks to exactly this when the sons of Sceva tried to cast out demons using the authority of the name of Jesus. The demon said, "I know about Jesus, and I recognize Paul, but who are you?" The sons of Sceva did not know who they were and could not respond. You are a son and a daughter. All of the authority that Jesus walked in while he was on the Earth was given to you on the resurrection day. You are not an orphan, so you do not have to act like one.

The second part of verse ten speaks to a victorious mindset going into spiritual warfare. You are not fighting a losing battle. The war is won; we know the ending. At the end of time, Jesus still reigns victorious and satan goes to the pits of hell where he belongs. Hear me say this as loud as possible, Satan cannot win the war, but he will try to win you. Satan cannot get back to God, so he will try to take as many of God's children with him in the process. You have an enemy that seeks for you to live outside of relationship with God, but you are more powerful than Satan could ever hope to be. He knows exactly the buttons to push to get you away from God, but you have the Holy Spirit. There is no spirit in the spiritual realm that is greater than the Holy Spirit. Stand victorious in the place God has called you to be in, because he has set you up to win. All you have to do is call on the name of Jesus, and any demon standing against you has to flee. Jesus has won the war, so you can win the battle.

Spiritual warfare does not have to be heavy. Those that are called to intercede and stand in the gap for others or even nations should actually be the most joyful people in the room. We are not fighting for victory, we are fighting from victory. When spiritual warfare is happening around you, pray for the opposite thing to come in its place. If you feel anxiety in a room, call out the peace. If you feel depression, call out the joy. If you feel apathy, call out the passion. In the midst of the darkest room, you can always call out the light. God allows you the be aware of spiritual warfare, so you can partner with his heart for the people around you.

We move in response to the relationship we have with Jesus. You are an ambassador of Christ to this world, but first and foremost, you are a child of God. God cares infinitely more about having a personal relationship with you than God cares about anything you could ever do for his kingdom. God does not need you to expand his kingdom, but he is kind enough to let you help.

Author | Cristina Rosiles

Sabbath Rest

Sabbath Rest

“One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain-fields, and His disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

On another Sabbath He went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched Him closely to see if He would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand,“Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So He got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them,

“I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and His hand was completely restored. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.”

Luke 6:1-11

Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.

I don’t believe this means he gets special say-so on Sunday. I don’t believe this means that each week demands a 24 hour fasting prayer session.

I believe Jesus is Lord over our rest.

He knows that rest is good for us. He asks us to rest. He is our rest.

We know, we know.

So why don’t we do it?

I don’t believe it’s because of the internet. Or a workaholic culture. Or Netflix originals.

These obstacles may be new gears in an old clock, but the tick is the same.

We don’t rest because we can’t rest with ourselves.

It’s like this:

Screen Shot 2018-10-07 at 7.09.09 PM.png

I’m busy. I work 20 hours a week, go to school full time and try to see some people. Maybe sprinkle in a side gig, a few organizations, and family face-times.

I’m treading water. It’s all fine, but a free moment is a tired moment. So I avoid true rest and go for the easy distraction. On to the next. Rinse and repeat. And before long I haven’t actually laid anything down… to rest. I just keep picking up. Go go go. The next time I consider resting, it feels that much more impossible. I feel more distant from myself, from God.

And so the cycle goes.

But rest does not just mean finally facing our failure.

It means finally returning to his success.

He is waiting for us to put the mess down. But is it a hard choice. Rest is a hard choice. Tim Keller refers to it as “an incredible act of the will” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ux0_5zctrsI). It takes strength to say no to distractions and escapes before we finally give in and say, “Lord, I just need you.” Sit with him and that thought for a while. Dig your heels in. See what comes up. The mess will be there waiting for you. And God wants to untangle it with you.

What happens when I don’t choose rest?

I fear what God thinks of me

I go into autopilot

I skim the surface of my day

I actually feel fatigued

I lose the perspective that I have in Christ

What happens when I choose rest?

I feel whole

I feel restored

I know that God is in control

I see His work throughout the day

I feel more energized

I sense the purpose that is mine in Christ

Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.

He is waiting to welcome you into his rest. Push yourself to have this time with him. Dig deep and deny distraction. Rest is a practice - a training of mind, body and spirit.

But God is ready to clear the slate once more. He is ready to lead you beside still waters and show you that he is God, you are his, and only he can give you rest.

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Prayer

Lord, thank you for being my rest. I am sorry for choosing a thousand distractions over your presence. Please show me how to rest during this season. Teach my soul to rest. Give me strength to enter your rest in my mind, body and soul. Amen.

Author | Claire Jordan

Testimony | Missions

Bailey Davidson’s testimony about her mission trip to Guatemala

A Disciple of Jesus

A Disciple of Jesus

Becoming a disciple of Jesus is a life-long process. As we learn what the truth is, we align our hearts with that knowledge so that we can live it out. Knowing the truth takes our “yes” to God deeper than a one-time decision and transforms it into a lifestyle of saying “yes”. If we want to be more like Jesus, we have to consistently pursue Him in everything we do.

The act of being a disciple has to be intentional. While God can reveal truth to us, we have to take it a step further by actively applying that truth to our lives. In order to truly live in truth, we have to be honest about where we are in our walk with God. Psalm 139 says, “You have examined my heart and know everything about me” (Ps. 139:1 NLT). God already knows the state of our hearts, so in order to let him change us, we have to be honest about what we are feeling and experiencing. Being transparent requires humility and vulnerability, but when we allow ourselves to engage with it, God meets us in it.

Paul gives us a really clear view of what this kind of discipleship looks like in 2 Timothy 2:2. He says, “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.” This simply means that discipleship is about learning the truth and then telling it to others. When we let God into the vulnerable places of our hearts, He takes us deeper into who He is. There, we experience healing, freedom, and restoration. When we experience victory over sin struggles, we learn about God’s heart towards us. Then, we get to take what we learned through that process and share it with others. That is what discipleship is all about: freely giving what you have freely received.

Author | Emily Baker

In the Garden

In the Garden

In the beginning, God created the world. It was His masterpiece- His very good masterpiece. Of course, we know that sin would enter the world, perverting the perfect world God had created. But that’s the part of the story where we usually get stuck. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We know all too well our sin, and all too well the broken world in which we live. And that’s important. We must bridge that gap to gain understanding of our need for salvation. But there’s much to be learned if we go a little further back- to the Garden. To God’s ideal plan for creation. There we can see the way God has called us to live in an ideal world without sin. The garden is our model for living a life of intentionality in pursuing Christ.

In the garden, God walked hand in hand with man. His physical presence was able to coexist with us, not yet mortals- still unmarked by sin or blemish. Later in the Old Testament, God would reveal his fullness to Moses, given that Moses did not look at His face. God knew that the fullness of His glory would strike Moses dead, but in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were able to be with God. They walked with Him, and they talked with Him. They were in perfect community with God. After the fall of man, we could no longer walk hand in hand with God, and chat with Him as we would a close friend. Now, in order to have community with God we must communicate through prayer.

It is easy for prayer feel like second best. We tend to think standing face-to-face with God would be a much more rewarding and fulfilling experience, especially when we struggle to recognize God’s voice speaking back to us. The yearning to meet God face-to-face isn’t a bad one; it’s a holy desire that we know will be fulfilled because of the standard set in the Garden of Eden.

Several centuries after humanity’s fall into sin, there was another Garden- the Garden of Gethsemane. It was there that Jesus went on the night He would be betrayed by one of the men in his inner circle and turned over to Roman authorities to be crucified on a criminal’s cross, where He would bear the sins of humanity. On the night before all of this occurred, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed.

Jesus lived a life without sin. He also was God made human. If anyone on earth could withstand the tangible presence of God, it was Jesus. But in the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed. The presence of God didn’t appear in physical form, but Jesus entered communication with God in the very same way we do now. If prayer were second best, I have no doubt that God would have appeared before his son that night to answer his pleas. His failure to manifest on Earth gives me faith that God sees prayer as just as valuable as communicating with us face to face.

With that in mind, it’s important that our prayer life is cultivated with the same virtues as our real-life relationships. If we look at it the way that Jesus prayed, we can see that transparency and hunger are vital to building intentional and fruitful prayer lives. Jesus knew what was coming when he prayed at Gethsemane. In verse 39, and again in verse 42, we see a side of Jesus that is very human. Scared of what’s to come, he cries out to God and asks Him to spare his life. In that moment we see Jesus being vulnerable and honest before God. He doesn’t try to have the strength for what’s to come. He plainly asks his Father to take away his pain, and if that cannot be done, then he asks for his will to be aligned with God’s.

It can be easy to hide our weaknesses and failures from God. So often we feel like we have to approach Him with all our flaws neatly tucked away so that we don’t offend Him or scare Him with our mess. But God never intended for us to hide ourselves out of shame. In Genesis 3:10, Adam admits that he hid from God out of shame at his nakedness. In Genesis 3:21, God creates clothes for Adam and Eve, not as an affirmation of Adam’s shame at his nudity, but as a provision for Adam’s needs. When Adam admitted his fear to God, God provided a remedy for that fear. Rather than encouraging Adam to hide, God gave him the covering of clothes that granted freedom in the face of his shame. Likewise, when we pour our most vulnerable selves out to God, He dignifies us rather than leaving us in our brokenness.

The overflow of the dignity given to us by God in spite of our brokenness is hunger. We become desperate for more of Him in our life. Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, we begin to beg for our will to align with God’s. In the Garden, Jesus prayed for hours. He prayed for so long that his disciples fell asleep. Yet all he did was awaken them, ask them to join him, and pray again- that same prayer repeated over and over again. “Not as I will, but as You will.” We see Jesus’s hunger for prayer all throughout the New Testament. In Matthew 14:23, Jesus retreats to a mountain to pray after teaching crowds, and in Mark 1:35 Jesus rises before dawn to retreat to a place alone and pray. This hunger for prayer is unleashed within us by the experience of God’s grace that gives us the power and courage to pursue prayer with intention.

At the root of it all lies God’s grace. Once we have decided to pursue intentionality and are humble and vulnerable in our prayers, God’s love and mercy lavished upon us does the work of setting our hearts on a path to Him. So all we have to do is start.

Prayer

God, I ask that You would unleash a hunger and passion for prayer within my life. Only You can light the fire that cannot be put out. I come before You knowing that I have nothing to give, but everything to receive from You. I pray that You would begin to align my heart with Your will, that my desires would look like the desires of heaven. I pray that the mercies You have already poured into my life would inspire confidence, not in my abilities but in Your provision through my weakness. Amen.

Author | Sarah Savoie

The Significance of Worship

The Significance of Worship

As we enter the fourth week of the series Ups & Downs, we have talked about trust, obedience, and following God even when it is hard. Another topic that is very important even in the pruning and harvesting seasons of our lives is the significance of worship.

When we think of worship, the first example that comes to mind might be someone raising their hands in a church or campus ministry service. Maybe it is even somebody kneeling in prayer. But it can also be forms of serving, tithing, or even managing your time well in school. It can be all of these things, but worship’s significance in your life carries more weight than most anything else in a relationship with God other than prayer. Worship becomes significant to God through humility, honesty & vulnerability, and hunger for him.

  1. Humility

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” - Ephesians 4:1-3

God will honor us when we approach him in a position of humility. Humility is an interesting topic because it is multi-dimensional - it involves a healthy level of awareness, knowledge of how the Holy Spirit moves in our individual lives, and a choice to submit ourselves willingly to God. As we humble ourselves before God, we admit our need for Jesus because of our innately sinful nature. Through that place, we are putting Romans 12:1 into action, offering ourselves as living sacrifices to God.

The reason why God honors us when we present ourselves as sacrifices to God is because he wants to transform us from our former selves, conformed by sin and death, into the image of Christ, which is life and peace. Even though this is difficult, because it requires us doing things that we don’t want to do, such as group projects or tedious homework, God honors that! He loves when we lay down our desires for the sake of being faithful to what he wants to do in and through us.

  1. Honesty & Vulnerability

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” - James 5:15-16

Submitting ourselves to God through humility means that we must be honest and vulnerable with both him and the people in our lives. We live in a society that thrives off the idea of being self-dependent and a self-made man or woman. Oftentimes, American cultural values suggest that the strongest people are the ones who don’t depend on anyone to help us through trying times. However, this isn’t how God calls us to live. We are called to be honest and transparent regarding the sins and struggles we think have stained our self-image.

God loves to bless people who come to the cross, being completely transparent and honest about areas in our lives we may not be proud of. This might be one of the most difficult components of following Jesus, especially with the cultural values of being a self-made person constantly being taught in American culture. However, as students and followers of Christ, admitting our need for a savior shows us that Jesus truly does carry the weight of our temptations and doubts. The process of honest confession is an example of worship because we are willing to allow God to move in us.

Transparency is the best way to live out a life based on Psalm 139:13-14. Acknowledging God created us on purpose and for a reason is so freeing. He created us to be in relationship with him and worship him. Although we have sinned and fallen short of his glory, confessing our sins to both God and other people is one of the best things we can do in order to be transparent and worship our Heavenly Father.

  1. Hunger

“...but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” - Isaiah 40:31

Before worshipping God through humility and honesty, we must desire to follow and glorify him in his splendor. He is the one who is giving us strength to fight the battles we fight living in a fallen world. Desiring God and his kingdom gives us strength, as we see through Scripture. Sometimes desiring God’s glory for your life means being willing to wait on things you need or want. Through the process of waiting, God is still making himself known to you each day you decide to pursue him.

To hunger for God doesn’t, by any means, require you to deny that there have been hard circumstances in our lives that have caused us to sin. Those areas mean we have pain we must deal with. Acknowledging pain’s weight in our lives pushes us to desire more for Jesus’ grace to be sufficient for us. Even though we may not get the picture of the finished promise the first time we are in the secret place doesn’t mean that what we’re doing isn’t worship. It just means that God acknowledges our pain and wants to bring us comfort. To bring us peace. To bring us hope. To exemplify his love through the cross.

Worshipping God occurs through a number of different scenarios. It serves as a way for us to be a living sacrifice to God, and acknowledge our need for him as our Lord and Savior because of sin and shame. The act of worship allows us to surrender ourselves completely in humility and transparency.

As a closing thought, think of your life as a student and your place in other people’s lives and how you can be completely surrendered and transparent about God’s place in your life. Think of how you already glorify God and also ways that you could improve in worshipping him. And be hungry! God is mysterious but is so kind to respond to a humble, transparent, and hungry heart, especially when surrendering everything about your life in an act of worship through the changes and seasons of your life.

Author | Brad Schiebel