Few Things Are Needed

Restlessness is one of the enemy’s greatest tactics in my life.
The root of most of my downfalls is in my inability to simply sit down and be still.

Putting time with God after my to do list.
Allowing busyness to overtake my time building relationships.
My need to prove points and be right.
Exhaustion and anxiety.
Discontentment.
Failure to see beauty.
Missing God’s voice because I am lost in noise…
These are all stems from the root of restlessness and misplaced priorities.
This restlessness is the enemy of creativity, imagination, and ideas. This restlessness gets in the way of all the Lord has to speak. I believe it is this restlessness that keeps me constantly busy with generally unimportant things gets in the way of my calling.

Yes, my calling.

Carrying out your calling takes focus. You do not just stumble into it, you need concentrated steps and goals. Getting caught up in the mundane prolongs and sometimes even gets us off course altogether.
I am a busybody and I shun those around me who are not. It shows when there is company over and all I can think about is the things that need to be done. It shows when my plan is complete rest and time with the Lord and I end up saying yes to too many activities. It shows in meticulous cleaning. It shows when I sit down to have my time with the Lord but cut it short because there are dishes in the sink. It shows when I try to read my bible but have to write down something that came to my mind that I need to do later.

It shows all over me, and it showed in Martha too. She was even reprimanded by Jesus for it.

Martha’s sister Mary had the opportunity to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him, and she took it. Meanwhile, her sister Martha was too concerned with what needed to be done that she did not take this life changing opportunity.
“…the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”
This isn’t to say we don’t need to get things done. But the importance we place on things need to be set appropriately. At the end of the day, few things were really needed. Much of what takes up our time does not matter. I would even go so far as to say that most time consuming things can be cut out. It may look different for everyone. Social media, too many extra curricular activities, even serving too much within the church (I know it has been for me many times before).

Over extending yourself is not God’s will. God sets aside designated times for us to rest. The Lord is found in the silence, and he will not yell. He is in the stillness and he will not compete with the raging clutter in our minds. Every single second does not need to be filled up with something or another to do.

Few things are needed.

Indeed, only one is.

Perspective. Focus on that one thing and the rest that needs to be done will become clear. Focus on the steps you need to take to walk in what you’ve been called to. Open your eyes to what has been set before you. You’ll see what’s truly important and your priorities will be rightly placed. Peace will overtake you when you sit and calm when you wait on the Lord. He will reveal things to you that you never knew before and questions will get answered in his presence, or they will simply fall away.
Focus on the one thing, and choose what is BETTER.

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After Acts Book Review

After ActsHey guys! Something not many people know about me is that I love history. I especially love history surrounding the Church. There is so much to learn!

This book is for anyone who is interested in learning more about the prominent Biblical characters that we see throughout scripture. It brings life to them and reminds us that they are real people. As someone who was always curious and wanted to know more about the behind the scenes lives of those who penned the Scriptures, this book was so helpful to me. Litfin truly speaks from an unbiased point of view. He allows us to know the myths, legends, and probability in order to draw our own conclusions. There is no pressure to think one way or another, but only to learn the information that is out there as well as it’s possible credibility. He wrote this book gracefully, not only giving facts, but always bringing it back around to the Gospel, the entire purpose of these legends’ lives. He is an engaging storyteller and makes it so that it is not read as a textbook, but a storybook. This book allowed me to dig into background knowledge of the beloved Bible characters, show me the things people believed about them throughout history, as well as challenge my initial beliefs when it comes to the legends and stories that I have never second guessed before.

 

 

 

Beware of Churchgoing a Religious Activity

I woke up this morning to my alarm clock and instantly knew it was not a good idea to get out of bed. It is important to know your limits. When it comes to your health and your body, overexerting yourself always ends up affecting your Spirit. I’ve learned this the hard way as someone who likes to always be going, going, going. I’m learning how to listen and know when to rest.

But this particular alarm was for church.

I can’t think of a time where I haven’t made it to a service on a weekend. Whether that be a normal Sunday morning service, an “untraditional” Saturday night service, or the last 12:30, church going is important to me as a believer. The weekend service refreshes you, gives you a time of fellowship, and feeds your soul. I believe in the power of corporate worship, and I don’t miss out on many opportunities because I’ve considered the gathering of the Saints to be my safe haven in many ways since I met the Lord.

But the unexpected guilt that followed after I woke up late, made myself coffee, and sat down for a quiet time was unnerving. “Why where you so lazy this morning? Where is your commitment to God?” These thoughts kept coming until I took the them captive and examined them.

Love and loyalty can often times become bondage and laws, if we aren’t careful. Yes, I am implying that being a good church goer can become bondage. Because ANYTHING that ties us to a “must do” instead of “desire to do”, is then, religion.

If my dedication is in going to a building with other believers on a Sunday (as tradition calls for) in order to worship, instead of worshipping God in my living room, I am missing the entire point.

Of course, church going is important. We are told not to neglect meeting together. But when it invites overwhelming guilt to take a day off; that is religion. It has then become something it was never intended to be. The significance of your walk, instead of a tool to grow your walk.

The list of people who attend church on a strict weekly basis but do not have a personal relationship with God is disheartening. Living in the Bible belt for even a short period of time will teach you this. If your faith is in what you are doing to prove your Christianity, to yourself or to anyone else, your faith is not being put in God in that area. It is important to constantly recognize wrong thinking, renew your mind, and catch yourself. Many things we do can go against His design, becoming stale religion instead of fresh inspiration when it comes to our walk with God.

Included in Christ Book Review

Included in Christ is a woman’s Bible study by Heather Holleman. In this eight week study, she covers the book of Ephesians and brings key words to life for us.

Heather brings to the table something game changing. When women speak God’s word with authority, hearts are moved and changed. A wise woman once said “Christian women, studying doctrine is not a male sport you’ve been excluded from participating in.” As a Christian woman, there are few things more valuable than learning from those who know the Word and aren’t afraid to stand on it’s authority. Many woman’s Bible studies are very cheesy and much more about feelings than facts. Heather found the perfect balance between addressing the emotional needs and devastations that we find ourselves in, as well as hitting them hard with scriptural truth which brings along true and lasting change. She tackles a very difficult book of the Bible, Ephesians, and dives into hard questions we have such as what it means to be chosen and identified in Christ, the topic of predestination, and how our minds deceive our hearts. She brings about an interactive study that causes us to engage by thinking through our answers to her sincere questions and really examining ourselves. She brings to life visual representations with her words that will cause you to remember these truths for years to come. Something amazing happens when a woman is fiercely aware of her identity in Christ, and this book will show you what that truly means.

This study is for any woman’s walk of life in any season she may find herself in. You will take with you the truth that you are not called to live in your shadow narrative, but to walk in your savior story.

I received a copy of Included in Christ from Moody Publishers for the purpose of this review.

The Best Way To Spend Time With Jesus Is To Go spend Time With Jesus

I can remember the exact day that the hypothetical scales fell off of my eyes and I realized that this curtain that had been an insurmountable barrier between mankind and God for all of history was completely dissolved in Christ- yet we wasted our time on everything else. I remember that day vividly. I remember feeling so foolish and counting everything going on around me as foolishness. Humans who were once distant from God altogether had perfect ACCESS to God Himself. The creator, the sustainer, came down in order to make a way to call us friend, child, heir. Yet we were wasting our time on meaninglessness day in and day out.

A relationship with God has so many aspects to it, but the highest honor and treasure, the thing that sets my God apart from all others, is that He comes in close and He beckons us to be near Him. This loving God wants nothing more than our attention, time with us, to whisper things to our hearts, to show us how we’re loved and who He is. But it seems as if when I need to be near Him most, I find any distraction possible to remain far. I make excuses. I write God’s beckon to my heart off as legalism (oh yes- we do this often). How could this gift become a chore or something to run from? How could it be placed on the back burner?

I’ve found that the reason we struggle so with just simply spending time in His presence is because we put too much weight on it. And I’ve found that the best way to spend time with God is just to do it.

Listen to Him.

A quiet time does not mean reading a chapter of the Bible and following an acronym to dissect it. That is simply one aspect, one avenue.

Listen.

Sometimes time with God means reading His word and going into in depth study.

Sometimes time with God means sitting in your parked car and singing out your lungs to worship music.

Sometimes time with God means laying flat on your face on your floor and crying out to Him.

Sometimes time with God simply means finding a quiet place to speak to Him with honesty.

Sometimes time with God means getting artistic and using the creative abilities He’s gifted you.. writing words Him, writing a song,

Sometimes time with God involves markers and crayons while you stream a sermon.

Sometimes time with God means going out into nature and basking in the glory of what He’s made.

Sometimes time with God means going to Starbucks to get away from distractions and reading a Psalm.

 

But it it always comes back to this: we have access to the Lord. The time we spend in His presence is unmatchable. It changes us. It heals us. It restores us. It opens our eyes. It changes out hearts. We were made to commune with Him and when we do, whatever it looks like in that moment, we are living what we were made for.

When we are closest to him, we are closest to what we were made for.

The Significance of Our Physical Expressions in Worship 

And the Lord said:
“Because this people draw near with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me,
and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men…”
-Isaiah 29:13

You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it;
You are not pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit.
God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart.
Psalm 51:16-17

Worship.
It holds all the significance in a believer’s life. It is, for every follower of Jesus, our lifestyle. The center of everything we say and do: to bring the Lord praise & glory. On that, I think every believer can agree.

But I want to touch on an issue where the lines can get blurred pertaining to musical worship.
What is the significance of our physical posture during a worship set? What does it mean to lift our hands, bend our knees, close our eyes, or even sing the words? What does it signify and how important is it anyway? And the question we should ask about anything we do in this life: What does it really say about the posture of our hearts?

Depending on your upbringing, culture, denomination, age, and personal style, every person’s physical posture in worship will look different, and everyone seems to have an opinion on it’s meaning.

“Are they even really worshipping if they’re so stiff during worship?”
“Where is the joy of the Lord if they’re standing so still, not even singing the words?”

These are a few of the phrases I’ve actually heard uttered by fellow believers in my time in the church. My issue, as with absolutely any secondary Christian issue (anything not pertaining to salvation), is the one where we begin judging each other’s spiritual walk and maturity based on what we see.

A sweet old man walked up to me today after service and told me he loved the way I worshipped. He said my posture was animated, worshipful, refreshing. I can’t even tell you how many times this has happened to me. Every single time it is awkward, but nevertheless, the heart behind it is sweet. I have learned to embrace a certain way of expressing praise that resembles my heart, and am typically very animated when I’m alone in my car or in a corporate worship setting. But it always makes me wonder, what does it signify to other’s when that isn’t my posture? “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” There is a response for every moment and every season we are in. Sometimes the means dancing, sometimes that means falling on your face. There are no rules. This is an open expression of our freedom in Christ. But what about on the days when my heart is broken and I have no energy? What about on the days I want to just stand there and think of the Lord, or sit in my chair with my face in my hands? In those moments, does that mean my heart’s posture is insincere?

I want to bring attention to the places in the Word where we are given clear examples of physical posture that is a response to either praise, or victory, or fear, or joy during worship:

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
– Psalm 63:4

May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.
– Psalm 121:2

I stretch out my hands to you, my soul longs for you.
– Psalm 143:6

I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.
-Psalm 66:17

In Ephesians 3, we see that Paul kneels before the Father.

In Isaiah, Romans, and Philippians, it’s repeated that every knee will bow before the Lord and every tongue confess Him.

For as many verses as you can find on physical posture, if I go to scripture to find examples of what true worship looks like, it is clearly all about the mind connecting with the heart who God is and what He’s done. About us exalting Jesus, and revering Him in our hearts.
Here are just a few of my favorites:

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
-Psalm 42:11

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.
-1 Peter 3:15

I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And will glorify Your name forever.
-Psalm 86:12

I believe there are two downfalls we face when it comes to this matter:
First, the downfall of putting on a show. If your stance in worship is for others around you to know you’re ‘saved for real’, your heart’s posture is incorrect. It is clear in every single one of these verses that physical posture is an expression of the utmost reverence for God alone, not for the viewing of anyone else.

Second, refraining from lifting your hands or raising your voice for fear of what your fellow church goers will think. David danced before the Lord to express what he was feeling inside. And he was called a fool for it. If our hearts are truly focused on the Lord, this won’t be a hindrance. And when those thoughts come, a simple reminder of who you’re worshipping will quickly get rid of those fears.

At the end of the day, some of the most God fearing Christian’s I know stand in the pews and sing hymns every week. And on the other end of the spectrum, some of the most God fearing Christian’s I know run around the building shouting. Who are we to judge each other based on one way or another way, deciding what is right? Has the Lord commanded us to stand as judges of our fellow saints, or to come before him with a heart’s posture of humility, love, admiration, and reverence?

Offer up your body as the living sacrifice that it is. He’s given you hands, so by all means, lift them in a moment of praise because you’re thankful. He’s given you a mouth, so sing, shout, declare because you’re grateful. But our focus is never to be put on those things. If they are distracting your time of worship to God, they are a hindrance and I promise you the Lord would not have you even bother with them. If your heart is not connecting to God’s heart, it is just noise like every other thing that distracts us from Him. It is clear that the only requirement when it comes to worshipping is that we do it in Spirit and in truth. That we do it with genuine hearts, as with any aspect of the wide world the word Worship contains in a believers life.

While we’re on the topic of worship, I’ve been listening to Hillsong United’s new song So Will I (100 Billion X) nonstop and its bringing so much life to my heart.

 

Every Good & Perfect Gift 

“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”-Matthew 7:11

This time next week, I’ll be married. A few times over this past week dear friends of mine have asked me to write a blog post sharing how faithful the Lord has been over the course of mine and Malik’s relationship thus far.
If you knew even a portion of our separate testimonies, you would know just how much the statement “this time next week, we’ll be married” tells of the Lord’s faithfulness. If I wrote a blog post about the Lord’s faithfulness throughout our entire relationship, it would be hundreds upon hundreds of words. I won’t share the whole story, but I am compelled to share what the Lord has been teaching in this season. Because He IS faithful, and if I know anything at all, I know that He calls us to share testimonies of His faithfulness.

In recent months the Lord has been evidently showing us just how much He loves giving good gifts to His children.

When people choose to believe in Jesus and walk in faith, it looks different for everyone. But there are a few things that are universal: it is not comfortable, and it is not glamorous. It is more a process of growth than anything else. And growing means stretching. And stretching hurts. The missionary who leaves their home to move to a foreign country will tell you that. And people who go against what is normal or easy to follow what the Lord is calling them to will tell you that. Walking in faith is hard. It is painful. It is scary. And most of the time, we don’t know what the plan looks like because the Lord is teaching us to trust Him. But we are all called to it and let me tell you, He provides for EVERY single need we’ll encounter. And He fulfills our hearts desires.

The first, providing for every need, is hard enough to grasp. But it is simpler than Him fulfilling desires. Even a sinful human father wants to give good things to his child. But the concept of a perfect God who first gives us Himself, then fulfills desires simply because He delights in giving His kids good gifts, is honestly too much to take in. 

When Jesus says that we are forgiven, that a wicked heart is no longer our identity, and that condemnation doesn’t rule over us, we can believe Him. His righteousness is now our own. But sometimes we struggle to trust that. It would only make sense that we struggle even harder to trust that He would actually lavishes love on us freely and delight in giving us good gifts.  

But we have been asking, and the Lord has been not only sustaining, but giving GOOD gifts over the past few months. He has not held out in any area.

Emotionally, He has been more present with us than ever. Spiritually, He has quieted every fear. In relationship, He has brought unity. In the midst of being unsure and feeling unqualified, has given us incredible ideas and spurts of creativity and courage. He has provided opportunity for dreams to be fulfilled in this season. Financially, he has blessed us in ways that can’t even be explained practically. He has enabled us to pay for a wedding. He has brought people into our lives at the exact times we needed them to say the exact truths we needed to hear.

He has been everything to us time and time again.

No, we don’t have every detail figured out. We are depending on the Lord daily to provide, to direct, and to give us our hearts desires. There is no other way to live as a believer, no matter what your situation looks like. We live trusting that He does not change like shifting shadows. We trust that He will continue to do what He has always done and be who He has always been.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
-James 1:7