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.


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

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

Self Care is Spirit Care

To me, devotional means anything sacred that connects us with the Lord. Spiritual health depends a lot on how we spend the quiet moments in our day, as well as the habits we adopt and carry out. I found a list of things to do to “better yourself” on Pinterest the other day and decided it was good enough to add my own personal spin to and share as a blog post. A cluttered mind and life is a cluttered Spirit. I am fervently incorporating these into my own life at the moment in order to declutter.


//Drink a lot of water.
//Eat a big breakfast, average lunch & tiny dinner.
//Fill up on fruits, veggies & natural foods.
//Go for a walk when stressed.
//Spend more time looking at the sky. You will be in awe of what you see.
//Read a book… or 10. Always be reading one and expanding your mind.
//Go to bed earlier, consistently.
//Stop thinking negative thoughts about yourself & others.
//Don’t dwell on the past, turn it into art.
//Enjoy the little things in life.
//Stop judging & comparing yourself to others.
//Meditate on the Word daily, even if it’s only 15 minutes. Soak in it.
//Stop putting things off. It’s better to start somewhere now than later.
//Avoid processed food.
//Meal prep at the beginning of each week.
//Talk to yourself. Tell yourself the truth until you’re blue in the face if need be.
//Stretch daily.
//Listen to music that makes you feel connected to the Lord.
//Go into creation whenever possible.
//Live in a tidy space. Your home/room is your sanctuary after a long day.
//Wear clothes that make you happy & keep you warm.
//Throw away things you don’t need. Spend time contemplating the necessities.


//Check the posture of your heart before responding and making decisions.


//Remember that God sees all the effort you’re making now that seems unnoticed & the work you’re putting in will pay off in the end.



Purpose in the Placement

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
Ephesians 5

The Lord has plans to use you exactly where you are. Your job is not to be wasted, your education, your family dynamics, where you live, whom your friends are, your hobbies, your strengths, your abilities, your romantic relationships, the body of believers surrounding you, even your social media platforms.
You have been given your exact strengths and level of influence for a reason.

The only thing left to do is examine where you are. Make use of the time you have. You are where you are for a reason. You are who you are for a reason. There is so much kingdom work that can be done any place where there are other souls.
I have never looked back on a place I did not choose or desire to be and not seen at least some purpose in why I was put there.

Being where you are is no surprise to Him, He has divinely placed you there. The Lord can and will use you literally anywhere. Nothing is pointless.

The Power of the Tongue

“Life and death are in the power of the tongue…”Proverbs 18:21
Like anything powerful, there is potential danger in the tongue. Quick and cutting words, impulsiveness, sarcasm, and competition are just a few of the ways we can abuse our speech. Words are important. Our words affect people deeply. People are built up or torn down by the words we speak. If my purpose in life is to honor God and love people, I must make how I use my speech a priority. I don’t want to simply keep from speaking words of discouragement, I am to use my tongue to give life. I must use my speech to inspire people to walk closer to the Lord, to remind them who they are in Him, to encourage, to build up, to edify, to bless.
Our very faith foundation is built upon the life giving words of Jesus, the Word made flesh. We as His people have a duty in turn to use seasoned speech that is consistently characterized by life giving. To speak encouraging things over the people around us, and to know how and when to respond (Proverbs 15:23).
So how do we control our words? How do we direct our mouth to speak life?
-Well firstly, the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart (Matthew 15:18), and I am called to watch over my heart with diligence. To check up on it vigilantly. So before my speech can become life giving, my heart has to be right.
-Ask the Lord to make me quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19), which does not come naturally to anyone but is fruit produced in me when I am living by the Spirit (Galatians 5:24-25)
-Remember what it cost, the damage done in the past. Not in a shame filled way, but learning not to return to it, ending the pattern of repetition (Proverbs 26:11).
-Recognizing where my speech is corrupt and cutting it out, then only speaking what builds up (Ephesians 4:29).
-Speaking constructive criticism and correcting in love. You would be surprised how much a person will grow when rebuked in love. Knowing when and how to rebuke with God’s word in a gentle manner is one of the most valuable lessons. I have never felt more loved than when someone I respected and trusted corrected me with God’s word, even if it is painful in the moment (Proverbs 27:5-6).
-And the most important of all these is to remember that we are not on our own. God’s Spirit is producing fruit in us, and with Him comes the fruit of self control. Lean into Christ. He will not fail to give us wisdom on how to speak in a manner worthy of Him when we ask (James 1:5).