Growing Up: Ephesians 4:15-16

Growing Up: Ephesians 4:15-16

"Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love."

- Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV

            Honestly, I didn't even know there could be so many commas in one sentence, but once you dig through all of the pieces it's clear that Paul is calling the church in Ephesus to do one thing: Grow up into Christ. Paul isn't talking about merely becoming an adult, paying your bills, getting married and having kids, he's calling us to a maturity that is only found in Christ. It's the same maturity he outlines in Ephesians 4:13 where "we all attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God..." but in verses 15-16 he builds upon this definition to show that this maturity can only be achieved when pursued in tandem with two things: love and community.  

why love and community?

            A big misconception about maturity is thinking that it’s synonymous with or directly correlated to gaining knowledge. However, the type of maturity that Paul is calling the Ephesians to isn’t based on knowledge, but rather he says it’s found in love. He says speaking the truth in love and the body (church) building itself up in love are crucial parts of becoming mature. In fact, Paul himself states earlier in Ephesians 3:19 that it’s “the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge.” You see, knowledge is a catalyst for growth, but is worthless if your life and relationship with Jesus are not rooted in and founded upon love. We need knowledge of who Jesus is in order to grow up into Him, but this can only happen once we understand His love for us and the love He has called us to have towards others. 

            Paul is also intentional in using his favorite metaphor, the body, to describe our pursuit of maturity. He calls Jesus Christ the head and everyone else in the church a body part connected by joints. Let’s be clear, the text says Jesus “makes the body grow” (4:16), but this growth only happens “when each part is working properly.” Think of the human body. When it’s functioning properly, each body part grows in harmony with the parts around it. When just one body part is injured, all of the surrounding parts are inflamed causing pain to the entire body. One of the most dangerous tactics that the enemy uses (especially in the American church) is isolation. That’s because he knows how vital it is to the health of the body of Christ that each part stay connected to each other and to the head. He used it on me my sophomore year of college and although I grew in my knowledge of God during that time, my lack of connection to other Christians put a very low ceiling on my growth. 

so how do we get there?

I’ll leave you with three things to help you gauge your journey towards maturity and up into Christ.

1. Remember that Jesus Christ is the only person who can grow you to maturity. You must seek Him first and with all you’ve got.

2. As you seek the Lord, also pursue each other and find Christians you connect with. The way in which you pursue Jesus will affect those around you as you bring Heaven to earth. YOU HAVE POWER AND INFLUENCE IN THE LIVES OF YOUR FRIENDS!

3. If you do nothing else, answer the question: What is love? There is no faster path to maturity than growing in love for the Lord and for those around you. (Hint: Go read 1 Corinthians 13)

pray

Lord Jesus,

            Come and change our perspective on what maturity is in your eyes. Send your Holy Spirit so that we can experience your love for ourselves and show us the people in our lives that you want us to be connected with. Humble us, so that we may recognize you as the head of the body, and pursue you and those around us in love.

Amen 

- Adam 

Abundant Love: Ephesians 3:18-19

Abundant Love: Ephesians 3:18-19

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

- Ephesians 3:18-19


This passage always gets me. The main point here is that the amount of love that God has for us is impossible to understand. God loves you deeper, wider, longer, and higher than you could ever know. Paul is praying that the church in Ephesus would be able to understand even a small part of the love God has for us because he knew that they would be forever changed because of that understanding.

As humans, we like to understand things. We like to put things nicely in their box where they belong.  We like to know where things start and stop. It bothers us when we can’t nail something down. It makes us uncomfortable. The good news here is that even though we as humans can’t fully comprehend God’s love for us, we can still experience it. We can live a life of abundance in God’s love. 

Paul said that “we will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God”. Experiencing God’s love makes us complete! We are filled with the power that comes from God when we let ourselves be loved. This is true for you, too. Nobody is the exception from experiencing God’s love. I would encourage you to take a few minutes this week and ask God to show you more of His love. He’s ready to. 

pray

God, thank you for the way that you love us. Thank you that you love each and every person with a life-changing, never ending love. I ask that you would begin to give us grace to press into more of that love every day. Thank you. We love you. Amen. 

The Fullness of God: Ephesians 3:16-19

The Fullness of God: Ephesians 3:16-19

"I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

-Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV


In these verses, Paul is offering a prayer to us through this letter that we would have: inner strength, the inhabitation of Christ in our hearts, the ability to comprehend what is going on around us, and the knowledge of God's deep love. His strength is dwelling inside of you. Being a child of God means that you have the fullness of God in the form of the Holy Spirit taking up residence in you The Holy Spirit is a gift to us, but this gift isn't meant to just sit around and not be used. When you think back to the best gifts you've ever received, those gifts probably came from the people that know you best. Because that person loved you, they wanted to give you something that would satisfy a desire that you had. God is the same way with giving us His spirit. Because He knows us better than we even know ourselves, He's given us a gift that can ultimately prevent us from ever being shaken or defeated.         

you are not the exception to this gift

You are not the exception. God literally gave you, through the glory of His riches, the same spirit that conquered sin and death. Because He loved you and continues to love you beyond your understanding, He gave you the same spirit Jesus had so you could rise above the most difficult things that you struggle with. No circumstance, experience, or sin has power over you. Fear itself doesn't even have power over you because the God of the universe already won by giving you His spirit to do all things with. That statement alone should be encouraging! You don't have to settle for a mediocre life because He already gave you what you need to live in the fullness. Trusting Him alone is enough to bring freedom. The pressure is not up to you to strive, overcome, or take care of anything by yourself. He is with you in the process and is ready to meet you right where you are at.      

What does that look like?

How can I practically live in the fullness God has for me? The simplest answer is to be rooted in love like the scripture says. How do you become rooted in love? You spend time with the one who first loved you. I know that seems like the Christian answer to say, but hear me out. There was no love before God and there will be no love in existence that can compare to His. Because His being operates in a place of constant love for you, the more you encounter His love the more you will understand what loving others feels like. Encountering this at first looks like taking the time to be in relationship with Him; and because you are even reading this blog, you are already stirring up that desire to know more. Taking that time to pray, read the Bible, worship, and investing in places like Freshley will increase your faith in Him. Add time getting poured into by Him to your schedule and you will see joy and peace overflow into other parts of your life. With this increase in faith, you will begin to understand the worth of yourself and every person around you and seek them in a way that He first sought you. He is always ready to offer more. 

pray

"Father thank you. Thank you for giving me everything I need to live each day with peace, joy, and love. I surrender all of my worries, fears, and doubts to you. Trusting that your spirit is way stronger than any unbelief or lie that would tell me that you are not enough. Let your perfect love dwell in me, so that I can love others the way you have loved me. Amen." 

- Sarah C

God's Handiwork: Ephesians 2:10

God's Handiwork: Ephesians 2:10

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

- Ephesians 2:10 NIV


Read this verse again. Let it sink in for a second. The fact that God calls us his handiwork is mind-blowing. So often we praise God when we see His mountain ranges and sunsets, yet we look at ourselves with disproval and discouragement. The beautiful truth of this verse is that God made you with His own hands, and He considers you His masterpiece. No other created thing pleases Him quite like you do. He not only created you, but He also gives you a unique purpose specific to you. 

In college, many of us are figuring out who we are and what we want to do with our lives. Common questions like What’s your major or What are you passionate about seem to stir this uncertainty in many of us. It’s easy to feel pressure and at times feel lost. BUT we know the one who has the answers. If you try to figure things out on your own, it will be easy to feel overwhelmed, but when you trust your Creator to tell you who you are and what He has prepared for you, peace enters in. 

This verse says that God prepared good works for us to do. As you follow Jesus, two common temptations are 1) Trying to do someone else’s work. OR 2) Trying to do your work like someone else. God wants you to be confident in who He made you to be. You were never made to do someone else’s work. You were never made to mimic someone else. Remember, you’re his handiwork; there’s no one else like you. 

a practical step

Take a moment to let God share reasons why He delights in who He made you to be. Remember that God is the one who made you, and He didn’t make any mistakes with you. Write in your phone these qualities or characteristics that come into your head.

- Tim

Grace Freely Given - Ephesians 2:8-9

Grace Freely Given - Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

- Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV


some background

As we open up the scene in 2 Ephesians Paul has already been encouraging the church he is writing to, Ephesus, in the amazing things God has done in them and will continue to do. He tells them in the first chapter that they are not orphans but adopted in love, that they belong in the Family of God, that they have an inheritance of salvation, that they are promised redemption and forgiveness through Jesus' sacrifice and that we are given the holy spirit. These are pretty weighty things. Paul also explains that Jesus is seated with God, at his righthand above all names- meaning he has the best seat in the house.

Then, as we move onto chapter 2, he begins to explain how this process of amazing blessing and life change came about. That we were dead in our sin but because of Jesus' sacrifice, because of his grace, we have been brought into life with Christ. This brings us to our passage, 2:8-9. Paul is explaining that the reason we are forgiven and adopted and even seated with Jesus now is because of the grace of God. Which means we did. not. deserve. it. But out of his love, he made up the lack that we brought, and gave it to us anyways. 

you are not the exception

This is revolutionary for us. Because this means we don't have to, do anything to get a relationship with God besides say yes to him. We can't get it right enough times or read our bible enough times or be a good enough daughter, son, roommate or friend to get us to a place where we can earn a place in God's love or a relationship with him. Paul tells us this as a sobering fact, so that we won't boast about how we were so high and mighty that the Great High and Mighty wanted to be our friend- but for me it's much more freeing. It means I can stop striving, it means I can stop trying to earn what God has already given me as the sweetest most unfathomable gift of all. It means that I'm not the exception, it means that you are not the exception! One more time for the people in the back-- You Are Not The Exception!!! There is nothing we can do to earn it. God loves us so much that he chose to die for us so that the gap of sin that separated us couldn't be our separation any longer. You are covered, I am covered, all by the sweet grace of God that brings us to a place where we can breathe and be truly alive. It is because of God's love that he chose to give us grace, and it is because of his grace that we are alive in him. That Jesus chose to die as a sacrifice for our sin, so that we could be with him and be on the receiving end of life and all of these blessings Paul is writing about. 

If you are like me, you can stop trying to earn what you have already been given. That could be God's love, that could be belonging, that could be acceptance- whatever it is, nothing can take away your place in God. If he calls me a daughter and I really believe that then I won't be looking/striving for someone to claim me as their friend, their someone that they care about or think is important because that need is satisfied in Christ. If you have been living under the pressure of striving striving striving, you can breathe. And if you have been hanging out on the other camp, which I find myself at most times too, you can call your entitlement to the things of God, your demanding for him to do whatever you ask him to etc. what it is- pride. And now you can let it go, because in the case of pride we still haven't even tapped into the overwhelming love that God has for us- because really pride comes from a place of lack and insecurity. So regardless of whichever side your on, lets just let it go and receive the love of God- its too good of a gift to turn down. 

pray

Father, thank you for your free gift of grace that you have given me. Thank you for making a way for me to know you, for me to live and live abundantly with you. God I ask that wherever my heart isn't fully affected by your grace, wherever there is pride and wherever there is striving, please make it known to me and teach my heart how to be loved by you. Thank you for your grace, thank you for who you are, thank you for loving me first. Please come and reveal yourself to me more. I love you, amen. 

- Merrick

Life Changing Power - Ephesians 1:19-21

Life Changing Power - Ephesians 1:19-21

And what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Ephesians 1:19-21 ESV


a life changing power

In Ephesians 1, Paul explains the spiritual blessings that we have been given in Christ and then ends with a prayer, praying that we would come to know and experience what has been given to us by God. This passage is an excerpt from that prayer. The main thing Paul is praying here is that the reader (that’s US!) will not only know about, but experience the power of the gospel. The same power that raised Jesus up out of a grave and then made him the king of the world – Paul wants us to not only know, but experience that power. The same power that belongs to God, whose reign is almighty and forever – has been given to us. 


Wrapping your head around just how powerful our God is honestly kind of overwhelming. Realizing that His power, the power that performed miracles and raised Jesus from the dead, is alive and in us is even more overwhelming – but also it is life-changing. 

Think of all the times you have felt powerless, all the times you have felt like you are stuck and you don’t know what to do, when you were frustrated because of the weight of confusion in a situation. Maybe you're in that place now. Whatever it is or whenever it was, put those moments and situations next to the power of God. Paul describes the power of God in the passage as immeasurable. It’s limitless. There’s nothing that can go against it that it will not defeat!

prayer

God, come and show me just how big and just how powerful you are. Show me your power at work in me and in my life. The situations around me and the things in my head and my heart that I believe are untouchable and unfixable, show me your power there. God, I want to feel and see and know your power. Thank you that you love me THAT much to give me access to you, your love, and your power. Amen.

- Sarah

Holding Nothing Back - Ephesians 1:7-8

Holding Nothing Back - Ephesians 1:7-8

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.

- Ephesians 1:7-8 ESV


holding nothing back

This passage could easily be one that most of us skip over because most of us already know what it says. We already know that through Jesus' death, we have been redeemed. We know that there is nothing in ourselves that gave us that redemption, but only the grace that God shows. We know that it is only by God's grace that we can be in relationship with Him. Verse 8 has a word that also gets glanced over too. Lavished. It says that God lavished the riches of His grace on us when he died for us. Jesus didn't hold a single thing back on the cross when he died. He took every bit of our past, present, and future that we couldn't carry ourselves.

The cool part about Jesus "lavishing the riches of His grace", is that it didn't stop on the cross. Here you are, over 2,000 years after that happened, and God is still desiring just as much to give more of his grace to you. One of the simplest explanations of grace that I have heard is that it is you receive something from God that you either don't deserve, or more importantly, can't do yourself. God's grace in your life is most likely seen in the areas where you are lacking something, and you need something to happen. You need something to change. God is just as willing to meet with you and give you what you need now as he was to the people he walked this Earth with 2,000 years ago.

grace leads into action

The funny thing about grace is that it often leads us to action. God's grace opens the door for us to live changed. God's grace gives us what we need in the moment, whatever circumstance. As we have a need, God meets our need so that we can then live empowered by Him. Here you are, about a month into your college experience. You are getting an idea of what is going to be fun, what is going to be challenging, what is going to be not fun, and even what you think is going to be impossible. 

a practical step

Take a few minutes to think about areas of your life where you think having God's favor would change something. It can be for something as simple as a difficult class, but try to think of situations where you really just don't know what to do. Situations that aren't ideal at all. When you have a few things in your head, tell God how you feel about those circumstances. Simply invite God into the situation and ask Him to give you what you need. God delights in meeting you where you are at, especially when you ask Him.

To end, you can pray this:

God, thank you that I can trust you with my life now because of what you already did for me in the past. Thank you that you are the same God throughout time and despite circumstances. I am going to need you to show up in my life throughout this year, and I ask you to give me what I need in every circumstance. Thank you for your love. Amen.

- Nick

See You In The Fall!

See You In The Fall!

hey class of 2021!

We can't wait to see you in the fall! We hope you'll be able to call Freshley home. 

What's Freshley?

Freshley is a Wesley service meant specifically for freshmen. We meet every Monday at 8 PM in the Wesley Main Chapel. These services start with worship and a quick message from Director Daniel Simmons, but the core of the Freshley ministry takes place directly after the message in our Freshley small groups. When you sign up for a small group, you'll be placed in a group of 15-20 freshman girls or guys & two older leaders that you'll get to meet with every Monday. It's our hope and prayer that these groups turn into a real community that walks with you through your first year in Athens.

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About the Freshley blog

The Freshley blog is posted every Monday-Friday morning each semester at www.freshleyblog.org (and on Twitter). We cover different topics and books of the Bible. Each blog takes about 5-8 minutes to read through.

Think: a quick and easy addition to your morning routine.  

like we said

We can't wait to see you in the fall. In the meantime, feel free to reach out via Twitter (@ugafreshley) if you have any questions! 

Spiritual Gifts: Service

Spiritual Gifts: Service

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
— Mark 10:45 ESV

The whole point of service is to put other people before ourselves. You think about others needs first and want to help them with those needs. If you are a Server, you have the Spirit-given capacity and desire to serve God by rendering practical help in both physical and spiritual matters. You are the person who meets the practical needs of fellow Christians and the church. But that doesn't mean you are meant to just live in the background of what is going on--serving other enables things to actually get done. Ministries can't run and a lot of things can't happen, if there aren't people there to serve. 

In Matthew and Mark we are reminded that even Jesus came to Earth to serve others. He, even as the King of Kings, came to be a servant to those all around Him. And if Jesus was called to be a servant, then we are definitely meant to be a servant. Just because this might not come naturally to you, doesn't mean you aren't capable of being servant-minded. It might just take a little rewiring of your brain. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and to give you opportunities to serve others. It also doesn't have to be like giant acts of service-think small too, like buying someone's meal behind you in the drive-thru, or doing your roommates dishes when you know they are stressed. Think about service on a person to person level and remind yourself to take yourself out of the equation. Service means not having any selfishness to your actions or thoughts. So, ask the Holy Spirit to help you remove yourself from service and to only think about bettering the other person you are trying to serve. 

pray

God, thank you for giving us Jesus to teach us how to serve and love each other. Thank you that love is the root of service and that we are so loved by you. God I pray that you would awaken my heart to service and to what that can look like in my life. Teach me how to serve all of those around me. 

- Ashley Gibson

Spiritual Gifts: Discernment

Spiritual Gifts: Discernment

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
— Hebrews 5:14 NIV

Discernment isn't one of the spiritual gifts that you hear about often (or at least it wasn’t ones that me or my friends talked or dreamed about a lot!) But the older and older I’ve gotten I have realized how powerful this gift is. To discern is to distinguish good from evil. To discern is to recognize right from wrong. When I think of discernment my mind is automatically drawn to maturity. To know right from wrong, to know good from evil we actually have to know what right is, what good is but also what right is not and what good is not. 


All spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 are for the bettering of the kingdom. We use them to serve others. Therefore, discernment is a gift given from God for the advancing of His kingdom. We are supposed to use it according to His will and His way. But first, we must know what His will, His way and His truth are. I love the gift of discernment and seeing people walk in it because to know what truth is and to flee from what is evil you have to be extremely disciplined in the Word. 


The cool thing about spiritual gifts is that they are gifts from God. He is the giver and He is good. But we also get to pray into gifts. We are told that we “have not because we ask not.” And so my prayer for you is that you would continue to learn about spiritual gifts and then with God ask Him to see growth in the ones that stick out to you.

pray

God, thank you that you are good. Thank you that you allow us to distinguish good from evil, and truth from lies. God I ask that this week we would be more disciplined in your word. Our sole focus would be on your truth. Day to day we would be able to grow in what is true and steer away from what is not. 

- Ashley Gibson

Spiritual Gifts: Teaching

Spiritual Gifts: Teaching

When thinking about spiritual gifts, a lot of times I do not remember about the gift of teaching. As soon as it comes to mind, it makes me think of the people in my life where I have really seen the spiritual gift of teaching come to life. There is some sort of way ease in the way complex concepts of God are communicated that seems to only be explained that it is God. When listening to teachers and preachers, I find myself desiring to have the gift of teaching hoping that I could communicate in such an effective manner.

In James 3, James warns against this thinking in telling us that not many should become teachers because teachers, as he says, will be judged more strictly. He goes on to talk about how important what comes from our mouth is. I believe this is the reason he talks about teachers being judged more strictly. This idea is to convey how important those who teach about God and the ways of God hold an important yet risky position in the God 's kingdom. James relates our mouths to being the thing that directs our steps. God using teachers to guide others through what is said through our mouths.

I believe the spiritual gift of teaching is to be desired, but we must desire holiness as we desire to have the spiritual gift of teaching. The importance is not just in that we teach, but what is coming from our mouths. James tells us that though we may try to "tame our tongues," we must rely on God to do this because humankind is unable to tame the tongue. My encouragement to you and to myself is to continue desiring the gift of teaching , but ultimately desire holiness so that our words may direct others to God.

pray

God, please tame my tongue because I am unable to do so. Let me guide others toward you and direct my steps to follow more in line with you. Thank you for grace on my life and let me communicate that grace to others in word and deed. Amen

- Daniel Bailey

Spiritual Gifts: Healing

Spiritual Gifts: Healing

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
— Matthew 10:8 NIV

I want to start by just giving you some Biblical context for healing.

1. There are tons of examples throughout the gospels of Jesus healing. (Google it for an abundance of references.)
2. Jesus commands his disciples to heal the sick. (Luke 9 & 10)
3. After that, there are tons of examples of the apostles healing. (Gospels and Acts)
4. Healing is listed as a gift of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12.

Healing is a pretty self explanatory gift - nothing super mysterious about it - people are sick and they get restored to health, people are paralyzed and then can walk again. We all know what healing is. So I want to just take a minute to talk about the why.

The command from Jesus to heal the sick - and really every time he uses a spiritual gift - is for the purpose of "declaring that the kingdom of Heaven is near." (Luke 10) Translation: "Heal so that people will find out that God is real and closer than we think, and to come to know him." Almost every time someone was healed in the Bible, the witnesses couldn't help but tell everyone about it! People would see the healing or hear the story, come to know God, and begin to follow Him!

In John 14 Jesus actually says, “I assure you: The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son." The way that we are able to do "greater works" is by faith through the spirit. Jesus tells us in these verses that the supernatural movements of the spirit are directly correlated to the faith with which we ask for them. The faith that we have to ask moves God's heart because we are believing Him, knowing him, and giving Him room to really be Him. And when we give him room to do that, people's lives will be changed!!!!! Let's ask Him for healing!

pray

Jesus, we want faith to believe you as the HEALER!!! Come and open our hearts to you and all that you can do. Give us opportunities to pray for healing from this new place of confidence in who you are.

- Billie Anne Hardigree

Spiritual Gifts - Exhortation

Spiritual Gifts - Exhortation

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
— Romans 12:6-8 ESV

To exhort means to address or communicate emphatically urging someone to do something. Exhortation is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Gifts of the spirit are talked about in 1 Corinthians 12 and are used for the build-up of the Church. That means that exhortation should only be edifying, uplifting, and encouraging! This is true because gifts of the Holy Spirit should only be exercised through LOVE because they are from God directly.


When giving someone a word of encouragement aka using the gift of exhortation, there are a few things to remember. You should always point others to Jesus – your words should be focused upward (to God). Your words should leave the person receiving your exhortation with a better understanding of who God is. And lastly, your words should always honor God and honor the person receiving. 

Biblically, Paul was the person who walked in the gift of exhortation most often. In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul commands Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” Though exhort is mentioned here with reprove and rebuke (scary words to me), Paul reminds us to do all of these with patience and teaching (aka wisdom). 

pray

Lord, I ask that You would teach us how to be a people who better build-up Your Church. That we would be a people who choose to love the people in front of us to the best of our ability and that we would do that by encouraging, edifying, and uplifting them. We want to be a people who honor You forever and forever, and we ask that You would come and help us do that. Amen.

- Allison Peden

Spiritual Gifts - Faith

Spiritual Gifts - Faith

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
— Hebrews 11:1 NIV

Read Hebrews 11 here. 

Faith. We have all heard this word whether or not we have been around the church our entire lives because it is the foundation of Christianity. If we have faith in Jesus, we get to spend eternity with Him. However, there is so much more than the "saving" faith we know so well; it is actually a spiritual gift. Hebrews 11 defines faith like this: "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Over and over again in the gospels, Jesus talks about the importance of faith. In Matthew 17:20, He says "if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." What would it look like if we walked in that kind of faith everyday? 

I believe the Lord wants to increase our faith ten fold if we let Him because faith has everything to do with who we trust and nothing to do with what we see. So first we must check our hearts. Do you trust God? Or is that difficult because of fear? We must remember that our hope is in the promise that we will dwell with our heavenly Father one day, in the new Jerusalem. With that steadfast promise, let us pursue great faith, so that we may see the impossible come to life in the kingdom of God. When you begin receiving more faith, you will see your life, your heart, and your soul be transformed. 

You will begin praying with greater faith for even the small things in life. But you will also be spurred to pray for the things you long to see with your whole being. If you read Hebrews 11, you will see the fruit that came from these men and women of faith who walked in complete trust that the Lord would deliver them and do the things they were asking. When we walk in faith, it's as if the floodgates of God's heart open because I believe there is so much the Lord wants to do in and through us but He is just waiting for us to ask in faith. I want to encourage y'all to press into your prayer life and ask for the things you want to see God do. Open your heart to allow yourself to fall into a place of deep trust with the Lord and pursue great faith. He will come through and increase it. 

pray

Lord,

May you increase my faith. I want to trust you with my whole life and believe in your promises for me. I want to be marked as a man/ woman of faith. Father, help me to walk with you.

In Jesus' name,
Amen.  

- Kayley Anderkin

Spiritual Gifts

Spiritual Gifts

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
— 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 NIV

At times, spiritual gifts can seem intangible and impractical. It feels really easy to overcomplicate or over-spiritualize these gifts, but at the core of it all, spiritual gifts are all about loving the people around us as God loves them. They are like tools that Holy Spirit gives us to more specifically join in with God’s heart for the world. All of us have different backgrounds regarding spiritual gifts—some of us have good experiences, some of us have confusing/negative experiences, and some of us have never experienced any of this at all. Wherever you might be on the spectrum, know that God believes it’s good to specifically give you spiritual gifts to love the people around you. 

Please read 1 Corinthians 12 and 13. These are two really wonderful chapters that address the heart of why spiritual gifts exist and how to use them well. It’s really beautiful that after the list of spiritual gifts there are several verses emphasizing the importance of unity and embracing the different parts of the body of Christ. God desires to reaffirm the importance and the power of having different parts of the body with different gifts stand together in unity. 

Spiritual gifts are not a measuring stick you use to compare where you stand next to other people. These gifts are ways God designed to bring heaven to earth for the good of those around you. Read the first few verses of chapter 13… You could have all the wonderful gifts in the world but if you don’t know how to love, it’s all a waste. God doesn’t want us to overcomplicate love; He gives us these gifts to love better.  

As we start the series on spiritual gifts, remember that they are given by God not earned by reaching a specific spiritual level. Say no to divisive comparisons and say yes to love expressed in power. You are not the exception of God’s desire to equip his church body to love well. Spend some time with God the next couple weeks asking Him how he has equipped you specifically to love well and live for the good of those around you. 

- Tim del Risco

Hebrews 13:8-9 -  Grace

Hebrews 13:8-9 - Grace

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.
— Hebrews 13:8-9 ESV

In this part of Hebrews the author writes to encourage us in the consistency of Jesus. Most things of this world are temporary or ever changing, but Jesus isn't. This doesn't make the Gospel outdated but rather makes us able to build our lives upon something stable and firm; a grace that is unending.

These verses warn us about popular teachings that don't align with Jesus and how quick we are to believe them. It's popular to believe the lie of apathy and annoyance towards others is "cool" or "funny". We see it over and over again in humor, media, and everyday conversations. How often are we "over people", how often are we "done" when it comes to situations that require us to be patient?

This verse challenges us to respond in consistent grace not temporary pop culture sarcasm. The Kingdom is built when we speak grace over one another, when we choose unkind jokes or words we are halting it.

a call to action

Jesus is consistent in all things. His love is the same. His kindness is the same. God doesn't become an unkind Father when we mess up, we are told in the Bible that He does the opposite. He is the Father who greets us with open arms and celebrates us. Why would we not do this for others? We are called to devote ourselves to grace. We need our hearts to be strengthened.

pray

Jesus thank you that you are the same yesterday and today and forever. Thank you that you extend grace to me every time. Thank you for a grace that strengthens me. Show me where I can give it away to others.

- Morgan Reed

Hebrews 13:5 - Being Content

Hebrews 13:5 - Being Content

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
— Hebrews 13:5 NIV

The writer of Hebrews is concluding his letter to Jewish Christians of that time with a list of multiple things that they can do please God and show their love towards Him. The writer wants to leave them with something applicable that they can put into practice or remind themselves of in everyday life. One of the things that the writer encourages them to do in verse 5 is to be content with what they have and not place love in their money. He is reminding them that their satisfaction shouldn’t be in what they possess physically, but instead what they possess in Christ.

So many times in my life I let my physical well being determine my spiritual well being. I think many other Christians do the same. We look at our life and see either what we have, or what we lack, and let that feed what our relationship with God looks like. Yes, as a college student you might not have a lot of money in your checking and savings account, but take a look around you. Take a look at what you possess, at what you have. Look at where you are living, the clothes you wear everyday, the school you are at, etc. Even greater than not having a love for money is learning to be content in what you have. The second part of verse 5 references two Old Testament scriptures.

Deuteronomy 31:6 - "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Psalm 118:6- The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?

Both of these verses speak to us and tell us to to not be afraid. Do not be affected but what we see or don’t see in front of use. Do not put your trust and faith in what your life looks like on the outside. Don’t let your physical surroundings affect your spiritual well being.
With that mindset we can apply this to our lives in the area of money but so much further. Ask yourself what areas of life do you look to for validation other than God? What in your life do you find contentment in other than God? Can we enjoy things in life? Definitely. But I want you to search your heart and make sure you know what your contentment is based off of. Do you place your worth in what you possess, or do you find your contentment in the Holy Spirit that lives within you?

To end I think it would be good to pray through the last two verses of Psalm 139.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

- Nick Spencer

Hebrews 11:1-3 - Faith

Hebrews 11:1-3 - Faith

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
— Hebrews 11:1-3 ESV

Read chapter 11 here

The writer of Hebrews believes that true faith is not a vague hope or a blind trust based on wishful thinking, but it is a confidence that God will fulfill his promises, without being able to see any evidence. In the rest of the chapter (I encourage you to read the whole thing!), the author lists numerous Old Testament examples where people were commended for their faith: Abel, Abraham, Noah, Sarah, Moses and more. God made a promise to each of these people, and they all trusted that He would follow through, even when it didn't seem possible.

Faith is one of the most important parts of our relationship with God, so it is incredibly important that we know what it is. We know that we are saved through faith, and we know that faith can lead us through difficult trials, but if we don't know what faith is, how can we have faith? Faith is the confidence that God is good, wise, loving, and that He will follow through.

So how do we have faith? Thanks to His written word, we can know what God promises to us, but how can we be confident that He will follow through? As the man who cried out the Jesus, "Help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24), we must ask God for faith. We must ask that God the Spirit will give us faith and give us confidence in His word, and this is the kind of faith that will save us.
"But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls." - Hebrews 10:39

pray

Father,
You are good. Thank you for everything You are. I ask that you would give us the confidence to trust you with everything. I ask that you would give us the grace to know that you'll follow through, no matter how difficult it may be. God, would you reveal yourself more and more so that we could have full assurance that the things you have promised will come to pass. We love you, God! Amen.

- Hunter MacInnis

Hebrews 12:11 - Discipline

Hebrews 12:11 - Discipline

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
— Hebrews 12:11 NIV


If you’re like me, you read this verse and it evokes a bunch of hope but also a big eye roll, an empty feeling of confusion, and a little bit of awkward anticipation. This passage is really good for me, and also hard, and also painful, and also just unknown. I don’t know if you felt the same thing but I do know that God’s discipline is a weird thing to think about. So, let’s dive in and try and see if we can break this down a little more.


Hebrews 12 is all about discipline and I encourage you to read the entire chapter. (you can read it here.) It's saturated with incredible things on God disciplining His children. The writer of Hebrews kinds of breaks it down for us and explains in verse 11 that discipline from God is not the most fun process to be taken through. Although, painful and refining, God disciplines His children in an effort to train us up and take us to ever-increasing levels of faith and pursuit of God. So what does God disciplining us look like? The truth of the matter is it can come in whatever way God sees best. Verse 7 in Hebrews 12 helps clarify saying, “endure hardship as discipline.” Sometimes that looks like a period of time where patience and perseverance is required when waiting on God to do something. Sometimes it looks like a season of crying out to God in faith that he will open a door or answer a long-awaited prayer request. Sometimes it looks like that feeling of conviction you get at a Wesley service where you know you are going to have to make a change in your life (even though that means getting rid of things or people or habits that you like) because you can’t rid yourself of that nauseous feeling in your gut. These things are painful, and the writer of Hebrews tells us that that's the case. But through these this desert, God takes us into a fruitful land where we can flourish. 

This concept can be kind of hard to grasp. How can God send us through hardship and it be good for us? How is that fair? I think from here a couple of distinctions need to be made. First, let me make the distinction between the hardship (that the Hebrews author refers to in Ch. 12 verse 7) and tragedy. God in his goodness and his righteousness doesn’t create tragedy, but from his goodness and righteousness, God may allow it to happen to His children. Second, let me distinguish the difference in discipline and punishment. Punishment is for rebuke and wrath. The attitude here from God is ANGER. Discipline is meant for training, correcting, and growth. The attitude here is LOVE. God sent His son so that we have a way out of the punishment He will bring on those who do not believe in Him as Lord. We, as believers, get to live in the love of Christ as God disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:10b).

God sends us through periods of time that are challenging, and when easy is not what is best to lead us to a future that God has intended. We are loved by our Father and He gives us the patience and perseverance to endure those times of discipline and the grace to learn and gain a knowledge that could not come from any other experience. Check out Romans 5:1-5. It can help clarify that a little. God takes us through this, although hard at first, in order that we may experience “a HARVEST of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained!” That is our hope. That is where the God’s love for us shines. The pain of discipline is worth the harvest.

- Ladd Morgan

Hebrews 10:23-25 - Hope in the Gospel

Hebrews 10:23-25 - Hope in the Gospel

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
— Hebrews 10:23-25 NIV

In preparing to write on this passage I began to let it soak. I took it verse by verse and I really encourage you to do the same. It is really simple but powerful and speaks into living a thankful and hope-filled lifestyle.

This passage is one that should be held close to us. It is one that I think we should use to practically help encourage us to press in and actively let the gospel speak to us daily. The first verse is my favorite. "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." I think this part says it all. We have to actively choose to let the gospel give us hope. All throughout the bible God says: "have hope. I know you. I saved the world. I will take care of you." Yet I forget almost everyday. He is faithful and He is hope. We’re a forgetful people whose hope too often fades. This is why we so desperately need to hear the gospel proclaimed so often. My challenge to you right now is to stop reading and ask God for hope in Him. We are to be desperate for Him and put our hope completely in Him. Ask God to reveal the gospel to you. What He did and who He is. I think reflecting on that is really all need and if that's all you get from this blog that's more than enough.

I also love the second part of this passage. God gave us each other so that when we struggled to seek Him or when needed encouragement we had a support system. What's really cool is that you're in the perfect position to do that now. Seek out others. I challenge you to use others around you. If you have community, be vulnerable with and encourage one another. I think so often we let the fear of rejection keep us from be honest with others or telling others what we think they do well. Anytime that I have pushed past the fear I have experienced more of what God has for me. Sometimes God likes to use others to show us Himself because that's the only way we'll see Him.

pray

My prayer for you is to soak and reflect on God's promises. Sometimes I even write them down. God is faithful, God wants to provide for me, etc... My prayer for you is that you never let yourself be numb to the gospel. I think all of these things are crucial to staying connected with God and letting Him transform your thoughts.

- Laura Lewis