Gratitude Series: Choosing Gratitude

Gratitude Series: Choosing Gratitude

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 ESV


Paul is writing to encourage the church to keep going, and teaching them how to do that well. Part of this advice is to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. He gives them these three actions to perform knowing it will set their minds on truth. He invites them to celebrate, to talk to God, and to give thanks in all circumstances. We are also told to give thanks in everything in Ephesians. That is a rather hard concept for me to grab hold of. Because when I am in a really hard place my last natural response is to give thanks. But I think that is the point. 

Regardless of what our natural reaction is to what life throws at us, Paul is inviting us to give thanks anyways. To choose thankfulness. To wakeup on the really sucky days and instead of drowning in self-pity or expecting the day to go like the last 50 have, to remind ourselves who we are and who God is. To be thankful that our God is good, that he is for us, that his love endures forever, that he saved us, that he is bringing us deeper and deeper into righteousness. I don't think Paul is expecting us to be thankful that our car is broken down, or that we have ben abandoned by people or unloved by the world, I think he wants us to set our eyes again and again on God. Realigning our hope with who God is instead of where we are- this way we can be joyful and thankful regardless of our season because our God never changes. 

So for me, it's as difficult and as simple as speaking out loud, "God, thank you that (insert truth here)". Simple because I'm speaking out what I know to be true of God and difficult because that simple action hurls my soul through the reality that I may not actually believe it... But with every breath I start to. For me right now it's "God thank you that you are good". The more I align myself and my soul with who God is, the more I really do believe it. Choosing to be thankful when I want to throw a 4 year old pity party .. or am .. really helps with that. When things are awesome thankfulness is a natural response - which is amazing and so so fun- but it is much more meaningful and more lasting work when you don't want to do it. Choosing thankfulness will instill in you a resilience, hope, and joy that is rooted in who God is- so it can't be moved. That's worth it. 

pray

Whatever it is that has been bogging you down recently, try and think of who God is over your situation. Now take that truth and thank God that He is who he says He is. He is God over your situation. Pray, "God, thank you that you are good. All the time, no matter what You are good. Teach me how to remember who you are and how to choose gratitude even when life is the worst. Teach me how to rejoice and praise you when everything works out! God instill in me a deep knowledge of your goodness that will push me to praise and thank you everyday. Thank you that I have an insanely large list of things to be grateful for. Open my eyes to all of the ways your kindness has touched me. Come and encounter me today. I love you, amen."

- Merrick

Gratitude Series: Vocalizing Your Gratitude

Gratitude Series: Vocalizing Your Gratitude

How many times do you think about doing something and 5 minutes later it slips your mind?

So many times I have the thought in my head, "I should do this", and then seconds later I have forgotten and am on to the next thing. Sometimes I forgot to pay rent on the first of every month (thankfully there is a three day grace period). Sometimes I look at a text and tell myself I will text the person back later only to never actually text them back. I think this is how it is for us sometimes when it comes to thankfulness. It is something we think about in our head but very rarely follow through. Most of the time when we do vocalize our thankfulness it is in very obvious situations in which we know we should. Like at Christmas when you get a present, or when you go home and mom and dad slip you some gas money and a few groceries. Like when you take communion at church and have nothing to say to God other than "thank you". It is very easy to say thank you in those moments because it is the appropriate response, but I think we miss out on so many opportunities to say thank you in every day life.

where do I start?

There are probably many people in your life who you could thank for something they have done for you or given you. The people who have influence over you would be great people to thank. That might be a mentor or some sort or a parent. You have friends in your life who probably deserve a thank you for sticking with you throughout life and being a constant encourager. Take time to think about people in your life who deserve a thank you, and take time to vocally say thank you to them over the rest of this break.

Voicing thankfulness also doesn't stop with people. You can also voice your thankfulness to God. Yeah, you might feel a little weird driving in your car or sitting in your room thanking God, but hey, why not give it a try? If we can vocalize your thankfulness to other people, I also think we can vocalize our thankfulness to God.

In either way, challenge yourself to vocalize your thankfulness, especially when it isn't easy. Should you still say thank you to the Chick-fil-a cashier when they give you your sauce, drink, and table marker? Definitely. But there are so many other opportunities to vocalize your gratitude other than that. There are so many other people in your life who you should say "thank you" to.

pray

To end, you can pray this:

Jesus, I thank you for what you did for me on the cross. Thank you for your love for me. Thank you for the people you have surrounded me with my entire life. As I voice my gratitude to them for who they are, I pray that you would encourage them and build them up. Place in me a thankful heart, and help me to voice my gratitude to you and the people around me more often. Amen.

- Nick

Gratitude Series: Gratitude as a Weapon

Gratitude Series: Gratitude as a Weapon

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” 

Ephesians 6:10-17


As you have seen throughout this series of blogs, gratitude is a big deal in the kingdom of God & a prevalent theme found in scripture. Gratitude is incredibly powerful – so, today we are going to talk about how to use gratitude as a weapon!!! Ephesians 6:10-17 tells us about the spiritual battle that we fight as the enemy comes against us. This passage gives instructions on how to ‘put on the armor of God’ – and while it does not specifically cite gratitude, this passage highlights the reality that we are equipped, as children of God, with a variety of weapons to fight back when the enemy lies to us, tries to steal from us & discourage us. This ‘armor’ is essentially the tools that God has given us to live free & abundant in the midst of spiritual attack, struggle and hardship.  

However, a weapon is only a weapon if it is used. A sword that is not being wielded by someone is not dangerous. It cannot wage war. If we do not engage with gratitude, if we let it remain an idea of faith rather than an action, it cannot be a weapon. So, the first step is to pick it up is to choose to be thankful. To choose gratitude when we are happy & joyful – when everything is going well & in our favor, when we are at our mountaintop. And to choose it when we are discouraged, when our circumstances are too hard to handle, when we are down, when we feel hopeless, when we are in the valley. Every single time you say thank you to God, you are fighting back, you are waging war against the ways that the enemy is trying to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). 

When we choose gratitude, we are saying that we know who God is & trust that he is moving. When we say thank you, our focus shifts from what God ‘isn’t doing’ or what we lack to what God is doing & all that He has given us. This is incredibly powerful – to say thank you in all circumstances is your greatest weapon against discouragement. Gratitude enables us to live the life God has called us to live regardless of our circumstances, gratitude opens the door to abundant life continually, it creates joy, peace and perseverance. Gratitude enables us to enjoy the life, the people, the purpose that God has given us fully & freely.

a practical step


So, how can this look, practically? Here are a few thoughts:
1. In the morning, before you even get out of bed or look at your phone, tell God 5 things you are grateful for. Start your day in a posture of gratitude.
2. When something hard happens, pause & ask God what you can thank him for. Remember the ways you are grateful so that you protect yourself from spiraling into bitterness because of what you are experiencing. Gratitude & mourning can & should coexist.
3. Tell other people that you are thankful for them & why. This type of choosing gratitude wages war on other’s behalf – when you thank them, you are fighting for them to remember & be affirmed in who God created them to be.

pray

Jesus - Thank you for dying so that I could be set free and live an abundant life. Show me how to use gratitude as a weapon, how to be thankful in all circumstances and how to choose gratitude every day! Thank you for _________!!!! (Just spend the rest of your prayer time intentionally thanking him)

- Megan

Gratitude Series: Gratitude vs. Fear

Gratitude Series: Gratitude vs. Fear

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior” 

Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV


In this passage we see that Habakkuk's crops were not growing and his animals were gone. How was He going to provide for himself or the people around Him? In the midst of all of this Habakkuk rejoiced in the Lord. When reading this scripture, a natural human response would be to fear. To grow scared. To try and control the situation ourself. To put our trust in other humans. To become anxious. But Habakkuk rejoiced. It says “yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” He saw all that was wrong YET He rejoiced in the Lord. He chose to be joyful in God. To look beyond. Instead of focusing on what He wasn't grateful for he chose to turn to what He ultimately was grateful for—God. 

It is easy during this season to be grateful. The holidays are creeping up on us. We get to see family we haven't seen in a while, we get to throw “friendsgivings” and we turn on Christmas music starting Thanksgiving day (or maybe before)—there is a lot to be grateful for, right? But what if we don't have that. What if we are in a season like Habakkuk— where things aren't growing around us, we are lonely and we feel like we are failing. Guess what? We still get to walk into thanksgiving. When our gratitude is rooted in Jesus rather than our circumstances things will start to shift. That heavy anxiety will be cast out by His perfect peace. That situation that is causing fear in our hearts, we get to bring that to Him and let Him overcome fear with His love. By putting our gratitude in Jesus—whether that be what He is doing in you currently or holding on to the victory He won for you on the cross— we usher in His presence. When we are unconditionally rejoicing in who He is we are constantly reminded of the ways that He is moving. When we thank Him for what He is doing—big or small— that continues to give us perspective and clarity of who He is. When our eyes are locked in on Him our hearts will naturally flow out of gratitude. The fear and anxiety will transform into greater trust of who He is, who He says you are and what He is doing in your life.

So my challenge is wherever you are- give thanks. If you are in a season like Habakkuk or not, we get to rejoice. Because He is good (period.) Whether you can list one hundred things you are grateful for or one— rejoice that He is God. That He is good.

pray

God, we say thank you for who you are. Thank you that you are God and that you are good. Would you come and focus our eyes on you this break. That we would look beyond circumstances and at you. Transform our hearts to be more like yours. 

- Gibs

Gratitude Series: What is Gratitude?

Gratitude Series: What is Gratitude?

As we enter into the holiday season, "thankful" becomes a very prominent word in our vocabulary. There is literally a holiday named for this feeling that overwhelms us this time of year. While Thanksgiving as a whole is a gateway into declaring what we are thankful for, we often overlook it's better half: Gratitude.

what is gratitude?

Gratitude is the action that comes from thankfulness. Being thankful is so important, because it unlocks the feelings we have inside for the things that make us who we are, but gratitude and gratefulness are where we show this kindness to others. True gratitude leads us into a place of humility that can further push us into community with those we love, strangers, and God. Understanding that gratitude is an action is important, because we have to surrender our own needs to care for others through genuine love and kindness. 

There are many things that we are thankful for in our lives, and most of the time we genuinely mean what we say when we are thankful. Imagine how different our lives could look if we lived in a place of constant gratitude for the things we have been given, how we are loved, and the relationships we invest it. As move further into this season of thankfulness, begin to think about what your life can look like when you surrender yourself and live a life of gratitude. 

pray

Father,
Thank you. Thank you for what you have given me and how you love me. I am grateful for the choice to love you and the overwhelming love I receive from you. I ask that you help me walk in gratitude in everything that I do. Surrendering all that I am to serve you from the bottom of my heart, giving you everything that I am. Use me to love others and show them their place and value in my life. Help me honor the ones I love by caring for them like you have cared for me. God, I ask that you would be the one who I model my life after by living a life of thanksgiving and truth.
you are good. I am loved by the one who created everything and you chose to create me. Thank you, Jesus. I love you. 

- Kelly

Fruit of the Spirit: Self Control

Fruit of the Spirit: Self Control

 

 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

            Galatians 5:22-23

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love… For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.””

            2 Peter 1:5-7,11


 

 

            Why shouldn’t I?

If I desire something, shouldn’t I satisfy that desire? These are the questions that inevitably come to the forefront of our minds when we’re faced with making a decision. They rest in our subconscious and assert themselves as we choose to do certain things throughout our day. We often view self-control as prudish and having to say no to good or fun things. But what if I told you that having self-control isn’t God keeping you from something good, but protecting you from the very things that will destroy you?

 

When saying NO brings freedom

 

            God wants to set us free from the bondage we put ourselves in. Not only that, but He wants to keep us from continuing to put ourselves in bondage over and over again. I believe there’s a reason for why Paul lists self-control last amongst the fruits of the Spirit. Mainly, that once God grows in us the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness, He gives us self-control to continue to walk in these by resisting the temptation to lose all inhibitions and go back to our former ways. Self-control isn’t flashy, nor is it often “fun”, but it brings freedom by saying NO to the very things that put us in bondage and YES to God and the fruits He grows in us.

            It’s important to know that in Galatians 5:19 Paul lists the works of the flesh and he says in 5:17 that “the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit”. There is a big difference between works of the flesh and fruits of the Spirit. Works can be accomplished instantly to satisfy an urge or desire, but fruits have to be grown and nourished in order to survive. In other words, doing the works of the flesh is EASY, whereas having the fruits of the Spirit grown in you is a painful and sometimes arduous process. Self-control helps you to say NO to the things that might be easy but ultimately steal your joy, peace and love, and say YES to the things that might be hard to see but bring eternal life.   

 

Receiving & Practicing Self-Control

 

            Self-control is itself a fruit of the Spirit, so it’s not going to come just like that. It takes two things: 1) Abiding in the presence of God to nourish the fruit and 2) Actively choosing to have self-control in situations where it’s easy to give in to the desires of your flesh. You have to ask God to grow this fruit in you and then allow the Holy Spirit to help you in making the small decisions. Many times the insurmountable circumstances in our lives tell us that we can’t win this war we’re in, but God gives us self-control through His Spirit that allows us to win the battles in the trenches and ultimately the war.

            And here’s some truth: God’s already won the war. Our lives are all about His victory unfolding on Earth and us becoming aware of it. When you look at the scripture from 2 Peter 1, you see that self-control is part of a progression towards more of God’s love in our lives and Him ushering us into His Kingdom. So why does self-control matter? Because you have the chance to honor God with your small decisions. Because it’s by God’s strength that you get to say no to the things that satisfy instantly, and yes to the things that satisfy eternally. Because He’s already won the war and now you can go win your battle.

pray

God, Grow in us the fruit of self-control and by your grace help us to practice it. Help us to choose you over and over and over again, because you’re the only One who is eternally satisfying. We love you God, come and help us.

Amen

- Adam

Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

Gentleness is often a fruit of the spirit that gets the most overlooked. When we think of gentle, normally we think of those who are weak, passive, or walked on. However, gentleness and submissiveness are not the same thing. God trusts those who are gentle in love. In Matthew 5:5, Jesus said “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.” Gentleness is the humble and meek attitude of wanting to help other people instead of wanting to be superior to them. Jesus handled people in their sins with gentle care but also loved people so much that He wanted what was best for them. He was never shaken, and always steady in God’s will. When we think, speak, and act out of place of gentleness, we are putting our heart is in the right place to be used the way God intended. 

gentleness is powerful

Gentleness is powerful. God has all the power in the universe, yet when we mess up He comforts us with gentleness to lead us back on the right path. Think back to a time when you may have felt hopeless. Whether that hopelessness looked like losing a loved one, feeling stuck in a bad relationship, or not measuring up to what was expected of you. What propelled you out of hopelessness? If I could guess, it was probably gentleness. It was someone that spoke considerate words to you, someone that gave you grace when you messed up, or someone that just tenderly cared for you. Gentleness matters because it displays humility and self-control. When we act gently towards others, we are communicating that our love for them outweighs our own pride. Not only will you love others better when you act in the spirit of gentleness; but God also promises that you will find rest for your soul. 

When Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would be better for us than even Himself, He in part said that because the Holy Spirit is what makes us more Christlike. Therefore, in order to have the fruit of gentleness we must pray and ask the Holy Spirit to make us more like Him because He is the only one who can. By doing so, we are saying no to our self-seeking flesh, and yes to walking in God's abundance. Asking Jesus for gentleness and being obedient to what He says will affect the way you relate to others, the way you correct others, and the way you treat others because you will be more aligned with God's heart.        

pray

Jesus, thank you for your outrageous love for me. Thank you for giving me the Holy Spirit so I can be more like you. Allow me to act with gentleness like you did so I can love others the way you first loved me. Amen.  

-Sarah C

Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness

Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Hebrews 1:11


Faithfulness, like any fruit of the spirit, is something that must be grown. To be faithful means to be true and devoted. Faithfulness is more than just “being there for someone.” Fully developed faithfulness is total commitment and loyalty to God that flies in the face of human reasoning. It’s the difference between simply believing in God and believing his teachings enough to change our lives. Does this seem impossible? It does to me. Complete faithfulness is impossible for us by our own power. But the good news is that we get to partner with God in asking for the grace and strength to remain faithful. As we use the power God gives us through the Holy Spirit to obey and build a relationship with Him, we grown in faith. 

Faithfulness starts with what is right in front of us. As we allow our belief and trust in God to shape our thoughts, words, and actions toward God and others, we automatically begin to attend to the people and situations in front of us. First, Ask yourself: Does my faith place God as the first priority in my life? How? What areas of my life are not completely faithful to God? How can I change them?Ask for help! Then, ask God to grow you in faithfulness in those areas of your life where you aren't being faithful. Ask Him for the grace to remain true.  

What can you practice faithfulness with today?

pray

God, thank you that we don't have to do it alone. Highlight to us what areas of our lives we should be more faithful in. Show us how. We love you, Amen. 

Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness

Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23


When we are living life connected to God’s heart, each of these characteristics of God flow out of us. Throughout the Psalms, we read about the goodness of God—“Taste and see that the Lord is good”…”Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.” So as we seek to understand this fruit of the Spirit, we need to know that goodness can look a lot of different ways, but it will always look like God.

It’s easy to recognize love, generosity, forgiveness, grace, and encouragement as examples of goodness. But what about discipline? Or correction? Or denied requests? These aren’t as pleasant, but are just as good. The goodness of God centers around His heart for your soul’s well-being and wholeness. So living out this fruit of the Spirit looks like any action or choice that pushes you or someone else into more of God. 

Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit that can seem simple, but it has a profound effect on us and the people around us. Anyone can do good things, but the goodness that comes from the Spirit is centered around God. There’s a huge difference in my motives when I don’t spend time with God. Relatively speaking, I still do good things, but my actions become much more self-centered than God-centered. However, when I am connected to the Spirit of God, my actions aren’t about how they benefit me or how they make me appear, but instead they are all about God’s heart for people. 

If you want to live out this fruit of the Spirit, it’s relatively straightforward:

- Spend time with God. He’s good. Connect with His heart, so His goodness overflows out of you.
- Do good things. Serve others. Be kind. Encourage a friend. Talk to someone who is lonely. Live generously. Have the hard conversations.
- As you do good, let your motives be centered around God instead of yourself. 

pray

God, you are good. Help me to believe more than ever before that you are actually good all the time. I want to taste and see that you are good. I want to see your goodness overflowing out of me. If there is any selfish motive in my heart, please address it within me. I love you, Lord. Amen

- Tim

Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32


The bible talks about kindness over and over again (check out Ephesians 4:32, Hebrews 13:2, and Proverbs 3:3!) It’s pretty clear and straightforward that God cares about the way we treat people. He values kindness so much so that it’s one of the Fruits of the Spirit – one of the traits that our lives should exhibit because we know and follow him (Galations 5:22). He doesn’t just want us to “be kind”, he wants kindness to be part of who we are. He wants our lives to be marked by an overflow of Him that shows through the fruit in our lives – part of that is an overflow of kindness!

Kindness doesn’t always come naturally. When we get a bad grade back or when we are feeling sick or when we are having car troubles, the last thing we want to do is smile at our barista or ask the person next to us on the bus how their day is going. The kindness we show tends to be dependent on our circumstances. If we are having a great day, sure, we’ll be kind. When it’s easy, we will be kind. If not, we usually won’t. It won’t hurt anyone right? We don’t gain anything, and if we’re honest, the person we are being kind to doesn’t gain that much either.
Issue is, that’s not the kindness Jesus was talking about.

Jesus was talking about a kindness that doesn’t make any sense. He meant doing things for others when we will get absolutely nothing in return. He meant being friendly, generous, and considerate even when it’s not the easy option. It’s going out of our way to do the right thing, even when the person did nothing to deserve it. True, unwavering kindness goes against what the world tells us. The world and our culture tell us to get mad, to seek revenge, to only love people as much as they love us. Jesus tells us to be kind anyway.

We can only love people from our own strength and power for so long, but when we partner with the Holy Spirit, that’s when we learn how to live in the kindness that Jesus talks about. When we decide to start letting the Holy Spirit into our day to day and letting God be our focus and center, that’s when kindness becomes easy. As is becomes easier, it starts to flow out of us more freely. As that happens, kindness becomes natural and we start to live out of the overflow of kindness that God shows us everyday.

pray

God, thank you for your kindness. Thank you for being the perfect example and showing us your kindness everyday in the big and small things. Teach me how to live a life filled with your kindness. Amen.

- Sarah T.

Fruit of the Sprit: Patience

Fruit of the Sprit: Patience

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Galatians 5:22-23


Patience is something that we are called and empowered to live in when we follow Jesus. Theoretically patience makes all the sense in the world and is a really idyllic tool for when we haven’t seen the fruit of our prayers and desires yet. But put into practice, patience is really hard. It requires us to set down the things we are hoping for and believe that the goodness of God is going to come through anyway.

I am in the middle of a season of my life where a lot of patience is required of me, and because there are a lot of things I dream for, I find myself here pretty often. What I’ve found is that when patience is asked of you, your heart does a really good job of revealing the nasty stuff that has been hiding. Things like jealousy, entitlement, manipulation, anxiety, unbelief, and irritation can really easily become your best friends - This happens when you forget who God is because you are so fixed on what you don’t have yet. 

While our hearts get more pure as these things come up and we get to deal with them, God has shown me that the key to waiting well is actually him! This sounds pretty cliche but has revolutionized my ability to hope for the future and still be fully present and excited where I am. Once I realized the goodness I was expecting out of the fulfilled dream/hope/promise was already in God, I stopped feeling like I would be thriving once I didn’t have to wait anymore. Patience no longer feels like an in-between purposeless time of waiting, but is transforming into a beautiful space of building faith where I get to partner with God and believe him for things I don’t see yet. Patience is amazing because it teaches you to believe God for who he is and set your life on Him instead of being tossed by circumstances and what you do or don’t have yet. Learning how to be patient with God and with others also invites you to see into the things in your heart that REALLY want to get their way but can’t, and then pursue everyday with purity. 

pray

Invite God in, to redeem patience and give you revelation of what having patience looks like in your life. Pray, “Father thank you for who you are. Thank you that you are so wildly good that all of my anxiousness, all of my circumstances, all my frustrations get to be redefined by your goodness. Thank you God that you teach me how to abide in you when things are amazing and when things aren’t. Teach me how to press into your goodness when I’m waiting for things that aren’t here yet. Teach me how to switch my focus from some tangible thing fulfilled to my you, because you are good to me right now. Thank you for who you are. Come and encounter me today. I love you so much, amen.”

- Merrick

Fruit of the Spirit: Peace

Fruit of the Spirit: Peace

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness...


Throughout the Bible there are many different references to peace with varying meaning. You have peaceful relationship with God because of Jesus' death on the cross. Because of the Holy Spirit, you may have peace of mind in situations where you might otherwise feel stress or anxiety. While God manifests peace in your life in both of those ways, in this verse, Paul is using peace to describe peace and harmony between individuals.

When it comes to relationships, it is easy to have peace with the people you spend most of your time with. That's why you like them most likely, because it is easy for you to be around them. You probably see eye to eye when it comes to topics, you are in similar stages of life, and you might have a great history together. While the Holy Spirit produces peace in your life in those easy relationships, it is also easy to brush aside the relationships with people in your life who you don't get along, don't see eye to eye with, and maybe have a rough history with. The fruit of peace in your life shouldn't be bound to particular people, but should instead flow into all relationships in your life. Peace should be carried with you to all people, despite place or circumstance.

what does peace look like for you?

Peace in relationships with others might look differently than what you would expect. It doesn't mean you let people run over you. It doesn't mean you don't talk about difficult things with people. To have peace in your interactions with other people means that you value them as a son or daughter of Christ above all else. It might mean that you choose to show people grace and forgiveness when it comes to how they have wronged you in the past. It might mean that you talk to the person or group of people that you disagree with, or are very different than you, and be receptive to what they have to say. Peace from the Holy Spirit allows you to be in relationship with people who you would otherwise never be able to.

peace

To end, think about people in your life who you think would benefit from you bringing peace with you next time you interact with them. It might be a roommate, friend, or family member. Ask God to fill you with humility and peace. Ask Him to give you ideas of what it looks like for you to carry the peace of Christ with you.

- Nick

Fruit of the Spirit: Joy

Fruit of the Spirit: Joy

I feel like joy is one of those things that we all know we have access to, we want to have it, but we can’t quite put our finger on what it actually is. We often associate joy with a feeling - particularly happiness. We think of joyful people as those that smile, those who enjoy life, those who would say they are ‘happy.’ However, if you look at scripture, you find that joy is not attributed as merely an emotion, but rather a state of being that can be had in all circumstances by the power of the Holy Spirit.

James 1:2 says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds..” I don’t know about you, but when I am under trials of many kinds I do not smile, I am not enjoying my life and I am not happy - at least not while I am in the middle of it. However, we can still have joy in trials - because joy is not the emotional reaction you have to your circumstances, joy is the ability to rest in hope & trust of God’s goodness in the midst of any circumstance. Joy is equally accessible in the best of times & the hardest times - it is not contingent on circumstances, it is contingent on the Holy Spirit. You can have joy when you are angry, sad, frustrated - as long as you remember who God is & who he says you are. Isaiah 55:12 says “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace.” This section in Isaiah is titled “Invitation to the Thirsty” - this verse indicates that joy is also a direction, a posture that you inhabit as you live life with God.

Translation: If you are living a life surrendered to the Holy Spirit, you can always have joy.

So, how do we live in this posture? Now that we know we can have joy, what does that practically look like? “Going out in joy” looks like remembering God’s character when we don’t understand our circumstances. It looks like spending time reflecting on God’s promises, reading his word\listening for his voice, it looks like choosing to hope when our circumstances tempt us to doubt & despair. It looks like looking at our trials through the lens of what God can do through them. It looks like giving ourselves to worship when we are discouraged.

Joy is not a 12 step process, it is not a formula - it is simple. It is a state of being that we gain more and more of as we surrender every part of our lives to the Holy Spirit’s truth, leading and direction. My encouragement to you today is to spend time meditating on God’s character and asking for more of the Holy Spirit - as you do that, joy will come! 

- Megan

Fruit of the Spirit: Love

Fruit of the Spirit: Love

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. 

Galatians 5:22-23


Paul tells us in Galations that we are to live and walk out of the Spirit rather than the flesh. And Paul tells us that the Fruit from walking in the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The Fruit is a result of the Holy Spirit’s presence in each of us. We were born in the image of Christ. And the Holy Spirit works through each of us to make us more and more like Jesus. 


Our whole life is us being transformed to look, talk, walk, speak and be like Jesus. Love is just one way that we get to be more like Him. We talk about love all the time but I wanted to see exactly who Jesus tells us to love.

Jesus tells us to:
love Him (Matthew 22:37-39)
love ourselves (John 13:34-35)
love one another (Matthew: 22:39)
love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48)

We are human, and it sometimes is hard to love our best friends let alone people who have really hurt us. But that is where the Holy Spirit comes in. We get to rely on the the Holy Spirit in each of us. That means when your roommate doesn't do the dishes—that we still are called to love them. Or when our parents are frustrating when we go home over break— we still are called to love them. Or when someone intentionally does something to hurt us— we are still called to love them. God doesn't call us to be best friends with every single person on this earth, but He does call us to love everyone. In John 3:16 we are told that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” That doesn't say that God so loved the people who loved Him or God so loved the people who were easy to love. That wasn't a conditional statement. It says that He so loved the world. And so with the Holy Spirit inside of us we also get to love the world. My challenge to you is to start to ask Him for eyes to see people like He does. Ask that you would be able to see through His lens through ours. Think of how He loves you and then you get to model that to everyone around you. 

pray


God, I thank you that you so love the world and you gave your one and only son for us. Thank you that we get to become like you more and more everyday. God, would you come and make us more aware of the way you love and the way you see your children. Come and let us love more like you do. 

- Gibs

Time to Grow: The Parable of the Talents

Time to Grow: The Parable of the Talents

 14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver[b] to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip. 16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money. 19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

Matthew 25: 14-20 NLT


The message is similar between these two passages. Both masters entrusted their money to the slaves and workers. In both parables, most of the servants proceeded to invest the money and turned it into far more than what they had been given. There was on servant in each story who was too afraid and lazy to do anything with the money they had been given and just buried it away, not to be touched until the master returned.

The authors use these parables to teach us that we are servants, and we have the choice to invest the things we have been given or simply waste the time we have been given until the master returns. There are "good and faithful" servants who use their [talents] and invest them well, and then their are lazy servants who choose to bury what they have been given because they are afraid of the master. The master rewards the ones who invest the money well and rebukes the one who did not put in the effort to grow his investment. 

what does this mean for us?

We are given the Spirit of God, which is to be used for the work of the Kingdom. We have the choice to invest what we have been given by pouring out our own understanding and belief in Jesus to those around us who do not know Him. This, in turn, can grow the Kingdom of God exponentially when people continue to invest in others.

We have been given limited time on this earth, and we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Because we have chosen to live a life with Jesus and choose to serve him, we have been entrusted with the authority to minister to others through the power of the Holy Spirit. When we honor this mission and pour out our lives to God's people, we will be rewarded in heaven. If we choose to bury or postpone our investment, then we are not honoring the very gift we did not ever deserve, but were so selflessly given. 

We are called to follow Jesus through it all. These parables seem harsh at first, but the servants who took the time and effort to grow the what they had been given were rewarded with more than they ever imagined.

We should be like the servants who invested the money for their master. Though they did not know when their masters were returning, they still did as they were told and were rewarded for their work. Jesus has invested all he is in us, and we should pour that back out into our communities, dorms, classes, homes, and everywhere. We should not bury what the Lord has given us, because laziness will not be rewarded. We should be excited that he has entrusted his Holy Spirit within us, and we will be rewarded in the Kingdom of Heaven for choosing to invest in things that are bigger than us. 

pray

Father,
We come to you and ask that you would show us how to love those around us and invest what you have so willingly given us. You chose to invest in me, and I want to honor you by pouring it back out in the most desperate places. Don't let me be lazy with my talents, but help me use them to further your kingdom. When I get frustrated or lazy, bring me back to you and guide me with your purpose and vision.

I thank you for who you are and who you created me to be. Help me be like the servants who chose to honor their masters, because I want to honor you with all that I am!!

Father, I love you. I am yours. Use me.
Amen.

- Kelly

Forgiven: The Parable of the Prodigal Son

Forgiven: The Parable of the Prodigal Son

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:22-24


This story is one of the most popular parables that Jesus told. It is a beautiful picture of the boundlessness of God’s compassionate love for each and every one of us. Each time I read this parable, I notice something different about the way God loves us. This time I was struck with the realization that even while the prodigal son was away, squandering his money and literally hitting rock bottom, the father still loved him. He didn't wait for him to come home and issue a formal apology. He didn't make him earn his trust back. He didn't make him work for it. He still chased after him before the prodigal could even mutter the first words of an apology. 

This is how the Father is with us. I think it’s easy to think that God is angry at us or that He loves us less when we are away from Him and living in sin. It wouldn’t make sense for God to forgive us and love us anyway, even when we don’t want it. Just like it wouldn’t make since for the father to forgive and love the prodigal son even though he knew that he was deeply hurting and disrespecting his father. But this is how God is with us. Even when we choose against him - even when we spit in His face with our actions- His love never wavers. He never has to wonder if He’s going to forgive us. He never has to convince Himself to love us anyway. He runs towards us with open arms, rejoicing when we choose Him and come home. 

This applies to you, too, you are not the exception to this forgiveness. And I think this story also serves as an example to us. We are to be people who forgive in this same way. When we live out of the knowledge that we are unconditionally loved and forgiven, we can give that same love and forgiveness freely. 

pray

God, Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for loving me no matter what. Thank you for giving me the constant forgiveness that a don’t deserve. Help me to be more like you. Amen.

- Clare

Give it all away?: The Parable of the Rich Fool

Give it all away?: The Parable of the Rich Fool

"Someone in the crowd said to [Jesus], “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods, And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ‘But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Luke 12:13-21 ESV


perhaps i should give away..everything?

Not quite. We need to understand what God is truly asking of us. For starters, we should hone in on the last couple lines of scripture:

 

            ‘But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you     have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is    not rich toward God.”

 

            God is calling us ALL to something extremely counter-cultural here, and that is generosity. Generosity isn’t haphazardly giving away everything you have, it’s dying to yourself to love others with the resources God has given you. This honors God and frees us from self-dependency and pushes us into deeper dependency on God as our provider. It’s that point of no return where we abandon our selfish desires in order to provide for the needs of those around us, and we do it all because we want them to know how loved and sought after they are by God.

            If we understand God to be the Creator of all things and provider of our needs, then EVERYTHING He gives to us is a gift. Life itself is a gift, the food we eat is a gift, the friends we have are gifts, the air we breathe is a gift. In fact, in Matthew 6 Jesus says that our “heavenly Father knows that [we] need them all.” So if everything we have in life is a gift from our heavenly Father AND we believe that He’s going to always give us these things because He knows we need them, then who are we to say we earned it and it’s ours to keep??

            You see, we are supposed to enjoy these things because they are good gifts. And when we enjoy these good gifts two things happen: 1) We want to thank the One who gave them to us and 2) We want to invite others to partake in what we’ve been freely given. Both of these things very much please God and are acts of storing our treasures in Heaven. So no, you don’t have to give away everything, but we are called to give away cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:6-7) by thanking God and using what we have to address the needs of others by leveraging our resources to bless the body of Christ as well as those who are far from God. Matthew 6:21 says that “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” So I’ll leave you with a simple question: At the end of all days, where do you want your heart to be? 

pray

King Jesus,

     We ask that our hearts would be found with you in Heaven. Free us from covetousness and greed. Free us from selfishness and worry. We want to depend on you and you alone Jesus. Show us how.

Amen 

- Adam

Justice: The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Justice: The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 

Matthew 18:21-27 NIV

Read the whole parable here.

It is for our good that we love others the way God loves us. In these verses, Jesus explains that forgiveness is a massive deal to God. Peter is asking Jesus what the standard of forgiveness looks like; but Jesus says to Peter that there is no limit to how much we forgive, only that choose to do it. Just like the master canceled the servant‘s debt, we must cancel the debt that we believe others owe us. When we choose forgiveness, we choose the Kingdom of Heaven. When we choose unforgiveness, we are choosing to let pain and hurt have power over us.

Forgiveness leads to freedom. Whether we admit it or not, there have been experiences in our life that have hurt us. Whether they are caused by other people or ourselves, the reality is that wrongdoing takes place and it can be hard to move past it. Sometimes we think that moving past it means saying to ourselves “it’s okay” over and over again. However, the reason why we might not have gotten freedom from our hurt is because it actually isn’t okay. Being hurt was never God’s plan or intention for you. Though because He cancels our debt and paid the price in full, He gets to be the one who decides justice not you.  

You are responsible for what happens inside of you as things happen to you. When you are hurt, it’s important that you acknowledge to Him that you are hurt, invite God into your process of forgiveness, and keep choosing forgiveness until you are no longer affected by what hurt you. This doesn’t mean you have to pursue or mend a relationship again. It just means that you let go of the idea that you are owed something in return, and trust that God will be your restorer and redeemer. He is good despite any circumstances, and loves you so much that He died to make your life whole. Give Him the chance to speak into your pain and He will clothe you in the abundance that you’ve been searching for.      

pray

Father, thank you that you are willing to cancel all my debt. Thank you that your love and mercy is indescribable. Give me eyes to see everyone in my life, including myself, the way you do. Allow me to replace bitterness with forgiveness, and take steps towards your freedom. Amen.     

- Sarah C.

Who is my Neighbor?: Parable of the Good Samaritan

Who is my Neighbor?: Parable of the Good Samaritan

 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:25-37 NIV

Jesus shares the parable of the good Samaritan in response to a religious leader’s question of “who is my neighbor?” In his story, Jesus tells of a priest and a Levite, both religious leaders, who walk by the dying man on the road. Both avoid the man and choose not to help. Then Jesus describes the way the Samaritan notices the man, has compassion on him, and takes care of his needs. A powerful story with a profoundly simple truth—A religious title doesn’t make you a good neighbor; your actions make you a good neighbor.

It’s crazy how directly this story applies to our lives. Take a second to think about it…

We are constantly surrounded by people—roommates, hallmates, classmates, people in the dining hall, friends. AND we are regularly exposed to their needs—stress from school, bad days, friends who are sick, peers who are lonely.

More than we realize, we have these good Samaritan opportunities throughout our week. We could convince ourselves that we’re fine because we go to Freshley, and justify our inaction towards those around us. OR we can notice these people and meet their needs. If you want to follow the teachings of Jesus and be a good neighbor, your life is going to look like loving those around you. There’s really no other way around it. God is calling you to care for others—even if it’s inconvenient.

The Samaritan took care of the dying man by bandaging his wounds, taking him to an inn, caring for him, and paying for his stay. It wasn’t just helping; it was extravagant love. The dude was a complete stranger, but the Samaritan had mercy and showed a ton of grace. How could this look in your life? It may look like reaching out to lonely people. It may look like listening to someone who’s having a hard day. It may look like giving food to someone in need. It could look like a lot of different things, but it definitely doesn’t look like inaction. Love does; neighbors do.

pray

Jesus, I pray that you give me your eyes for those around me. I want to be a neighbor, so help me notice their needs. Give me the grace and the compassion to reach out to people who are struggling. Give me your love for others. I pray that as I love other people, they will know you more, Jesus.
Amen. 

- Tim

It's About the Heart: Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector

It's About the Heart: Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-4 ESV


In this passage, Luke is recalling a parable that Jesus taught in which he tells a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector. During this time, a Pharisee was a strict, self-righteous religious person. The Pharisees believed they had it all together and were above others because they lived what they believe was the "right" way. Tax collectors, on the other hand, weren't viewed very highly in society. They were cheaters and traitors. People hated tax collectors. Both the Pharisee and the tax collector were in the wrong, but there is a stark contrast in how they communicate with God in the passage. The Pharisee prays a self-serving prayer and thanks God that he is above and better than the people around him. The tax collector asks God for mercy and forgiveness and admits that he is a sinner. What Jesus has to say about the two prayers makes it clear about which prayer he prefers. He says that the one who humbles himself (the tax collector) with be exalted and the one who exalts himself (the Pharisee) will be humbled. God blesses the tax collector, not the Pharisee. 

The tax collector was exalted and justified not because of anything he did. Contrary to what the Pharisee proclaimed, there was actually no amount of fasting or tithing that could "please" God enough. God just saw the humble and repentant position of the tax collector's heart and sent him to his house justified. That's right, God called the hated by society, self-proclaimed sinner, tax collector justified! 

It’s the same with us. There is no amount of good works, rule following, or bible reading that can make God approve or choose us any more than he already does. He just wants our hearts to be on him. He wants our honest selves – no matter how confused or messed up we think we are. 

pray

God, forgive me for the ways I have made following you about rule following pr performing. Help me to position my heart and focus my eyes on you today. Thank you that you see me and you love me, no matter where I’ve been, what I’ve done, or where I am now. Amen.

- Sarah T.