One Easy Step to the Perfect Life

In a world that's constantly pushing us to become better, self-improve and have a perfect life, it's easy to lose focus. But what does it really take to lead a better life? Click here to read more.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of lifestyle-improvement pins popping up on my Pinterest feed. Has anyone else noticed this new trend happening? Maybe it’s not quite so new. No matter where you go on the Internet, there’s all kinds of blog posts, Pinterest boards and Instagram accounts showing you how to life the “perfect life”. There are diets, lifestyles and financial habits that are guaranteed to help you enjoy life.

Discontent? We all know money can’t buy happiness—but maybe something else can. We get caught up in trying to be healthy or financial fit or by being more minimalist in our lifestyle choices. If more isn’t the answer to happiness, maybe less is.

We can get so caught up in trying to improve our lives that we forget why we are here to begin with—myself included. We forget that we aren’t here to have a perfect life, but that we are here to serve others. If I get to the end of my life and didn’t have the wedding I wanted to or my dream job but showed God’s love to others, I filled my purpose.

Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that striving for a job you are passionate about or trying to cut down on your possessions is a bad thing. What I am saying is that when those things take place of what God has called us to do as His servants, we may need to do some re-prioritizing. Those things are worth pursuing, but in their place.

I think that sometimes, we spend so much time trying to enjoy life and savour the moment that we forget about the One who has created this life and these moments and this world. Sometimes I find myself not enjoying whatever I’m doing because I’m too concerned about getting the perfect picture of it to share it to Instagram (anyone want to guess what my favourite social site is?). I often have to remind myself that it doesn’t matter if I share it or not; I need to be here and present and available to be used by God. If I spend so much time worrying about the best way to live my life but never really make myself available to God, I have not truly served Him and I will be discontent.

Whenever I’m feeling discontent about life, I tend to try to fill it with different things. I may go shopping and buy that “one thing” I’ve been wanting. I might grab onto the latest trend of a good lifestyle and chase after it for a month before dropping it. But the only thing that really grounds me is spending time with God. Just me and Him. Resting in His presence, studying His Word and building my relationship with Him. We talk about life and stuff that’s happening. Sometimes I’m thanking Him for everything He’s provided me with and other times I’m just being still.

When we worship God, we get our perspective back. We realize Who’s in charge and Who is the center of our lives. We realized what really matters—pursuing the One who loves us more than we will ever know instead of trying to live the best life that is like a dot on an eternal timeline.

When I get to the end of my life, I think I can deal with a regret like not getting the perfect job or achieving each one of my goals. What I’m not sure I’ll get over is regretting not spending more time with my King.

Today, I want to challenge you to focus on pursuing God rather than a perfect life. When you put Him first, everything else will fall in place.

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When Serving Your Church isn’t a Privilege

As Christians, we know that serving in the church is expected of us. But what happens when serving isn't a privilege anymore, but an obligation? Click here to read about how to find joy in serving.

I was raised in the church. I went to nursery, Busy Bees, Sunday School, Tuesday night youth and Friday night young adults. I also go to a fair-sized church, which allows me to enjoy being a part of lots of different programs. I could get involved in lots of different ways, and I loved (and still do) being a part of a larger church family.

But somehow, I lost my identity as a Christian in there. I’m not sure how it happened, but eventually I forgot why I was there. I was serving, worshiping and fellowshiping, but occasionally I would wonder why.

Then doubts started happening. If I’m not sure why I’m here, does that make me a bad Christian? Aren’t Christians supposed to have purpose? Meaning?

I felt a little empty. Christians are supposed to be fulfilled because we’re the ones who have been saved and filled with the joy of the Lord! What’s going on here?

I realized that it’s actually quite simple. In serving my church, I was doing, but not experiencing. There’s a difference.

Sometimes we just get busy and lose our focus. We can get distracted by everything that has to be done that we forget the One who’s behind it all and that we’re actually doing it all for Him. I think we get really used to sitting back and watching the show instead of actually being in the cast.

Psalm 34:8 says,

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

The Bible tells us to experience God, not observe Him. We are to “taste” the Lord’s goodness and “see” His work. The dictionary defines the verb to see as this:

  1. Perceive with the eyes; discern visually
  2. Discern or deduce mentally after reflection or from information; understand

We are not called merely to observe the Lord’s goodness, but to reflect on it; understand it. I have served in my church, but how many times have I gone home after volunteering and thought about how God is working through me and everyone else at that particular event? How many times have I thanked God for what He’s doing in the lives of the youth as I serve them?

It’s so easy to just try to get through and get things done as we fulfill our roles as part of the Body of Christ. But eventually, we get burned out. We become weary. We get tired and wonder if we’re really doing any good or if we’re really making a difference.

In Galatians 6:9 – 10, Paul reminds us:

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Paul repeats this admonishment in 2 Thessalonians 3:13 as well.

Next time you’re feeling tired from serving, remember that there is more to it than just doing. Ask God to help you experience His goodness and joy as you serve Him. The latter part of Psalm 34:8 says, “Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” What you do will not be done in vain if done for the Lord and not for man.

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Being a True Encouragement

We all want to encourage our friends. But how exactly should we do that? Is there a "right" way to encourage others? Find out here!

We’ve all had those times when our friends are going through a really rough time or have a less-than-pleasurable experience coming up. They pour their hearts out to us and sometimes we just don’t know what to say. This world is no stranger to suffering. We’ve all experienced hard spots in our lives at one time or another.

As a sister in Christ, it can be so hard to know what to say. Just saying “It’s going to be okay” seems like so little. One of my friends once said, “People tell you it’s going to be okay. But how do you know that? How can you say that when you don’t really know if it’s going to be okay? Maybe it will never be okay.” I had to agree with her. We all want to help our friends, but giving them a hug and offering well-meaning advice just isn’t enough sometimes.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, it says:

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

As Christians, we know we are supposed to encourage and be encouraged. But how do we encourage? How do we truly speak to someone and “build one another up” in Christ.

Before I talk about how to encourage, a couple of words on how not to encourage.

Flattery.

Flattering people is not encouraging. Although we sometimes think we’re being nice or polite to people, flattery is actually a form of deception according to the Bible. Romans 16:17 – 18:

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.

Obviously, this verse is talking about flattery in the stronger sense of the word. What I’m talking about is over-complimenting. Complimenting is fine and a nice thing to do, but it must be sincere. Flattery is usually done to earn favour for yourself, rather than for the benefit of the other person.

Reason.

Telling people it’s going to be okay because things usually work themselves out isn’t usually very encouraging, but it can depend on the situation. Generally, if something sad or tragic has happened, telling someone that time heals all wounds isn’t going to help. Saying something along the lines of, “things can only get better” may be reasonable, but not always true and not truly encouraging. If someone is really hurting, that’s usually the last thing they want to hear.

So what is real encouragement? Here are five ways to encourage each other.

Be a witness.

One way to encourage others is to share with them what Christ has done for you. I have had a a few opportunities to do this. When I was fourteen, my ten-year-old brother was diagnosed with leukemia. Of course, this was really hard on the whole family, but now I’m able to share how God stayed near to me through the whole experience and how He came through. (My brother has now been cancer-free for three years since finishing treatment!)

Remember, although you may be going through a really rough time, God is bigger. Even if you can’t feel Him right now, He is there if you cry out to Him. And He does come through. Every time.

Share your faith.

And by “faith”, I mean the actual faith—the mustard seed kind, not religion. So what I mean here is remind other Christians about what they believe and what you believe. God is powerful, and we can trust Him. Trials test our faith and God will reward the faithful. Sometimes, we run low on faith. Telling someone to get it together is not going to help. We need to be strong for our friends and add to their faith when it’s running low. Seeing other people’s faith often encourages us in our own. Be that other person to someone.

…that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (Romans 1:12)

Prayer.

What greater way to encourage someone than through prayer? Ask the ultimate Encourager to be near to them in the darkest moments. Pray with people, too. I always feel so encouraged after praying with a close friend. Not only does it remind you that you’re not alone in this, but that you’re together in Christ.

Being together.

Hebrews 10:24 – 25 says this:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Sometimes we just need togetherness. Fellowshipping (i.e. hanging out) with other Christians can be a huge encouragement. Relationships are built and in a corporate setting, worship itself is an encouragement. Sometimes we just need to take a step back and remind ourselves who’s in control of everything and that He loves us.

Finally, love.

Know that you are loved and then go love others. Love requires self-sacrificing service, and when we serve others, we are an encouragement to them. We show Christ’s love and remind our friends how much they are loved by Christ.

…that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ… (Colossians 2:2)

Those are my thoughts on how to be an encouragement to others. What are some ways that you have been encouraged? Let me know!

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Allowing God to Use Us in Our Fear

As Christians, God asks us to step out of our comfort zones for Him. But how do we work through our fear and get to where He wants us? Click here to read about our fear and how God can work through us!

Remember when you were just a kid and you were suddenly inspired to ride your bike without training wheels? It was like you had a burst of courage, ready to step into a new frontier of big-kid-ness.

 

My brother, two years younger than me, had this experience at the age of four. I did not. But if there’s anything about being a big sister, it’s the unwritten rule that you must always be more proficient than your brothers at everything to keep them in their place.

 

Apparently, six-year-olds don’t have a whole lot of pride, and my young reputation was not enough to convince myself to try to ride a bike without training wheels. No way.

 

No, to this day I am not riding a bike with training wheels. In fact, I went on to learn how to drive a golf cart at the age of eleven, a four-wheeler at the age of sixteen (well, sorta…but that’s another story), a car at the age of seventeen and a manual transmission about six months ago. (Next up: boat.)

 

My parents eventually got me on just two wheels by openly shaming me into it (I guess I did have some pride). If my four-year-old brother could ride a bike, I—a big girl of six—surely could.

 

The reason I didn’t want to learn how to ride without training wheels wasn’t because I liked training wheels. They were actually kinda annoying—wobbly and noisy and for babies. But I was too afraid to try riding without training wheels. My dad assured me he would hold the back of the bicycle seat so I wouldn’t fall. “You won’t let go, right Daddy?”

 

“Nope. I’ll hang on the whole way down.”

 

Did I mention we lived in the country and had a 50-mile-long gravel driveway?

 

Well, my dad held onto the back of my bike and away we went. After what felt like two seconds, I looked back and he was standing at the top of the driveway. I was halfway down the driveway. Panic ensued. The result: scraped knees and tears.

 

This story reminds me of how often we resist the Holy Spirit when He tells us to do something. He wants us to move into unfamiliar territory—the kind that will urge us into complete reliance on Him. So often we feel that firm nudge but respond with, “Is that actually You, Lord? ‘Cause that seems like a strange thing to do. It will hurt if I fall. I’d rather feel stable where I am.”

 

The problem with being in a stable area of life is that we start thinking we got this. When you feel in control, you don’t cry out for help.

 

There will be times that God asks us to do things we just flat-out don’t want to do. There have been times that God has asked me to do something and my answer has been no. “No, God, I can’t. I want to make You happy, but I just can’t.”

 

And yet, through tears and heartache, I hear the ever-gentle, “No, you can’t. But I can. I can because I AM.”

 

Folks, He really is enough. And when you really, truly, in your heart of hearts know that He is going to be holding your bicycle seat all the way, you can enjoy the ride. You can focus on how you ride instead of how you’re staying on. And even when it feels like He’s still standing at the top of the driveway, He is really right beside you. Guess what? You might still crash.

 

But if it means being in God’s will and enjoying the life He has set before me, I would rather crash on two wheels than be safe on four.

 

Let me encourage you to say yes to God in something He is asking you to do, big or small. Fully rely on Him. He will show His power to you if you let Him.

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Being Pure in Every Aspect of Life

When we hear "purity", we usually think of sexual purity. But have you ever stopped to think about being pure in other areas of your life? God asks us to live holy and pure lives, but how do we do that? Click here to read more!

If you went to youth group as a teen, there’s little doubt that at some point, you got “the talk” from your youth pastor or small group leader. Everyone knew that sexual purity was going to be discussed; the question was if it would be in large group or in segregated small groups. And you definitely did not want to be sitting beside the guy you liked during said “talk”. Awkward.

We spent so much time talking about sexual purity in youth group that I think we forgot about something just as important: purity in every area of life.

It’s really easy to agree with the fact that we should have a sexually pure lifestyle. But what about laughing at a suggestive joke? Using coarse language (whether that’s taking God’s name in vain or not)?

Purity is something that isn’t talked about a whole lot, but there are several verses on it. In the Old Testament, God’s people were required to make sacrifices in order to keep themselves pure before God. In the New Testament, there are many verses about purity. In 1 Peter 3, Peter shows us that purity is powerful. In verses 1 & 2, he tells his readers:

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

When we are pure, people notice. And Peter says that being respectful and pure are two important traits that a woman can use to bring her husband to Christ—without a word. Wow.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been in situations where we were all hanging out at youth group or young adults and someone shared the sanitized or “Christian” version of a dirty joke. The kind you wouldn’t pick up on if you were completely naïve, but was also too easy to read into. Everyone kind of laughs, like they know they shouldn’t, but hey—it’s funny. We’re all Christians. It’s like there’s a mutual understanding that we all know we shouldn’t laugh, but we won’t judge each other if we do.

The truth is, purity matters. It stands out when you refuse to participate in anything not honouring to God. When you give up your popularity to make Jesus proud, you stop blending in.

Maybe that’s what’s so scary.

Maybe we’re afraid of standing out. We are Christians and want to act as such, but we don’t want to look super righteous or be called a goody two-shoes. We don’t want to take any risks. But the reality is that being pure is an essential part of the Christian faith and lifestyle.

The latter part of 1 Timothy 5:22 says,

…nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.

If Christ has made us righteous before God, has he not made us pure? Why then, if we are made righteous in Christ, should we try to hide that?

If we take purity out of the picture, we are hiding the evidence of our faith. Click To Tweet

Please also notice in the above verse: we are not to take part in others’ sins; our responsibility is ourselves. I’m not saying you should preach to everyone who tells a distasteful joke, nor that you should develop a “holier than thou” attitude. Purity should be paired with humility. What I am saying is that we must choose purity for ourselves.

In 1 Timothy 4:12 & 16a, Paul encourages Timothy, a young man serving the Lord, with these words:

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (…) Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. (…)

Paul encourages Timothy to not only be pure, but to be an example. To stand out. To set a high standard for himself. In verse 16, Paul adds that Timothy must guard himself and focus on the Word. Purity does not come easily, ladies. It requires us to watch our behaviour and focus on Christ. It doesn’t just happen.

Today, let me encourage you to seek purity in all things. By being pure, you are being a powerful witness to others. You’re saying that your values matter more than your reputation. Christ matters more than your comfort. I challenge you to set yourself apart by doing everything out of purity.

 

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