[I’m Not] In My Feelings: Choosing My Faith Over My Flesh

I may lose some friends and followers over this post. I may even get some hateful comments, or be called a goody-two-shoes, a hater, or a prude. It wouldn’t be the first time. My heart here really is not to come off as any of those things. It isn’t to be prideful or judgmental, but as Christians I want us to really be aware of what is at stake when we choose to live like the world while proclaiming we belong to Christ. We hear it all the time, “you do you”–live your life how you want. But as Christians this motto is a far cry from how the Bible has called us to live. As a follower of Christ, you don’t do YOU, you do Jesus.

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

If I had a nickel for every time I have heard, “I just like the beat. I don’t listen to the lyrics” or “it’s not that bad”, I would be rich as all get out. I made the same excuses for a long time. I knew I was wrong, and I chose not to care. Yet here is the hard truth: God is not interested in “not that bad”; He said “be holy for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Holiness is not arrogance. To be holy means to be set apart, and as Christians we are not called to live as the world lives. Everything we do matters–what we listen to, what we watch or what we read, or whatever else we choose to participate in. That’s not even being legalistic; it’s obedience to Christ.

Yet everywhere I turn, I see that Christians are listening to Drake, Ariana Grande, Bruno Mars, Cardi B, and a whole host of other secular [for lack of a better term] artists. Why?? If we truly believe the Word of God and what it says, why are we not guarding our hearts above all else (Proverbs 4:23)? Why are we not setting our minds on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable” (Philippians 4:8)? Why are we listening to songs laced with obscenities, and speaking of the degradation of both men and women, sexual sin, violence, and murder??

Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.” 1 Corinthians 15:33

“For some do not have the knowledge of God”…I can’t even begin to imagine the number of people I misrepresented Jesus to while I was in pursuit of my selfish desires, all the while still “believing in God”. I’m finding out that believing in God and choosing God are two very different things, and people can see that. They can see when I choose Him on Sundays, and during my morning devotions. They see me going to Bible study and  helping out at church events. But what about work? School? Where do I go with my friends? How do I live at home or in my car when that crazy driver cuts me off? What do I post on social media?

I am beginning to understand for myself [not just read it in the Bible], that He is an all or nothing God. Deuteronomy 4:24 says that He “is a consuming fire, a jealous God”, and in James 4:5, “the Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously.” You see God wants your WHOLE heart, and He is not unreasonable to make such a request. We are to be living testimonies of what Christ has called us into, all the while not holding onto what He has called us out of (1 Peter 2:9).

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” Galatians 6:7-8

When you read, watch, listen to, or engage in something, is it speaking to your flesh? Or is it speaking to your spirit? It took me a long time to let go of what my flesh wanted. It wasn’t until I realized I had made idols out these things [running to them instead of God], that I made the decision to release them. In those moments it was never easy to let go, but when I finally stopped ignoring the tug in my spirit, I didn’t miss those things at all. I actually felt lighter. 

I suspect that this may be a big hurdle for some, and if you have even bothered to read this far, my hope is that you take some time to reflect and pray about why it is a struggle to let go. I have listed some things below that really encouraged me to shift my perspective when it came to things I visually and audibly consumed.

Resources:

Is Secular Music a Sin? – Jefferson Bethke **I tend to be long-winded as you can see, but Jeff really breaks this issue down in a way I hadn’t thought of when I was going through the struggle myself.

Plugged In [Focus on the Family] **Plugged In is a website where movies, music, TV, books and games are reviewed from a Christian perspective. The writers continually astound me with their ability to review the content [good, bad, and in-between] with genuine grace and truth.

The Good Christian Music Blog – YouTube **There is seriously SO much good Christian music on here–I was shocked honestly! Ranging in different styles from Indie, Electronica, Hip-Hop, R&B, and Singer-Songwriter, there’s something for everyone .

Gods At War: Defeating the Idols That Battle for Your Heart by Kyle Idleman **This book honestly wrecked me. It was a huge catalyst for change in my walk with Christ, as I was completely unaware of the many idols I had allowed in my life.

Praying Scared: Choosing the Promise Over the Fear

I admit it: I am scared. Scared to write this piece. Scared of what the future holds. Scared that what God called me to let of won’t return to me. A few months ago, my relationship with my boyfriend of almost 2 years ended. I knew that it was the right thing to do, and that there were many ways in which we both needed to grow. For a while, that thought gave me peace. I have been through many other hardships completely unrelated to this, and God has brought me out of every one of them. Yet somehow I am more afraid than ever. This morning I woke up from one of the worst dreams I ever had about Matthew. I dreamt that he was moving away, and leaving me behind. I cried uncontrollably and started to try and make a way where I could see him one last time…but it was too late. When I woke up, my body was so tense and I actually had been holding my arms so tightly that there were fingerprints left behind. Yet as long as I hold onto him, fear is holding on to me.

I know that this area of my life is where I have trusted God the least, and He is simply asking that I surrender, and trust that He has plans to prosper me and not to harm me, to give me a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:13). I know that He is testing me, and it is not out of cruelty, but out of a desire to see me trust Him in all that I go through. If I am going to share with others about trusting in the Lord, then I need to have walked through a few battles myself. He has given me promise after promise in His Word, and I need not fear what God has in store for my life.

I am learning that there is no area of my life that God does not want to restore. I cannot live in wholeness if I say, “No God, not here” where there is an area of my life that needs healing and restoration. Needless to say, it is not a painless process, but it is a worthy one. God desires to see me thrive in everything, and that requires His hand on my life. He cannot bless what I do not give Him.

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23

“Delight yourself also in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

Maybe He will bring Matthew back into my life. Maybe He won’t. I cannot say that I won’t be sad if he doesn’t, but I will forever be grateful that he was part of my life. God showed up in bigger ways than I would have ever imagined, both in and out of the relationship. I know that He will do it again. There is nothing that is wasted in the hands of God. So whatever you are holding on to, even if you are afraid, let it go.

The Minimalist Heart: Creating Space for What Truly Matters in Life

“As I grew older the things I cared about grew fewer, but were more important… Things! Burn them, burn them! Make a beautiful fire! More room in your heart for love, for the trees! For the birds who own nothing—the reason they can fly.” Mary Oliver

This quote resonates within my heart more and more, with each passing day. Throughout my life, I have accumulated many things, most of which I do not need. I am quite certain that we have all heard the phrase, “money can’t buy you happiness”. I dare say that it can. I have bought numerous things which have brought a smile to my face, and contentment to my heart. When I look around at all that I possess, and my heart starts to feel burdened. It is not the things themselves, but why I have acquired them that makes my heart ache.

If I’m being honest, the reason I have most of these things is pride. I grew up not having a lot of things. Much of what I had was hand-me-downs, and things I shared with my siblings. As I grew older, I bought whatever I wanted with the money that I had earned. It felt like freedom! I would constantly rotate my bathroom and bedroom decor as my tastes changed with the seasons. I would buy books and knick knacks just for decoration. Designer handbags and shoes, Sephora makeup, and expensive perfumes, because why not?! I had the money, and no one else was there to spoil me. It was the game of never enough. What once felt like freedom, began to feel like a prison. I felt chained to my possessions. I couldn’t possibly let them go; I had worked so hard for them!

 As my home became a place of storage for stuff, my heart became a place of storage for pride and discontentment. And it’s just a burden I don’t want to carry anymore. I cannot take any of these things when I leave, so why do I need them now? I am not saying it is wrong to buy things, but I have come to a place where I want to have a pure heart when it comes to what I have and why I have it. What are my motives when I am looking at all the pretty things I can purchase? Am I actually in need of it? Am I discontent and bored with what I have? Do I think others will think better of me for having it?

“A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to gain, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away.” Ecclesiastes 3:5-6

The more I give these things away, the more I understand that what I think is mine is not meant for me alone. Whether it is things, money, or time, if what I can give will bring joy to someone else, then giving is what I will do. My pastor once said that “people are the true riches of heaven”. I love that. We cannot take our earthly possessions with us when we die. What we can do, is show love to the world around us by being generous with what we have been given. When we are generous, it breaks down the walls of our pride as we see a need greater than our own, and seek to meet that need.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Each one of us has something to give, and it is not about quantity, but quality–the nature in which we give. If you have ever been in need of anything, you know that even the smallest gift is precious in that moment.

Being generous might mean sharing more of our time with family, friends, or even strangers instead of staring at our phones. It could be giving food to the homeless, or  helping our next door neighbor. We can sponsor a child in need every month (Compassion International is wonderful), instead of buying coffee 3-4 times a week (make it at home y’all). We can donate all those books we have already read and the movies we have seen 15 times, or the outfit we wore only once because somehow it looked better when we tried it on in the store (that lighting makes everything look cute, I’m telling you).

To show love will always require a sacrifice, but it is so worth it. Each and every time I have withheld when I knew it was in my power to give, I walked away with nothing but guilt and pride. The times where I have chosen to stop and meet the need of someone (even someone I may never even meet), I walked away not the poorer. I walked away with joy and love in my heart. Now that I can take with me when I am gone.

Speaking Life: The Power of Confession

You are beautiful.
You are loved.
You are whole.

These are words I have had to speak out loud to myself daily this past week. As I go through one of the hardest seasons of my life, I am having to constantly remind myself of truths such as these. I have been in this situation many times before in life, and my tendency has been to spiral down the hole of depression. I would let wave after wave of negative and hopeless thoughts wash over me.

But I’m not doing that anymore.

I’m not going to repress what I think and feel, nor am I going to let my feelings become my truth. I am choosing to be open and honest, no matter how dumb I think it may sound. Whether I am praying and laying it out before the Lord, or sharing my heart with trusted friends, I no longer hold anything back. Whether I am feeling ugly, rejected, and broken, or insecure, hopeless, jealous, and alone–I speak it out.

No matter what the enemy tries to tell us, we are not alone. Someone else is struggling just as we are. Every time I have shared what is on my heart with others, they have been there to encourage and pray for me. Sometimes they have been where I have been, and other times we are actually walking through it together. But we wouldn’t know that if we didn’t share our hearts. The beautiful thing about our confessions, is that once we speak them out, they are now in the light. They can be covered in prayer, and combatted with the Word of God.

So no matter who you are, or what struggles you are going through, don’t keep it to yourself. Tell someone. Let others cover you in love and prayer and encouragement. Don’t underestimate the power of community and confession, because there is healing in it (James 5:16). If you feel like you don’t have someone to share with, you can send me an email and I’ll be there for you. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed about whatever is in your heart.

We are all a hot mess.
We all need Jesus.
We also need each other.

Here Am I, Send Me [to Japan]

Hello everyone!!

A few months ago, I felt God put it on my heart pursue a mission trip. It is something that I have wanted to do my whole life, but I always seemed to come up with a list of excuses. I felt that I never had enough time, or money, or Bible verses memorized. The truth is I felt unqualified. I still feel that way at times, but I am trusting that God will work all things for good (Romans 8:28 ), as I use everything He has already given me. He knows my heart and my resources, and yet He says, “Go.”

This trip will be from the 4th-19th of June, and I will be traveling with a team of ten amazing people to serve alongside His Call Church in Nagoya, Japan. We will be helping them prepare for their Destiny Conference , as well as just reaching out and loving the people of Nagoya.

Less than 1% of Japan’s population is Christian, and they also have one of the highest suicide rates in the world. This is largely due in part to the lack of community, or “hikikomori ” (isolation). Suicide is also not considered a sin in Japan, but is more often seen as taking responsibility.

My prayer is that they know how loved they are by God and that we love them too. As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression, I want them to know that there is hope for every struggle they will ever face, and that they are not alone.

The funds will be used for transportation, food, and also to help cover my expenses back home, as I will not be getting paid for the 2 weeks I will be in Japan. We are also planning to throw a Hawaiian party for our gracious hosts, and we will be supplying all the food and entertainment.

I would need the donations no later than the 3rd of June. Any amount given would be an incredible blessing, and I’m believing with all my heart that God will provide. Even if you cannot give financially, your prayers would mean so much to me as well.

I created a GoFundMe account for donations, but if you would like to donate by means of cash, check, money order, Venmo, etc. instead, please let me know. I cannot wait to share all that God will do on this trip! Thank you in advance for all of your support.

https://www.gofundme.com/ynajg-japan-mission-trip

“I am convinced that my God will fully satisfy every need you have, for I have seen the abundant riches of glory revealed to me through the Anointed One, Jesus Christ!” Philippians 4:19 TPT

 

 

Silent Seasons: Trusting God When You Don’t Understand

“It’s during these moments when I am completely lost and feel like I’m drowning that I know God is doing His greatest work in my heart. I believe that the Lord is always calling us into deeper water—pulling us where we can no longer touch the bottom of the ocean or control the steps we take.” Heather Lindsey

Silent seasons shape us. It is during these moments we learn who or what it is we actually run to in hard times. Just this year alone, there have been so many things in my life that have caused me to wonder where God was or if He would answer. What I wanted was an answer from the Lord, but if I am honest, I was not seeking Him. In my anxiousness, I was trying to frantically see what I could do in my own ability to gain the outcome I wanted. And it wasn’t even in a “pray like it depends on God, work like it depends on you” kind of thing. I shot up a quick prayer and called it faith. What it was, was obligation and doubt. My mouth may have said one thing, but my actions showed that I didn’t believe God cared or would do anything about it. But here’s the thing: God cares about my dreams. And yours. No matter what it looks like or feels like to us. I don’t have to be afraid to seek the Lord about anything for fear of rejection. I have to learn over and over, that God has my BEST interest at His heart. So if something is not for me, I need to trust that there is a reason why. What I am learning is that God’s “No” is not a rejection. It is either a protection or a preparation for what is to come.

God’s “No” is not a rejection. It is either a protection or a preparation for what is to come.

When something hurts us physically, we feel pain. It is our bodies way of telling us that something is not right. When my heart literally hurts because of anxiety, or when anger, frustration and impatience come out, and I just want to crawl into a hole, something is not right in my spirit. It is the Holy Spirit telling me I have lost perspective and elevated the things of this world above Him. If God is truly first in my life, it will be evident to others in how  I live my life. I do not walk around wearing things that belong to the world (anxiety, anger, impatience, etc.), when God is in His rightful place in my heart.

If we want to be shown the way, it is going to take more than a 5 second prayer and 3 minute devotion. Anything in life where we have seen the fruits of our labor, is because of intentionality on our part. It is no different in our walk with the Lord. The moments where I have seen the greatest growth in my faith, and the most peace in my heart, were the times that I was spending time with the Lord on a DAILY basis. Even when I felt like I had so much on my plate, when I chose to be intentional in my prayer time and reading the Word, it caused a shift in my heart. There was greater peace because my eyes were on the Lord, and not my to-do lists.

“Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8

If you feel like you cannot hear God in the season you are in, or maybe you never have, DO NOT GIVE UP. He sees you. He hears you. He has not forgotten you.

  1. Keep pressing into His presence, and spend time in the Word daily. The more you read His Word, the more you will be able to distinguish His voice above everyone else’s.

    “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27

  2. Pray. God longs to hear from us, just as any parent wants their child to come to them–in good times or bad. He also longs to speak to us as well during these times. Learn to quiet your spirit and listen for what God wants to say.

    “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

  3. WRITE IT DOWN. This is SO important! We can honestly become so prideful in our ability to remember things. In reality, the reason we remember things is because there is repetition, whether it is conscious or not. Write down what you get out of reading the Bible. Write down what the Lord speaks to you in prayer. Write down notes when you go to church. *Tip: Technology is all well and good, but nothing beats pen and paper here. Your mind actually has to put forth more effort to remember what is being said, because you cannot write as fast as you type.

    “And the Lord answered me: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.” Habbakuk 2:2

  4. Connect with others. Have the humility of heart to reach out to others and say that you are struggling. More often than not, you will find others are struggling as well. Be vulnerable. Be compassionate. Be encouraging. Those things will come back to you as you give them away. There is strength and joy in unity.

    “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.” Hebrews 10:24-25