End of the Year Blues: 3 Ways to Beat Those Goals – Guest Post by Rayleigh Gray

Hello! Today, I have a little something different for you guys. Rayleigh Gray is here, talking about ways to accomplish our goals at the end of the year. Be sure to check out my post on her blog, about resting in the hope of Jesus when bad things keep happening. Alright, take it away, Rayleigh!


With the end of 2017 nearing, and the year seeming to speed up as we approach that end, it’s easy to lose heart in the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the year that have yet to be accomplished. After all, we’ve had all year to complete that goal, so how could we possibly cross that finish line triumphantly with less than 10 weeks of the year left?

One goal of mine (in fact, it’s been my “New Year’s Resolution” for the past 4 years) is to finish my novel, A Queen is Knighted. Unfortunately, the first half of the year slips by without much motivation and then summer happens, I just can’t seem to focus during the summer months, and before I know it, it’s November and I’ve only added a few chapters. Usually, I just give up and say “Guess I’ll try again next year.”

But, this year, instead of being disgruntled and wondering how I could have let an entire year slip by, I’ve decided to make these last 2 months count. And I encourage you not to lose hope in a goal that you have yet to meet either, because the year isn’t over yet!

Here are some of the ways I’ve combated those “end of the year blues”:

1. Don’t be willing to quit!
It’s so easy to do as I’ve always done and say “I guess I’ll just try again next year”, but DON’T! Trust me, a lot can be accomplished in 2 months, and if we’re willing to hang it up and leave it for next year, then not only are we not accomplishing that goal, but we’re also keeping ourselves from setting a new goal. Don’t be willing to quit, fight it, because you can most certainly do it!

2. Try to make a daily habit.
I’m not sure what your goal is, but if it can be done a little bit every day, make it a point to do it daily! I read a study that said it takes 21 days to create habit (and 21 days to break one). That’s 3 weeks. If you can do something every single day for a solid 3 weeks, then you’ll have created a habit and it will become a part of you! There are more than 3 weeks left in the year so you have plenty of time to create that habit!

For me, my goal is to at least write something every day in my book. One day I wrote a little over 2,000 words, and then the very next day I wrote 78 words. One paragraph. But I wrote. Even if it’s just a little bit, if you’re able to make yourself do something that takes you a baby step closer to your goal, it’s worth it.

And finally,

3. Remember why you want to accomplish this goal.
Is it something you’re passionate about? Something that you’ve always wanted to do? Something that needs to be done?

Regardless, there is a reason that you set this goal to begin with, and that reason is the key to motivation. Remember it and go after it. Trust me, you don’t want to keep re-setting the same goal year after year, the motivation to get it finished starts to fade.

I keep a few scriptures in my mind whenever I prepare to tackle my resolutions, whether they are scribbled on my mirror, set as a background on my phone, or kept in my memory, they keep me going.

Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

James 1:4 – “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Psalm 23:1 – “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.”
(I always add in my own thinking “including motivation”. “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing, including motivation.”)

I hope these help you finish out the year strongly and that you’re able to not only cross that finish line, but to run well past it and into the winner’s circle!

Is there anything that you’ve found helpful to meet those goals as the deadline comes up? If you’d like to share those, feel free to drop them in the comments!

A huge thanks to Kayla for allowing me to visit today and share some tips! Be sure to catch her post on Accelerate The Jesus Movement, The Eternal Hope of Jesus.


 

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No Place for Pride: An Example From Priscilla and Aquila

By a show of hands (metaphorically, just bear with me), how many of you have heard of – and could tell me about – Priscilla and Aquila?

Probably not many of you. And before you get too ashamed, let me just come out and say that I couldn’t have either before two Sundays ago (one Sunday ago as I’m writing this, but it’s being scheduled in advance :P).

At church, they were preaching about the book of Acts, and funnily enough, when the pastor said that he was going to talk about Priscilla and Aquila, I actually thought he was talking about Ananias and Sapphira – a very different couple from Acts.

(Ananias and Sapphira are the ones who got caught deceiving the church about their donation, making it seem larger than it was, and died for it.)

So, when the pastor said he was talking about a biblical power couple, I was very confused.

But, funny story aside, this sermon opened my eyes to an oft-overlooked “power couple,” one of the only ones we get to see in the Bible. And that’s what prompted me to write this post.

I don’t know about you, but I like to be recognized for what I do. Even if I do something without being asked and something that’s supposed to be a “surprise,” I want the people I did it for to be surprised! I want them to notice. Basically, though I hate to say it, I want their praise.

For example, I’ll sometimes do some chores around the house when I’m at home and my parents are off at work or running errands. It’s unprompted, and it’s just supposed to be something nice that I do for them. (Also, lest you think I’m too selfless and noble, usually this “chore” is vacuuming, and I mostly do it because I enjoy vacuuming, but I digress.)

But when they get back home, I expect them to notice it. I’m just waiting for the garage to open and them to walk in so I can be heaped with “thank yous.”

Not very humble of me, is it?

John’s response to the people going to Jesus for baptism and that affecting the numbers of people who come to him gets me every time. He says:

“It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”

John 3:29-30 (NLT)

Whew. Doesn’t that just hit home?

It’s the exact opposite of my line of thought. While I want praise, praise, and more praise, John is saying, “No. Jesus gets all the praise, praise, and more praise, not me.”

And Priscilla and Aquila are a prime example of a power couple who lived their lives running hard after Jesus and have little to no praise to show for it. But, spoiler alert: Jesus got all the glory, and now they’re living in joy and peace unimaginable in heaven with him, so I think they got the good end of the deal.

But, anyway, I’ll get to that later. Let’s first start of with exactly what Priscilla and Aquila did in their lives.

We see them first in Acts 18, in which they welcome Paul into their homes to live with them for a while while he’s ministering to the Corinthians. So, they just literally open their homes to a stranger so that he can share the Good News.

Then, later in Acts 18, Paul leaves for Syria, and guess who just up and go with him? Priscilla and Aquila. They leave behind their home and their lives of the past year and a half (they’d only lived in Corinth for around that much time), and follow Paul on his missionary journey.

Paul ended up leaving them in Ephesus, while he continued on. In Ephesus, we see Priscilla and Aquila take it upon themselves to correct the incomplete teachings of the Jew Apollos. He received their message, and went on to become one of the most famous pastors in the world.

So, you could literally say that Priscilla and Aquila discipled one of the world’s greatest pastors.

Beyond that, they also opened up their home wherever they lived, starting the church at Rome and at Ephesus.

They were running hard after Jesus and produced countless good fruits for His Kingdom. It was clear that the Holy Spirit was in them.

And yet, they’re mostly forgotten by history. Even those who know the Bible really well and have a lot of Bible knowledge don’t always remember who Priscilla and Aquila are.

Later in their lives, these two were even killed for their faith in Christ. Martyrs.

But we still don’t remember them.

And I think they’re perfectly okay with that, so long as we remember Jesus in it all.

I believe they were true behind-the-scenes workers. They didn’t need praise and glory for themselves, but everything they did was for God’s glory and His alone.

And honestly, that should be our greatest desire – to glorify God in all that we do. We should want that more than praise from our friends, family, and coworkers. Rather than looking for a worldly reward, simply glorifying Him should be a reward in and of itself.

That’s hard, I get it. No matter how many times I tell myself otherwise, I still find myself falling into the trap of seeking praise from others. And it continually leads to disappointment.

But abiding in the Holy Spirit and setting my eyes on God? That can never disappoint. It is the satisfaction of my soul, life-giving, humbling.

I like to think that when Priscilla and Aquila died, they would have had the mindset of Paul and would have been more than ready to go see Jesus because their greatest joy and their reward in life had been God’s glory.

And now, in heaven, they get to glorify God perfectly and for eternity.

How awesome is that?

 

 

 

The Gift of the Sabbath: On Taking Time to Rest in God

I’m a busy person, you’re a busy person, we’re all busy people. We all seem to have an endless to-do list, and countless commitments. If it isn’t schoolwork or actual work, it’s chores, clubs, organizations, or other commitments. Our days tend to be pretty packed.

It might be crazy to suggest that we take a chunk of time out of our day to simply rest and be with the Lord. It might be even crazier to suggest that we dedicate an entire day of the week to doing just that and nothing else.

But that’s exactly what God told the Israelites to do in Exodus 16.

He told them, “This is what the Lord commanded: Tomorrow will be a day of complete rest, a holy Sabbath day set apart for the Lord. So bake or boil as much as you want today, and set aside what is left for tomorrow.”

Exodus 16:23 (NLT)

Crazy, right? I don’t about you, but I have something to do every day of the week. I don’t see it as possible for me to set aside an entire day for rest, scrubbing it free of all work and commitments other than those of the Lord.

In our society we focus on doing, doing, doing, feeling accomplished by how much we can do and feeling a constant desire to do more. We live in a very noisy and distracting place, guys.

But God is pulling us out of all the hustle and bustle of everyday, crazy busy life, and whispering to us, “Shh. Let all that go. Just rest and be with Me.”

He’s not doing that to keep us from doing all the great things we’re trying to do. He’s not trying to stress us out even more by making us do more the other six days of the week. He’s not out to get us.

No. The Sabbath day is a gift.

They must realize that the Sabbath is the Lord’s gift to you…

Exodus 16:29 (NLT)

It is a gift because what can possibly be better than dedicated time to doing nothing but resting in Him? Surely not that homework assignment or that test we just have to study for.

Psalms 23 and 63 are excellent reminders of the joys of resting in God’s presence. I highly encourage you to go and read those, even if you’ve read them before. I find that they’re a constant reminder of the joy of God’s presence.

It is far too easy for us to lose sight of God in the craziness of our lives. We forget about Him, get stressed about everything that seems to be piling up, and next thing we know, we’re anxious, despairing, and lost.

But God is still whispering to us. He wants us to come to Him. 

We cannot find joy and peace apart from God. Because we were created for Him and by Him, we cannot be satisfied apart from Him. Our worldly pursuits, our material things, that fun thing we just really want to buy or go do, cannot and will not satisfy us. If anything, they’ll simply leave us wanting more.

But God can fill that hole. In fact, He’s pleading with us to let Him do just that.

So why do we constantly refuse to give Him the time that He deserves and that is so life-giving to us? Is it because He feels distant and unknowable? Is it because we don’t think our time with Him is urgent (it is – for more on that, see this post)? Is it because we believe lies about what can satisfy us?

Whatever the reason, I challenge you to examine your heart and determine what’s holding you back from spending dedicated and restful time with God. And then join me in reminding yourself daily to set aside time to return to Him.

Our souls will be all the more joyful for it.

 

 

Humbled Before Jesus

It’s far too easy for the Gospel to get watered down, especially when you live in the Bible belt. For much of my life, I held nothing more than a watered down view of Jesus. To me, it was common knowledge that Jesus had died on the cross, and that He rose again, bringing salvation to all who believed in Him. It was as good as fact.

But it didn’t prompt me to worship.

I’ve been reading through Exodus recently, and I came across the following passage in Exodus 4:

Then the people of Israel were convinced that the Lord had sent Moses and Aaron. When they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.

Exodus 4:31 (NLT)

The Israelites are in Egypt, experiencing a lot of hardship. Years ago (I don’t know exactly how long ago it had been, but it was when Moses had been born, and now he was a grown man), the Egyptians subjected the Israelites to harsh slavery and subjugation.

The Israelites have been crying out for help to God, it says in 2:23. And now, when they have realized that God has heard their cries and has sent someone to help them, their immediate response is to bow down and worship. 

The Exodus is the great delivery of the Old Testament, you could say. It’s a fantastic moment displaying God’s care for His people and God deliverance of His people. And it’s rivaled only by Jesus dying on the cross.

If the Israelites, so many years ago, worshiped God for His promise to deliver them from the Egyptians, how much more should we worship God for sending His Son to suffer for our sins and deliver us for eternity? 

But for some reason, many of us almost seem to take the Gospel for granted. At least, I certainly do sometimes.

Why? Why do we do that?

The answer I’ve found, at least to explain my own foolishness, is that I place too much importance on myself and thus diminish God’s holiness.

Let’s just walk through that for a minute.

God created everything in existence. And then He created us. We are nothing more than God’s creation. We exist only because God made us. That right there is enough reason for us to literally owe our entirely lives to Him.

But let’s go even further. He made us in His image, with an eternal soul, and He gave us free will. We took that free will and sinned against Him. Setting off a continuous line of rebellious people who betray God and turn away from Him.

God’s own creation continually rebelled against Him, believing they could manage on their own and essentially calling Him useless. 

Mind you, this is an eternal, perfect, holy, and just God we’re calling useless. It’s crazy, right?

God, perfect and just as He is, had – and still has – every right to punish us. We chose to separate ourselves from Him, we chose to sin against His perfection, and God can’t have imperfection in His holy and perfect domain, that is, heaven. So what is He to do with this little rebel creation of His?

The first option is to forget about them. They chose to rebel against them, so God has every right to let them do their sinful thing and move about His holy eternal life. Naturally, because we have an eternal soul, that would mean condemnation for us. It would mean eternal punishment, hell, separation from God forever.

That is justice. That is us getting what we deserve.

But God didn’t choose that option. Instead, God chose to pursue his little rebel creations and sent His own Son, God in the flesh, to take our punishment for us. Say what?!

God, the King of kings, God of angel armies, Creator of the universe, died a painful death on the cross to take the punishment for a crime he never committed. He took the blame that was never His in the first place. For a closer look at just how unfathomable that is, feel free to read Abigail: A Reflection of the Cross.

And because He lived a perfect, blameless life (He was God – hello!) He conquered the grave and rose again after three days. And now, through His death and resurrection, we have eternal life if we only place our faith and trust in Him.

We, the greatest rebels of all time (well, aside from Satan), have been reunited with our holy and awesome God to live eternally with Him because He chose to pursue us and take our punishment on His shoulders. 

After understanding – and I mean really understanding – the story of the Gospel, how can I dare to think that God was supposed to save me? In other words, how can I possibly feel entitled to salvation? If anything, I’m entitled to condemnation.

I am a dirty, rebellious creation. But it is my imperfection that magnifies the perfect love of God, in that He chose to save me despite my imperfection.

Which is why even the mention of God’s promise of deliverance – the greatest of which is Jesus Christ on the cross – should prompt us to worship. How can we read such promises and nod and forget about it, to simply carry on with our lives, as if nothing huge had just been told to us?

The Israelites had it right. God’s deliverance is no small thing. It’s an incredible, life-giving, undeserved love that pursues us all the days of our lives, as it says in Psalm 23:6.

And it is because of His deliverance that we need not fear death, or worry about anything in life. God loves us, in our dirty, imperfect state, and He will deliver us from all things, in due time.

Jesus said, at the end of a sermon about not worrying:

So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

Luke 12:32 (NLT)

So I rejoice and I worship in the notion that the King of kings is given great happiness by giving me the Kingdom.

I Want To Die.

I want to die.

That’s what Paul said in his letter to the church in Philippi, which he was writing from a prison cell in Rome. And mind you, death was a very plausible thing for Paul at that time. He was awaiting trial, and as far as he knew at the time, he could have been facing execution after the trial.

And yet, he said:

For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.

Philippians 1:21 (NLT)

Wow.

If I even think of myself in a life or death situation, I start quivering and hoping and praying that I’ll survive it. And I haven’t even ever been in a real life or death situation! I can only imagine what would have been going through my mind had I been in Paul’s position. I wouldn’t have been saying that I wanted to die, that’s for sure.

There seems to be a common mindset throughout our culture (including within the Church) today that emphasizes our life on earth. Life is sweet, and even if we think Jesus is even sweeter, we prefer to have him right here with us on earth, thank you very much.

I mean, there’s so much to do, so many pleasures to have, so many people to meet and things to achieve here on earth. You Only Live Once. So why would we want to die?

What did Paul know that we don’t, for him to make such a crazy statement? Surely it was just because he lived in age before technology. They didn’t have the ability to travel worldwide, or the insane opportunities we all have in America. I mean, if Paul only knew how much good stuff we have nowadays, he surely wouldn’t say the same thing, would he?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, “Oh, yes, he would.”

Paul wasn’t ready to die because he was bored with his life on earth. Actually, he said just the opposite. Continuing from the verse above, he says:

But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. but for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

Philippians 1:22-24 (NLT)

He knows that if he does live, his life is worthwhile. He’s looking forward to doing more work for the Kingdom of God if he makes it out of prison alive.

And the key, the key to why Paul says that he is ready to die, is tucked right there, in the sentence I just wrote.

Paul’s heart is set on one thing and one thing alone: Jesus Christ. 

That is his reason for living: to do His work. Everywhere Paul goes, he spreads the Gospel. He even told some of his prison guards about Jesus!

The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling beofre Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household.

Acts 16:29-32 (NLT)

And the reason Paul is so set on doing God’s work, that he even tells his jailers about Jesus, is because he has experienced God’s insane, majestic, awe-inspiring love and the Holy Spirit has prompted him to follow through with the only logical response: complete and total devotion.

It is because of that realization of God’s complete awesomeness that Paul has dedicated his entire life to Jesus, and it’s also why Paul says that he wants to die.

When he dies, he gets to be with Jesus, forever, face to face, without any sin or any worldly corruption to stand in the way. Death is the only thing standing between him and eternal worship of his incredible God.

And man, is he ready for that eternity.

When I look at myself and my own hesitations about death, I realize that there are a few lies I’m believing that lead to this hesitation:

  1. I believe the world has too many good things in store for me to leave behind.
  2. I have a flawed view of heaven.
  3. God isn’t the only thing that matters to me, above everyone else.

Let’s address these one by one, shall we?

1. I believe the world has too many good things in store for me to leave behind.

Sure, the world is full of fun, good things. There’s no doubt about that. But scripture tells us that all good things come from God, so think how much better heaven will be? If all good things on earth come from God, and God lives in heaven, which is his perfect, sinless domain, heaven must be a pretty awesome place.

2. I have a flawed view of heaven.

I kind of talked about this above. But heaven isn’t just some place we go to play harps and sing the same worship song over and over again, like a watered down church service. No, heaven is literally paradise. It’s our opportunity to finally be with our Creator, the perfect, eternal King of the universe. It’s bound to be anything but boring.

3. God isn’t the only thing that matters to me, above everyone else.

God should be our number one. He should be at the forefront of our minds, above and beyond all worldly pursuits, and – get this – all other people. That’s right. God should be prioritized over our relationships with our friends, parents, siblings, and spouses. Yes, of course love them, but don’t put them before God. God is the reason we’re all even here in the first place, and He deserves total, primary devotion, over all people.

If we love God, love for others will surely follow. It says just that in 1 John 4. But the primary longing of our hearts should be for God. The love for others should come as a result of our love for God.

And then, if God is our number one, we can be ready to meet Him face to face when He’s finished with us on earth. Yes, we can love others and have good and wonderful relationships with them on earth, serving them and talking about Jesus with them, but when God has used us and is ready to call us home, we should be ready for that. We should be eager for it, in fact.

Just as Paul loved serving others here on earth, he realized that it was actually better for him to die and be with Christ. Could we say the same? Could say the same?

 

 

What’s In A Name

Recently, I’ve been loving the worship songs that are all about the name of Jesus. Songs like “What A Beautiful Name It Is” and “Worthy Of Your Name.” It’s probably because they’re so full of and focused on Jesus that they tend to be some of my go-to worship songs.

But listening to them has got me thinking. They each place an emphasis on Jesus’ name. Might seem a little odd, right? So, I figured it would be fun to dive into the names of Jesus and just how they proclaim his glory.

Savior

The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David.

Luke 2:11 (NLT)

What a wonderful  name that is. Savior. The God who saves. Because of Jesus, and his death on the cross, we are redeemed. We are saved. We can’t save ourselves, but Jesus has already saved us. It’s a powerful name, and one which Jesus is fully worthy of.

Son of God

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

Matthew 3:17 (NLT)

It is because of Jesus’ fully divine nature and place in the Trinity that he was even able to do all that he did. If he wasn’t fully God, how could he have conquered the grave?

It says here that Jesus, as the Son of God, “brings [God] great joy.” In the gospel of Luke, it is said that Jesus is “the Son of the Most High.” It’s a huge designation. He is powerful, and almighty.

Son of Man

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Luke 19:10 (NLT)

This is Jesus speaking. He calls himself “Son of Man.” Given the context, I think this particular designation has something to do with his relationship with us. He is fully God, the Son of God, but as the Son of God, his role in the Trinity is to come and save us. It is Jesus who provided the way for us to reach God once again, after sin separated us from him.

Alpha and the Omega

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

Revelation 22:13 (NLT)

In other words, Jesus is everything. He is eternal, ever-lasting, and he deserves all glory for all of time. He is everything. What a glorious name that is.

Bread of Life

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

John 6:35 (NLT)

Jesus is the ultimate provider. He is the only one who can satisfy all of our needs, and he tells us right here that if we simply come to him and believe in him, he will satisfy all our needs.

Bridegroom

Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests mourn while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

Matthew 9:15 (NLT)

Here, Jesus is referring to himself as the groom, in response to someone questioning why Jesus’ disciples fast. This is a metaphor that appears frequently throughout the Bible, with Jesus as the groom and the church as the bride. He is our groom, and we are going to live with him in his perfect love forever. How awesome is that?

Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.”

John 10:11 (NLT)

We are sheep. We’re clueless and helpless on our own. But Jesus is our shepherd, and he watches over us night and day. Here, he even says that he is the good shepherd who sacrifices himself for the sheep. He did sacrifice himself for us. In our wanderings, we sinned, but he sacrificed himself on the cross to bring us back to God. Jesus is the good shepherd.

Messiah

Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”).

John 1:41 (NLT)

“Messiah” means “anointed one.” Jesus, as the Messiah, is the anointed one of God. In the Old Testament, kings were anointed with an expensive concoction to symbolize the Holy Spirit in their lives. They were a representative of God. Now, Jesus has arrived, and he is The Anointed One, as in the ultimate anointed one, the anointed one above all others. The Messiah.

Lord

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:9-11 (NLT)

This collection of verses does a pretty good job at proclaiming the glory that is contained within the name “Lord.” He is Lord above all, to whom all should bow, seated in the place of highest honor. His name is the name above all names. Jesus Christ, the Lord.

See how each and every one of these names holds so much meaning within them? They truly do proclaim God’s glory, each in a unique way. Now, don’t mind me, I’m just going to go listen to “What A Beautiful Name It Is” and “Worthy of Your Name” and revel in how awesome God’s names are.

Abigail: A Reflection of the Cross

I’ve been reading Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst recently (which is a great book on how to live life in God’s love without letting rejection and the whims of others steal your joy), and at one point she mentioned Abigail, Nabal’s wife in 1 Samuel 25. As I continued thinking about what she said about Abigail, I decided to take a dive into the passage myself.

For the sake of space, I’ll just summarize it here, but please do go read the full chapter if you have the time. Essentially, David finds himself near Nabal’s home at sheep-shearing time. Since he’s protected Nabal from harm before, he asks Nabal to share some of his provisions with him.

Nabal, however, lashes out and basically insults David, saying that he’s no good and absolutely refusing to give him anything.

Now, most of us know a bit about King David. He was the one who God chose as king, to reign after Saul. He’s the guy who killed Goliath, and the guy God described as, “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22 NLT).

But here’s Nabal saying that David is a nobody who is undeserving of his gifts.

When he hears this, David sets out intent on killing Nabal. How dare he insult David’s name like that? How dare he be so selfish and unkind?

Abigail, Nabal’s wife, however, hears this, and instantly she gathers gifts for David and goes out to meet him. And when she arrives, what she says is just flabbergasting.

She fell at his feet and said, “I accept all blame in this matter, my lord. Please listen to what I have to say.”

1 Samuel 25:24 (NLT)

I accept all blame in this matter. 

Wait, what?! Abigail, girl, you didn’t do anything wrong. You’re completely innocent here. It’s your husband who did it. Why are you taking the blame?

I put myself in Abigail’s place. I imagine doing what she did. And I just get so filled with rage. Why would I take the blame for something I so clearly didn’t do? No, Nabal did it. He’s the one to blame. Not me.

But Abigail says, “I accept all blame.”

And I think that’s such a beautiful representation of what Jesus did on the cross. 

Growing up in the Bible belt and knowing all about Jesus and how he died for our sins and rose again, sometimes I miss out on the impact of exactly what Jesus did. It’s almost like background knowledge to say that Jesus was sent to earth, he lived a perfect life, he was crucified for our sins, and then he rose again on the third day. Just standard fact.

But it’s not just standard fact. It is jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, amazing grace. 

And looking at Abigail’s story, the impact hit me again.

Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth, dealt with a bunch of nasty people who essentially called him a liar, lived with absolutely no sin, and still was crucified as a criminal. He went down into the grave to defeat death for us. He didn’t do anything that made him deserving of death, and yet he said, “I accept all blame.”

We are Nabal. We are the fools who messed up, who sinned, who are now on the receiving end of the perfectly just wrath of God.

But just like Abigail stepped in on Nabal’s behalf, Jesus stepped in on our behalf. He stepped between us and God and said, “I accept all blame.” Which means that, through him, we can have an eternal life with God that we don’t deserve.

It’s absolutely incredible, isn’t it?

So anytime I’m struggling to see the weight of Jesus dying on the cross, I’m going to put myself in Abigail’s place, think about what I would do. When I do that, I can’t help but realize just how game-changing and awesome it is that Jesus took all the blame for all of us, despite being completely blameless.

On him be the blame, not on us. That. That is amazing grace.

A Failing Perfectionist

I wouldn’t call myself a total perfectionist, but when it comes to certain things in life, I definitely strive to be pretty close to perfect. Namely, in academics.

I feel like I’ve relaxed a bit since coming to college, but that’s not to say that my tendencies from high school to stress over even the tiniest of details of a homework assignment and to be upset if I don’t get an A in a class are gone completely. Honestly, this perfectionism makes my life so much more stressful, and I’m full of worries about what’s to come and if I prepared well enough for it.

In short, I’m a mess.

I’m a mess because no matter how much I want to be perfect in my schoolwork, I cannot. 

Let me repeat that again, but generalized. Perfectionists have a tendency to let our unreasonable desire to be perfect cause us unnecessary stress because no matter how much we strive to be perfect, we will inevitably fall short. 

That goes for those like me who want to be perfect in their schoolwork, to those who want to be the perfect role model (also me), to those who want to be the best at their job, to those who want to be perfect in just about everything they do.

Here’s the deal, we’re not perfect beings. Romans 3:23 tells us that “everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (NLT). As unpleasant as that may sound, that’s fact. We’re sinning, imperfect beings who can never be perfect on our own.

But for all you perfectionists out there, there is hope. The Gospel says that Jesus came down to earth and died for our sins, that we may have eternal life with him if we believe. He has sent the Holy Spirit to us to start creating us believers anew.

The Holy Spirit is making us perfect. 

Isn’t that awesome?!

We can never hope to achieve perfection on our own, but if we rely on the Holy Spirit and let Him lead us and shape us and mold us, we will slowly but surely become more like our perfect Father in heaven. And once we get to heaven, we will be perfect and without sin.

So, all that to say, perfectionism in and of itself, I believe, is not an entirely bad desire to have.

After all, it can point to our creation. Genesis 1 says that everything God created was “good.” God is perfect, and He made man in His image, meaning that man started off as perfect. It was only when sin entered the world that we were made imperfect.

Secondly, if we didn’t have a desire to be better or a desire to be perfect, why would we need the Holy Spirit? The very basis of Christianity is this: We are imperfect sinners, and we realize this, but Jesus Christ has covered the cost and through the Holy Spirit we will be made more and more like Him through this lifetime.

Christianity is all about imperfect beings being restored to perfection by our perfect Creator. 

Now, that’s certainly just one take at the Gospel, and there are many other aspects to it, but I say that to illustrate the point that perfectionism, defined as a desire to constantly be better and do better, in and of itself isn’t bad. It is only when we look to ourselves to be perfect that we falter. Only God can make us perfect.

So don’t shun your perfectionist tendencies completely, just turn them over to the God who is perfect. Instead of relying on yourself to become perfect, rely on God. That’s the only way our efforts will not be in vain.

Loving The Others

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Matthew 22:36-39 (NLT)

For most Christians, it’s pretty obvious that we’re supposed to be loving others. We all know it; we all agree with it; we’ll all shout it from the rooftops. But do we live it? 

It’s one thing to love our friends, our family, our poor neighbor who just needs a bit of help since her husband just died. In short, it’s easy (comparatively) to love those who are similar to us. To love those whom we like. 

But it seems to be a bit harder to love those who are other. 

I am heartbroken by the news I’ve been hearing recently and the upsurge in hate towards people of a different ethnicity and/or religion. Specifically (though they aren’t the only group to experience hate in America and elsewhere), Arab Americans and Muslims. I name these groups specifically because I began writing this post after hearing about the attack in London near a mosque and the Muslim girl who was abducted and beaten to death in Virginia.

In the wake of these attacks, I saw a young American Muslim girl talk about how she feared going out on the streets in her traditional religious garb. Before, she could expect taunts and odd looks and behavior around her. But now, she’s afraid. 

No one should have to fear for their lives because of the color of their skin, where they’re from, or their religion. No one.

The Problem in America

We live in the United States of America, a nation founded on freedom. Meaning people have freedom to be who they want to be and believe in what they want to believe in. But, in the midst of all this hate, that freedom is being uprooted. Sure, the law says I’m free to worship whichever god I wish, and sure, the law says I can immigrate here from the Middle East. But hate is virtually making the law ineffective.

It doesn’t matter if I’m legally able to be a Christian if the people in my country attack and kill me for being a Christian.

But what does all this mean for Christians?

Because, surely, Christians aren’t the ones perpetuating all of that. Right?

Unfortunately, some Christians are. But those aren’t the ones I’m talking about. I want to focus on the “neutral” Christians, those who would never take part in perpetuating hate, never ever. When asked about it, of course they say it’s awful, that it’s unbiblical, that it’s just plain wrong. But, at the same time, they don’t do anything to stop it.

I’m focusing on this group because it’s the group I find myself falling into, and the line of thinking that propels this group can be sneaky, slimy, and hard to break out of. I know. Because we aren’t doing anything wrong. We aren’t the ones hating on others. We aren’t the ones committing violent acts. It’s not us. It’s not on our shoulders.

Except it is.

Jesus called us to love our neighbors. Are we loving them if we watch as they are beaten, attacked, and killed? Are we loving them if we stand by as their neighborhood places are looted and destroyed?

Further, we were called to make disciples of all the nations and to be a light on hilltop that cannot be hidden. 

Being a light means that we don’t blend into the darkness around us. We stand out. We shine bright for Jesus.

We do that by loving where others hate, by welcoming where others cast out, by acting as Jesus would in a world devoid of His love.

After all, if we wish to share Jesus with everyone to the ends of the earth, and to be effective in doing so, we must first gain their trust. Would you listen to someone who didn’t seem to care about you? Probably not. Therefore, we need to show the others that we care about them.

Isn’t that what Jesus, who invited tax collectors and sinners to eat with him, would do?

Let’s Talk About Jesus

No, really, let’s talk about Jesus. Let’s talk about Jesus to our friends, family members, acquaintances. Let’s talk about Jesus in our day-to-day lives.

Y’all, I’m a very shy person. Meeting new people makes me nervous, I’m awkward, and I’m no good at starting conversations with anyone but my closest friends no matter how hard I try.

I often use this as an excuse to not talk about Jesus with those I care about in my life. But that’s not okay.

Right before I started writing this post, I read a Facebook post from a friend talking about sharing the Gospel. She talked about stepping out of our comfort zones to strike up real, spiritual conversations. It got me thinking.

Naturally, I started to (in my head) go on the defensive. I do share the Gospel, just not in the way she’s talking about. I have this blog, don’t I? I’m using the writing gift God has given me to spread His Good News. Isn’t that enough?

But, woah, I’m going to stop myself right there. When it comes to sharing the Gospel and talking about Jesus, it’s never just “enough.” 

Jesus is the Light of the World. He’s our Savior, our Rock, our Redeemer. Without Him, there is no hope. Without Him, we are doomed to an eternity separated from God.

We can never settle for talking about Him just “enough.”

Jesus commanded us to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19 NLT). That command is pretty clear. And I don’t think it means we should draw a line at when we’ve shared the Gospel “enough.” It doesn’t mean that we can talk ourselves out of doing anything but sharing the Gospel whole-heartedly and unashamedly.

See, it was a dangerous line of thinking I was falling into when I was using my blog to justify not sharing the Gospel in my day-to-day conversations. I was settling for something less than what I was fully capable of because of fear.

And we should never settle when it comes to God. He deserves nothing but our very best. He deserves nothing but our everything. After all, we do owe Him our lives.

Further, if we fully understand the weight of the Gospel, and we really love others as Christ called us to love, how can we let fear–or anything else–keep us from sharing the joy of Jesus with them?

That goes for acquaintances and random people we meet as well as for our closest friends and family members.

I understand as much as the next girl that it can be incredibly difficult to talk about Jesus with those we’re close to. For some reason, it’s easier to share with complete strangers than with those we love the most. Maybe it’s because we don’t have to live with complete strangers and fret over how they might judge us.

But, again, that’s fear talking.

If these people are really those we love the most, we should be even more willing and more adamant about sharing the Gospel with them.

After all, it is a life-and-death situation. 

I think one of the reasons it can be so easy for us to brush off talking about Jesus is because we are forgetting the stakes. The Bible tells us that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ. That’s it.

If our friends, family members, classmates, and coworkers don’t realize that, then they’re walking a dangerous path. How can we stand by and let them continue down that path without even trying to show them the right path?

If we saw a person walking out into the middle of a busy highway would we stop them and point them to safety, or would we let them continue? 

But I’m not capable of pointing anyone in the right direction on my own. I think I’ve made that abundantly clear to myself in the way I let fear control me and the way I convince myself that I don’t have the right words to say what needs to be said.

But good news: Jesus doesn’t expect us to do it alone. He is the Savior. 

We can’t save anyone. Only Jesus can save. 

Jesus simply expects us to set our eyes on Him and let the Holy Spirit guide us. He will give us the words to say what we need to say, just like He equipped Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. From there, we simply need to let the Holy Spirit work.

I know that it isn’t necessarily “simple” like I made it out to be. But the Bible never said the Christian life would be easy. Rewarding, yes. Fulfilling, yes. But definitely not easy.

That’s why we need to keep turning back to Jesus whenever we mess up and experience His grace. We are warriors for a heavenly King.