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We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives, We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ, we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him.
When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.
Romans 6:6-12

I came across this verse the other day, and it seemed to represent an idea I was trying to get across. Which was that we are NO longer slaves to sin. Our desires to live for ourselves or (the one I struggle with) having to please other people. The answers from the first worship post found some surface level issues but hopefully, the second post helped to really dig down deep, into those places where our brokenness has made us into the person we are today that we often don’t want to face. A lot of times these subjects make us so uncomfortable that we don’t ask for help because we feel like we can’t admit these issues, or we lay it at the feet of Jesus only to pick it right again when we want to be comfortable.

The Solution

So now we know Jesus came and died to free us from the slavery of sin, and we know that worshiping idols is sinful, how can we be free of the shackles of idolatry? Idolatry is so hard to deal with because our hearts were designed for worship. In fact, the only way to remove idols from our lives is to replace them with God! Let’s revisit a verse from the previous post to see how this is possible.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

Colossians 3:1-5

As Paul mentioned in the first two verses, we must be willing to put our hearts and minds on things above.

Repent

This requires us to repent of our sin and not just because of a fear of consequences but out of an understanding that Jesus died to free us from these sins and that our sin doesn’t only hurt us but it makes a mockery of that sacrifice. Seeing the damage, we’ve dealt to our own lives still has us at the center of our repentance which leads to a selfish surface level repentance out of a fear of consequences rather than a heart changing experience of realizing the deep love our God has for us.

Rejoice

But repentance alone is not enough. That begins the idol removal process, but we must know replace that idol with God. We must rejoice in him daily; He must be the biggest source of joy in our lives so that while we may still want to do well at work and want to get along with others that they are no longer in position to become idols because our love for God is much more important than anything else. Think about all the things God has brought into your life and the promises he has made in his word. Let these things define and sustain you rather than your fleeting desires.

Connect

It would be negligent not to mention that this journey should be attempted alone. Isolating yourself from Christian community is the worst thing you can ever do. Cutting communication with other Bible-believing Christians leaves way too much room for the world (culture, non-Christians, Spiritual Warfare) to influence your beliefs. Even in complete isolation, we would be left to our own internal thoughts and emotions which twist me up and turn me around all the time. Having Godly men and women in your life that can speak truth to you is essential to growing as a believer and keeping idols at bay and I pray that each and every one of you seeks that out as part of your walk.

PS
A lot of my ideas on worship and idols were influenced by Tim Keller and specifically his book: Counterfeit Gods. If you want to know more and see a much more in-depth explanation of these topics I highly recommend it! And if you use the link above you can help me continue to improve the site!

Let’s all be honest with ourselves and say we have struggled with putting things in front of God. I understand that we are not bowing down to anything or singing their praises like during worship in church but when I start valuing these things above my relationship with God, it’s natural for my heart to put them in his place.

With that in mind here are some things that I’ve placed above God:

Comfort

For most of my childhood the most important thing in my life was making sure I was comfortable. I dislike conflict and really any kind of discomfort even when I know it’s for my eventual good. As a result, I often seek comfort by watching one of my favorite movies instead of going to God with what is going on in my life. To be uncomfortably honest, I have let my insecurities drive me to emotional eating, trying to escape reality through music, or just zoning out instead of actually dealing with what is going on and going to God with my issue. This mindset is incredibly easy for me to slip into and I pray daily for God to renew my mind and focus it on what he has for me rather than my instinctual selfish behaviors.

Approval

The desire to want to fit in is real and exists in all of us to a certain extent. In the US that often involves spending money on things that are advertised as “necessary” to be stylish, classy, or accepted. My most recent major run in with how much this moment I arrived back home from my honeymoon. The living room was piled with a combination of my stuff, his stuff, and the new addition of a bunch of wedding presents and we were tasked with the process of figuring out what we needed to get rid of. We had a ton of stuff that one of us had bought that we rarely used but our culture had taught us to keep it because it looked nice or just to have it even if it made our lives more cluttered and harder to manage.  During the process of cleaning out all of our stuff, I kept seeing all of my “friends” on Facebook decorating their houses to be picture perfect, which led me to want to spend even more money on stuff to make our place look like an HGTV fairytale.  All of this made me take a step back to think about why I felt this way, was it more important for people to think my house is cute or for my husband and I to have a place to live where we could focus and be productive on what God has called us to do. This really help put things in proper perspective.

Security/Control

Does your job define you or the amount of money you take home bring you comfort? I grew up thinking that I needed to be self-sufficient and be able to take of my own problems. Because of this I end up wanting to control my surroundings and make decisions based on what I feel is safest for me not based on what God is doing in my life. It’s important to learn and realize that not only is my identity in Christ but that there is no amount of wealth or protection I can build for myself that can’t be wiped away by the world.

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.Colossians 3:5

In the next part of the series we will address how to deal with these idols in our lives and to focus our worship on God.

What do you Worship?

This standard church question receives typically a pretty standard church answer, God or Jesus. I’ve given that answer many times myself. But I think this question deserves more thought and reflection than it usually gets. Over the years I’ve found consistently asking myself these questions helps to diagnose my heart and reveal the idolatry hiding inside.

1. What is your life structured around and why?

Identifying what your life is structured around is a constructive way to look into your own heart and figure out what is going on. It can also be beneficial in determining your upcoming plans. Start by looking at your daily, weekly, and yearly activities. Ask the question “What are the areas in your life you are working for, planning for, and sacrificing for?” Are there any differences in your stated goals and your actual behavior? This kind of self-reflection can highlight the differences between what you think you are living for and what your real goals in life are. One of my long-term goals is for this blog is for it to get a lot of views and be successful as possible, so I’ve had to adjust my behavior to spending a lot of time writing and working on parts of the blog.

But just looking at the activities you are doing is usually not sufficient to uncover idols. After you have determined what you have been spending time on it is necessary to ask why these things? What am I getting from this? To revisit my example about this blog, why is it important to me to have a successful blog? My current answer is that the more views my blog gets, the more people I can encourage with the hope I have through Christ. However, I’ve seen many instances where good things become all important things, so I try to be very intentional in how I think I think about success so that I don’t begin to worship or idolize a high view number to fulfill me.

2. Who or what do you run to when the seasons of life are joyful or disheartening?

Whatever or whoever you go to is the one thing that you most value. It could be the first person you call when things start going wrong or the first person you want to tell the good news too. Or maybe it’s the habit you turn to, to get through a rough day to relieve stress or when you want to celebrate. Personally, I’ve had difficulty with using food to regulate my emotions which led me to see how I prioritized my comfort above what I knew was logical or God-honoring.

3. What are the things that cause you to become angry?

Anger is a painful emotion for me because I am prone to get angry about a lot of things pretty quickly. I still actually struggle with being proud that I’m not a person you want to mess with because of how harsh my anger can be. Last week I was furious because I had found myself once again stuck in significant traffic and my mind was racing with thoughts of running out of time to get the errands I needed to complete. After taking a second to calm down and process my road rage I had to stop and ask myself what was bothering. The realization that I had come to was so caught up in my stressful day at work that the negativity was consuming me. I was telling them all how to drive so I could feel better even though it did not affect them since they couldn’t hear me! But my anger came out to defend something I dearly care about which in this case was my perception of being in control.

If your answer to all of these questions is that I don’t struggle with any of these, that’s great! I hope they helped! But for many, including me, it’s constructive to go over some additional information and examples to help this sink in. It took quite some time to get out what I wanted to share with about worship, but with the help of my editor we have broken it down into a three-part post. Over this coming week, will be posting two more posts to paint a picture of how important worship is. See y’all on Wednesday for Part 2!

Welcome to my first book review! Sorry for missing last week, technical difficulties derailed my posting, but now I’m back! I am planning on this being a regular part of the blog and posting one on the third Monday of the month. I’m praying for perseverance for that, and in that vein, my first book review was about a book that has helped me understand how to keep going when I feel like giving up.

5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit

Author: Nicki Koziarz

I wanted this book to be my first review for a couple reasons, the first being that it is incredibly encouraging so it really fits the goal of this blog, but another is that I love the way Nicki writes. She does a good job of mixing in her personal stories to reinforce the biblical lessons the book teaches while also being very relatable. With that as a background, let’s dive into the review!

About the Book:

This book was written from 5 lessons that Nicki learned from studying the book of Ruth while she was in her own words “on a mission to reverse the effects of quitting in [her] life.” The book alternates between personal stories and breaking down the book of Ruth to see how she was a dependable woman. This lens allows the book to be not only biblically sound but to connect with readers in today’s culture. Structurally the book is broken down into 10 chapters, 2 for each of the habits that are espoused in the book. At the end of each chapter is a “Make It Stick” section which summarizes the major points for that chapter followed by a “To Be Honest” section which contains questions to challenge the reader to examine themselves further or to share in a small group setting. I found both of these to very helpful as teaching tools as I am having to teach these lessons to myself over and over again.

Enkouragements and Highlights:

I enjoyed this book a lot, and I want to share some of my favorite insights and pieces that can encourage you today:

“When the quiet quitter starts to rise in you, remember this: nothing and no one can threaten your purpose in God. The game’s not over; it’s just running into a little overtime.”

This was incredibly uplifting to realize! I’ve fought myself so many times with accusations that somehow God’s purpose for my life was unattainable and that I had missed too many opportunities that my time was out and anything I did now would be too little too late.

“Feelings fog our focus. Hope filters failure.”

Another key point that really resonated me was the focus on how to find hope in devastating and dry seasons in our lives. The thoughts in my head often directly contradict what I believe God’s will for my life is and but it’s possible to fight those moments by remembering the hope I have in Christ and following this list given in the book:

  1. Recognize we can’t control the things that happen to us, but we always can control our reaction.
  2. Appreciate what you have
  3. Give it time

“God is not a puppet master controlling our every move. The decision to stay with Him through our thoughts, words, and actions will always be ours.”

This reminded me of the fact that even when I feel like things are hopeless that I can follow God one little step at a time. I love the fact that God loves us enough to give us the choice to follow him and even though my momentary feelings are telling me to quit that I can be obedient in the smallest ways and that those actions will be rewarded.

Why should you read this book:

This book is excellent for anyone with a busy schedule or just wants a quick read. I found it to be a great book to read a chapter a night as they average about 20 pages each or if you are seriously stressed for time, a section a week is still easily doable. This book is for women who get easily discouraged and are looking for biblical insight and practical methods for how to persevere. I would also recommend this book for group reading to gain the additional insights that your fellow women can provide.

Summary:

I highly recommend this book, and I feel like it has spurred a lot of growth in my life. I no longer feel like being dependable is out of my grasp and that I quit things less than I used to. I’m a big fan of the author and am actually beginning to read her most recent book: Why, Her: 6 Truths We Need to Hear When Measuring Up Leaves Us Falling Behind which deals with the idol of comparison.


This book was bought by me out of interest in the subject, the links to buy the book may be affiliate links, which you can read more about on my disclaimer page.

Please let me know what you thought about this review! Also if you’ve read the book what really connected with you about it? What did you wish I had included in the review?

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
2 Corinthians 1: 3-5

What Happened:

When I was 15 one of the most traumatic and stressful events in my life happened which altered the course of my teenage years and early adult life.

I remember my mother telling me that my older brother had been in an accident, that she and my dad were going to the hospital about three hours away and that I would be staying at a friends house that night. Her face was pale, her eyes were filled with tears, and I was confused and scared. The next day came, and a family friend gave me a ride to the hospital, and after a restless night filled with questions, the answers I got were few and far between.

I know that my brother was working on a tractor-trailer when something went wrong, and his pelvis ended up pinned between the trailer and the ground. He was airlifted to the nearest trauma center that could handle the severity of his injuries, and his heart stopped twice during that flight. The doctors didn’t believe he was going to make, but they were going to give it their best shot. But I didn’t know any of this until much later.

From my point of view, this was the beginning of a three-month span of him being shuffled between surgery and ICU with little to no idea of what was going on.

By the grace of God, my brother was released from the hospital and while he does have some limitations of movement and occasional pain his physical recovery was nothing short of a miracle.

My emotional recovery, however, would take much longer.

What I Did:

Since most of the physical drama was occurring in a hospital several hours away from my home and I was still a freshman in high school, I had to return to my hometown to go to school during the week.

For the first month of this ordeal, my parents were in the hospital with my brother full time, which meant I needed someone to stay with. Fortunately, I was blessed to have a friend who welcomed me into their home. However, instead of being thankful that God had provided a place for me I felt abandoned by my family. I knew they were keeping me out of the loop with what was happening with my brother and now they weren’t even in the same home I came back to every night.

Logically I understood that my parents needed to be there for my brother and in hindsight, it’s clear that some of their secrecy was out of a desire to spare me most of the grim reality of the situation. But at that moment in my heart, it felt like I was a clear number two priority for my parents. It felt like the only people who were supposed to be there unconditionally for me were gone. Meanwhile, I was going to school and classmates and teachers would ask how my brother was doing and I had nothing to tell them. My reaction to this was to stop talking to people to keep myself from thinking about him and the embarrassment of not having any news on his condition.

By the second month, my parents had a system where one of them was with my brother, and the other was at home with me. This allowed me to further my isolation by losing contact with the friend I had stayed with and just stay at home as much as possible. The stress of this was taking a toll on more than just my relationships and my test performance at school started to decline, something that was already dicey due to test anxiety, dyslexia, and ADHD.

By the time my brother was released from the ICU, I was spending my weekends losing myself in fiction in his hospital room rather than trying to resuscitate my flailing grades. My weeks were consumed by depression and anxiety and the feeling that I was truly alone in the world.

By the time the my brother was able to come home and the school year was over I was so into my isolation that I demanded that I be homeschooled so I wouldn’t have to even see people my age during the week. I spent the next 4 years struggling to finish high school online while working full time in a preschool, with no friends my age, dealing with severe depression, and a future that looked bleak at best.

Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone?

Ecclesiastes 4:11

What I Learned:

Isolation is never the answer

To steal a phrase from my husband “Christianity is a team sport.” I felt miserable and alone for years because I decided to be defensive rather than letting trustworthy people in and sharing what was going on in my life. With the risk of sounding crazy, I can say for certain that the longer you go without communication with other the more convincing the voices in your head become. Depression and isolation are a vicious cycle that can be broken! If you are a Christian and feel yourself slipping into depression or isolating yourself, let someone know!

God is able to comfort me

My biggest mistake in this whole story. Bigger than staying out of community, bigger than isolating myself from people who cared about me, was not trusting that God was in control and that he had a plan for my life. My hope was in myself and my ability to make myself comfortable in my surroundings. This led me to collapse when I was no longer able to do that. I would encourage anyone who is in the pit of depression or hopelessness to examine what is giving their life meaning. If it isn’t God then it will always let you down.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
Ephesians 3:20

What God Has Done:

My goal with sharing this story isn’t to share how my life was terrible and that I lived miserably ever after. I want to show the mistakes I’ve learned from, so hopefully, you won’t have to repeat them. I also want you to know that if you’ve made similar mistakes that God can and will redeem you.

Since this is a new blog and you don’t know a lot of my story I wanted to tell you that my attitude and life has improved significantly since my dark teenage years. I’ve been renewed and transformed into a person whose greatest joy in life is building others up.

If anyone reading this can relate at all to my feelings of depression and anxiety, I want to let you know that I am here for you and I am praying for you. More importantly though God loves you and you were not created to live a miserable existence. I pray that you would turn to him. If you are interested but don’t aren’t comfortable alone or don’t know how to talk to God, reach out to me in the comments or the social media of your choice.

For we are God’s masterpiece He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Ephesians 2:10

The Dilemma:

If God considers us his masterpiece, then why do we think it is ok to treat ourselves like trash? Why do we start to believe the lies the devil tells us instead of listening to the truth of God’s word? All too often I find myself being consumed by lies that ensnare my emotions and lead me into a mental trap of not feeling good enough.

This is an issue that I find myself still struggling with today. I face the thoughts of living up to the standards of other people in my life or social settings. Sometimes it happens when I’m serving God by trying to do my job well, and suddenly it twists to me having to be the best employee and be recognized for it. Other times it’s just being in conversation with one of my friends and listening to what they did last weekend and thinking “so you made time for that person, but not me.” One that I’m sure almost all of us can empathize with is instant jealousy from looking at good news on a friend’s social media.

Each day seems to bring a new batch of neverending ways to try to put down others to boost my self-confidence, sabotage friendships by misreading intentions, or just give in to feelings that I’m never going to amount to anything. Basically, our challenge is not to be consumed with all these influences that tear many of us down.

Sometimes I did well and rose to the challenge, however, I’ve often found myself in a cycle where these comparisons spiral out of control. I was constantly beating myself up about how I wasn’t keeping up or learning anything or getting anywhere. The more accustomed I grew to this behavior and way of thinking, the less confident I became.

This resulted in isolation, depression, and spending less time in the bible.

I don’t know about you, but I never planned to come to a place where I wasn’t finding my confidence in the Lord. One day I was trying to follow God’s will for my life and the next I was caught up in lies that I wasn’t good enough and never could be. I don’t want to live in fear of never being good enough to live the life God has planned for me.

The good news is that I don’t have to and neither do you.

The (wo)man who trusts in the Lord whose confidence indeed is the Lord, is blessed.
Jeremiah 17:7

The Solution:

Let God determine your identity.

I know this is not exactly earth-shattering to many who are long-time Christians. However, nothing will ever be as comforting as the fact that the God of the universe, who knows every thought you’ve ever had much less everything you’ve ever done, fully loves and accepts you for who you are.

In fact, he created you to be that way. He is looking down on you as his daughter and can’t wait for you to trust that Dad really does have everything under control.

Today I am taking a leap of faith and starting one of the most ambitious projects I’ve ever done in launching this website. I have constantly had such a strong desire to encourage other women who are going through trials that it took me tearing my walls down and started actually going through what I was being called to do.

The reasons for why I shouldn’t are all around me:

  • I’m a horrible writer
  • I’m inconsistent
  • I have no experience with any kind of web stuff

But my reason for why is bigger:

  • God has placed this on my heart to do

I honestly don’t know if God is planning on using this as an epic failure to teach me to rely on him more fully or if this website will eventually reach millions for His Glory. What I do know is that the end result really doesn’t matter as long as I am following where he is leading me.

What is it that you feel God is calling you to do that you just don’t believe is possible? What kinds of steps could you start taking in faith that God is leading you this way to reveal more about himself to you?

My encouragement to y’all is to dig a little deeper and not to ignore the desires the Lord has given you or live in the lies that you will never succeed. Spend more time building a healthy image by relying on God’s word instead of other sources and go do something great for Him.

I’ll be right there with you.

 

Oh and as I’m still learning this whole blogging thing. I’d love to hear about anything that really resonated with you or what fell flat. Also, I would love to read about any plans, big or small, that God has laid on your hearts to pursue!

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