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10 Tips to Help You Successfully Complete a 1-Year Bible Reading Plan

Reading the Bible in a year can seem like an overwhelming task. Many of us have read parts of the Bible or started reading plans, but never finished. And, we know that sticking to our plans is not always easy. Life gets busy, we get tired, we get confused by the text… We often have good intentions, but the follow-through is hard. That’s why I wanted to share 10 tips to help you successfully complete a 1-year Bible reading plan.

10 Tips to Help You Successfully Complete a 1-Year Bible Reading Plan

1. Before you begin, pray. And pray continually.

It can be tempting to just jump right in and start reading, but we must not forget to start with prayer. Grab your Bible, and before you start reading, ask God to help you understand His Word. Ask Him to help you stay focused and to remember what you read. Ask Him to give you wisdom and help you to apply what you read. Pray to Him about anything else you think of in regards to reading Scripture. Make this a daily habit.

2. Choose a solid Bible translation.

This is super important to consider before beginning a 1-year Bible reading plan. Just because a translation is offered on your favorite Bible app or website, doesn’t mean it’s a good one. Do your own research, but I recommend ESV, CSV, NIV, or NASB. Read portions of different sound translations to help you choose one that is relatively easy for you to understand. Stay away from paraphrases like the Message (MSG). They can be helpful at times for understanding the text, but they are not Scripture. Also, always avoid false translations like the Passion (TPT), which are not accurate translations at all. (See this article for more information on TPT.)

3. Choose a plan that’s right for you.

There are many free plans to choose from on the Bible app or plans you can purchase from your local Christian bookstore. Of course, I recommend my book The Bible in a Year, which is a 1-year Bible reading plan focusing on God’s character. For five days out of the week, you’ll be reading directly from the Bible. The sixth day, you will focus on one verse from that week’s reading and read a short devotional highlighting an attribute of God. The seventh day is either a catch-up day (if you missed a day during the week) or an opportunity for you to focus on a passage of your choice that day. Check out my book, The Bible in a Year HERE and see if it looks like a good fit for you.

4. Track your progress.

My book, The Bible in a Year has writing space for you to track your progress. Whatever the plan you choose, most have a way for you to document what you’ve read. This is super helpful for staying on track and organized. However, be careful to not get legalistic about your time reading the Bible. It can be a fine line between remaining obedient to your time in God’s Word each day, even when you don’t feel like it and treating that time as something to just check off the list. Continue praying for a right mindset about how you approach tracking your progress.

5. Schedule designated time each day.

It is super important that we prioritize our daily reading time. When we let it become an afterthought is when we struggle to stick to the plan. Determine from the get-go that your time reading the Bible each day is a top priority and schedule it at a time of day that you can typically count on. Maybe that’s in the morning before classes start or the kids get up. Maybe it’s on your lunch break. Or, perhaps it’s after dinner sometime.

Scheduling designated time focused on your 1-year Bible reading plan also means accounting for the weekends, holidays, vacations, and simply those super busy weeks. You don’t have to have it all figured out before you start, but having a general idea of how you will stay on track when you’re outside of your normal routine will help equip you for success!

6. Prayerfully set boundaries for yourself.

Think and pray about under what circumstances you struggle the most to stay focused and mentally sharp. Sometimes we don’t always have control over that, but when we do, it’s important to set boundaries to protect our time in God’s Word. For example: There have been many times I’ve gone to my favorite coffee shop to work on my Bible studies. But, so often, I run into someone I know and get distracted. So now, when I know I need to have focused time in God’s Word, I stay home or drive to a park and sit in the quiet car.

That’s just one boundary of mine, but consider yours. Is your mind more sharp in the morning or evening? Set a boundary to avoid the times of day you’re less focused. Do you doze off when you sit and read in a comfy chair? Set a boundary to read at the table. Again, no need to get legalistic about this – a boundary is meant to help you, not to be an added burden.

7. Have an accountability partner.

Finding a loved one to do a reading plan with you is ideal. The last time I did a Bible reading plan, my husband did it with me and there were several times I felt like giving up, but because he was doing it too, I stuck with it… and finished! If you can’t find someone who wants to do a 1-year Bible reading plan with you, at the very least, find a family member or friend who is willing to be your accountability partner. Communicate to that person what you need from them. Would you appreciate a text once a week to see if you’re staying on track? Do you need them to help you stick to a boundary? Would you like them to ask you what you’ve been reading and learning every couple weeks? Do you want them to pray for you? Having a helpful buddy to encourage and motivate you to keep going can be a game changer!

8. Read out loud when you can.

Does your mind wander off when you just read in your head? Are you like me and find yourself getting distracted and re-reading portions over and over again? Engaging more of our senses and reading out loud can really help keep our minds focused. This is different from listening to a recording of the Bible, which can be helpful in its own way – especially if you have poor eyesight or have trouble speaking. But if you’re able, I highly recommend reading out loud when you can. (At least try it!)

9. Journal, but keep it brief.

It can be easy to fall into the habit of treating a 1-year Bible reading plan like something to check off the daily to-do list. We can start with the best intentions and still fall into this trap. When we treat our reading plans this way, we fail to reap all the benefits of daily time in Scripture. As a consequence, we often quit.

Journaling about what we read each day (or even just each week) can help us remember that reading the Bible isn’t just a legalistic ritual. It’s for our Spiritual benefit – to grow in wisdom, knowledge, and understanding – and ultimately, to fall more in love with God!

Reading the Bible in one year is already an overwhelming undertaking for many, so keep your journaling goals attainable. My book, The Bible in a Year is a reading plan focusing on God’s character and has a few lines of journaling space for each day. When you finish your daily reading, write down one attribute of God that stood out to you. Or, journal one new thing you learned. Whatever you choose to journal, keep it brief to avoid having it become burdensome. Don’t underestimate how taking a quick moment to journal some key truths from your reading can add to the depth of your time in God’s Word.

10. Share what you read with someone else.

Get in the habit of sharing what you’re reading with others. It will be good practice for you to remember what you learned and process what passages you’re struggling with. It can also help with applying the truths you’re learning to your life. And of course, you won’t be the only one who benefits! Whoever you share with will get to hear about God and His Word and possibly be inspired to seek Him on his or her own!

Be encouraged! You can successfully complete a 1-year Bible reading plan!

I hope these 10 tips to help you successfully complete a 1-year Bible reading plan inspire you to make the commitment and do it! I may be writing this post in December for those of you New Year’s resolution planners, but if you’re reading this after the holidays, you can start a 1-year Bible reading plan whenever! Today is a great day for committing to reading God’s Word daily.

Be sure to check out my book, The Bible in a Year: A Reading Plan Focusing on God’s Character. I’d love to help you get into the Word of God, reflect on His character, and learn how to apply what you’ve read to your daily life!

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Knowing God’s Character: 4 Ways Our Lives Are Transformed When We Trust Who God Is

As I have grown in my faith, I have learned the importance of knowing God’s character. When we reflect on who He is and how He has revealed Himself through Scripture, it changes everything. To celebrate the release of my book The Bible in a Year: A Reading Plan Focusing on God’s Character I wanted to share 4 key ways our lives are transformed when we really know and trust who God is.

1. Knowing God’s character builds our faith.

When we read the Bible and look for examples of God’s character, we are encouraged. Whatever verse or passage we are reflecting on or studying, it is so beneficial to get into the habit of looking for the attributes of God. Sometimes we can find them clearly stated, like in Lamentations 3:22-23: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” We literally read His love is steadfast and unceasing, He is merciful, and faithful. 

But in many passages, we have to do just a little more digging. For example, Genesis 1:26 says: “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…”” There may not be an attribute of God explicitly stated like in the Lamentations passage, but we can determine from these words that God is authoritative and the Creator.

Growing in our knowledge and understanding of who God is deepens our trust in Him. When we truly trust God is who He says He is, we are able to confidently live out our faith with greater intentionality and boldness. Our joy and contentment in Him increases. And as a result, our anxieties and fears decrease, because we truly know we are secure in Christ.

2. Knowing God’s character shapes the way we pray.

As a young believer, it took me awhile to learn how to be led by truth, instead of being led by my emotions. Truly trusting who God is has deepened my faith. It has changed the way I think and act on a daily basis. Consequently, my prayer life has been greatly impacted by this change.

When we trust in who God is, we pray in light of who He is. Instead of being swept up by our ever-changing emotions and circumstances, we are rooted in the truth of God’s character. There are many examples of this in the Bible, but Psalm 77 couldn’t be clearer. This Psalm is filled with very deep and real emotions, but the psalmist brings those thoughts and feelings under the authority of God. This is a great example of how knowing God’s character impacts our prayers.

3. Knowing God’s character enhances our worship.

Worship is the act of glorifying and praising God for who He is. Therefore, we must get to know Him in greater depth in order to properly worship Him. The fundamental way we learn about God’s character is in the Bible. It’s how He chose to reveal Himself to us. So, we must read, memorize, meditate on, and study His Word regularly, not simply to build up knowledge for the sake of having more knowledge, but because it directly impacts our worship. Having a greater understanding of who God is brings Him glory. It deepens our love for Him and enhances our own experience as we worship Him.

4. Knowing God’s character changes the way we interact with others.

2 Corinthians 5:20 reminds believers that we are ambassadors of Christ. In other words, we are His representatives. In order to represent our Lord and Savior accurately to the world, we must be growing in our knowledge of who He is so that our actions can better reflect His character.

And the more we get to know God, the better we understand who we are in light of who He is. This inevitably grows in us a greater appreciation and love for the Father who gave His Son to die for any unworthy sinner who repents and believes in Him. As our gratitude grows, so does our desire to proclaim the Gospel and share the hope we have with others. Consequently, the fear that many of us feel about evangelizing diminishes when we trust in our God’s character and promises. 

Simply put, when we truly believe in Him, we act (James 1:22-25). 

Conclusion

What steps will you take today to grow in your understanding and love for God? If you are unsure, overwhelmed, or need some help, I invite you to check out my book The Bible in a Year: A Reading Plan Focusing on God’s Character. Together, we’ll read the entire Bible in one year while learning to reflect on God’s character.

Knowing God’s character builds our faith and changes the way we interact with God and others.

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Mighty Redeemer | Psalm 77:11-15

Last week, I wrote about practicing gratitude to overcome anxiety. If you didn’t get a chance to read that post, I recommend going back and reading that first since what you’re about to read here closely relates to that theme. But today, we’re going to reflect on Psalm 77 – remembering God’s great works and that He is our Mighty Redeemer.

Scripture

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; [and] have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah” –Psalm 77:11-15

Context

If you have time, I recommend reading this entire Psalm because it’s so powerful to see where verses 11-15 appear in context. Verses 1-9 give us a deep look into the intense sorrow and doubt the psalmist was experiencing. But instead of dwelling on the depth and pain of his depression and grief, he intentionally redirects his focus.

The psalmist’s words in verses 11-15 are filled with praise and hope as he remembers God’s mighty works of the past, His holiness, and His power to redeem. In short, he essentially says, “God, I will continually reflect on Your mighty works because You are great! You are set apart! By Your power You have redeemed Your people!”

Key Attribute of God: Mighty Redeemer

As we read the Bible, whether we’re in the Old or New Testament, it’s important to be on the lookout for attributes of God and glimpses of Jesus and the Gospel. This passage points us directly to Christ and we see many of His attributes exemplified in these verses. However, the main characteristic that stands out to me is how God is our Mighty Redeemer.

We see over the course of this short Psalm how God redeems the psalmist from his deep pit of depression and doubt by reminding him of who He is and what He has done. But, on an even greater scale, we are reminded of God’s faithfulness to redeem all of His people. There are many stories of God’s redemptive power throughout the Old Testament which point us to His ultimate plan of redemption through Christ. Jesus came into the world to save sinners so that all who repent and believe in Him, His death, and resurrection will be saved. He alone is our Mighty Redeemer.

Our Response

Now that we’ve read and reflected on this passage, it’s time to consider how we’ll respond. James 1:22 says we deceive ourselves if we are only hearers of the Word. We must be doers of the Word. So how will you respond to this passage? I’ve come up with some suggestions and questions for us to consider:

Things to Remember:

God has made known His might to us. Therefore, read the Bible! Read the Old and New Testament. Discover the many stories of His power and redemption that point us to Christ!

God’s track record. Look back on His mighty works in Scripture and reflect on the mighty works He has done in your own life.

God is our Mighty Redeemer. By His power, He overcame sin and death to save us.

Questions to Think About:

When you are depressed, anxious, fearful, stressed out, or sorrowful, how do you currently respond? How do you want to respond in the future?

The psalmist could have allowed his feelings to completely overtake him. His pain was real and deep, but he shifted his focus to God. What steps will you take in your own life to be more like the psalmist? It’s okay to grieve when we are in pain, but we must be careful not to allow sorrow to take over our lives. There is a biblical way to grieve. With that in mind, will you choose to dwell on the size of your problems and the depth of your pain or will you fix your eyes on the mighty power of God?

How might continually reflecting on Jesus and the Gospel impact your thoughts and actions?

Things to Do:

Respond to hardship and sorrow with praise and gratitude – Thanking our Mighty Redeemer for all He has done in the past and in our own personal lives.

Build our lives on the foundation of God’s Word in greater measure. Read, study, memorize, and meditate on Scripture to keep our eyes focused on His character, His promises, and His track record.

Respond to thoughts of doubt with statements of truth. Choose to believe in what God says in the Bible, not what we are personally feeling in a given moment.

Pray

Let’s close today’s post by praying to our Mighty Redeemer. Read this prayer slowly, out loud, making it your own.

Lord God, thank You for communicating who You are, what You promise, and what You’ve done through Your Word. You are holy; greater than man-made gods. There is no other like You – You are the one true God. Lord, I confess my forgetfulness, my lack of trust, and when I have allowed worry, stress, despair, and doubt to overtake me. Jesus, thank You for being our Mighty Redeemer. Thank You for dying on the cross for all my sins – these included. Help me to remember what I just read and learned, and reveal to me how You want me to respond today. In Your name I pray ~ Amen.



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Unless otherwise indicated, scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

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Practicing Gratitude to Overcome Anxiety

Happy November! As we anticipate Thanksgiving here in America, I felt it would be appropriate to focus on thankfulness and gratitude. Today, I specifically wanted to focus on practicing gratitude to overcome anxiety.

A Continual Personal Struggle

I’ve shared a few times this year about my own struggles with anxiety. I posted back in February about continually finding perfect peace in God’s Word. And soon after in March, I wrote about practical steps to overcoming anxiety according to Philippians 4. Learning to battle anxiety has been quite the process and I know many of you can relate.

Since writing those posts earlier this year, I have been on the frontlines of the anxiety battlefield – determined to cultivate a life marked by joy, not one marked by fear and anxiety. To be clear, joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness is circumstantial, whereas joy is not. To be joyful is to be filled with an inner peace and confidence in who Christ is and what He promises. In these uncertain times in our world, overcoming anxiety is a continual battle but it’s one worth fighting. And thankfully in Christ, it is not a battle we have to fight alone or in our own strength. 

As believers, we should be coping with anxiety in different ways than the world does. One of the key ways I’ve been filled with greater joy is by practicing gratitude to overcome anxiety.

Practicing Gratitude to Overcome Anxiety

My Breakthrough

For many weeks, I had been meditating on memorized Scripture in my head. But,  early one anxious morning, feeling like I had lost all control of my thoughts, I remembered 2 Timothy 1:7. That verse reminds us that God does not give us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and self-control. By the power of the Holy Spirit in me, I knew I could regain control of my thoughts.

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As I continued meditating on Philippians 4:4-9, I focused on verse 6. Which says, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (emphasis added) The prescription for anxiety is prayer – specifically: gratitude. I had Scripture memorized to help me combat anxiety, but that was only the first step. I needed to apply it.

In my moments of anxiety, the Spirit would remind me to think of whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable (Philippians 4:8). I knew I needed to focus on the good in my life, but it was so hard to pull myself out of the pit simply in my thoughts. So, I decided to get more proactive. I began carrying a little notepad around with me and when I felt anxious, I would write praises and words of thanks to God. The greater the anxiety, the more I would write. Within a day, I felt loads better. That one change made a world of difference.

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Get Proactive

When we are anxious, it should prompt us to examine ourselves – to ask God to reveal what’s not right within us. If you are anxious ask: God, what truth about you am I not fully trusting? Repent of your unbelief and accept Christ’s forgiveness. Humble yourself before Him. Allow Him to reveal what’s not right in your heart and be willing to change and grow.

What truth about God are you not fully believing?

Could this be contributing to your own anxiety? Pray the Holy Spirit will deepen your trust in Him and His promises.

How will you start practicing gratitude to overcome anxiety?

Overcoming anxiety starts with repentance. So, confess and ask God to help you change. Maybe you’re like me and need to do something a bit more tangible and visual to practice gratitude. Will you keep a little notepad? Write in a journal? Stick post-it notes around your home? 

Ask Jesus to strengthen you as you battle anxiety and focus on gratitude. Trusting who He is and what He promises will be a game changer. Will you commit to memorizing Scripture to deepen your trust and gratitude for who He is, what He has done, and promises He will do?

Focus on prayer and progress, not perfection. We may never fully be released from anxiousness in this lifetime, but we can grow in how we respond. When anxious thoughts creep into our minds, we can choose gratitude. We can choose to trust in the Spirit of power, love, and self-control to strengthen us. (2 Timothy 1:7)


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What is the Gospel?

Do you know what the Gospel is? Could you confidently articulate the Gospel message to someone else? Whether you are brand new to the Gospel or have been a believer for many years, the Gospel is for everyone. And, it’s important that we not only believe in it, but know how to articulate what we believe.

Click through the story below for a simple presentation of the Gospel. Then, we’ll go more in depth on each section below.

What is the Gospel? Story

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The Bad News

As I mentioned in the slideshow, in order to understand the good news, we have to understand the bad news. Which is: We are all born sinners in need of a Savior and cannot earn God’s favor by our own efforts. (James 2:10) In our postmodern culture, many believe there is no absolute truth – that what’s right and wrong is subjective. People who hold these beliefs do not understand their need for a Savior. If there is no absolute truth, there is no accountability for sin. So, we must start with an understanding of what the Bible says, which is that we are all dead in our sin. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

What is the Gospel? The Good News

Once we understand the bad news, we can understand the good news – the Gospel! I’ve heard it said that the Gospel is like a diamond and our sin is like a black cloth a jeweler lays down behind it to illuminate the stone’s beauty. With our sin as the backdrop, we can much more fully appreciate the beauty and magnificence of the Gospel.

So, what is the Gospel? Simply put, the Gospel is the good news that Jesus died and rose from the dead to save sinners. It’s by His grace, through faith alone that we are saved, not by works. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Jesus makes it very clear in His teachings and throughout Scripture that no amount of works can save us. Works are the fruit – or evidence – of a person who is saved. This is what James meant when we read that faith without works is dead. (James 2:14-16) It’s crucial that we understand this truth in order to be led to the true repentance that is required in order to be saved.

The Response

When reflecting on the Gospel and proclaiming it to others, we don’t simply want to stop with knowing the Gospel message. We must respond. As believers, we know in order to be saved, we must put our faith in Christ and Christ alone. But what does that mean? Jesus said in Mark 1:15 to “repent and believe in the Gospel.” 

I heard this explained so well by Todd Friel of Wretched. He said that faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin. To put our faith in Christ (or to believe) is to repent of our sins – to acknowledge our need for a Savior, confess our sins to God, and turn from our sinful ways. Belief without repentance is not true belief and vice versa. True belief always leads to repentance.

Remember: God is Sovereign

I wanted remind you that we are called by Jesus to carry out the Great Commission to go out and make disciples. (Matthew 28:16-20) However, remember that while we are called to partner with God to spread the Gospel to the nations, He alone does the saving. If you miss a part of the Gospel message when witnessing, don’t beat yourself up over it. God is sovereign. My story is a great example of this:

My Story

Growing up I heard that Jesus was God and that He died and rose from the dead to save sinners. But, it wasn’t until college, when two friends shared with me that Jesus loved me, wanted a relationship with me, and that He would forgive all my regrets and mistakes, that I understood what the Gospel meant for me personally. They didn’t share the full Gospel message with me at that moment, but God used them to bring me the pieces I was missing. 

The story God gave me is such a clear picture of how He saves us by His grace. I wouldn’t have been able to articulate the Gospel in the moment I was saved. (I didn’t even know that’s what had happened to me at the time!) But as I studied the Bible and learned more about what it meant to be saved, I discovered that by His grace, He orchestrated countless experiences throughout my life to bring me the pieces of the Gospel, and ultimately, led me to true faith and repentance in His perfect timing.

Trust in His Sovereignty

This is oftentimes how God works. It’s a great blessing to be able to present the Gospel in full to another person, but if you miss part of it, mess up the delivery, or run out of time, trust in God’s sovereignty. You may not be the person He uses to lead someone to faith, but it is still a great privilege to be used by Him to plant seeds.

My Hope and Prayer

It’s my prayer that you will personally respond by repenting and believing in the Gospel and that your belief will inspire you to tell others the good news. The Gospel changes everything! It saves dead souls and transforms individuals and cultures. I hope today you feel more equipped to articulate what you believe, and that by the power of the Spirit, you’ll carry out Jesus’s Great Commission!


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Praising God for Five Years of Marriage

This week marks five years married to my hubby Luke! To celebrate this milestone, I felt compelled to publicly praise Jesus and share a bit of our story with you all today.

The beginning

When Luke and I got married five years ago, he was pretty sick. If you’ve been following me for a long time, you might remember I shared a little bit about him having a chronic illness. At the time, he had a diagnosis but his treatment was not working for him. On top of that, Luke and I were both going through major career changes. We had both been pursuing music at the time, but due to his health, he decided to go back to school. And within the same week of his decision, I quit my job as a church worship leader to pursue my business full-time.

So much of our identity was wrapped up in music, so these changes felt like major losses. We had always pictured our lives a certain way, but God was clearly moving us in different directions. So we let go of our long-time dreams and entered into uncharted territory.

In the storm

While Luke was in school, he got so sick that he had to get surgery. Thankfully, the Lord used surgery to bring major relief and healing to Luke’s body. He still has minor issues, but his body seems to be responding well to his ongoing treatment.

We got over that obstacle, but then we were faced with several trials – financial struggles being just one of them. These were stressful times, and looking back, I would have done things differently. However, God even uses our mistakes to accomplish His purposes in the lives of believers. He really grew us in prayer, because we were so dependent on Him to provide for our most basic needs. We saw great displays of His mercy during this time. It was pretty incredible.

This was our hardest season. But in God’s great mercy, He got us connected with our pastor Ian who led us through biblical counseling. We learned how to apply the Word of God and experience its power to redeem the broken areas of our lives. God used biblical counseling to really grow Luke and me closer to Christ individually and as a couple. It was truly life changing!

Five years… to today

It’s amazing to look at God’s faithfulness over the past five years – the spiritual and physical healing we’ve experienced, the growth, and ultimately His provision over all things. Luke eventually got a great job and my business is finally in a steady place. Luke’s health remains stable as well! We may be out of that long storm of a season, but our life is certainly not without its problems… no one could have prepared any of us for a worldwide crisis!

Where would we be?

Covid especially has caused us to reflect on how the Lord has faithfully gone before us these five years of marriage. Where would we be if we had remained in music? We certainly wouldn’t have gigs and we might not even have jobs at the church due to cutbacks and online services. We were so heartbroken by the loss of our music dreams at the time. But today, we are exceedingly grateful for the new careers God provided for us and the timing of when He guided our steps. God has graciously sustained us during very unstable times in the world. 

What if…

Another question we have thought about is, What if Luke had needed surgery during the beginning of the pandemic? I wouldn’t have been able to be with him at the hospital and care for him in all the ways I got to. The timing felt horrible (in many ways it was), but it was better than having to navigate pandemic restrictions on top of it all. 

We’ve learned that sometimes blessings don’t look like blessings at the time. But because God is gracious and merciful, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” –Romans 8:28

God is sovereign

My husband and I could ask what if questions all day long, but we know the Lord is sovereign. I will not forget my despair in some of Luke’s sickest moments and messages of God’s sovereignty brought little to no comfort. I wrestled with tough questions like, If God is sovereign, then why is He allowing Luke to be so sick? And, What does God’s sovereignty mean for me personally?

I’ve since learned that when I question God’s sovereignty, I’m:

  • Not trusting in His promises to provide for His children (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • Not truly believing that He uses trials to produce unshakable faith within us (James 1:2-3)
  • Forgetting that He promises to work all things together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28)

The hope we have

Jesus doesn’t promise us health, wealth, and prosperity. He does promise suffering. But, He is not some sick God who delights in our misery. He is loving, kind, and merciful. So much so, that He left heaven to suffer on behalf of you and me – unworthy sinners. By His grace, when we put our faith in Jesus – meaning we repent of our sins and trust in Him alone as Lord and Savior – we are redeemed and promised eternal life! God promises, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” –Revelation 21:4

I don’t know what the future holds, but God does. Luke and I have seen in just five years of marriage how God has faithfully gone before us. He has allowed us to go through many things we would have avoided if we had the choice, but we wouldn’t trade our growth in Christ for anything. 

God has unique plans for each one of us. He will allow us to walk through different challenges, but His character and promises remain unchanging. Cling to that promise today, sweet friend. Whatever you are walking through today, you can trust Him. He is sovereign and He is faithful.

“You have encircled me behind and in front, And placed Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot comprehend it.” –Psalm 139:5-6 NASB

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Unless otherwise indicated, scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

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Praying For Yourself

How often do you pray for yourself? Do you struggle praying yourself?

This may seem like a silly question to some of you. Maybe you pray for yourself daily. But, today I’m asking this question because in recent years, I’ve been surprised by the amount of women who share that they often struggle to pray for themselves. Sometimes it’s a seasonal struggle or for others, it constantly feels selfish or even too vulnerable. Can you relate? If you can, I hope I can encourage you today.

Making sense of personal prayer

When I think about Scripture that points to the importance of praying for yourself, I think of Psalm 139. It is a beautiful psalm written by King David who is reflecting on how intimately the Lord loves and knows him. Throughout the psalm, David praises God, reflects, confesses, and asks for right-thinking and guidance. The Bible says David was a man after God’s own heart, (Acts 13:22) so we should pay attention to the ways he communicated with God.

I’ll admit, when I studied this passage, I was a bit uncomfortable. First, I tend to try to be less “me-focused” as I pray. Aren’t Christians supposed to be Jesus and others-focused? Secondly, it went super deep. The words of Psalm 139 speak of God’s presence and knowledge of the most intimate parts about us. Reflecting on those words made me feel vulnerable, which comes with its comforts, as well as temptations to keep God at a distance.

Jesus says in Matthew 22:36-40 that the greatest commandment is to love God with our whole being. And, the second command is to love your neighbor as yourself. We are absolutely supposed to be God & others-focused, but to neglect all thoughts and prayers about ourselves would be unbiblical. 

The spectrum

It can be helpful to think of prayer for self like a spectrum. On one end is complete neglect of self, on the other end is complete self-centeredness. We need to be somewhere in the middle. God wants us to come to him with our prayers, even the ones we think are too insignificant. He wants us to pray for our personal growth and sanctification – to be made more like Christ! Being in the Word of God daily will help us stay in the middle of that spectrum, not veering too far to the left or right. Are you reading the Bible daily? If you struggle praying for yourself and aren’t in the Word regularly, that could be a big contributor to your insecurities.

Vulnerability

Praying for ourselves can also feel uncomfortably vulnerable. Do you tend to keep others at an arm’s length? Do you have walls up? Are there parts of your heart you don’t let anyone see? If that’s true in your relationships, consider how that might be true in your relationship with Christ. If you are a born again believer, the Spirit of God is dwelling in your heart! Psalm 139 says He knew everything about us before we were born and that we cannot escape Him. He already knows everything – He sees more of your sin than you do – but He still died on a cross to forgive and redeem you. He sacrificed it all in love, fully knowing you and your sins. It’s safe to be vulnerable with Him.

Start praying for yourself

If you struggle to pray for yourself, start with Psalm 139. Read the verses slowly, out loud to God. Reflect on how perfectly He understands you, how deeply He loves you, and that He is always present with you. Allow yourself to feel uncomfortable and share those feelings with Jesus. Ask Him to show you what it looks like to pray for yourself in ways that glorify Him. Ask Him to help you grow in vulnerability and intimacy with Him. It may take time for this to feel comfortable, but don’t let the discomfort keep you from seeking Jesus through personal prayer. Keep coming back to Him and watch how He will impact your relationship with Him for the better.

It is not selfish to pray for yourself. God is not too busy, you are not too damaged, and your prayers are not insignificant. Because of Jesus, through the Spirit, we can have access to our Heavenly Father who is ready to meet with us. (Ephesians 2:18)


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Surrendering to Christ

To repent and believe in the Gospel means surrendering to Christ and His will and way for our lives. There is an initial surrender that happens when we are born again as believers, but growing and maturing in faith requires ongoing surrender. Let’s talk about the significance of both types of surrender and what they mean for us spiritually.

Initial Surrender

The Gospel

As I stated above, true faith in Christ requires an initial surrender to God. Again, Jesus said to repent and believe in the Gospel (Mark 1:14-15), which is the message that we are all sinners in need of a savior and Jesus is that Savior. 

The Bible teaches that by nature, we are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3) and that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). So, Jesus Christ, who is both fully God and fully man, came as the perfect sacrifice. He was crucified, died, and rose from the dead to forgive sinners and justify them (declare them righteous) before God. By grace, through faith in Jesus alone, we receive this gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). 

Sinning against an eternal God, means we suffer eternal consequences if we are unrepentant. But, Jesus mercifully forgives those who genuinely confess their sins and express a desire to turn from their old ways of living and be changed by Him. True repentance leads to salvation and it requires complete surrender.

Surrendering to Christ means total trust

I read in a recent study (Amazon affiliate link) that this initial act of surrender is like signing a blank contract to God that He will fill out later. It’s as if we are saying, “God, I vow to follow you whatever the cost, whatever may come. I don’t know the future, but I trust You fully no matter what.” This is what initially surrendering to Christ looks like, which leads to saving faith.

Ongoing Surrender

Our salvation is secure

The Holy Spirit moves our hearts to surrender in faith and after that initial surrender, God’s salvation work is complete (Hallelujah)! Jesus’s last words on the cross were, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) meaning, His sacrifice was enough. We do not need to strive to gain or keep our salvation. Those truly born again are declared righteous and secure in Christ, simply by the work of Jesus on our behalf. Our works contribute nothing to our salvation. The Bible makes this very clear and this is the message of many of Jesus’ teachings during His ministry.

Surrendering to Christ leads to sanctification

However, our works do contribute to our sanctification, which is the ongoing process of maturing in our faith and being made more like Christ. This type of growth requires ongoing surrender. Our “legal status” before God is “righteous,” but the reality is, we still sin. We still fall back into old, sinful habits and ways of thinking. We can easily forget that our lives are not our own. They now belong to Christ and we have new life in Him (Ephesians 4:17-24). This truth should lead us into deeper areas of surrender. But, what does that look like?

The Spirit leads us in surrender

When I recently determined that I would live more intentionally surrendered to Christ, my intentions were good, but I caught myself surrendering in my flesh in some ways. To surrender is to be led by the Spirit in how He wants you to use your time, not necessarily how you think you should be spending your time.

Fully surrendering to Christ does not necessarily mean that you have to give up all your free time, hobbies, friends, desires, etc. It means holding the things you care about loosely – in submission to God. He may require you to give up something completely, partially, or not at all. The things we enjoy that don’t necessarily seem “spiritual” are oftentimes gifts for our enjoyment! But, when those gifts become idols or we are engaged in sinful behavior, God desires to do a work in us that requires surrender.

Ultimately, ongoing surrender means holding all He has given us with open hands. It requires trusting in His promises to provide for our every need and humility to submit to His will for our lives.

Surrendering to Christ

Surrendering to Christ takes faith. Whether it be that first, initial surrender that leads to saving faith or it’s the hundredth time in an ongoing process, we all can ask God how we can live lives surrendered to Him. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What is keeping you from fully surrendering to Christ in faith? Start reading the Bible (I recommend beginning with Matthew or John) and ask God to reveal who He truly is to You.
  • What areas of your life are most challenging to submit to God? Ask Him to reveal why that is and be open to His response.
  • What is one thing God might be asking you to surrender starting today? Is it how you spend a certain amount of time or money? Could it be a certain way of thinking? Does it mean saying yes to something or no to another?

God is calling us to deeper surrender and we can trust Him to provide for our every need in the process.

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Remembering the Gospel As We Pray

I put my faith in Christ back in 2012, but it wasn’t until the past few years that I really started understanding that the Gospel is not just for unbelievers. The truth is, we all need to know and be reminded that we are sinners in need of a Savior. Likewise, we must recognize that none of our works can make us right with God nor earn us entrance into heaven. We all need to hear and remember that the Bible says there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). So out of His great love for us, Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice to forgive and pay the wages of sin on our behalf so that all who put their faith in Christ as Lord and Savior will have eternal life (John 3:16)!

To put our faith in Jesus means we repent – confess our sins and turn from them (Mark 1:14-15). As a result, we are born again (John 3:3), new creations (Galatians 2:20), and have the Spirit of God dwelling in our hearts (Romans 8:9)!

If you are a believer…

Firstly, I want to ask you believers a few questions. When you hear the Gospel do you tend to zone out because you’ve heard it before? Does it lead you to spend time in God’s Word? When was the last time you praised God for His holiness, righteousness, and mercy? Are you in the habit of continually confessing your sins and turning from them to grow in spiritual maturity? How often do you thank God for forgiving your sins past, present, and future… for loving and saving you? Do you rest in the truth that Christ’s righteousness is counted to you as righteousness (James 2:23)? Does the Gospel message inspire you to be in a close relationship with Christ and live a life surrendered to His will?

If you are an unbeliever or unsure…

Secondly, I have some questions for those who are unbelievers or are simply unsure. What is keeping you from trusting that it’s by grace through faith alone you’re saved? (Ephesians 2:8-9) Do you crave freedom from the burden of trying to be enough? The bad news is, we can never measure up on our own. However, there is good news! The Bible says we can be counted righteous by God through repentant faith (Romans 4:5). The world and other religions say, “do,” the Gospel of Jesus Christ says, “done!” Will you surrender to Jesus and start seeking Him through His Word and prayer?

No matter what, the Gospel is for you.

Wherever you are in your life, the Gospel message is for you. The more we reflect on it, the better we understand who we are, who God is, and what He has done for us. As a result, we are led to praise, worship, confess, repent, read the Bible, and ultimately, fall deeper in love with the Savior. A deeper appreciation for the Gospel impacts our hearts and the way we interact with the world around us.

How will you reflect on the Gospel today? Has praise been lacking in your prayer life? Do you forget to thank Jesus for what He has done for you? Are there sins you need to confess and ask the Holy Spirit to help you overcome? Do you really trust you are forgiven by grace through faith alone ? Or instead, are you still attempting to get right with God by your own efforts? 

I encourage you to get into the habit of remembering the Gospel as you pray. Watch how the Lord will work in your heart as you praise, express gratitude, confess your sins, and bring your requests to Him in light of the good news!

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My Prayer Journey

Before I put my faith in Christ, I was a church-goer. I prayed memorized prayers I learned at Sunday school, prayed over meals, prayed the Lord’s Prayer and for my family before bed occasionally, but that was about it. I treated prayer as recited words to send up to a distant God. They were very impersonal and had little heart in them.

In 2012, two friends encouraged me to pursue a relationship with Christ and start a prayer journal. They said if I told Him my regrets and mistakes, He would forgive me and if I sought a relationship with Him, He’d change my life.

I had grown up learning that Jesus died and rose from the dead to save sinners, but I never understood what this meant for me personally. So when I found out He wanted a relationship with me, that He would forgive and change me, it all clicked. By God’s grace, I repented, believed, and began seeking Jesus. I was saved! And just like the Bible and my friends promised, He changed everything.

Growing continually

I vividly remember sitting down to write in my prayer journal for the very first time and feeling super awkward. I wondered: How do I just talk to God? Could God really hear my prayers if I wrote them? If I didn’t fold my hands and cross myself? I still look back on my old journals occasionally and it’s sweet to put myself back into those old shoes and remember what it was like to start cultivating a relationship with Jesus through prayer. It was awkward, clumsy, and even cringey at times, but God saw my heart. He loves when we come to Him with a desire to love and know Him better, a desire to repent, grow, and be changed.

About a decade later, and I am still growing in my prayer life. It may not feel as drastic as the beginning, but I definitely go through seasons of feeling the growing pains. God continues to reveal where I still have a legalistic, religious, or ritualistic mindset around prayer and He is slowly, but constantly deepening a desire within me to simply meet and grow in intimacy with Him. Sometimes this means sitting down and journaling to Him, other times it means going on a walk and talking with Him out loud, praying through a list or simply as I think of someone during the day. I’m also continuing to learn the value in praying Scripture and how that develops intimacy and centers our minds on God before we come to Him with our requests.

Evaluate your own prayer life

My prayer life probably looks a lot different than yours – no two relationships with God look exactly alike! We are all at different places in our prayer lives, but what God wants with all of us is an intimate relationship, not a ritual.

Does your prayer life feel stale? Recited, robotic, or ritualistic? Maybe it’s time to step out of your comfort zone and start a prayer journal or praying out loud. Maybe now the Holy Spirit is prompting you to start exploring what praying the Bible looks like. Or perhaps, He’s simply calling you to deeper intimacy with Him, but you don’t know what that looks like yet. 

Wherever you are at this point in your own prayer journey, start by praying. Don’t feel like praying? Start praying anyway. Ask God to give you a heart for prayer and if you genuinely desire this, He will absolutely bring about change. Just be patient, prayerful, and obedient. Sometimes it takes time for our feelings to catch up and that’s okay. God has lessons for us in the growing pains.

So, to close today’s post, I wanted you to ponder this question:

What is one thing I am going to start doing differently for the purpose of growing closer to God through prayer?