The JOY of the Lord is My Strength

The JOY of the Lord is My Strength

Editor’s note: John 15:13 says that “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” For the month of July, each blog post will be centered around this verse and finding the JOY in a life of Christ.

Joy – a feeling of great pleasure and happiness; the emotion evoked by well-being, success or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one deserves; the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.

Do you feel joy all the time?  Nope – neither do I!  Sometimes in our everyday same ‘ole, same ‘ole it is hard to feel joyful and it is hard to find joy, BUT Jesus is with us at all times and that should erupt excitement from within that we can shout out to the world.  Fall into the arms of Jesus and he will fill you with joy! “Allow Jesus to introduce His joy to you.  The joy of Jesus was the absolute self-surrender and self-sacrifice of Himself to His Father, the joy of doing that which the Father sent Him to do.  “I delight to do Thy will.” Jesus prayed that our joy might go on fulfilling itself until it was the same joy as His.” – Oswald Chambers in My Utmost For His Highest.

We have all walked down roads of trials, disappointments, fear, loneliness…..the list could go on and on.  How we choose to handle those trying times is the outer skin that other people see.  And because we are human, when someone else is hurting, it is our human nature to pay close attention to how they choose to walk their uninvited path.  Joy is a choice.  We are given an opportunity to make choices every second of every day.  Choose joy because no one can take your joy from you!  When your heart knows how to rejoice in God, you have found the secret place of joy that comes from within.  We have to look through the smoky haze of our disappointments and hurt to see the joy of the Lord.  Hold onto the joy with God and your trials will diminish in size and your joy will shine.  God never promised that we would live a perfect life, but He did promise that He would be with us every step of the way. Live in the place God has put you in and live in it well! Lack of hope and joy produces pessimism; don’t let pessimism rule your being.

  “My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can!  For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up in you the power of endurance.  And then as your endurance grows even stronger, it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.” James 1:2-3.  What a mind-blowing verse!  We are promised perfection in our being!  Gladness of heart is a constant emotion, regardless of what is occurring in your life.  “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!” John 16:33 – Wow! What more do we need to hear?

My granddaddy would always say, “Be cheerful!” when we parted ways with him.  If you know my husband, Johnny, you know that laughter gushes from his being, so when Granddaddy died, Johnny claimed that saying.  I love hearing him say it because it embodies his life and that is what he wishes for everyone else. 

We do not know what each day will bring and this should be said with an expression of breathless expectation when we are rightly related to God.  Life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty but many times we turn these expectations into fear.  Fear can indwell our spirit and steal our joy.  “For God will never give you the spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit who gives you mighty power, love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7. You don’t learn when your spirit is full of fear.  Joy will accomplish things that fearful intersession may never receive.  Psalms 43:4 says, “Then I will go to the alter of God, to God my exceeding joy; and on the harp I will praise you, O God, My God” . This is so exciting!  God is our exceeding joy – He gives joy to us – all we have to do is receive it!  Shout for joy! Joy is for a lifetime! Be Cheerful!!

We would like to thank Kim Street for writing this blog post.

JOY is a gift from God

JOY is a gift from God

Editor’s note: John 15:13 says that “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” For the month of July, each blog post will be centered around this verse and finding the JOY in a life of Christ.

True JOY is a gift from the Lord. In scripture, we see that joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Joy comes from believing God, belonging to His Kingdom, and knowing Jesus. Galatians 5:22 says: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.” (NIV)

Where is your joy coming from? Where do you seek to get your joy from? What do you run to the most? How are you feeding your mind? From my own experience, I can tell you that when my prayer and devotional life is healthy, I experience more JOY. When I get too consumed by TV or nonspiritual music, I begin to feel empty.

Joy is not necessarily the absence of pain; it is the presence of God. Romans 15:13 says: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” We were made for Christ and while some things are not apparently evil, too much of those things can take our heart away from Christ. We have to remove these broken tanks in our lives to drink the water that Christ has to offer. Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. However, if we only gratify the Spirit, we can miss out on all that the Holy Spirit has to offer. Most of us are missing the beauty of Christ because our hearts are in other places. 

Psalm 16:11says: “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence; with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Joy comes from community. We were not created to be alone. If we are not involved in a community, we are hurting ourselves. As Christians, we are told to encourage our brothers and sisters. We need to constantly remind each other of where our joy comes from. We need to frequently remind each other to focus on Christ. Community is essential on our walk with Christ AND it is essential for joy. 

Another powerful practice to encourage genuine JOY within is daily gratitude and a positive outlook! I even do this with my girls sometimes. Yes, even kids can see the abundance in the feeling of gratitude for what we have in our lives. Jesus at the center of it all. Gratitude can be practiced in a number of ways. One of my favorite ways to practice gratitude is to simply think about three things I am grateful for when I go to bed at night. I also find it helpful to write down those three things I am grateful for each day in a notebook or journal. I keep one on my nightstand, perfect for a routine. Gratitude is one of the most powerful gifts in this world. I know that might seem like a bit of an exaggeration, but from my experience, adding a true gratitude practice to my daily routine has definitely changed my life for the better. Not only has it made me a happier person in general, but it has allowed me to become better at finding the good within seemingly bad situations in my own life. This has made me become more resilient and less vulnerable to negative emotions. I truly believe that the more I feel grateful for what and who I have, the more wonderful things flow into my life to feel grateful for.

John 15:11 says: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

Jesus’ desire for us as his disciples is for our JOY to be complete. I hope this encourages you to begin adding a practice of gratitude into your own daily routine and to find the joy that is within you.

We would like to thank Bonnie McIntosh for writing this blog post.

Finding JOY after Enduring Trials

Finding JOY after Enduring Trials

Editor’s note: John 15:13 says that “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” For the month of July, each blog post will be centered around this verse and finding the JOY in a life of Christ.

Have you ever had a season where a word just keeps popping up? Every day it’s there, and it quickly becomes a constant reminder of a long-awaited change that is about to take place, one for which you have been praying. This word for me was JOY. I’d see it on billboards, on jewelry, and at the airport. I was reminded of joy every day, while I was living in the middle of the darkest season of my life.  1 Peter 1:6 talks about enduring many trials for “a little while.“  Well, I was living in the “ little while.” Although the wonderful joy was promised, and I was instructed to be TRULY glad- I was also instructed to endure.  

I had an exceptionally long season of waiting on the Lord for a new job. Much to my excitement, I landed a dream job of traveling the world as a lead singer of a cruise line- and not just any cruise line…a world-class cruise line!  I arrived on the ship with every expectation and hope that this new job would be everything I had prayed for. Based on previous experience, I had expected that my new co- workers would rally behind me and encourage me every step of the way. I thought they would be understanding of small mistakes and have my back.  After all, I was a well-seasoned professional; they would respect that, right? WRONG! I wasn’t shown kindness or understanding for the human errors I made. If I asked a question, I was mocked and eyes would roll at me. My worst nightmare in a job environment had come true.  

 At this point a lot of fear settled inside my heart, and I began to question myself and my purpose for being there. Did I truly hear from the Lord on this? Was I meant to be here? Anxiety like I had never known overtook me each morning. At one point I was so oppressed that I just kept my head down backstage in my Bible and I would make no eye contact with anyone. I was extremely lonely and didn’t have a friend to talk to. I could feel the light and joy gradually deplete from my spirit. “I can’t continue the way things have gone” my journal read, “It’s like living in constant fear or dread. I hate it and it wrecks me- Please lead me, Lord”. I was faced with two options: Either God is who He says He is and HE will help me through this, or He’s not. As those hard and miserable weeks passed, I wrote, “I had no idea this new season involved this. It’s been so hard. But God has been so real to me. He has not left me comfortless or alone. His word is right there to catch me.” And catch me it did! 

 God’s word never becomes more real than when you are going through a trial. As I poured into His word, there were 4 simple, yet profound things that helped me break through the darkness and into JOY! 

1. I Looked“Those who look to Him will be radiant with joy, no shadow of shame will cover their faces.” Psalm 34:4-5  Look to the LORD and His strength; seek His face always. 

2. I Listened – “My sheep hear His voice; and He calls His own sheep by name, the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.” John 10:3-4  

Fear not for I am with you, I have called you by your name, you are Mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers they will not overflow you.”     Isaiah 43:1-2  

3. I Let it Go– Three simple words that changed my outlook!  

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger be put away from you. Be kind to one another; forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you,” and “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old.” Isaiah 43:18-19  

4. I Loved– I was told by a mentor to just love on them for 6 months and then I would earn their trust. That was a true game changer for me, because that’s exactly what happened!   

This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12. 

I don’t find it coincidental that just before this, in verse 11, Jesus says- “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full.”   

Have you ever wondered how Paul could write to the Philippians, “the book of joy” from a lonely prison cell? Just as he inscribed that book from a dark and lonely prison, Jesus inscribed new joy on my heart through a dark and lonely season. You see, my circumstances had not changed, but I definitely did! Those lonely places where we find ourselves are places the Lord has divinely called us because He has a work to do in us- a beautiful work! So there is wonderful joy ahead! In that, my sisters, you can be truly glad!

We would like to thank Julie Posey for writing this blog post.

Being Obedient in Good Works

Being Obedient in Good Works

Editor’s note: During the month of June, we are focusing on “Created To Do Good Works.” Ephesians 2:10 states that “we are God’s handiworks, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I pray that you will search for ways to be God’s handiwork as we learn from other women.

Throughout my childhood, it was engrained in my sisters and me that obedience brings freedom.  This simply means, if my parents could trust us to meet the expectation of obeying with the little things we were asked to do then we would soon gain more responsibility and freedom.  My parents knew something that I did not at a young age and that is that if I simply obey in a happy way, then I would reap the fruit of obedience: more responsibility and freedom. This same simple concept is now true with Josh and I as we parent our own children.  We tell them often that obedience brings freedom not only on Earth but in Heavenly places as well, for their obedience to us is good and pleasing to the Lord (Colossians 3:20).  

Throughout 1 Samuel, there is a clear theme of obedience and the value that the Lord has on it.  It is demonstrated through two different leaders at the time: Saul and David.  

Saul was rejected by the Lord as a leader because of his inability to obey completely and love others.  When the Samuel approached Saul about his disobedience and destruction he states: 

“Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?  Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than a fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22 CSB

However, David was a man that feared the Lord and was a willing servant and always ready to obey and trust the Lord.  When in process of finding David and anointing him as the next leader, God told Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature because I have rejected him.  Humans do not see what the Lord sees, for humans see what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 

This is just one example out of so many of the value that God puts on an obedient heart. It is clearly demonstrated through the Bible that when obedience is present and we are able to submit and honor God through our act of willing obedience, good works will always flow freely and naturally.  Ephesians 2:10 is so clear when it states what we have been created for, but it also goes on to say, “God [has] prepared in advance”.   Therefore, we were born with the ability in us to have God’s goodness flow freely from us if we simply just need to obey his voice.  Good things always happen when you are following the voice of the Father.

We would like to thank Mallory Burgett for writing this blog post.

What does it mean to Do Good Works?

What does it mean to Do Good Works?

Editor’s note: During the month of June, we are focusing on “Created To Do Good Works.” Ephesians 2:10 states that “we are God’s handiworks, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I pray that you will search for ways to be God’s handiwork as we learn from other women.

“We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!” Ephesians 2:10 TPT

Do Good Works.…oh yeah, easy! Such a simple phrase, yet such a difficult task in the day to day hustle. To me, it’s kind of like a watered down version of the golden rule that your mom used to recite to you when you were being less than kind…”Treat your sister the way you want to be treated!” We hear it all the time and make note, but how often do we really dig into what that truly means? To me, it means actively meeting people in their hardships and pain and serving them even when our humanity is uncomfortable. From my experience, sometimes showing up for people in pain can feel almost intolerable to our human nature, but I think that is the difference between spirit-led good works and good works for reasons driven by human nature. It doesn’t feel natural, but it’s a choice driven by a recreated spirit in Christ.

“However, I say to you, love your enemy, bless the one who curses you, do something wonderful for the one who hates you, and respond to the very ones who persecute you by praying for them. For that will reveal your identity as children of your heavenly Father. He is kind to all by bringing the sunrise to warm and rainfall to refresh whether a person does what is good or evil.” Matthew 5:44-45 TPT

If our purpose as Christians is to further the kingdom of God, then maybe this is our tool to do so, to be an example of what Christ would say or do when met with the pain of another human being. When I think of a person who is actively furthering God’s kingdom, I see someone who is taking the time and energy to meet hurting people where they are and serve them either with their empathetic words, actions, and prayer without judgment.

I believe we all have unique ways of doing good works. God has given EACH of us a destiny to fulfill. He said EACH, not ALL. To me, this implies individuality and it’s no surprise to us that we all have different gifts. For example, I have a precious friend who is great at connecting with teenagers. She pours into them by hosting their church group for dinners in their home, coming up with fun, engaging games for them to play, and her circle of influence is large! On the other hand, good works looks different in my life, like one on one encouragement of smaller kids at work, fostering my own children’s relationship with God, spending time talking to a friend or family member who is feeling down. My circle of influence is much smaller and the season of life I am in changes what good works looks like for me. The core of doing good works is intentionally loving God’s people, and the world needs each of us to show up authentically to show His love!

Back to Ephesians 2:10, the term “recreated” implies there was a before. Earlier in Ephesians, Paul tells us we are naturally prone to be driven by our selfish desires. I truly believe that good works driven by a spirit that is not transformed looks like doing good deeds with selfish intention. When God redeemed and recreated us, He gave us the capability to do those good works with a changed purpose and intention. Not just that, we get to do it joined to Jesus, who fills those gaps in our human abilities that cause us to doubt and shy away from brave, intentional acts of kindness. I don’t know how this lands for you, but it gives me immense peace to know I am not alone in trying to fulfill my calling at home and in my job. I can think of countless times I have been driving to work or struggling in my role as a wife and mother telling God, “I’m just at a loss here, God. I don’t know exactly to do and I feel less than qualified to do what I know you’ve called me to do”. You know what? He has shown up EVERY SINGLE TIME and guided me through. That gives me peace to know that if we come willing and with our intentions aligned with God’s, He will help us because He knows exactly what we need. So take heart. Be Brave. Do the Good Works!!!

We would like to thank Macy Williams for writing this post.

One Yes at a Time!

One Yes at a Time!

Editor’s note: During the month of June, we are focusing on “Created To Do Good Works.” Ephesians 2:10 states that “we are God’s handiworks, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I pray that you will search for ways to be God’s handiwork as we learn from other women.

When I think about good works and the deeds that are pleasing to the Lord, I often think of my father. To me, he was the very definition of a “people person” because he loved everyone. His true good works that caught the attention of many longing and lonely souls during his time on earth were simply loving people as they were. It wasn’t anything fancy or complicated, it was just how he lived. That is what has stuck out to me since his passing – our good works are directly related to how we live!

In John 15:5, it says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” When we remain plugged into the Word and spend more time with the Lord, we tend to produce and bear more meaningful fruit – KINGDOM CHANGING FRUIT! John 15:8 says, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

None of us are perfect and the Lord knows and sees when our branches become a little too heavy and occasionally even break off. But even when we droop from the pressure of this world, all we need to do is ask for help. Ask for the Lord to help hold your branch up or even graft you back into the vine. It’s here in this vulnerable place that He begins to do a new work in us and allows our lives to become more like His. When we know His voice and can follow His direction, stepping out in faith to help a friend or even a stranger becomes a little less intimidating when we know He’s asking us to do so. Sharing our trials with those who may be facing something similar can be encouraging, both to ourselves as confirmation of the Lord speaking to us, and to those in the middle of the battle. Moments like these when others listened and obeyed changed my life.

Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that as children of the King, we were created to do good works. He chose YOU and ME and He has specific plans in mind for our lives. Receive that truth and dig into what He’s calling you to do. It will, in turn, bring honor and glory to Him and change the world, one yes at a time!

We would like to thank Christian Greer for writing this blog post.

Created To Do Good Works

Created To Do Good Works

Editor’s note: During the month of June, we are focusing on “Created To Do Good Works.” Ephesians 2:10 states that “we are God’s handiworks, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I pray that you will search for ways to be God’s handiwork as we learn from other women.

In a world where nothing feels quite “normal,” we have a unique opportunity to impact lives in the most positive and incredible way!    

As believers, we understand that “good works” will not eventually, no matter how hard we try, secure our salvation. In the book of Ephesians the word says, “it is not of yourself, it [salvation] is a gift from God.”  It is only through Jesus Christ that we can be saved!  Sometimes, the harder side for us to grasp, is that salvation WILL produce “good works.”  Ephesians 2:10 says we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  We must realize the purpose for which we are created!  If our lives are filled by the Holy Spirit, then our character and behavior will be like Christ.    

GUYS!! We were CREATED to do good works. It is innate, born IN us, natural, …our very nature to the core of our being!  How cool is that!  Like the scripture says, He prepared these works in advance for us. I encourage you pray and ask that God will soften your heart and prepare your mind to obey His will for you.  What kind of “good works” is He calling you to do?

I would also encourage you to see “good works” in terms of your whole life; not separated by religious activity, but instead throughout your daily walk.  Occasionally, good works are big things, but mostly it is through the small acts of serving others in your daily life.  In my personal life it looks like cooking dinner for my family, tucking my children in safely at night, teaching them to love and shine the light of Jesus, and to think of others above themselves. It might look like taking time to help the elderly lady at the grocery store reach the top shelf or taking my friends’ kids because I know she needs a break.  This is where we are given that opportunity to impact lives in such a powerful way! What do the small, but paramount, good-works look like in your day-to-day life?    

When I am walking hand-in-hand with Jesus, these things are easy — my very nature in Christ! BUT, when I am living in a rush, selfishly….with my task driven list, or separated from God, these things seem quite exhausting!  Sometimes if we just pause for a moment, we will feel the nudge from the Holy Spirit which is God’s incredible way of reminding us to keep up these good works He’s prepared for us.   Let’s agree to walk in the Spirit daily, and I know WE CAN change the world!  

We would like to thank Megan Henderson for writing this blog post!

Send Me, Lord

Send Me, Lord

“I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me’” (Isaiah 6:8, NKJV).

If I can be honest, before I knew God, I never imagined I could be useful to God or that He could use me to share Jesus with others. My idea of being a Christian when I began my walk consisted of a checklist. It went a little like this:

Go to church (check)

Own a bible (check)

Get prayer occasionally (check)

Follow Jesus (hmm–what does that look like?) (check)

Repeat weekly (check) 

The truth is that God wasn’t looking for me to check off a list every week. He was looking for my heart. We see this truth in the book of Samuel: “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart’” (1 Samuel 16:7, AMP). ‬‬

As I began to get to know Jesus, I began to grasp the magnitude of what He did for me on the cross: “But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, AMP). The more I pondered this truth, the more I began to fall deeply in love with Jesus. That love was followed by a deep, burning desire within me for others to know Jesus. I wanted everyone to know what Jesus had done in my life.

I grew up an angry, rebellious teenager. I was a teen mom at the age of 14. I was holding on to so much unforgiveness, guilt, and shame from my past. I had allowed the enemy to whisper lies to me, and I had believed them all. But now, I recognized them for what they were–lies–and I opened myself up to God’s truth and the good news that I was forgiven (1 John 1:9). I wanted to share this Good News, but I wasn’t sure where to start. I began sharing what Jesus had done for me at church, with my family and friends, and even with people I didn’t know at restaurants, grocery stores, and work . 

When we think of impacting the world around us by sharing the Gospel, we naturally tend to think it has to be big. But God has called us to be faithful, even in the small (Luke 16:10). God has blessed my family with opportunities to travel spreading His Good News in places where numbers were vast and others where attendance was low. We’ve entered communities of affluence and also places that were destitute and afflicted with crime. All these places have one thing in common: God moved.

One of my favorite promises from God is “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20, NIV). I’ve always wondered why He started by saying two or three. Why not a hundred? Why not a thousand? Surely He wouldn’t be able to miss a thousand people praying in His name. But the God we serve doesn’t devalue our efforts because of small numbers. He’s looking for obedience that comes out of the abundance of our hearts. Our heart for God leads us into a deep desire to share His love with others and a courage to say, “send me; I’ll go” like Isaiah did. Isaiah didn’t ask God questions like, “How far is it? How many people will be there? How much work is it going to be?” He simply raised his voice and said, “I’ll do it! Send me; I’ll go!”

I ask God that He would give me the strength, courage, and wisdom to make myself available willing to be sent wherever He needs me to go. Through the years, I’ve learned the promises that follow when we submit to His will over our own for the advancement of the Kingdom of God–and those promises are eternal. He needs me. He needs you. Always be ready to share the Good News when and where God asks you to. 

I pray that you would submit to God in everything you do and have courage and boldness to step out in faith wherever you are sent, always inviting the Holy Spirit to guide you and lead you, imitating Christ everywhere you go with your actions and speech, walking in obedience, and loving people like Jesus did.

We would like to thank Cristella Urrutia for writing this blog post.

Influencing the Social Media World

Influencing the Social Media World

Editor’s note: For the month of May, we are focusing on “Influencing the World”. In Mark 16:15 Jesus says to “Go into the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” One of the core beliefs of our church is that “The Church is meant to be the visible body of Christ, sent into the world to glorify God and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.” We pray that you will be encouraged to go out into your world to make His way known.

I remember when social media was a new thing to me. I was in high school, and the idea of having a “space” to express myself seemed like such a neat thing! Getting to pick a song that I identified with to play when someone visited my personal page, telling the whole world, or even, better yet, my list of friends, that Beckah is…. craving doritos…all seemed so harmless and intriguing. It was exciting to see who was writing on “my wall” or page or whatever it was called back then. What a thrill, right?! Am I striking up some memories here?

Fast forward a few years, or maybe 15 to be exact, and look at what social media has evolved into. Political controversy, comparison trap upon comparison trap, the blasting of a business when the service was subpar, hate speech and screen fighting. I mean honestly, the list could go on and on.

Even though sometimes it feels like the bad can outweigh the good, there are still good things about social media, too! The sweet family pictures, those accounts that have the best inspirational quotes, LIVE sales at your favorite boutique, and even a way to livestream a church service during a global pandemic (Thank you, Jesus!)! But when you look beyond the surface level of the content on social media, it is so much bigger than what we are seeing. We have allowed social media to come in, and create an addictive space to find our sense of value, opinion, and what we want right now.

Unfortunately, we have seen a lot of negativity displayed on social media outlets that are alarming and a true display of deeper root issues, but what happens when we decide to be the change? If we decide to impact instead of impress, what good could we see?

A few years back during one of our women’s ministry events at the church, one of the speakers focused on being rooted in the characteristics of Jesus. One thing she talked about that really stuck with me was, if we are rooted in these things, the fruit of our branches display those also. For example, if we are rooted in the LOVE and JOY of the Holy Spirit, our sphere of influence receives those things from us.

Something that my sphere of influence included at that time was a women’s beauty tips and tricks Facebook page. I had always longed for that page to be more than just lipstick and eyeshadow. During this message at the women’s event, the Lord revealed to me that, “You can impact the beauty of the heart of the women you are reaching just like you are impacting the beauty of the flesh!” It took me back because, at the time, I didn’t quite understand what He was getting at. After spending time in prayer and in the Word, I believe that God gave me the vision of creating these beauty tutorials paired with devotionals that focused on Godly principles and Biblical truths to be displayed by me on my women’s beauty page. This was something truly different than what I had used social media for in the past, and different than what I had seen social media become.

It definitely took a leap of faith for me to get started, but the reward I saw through being different in the social media realm was abundant. When you get called to pray over women that you don’t even know, because they heard your devotional and felt called to reach out, THAT’S POWERFUL! When you are in a live tutorial and get a word from God that you share on a whim, and get a private message later that it was specifically for someone that was listening, THERE’S WALLS TORN DOWN THERE! When you have women that don’t know you, praying over your daily struggles via messenger because you shared your heartache, THERE’S HEALING THERE! I could give you numerous examples of God’s goodness being revealed to me via this social media outlet.

Now you may not feel lead to open a page with thousands of women on Facebook, but I challenge you not only to see the good, but to BE THE GOOD in the world of social media. Be the positive affirmation someone may be seeking. Speak words of encouragement over someone’s post that cries for help during a hard time. Write out your words of prayers over those that post about their struggles. Allow others to be truly “seen” by you when you are scrolling, and reach out to them. Choose a few people that you have seen when scrolling, and pray over their day. There are lots of ways that we can BE the positive. Take a leap of faith, be equipped and empowered by Jesus, and IMPACT those that you influence.

We would like to thank Beckah Hunt for writing this post.

Follow His Lead

Follow His Lead

Editor’s note: For the month of May, we are focusing on “Influencing the World”. In Mark 16:15 Jesus says to “Go into the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” One of the core beliefs of our church is that “The Church is meant to be the visible body of Christ, sent into the world to glorify God and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.” We pray that you will be encouraged to go out into your world to make His way known.

In our Among Friends Bible Study this month, we are talking about “Influencing the World.” That sounds like a pretty formidable task, doesn’t it? “OK God,” we say. “I’ll get right on that. Right after I get finished changing diapers, cooking dinner, folding laundry…” The list goes on and on. And yet the genius of God’s plan for the world is that we don’t even really have to try. We don’t have to have a title. He’s IN US, and All He’s asked us to do is to follow His lead and share the gospel as we go.

 I can remember attending a summer church camp back when I was in 4th or 5th grade. It was at the end of the nightly service and God’s presence was moving powerfully. One of the camp counselors came over to pray for me, looked me in the eyes and told me, “You’re headed for the ministry.” “Ummmmm….no, probably not,” was my thought. I mean, I wasn’t opposed to teaching Sunday school, but I knew I’d never do something crazy like move to Africa. I mean, isn’t that what you do if you’re in “the ministry”?

 Well, God sure does have a sense of humor. Fast forward 10 years or so and I went on my first mission trip to South Africa. I loved it so much that I went back again the next summer, and by the time I graduated from college, I was ready to MOVE there to volunteer. I served in Cape Town, South Africa for nine months, helping to coach local basketball teams and teaching “True Love Waits” in six different schools. We were able to use that platform to have some after school Bible studies as well.

 It was in one of those classes where I met Junaid. Junaid was a lively South African sixth grader with a scar down his left cheek. I never asked what it was from, but I knew that Junaid didn’t back down from a fight. I happened to be in South Africa when the tragedy of 9/11 took place, and the very next day we were going to Junaid’s school in a predominantly Muslim area. I would like say that the vast majority of our Muslim friends and neighbors showed such compassion and love in the wake of that tragedy, but there were a handful of boys in one of our classes who had a bit of a different mindset.  In the weeks that followed, Junaid told us how he and his classmates were ready to go enlist to go fight against the Americans in Afghanistan. “You want to fight against US?”, we asked him. “No, Miss, not you…the AMERICANS.” I guess it hadn’t crossed his mind that we WERE Americans.

 Junaid made sure we understood that this was a “holy war”, and that he must defend his religion.  One day he got curious and asked us about ours. When we explained that God had sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins, he recoiled a bit.

 “No Miss,” he stated emphatically. “God doesn’t have any children or brothers or sisters.”

 “He does have a Son,” we countered. “His name is Jesus.”

In that moment it was like the Holy Spirit just fell down and flooded that cold, concrete schoolroom with a tangible warmth and love. I could see a small tear welling up in Junaid’s eye as he repeated softly, “Jesus.”

 Then just as quickly as the moment started, it ended when one of Junaid’s friends grabbed him arm and told him it was time to go. On his way out the door, he stopped, turned back, and said, “We’ll talk more next time?”

 We had several more conversations with Junaid. While I can’t tie this story up with a happy ending bow of how he accepted Christ or anything even remotely like that, I do believe that a seed was planted. And somewhere in my heart I fully expect someday to see a testimony of God’s goodness by a young man from South Africa with a scar across his cheek…if not on this side of Heaven then beyond.

 I know we can’t all go to Africa. We’re not all supposed to. Where is YOUR sphere of influence? It might be your home, your workplace, or your family members. There are people all around us each day, and as we go, we have an opportunity to show love…to show kindness…to plant seeds.

 I’d like to leave you with this passage from Matthew 28: 19-20 (TPT), which we know as the “Great Commission.” These were the last recorded words of Jesus on this earth before He ascended into Heaven. He told His disciples:

 19 Now wherever you go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 20 And teach them to faithfully follow[a] all that I have commanded you. And never forget that I am with you every day, even to the completion of this age.”[b]He’s with us as we go. And that makes all the difference. 

We would like to thank Becca Wilhite for writing this blog post.