The Power of Your Story (Part 1)

In the past three years, God has continued to show me over and over again how he can take my story and use it for his plan and his purpose. For the longest time I struggled believing this. I thought there was no way that God could use my broken life in any positive way. My freshman year of college, I was sexually abused. Immediately, the feeling of shame entered my heart.

I thought my story was filled with too much pain to bring God glory. Have you ever thought your story was too shameful to share or help anyone?

We all have a story, and we all have parts of our story we don’t think will bring the world any good. We all have been through challenges in life. We all have faced heart ache, anger, sadness, struggles, but if you are a believer in Christ and have a personal relationship with him, God can and will use your story to bring him glory.

Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

God has a purpose and a plan for your story. He knows that it will be used to further his kingdom, impact eternity, and bring him glory.

Why, you ask?

Because our stories are powerful.

Revelation 12:10-11 says, “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”

These verses take place in the middle of a battle between God and Satan. “They” refers to Christians, and the verses explain the two ways that Christians can triumph over Satan.

The two reasons are:

  1. By the blood of the Lamb – Jesus’s death on the cross and his resurrection.
  1. By the word of our testimonies – our stories.

Our stories have so much power that they are in the same sentence as the power of Jesus’s death!

Why do our stories have this power? Because if you are a Christian, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is inside of you. The power of the Holy Spirit is inside you.

Your story is an extension of God’s power.

God has shown me how my story is powerful. He has used it to bring him glory.  He has brought many women to me who have similar stories and used my story to help these women find power in their stories. He has used my story to impact others eternities. He can and will make a beautiful thing out of all your pain and suffering.

Never let Satan convince you that your story has no purpose. Never let him convince you that your story is too shameful to share with others.

Allow God to use your story to bring him glory.

 

Check out: The Power of Your Story (Part 2) and The Power of Your Story (Part 3)

 

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3 Ways to Grow During Summer Vacation

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Dear Summer Vacationing College Student,

Congrats on making it through another year of college!

Now you get to rest up! Enjoy your break, time away from school, and rest! Not only does summer provide rest, but it can also challenge your faith and obedience to Jesus. During the school year, you have your routine. You wake up, drink your coffee while reading the word, get ready, and go to class. But during the summer, you might not have a schedule, and it becomes easier to forget about spending time with God. Summers can also be spiritually isolating because you might be going home to non-Christian family and friends, and you’ll be away from your church and Christian community. All of this can make growing in your walk with God a challenge, but take heart because you can make decisions now that will allow you to continue to grow during the summer.

Why is it important to continue growing in your walk with God during the summer and not just take the months off?

If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:10-11 (NIV)

Joy (not me Joy, but the adjective which is a settled state in the mind of contentment, confidence, and hope) can be complete! This means that we can have contentment – we will no longer think something else will satisfy us more than Jesus, confidence – we will no longer doubt God’s love for us, and hope – we will no longer question the point of our sufferings. We will have complete joy when we keep God’s commands and remain in his love. And how can we do that? By continuing to grow in our walk with the Lord, spending time with him, and getting to know him more.

Now that you know why this is so important, here are 3 ways to grow during summer vacation:

Daily time with God in the Word. The number one priority in your day and life must be fellowship with God. To get to know someone, you must spend time with them.

  • Plan into your day 30-45 minutes or as long as you would like to read the Bible, pray, journal, and worship. Set a practical realistic goal. For example, if you know you only have time for a 20 minute devotional, then don’t plan an hour quiet time. You’ll end up feeling disappointed.
  • If you don’t know where to start, look for an inductive Bible study on a book of the Bible or download the YouVersion Bible app. This app will send you a notification each day to read the day’s verses.

Fellowship with believers. It is important to have Christian friends doing life with you. They can encourage you and provide Biblical truth when you need advice. It can be hard if you are going home to a place with no other believers, so you have to be intentional about seeking fellowship. Here are some ways to do that.

  • Get involved in a church while you’re home, maybe they have a college age summer Bible study.
  • Keep in touch with Christian friends from school. Partner up and decide that you will intentionally ask each other through the week how your quiet times are going and how you’re doing.
  • Read books by influential Christians. Right now I’m reading a book by a Crulebrity Chad Young called Authenticity.
  • Download church podcasts or apps to listen to their sermons. I’m home in Pittsburgh for the summer, so I downloaded my church from Tampa’s app so now I can listen to the sermons without being there. It helps me to feel connected!

Discipline. Discipline is the ability to order your life around the goals that you determined to accomplish or achieve.

  • Set spiritual goals for yourself for the summer.
  • What would you like to see God do in your life this summer?
  • Make a plan and stick to it. These decisions you make today can impact your summer and your eternity.

I want to encourage you all that you are not alone. I’m right there with you trying to figure out the transition back home for the summer and to make sure I continue growing. If you have any other ideas or found something that has worked for you comment below!

Love, Christian College Gal

 

For other Dear Friend Series posts click here!

Most of these ideas were pulled from my favorite resource Cru Press Green. Click here for the complete Cru Summer Survival Guide. I hope this post has been encouraging! Be sure to add me on social media and share my blog with your friends! Thanks!

                       

Approval Addiction

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My name is Joy and I’m addicted to approval.

I want to get real with you all. My desire for approval is an issue that God has revealed to me and has begun working on in my life. I’ve realized that this issue effects every aspect of my life. For example, I want my parents approval, and that sometimes leads me to follow their plan for my life over God’s plan for my life. I want my friends to like me, and because of that I’m not always honest or true to who God made me to be.

My approval addiction hinders my authenticity as a Christian, and hurts how others view Jesus.

I realize it is impossible for everyone in my life to approve of me. I’m working on realizing that none of their opinions matter, only God’s.

We want approval, and to gain it we think we have to perform. We perform when we change from who God created us to be into a person who we think others will like more.

Recently, I have started watching Dancing with the Stars. What drew me to the show was Candace Cameron Bure, most commonly known as DJ Tanner from Full House. Candace openly shares on the show that she puts faith first, likes the light, and performs for an audience of one.

On last weeks episode she said, “I always remember, that no matter how many people I’m performing for, I’m really performing for an audience of one. And that’s for God.”

I admire Candace because she is an authentic Christian. It would be easy for her to get upset over negative comments from the world, but she chooses to not let them bother her. Instead of letting them upset her, she chooses to only care about how God views her and how she is performing to him.

Thank you Candace for being a great example to the world and for being a truly authentic Christian.

People will always have opinions. Some may hurt you and some may help you, but we have to remember that what other people think of us doesn’t matter.

Who are you performing for? Who are you trying to please? Would God approve of what you say, think, and do?

Remember, you are performing for an audience of one.

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God’s Grace – Can it run out?

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There are days when I doubt that God’s grace could cover my sins. How could God ever forgive me? I have disobeyed God and have rebelled against him. Is there enough grace to cover my continual rebellion?

I am just like the Israelites in Psalm 78. Over and over again the children of Israel claimed that they would follow God and put him first, but each time they would end up turning away from him. They could have put God first, but they turned back to their old comfortable ways. We do this so often. Instead of continuing to fight our battles in our sin issues with God on our side, we give up and turn back to our sin.

The Bible states that they did not keep God’s covenant, or promise, refused to keep his commandments, and forgot all the wonders that God had done in their lives. And what did God do? “He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly” (vs 15). This wasn’t enough for them.

How frequent do we say that the gifts God gives us isn’t enough? If only I had this or that, then I would be satisfied. This is us in rebellion, and the Israelites did the same thing.  Yet, God showed them more grace.

They continued to sin and even tested God by demanding the food they craved (vs 17-18). God gave them water, but that wasn’t enough. Now they wanted food.

When God heard their demands, he was full of wrath, because they did not believe that he was enough for them. They desired more. What does God do? He opens the Heavens and down rains manna, a bread-like substance, for them to eat.

Now that is grace.

This is the best example of God’s grace that I have ever read. Grace in the form of flaky manna falling from the sky. God’s grace is giving us what we do not deserve.

We do not deserve anything, but God forgives us. That is God’s grace in our lives.

Throughout the rest of Psalm 78, the Israelites continue to sin, God gets angry, but then he blesses them and gives them grace. The chapter ends by beautifully saying, “with upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.”

Turn to God. Let him guide your life with a hand of love. Let him lead you to safety like he did with the children of Israel. Your sins are never too big for God’s grace to cover.

God’s grace can not run out. It did not run out for the Israelites, and it will not run out for you or for me.

 

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In the Middle, You Find Jesus | Charlotte Gambill Book Review

I recently went to a women’s conference called Dare To Be by Natalie Grant and Charlotte Gambill. Natalie led worship and then Charlotte led the teaching. It was very inspiring and impacting! Charlotte opened my eyes to something in scripture I had never before thought about – the middle. Charlotte also wrote a book about this called The Miracle in the Middle: Finding God’s Voice in the Void. This is a fabulous book that I would recommend with you! Because I loved the conference and book so much, I want to share her message and expand on the topic.

In Mark 6:45-52, the story is shared where Jesus walks on water towards his disciples. In these verses, the men were in the middle of the trip between the land where Jesus was and the land on the other side. The boat was in the middle of the lake, far away from Jesus. I want to focus on the word- middle. This is pulled directly from verse 47, “Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land.”

How would you define the middle? For the disciples, they were literally in the middle of the water, but the middle can look different for everyone. Maybe you are in the middle of waiting for something, middle of a struggle, middle of a breakup, middle of singleness, middle of a conflict, there are lots of middles in our lives. Right now I am in the middle of trying to figure out what career to work towards. I would love to be at the end and know exactly what God wants me to do, but right now I am where God wants me, in the middle.

Being in the middle may not be comfortable, but it requires trusting that God will get you to the other side.

The disciples would have felt more comfortable if they would have been on land next to Jesus, and maybe they thought about turning around and going back to where they came from. Right now I am in the life stage of singleness. I have to choose daily to trust that God knows what he is doing. Some days I may want to run back to my old lifestyle of dating who I wanted instead of waiting for a Godly man. I want to run back to what I know is comfortable, but I don’t because I am trusting that God will use this middle to glorify himself.

The middle may not be comfortable, but it does have an end.

The enemy knows when we are in the middle. Because each step we take gets us closer to the other side and closer to a break through. Every middle is equal distance both ways, so sometime it would require the same amount of work to go back to the beginning as the end.

As humans, we don’t want the journey, we want the results. We want to get to the end. We want to know what decisions to make, be married, get past the conflicts, and get out of the boat!

In the middle is when you put to practice all that you say and believe. It may be easy on the shore to say that you believe God is good and that his plans are perfect, but how you live out your life in the middle is the proof.

In the middle you see the miracle. Jesus walks on water and comes to you. When you are thinking how will I ever make it to the other side, Jesus performs a miracle.

In the middle,  you find Jesus.

The greek word used for middle, mesos, in this passage is also found in another passage in the Bible. John 19:18,  “There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

So where was Jesus? In the middle. He was in the middle of dying a painful death for you and I. He was in the middle of saving us from the pain of our own sinful choices. He was in the middle of saving us from the hurt this world causes us. Jesus was in the middle!

When you are in the middle of your struggles, waiting for hope, or  just want to get to the other side, remember that Jesus is in the middle.

I hope this post has been encouraging! Be sure to add me on social media and share my blog with your friends! Thanks!

                       

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Without Jesus, Without Hope

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This semester I’m taking a class called Illness, Grief and Loss. Obviously, it is a sad class, but it is especially sad when most of the students have no hope.

Last week we had to write papers on how we define loss, what loss we have experienced, and how we cope with it. Then we had to present our papers to the class. Each story was sadder than the next. By the end of the class, students and even the professor, were in tears. Most of the presentations included stories of how each person experienced loss, but almost none of the students shared how they coped. This made me think, have they coped?

When you don’t know Jesus, you lack hope. Jesus provides you with hope and gives loss a purpose.

In chapter 11 of the book of John, there was a man named Lazarus who died. His two sisters, Mary and Martha, were devastated and weeped at Jesus’ feet. This created a chain of weeping. “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled… Jesus wept.” (verses 33 and 35)

This is similar to the experience I had in my class. One person’s sadness caused another to be saddened. Unlike my class experience, this story has hope.

Jesus turned the loss into a miracle. Jesus turned death to life. Jesus brought back Lazarus from death. He not only literally saved Lazarus, but he also spiritually saved many others. Immediately following the story of Lazarus, verse 45 says, “Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.”

God used loss to save people, to bring hope and a purpose.

When I refer to loss, I do not simply mean loss of lives by death. Loss can be found in many forms- divorce, friendship, moving to a new place, or change of plans. Here are some examples of the word loss found in the Bible – lose of time (Ex 21:19), loss of lives (2 Sam 18:7), uncertainty (Act 25:20), and loss of material goods (Acts 27:10).

Mary, Martha, and Jesus all felt sadness, pain, and grief, but every tear had a purpose. In our times of grief, we may only see the tears and may tend to focus on the present moment. If we look at grief through Jesus and his eternal perspective, we will see the world differently. Mary and Martha had no idea that lives would be spiritually saved that day, because they were focused on the pain, the loss of their brother. We too focus on the pain, and have no idea how God may use each of our experiences to glorify him.

Without Jesus, without hope. With Jesus, with hope.

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The Lower Case g “gods”

Who will you worship and serve, the God who blesses you or the gods you think will bless you?

Think of all the ways God blesses you daily, and yet we think other things will bless us more. How often do we think certain situations will bless our lives more than God can? For example, we live in a society that worships appearance, prestige, and success. These are good things, until they become gods in our lives. They become gods when we think they will bless and satisfy us more than a relationship with God.

God blesses us, daily, yet we think other things will bless us more. This is not a new idea. In the book of Joshua, Joshua lists all the ways God blessed the people. Here are just some of the ways God blessed the children of Israel: God made Abraham’s offspring many, brought them out of the plaque in Egypt, parted the red sea, led them out of the wilderness, destroyed their enemies, delivered them from their enemies, protected them, fought for them, and then gave them land to dwell in and fruit to eat (Joshua 24: 1-13). That is a lot of blessings.

Yet immediately after Joshua lists all of that, he warns the people that they get to make the decision of who to serve, and who to make their God.

Joshua 24:14-15 14 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

God continuously blesses us, and what does he ask of us?

That we would choose daily to worship and serve him. What is interesting about this passage is the order of the sentences. First you have to stop worshiping (the lower case g) gods, and then you can serve (the upper case g) God.

How do we do that?
“Put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel.” -Joshua 24:23

What gods, lower case g, are you worshiping?

Serving God is a choice that we have to make daily. Each day we get to choose if we want to serve the eternal God of the universe or the fleeting gods of this world. It is your decision to make, so what will you choose?

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Maybe we have the wrong mindset.

What does it mean to be blessed?

The world defines blessed as having bliss, happiness, laughter, pleasure, earthly prosperity, possessions, or contentment. God defines blessed as the experience of hope and joy, independent of our outward circumstances. From this definition, a person can be blessed if they lack happiness, earthly prosperity, and pleasure. To some people – this would not be considered a blessed life.

This is what the Bible says:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”- Matthew 5:3-10

I don’t know about you, but when I am mourning or hungry I don’t feel blessed. In these moments it is so easy to focus on the problem. Maybe we have the wrong mindset.

God’s way of living contradicts the world’s way of living. The world might tell us one thing, but God tells us another. If we want to live for God we must be ready to do and say what the world views as strange. Think about how different your life would be if you realized that being blessed does not depend on your circumstances.

Look back at the verses in Matthew. When we give up our own rights and comforts, then we can receive everything that God has in store for us. God desires for us to receive the kingdom of heaven, to be comforted, to inherit the earth, to be satisfied, to receive mercy, to see God, to be called God’s sons and daughters.

“Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall! Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!” -Psalm 144:15

Is Jesus Christ the LORD of your life? Have you made the decision to give your life to him? Blessed are the people who have given their lives to Jesus. You can make that decision today and receive all that God has for you!

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Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

ImageJillian Michaels and yoga: two words I never thought would be paired together. Jillian, known for her role on the Biggest Loser, is one of America’s toughest trainers who always pushes people to reach their potential. While yoga is known for breathing, meditation, and relaxation. Last night I was doing a yoga video with Jillian called Yoga Meltdown, designed to sculpt muscle, burn fat, and tone the entire body.

During the workout, we were planking and Jillian said, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” At that moment sweat was dripping down my forehead, my arms were shaking, and my abs were in pain. I wanted to say to Jillian, “NO, I do not want to be uncomfortable. I hate feeling this pain!” I would rather stop, curl up in my blankets, and watch Gilmore Girls. That sounds like a great night to me! But would I grow? Would I reach my fitness goals? I’m not saying to never enjoy a night of relaxing and enjoying the best TV show around, because we all know that Gilmore Girls is the best. What I am saying is that if we want to grow, we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

For yoga or any other exercise, one has to push their limits in order to improve. If a person stayed comfortable and never felt pain, they would never be able to grow or reach higher possibilities. God does not want us to stay comfortable. He wants us to push our limits, go out of our comfort zone, and experience spiritual growth. One common misconception people have is that when they become a Christian, their lives will be easier and more comfortable. Paul the apostle said the exact opposite:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” -1 Peter 4:12-13

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” -2 Timothy 3:12

As a Christian, we will experience sufferings, but we need to rejoice over them and get comfortable being uncomfortable. I know this does not sound fun. No one wants to suffer or be uncomfortable, but if you want to experience spiritual growth, you will be uncomfortable. The good news is, God cares so much about us that he does not leave us to suffer. He comforts us. Always.

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” -Psalm 34:18

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” -Isaiah 43:2

We will suffer, but God will comfort. Let’s rejoice in our sufferings. Know that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character. (Rom 5:3-4)

Let’s get comfortable being uncomfortable!

What are practical ways you can live a more uncomfortable life today?

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Seeking Jesus

Seeking Jesus, Wholeheartedly-1 Seeking Jesus, yet he still feels far away? How can this be when Jeremiah 29:13 says if you seek Jesus you will find him? Last week I repeated this verse over and over and wondered why Jesus still felt so far away. I realized that seeking Jesus is only part of the verse. I missed a whole phrase- with all your heart.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (NIV)

“If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” (NLT)

I may have been seeking Jesus, but I definitely was not seeking him with my whole heart. In order to seek Jesus with our full heart, we have to figure out what else our heart is seeking. We have to discover the distractions and rid them from our lives.

Three things will help us discover the distractions and wholeheartedly seek God:

1) Turn from false Gods.

2) Plead with God for mercy.

3) Pursue purity.

What false gods are you believing? Why do you think these things will satisfy the desires of your heart? What do you need to ask forgiveness for? How can you pursue purity?

In the Old Testament, God promised the Israelites that if they searched for him with their whole hearts and souls they would find him. He warns them to not turn to idols and false Gods, but then says that even if people reach that point they can still seek and find God.

“There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell. But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him. For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you…”  Deuteronomy 4:29-31

We will never reach a point in life that is too far to turn back. Even while the Isralites worshiped idols, God welcomed them back. They realized the idols could not satisfy them, so they turned back to the one they knew could satisfy them.

Are you seeking Jesus today with all your heart and with all your soul? Turn from your false gods, beg for mercy, and pursue purity and you will find Jesus.

Seek Jesus, Wholeheartedly

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