We over-complicate our faith.
Whether you have been a Christian since you were a young child, or you're still seeking Truth, it is really so simple, we miss it.
Jesus is the Word of God.
So, if you want to get to know Jesus; get to know the Word of God.
The Bible is a collection of inspired books (66 in total) which tell us stories about other seekers; believers, non-believers, people just like us who struggled and wrestled with their faith, lives and loves just as we do.
You may have come across the amazing young man on YouTube who not only recited from memory all the books of the Bible but related each book to a picture, or type, of Jesus Christ.
Below I have adapted his list slightly, as I wanted to share this with you all. When you start to see the connections between ancient scriptures, written by men and women who never met each other, lived completely different lives, over many centuries... your sense of awe and wonder will only grow.
Is the Bible always easy to understand? Definitely not. But there's something about these texts that weave into one another in a way that simply must have a supernatural Conductor at work.
Enjoy this list. Share it with your friends and Bible Study group. Heck, I'm even going to use it when I preach!
Let's share the wonder of this Super-Book, this library of Life, this faith-giving, living Word. Its wonders never end.
Have you joined our She31 Bible Study group yet? Over a thousand women from all over the world are encouraged and inspired by our short, practical studies for modern Christian women.
Stay close to God's Word and other Truth Seekers - your faith will only grow!
***Jesus Is There In Every Book of the Bible***
...In The Old Testament...
Genesis ~ He is the Breath of Life
Exodus ~ He is the Passover lamb
Leviticus ~ He is our High Priest
Numbers ~ He's the pillar of cloud by day pillar of fire by night
Deuteronomy ~ He's a prophetic voice through Moses
Joshua ~ He is the Captain of our Salvation
Judges ~ He is our Great Judge
Ruth ~ He is our Redeemer
1st & 2nd Samuel ~ He is our Prophet
1st & 2nd Kings & Chronicles ~ He is our ever-reigning King of Kings
Ezra & Nehemiah ~ He's the rebuilder of our broken walls
Esther ~ He is our Mordecai
Job ~ He is our Redeemer and Healer
Psalms ~ He is our Gentle Shepherd
Proverbs ~ He is our Daily Wisdom
Ecclesiastes ~ He is our Life Wisdom
Song of Solomon ~ He is our loving Bridegroom
Isaiah ~ He is our Prince of Peace
Jeremiah ~ He is the Righteous One
Lamentations ~ He is the Weeping Prophet
Ezekiel ~ He is the wondrous four faced man
Daniel ~ He is there with us in life's fiery furnace
Hosea ~ He's the faithful husband; forever married, even to the backsliden heart
Joel ~ He's the baptizer in the Holy Ghost and with fire
Amos ~ He is our Burden Bearer
Obadiah ~ He is Mighty to Save
Jonah ~ He goes ahead of us even into dark places
Micah ~ He the faithful Messenger
Nahum ~ He is our Strength & Shield
Habakkuk ~ He is God's vigilance; crying out for our revival
Zephaniah ~ He is our Saviour
Haggai ~ He is the restorer of God's lost Heritage
Zechariah ~ He is the fountain flowing take away sin & uncleanliness
Malachi ~ He is the Son of Righteousness with healing in his wings
...In The New Testament...
Matthew ~ He is Jesus Christ, the King of the Jews
Mark ~ He is the Humble Servant
Luke ~ He is the Son of Man; feeling just as you feel
John ~ He is the Light of the World
Acts ~ He is the Saviour of the world
Romans ~ He is our Right Standing before God
1 Corinthians ~ He is the Rock, the Father of Israel
2 Corinthians ~ He is the triumphant one giving us victory
Galatians ~ He is our liberty, He sets us free
Ephesians ~ He is the Head of the church
Philippians ~ He is our joy
Colossians ~ He is our completeness
1st & 2nd Thessalonians ~ He is our hope
1 Timothy ~ He is our faith
2 Timothy ~ He is our stability
Titus ~ He is the perfect Truth
Philemon ~ He is our benefactor
Hebrews ~ He is our faith profession
James ~ He is the power of our faith
1 Peter ~ He is our example
2 Peter ~ He is our purity
1 John ~ He is our life
2 John ~ He is our pattern of life
3 John ~ He is our motivation
Jude ~ He is the very foundation of our faith
Revelation ~ He is our Coming King!
------->>>>>> GET THIS AMAZING LIST AS A FREE PRINTABLE HERE!
*****God's Word is beautiful, eternal and life-giving. Please LIKE AND SHARE this Blog post to spread the Word!*******
If you're a Christian blogger, find out the 7 tried and tested ways to grow your blog, attract quality visitors, boost engagement, grow your email list and create raving fans! These tips will help you think carefully about the purpose and focus of your blog and make sure that you're getting your message across, finding your ideal readers - and having fun too!
This is not a list of 7 technical things to plug into your site - or 7 quick ways to make money blogging (you'll find plenty of information on that out there). Far more importantly than that, I'm talking here about ways to grow the HEART of your blog as you go on this journey of expressing what God has put inside you.
I've been blogging as Lead Author at She31 Network for over a year now and I often get asked by fellow Christian bloggers for hints and tips on how to grow a blog, and more importantly, create a real buzz and community around blogging.
Blogging is so much more than just an online journal, it's a real opportunity to influence people with the great news that God is Good! It has never been easier or cheaper to get a blog up and running - and who knows what YOUR blog might accomplish? Who knows whose life it might touch?
I believe in you! And I am on a mission to help Christian bloggers grow their blogs, reach the audience they have a heart for - and be effective in how they do it. And if you want to start to monetize your blog; either for some extra income, or to grow your ministry - you've come to the right place.
All the top tips below are a result of me making lots of mistakes along the way - I hope they help you cut out just some of the many hours I spent trying and failing!
So, without any further ado - let's get down to it.
Here are my very best, tried and tested, top tips to grow your Christian blog!
1. Have A Mission
The story of She31 didn't start with a blog but in fact started out as a Facebook Group. My mission was simply to create a safe place online for Christian women to connect and grow their faith through fellowship and Biblical inspiration. I was already reading lots of Christian blogs and in a few groups for Christians, but if they weren't full of nonsense and spam, they ended up with drama and arguments. I had a vision of a group that would simply be inclusive, positive, encouraging and edifying. I wanted there to be a place where we could pray for one another and talk about the issues that matter to Christian women today, without judgement or criticism. That was, and still is, my mission - 3 years on!
Your mission is represented by your whole 'brand': your personality, your passion for your readers and your message all rolled into one. I wrestled with the name She31 for literally months and agonized over several options. After finally plumping for She31 - I wanted to chew the table every time I heard someone refer to it as 'Woman31' or 'Her31'. The 31 bit stuck alright, because every Christian woman on Earth has heard of Proverbs 31... but I've learned to let go of my need for branding perfection. It doesn't exist. The truth is, the name you pick just becomes a framework for the main event - your awesome content. Readers will come back time and time again for great, thoughtful and useful content. So pick something YOU like and roll with it. Your mission will get more refined as you go along - don't wait for all the answers - just begin!
2. Forget About The Money
That's not to say don't work towards making some money from your Blog; if you enjoy blogging and connect with your readers, making some income is a happy possibility - but remember why you started blogging in the first place. What was the burning message in your heart that you wanted to share with the world? What was it that God impressed on you to start writing about in the first place? It's so easy to get side-tracked trying to chase down the perfect formula to making your blog monetized, but the truth is - very, very few bloggers are making any money at all.
Huge amounts of the conversation in blogging circles now is about tactics on monetization and it leaves me feeling cold because yes, of course I want the cost of the website to pay for itself and it's well on it's way to doing that - but it takes some time and a lot of thought to start to make that happen. The truth is, you may have to compromise your mission if you want to go down the route of commercializing your blog. So, be sure it's what God has called you to do in case you end up writing for your advertisers, instead of your mission field.
Keep your focus on hearing from God and writing great content - the money will follow, if that's what you would like to do. I'll be sharing in much more detail about HOW to monetize your blog without compromising your mission - using advertising, partnerships, links and affiliates in an upcoming blog - so make sure you subscribe! (Did you see what I did there? If not, see Point 7!)
3. Be Consistent
This is much harder than it sounds. I've started blogging series' that I've never actually finished because I've been so eager to get onto the next idea.... and for me and my Type A personality, that's torture. Our most popular Bible Study is the 31 Traits of a Godly Woman and I started off great, but my intention was to write 31 blogs - 1 per session, but I flopped around session 5! (I'm just keeping it real here, I told you I would share my failures too!) I'm easily inspired and my heart is already racing on to the next thing God is stirring in me, so it can be difficult for me to stay focused and complete something I start. The solution? Mini blogs. Short, bite-size blogs when you don't have the time or are feeling uninspired. Write SOMETHING to keep momentum going. Don't over-commit (like I'm learning not to!) by trying to blog every day, or even every week. What matters just as much as how often you post is that you're consistent in your topics, quality and voice.
This is important not only for your readers but Google too.. Google's little content-analyzing robots actually look at the freshness of your blog's content... so if it has been a while since you posted, get something moving again. I often find that even when I feel a bit uninspired, as soon as I make myself write something.. the creative juices soon start flowing again!
4. Be The Expert
The trouble is, the whole world is trying to share a message with the rest of the world too - so you need to either STAND OUT by doing and saying something different, controversial, counter-cultural or in a fresh way... OR you need to be REALLY consistent and grow your profile so that people start to see you as the go-to person - an expert - on your topic.
This is where knowing what niche audience you want to write for - is vital. If you want to grow your Blog on the topic of Christian Marriage, for example, you'll have to take your place at the back of a very, very long queue because it's one of the most written-about topics for Christians! However, if you want to Blog about Christian blended families, or recovering after an extra-marital affair, or rebuilding marital trust after pornography addiction.. NOW you're getting into niche territory and stand a good chance of becoming an expert (as long as you follow Point 2!).
As you can imagine, having enough inspiration and quality content around a very specific, expert niche can be challenging, so also consider some related niches that you might want to fall back on, or expand into, if your topics run dry.
If you do want to establish yourself as an expert in your niche - linking in to other related topics is a great way to attract in an audience. Referring to research and recommending good resources around the topic also helps your reader see you as someone who knows what they're talking about and worth listening to. Try commenting on other blogs and related articles to build your audience and draw people who are interested in that topic over to your site. Be consistent, credible and share your knowledge as freely as you can.
5. Keep It Simple
Many Christian blogs try to be 'all things to all men'.. which is a Biblical instruction that I'm pretty sure Paul the Apostle wasn't aiming at Bloggers. Trying to be inclusive is always well-intended but if you're frustrated at the lack of audience of your blog, think about whether you're simply trying to do too much or cover too much ground with it. This has been one of my biggest challenges pretty much from the start!
My Blog has grown arms and legs since it began because I wanted to respond to every need and every piece of feedback I was getting from my readers. I added some very broad topics to the She31 website after much research on what issues were popular among Christian women aged 25-65 (spiritual growth, prayer and devotionals, health & well being, relationships, leadership and so on..). The website looked phenomenal, but it was a ridiculous amount of content to have to scope out and maintain. After much prayer and yes, even some fasting (that's how much I love you guys!!) God clearly told me to pare it all back down and focus on the key areas for this season.
With my family, church and work commitments, I only set aside around 4-6 hours per week to the Blog, so this forces me to be really super-focused on what I will spend my time on. Less really is better. It was such a relief to just say 'right, I'm focusing on THIS topic for the next two months' and your readers start to understand what you're all about too. So think about how much time you really want to spend on your blog (including building your site, sourcing images, linking to other social media, SEO work etc..) and make sure you don't try to tackle too much all at once like I did!
I must admit I felt a little bit sick as I deleted all those pages I had worked so hard over many an evening to create, but I haven't regretted it one bit - and actually my audience has climbed by 20% since I reduced the website by half!!
When people land on your blog, you've got about 8 seconds to persuade them that your stuff is worth reading.... so if you are not clear about what you're writing about, they won't be either. Use the same kinds of keywords, phrasing, title formats, picture sources etc to make life easier for yourself so that you're not starting from scratch every time you sit down to create a new post. Collect pictures you like and ideas for posts - I love using Evernote for this - and any time you're stuck for ideas, flip through your notes and something will soon come to mind to blog about!
Tweak and change your approach a little bit every time you blog, try things out: bullet point lists, 'how to' titles, gallery images.. see what works best for you and what your readers respond best to.
When people land on your blog, you've got about 8 seconds to persuade them that your stuff is worth reading
6. Talk To Your Reader
My first few blogs were written in a whole variety of styles but the one I've settled best with is to talk directly to you, the reader. I want to help YOU and make sure that everything I'm saying, I would say to you face to face over coffee too, if we could. I want you to get to know me, the person behind the text.
I've experimented with lots of different 'voices' in my blogs and the more experienced I get, the easier it is getting to find my own voice. This is really important if you want people to connect with you and your message. As they saying goes 'they don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care!' So when you're clear on what you want to say, think about how best to say it. Don't be afraid to throw out a question here and there! Even if your reader doesn't actually respond by leaving a comment, questions make your reader think about what you've said, whether they agree or disagree, and what they're going to do about it (if anything).. this all helps to connect and build engagement.
Even if your blog is brand new out of the box and even if you don't think you'll ever have need of your readers' email addresses - collect them anyway! As your blog grows, and especially as the internet is swamped with blogs, having your readers' email addresses is the best way to stay in touch with people. Many bloggers offer an 'opt-in' which is simply a free digital download of some description as a freebie in exchange for their email address. I am planning to try this out over the summer, but to be honest, people leave me their emails by the dozen every day as it is - and I only issue a monthly newsletter at the moment that is getting caught in spam filters (because I use a mail service, MailChimp) meaning that the vast majority of my subscribers never see my carefully crafted emails.... so it's on my To Do list to try and overcome that issue, before I push for more email addresses to be added to my list!
I cannot possibly leave this section without mentioning the Facebook Groups for She31. They are amazing, I kid you not. They are the most inspiring, uplifting and drama-free groups I'm part of - and I'm in a LOT of Facebook Groups (I am a fan of community!). Yes I am biased but I love those ladies so much. The groups mean that there's always someone around to pray for each other, they tell me what they like and don't like about the Bible studies and blogs, they inspire me - not only as their community leader but as a woman of God - to keep pursuing this dream God has put in my heart. If you're not already part of the She31 Facebook Group - what are you waiting for! Consider whether opening up a group for your niche might be a good way to connect with readers too! Or if you don't like the thought of running a group yourself, join some Groups in your niche and get in there and be part of the community. They are a wealth of insight into what's on peoples' minds - great inspiration for blogging!
I'll be doing a full post on how to set up and run a fabulous Christian Facebook Group - so make sure you subscribe by leaving your best email address below!! (See, I did it again!)
7. Get Connected!
God has put a unique message in your heart that the world needs. Don't brush off your desire to blog as a whim - it is incredibly powerful! You're communicating God's heart to the world - no matter what niche you're talking to - and that is a blessed thing to do with your time! The best thing is - you're not alone! Connecting with other faith bloggers is a brilliant way to stay inspired, learn and share readers!
I've talked about authenticity, personality and finding your voice.. and all of that takes time to craft because online media is a funny old thing and it's such a crowded place that it can be hard to get heard above the crowds. But let your light shine!
Remember that your blog will evolve and grow just as you do! The more you learn and share, you will find your Blog needs to change too over time. Don't be afraid to change direction, if that's what God is prompting you to do. Your blog is an extension of your testimony - it will come from the overflow of what God has done, and is doing, in your life. So although it's great to have a niche and learn as much of the technical and 'business' side of blogging as you can - don't lose sight of the fact that it needs to reflect your own spiritual and personal growth too!
One of the best ways to grow your blog is simply to love blogging - and let it show! Connect with other bloggers (our Faith Bloggers Showcase is a great place to start!), join some group Blogger boards on Pinterest - the She31 Faith Bloggers board is currently open for contributors - just email your Pinterest handle to firstname.lastname@example.org to be added.
If you would like to do a free guest blog on She31, you can find me on Facebook - or email email@example.com
Feel free to SHARE below YOUR blog address :)
I casually commented to a colleague at work the other day that my husband and I had 'given up watching TV for a month, by accident'. This drew a staggering amount of questions with every query from 'what on earth do you DO all evening?', 'do you miss it?' to simply: 'why?!'.. I was prompted to write this blog post because although I don't often blog about my personal life, giving up watching TV has been a really surprising experience and I want to share that with you.
First off, truthfully this was accidental on my part, but not my husband's! He came back from a short trip overseas and was so full of the Holy Spirit, and bubbling over with ideas and inspiration - he suddenly announced he was going to fast Internet and TV for a week or two whilst he processed everything that he had learned and been inspired by, on the trip.
Okay, I'm going to admit - my first thought was.. 'but "Better Call Saul" is on tonight and that's our favorite!!'... but I could see the fire of determination in his eyes and really didn't want to quench it. Before I knew it, our regular little habit of blessing the couch with our undivided presence from pretty much 8pm - 11pm, was a thing of the past. Just like that.
We are now nearly 3 months on and I am so excited about the surprising impact this has had on our lives. Full disclosure: we've watched three movies on rainy days (one as a couple, one with our son and one as a family) and I've watched about 3 episodes of Joyce Meyer's daily program but that's IT!
As I was cleaning my wooden blinds (I know, the chore above all chores) this evening I was reflecting on how our home life has been so different since we fell into this fast.. and neither of us are in a rush to go back.
Here are 3 of the biggest changes I've seen happen in our lives since we gave up watching TV;
1. We gained an 8th day in the week!!!!!!
This is MASSIVE. Suddenly we had at least 3 'extra' hours every evening to fill and I'm instantly convicted every time I even think of using the word 'busy' in it.. because now I've just given myself the gift of 21 extra hours a week! 21 hours!!!! THAT'S ALMOST AN EXTRA DAY A WEEK! Think of everything you can do with 24 extra hours a week?! Here are just some of the things I've been done, or I'm doing with all these oodles of spare hours...
Seriously, the list is ridiculously endless - and the best thing of all, we haven't missed the TV one bit. So, no more moaning about not having time to do all those things you wish you had time for.. give up that telebox and free up some serious time slots!
These are only the things that I've been finding to do so far with my "extra day a week..", don't even get me started on my husband....
2. Our marriage got stronger x100!!!
The absolute best thing of all is how much we've talked in the past month. Like never before. We are sharing our hearts, deepest desires, flitting worries and concerns, dreams, even jokes...
Our 8th day adventure has strengthened our marriage in ways that nothing else could. We are more relaxed because we know we've got space each day to catch-up and share what's going on fully, rather than sound-bites here and there. The things we talk about has expanded too; instead of talking about chores, the kids, how much we've spent that month and whether we think the roof is leaking again... we now have head space to talk about the deeper things of life without rush. This coincides with me beginning a new qualification in coaching so I've been cheekily testing out some of my new questioning techniques on hubby - to great effect!
We've also both noticed much less 'strife'. It's as if we're just living in a slightly slower gear in some ways and the general, rumbling stress levels of day-to-day life have gone down a notch or two. Not that we don't have our 'moments'. Only yesterday, we had a bit of a miscommunication and ended up at different restaurants - both of us adamant we agreed on THIS ONE. But our usual M.O. when there has been an annoyance is to be frosty for a while until we both get over ourselves.. but now we're making up so much faster and I'm absolutely sure that's down to talking more - overall - there's little room for any resentment to build up. I know for sure he's on my side - and he knows that I'm on his. So minor squabbles soon dissipate.
Suddenly someone you've know for what feels like a lifetime seems new. This extra time to relax and talk has brought us closer together in every way.... but enough said about that!
3. Our ministry got STRONGER!!!!
When we look back over the past couple of months especially, we can see the fruit of having this extra time, better communication and headspace to help others in a way that felt 'around the edges' before we gave TV the big heave-ho.
Not only do we consult more with one another, which always strengthens your individual ministry activities, but it has helped spark ideas which we wouldn't have had just mulling things over on our own.
We have both put our time to good use.. whether spending time reading and studying the Bible, reading other books and inspirational stuff or just plain day-dreaming. This time of fasting TV has coincided with a Missions Week in our local church and it was fantastic to have the energy and creativity to get involved. With She31, God has been showing me news ways to connect more women and given me a notebook full of ideas on how to take this website to the next stage.
I've been hugely blessed with the opportunity to preach a couple of times lately and I'm growing stronger in my passion for sharing God's Word and seeing people 'get it' and know that God is for them and with them in everything they do. Not having hours slumped in front of the box has given me creative space to think and read more - I believe, making my ministry output better. I want to give God, and His people, my very best... and making sure that I honour Him with my time is just one part of that.
I don't know how long our 'fast' will last - possibly for a long time.. with special exceptions made for favourite shows or rain-day movies. One thing is for sure - life has changed for the better with this one simple change. If you've been thinking about giving up TV for a while - GO FOR IT....
Share below: have you ever fasted TV, or even the Internet! How did you get on? What differences did it make to your lifestyle?
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How to love your enemies
As I was praying through this fruit of the Spirit in preparation for the session in our live Bible Study group, I sensed a whisper of the Holy Spirit saying 'it's time to fall in love with Love again'. I asked Him 'what does that mean, Lord?' thinking the reply would be something heart-warming and beautiful and then I was suddenly reminded of Revelation 2:4:
"But I have this complaint against you. You don't love me or each other as you did at first!".
These terrifying words are spoken over the Church and should make every Christian re-evaluate their levels of love towards other Christians, and Christ Himself... but also our enemies. This certainly made me sit up and pray afresh that my love would increase- not just to the people I love, because let's be honest - that is easy - but to the people who I struggle with, the people I can't fathom out, the people who don't like me. My enemies.
The Ultimate Definition Of Love
It's wonderful to hear this portion of 1 Corinthians read out at a wedding as bride and groom gaze lovingly into one anothers' eyes with huge hopes and expectations of the joy their happy union will bring them both.....
But could you gaze into the eyes of someone who hates you, persecutes you, and still be patient, kind, not easily angered, rejoicing with truth....
This is where our perception of what God's kind of 'love' is, really comes off the rails.
I remember when I fist became a Christian and I felt like I could take on the whole world with the love that was bursting out of my heart...... so much so that that even my enemies would surely be instantly turned to Jesus as I loved them as He does. As time goes by, we all get a bit too focused on loving those in our inner circle. We spend our time and effort wanting to grow relationships with people we like - and who like us. We're into inward, soft love that serves our own needs. We're not as quick to pursue the kind of outward, missional love that risks everything to see God's kind of love reach everyone.
Easy Love Is Easy - Hard Love Is Hard
There is easy love - and there is hard love. God Himself chose hard love. As we seek to grow in the fruit of the Spirit - becoming more like Jesus, this hard love is what we must pursue.
"For God so love the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever shall believe in Him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life (John 3:16)
Whosoever. That means everyone, anyone, who decides to believe that Christ dies for their sins and rose again will be with Him, and you, in Heaven. God's qualifying criteria contains no references to good works, niceness, kindness, church attendance, generosity or any of the other soft love actions that we tend to focus on as Christians. Isn't that mind-blowing? The criteria for God's redeeming love is faith in Him.
The love God expects of us, our mission, is clear: "And he said unto them, Go into all the world.. and as you go into all the world, proclaim the gospel to everyone." (Matthew 16:15)
Not those who are nice to you.
Not those who show good behavior,
Not those who can give you something in return.
No one deserves this kind of radical love - not you, not me, no one.
It was God's decision alone. It is His astounding Grace. This is the kind of hard love is what the Holy Spirit wants to cultivate in us. Challenged yet? I am. Again.
Easy love is the love you feel for the ones that are precious and lovely to you; your husband, your children, your family, your friends, your church.. but the truth is - anyone can love people who are good and loving to them. We don't need the Holy Spirit to help us with that kind of love.....
We need His Spirit to help us do hard love.
Jesus directly taught us: "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Matthew 5:44
What Does God Require Of Me?
God's Agenda is fueled by love for all His creation - not just the nice bits. We are so fickle and find our hearts and minds screaming when we know we should turn the other cheek, forgive, reach out, show kindness, be Jesus to those who don't 'deserve' it. And you're right, they don't. That's not in dispute.
The problem is - you and I didn't deserve God's love either. So if we're serious about this grace we've been given.. if we truly want to grow in the fruit of the Spirit, then we are going to have to get good at hard love. God's kind of love.
Proverbs 25:21 says "If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat; and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink."
You don't have to like them. You are not required to approve of, or even understand, their behavior or choices. You don't have to have any affectionate feelings towards them whatsoever; but you must love them like Jesus loves them. You must serve them, sacrificially even. You must not exclude them from our mission to love and bring good news.
This is hard love.
There is easy love - and there is hard love. God Himself chose hard love. Which will you pursue?
Of course we will never stop loving the people that are embedded in our hearts. And that's absolutely right. But the challenge in growing in the fruit of the Spirit is to grow in hard love.
Right now, I can think of at least 3 people who I find hard to really love - and I don't mean the warm squishy, affectionate kind of love - I mean the kind of love where I include them, and share with them, and offer them proverbial - or literally - food and water from my kitchen. These are people I don't understand and I'm not even sure how I can serve them - but I will try. Not because I love them, but because God loves them.
Pray and ask God to show you at least one person who you need to practice hard love with. Reach out to them, somehow, and include them, bless them, pray for them, serve them.
How To Love Your Enemies
We don't have to wait for any motivating 'feelings' to do this because the amazing things about hard love is that there is something the Bible calls 'compassion'. Compassion is often seen as a soft love - but it is in fact the foundation of enabling us to love hard.
Compassion is what moves us to stop and turn, out of our way, off the beaten track, to help someone who wasn't on our love list today. Compassion is a purposeful emotion that moves us to act against our instincts and reach out because of a deep yearning to bring God's love and justice to those who need it the most. To feel compassion is to look upon a soul that is lost, hurting, acting out - and desire God's redeeming love to rescue them - just as He rescued you.
No one puts it better than the great Charles Spurgeon:
"He was moved with compassion."—Matthew 9:36.
"This is said of Christ Jesus several times in the New Testament. The original word is a very remarkable one. It is not found in classic Greek. It is not found in the Septuagint. They did not find one in the whole Greek language that suited their purpose, and therefore they had to make one. It is expressive of the deepest emotion; a striving of the bowels—a yearning of the innermost nature with pity... when our Saviour looked upon certain sights, those who watched him closely perceived that his internal agitation was very great, his emotions were very deep, and then his face betrayed it, his eyes gushed like founts with tears, and you saw that his big heart was ready to burst with pity for the sorrow upon which his eyes were gazing. He was moved with compassion. His whole nature was agitated with commiseration for the sufferers before him."
So, as you pray to increase and abound in LOVE - pray for compassion. Compassion for the unlovely. Compassion for the excluded. Compassion for the people who have not yet met their Redeemer.
Open up your heart - big and wide - and let God fill you and stretch you and urge you into acts of hard love - seek to abound in compassion.
Let your hard love flow to 'whosoever' - because God first loved you.
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Fruit Of The Spirit: Goodness
how to be more kind
In this Fruit Of The Spirit series of mini-blogs, I have been deeply moved by the simple truths in the Word of God. This proverb is jam-packed with insights and wisdom.
Kindness is not just about being 'nice' or being randomly courteous to strangers. It is a deep, pride-melting, barrier-shrinking warmth of attitude towards others that Jesus personified.
Holy Spirit kindness comes from wanting the very best for the other person. Holy Spirit kindness wants them to know their true value and worth. The Holy Spirit kind of kindness melts hard hearts, unfolds crossed arms and opens deaf ears.
Kindness will get you an audience with people you never dreamed you would influence.
Kindness will pave the way to a strengthening of your key relationships unlike anything else.
We need to grow so much more in kindness if we are going to be people full of the Spirit of God.
I love that this verse begins with 'WHEN she speaks'. You have a message to bring. You DO have something of value and significance that the world needs to hear. Don't ever let anyone quiet your voice down - just because it doesn't serve their agenda.
The 'when' also reminds us that kindness comes best when it is timed right. Knowing when to speak, and when to keep silent are all part of maturing (and even in my fourth decade I get this one wrong all the time!)
Timing is the difference between wisdom being gladly received like a long, cool drink to a parched marathon-runner who greedily grabs at whatever you have to offer....... and your words being tossed back in your face because the timing was all wrong. It takes discernment, and prayer, to know when wisdom is actually wise!
Instructions are coupled with kindness in this verse because, let's face it, very few people really enjoy being told what to do! Kindness softens any blow to the pride, especially when the instructions are correcting a wrong.
Have you ever heard the phrase 'they don't care what you know - until they knew that you care'?
It's a perfect paraphrase of this scripture.
If you want your words to be well-received, then speak up; at the right time, with the right wisdom for that moment, confidently - but with deep care and compassion for the listener.
They will feel your kindness long after your words leave the air.
They will detect your sincerity in their innermost being and the instructions, whatever they may be, will be received like seed into good soil.
Kindness isn't just a side-portion - it's the main meal.
Let's serve it up to one another by the bucket-load and watch the Holy Spirit do His work, melting hearts like workable clay in His hands.
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Check Out These Other Great Blogs:
How To Increase Your Joy
How To Release The Harvest You're Due
How To Stay Faithful When You Want To Quit
This is one of my favourite 'fruits'. One of my personal meditations is 'the joy of the Lord is my strength' (Nehemiah 8:10) and I probably say this to myself over a dozen times a day.
Joy is so much deeper than happiness. Happiness depends on your external circumstances.. but JOY comes up and overflows from deep within.
Joy comes from knowing that you are Loved by Love Himself and that, in the end, it's all going to be okay.
Like 'goodness' - developing this fruit is all about continuing to do good, even when the situation hasn't made it easy for you. This means that you can also bring JOY to others, even when you have areas of your life that are challenging.
The Holy Spirit in us can help us to be a blessing to others whilst we wait for our own situation to change. There's something in the way our Designer has made us that means we feel so much better, just by helping someone else - why? Possibly because it shows that we refuse to curl up in a ball but we will trust God, and go about doing good and blessing others, even as we wait for breakthrough.
If you want to have more joy..... ask yourself -who you can help? Who can you bless with a gift, or your time, or an act of service?
Will you accept a Get More Joy Challenge?
Decide on 3 practical blessings you can commit to do, that will bring joy to someone else this week. Write them down in the comments below or in your private journal - as a commitment to do them and just see how your own joy will increase!
How to stay strong through tough times
Is there a 'field' in your life where you've been sowing and sowing but are still not seeing those green shoots? When a farmer goes out to sow seeds into the soil, what comes next is a wait of faith. Nothing can be seen by eye, but the farmer knows beyond doubt that something good is happening beneath the soil. How does she know? Because of her experience. Because of her knowledge. Because she understands the rhythms and the timing and chemistry of sowing and reaping. We need to understand the rhythms and timing and chemistry of sowing reaping in our faith too.
In due time, tiny green shoots start to poke through, reaching up to the light of day and a sigh of relief is breathed as the sower knows for sure...... 'it's coming'.....
Perhaps you've been sowing in an area of your life and you're not seeing the harvest yet. It feels overdue. You're frustrated and impatience. 'Why, God? Where is it? Where is the health I need? Where is the peace in my family? Where is the job opportunity I've been praying for? Where is the growth of my team, ministry or church? Where are the finances I've prayed for? Where is it God?!'
Galatians 6:9-10 is like a huge finger-from-the-sky reminder: "..do NOT become weary in doing good. For at the proper time you WILL reap a harvest IF you do not give up..." Let's break it down:
Do not become weary - make sure your prayers are prayers of stubborn faith, not weariness. Make sure you are still doing what God told you to do and not backing down or ducking out because it's taking time.
At the proper time - you're not in control of the timing - you're in control of the sowing. Be patient. God sees this from all angles, you only see your own point of view. It was 30 years before Jesus began His ministry...
You will reap a harvest - it's a promise. It's a certainty - but it is is conditional. There's a catch. You've got to do your side of the bargain here. There's a big, fat IF coming up.....
IF you do not give up - do not give up sowing. Do not give up praying over that seed with faith and expectation that God is able. Do not give up looking out that window, watching, waiting for signs of life. Do not start to grumble or complain. Do not let words of despair or hopelessness pass your lips. Go and scream into a pillow if you need to. Do not go out and dig up your seed in a huff. Do not wave your fist at God because it's taking longer than you wanted. DO NOT GIVE UP DOING GOOD.
So, you've not given up. You've stayed and prayed in faith. You've confessed that your harvest is on its way. So, where is it? Let's look at what might be the problem:
What are you fighting for right now? What harvest is promised to you? How do you keep yourself in faith when you can't see it yet? Share in the comments below and encourage our readers.
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How to be gentle when life plays rough
Gentleness is not weakness. Gentleness, especially in the face of intimidation or aggression, is in fact a sign of great personal strength, perfectly harnessed. Being gentle when the situation is calm and lovely is not a challenge. Being gentle when someone bangs into you with their cart at the store, cuts you up on the freeway or passes over you for promotion, is when the test begins.
Gentleness is a choice. It is a choice not to react even when you would be perfectly ‘within your rights’ to react with anger. But when you have received full forgiveness and freedom from all your mistakes and failings - the Holy Spirit in you urges you NOT to react as you could - but to react with love and purpose.
Proverbs 15:1 says that a gentle word turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. When anger gets 'stirred up', something bad is cooking. The evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in your life is that even where something bad is cooking, you can be the person to come in and calm the situation, right the wrongs and make peace break out!
Gentleness can be like a long, cool drink to a course, dry throat that has been shouting at you. Gentleness is a warm hug and encouraging words when your spouse has had a bad day and the house is a bombsite. Gentleness is listening intently when you would rather butt in with your own viewpoint.
Gentleness is a bit like a harness that constrains and re-directs your emotions when they’re trying to go haywire - and instead send them in the direction of love.
You might be naturally a gentle person - or you might be like a bull in a china shop (more my style!) but gentleness, as a fruit of walking in the Spirit of God, can be learned. You can remind yourself to stop - even mid-flow - and ask yourself 'Is what I'm about to say....'
If what you are about to let pass your lips is few, or none, of these things - then it is what the Bible calls 'slander'. Ephesians 4:15 exhorts you to 'speak the truth in love' because we have all known that sting of truth that was not spoken in love. it is also possible that you may believe that you're saying something out of love - but it's not really Godly love. So you also need to consider 'is what I'm about to say or do necessary? Is it kind or is it bitter? Will it inspire or will it deflate? Who will benefit from what I'm about to say?
For us women, who allegedly have around 30,000 words a day to share with the world, it can be tough to always speak with gentleness. But you can ask the Holy Spirit daily to help you be more deliberate and thoughtful as you communicate with those around you.
Gentleness is about surrendering your 'right' to lash right back out at your Problem and being empowered by His Spirit to choose another way. And how can you choose another way? Because you are secure and confident in God that He will see to it that you are not mistreated in the long run. He is your justice.
Being gentle is incredibly powerful for helping to build up and strengthen your best relationships - but it is also very attractive to people because they feel safe around a person who is able to overcome their urge to be harsh.
As you pray for the help of the Holy Spirit, not just day to day - but moment to moment - He can help you to redirect those hot emotions into something that shows that not only do you truly appreciate God's mercy towards you - but you willingly show it to others.
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how to stay faithful when you want to quit
'Great is Thy faithfulness' rings out in churches across the world as we acknowledge and celebrate one of the most fundamental, and reassuring of God's character traits.
He is faithful to His people.
His love language is faith.
Being faithful is esteemed as a true virtue in human behavior, from every walk of life. Faithfulness matters. Why?
Without faithfulness, there is no security. No stability. And very little ground to lay trust upon.
Faithfulness is the hot house for growing trust - and where there is trust, there is growth.
Faithfulness is your demonstration of your love.
We know that love is a choice and an action. When we are faithful, through the good times and the hard times, we proclaim that we are putting into action the power of our prior commitment.
Faithfulness is about digging in when we don't see the fruit yet.
Faithfulness is about refusing to give up on the vision in your heart.
Faithfulness is about sowing seed today and staying focused - expecting a harvest to bloom in time.
Faithfulness is full of power because sometimes you have to keep going, keep sowing, keep loving and keep believing - even when it feels futile. 1 Corinthians 15:58 is a rally call to keep on keeping on.
Love your husband or wife with all your heart, mind and soul - even when they are hard to love and you feel like it's a one-way street right now - that's being faithful.
Love your child relentlessly - even when they are unappreciative, dismissive and unkind to you - that's being faithful.
Show up and do your best work - even when the boss doesn't seem to acknowledge your sweat, let alone reward it - that's being faithful.
Keep serving with a cheerful heart in your church whilst you wait for a replacement to come and release you from your commitment - even when you are sure you are called to be doing something else - that's being faithful.
God's promise is that nothing you give will be wasted.
He sees it all. He counts it all. Know that if not in this season, or perhaps if not even in this life - your faithfulness to what He has entrusted to you WILL be rewarded.
Want To Go Deeper? Join our Fruit of the Spirit Bible Study now in our private Facebook group.
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There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of studies on the fruit of the spirit, what it means, what it looks like, how to grow it - but in my heart of hearts, I knew God was prompting me to create this study to be about something different. And here it is: it's about how all these fruits of our spiritual life combine to create something amazing, far superior to the sum of the parts.
That's why as I was choosing a suitable graphic to launch this brand new Bible study on the fruit of the spirit for our live She31 Bible Study group, the pie caught my eye. Sure, there are lots of pictures of fruit itself, but there was something about the fact that this fruit was grown, harvested, cleaned up, mixed and combined, baked and served up ready to enjoy.. that caught my imagination as I was praying through the study content.
When we think about the 'fruit' of the Spirit in our lives, what comes to mind are all the behaviours we believe we should develop in order to be a 'good' Christian. We want to be loving, kind, patient and so on because, well, it's nice to be nice! Galatians 5 explains that it will soon be clear whether we are following Christ, or our own desires, because of the fruit, the evidence that develops in our lives. The fruit is not something we can conjure up through a desire to be good, or holy or pleasing to God ~ rather it is the natural, inevitable outcome of a life soaked in the will and presence of God.
Godliness comes from spending time with God. Christlikeness comes from obeying His teachings. Spiritual fruit comes from allowing the Spirit to do that deep, deep work in us that truly and significantly changes us from the very roots up. As we submit to His perfect will, He clears the debris away, washes away the dirt we come through, He nurtures and sustains us, He brings the right people at the right time along side us to create something of a rainbow of taste and colour. The result is a fruity, sweet, delicious, satisfying life filled to the brim and overflowing with good things.
This brand new Bible Study on the Fruit Of The Spirit has been designed for busy women just like you who want to strengthen your walk with God but simply don't have hours to spend on Study! We have done the leg work for you - all you need to do is grab your Bible, journal and book a date with God for about 20 minutes per session to benefit from this online study! By the end of these 9 sessions, you're going to feel refreshed, empowered and inspired again!
If you're ready to fill your life with the fruit of the Spirit.. join our LIVE study throughout May in our private Facebook Group here!
God's voice can come in a loud boom, but it usually doesn't. God's voice can come out of the sky, but it usually doesn't. God's voice is Spirit - and it resounds with your spirit, as deep calls out to deep. Your spirit is the part of you, high above everyday emotions, decisions, logic or reasoning. Your spirit is that part of you that makes you uniquely, undeniably you. This is the 'you' that God speaks to. This is where you can tune in and learn to know God's voice...
Despite the shocking title, this is one Blog which you need to read…
Any time you take a step forward whether in your family life, your job, your business or your church ministry - it’s as if the Enemy hits a Red Alert siren sounding in the bowels of hell and unleashes every trick in the book to unravel, undermine and topple you over. Has this happened to you lately? It has to me, with bells on. And in these seasons do you know what you need to do....?
Knowing how to REST is more than just getting a good night’s sleep. It is also about resting your mind from figuring everything out. It is also about giving your cares over to God, and resting, knowing that He has heard you and will be faithful to answer at the right time, in the right way. Have you been feeling strung out, burnt out or simply out of sorts? Could it be that you have not been resting? Find out how to find that true, Jesus-rest...
When you spend time with God in your ‘quiet time’ or devotional time, do you expect God to be there? Do you have a holy assumption that He is not only listening and watching you, but is just waiting, eager to bless you? Find out how to raise your faith expectation when you come to God in prayer....
I remember it well. Sitting cross-legged in my navy pleated skirt on the cold and slightly sticky wooden flooring in my elementary school in the North of Scotland, UK. 300 of us mournfully repeated the prayer every morning. The Lord’s Prayer. Possibly the most well known piece of Biblical scripture of all time. Recited in schools and churches across the Earth, we follow our Saviour’s lead as He taught us how to pray. But when was the last time you really thought about what the words mean - and how they can significantly change your life....
Have you heard the song 'What A Beautiful Name It Is' by Hillsong yet? It is on loop in our home right now. And our car. And my iPhone. There's just something about it. It's so much deeper than the beautiful melody, masterful vocals and musicianship. There's just something in that song that digs right down in to your soul, grabs your spirit and gives it a right good shake about until you can't help but start stomping your foot and pumping your fists as you celebrate the powerhouse of our Lord's Name. It lifts you. It makes you believe afresh that all things truly are possible, with God.
Scientists tell us that women speak, on average, 13,000 words a day. 13,000 words. That's a LOT of opportunity to be critical, doubtful and destructive. Everything we say, we also hear - and down it goes - back into our hearts. So there's a cyclical effect - every time we speak out our thoughts. Learn how to use the power of your words to encourage yourself...
We make, on average, 35,000 decisions a day. Exhausting, right? Well, no it doesn't have to be because our Maker designed us with the ability to automate the vast majority of those decisions so that they barely even reach our conscious mind. There's a simple word for this phenomenally complex process; habit. Find out how to use the power of habit to make better decisions for your life...
Do you love to make lists? Heck! I've even got lists of lists! I love goal-setting too. I've even got goals for my goals! We create big goals, little goals, wish-lists and bucket lists and masses of To Do lists; but one thing is certain, as busy women of faith, we need to create a habit of staying closely connected to God. So, how do we foster a depth of devotional life that really translates into devotional living. Click 'Read More' to find out....
So much of the 'battle' of our minds is about what we choose to dwell on. Sometimes we dwell on the hard, damaging stuff because we simply don't know what else to do with it. Sometimes we dwell on it because we hope that by chewing it over, and over, it will suddenly make sense and not hurt quite so much. So how do we keep a sound mind in the midst of tragedy, or chaos, or pain? Click 'Read More' to find out...
'Not having enough time' is possibly the number one reason we give ourselves for not spending regular time alone with God. Why is it so hard to maintain any kind of habit? Our time will always try to fill with something, anything, other than quality time spent with God. Find out how you can join hundreds of women world wide who have learned how to reboot their devotional life...
According to the experts, focusing on one habit can be mightily effective in changing our automatic behaviours. But what if you're ready for more than that? What if deep in your heart and soul, you need something to guide your every day decisions - throughout the whole year - which will inch you closer to being the kind of person you know you were born to be? What if you need something that focuses on the POSITIVES in life, instead of violently rugby-tackling the negatives? What if you want a theme, a baseline, a principle which will help you make everyday, as well as big, decisions? Click 'Read More' to find out how to create your One Guiding Word for the year...
by GUEST BLOGGER: KATHRYN MACNEILL
Kathryn runs her own training and coaching consultancy. She helps people to explore and develop their best potential. You can read more about her in our Member of the Month feature for February.
If you would like to be featured as a Guest Blogger, contact us today.
Recent conversations with friends and colleagues, not to mention plenty of online commentaries, have highlighted the very bad reputation that 2016 has gained itself. It doesn’t matter if you look at it from an international, national, local or personal level, so many of us have acquired a list of reasons why we are ready to shake off one year, and embrace the new – as quickly as possible, thank you very much. Do you need a fresh start too? Read on...
I woke up one bright, warm morning in May suddenly aching from head to toe. I thought I might have flu as my husband had come home unwell from a conference. I didn't realise that that day would be the beginning of a battle with serious illness. Nearly 7 months later, the pain is still with me like an unwelcome travelling companion, trying to distract, dismantle and delay my journey. Read More...
What does it really mean to be 'wise'. Is it about stroking a long flowing beard whilst pontificating about the deeper meaning of life? Is it something that comes with age, like grey hairs and clicking knees? Perhaps wisdom is found in education, the infilling of our minds with knowledge and understanding so that we can teach the generation behind us how to avoid all the mistakes we are making (and secretly have no regrets over whatsoever). We know we need to BE wise. But how do we learn to acquire Godly wisdom..?