INVEST IN YOUR TIME & TALENTS FOR THE KINGDOM.

When I use to hear the phrasing “investing in yourself,” I had a very negative connotation added to that phrase. And to be honest, I’m not exactly sure where I got those negative feelings towards that phrase. I have seen this phrase either really taken out of context or highly overused, so maybe that is why. I have also always thought of it to be selfish to invest time and money into myself. While I always wanted to either join a program or whatever it may be to develop my skills and giftings, I never thought of it as a “must or have to.” Honestly, I saw it as a waste of money for a long time. However, recently, within the past eight months, I have noticed a HUGE shift in my thinking and perspective in terms of what it means to invest in myself.

This shift in my thinking is what I want to share with you today.

When I started thinking more along the lines of developing the God-given talents and gifts that I have for His glory and the kingdom, everything changed. It changed the way I view investing in myself – because, in my mind, it takes the focus on ME and puts the emphasis on having a KINGDOM MINDSET.

Also, here is the thing you don’t have to spend a lot of money to invest in developing and enhancing your gifts. It could be as simple as watching leadership development videos on youtube, listening to podcasts, or reading books. These are all EFFECTIVE ways to shape and mold you, and they work all the same as investing in a program. So, hear me, you do NOT have to spend a lot of money if you are not in a position to do so.

However, for myself, I have invested in some fantastic programs that have drastically changed my life in terms of crafting my talents/ gifts. Those programs are: Own It Academy, which is run by Jordan Lee Dooley, COMPEL Training, which is run by Proverbs 31 Ministries, and Brush and Barley’s Procreate Course (procreate is an app that I use for drawing, making graphics and design). ALL of these programs are women-owned and run, which is a HUGE deal that God has used these women to pour into other women who are creatives. These courses have shown me that there is so much more in the world of writing, design, and creativity. AND, they have shown me that I am too talented, gifted, and I should embrace the gifts the Father has ingrained in me.

I never thought I would be able to say that I am apart of communities like this that are Christ-centered, with Spirit-filled leaders who do what they do to expand the Kingdom of God further. I am thankful the Lord has blessed me with the means to do so. If you are an entrepreneur, small business owner, creative, writer, literally whatever it may be, invest in yourself. Get a leadership development book, say yes to entering a writing program, do what you need to do to invest in crafting your gifts. We all have natural giftings and talents given to us by the Father, but without time and practice, we will never grow or develop.

Think of an athlete like a golfer. Majority of pro golfers have a natural, God-given talent and ability to hit the ball and succeed. However, it is the best of the best who go into the PGA Tour and play professionally. What makes them the best? The fact that they put in the time and effort to invest in their talent. They practice long hours, have the best clubs, work the clubs, and don’t stop until they have grown and developed their ability. We all have God-given talents and gifts; what are you going to do to grow and steward them for the kingdom of God?

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 & 11

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit  distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone  it is the same God  at work.

All these are the work of one and the same Spirit,  and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

HIGHS + LOWS : APRIL – JULY RECAP

WOW! What a crazy, unexpected past few months it has been. Truly, I still cannot believe the events that have all played out these past 7 months from COVID- 19 to all the racial injustice in our country. Just in January, I was in a stadium filled with 65,000 men and women… of all different ages, different colors, different stages of life, all in one place giving praise and glory to Jesus. We were all there with one intention and purpose. Now, it seems like that was so long ago, in a completely different time. Things are just so different now and it’s weird knowing that we have to adjust to this new “normal.” However, ONE thing is for certain, regardless of everything in our world and culture changes (which it will) JESUS remains the same today, tomorrow, and forever.

As always, I want to remind you as you are reading this 4-month recap/life update – I did none of this on my own… ALL of the good, the blessings, even the lows I’ve walked through the past few months, it is all JESUS. He alone deserves all the credit and all the glory.

The past 7 months of 2020 has been a true growing season in listening to what the Lord wants/has for me and being open in going where I am being led. I have had to make decisions that haven’t been comfortable, say no to my flesh and yes to Jesus, and face confrontation (which is not my favorite thing to do… Can anyone relate?). 

Something the Lord has so kindly pressed more onto my heart the past few months has been my singleness. I think for a while I tried to fight it because what girl in her twenties wants to be single? Many of my friends are in serious relationships or engaged or married… so I think I’ve just been wanting to go with the flow.  However, God showed up and made it clear that singleness is a GIFT and during my singleness, I should be pursuing and running after Him rather than other things. Something clicked, a light bulb went off, and the whole idea of dating or being in a relationship was turned off in that moment of being quiet with the Lord. I can’t explain it fully, but I have never been more content with saying “yes Jesus, I will and want to run after you, and only you.”

Truthfully, I have never been happier just being me. I think singleness gets a bad rap… because society puts such emphasis on having someone and that is the only way you can have a purpose – WHICH IS NOT TRUE.

It’s completely counter-cultural to be single AND not talk or hook up with someone. We live in a world where it’s normal to hop around from relationship to relationship, claiming Jesus as Lord, yet doing relationships and sex societies way vs Jesus’ way… (I say this so bluntly because I have lived it and now understand the truth). We live in a hookup, shack up, break up culture… and again, it’s counter-cultural to do relationships and singleness Jesus’ way. I am grateful that God got a hold of my heart exactly where I am at – because now I know what is right in the eyes of the Father and how He does relationships.

So yes, I am completely content and full of joy with where the Lord has me (and I’m not just saying that to say it, I mean it!) At the end of the day, I know who holds my heart and has my best interest in mind. I know who has my story written, therefore I am not worried about what the future holds in terms of a relationship. For anyone who is single OR in a relationship and you want to take advantage of this gift/season – I recommend checking out Relationship Goals  by Mike Todd and Single, Dating, Engaged, Married by Ben Stuart!

Now that I have that out in the open… I have to say, July has been my favorite month this year (next to January)! The Father has been revealing His faithfulness to me as I have been taking steps of obedience in my walk. I have been seeing fruit from ministering to my 7th-grade girls who I lead every week (they have been the best part apart my summer). I had an opportunity to submit a writing challenge for the First 5app (w/ Proverbs 31 Ministries). I applied for bible college, AND GOT ACCEPTED INTO SCHOOL! I never thought I would have the opportunity to pursue ministry in this way, but God has continued to pull me in this direction. It truly is so exciting to know that my story is written and God is just showing up in His faithfulness to me.

What I’d love for you to take away from all of this is to be open to the Lord. This is what I mean by being open to the Lord – be willing to surrender your plans over to Him. My prayer for you as you read this is that you would walk open-handedly with Him and let Him guide your steps, rather than you seeking to take the lead. He is so faithful to us and He wants us to experience His faithfulness. I don’t think I would be where I’m at right now in my life if I had not taken the leap of faith to surrender my plans over to God.

So, here is to the last half of 2020 and walking with the Lord with open hands and an open heart!

WHERE IS GOD IN THE MIDDLE OF YOUR STORM?

Today I want to look at two passages found in scripture, one found in the old testament and one found in the new testament. I believe both of these passages show God’s sovereign hand over all things, storms and all. With things still so unsteady in the current state in our world, I think this is the perfect reminder to trust God in ALL circumstances.

All right, let’s dive into a story about a King of Judah found in the old testament. [ 2 Chronicles 33:10-20 ]

A little back story, up until this point, it was hit or miss with the kings of Judah. What do I mean by that? It was hit or miss if they followed the Lord or if they did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Not every king in Judah followed the Lord like King David or King Solomon. A lot of them did evil in the eyes of the Lord, worshiped idols, and this caused the Lord to become angry and He displayed his wrath on his own people when they did not obey, listen, or follow His ways.

One king in particular that I want to study with you today is King Manasseh. Hold onto your bible and be prepared, this story is about to knock your socks off. King Manasseh did evil in the eyes of the Lord, he established alters for false gods, he worshiped these false gods, he sacrificed his children (UM WHAT?), basically this guy was the worst of the worst. He was all sorts of jacked up.

Before I continue, let’s be real for a minute. Don’t we do this too? You may not be sacrificing your children (I hope you don’t even think twice about this), but don’t we put things before the Lord? Don’t we worship idols? Yep, we do. We can be honest here. Money, sex, technology, cars, houses, you name it, we worship worldly things that lead to a never-ending cycle of wanting what does not fully satisfy us.

Back to the story. God spoke to the people of Judah and to Manasseh, and what do you think they did? They ignored Him (with their track record, are you surprised? I’m not) and this is where the story takes a turn…
The Lord had Manasseh taken as a prisoner by the king of Assyria. The Lord without question, allowed him to be captured and taken as a prisoner – think about this (we will talk about this in a moment). Now, they didn’t just take him as a prisoner, but they put a hook in his nose, bound him up with bronze shackles, and took him to Babylon. I think Manasseh was thinking, “I am not longer in control, I do not have the strength on my own to get myself out of this situation. I need help.” Have you ever been backed into a corner like that? Have you ever been caught up in a storm in your life that you realize you cannot by your own strength get yourself out? You aren’t the only one. Look at what happens next with Manasseh…
“In his distress, he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.” [ 2 Chronicles 33: 12-13 ]

There is so much to unpack here, but I will give you my main take away from this story… The Lord allowed Manasseh to be captured, to be caught up in a storm on purpose, SO THAT he would realize that God is the one and only true God.

In God’s sovereignty willingly allowed Manasseh to be taken a prisoner by his enemy, caught up in a storm so that he would be knocked down, so he could then look up and realize that God is in control and He is trustworthy. So, how does this relate to us now present day? God wants us to abide in Him and trust Him fully to carry us, which is why I believe that God sometimes willingly allows us to enter into a storm SO that we realize we need Him.

We can see almost this same theme in the new testament when Jesus calms the storm. [ Mark 4:35-41 ]

Up until this point, Jesus has been teaching and after His teaching when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went on a boat to cross to the other side of the land (side note: notice how Jesus takes time to get away from the crowds to have time to rest and refuel. We should have this same take on our own lives!). When they were on the boat, Jesus rests his eyes and takes a nap. Meanwhile, a storm comes and let’s just put it this way, the disciples were freaking out. I can only imagine what the disciples were thinking and feeling, but it was enough to have them wake up Jesus and ask, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

Have you ever felt that way towards God? Maybe you’re in a season now where you’re asking God the same thing, “Father don’t you see I’m close to drowning? I can’t see the end of this storm. God if you love me at all, help me, save me!” I’d be lying if I said I haven’t prayed that prayer before. When my eyes are so fixed on my circumstances, I have a hard time seeing God’s hand over my life. My faith is weary because I see what I am going through here on earth thinking the Lord has abandoned me. However, I know the truth. I know that “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” [ Psalm 9:10 ]

Back to Mark 4… Jesus woke up, with absolute zero fear, rebuked the wind, and said to the waves “Quiet! Be still!” Just by the power of His words, the wind calmed and the waves ceased. Jesus then said to the disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Gosh, can’t you just sense the power in these questions Jesus is asking the disciples? The disciples have witnessed Jesus heal people, surely they would have believed that He was in control of all things?

Sadly, we do the exact same thing. We know the truth that is in the Word. We know that God raised Jesus from the dead after He was killed and buried. God is the God of the impossible, it is who He is. That should be enough for us to know and trust that God is whom He says He is, that He alone is in sole control. Yet, when we take our eyes off of Jesus and put our eyes on our present circumstances, our trust goes to the temporary things rather than our Father. Jesus shows His sovereign hand in calming the storm. If we only trust Him, with the outcome of our circumstances He will take care of us in the storm. Where are you placing your trust? In the hands of Jesus or in your circumstances?

All it takes is a mustard seed of faith and that’s all God wants from you. Choose to trust in the one who is sovereign over all things here on earth and above in Heaven. Choose to trust that the storm you are in is producing character and shaping you into who God has created you to be. Choose to trust that God is working all things out for His glory and for our good.

THE UNEXPECTED.

What do you do when the unexpected happens.

When you don’t make the team you tried out for. You may fail your exam you needed to pass the class. You loose your job. You find out you are infertile. Your relationship crumbles into pieces….

AND you find yourself stuck in this rut. You find yourself confused and overwhelmed at the fact that you are now stuck in a place of “where do I go from here?”

I’m sure you have been there at least once in your life and if you haven’t, you will. God didn’t promise us an easy, perfect, smooth sailing life. Honestly, you wouldn’t grow as a person if you didn’t walk through those valleys.

John 16:33 –
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I have to remind myself of this verse more often than you’d think. A set back or an interruption in your plan for life may be what you need to reset your mindset. Your life and plan is controlled by God, not you. While yes, your decisions and choices are made by you because we were given free will, but your future and plans are in the palm of his hand. Think of it this way, God knows better than we do. We would be arrogant to think otherwise. God gives us those interruptions in life or set backs to put us in check. When we are faced with this situation, we should be changing our mindset FROM “Why is this happening to me? I know everything and I have my own plans” TO “God is the creator of the universe and I know his plans are greater than my own understanding. Lord your will be done and not my own.”

We aren’t always going to know or understand why things happen whether they are interruptions that throw us off course, but they don’t just happen to happen. It is all apart of a plan that has been designed for us and only for us.