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31 Days of Spiritual Growth

Day 31: Crossing the Finish Line

I cannot believe that October is over! 31 Days of posting is a huge undertaking that I didn’t think I would be able to see through. However, God has really used this series to help me process through some truths, and to work out some areas in my own heart. I hope that you have been encouraged. While I feel like I could write forever on this topic, I think that we covered lots of ground. We talked about brokenness, repentance, hope, weariness, bible study, prayer, community, spiritual gifts, and lots and lots of resources. We heard from some of my friends about what has really caused them to grow, and we have even looked at what it looks like to live life as a child of God, instead of an orphan. 

Today, I want to leave you with some encouragement from scripture.  Each of these could be a post in themselves, but today, I leave you with God’s word…and a few of my own!

Learn to follow the Shepherd.

“The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:3-11

Seek first His kingdom.

“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:30-34

Remember who, and whose, you are.

 

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2:9-10

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 5:20

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.

Matthew 5:14

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

 

I hope nothing that I have shared this month has seemed burdensome. I hope that you were able to see the tension between God working in us and us working out the implications of what he is working within.  A few thoughts, and then I am peacing-out of here!

 

Take none of the glory, but give heaps of grace.

As we begin to see growth in our lives, our tendency will be to lean towards arrogance and pride. But true growth is marked by humility. As we begin to see more clearly who we are in light of who God is, there is no other response but to have a humble heart. When you see growth, be reminded of who causes the growth. We might cultivate what he grows, but ultimately God is the one causing the growth. The same is true on the flip side. When you are discouraged and feeling like you should be so much further along then you are, give yourself some grace. Take inventory, confess, and then be reminded that there is grace at the foot of the cross. He is far more patient then our impatience could ever imagine. Grace is necessary in this walk, so give it freely to yourself, and to others.

Don’t judge.

We have a tendency to look at others and think one of two things. Either we look at their “shiny spirituality” and think that they are far more awesome than we will ever be. Or we look at their jagged edges and think that we really have our stuff together. God grows people at different paces. So quite judging and start encouraging. If you see God beginning to work in someone, help nurture what He is doing by speaking life. Be part of the growth, not critical or covetous. When in doubt, repeat number 1!

Keep seeking. For the believer, God is easily found.

He is not playing games with us. In fact, he tells us that he will sanctify us completely one day. His work in his children does not stop. So, if you have gone through a dry time, or one where there has been little growth, begin to seek him again. He will quickly be found, and his grace will always be sufficient. While you might need to deal with sin, and some hard heart issues, he is committed to his children, and is there as our loving Father.

 

So, that’s it! I can’t believe it, but we are done with this series. I hope you were encouraged, and I hope you walked away with some practical tips and resources! Thanks for walking this road with me! You can read back through all of the posts in this series by clicking the button below.

ALSO

The winner of the Gospel Transformation Bible and Bible print is…….

Dominique Lamas!!!

I am so excited for you Dominique.

Be sure to email me this week to find out how to claim your prizes!!

 

 

Day 30: Q & A with Jenn

So, I talked about Jenn and her blog yesterday. If you missed it, go check it out!  She is the last interviewee (I don’t know if that is actually a word, but spell check has nothing to say about it!)  for this series! So, here goes!

What is one thing that has helped you grow in your walk?

When I think back on the past year or two, it’s really hard to narrow it down to one thing that has most helped me grow in my relationship with Christ, but if I must, I would say it can most broadly be encompassed by letting go of expectations. This isn’t going to sound super-spiritual, but hopefully it will be as freeing for you as it was for me. A friend recently encouraged me that she felt so much freedom when she finally realized she didn’t have to sit and have a 2 hour “quiet time” and 3 hours of prayer each day in order to be a woman who walks with God. It took a while for it to sink in, but those words have truly helped breathe new life into my daily walk. In my well-laid plans, I want to be always working on a Precept Bible study and I want to be on my knees for my children for hours before they wake. I’m not saying that isn’t possible, or that it isn’t something God could work out in my life even now (in this season with 4 children ages 6 and under), but ultimately I realized that I was setting that standard, not the Lord. And that maybe, just maybe, my reasons for setting those goals weren’t rooted in a deep love and true dependence on Him. Maybe, they were rooted in feeling like I needed to do those things in order to  bring God’s favor to my family. When I finally let go and brought to God what I had, leaving the rest up to Him, I could feel the 300-pound-weight lifted from my back. I began to see HIM work. And what I have isn’t much: a 10-20, but truly, sometimes 5 minute time in the Word at the beginning of the day. It’s texting my friends verses that I hope to memorize. It’s praying in the shower, as I dry my hair, as I drive to and fro and as I lay my head down on the pillow at night. It’s listening to music filled with Truth while I make dinner. But in those times, my heart is HIS. The few words of Truth I read, I devour. The minutes I have to pour out my heart before Him are filled with cries of desperate need. For the first time, I really understand and cling to the words of James 1:5-6,

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.”

Every where I turn, I find a lack of wisdom: the baby is crying for no (apparent) good reason, the six year old won’t talk to me because I made her angry, the four year old hit his brother, the three year old is…well, being three. The grocery bills are too high, Kate already outgrew her tennis shoes, I can’t communicate with my husband, a friend needs advice beyond my scope of experience….I see anew my lack of wisdom and I desperately need God to give it. I don’t doubt, because I don’t have a choice. It’s Him and it’s me and I need an immediate answer. I don’t have 2 hours to go seek Him. I have about 10 seconds. But my heart cry is genuine and He is with me as He promised. I realized that this truly dependent walk with Him didn’t happen until I let go of the expectations I was carrying  about what a disciplined walk should look like, and asked Him to make much of the little I had to bring Him.

What is one thing you would suggest to someone wanting to grow?

I would just suggest that you practice letting go of expectations and checklists and begin clinging to Scripture. Instead of trying to memorize long passages, memorize snippets that you know you can use to bring your heart and your thoughts into submission to Him. Instead of setting out to read three chapters of Scripture, read three verses and meditate on them – in the five minutes that you have, in the car, washing dishes, falling  asleep. Before you respond to your children, stop and pray. Think on Christ’s example and bring your fleshly response of anger under His control. Ask Him to sort out the situation and use it as an opportunity to point your children to Him. When speaking with your husband, stop. Pray. Ask that He give you words that are clear and edifying. And wait for Him to answer. He will. You may find that the seconds you spend clinging to Him add up to just as much, if not more, in practice, than thirty word studies would’ve offered.

You can find Jenn at Applegate Summers. This month she has been blogging through 31 hours to spend with your husband! Go and check out her series. I particularly loved this post!

Day 29: Listen and Learn

**Don’t forget to enter this awesome giveaway. It will only be open for two more days!!! Go win yourself a copy of the Gospel Transformation Bible, and a Scripture Print of Phil 2!**

When I started this month, I wasn’t quite sure how I could possibly fill up a whole 31 days on this topic! Now that I have started, I feel like I could write on this forever!! While I have already shared resources for bible study and prayer, I did want to spend a little more time highlighting some good resources for spiritual growth. Today, I am giving you my list of books, blogs and podcasts. But before we start, I want to give you a word of caution. Just because I have put a book or resource on the list, does not mean that every single word in it is gospel truth. I have tried to put things on here that have consistently been solid sources, pointing people to Christ. However, no one is perfect. So, allow the Holy Spirit to help you filter through everything you read and hear, to truth. Because part of being intentional about spiritual growth is trusting the holy spirit to lead you well. Please know, to the best of knowledge, these are good sources. They are all people I read, listen to and have been encouraged by. But they are just writers and speakers. They are not God’s word. They are not the Holy Spirit. Okay. Enough of that. That  one was a freebie!

Also, you may be thinking, “I have no time for any of that stuff, Danielle!”. I totally get that. If you have young children, there is less quiet in your house then there is in mine. If you are short on time, spend it in God’s word! But, for those who are curious, here is how I squeeze things in:

Each morning when I get up, I listen to a Podcast while putting on makeup and doing my hair. I usually can’t listen to a whole sermon, but will listen to one over a couple of days. I will also listen to them sometimes while grading papers or planning for school. There are some (like the Paige Brown ones) that I have to stop everything for and write everything down furiously. In the States, I used to also listen to sermons or podcasts while I was in the car rider line, waiting to pick my girls up from school.

I normally read books (other than my Bible) before bed. But I also spend a few minutes at the end of my time with God reading a book. Now, I take public transportation everywhere, so I read in the taxi or on the Sky Train often. Sometimes I find time for a book during the day if I am really into it. Other times, it will take me well over a month to finish even a small book. It kind of just depends on the season of life I am in at that time.

Blogs and I have a hot/cold relationship. When we are hot, I read them in the morning before I check my email. When we are cold, my Feedly gets crazy backed up. The blogs I really want to read regularly I have emailed to me!

So there you have it. I don’t do all of those things every day, but try to soak in as much as I can when I do read or listen! So…without further adieu, here is my list:

Podcasts

This is the church where David Platt pastors. In addition to David Platt, I have also listened to Jim Shaddix on a few different occasions. In these sermons, you will find tons of truth, tons of Jesus, and a heart for the world that comes through every sermon.

This is the church that I got saved in, in NYC. I love these people. While at North Shore, I got a mini seminary degree just listening to the rich teaching presented each Sunday. They backed that up with real life on life discipleship. Ed is a gifted preacher who always brings it back to the gospel. There are others who preach (including his two sons…who will in my mind always be tiny little people), but I am not as familiar with them. You will find several great series on this site!

This is our home church in Columbia. We love these people too! In many ways they are our family. Crossroads has more than one campus with several preachers who rotate. Over the years, those preachers have changed. Most recently we were in a local body where Shane Parker preached regularly. He too always brings it back to the gospel. He presents truth in a challenging yet practical way. You will be pointed to Christ in every sermon. Jeff Shipman also preaches, although not as often. He will always get you excited about bringing the gospel to every man, woman, and child. I am certain the other speakers are great as well, but I am far less familiar with them! Check out these sermons, you will be challenged and encouraged with truth.

This is where you will find all of John Piper’s sermons. Since I use his sermons to illustrate every point I have ever made (okay that is a slight exaggeration), you had to know this would be on the list! Just listen. You will be changed!

Inspired to action is a practical podcast created by Kat Lee. It is a little different than the others on my list, in that it is not a sermon podcast. Kat interviews various women about issues that directly relate to motherhood for believers. Her podcast is practical and funny!

Paige doesn’t actually have a podcast. However, she is my absolute favorite female speaker. There is so much goodness in her talks! I listen to them over and over, applying new things each time!

The Village Church-I love Matt Chandler’s teaching, and have gleaned a ton from the sermons on this podcast!

Books

Great book on how the gospel affects us in the mundane of every day life. Best book I have read on motherhood, and life in general.

This is a game-changer. It is gospel centered, challenging and practical.

A book about Christian Hedonism. This is a classic for a reason. It’s truths are timeless and all about God’s glory!

Best book on realizing who you really are and how much you really need Jesus! Small but powerful!

A must read for all women about why and how we should be serious about studying God’s word. Jen is funny, intelligent and gives lots of practical steps!

Best parenting book ever. Totally different, not the most practical, but absolutely spot on!

Loved this book. It was an easy read, packed with truth. It points you to Christ and nothing else!

This is a great book about the Holy Spirit. For a super scared-of-the-spirit-reformed- girl like me, it was a challenge that was much needed! (Don’t worry, it doesn’t go too far outside of my comfort zone!)

Not the easiest read, but worth the work! No big explanation here, it’s about the holiness of God (hence the clever title!).

This is funny, practical and refreshing. When you are waiting for the writing on the wall, this is a good one for you!

Great ministry tool. Great for anyone who works with people (which is everyone).

Blogs

I love all of these for different reasons. No explanations necessary, just check them out!

Other….

While I am at this, I wanted to share some blogs of people I actually know. These are women who I can vouch for living and walking by faith in real life! So, check them out. Subscribe to their blogs. Encourage them, and be encouraged by them!

  • Seventh Smith-Although she is actually on the 8th Smith, Mandy began her blog about her 5th daughter Evie. Now she blogs about life in Thailand with 6 littles and a travelling husband. She also does awesome giveaways! Mandy is a close friend, and she and her husband are our teammates here in Bangkok. We love the Smiths!
  • Joel and Kitty Hurdle-Kitty and her husband Joel are on staff with Cru at Ole Miss. She is a friend from Columbia who always keeps it real! She is honest, encouraging and writes about heart matters as she is newly navigating the waters of motherhood. I love her and her heart!
  • Called for Such a Time as This-This is a relatively new blog, so there isn’t a TON of content up yet. However, these ladies have gotten off to a great start. I know each of them and they are a crew of God loving women with so much wisdom to share it’s crazy! I know a couple of them pretty well and they have been such huge blessings in my life! You will not want to miss out on what these ladies have to say!
  • Applegate Summers-I actually met Jen through my friend Laurin. I have really enjoyed her posts this month. She has been honest, practical and open about being intentional about pursuing time with your husband. So, while I don’t know her super well, I do know enough to know that you should be reading her blog!!! So, head on over there and see what she’s up to! She’s got 31 different ways to spend time with your husband going on this month! That is creative, and all kinds of practical awesome!

 

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Day 28: Q & A with Laurin

Time for another Q & A session. This time, my friend Laurin is answering questions about how she has grown spiritually. Laurin is one of my closest people! Not just a close friend, but she really is one of “my people”. She happens to also be opposite of me in almost every way, which is what makes our friendship so sweet! Laurin has an amazing ability to turn my ridiculous ideas into reality, and remind me what reality looks like when I get a little carried away with those ideas. She also makes the most delicious cupcakes in the world! If I had to pick one person to be in charge of my life, it would be Laurin, cause that girl has her head on straight….mostly! So, listen people, pay attention to what she says! This girl grew up with a rich grounding in God’s word. Since I have known her (around 10 years), she has grown in her faith in some truly amazing and hard ways. She has walked faithfully through both trials and everyday life. So,  check out what she has to say!

What is one thing that has really helped you to grow spiritually?

I have to pick two for this one!  First and foremost, in-depth study of God’s word was something He used in a mighty way.  I’ve heard someone say that the more we know of God’s word, the more the Holy Spirit has to work with, or something to that affect.  Studying the Word through Precept and other classes like it, embedded the truths in my head and then ultimately, through various circumstances, the Holy Spirit has been faithful to bring those words and truths to my remembrance, causing the truths to be embedded in my heart.  Sometimes it was as I was studying the passage, but often times those truths didn’t really sink in until trials and hardship came about.  It’s in those times that I’ve learned to cling to truth and hear my Father’s voice.  There is no substitute for studying and learning about the Lord from His word!!  

Second, an open honest community, one that encourages, stimulates and reminds you of truth when you’re tempted to waiver.   

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful ; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you seethe day drawing near.”  Hebrews 10:23-25 

There are scripture references everywhere that talk about the body of Christ and how much we need each other.  This is another one of those things where there is no replacement.  We shouldn’t let them take the place of our time with the Lord, but never underestimate the way the Lord works through His body.  It is an awesome thing to behold and if you aren’t currently a part of a great community, then ask the Lord to show you where you can get involved with one.  You won’t regret it!!

click picture for source

What would you tell a young believer seeking to grow in their faith?

So my answer to this one may sounds strange at first, but I encourage you to pursue and practice truth in the midst of trials.  Now don’t misunderstand me, I’m not advocating that you go looking for trouble.  But often times, when trouble comes our first response is to stick our head in the sand, like and ostrich, and try to weather the storm, waiting for it to end.  It’s in the trials, though, that we can reach a depth we never imagined and truly come to grasp truth, and learn to hold on tightly.  We are promised hardship in this life, and the sooner we learn to run to our anchor (Hebrews 6:19), the one who keeps us tethered to truth, the more grounded we will become in the hope of our Savior.

There you have it, short and sweet, just like Laurin (although she is a couple of inches taller than me)! I love the part about running to our anchor, and I love my sweet friend and her heart for God! 

Also, don’t forget to enter to win your very own copy of the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible! When the series is over, the time to enter is over too! 

Day 27: Be Who You Are

It might be a good idea to go ahead and read what a wrote a couple days ago. Because before I start talking about being who God made you to be, I want to make sure that you know that you do not need to be or do any MORE.

Okay so, on to today’s post.

One of the coolest ways God has grown me over the last few years is in revealing to me some of my spiritual gifts, and giving me opportunities to use them. And before you roll your eyes and say, I don’t have any spiritual gifts, I want to take a quick (and I do mean quick) look at what God’s word says about that!

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.” 1 Corinthians 12:1

God is not playing games with us. Paul clearly says in his letter to the Corinthian church that he wants them to understand spiritual gifts. He wants them to be aware of how they are used, and how they are not used.

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

So, I skipped a few verses, not because they aren’t important but because I am trying to keep this brief. But please do, go read those verses! Also, there is so much here in the verses above. But for now, I want us to see one major point. There are varieties of gifts, but all are given and empowered by the same God. Got that. They are not chosen by us, they are given. They are not pulled off in our own strength, they are empowered by the Holy Spirit!

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:7

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”  Ephesians 4:11-13

The purpose of our gifting is not to make us more awesome. God gifts us for the common good of the body of Christ. Our gifts are to build up and equip the body, to grow us up to maturity in Christ in a unified way. Your spiritual gifts are not for you. They are for the body!

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12

Just like the human body, the body of Christ has many parts. They are different, but in God’s goodness he uses them to work as one unit.

The rest of 1 Corinthians 12 talks about the eye not wishing to be a foot. And the eye not being able to say to the foot that there is no need for him. The body needs both the eye and the foot to function well. One is not more important to than the other. Click on over and read that chapter…then come back!

Okay, so here are some practical things to keep in mind regarding you and your spiritual gifts.

You have at least one! Ask God to reveal it to you.

Every believer has at least one. The best way to figure out what your gifts are is to ask people who know you well. In what areas have they seen God  really use you in the past?  Another way to figure out what you are gifted in is to try some things. There are plenty of things that I have done, that have made it completely evident to me, what my gifts were NOT. This made it all the more clear what my gifts were. So, ask, pray, and try.

Don’t be shy.

The body needs you operating in your gifting. There is a difference between being arrogant, and being confident in doing what God has called you to do. That kind of confidence is not in your own ability. It is in the abilities of the Holy Spirit to work through you. So do what God has uniquely gifted you to do and don’t apologize for it. You aren’t able to do those things because you are awesome, you are able to do them because God is at work in and through you. That’s about his glory, and that’s what believers should be about!

Don’t compare.

We have a tendency to look at others and wish we were gifted in the ways that they are. If God wanted you to be gifted in those ways, he would have gifted you in those ways. You were made on purpose. Your gifts, abilities and talents are woven together exactly how God wants them to be. As a child of God, YOU ARE USEFUL. So rest in the joy of knowing that he uses you. Even if he doesn’t use you in the way that you wish he had. He doesn’t have to use any of us to do anything. We are privileged to be a part of what he does. So stop wishing you were a foot and just be an eye! Eyes aren’t very good at walking. But feet sure do need eyes to know where they are going!

Learn your strengths and weaknesses, and surround yourself with others who complement your weaknesses.

People living and working together in their spiritual gifts,  can lead to tension. Add to that mix different personalities and the tensions just got higher. But they don’t have to be. God uniquely designed the body to have all that it needs. However, our sinfulness can often get in the way of that. Give people who are different than you grace. They are not just super lame, they are made differently than you are, on purpose! Believe it or not, the world would not be better if everyone thought exactly like you did! Those people and their differences contribute something to the body that you need (even when you don’t want to admit it!). So give lots of grace, be slow to speak, and slow to anger. Remember that God does not make mistakes.

God does not call us to what is comfortable or even natural. There are plenty of times in my life where I have walked into situations knowing that I was COMPLETELY inadequate to do what God was asking me to do. So I prayed, and asked him to get me out of the way. Usually he did! You see, he cares about his body, and wants to build them up. He wants them to be equipped to make disciples of all nations. And so, he will use the broken people who make up his family, to do that. Walk in confidence knowing that he will accomplish his work in and through you. Continually yield to him, seeking him, and he will direct your paths! Don’t strive to be something you are not. Rest in him and let him use you the way that the body needs you most!

 

 

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