Be an Oreo, A Lesson From a 16-Year Old Girl About Overcoming Comparison

When I was younger, back in 4th grade, I used to run cross country.  Now based off of my reputation nowadays, some of you may believe that it was voluntarily and that I was happy about it. Only half of that is true. My best friend at the time was huge into running, and she was really good and loved it. She was the type of girl that everyone loved because she was athletic, fun, she worked hard, and was herself, and I wanted to be all of those things. So she persuaded me to join cross country and I thought that through doing it, I would become more like her.  In the spring, the cross country season had started and I was ok with running. Didn't love it, didn’t hate it, but what I really did start to hate was the fact that my friend would always beat me. We ran approximately 2.5 miles and she would always get ahead of me by about 15-30 seconds, so everyday during the run I would start to cry. I would cry that I wasn’t fast enough and that I wanted to be faster but my legs hurt and I felt like I was never going to win. I started to hold on to some bitterness towards her because I was jealous of her success and that began to build a wall in between us. Once, I had praised her for her success and was genuinely happy for her, but throughout the seasons of cross country in 4th, 5th and 6th grade I began to hold them against her in a way.  I wasn’t happy for her anymore, instead I would look at her almost as an enemy because she had everything I wanted and was better at it. This not only hurt me but also our relationship. 

Often, when we see other people and their success and realize we want it for ourselves, it can create an obstacle between you and that person.  It hurts the chance that you may be able to become good friends with them in the future. Comparing yourself to others also can cause you to create doubt in yourself until that comparison comes true, to where they are better at whatever it is because you have chosen to waste time focusing on why you aren’t where they are yet.  Maybe you are someone that compares yourself to others based on their appearance, or maybe if it’s not about looks, maybe you compare yourself to others because they are smarter than you or at least you may think they are.  Maybe you compare yourself to the success of your siblings, or the money so and so has.  Maybe you compare yourself to who has more happiness or joy than you.  And often you may even begin to focus so much on how to get what they have through outward things, instead of evaluating yourself and learning how you can grow yourself in the relationship you have with God and His goals for your life.  God specifically talks about this in Galatians 6:4, where He says, “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.” So let’s tackle the first part of this verse first, and to remind you it says, “Each one should test their own actions…” now you may be thinking to yourself, what does this mean? Or maybe what the heck is she talking about? But hold on, because this will make a lot of sense as we go through it.  We need to test our own actions by examining ourselves, and doing this inside and out. Look at outside actions first and ask yourself, what am I choosing to spend my time on that is either getting me to this goal or isn’t getting me to this goal? Also, look on the inside and ask yourself, how is my attitude about this person or about their success holding me back from getting there or doing those things? Is my attitude creating a barrier between me and that person? This, then, opens us up to the rest if the verse, “Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.” So by examining ourselves, it allows for us to see where we need to grow in order to acknowledge our own achievements and gratefulness because God is who made those achievements possible, and this would allow for us to do that without lusting over someone else’s success. This will not only allow for us to be happier for others, but also it will bring us inner joy that can only come through Christ because when it is just you and God working together without the obstacle of jealousy (because God has a plan for all of us that is very unique), we can soar in joy in both ourselves and others.


In fact, when I was thinking through this, I thought of an Oreo. In an Oreo, there are the two outside sides of the cookie and the inside is the good stuff, now some of you can disagree with that but the inside of the Oreo is definitely the best part.  But instead of thinking of this cookie like the typical Netflix snack, picture this… (holding an Oreo) this side represents when we are content in ourselves and our own success, and this other side represents when we are happy for others, and when those two are together, what it contains on the inside is the sweetest, and best part of the cookie. When we celebrate others and not look at them through eyes of jealousy and hate, it starts to form an inner joy and peace in our hearts that fills the inside. Now, God also talks about this in 1 John 4:7 as He is speaking through John He says, “Dear friends, let us love another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” When we love one another, that love is not coming from our human nature because that is very much unloving, we actually are loving by the one Who is love. The love we give others is the love God first gave us and when we love others with this love, it says we begin to know God and that we have been born in God. In knowing God, we also know that God has a lot to say about us that quite sadly we forget about or we take it for granted. We, instead, think way too much about what others think of us. This feeds the issue of comparing ourselves to others because others’ opinions can shape how we act, dress, or carry ourselves which can also have a huge impact in what we choose to focus on in terms of our goals. I was like this a lot last year while I, as many of you already know, attended a public school.  I was so concerned about what others thought of me and how I could be like everyone else, or how I can “better myself” to be more acceptable or more celebrated amongst my peers. This caused me to go through a whole series of changes. I changed how I acted, I changed how I talked, how I carried myself, how I thought, I changed my values, morals, and I quite honestly reshaped my goals and completely changed my reputation. I did this all for the cause of wanting to be like everyone else to achieve the amount of friends so and so had and the list went on. I was so obsessed with achieving the happiness and fullness I thought they had that I nearly lost myself and who I was through the process. I lost sight of my goals and where I wanted to go.  I had tunnel vision.  So, now having left that public school and having the summer before coming here to find who I wanted to be and rediscover my values and goals, I have grown tremendously, and none of this could've been done apart from God. He told me all throughout this process by showing me that I was loved and that I was enough.

So instead of being so concerned about what others thinks about us, we need to change that to what does God think about us because His opinion is the only real opinion that matters. It will change our whole perspective on what we are living for, lives will be changed, and you will begin to experience the joy and freedom in all the areas of your life.  In 1 John 4:16 it says, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” When we live this out and love God, it shows our genuine happiness for others’ success and achievements. But it also shines a light about who God is through us and can leave a lasting impact on that person as well.

Now, another thing that came to my mind when writing this, was the song “You Say” by Lauren Daigle. In this song, Lauren sings about trials and things we can feel about ourselves but immediately backs it up with what God says about her. She goes from, “I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I'm not enough, every single lie that tells me I will never measure up…” and in the chorus she immediately goes into “You say I am loved when I cant feel a thing” and “You say I am strong when I think I am weak”.  You can see clearly how she immediately combats these negative thoughts about herself that for many of us are the reasons behind our jealousy for others.  In the same way that Lauren Daigle combats these thoughts in her song, “You Say," we need to be combatting our negative and toxic thoughts with what God says as well.  So when you feel like are desperately reaching for the success, money, looks, smarts, friends, that someone else has, immediately begin to think to yourself what God says about you.  That you are loved.  That you are strong, and that you belong.  Also, if you feel like you are the one that has to keep fighting the voices in your head that say that you aren’t enough, or that you’ll never measure up... I would tell you, because this has helped me, to count the blessings in your life. All the things that you’re grateful for.  It allows for you to feel so motivated and grateful towards what you already have and really how capable you are of achieving the goals you have always had at heart.  And if there is a person you are jealous of or lusting over them in the things they have in life, pray for them.  That can be so hard to do, but when you begin to make it a habit, it will get easier and easier. I also bet you will find yourself happier for that person and maybe even find yourself in a better connection with the Lord who always gives you joy and can help give you humility, love, and perseverance.  When we grow close to God, it creates in us a feeling of fulfillment and wholeness.  It creates this feeling in our achievements and in our day to day lives, so that we can be genuinely happy for others’ achievements and success, allowing for us to get closer to people and finally, allow for us to receive that joy and fulfillment God always meant for us to have.

Written by Katelyn Shaver 

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Are You a Joy-Robber or a Joy-Giver?

As I hung up the phone after listening to a litany of complaints from a friend who’s a self-described ‘stress-mess’, I was aware that the lengthy conversation that solely focused upon her ‘trials and tribulations’ had a draining effect upon me. My heart certainly went out to her as she’s gone through several challenging ‘life issues’ in a short period of time, and I definitely understood why she felt so down and discouraged. As she shared, I imagined her as a person who’d been swept up by the ocean’s undertow who comes up for air, thinks they can finally breathe and get solid footing again, but instead gets taken under by the next crashing wave. Maybe you’re feeling that way too. Are you someone who has become weighed down by the trials and tribulations in your life and feel that you have lost your joy? Or, do you know of such a person?

 I don’t know anyone in the world who would ask to be put through really tough situations or experience a lot of suffering, do you? And most people are far more adept at finding things to complain about—even when things are going well overall in their lives-- than they are at finding things for which to be thankful. So it is truly a rarity to find a person who is full of joy in the midst of suffering. 

 This past weekend I was blessed to attend a ‘celebration of life’ service for a precious 48 year-old woman who lived her life fully for the purpose for which she was put on this earth—the glory and praise of her Savior and Lord Jesus! She battled ovarian cancer for over 3 ½ years, experiencing excruciating pain during the last several months of her life as her entire body was riddled with cancer. Despite her pain, she always wore a huge smile that radiated her love for the Lord and for others. She didn’t waste her time complaining about her health, on shaking her fist at God for ‘cutting her life short’, on grumbling ‘Why me, Lord?’ or on succumbing to despair and depression. She knew her life ‘was not her own’ and her purpose was to glorify God with her whole life (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), so she entrusted it completely into the almighty and always loving care of her Heavenly Father. Her focus was upon glorifying God and serving others even in the midst of her pain and suffering. All of those who knew her well testified that she exhibited joy throughout her life, joy which could not be extinguished by her diagnosis, or her pain and suffering. 

 Her life testified to the truth of the statement made famous by John Piper: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”. She was fully satisfied with God, even when her life didn’t go as she would have chosen, and her satisfaction and joy in Him led others to experience joy in her presence, and caused them to draw near to and glory in the God whom she loved. Her joy in the Lord also brought comfort and peace to her husband of 25 years, her beloved mother-- who is a dear friend of mine-- and to her three brothers and countless nieces and nephews, her church family, and her countless friends. Her joy and praising of God in the midst of her suffering not only gave her strength to carry on till the end of her life on earth, but it also was uplifting and life-giving to all those who knew her! 


 God longs for us to praise Him-- not because He is an egotist, but because He knows that when we fix our eyes and thoughts upon Him we will be ‘lifted above our circumstances’ and realize that there is nothing too big for God! He inhabits the praises of His people; when we praise God we are taken into His Presence, where there is indeed fullness of joy! (Psalm 22:3; Psalm 16:11) We need that joy at all times, but especially when we are going through tough times! We must press through and overcome our natural tendency to focus upon ourselves and our circumstances and lift up praises to God—even, and especially-- when we don’t ‘feel like it’. When we praise Him and enter into His presence, we will find that the joy of the Lord will be our strength that will enable us to endure amidst the trials and tribulations we face. (Nehemiah 8:10)

 You might say, “But Julie, you don’t understand what I’m going through!” Perhaps your marriage is rife with conflict. Or you have a prodigal child. Or you have financial difficulties that you can’t see how to solve. Perhaps you’re in poor health, or even have a terminal diagnosis. Maybe you’re feeling like the world’s falling apart all around you and there’s nothing you can find for which to be thankful and to praise God.

 I’m sure I don’t understand all that you’re going through, nor do I need to. But I can assure you that God understands your situation completely, He’s there by your side, and He’s bigger than whatever is overwhelming to you. He longs for you to BELIEVE that truth so you will go to Him, so that you will praise Him, and so that you will find joy in His Presence…the joy that will be your strength to carry you through your circumstances, and the joy that will be contagious and cause others to look to God, the Source of your joy! 

 There is so much wisdom in the expression, “What you focus upon expands.” If your focus is upon how horrible your circumstances are, that thought will begin to consume you and ‘take you under’, like the undertow in the ocean. Being consumed with thoughts of yourself and your circumstances means you can’t simultaneously be focused upon God or upon serving and ministering to others. The reality is that if you are self-absorbed you won’t have joy yourself, and will be a ‘joy-robber’ instead of a ‘joy- giver’. Newsflash: no one enjoys being around someone whose sole focus is on him or her self, particularly if they spend a lot of time complaining and grumbling about their life! People love to be around people who are full of joy, not full of woe! For our good and God’s glory we are commanded to love God and to love others, which means being God and other focused rather than self-focused, (Matthew 22:36-40) We are also commanded to continually praise God, for our sakes as well as for His glory-- and there is always something for which to be grateful! (Psalm 34:1; 104:33; 113:3; Philippians 4:4)  I am so inspired as well as convicted by the story of Corrie ten Boom’s sister Betsie who praised God for the fleas in the beds in the German concentration camp where the sisters were taken, because the fleas kept the guards away and allowed them to share the gospel with other prisoners. That is definitely keeping a ‘God and other focus’ instead of succumbing to self-focus, and a clear demonstration of rejoicing in the midst of ‘trials and tribulations’!  How could she have such joy in the midst of such suffering? Because she firmly believed and stated: "There is no pit so deep that He [God] is not deeper still." (from the book The Hiding Place)

 Would those who know you best say that your focus is more on yourself and upon your circumstances, or upon praising God and serving others? Are you a joy-robber, or a joy-giver? How joyful are you when your focus is on yourself and on your circumstances?  Contrast that to the joy you have when you are keeping your eyes fixed upon God and praising Him and serving other people. 

 What are some things for which you can praise God, no matter what your circumstances are? 

 Praise Him for Who He is: consider His attributes…like Almighty, Beautiful beyond description, Creator, Deliverer, Everlasting, Faithful, Etc. Something I love to do and encourage you to do is to praise God for an attribute of His for every letter in the alphabet.

 Praise God that you are not alone: that He is your constant companion, with you at all times and He will never leave or forsake you. And nothing is impossible for Him!

 Praise Him for His gifts to you: Think of all that you do have because He is the ‘giver of every good and perfect gift’! (James 1:17) ! Thank Him for things like the air you breathe, your ability to see, smell, touch, hear and walk; for a roof over your head; a warm place when it’s cold or a cool place when it’s hot; running water; a bed with a mattress; food to eat; freedom to worship; medical care; your family and friends; etc. Try to come up with 5 different things every day for which to thank and praise God and you will become more aware of the myriad of blessings all around you…which will ‘keep your head above water’ and you won’t feel so overwhelmed when the waves come crashing on you…you will even be able to praise Him for the waves, and the strength He gives you to surf upon them rather than to be crushed by them! 

 Lord, help me to keep my eyes fixed upon You, and not to fix them upon my circumstances and myself. Help me to see all around me the blessings that I daily take for granted; train my eyes and heart so that I see something new each and every day for which I can praise You! And when I even begin to grumble about my circumstances, immediately turn my eyes back onto You, the giver of every good and perfect gift and remind me that You know, are bigger than, and are able to meet my every need! Thank You for the trials and tribulation in my life which I know You can use to conform me into Your image if I will keep my focus upon You and praise You regardless of my situation. May I be found faithful to rejoice at all times, and especially in the midst of suffering, so that others will see that You are the Source of my strength and be drawn to You, the One Who is worthy of all honor, praise and glory!

Written by Julie 

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Are You Creating an Insecure Child?

If I were to ask your 5 yr. old a question that he/she could answer like, “Do you like going to school?”  Do you answer for her?  

Recently I was discussing this with a friend who had just experienced the ‘parent answering’ when asking a 14 yr. old boy about his hockey experience.  The father would not allow his son to answer even the most basic question like, “Do you prefer to play offense or defense?”  The father just habitually ‘jumped in’ to answer on behalf of his son.  Why was he doing this?  

Every time parents jump in to answer for a child that is capable of answering the question himself it can communicate several things to the child:

1-you're not smart enough

2-you're not capable 

3-I have a better answer

And in almost every case it loudly communicates: YOU ARE NOT ENOUGH

I believe there are many reasons why a parent may answer questions on behalf of thier child in everyday conversations, do homework or a project for thier child and more.  Whether consciously or subconsciously most of these parental decisions are made with fear as the driving force.   Fear of what others will think of the answer their child gives, fear of what may be the result of a bad grade, fear of thier child being embarrassed etc…   The fear is then accompanied by worry, which occurs when one fearful thought becomes a list of bad ‘problems.’  An example of this would be a parent that does the homework for their child for fear that he would get a bad grade otherwise, and a bad grade on a paper would be a bad grade on his report card, which would mean a low GPA, bad college options, poor job options, financial stress, and eventual homelessness (that’s dramatic I know, but you get the point).  



The problem is, when we allow fear to make our decisions and drive our actions we are more likely to create the very thing we most fear. “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.” Job 3:25 NIV. In the example above, a parent who constantly fixes, edits, or does a child’s homework is more likely to create a child that is incapable, incompetent and insecure.  Those traits are more likely to yield enormous amounts of anxiety for the child when they find themselves in a situation where there isn’t someone to ‘jump in’ with an answer to the problem.   These insecure children are also less likely to have fulfilling lives, robust careers or even love and follow Jesus with thier whole hearts.  

Encourage your children to ask tough questions of adults when necessary and appropriate, switch thier own classes in middle school if they don’t like the teacher, look people in the eye and answer the question respectfully, to embrace the lessons “failures” teach and so on.  Above all, teach them to rely on God in all things….Because there’s only one Savior and it’s not you or me!

Written by Jamie Shaver

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3 Essential Truths for Stress-Free Parenting

3 Essential Truths for Stress-Free Parenting

 I was at the doctor’s office the other day, enjoying chatting with the outgoing medical assistant who was taking my vital signs, when she began sharing that she feels under a lot of stress and suffers from anxiety. I asked the 27 year old what made her feel anxious, and she told me she started having panic attacks and became noticeably more anxious following the birth of her son almost two years ago. She remarked, “I realized that I was responsible for another person’s life, and I felt incapable of assuming the task of raising him, and overwhelmed by that reality.”

 Being the parent of four adult children, I immediately understood what she meant because parenting--although arguably the most rewarding role a person can assume—certainly can be the most challenging one as well! 

Every unwholesome fear and anxiety is rooted in a lie. As this precious young Mom shared about her anxiety, I recognized she was anxious because she believed the following lies: that she and her husband were primarily responsible for the welfare of their son; that it was their responsibility to determine what was best for their son; and that they could somehow control what would happen to him so that he wouldn’t experience harm or suffering. The lies that she believes are common to many parents and it’s vitally important that we recognize and remember the following truths as we parent:

1) That God is the Creator of our child’s life and the One Who is ultimately responsible for his or her life. God has given us the privilege and responsibility to raise ‘His’ child in accordance with His Word and His will, and we are to remember at all times that ‘our child’ is first and foremost ‘His child’. Baby dedications in some churches and infant baptism in others acknowledge that children are from the Lord and to be dedicated to Him. However, all too often parents can look at that as a one-time event rather than an ongoing decision and we are to continuously look to and dedicate the child entrusted to us to the Lord. 

 2) That God alone knows what is best for our child and He has given instruction in His Word regarding what will lead to abundant and eternal life for all mankind, including our children. Fortunately, our role as parents isn’t to determine what is rightfor our child; God alone knows what is right as well as best for them. He has made what is right and best very clear in His Word, the bible—we are to teach our child what is right in God’s eyes, not in our own. As parents we have the responsibility to know God’s Word for ourselves so we can impart His truth to our children. We are to instill in our child the truth that their life is not their own, it is the Lord’s, and to continuously point our child to God their Heavenly Father, to foster in our child a love for God and His Word, to teach our child God’s Word, to encourage him or her to trust in God at all times, to instruct them to obey His Word and to discipline them when they don’t; and to pray for our child. (Deuteronomy 4:9; 6:1-7; Psalm 78:4; Ephesians 6:4) 


3) Only God is Sovereign, ALWAYS loving, and able to protect your child from harm. Even when your child does suffer harm—which is inevitable in this fallen world-- you can trust that God has allowed it to occur and He is able to use even that suffering for the good of your child and the glory of His Name! The reality is that even if you were around your child 24/7—which you know is impossible—you could not protect him or her from all harm. And, doing so might not be in the best interest of your child even if you could protect him/her. There can be such a release from stress and anxiety when we know and believe that God is always acting on behalf of our child, even when things happen that we wouldn’t have allowed… because God is wiser than we, His ways our greater than ours, and He is able to use all things for our good and for His glory! (Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 8:28)Our job in the midst of our child’s suffering is to point him or her to look to Jesus Who learned obedience from suffering, became a suffering servant for their sake, and Who is able to use all suffering for His good purposes—just like He used Christ’s suffering and death to bring about the salvation of mankind! (Hebrews 5:8; Isaiah 53; Isaiah 61:3;Philippians 2:1-11) The suffering the Lord uses in our lives and in the lives of our children are often the very instruments of His grace that are needed to lead us to recognize our dependence upon Him, and to form His character in us.

 What joy and relief there is in knowing that we are not the ones stuck with the impossible task of having to figure out how to raise our child—He has given us the bible as our ‘instruction manual’! What joy and relief there is in knowing that ‘our child’ is truly ‘God’s child’ Who loves our child more than we ever could and Who alone is all-powerful and totally trustworthy, and nothing can thwart His will! He is the One Who ‘fearfully and wonderfully’ made our child, and has bestowed upon them gifts and abilities for their good and for His divine purposes! You can most definitely trust your children to the One Who made them and gave His very life for them to always do what is best for them! ((Psalm 139; Romans 8:32) 

 If you have an adult child whom you didn’t raise ‘in the fear and admonition of the Lord’ and you now regret the parenting choices you made, I encourage you to pour out your heart to the Lord, ask Him to forgive you, and commit and entrust your child into God’s all-loving and all-powerful care! We have a God Who is able to ‘restore the years the locusts have eaten’—He can still make ‘beauty from ashes’ in your life as well as in the life of your adult child! No one is so far away that the Lord cannot redeem them! (Lamentations 2:19; 1stJohn 1:9; Psalm 37:5; Proverbs 3:5-7; Joel 2:25; Isaiah 59:1)

 If you have children at home, remember the best thing you can do as a parent is to ‘love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength’ and to teach your child to do the same! Undoubtedly, you like every human parent, will make mistakes, but remember that God’s grace is sufficient for your every need and He can fill up what is lacking in you! Confess to Him your desperate need for Him, commit your child into His care, ask Him to give you His wisdom and to lead and guide you as you parent ‘His child’! Consider this: How different do you think your parenting and stress level would be if instead of ‘stewing about things’ or perhaps seeking the guidance of worldly friends about decisions regarding your children, you diligently studied God’s Word and went before the Lord in prayer to ask for His guidance and direction? He longs to come alongside you in every way to parent Hs child that He has entrusted to you!

Lord, I recognize that I can’t control every aspect of my child’s life. And even if I could, I know that I wouldn’t be always doing what is right for them because I have limited knowledge, limited love, often selfish motives and an impure heart. You alone are all wise, all knowing, always loving, and fully trustworthy! Help me to daily—even minute by minute—remember that ‘my child’ is ‘Your child’ and to look to You and to your Word to guide me in teaching my child what is right so that he/she will live abundantly here on earth and eternally with You in heaven! May I be found faithful to teach and instruct my child in the truth and knowledge of Your Word, and may I love them as You have so faithfully loved me so that they will be drawn into a relationship with You, the Author and Perfecter of their faith! Into Your loving and capable hands I commit my child! Amen.

 Written by Julie Van Gorp

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12 Gifts You Have Because Jesus Died and Rose for You!

I remember as a young girl looking so forward to Easter and all it entailed—dipping hard-boiled eggs into cups filled with various pastel dyes; unwrapping and eating way too many foiled chocolate eggs; buying a new dress, hat, shoes and even white gloves to wear to church on Easter morning before heading over to my grandparent’s house for an outdoor Easter egg hunt with our cousins and a delicious dinner. I was blessed to know our celebration had to do with Jesus’ death and resurrection. Raised as a Lutheran, our family went to church every Wednesday during Lent, attended Maundy evening services where we celebrated the ‘Last Supper’, and spent most of Good Friday afternoon in church hearing the seven ‘words’ Jesus spoke from the Cross. I recall thinking it very strange that the day on which Jesus died was named ‘Good Friday’—what could be ‘good’ about His death?--and thought it should’ve been called ‘Bad Friday’ instead. I also confess that at the time it didn’t seem like such a big deal that one person would die so that the rest of the world could live. 

 That was until I became an adult and knew without a doubt that I had sinned against God in thought, word, and deed. God graciously revealed to me that Jesus went to the cross for my sin. He didn’t just die the death that others deserved; he died the death that I deserved to die for my rebellion against Him, a holy God. As I studied His Word for myself, I realized more and more why ‘Good Friday’ is truly GOOD!!! 


 On my own, there was no way for me to ever be set free of my sin, my guilt and shame…but there was and is a Way, but only ONE Way! Only Jesus, the ‘unblemished Lamb’, the sinless ‘Son of God’ who chose to become the ‘Son of Man’ could atone for my sin. No one else could pay the debt I owed to God for my sin of rebellion against Him. Not Mohammed, not Buddha, not Confucius, nor any other person who has ever lived, because everyone besides Jesus has sinned against God, and everyone else has or will die. ONLY Jesus came from the Father, is ‘one with God the Father’, rose from the grave-- and by doing so overcame death-- then ascended into Heaven where He is seated at the right hand of His Father, living to intercede for those who put their trust in Him. (John 6:38; 10:30; 16:28; Matthew 28:6; Mark 16:19; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 7:23; 12:2-3) 

 Jesus alone could do what you and I and no one else could ever do; pay the debt that we owed because of our sin against God. And there was only one price that could be paid in order to pay our debt, and Jesus was willing to pay it. The cost was His very own blood. And, by paying that debt, Jesus freed us from the death penalty that we deserved, which included hell and damnation. Only Jesus’ blood could deliver us from death and hell and restore us to a right relationship with God the Father. (Romans 6:23; John 1:12; John 3:16) His death and resurrection made it possible for you and I to receive total and complete forgiveness for our sin—to have the debt we owed due to our rebellion against God cancelled once and for all time. His death alone could bring reconciliation between you and me—sinners— and a holy God who hates and will judge sin. What a life-changing passage is found below in Romans 5:6-11 (verse 8 is bolded): 

 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. ESV

 Jesus didn’t wait for us to get cleaned up before dying for us; He dies for us ‘while we were yet sinners’! Don’t listen to Satan’s lies when He tells you that Jesus couldn’t love you because your particular sin is too big. Jesus knew every sin you would ever commit when He went to the cross on your behalf, and He died and paid the debt for every one of them! Your sin is not greater than the power of Jesus’ blood that was shed to wash away your sin! God’s love for you is so much bigger than your sin! How great is His love for you? Consider His outstretched arms on the cross as He hung there dying for you. His love led Him to take your place on the cross and to make it possible for you to spend eternity with Him and the Father in Heaven.

 Not only did Jesus’ death pay our debt and thereby set us free from the penalty of sin, which is death, but His triumphant resurrection from the grave made it possible for you and me to be set free from the power of sin in our lives as well! We now have the power to resist our own self-will and the lies of the enemy and we can choose not to sin! By the work of the Holy Spirit-- Who is alive in all who put their faith in Jesus’ atoning death-- we have the power to choose not to sin. Did you realize that? Do you truly understand the power that is available to you if you have received the gift of salvation that Jesus purchased for you on the cross? You don’t have to sin anymore! At the cross we not only leave behind our sin—our dirty rags-- we are also able to exchange our filthy rags for Jesus’ garment of righteousness! (Isaiah 64:6; Philippians 3:9) We go from being powerless against sin, to being able to live righteously and victoriously through the power of the Holy Spirit who is at work in all who put their trust in Jesus! (Galatians 5:16) It took a long time for me to grasp all that Jesus’ death and resurrection purchased for me—and I’m sure I won’t have full understanding until I am joined with Him in Heaven. Below are some of the incredibly wonderful gifts I have because Jesus chose to die in my place, overcame death and the grave, and ascended into Heaven. All of them are also available to you if you are already a follower of Jesus, or, they can be if you choose to humble yourself, ask Him to forgive you of your sin, and choose to give Him your life and follow Him.

·    I am forgiven and set free from the guilt and shame of my sin! (Psalm 32:5; Acts 10:43-44; 1st John 1:9)

·    I have salvation in Christ! (Romans 10:10)

·    I have a new life! I am truly a ‘new creation’ because I have been ‘born again’ and Christ now lives in me! (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:19-20)

·    I am able to obey God, bear fruit that lasts, and live a life that is pleasing to Him! (John 15:1-17; Colossians 1:9-14; Galatians 5:16)

 ·    I have an advocate with the Father who lives to intercede for me, whose Name is Jesus! (Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1)

·    I have the Holy Spirit who dwells within me and leads me into all truth, teaches me, helps and comforts me! (John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16: 7,8,13; 1 Corinthians 2:10)

·    I am set free from worry, anxiety, and fear and able to experience the peace that surpasses all human understanding! (Isaiah 26:3; John 8:36; Philippians 4:6-8; 1 John 4:8)

·    I have power and strength and can do all things through Him! (Philippians 4:13)

·    I am able to abide in Christ, obey His Word, and thereby bear the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. (John 15:4-10; Galatians 5:16; 22) 

·    I am no longer a slave to sin, but I am now set free to be a slave to righteousness. I know the Truth that sets me free from the lies of Satan; I am no longer ignorant of his schemes and deceitful ways and I can resist him and not succumb to his lies! (John 8:32; 2 Corinthians 2:11; Romans 6:18; James 4:7)

·    I have a new family that is comprised of other believers from throughout history, and from throughout the world, from every tongue and tribe and nation! (Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31; Revelation 5:9; 7:9)

·    I am a child of God, and as a child, an heir, and my inheritance is abundant life on earth and spending eternity with God, and with others who put their trust in His atoning work on their behalf, in Heaven! (John 3:16; 10:10; 28-29; 1 Peter 1:4

What about you? Do you realize all that is available to you because Jesus loved you so much that He died, rose from the dead, and now lives in you and intercedes for you? If you know you have been set free, are you walking in the freedom that Jesus purchased for you…that He gave His very life for you to have? Are you faithfully ‘going and telling’ others that they too can be set free from the shame and guilt of their sin? That they can have the power to live righteously before God because of the power of the Holy Spirit Who will reside in them if they choose to put their trust in Jesus’ atoning work on the cross on their behalf? Have you thanked Jesus today for choosing to go to the cross for you? And have you thanked the Father for His amazing love and His willingness to sacrifice His Beloved Son on your behalf?

*If you have not already committed your life to Christ, you can. He is longing to be in fellowship with you and for you to receive the love He has always had for you. He just asks you to ‘come to Him’. Simply humble yourself and tell Him that you are a sinner who needs a Savior. Acknowledge that He died the death you deserved to die when He took your place on the cross. Ask Him to come into your life and to live in you so that you can live a life that is pleasing to your Heavenly Father.  Please feel free to reach out and contact us at the link below if you would like some more information on how you can grow in your relationship as a follower of Jesus.

Written by Julie Van Gorp

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A Challenge This Week to Overcome Insecurity!

Do you sometimes feel insecure?  

Have you ever found yourself comparing yourself with others? Or ‘keeping score’ in your mind about what others have done or accomplished?

Do you feel like a victim sometimes?  Or feel that you are owed compensation for your losses?

Are you self-consumed and trying to outdo others for attention?  Or judge others and find yourself in self-pity or full of conceit?

Lastly, do you ever determine that you must take charge, protect your interests and manipulate the situation to get your way?  

Insecure people will often experience one of the above situations on a regular basis.  Insecurities come when we make ourselves an idol instead of keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.  When we are thinking about promises Jesus makes (the Word), the lessons His Spirit wants to teach us (the truth), or the person of Jesus (the way), we do not compare…because we recognize that we have been bought with a price.  That we are not our own, that God takes care of our interests, that He is in control and that even when you are not able…God still is!  There is always hope when we take control of our thoughts and align them with Jesus’.   

So what do you do if you want to reduce personal insecurities?  

There are several things you can do and I’m going to focus on one of them today.  

  1. Build your identity in Christ, not your performance.  Your performance does not define who you are, God does.

  2. Allow God to work in your heart and ask Him to reveal where you are too self-sufficient or self-promoting.  Ask Him to help you be more God-sufficient and Jesus-promoting.

  3. Discover & practice your God-given purpose in life, not someone else’s (stop trying to act, talk, present, or do anything the way someone else does it…do it the way you were created to do it!)

  4. Learn to give and receive affirmation.  

Giving compliments is a gift

When people are insecure, they have a hard time accepting affirmation even if they are good at giving it.  If I say, “I love your shirt, it’s really cute.” I will get a response that removes the value of the shirt or compliment that sounds like this, “Oh not really, I’ve had it forever…I got it on clearance…” as if to tell me, “it’s really not that cute, I’m not worthy and neither is this shirt of your compliment.”  If I were to tell you that a compliment from another person is like a gift that they bought and wrapped to give you on your birthday, would you still totally reject it?  When your insecurities keep you from accepting compliments, praise or affirmation at face value then you are rejecting a gift that another person wants to give you.  

In working with people over the years I have learned that often insecure people are insecure because they judge others harshly and therefore feel as though the internal thoughts of others are equally as harsh toward them.  To overcome this I want you to practice giving genuine compliments to others wherever you go.  Find something truthful, that is positive to say to brighten someone else’s day.  Your challenge this week is to genuinely compliment someone each day.  God tells us that it is a greater blessing to give than to receive.  The second part of this challenge is if someone compliments you, that you simply say, “Thank you so much,” with a big smile and receive the kindness.  

God loves you so much that He holds nothing back!  He was even willing to give His very own Son!  “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”  

Thank God for all that He has done for you, and receive His love and then share it with others.  You can have security when you live your life from the outpouring of His love for you and for others.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and you have been given the mind of Christ~

Love ya,


Romans 8:32
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The Life-Changing Difference that Asking Makes

I am the mother of four adult children—plus three wonderful daughter-in-laws, all of whom I love dearly. I’m very grateful to God for the relationship I have with each of them, and I try not to be an interfering, overbearing mother or mother-in-law—although they might tell you that my ‘trying’ needs some improvement! I admit there are occasions when I’ve had to ‘bite my tongue’ so I don’t overstep my bounds and give unsolicited advice. I readily admit that because I love them, want to help them, and have ‘been where they’ve been before’, there are things I’d love to share with them that I think could be helpful to them…in their marriages, as they parent, and for their life in general. But I haven’t shared a lot of that advice. Why? Simply because they haven’t asked me for it! 

 I’ve also thought back and can now realize how much heartbreak I could’ve avoided in my own life if only I’d asked my parents for their advice…on things like boyfriends, peer pressure, marital problems, parenting, and financial decisions. I also have thought of times when I might have avoided pain if I’d only asked a godly friend for her counsel before proceeding to do things I chose to do, and later regretted. What about you? Can you think of times when you might have avoided poor or painful choices if only you’d asked someone for advice?

 What is it that kept me from asking my parents or others for advice, or causes you to not ask for others’ counsel? When it gets right down to it, like most things, doesn’t it come down to the big ugly thing in all of our lives… that thing called ‘Pride? I thought that I knew what was best for my life and didn’t think I had a need to confer with anyone else. Or, when I did seek advice, I think I often sought it from people I knew would agree with what I’d already decided I was going to do; I usually wasn’t looking for advice as much as for affirmation. There were also times when I operated in ignorance. I didn’t even realize that there was another way of doing things so I didn’t even think to ask anyone for their advice. I just presumed that I should do what I thought was best without ever seeking counsel from my parents, my pastor, godly friends, and most regrettably, God.

 I’m not the only one who didn’t ask for advice and suffered the consequences of not doing so. Courageous, God-fearing Joshua had been told by God not to make a treaty with any of the people in the Promised Land, lest they be a snare to the people of Israel and turn them away from God. Yet, he made a binding treaty with the Gibeonites who were natives of the land because they pretended to be foreigners who had come from a long distance. Joshua disobeyed God’s strict instruction because he failed to inquire of God before making the treaty with the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:14). He and the leaders did what was right ‘in their own eyes’ and presumed upon their own understanding rather than asking God for His wisdom, guidance, and counsel that would have kept them from sinning against Him. 

 In contrast, it is frequently recorded in scripture that David, who had a ‘heart after God’ (Acts 13:22) often asked God for His counsel before taking action. For instance, David asked God whether he and his men should attack the Philistines who were fighting against the people of the town of Keilah. In response, God told David that He would give the Philistines into his hands; and it was because David asked and obeyed God that he defeated the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah. David could easily have presumed that since God gave him that victory—a victory that resulted in the people of Keilah being saved--that the people of Keilah would in turn save him from King Saul who sought to take his life. Yet, rather than act on his presumption, David once again inquired of the Lord. The Lord told him that the people of Keilah would indeed turn him and his men over to Saul, so David and his men fled Keilah and escaped to the desert. David’s asking of the Lord saved not only his own life, but also the lives of the approximately 600 men with him (1 Samuel 23). How important is it that we ask for God’s counsel? It literally can be life saving! 


 How about you? What pain have you unintentionally brought on yourself or others because you failed to inquire of the Lord before taking action? Perhaps you have had a failed or miserable marriage because you married the person of your choosing without inquiring of the Lord. Or, maybe you’ve had financial problems because you made purchases without asking God if He wanted that money (which is really His money since everything we have belongs to God) to be spent on those purchases.  Or, perhaps you have a wayward child and you’ve experienced great pain and wish that you had sought God’s counsel on raising and responding to him or her. Whatever the situation, it’s important to realize that it’s never too late to seek God’s counsel! He is an ever-present help for you and for me and He longs to give us His wise counsel! God is more than able to make beauty from the ashes we have made! (Isaiah 61:3)

 Can you also think of a time when you sought and obeyed God’s counsel and He spared you--or others- from pain because you asked and obeyed Him?

 As much as I would love my children and their spouses to come to me and ask for my advice so that I might help them avoid making mistakes they might regret, my FAR greater desire is that they daily go to their Heavenly Father and inquire of Him, ‘What is it, Lord, that You would have me to do?” I hope and pray that they ask the Lord for His counsel—and obey His leading-- on such decisions as: “Should I marry this person?” or “Should we buy this house?” or “Should I take this job or volunteer assignment?” or “Should I go into business with this person?” or “Should I invest Your money in making this home improvement, or on buying this car?” as well as on things such as, “Whom should I contact today to encourage them?” or “What would You like me to do this weekend?” and especially to ask Him, “What would You like me to do with the gifts, talents and abilities that You’ve entrusted to me?”

 God is the wisest Person in the Universe. As His children, we have the amazing privilege of being able to come before Him each and every day and ask Him what we should do regarding the ‘small’ as well as ‘big’ decisions in our life. Wouldn’t we be foolish not to take advantage of the incredible opportunity we have to ask the Greatest Counselor in the World for His perfect, all-knowing counsel? Especially when He is the One Who knows us best and loves us the most?

 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5- ESV

 The more we read God’s Word, the wiser we become, and the wiser we become, the more we realize that we desperately need God’s wisdom in every area of our life if we desire to be protected from harm and live a God-pleasing, regret-free, joy-filled, abundant life. 

 There is a cost to obtain that wisdom. It requires us humbling ourselves, exercising self-control so we don’t just act upon our own understanding-- as Joshua and the Israel leaders did when they made the treaty-- and taking the time to ask God, to really listen to Him, and then to obey the counsel the Holy Spirit gives to us. 

If we inquire of God and obey His wise counsel we will be able to eliminate regret in our lives and the worry that often comes from wondering if we made the right decision, because God’s counsel is always right, and He always has our best interest in mind!

 Lord, forgive me for the many times when I have acted as if my life is my own and not Yours, and I have done what I have thought was best without inquiring of You. I believe that You always and only want what is best for me, and You alone know what the ‘best’ is! Help me to always look to You and ask, “What would You have me do?” Give me ears to hear Your voice, and a heart willing to obey whatever it is that You tell me! Thank You, Lord, for always being available to me and for loving me! Amen.

 Written by Julie

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