Tag Archives: spiritually healthy habits

My First Love

Success. Everyone wants to tell you how to get it. In the business world, companies that made it big want to tell you how to succeed—even if they are Christian. Recently, I have been struggling with the idea of success. A few months ago, I was doing all the things that everyone told me to do to be successful: I was doing my social media posts, I was writing blog posts, I was talking to people about my business, I was scheduling events. I had a business plan for 2015, a brand new calendar to write my new business stuff in, and a head full of steam. I was “hustling,” as a friend of mine and I started saying about ourselves.

love sky by winnond

image courtesy of winnond / freedigitalphotos.net

 

I planned a brief vacation with my mom, with full intent of “getting back to hustling” when I returned. I couldn’t work on vacation—I was in another country and wanted to be present with my mother. So I put away my cell phone, my blogging, and all the nice new habits I had acquired. When I returned, I picked up my cell phone…and some weird virus that left me mostly incapacitated for the month of November. Then my father died in early December, and I spent the rest of that month mourning and recuperating. I realized that I was exhausted. I had been doing a lot. But save for one week in November, I had forgotten how to BE.

The seven letters to the churches in Revelation are one of many lists of seven in the Bible that correspond to the seven spiritual gifts in Romans 6. As a prophet spiritual gift, the first of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2:1-6 has always beckoned to me. I was recalling this over the holidays, thinking about where I am and what it means. Here’s what it says:

I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore, remember where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. (Revelation 2:2-5)

More than ever, this passage spoke to me. Of course God knows my deeds and my toil and my perseverance—that I have endured for His name’s sake and have not grown weary. But soon after my father’s death, I realized I had left my first love. Was I spending time in prayer? Sure. But I was spending more time “doing” God’s work than I was “being” with Him. For the same reason that I put away my cell phone while I was on vacation to be with my mom, God wanted me to put away these deeds and get back to my first love—being with Him.

So what does that mean? Does that mean PPG Ministries is no more? Of course not! But it means that I have to give up some of the “comforts” in my business for now, like posting on social media. I’m trading those things in for quality time at the feet of my Master. I want PPG Ministries to be filled with God, not with me. My business really belongs to God, anyway—so I know I can trust Him with it. And I’m finding that this is its own purity challenge—the challenge to bring holiness into all areas of my life, not just my sexuality.

Maybe you’re out there, having forgotten your first love, and you need to hit the reset button. Maybe God is asking you to give something back to Him so that He can refine and purify it and you, and make you both better than you ever knew. My challenge to you today is this: will you let Him? Will you trust God enough to give back to Him what is already His? If so, join me on this journey of purification. I don’t know where it’s going to lead, but I do know that God’s plans for us are for good and not evil, to prosper us and not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11). And as further proof of that, here’s how that passage in Revelation ends:

To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)

So are you ready for this year? Or more importantly, are you ready for this God? Ready or not, here He comes. 🙂

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Spiritually Healthy Habits: Simplicity

spirit health by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

My space was shrinking. I moved from a two-bedroom house into an apartment in someone’s house, and I had about half the space I had in my previous place of residence. So I got a storage unit and put everything I couldn’t fit into the apartment into the storage unit. One year after living in the apartment, I realized something: I had not been to that storage unit even once during that year to get anything out. I had everything I needed in my apartment and then some. So I did what any convicted person would do: I opened up the storage unit to my friends. Anything they saw in there that they wanted or needed, they could take free of charge. Then I took what was left—about ten boxes—and headed to the dump. I threw the boxes into the trash compactor without even opening them to see their contents.

Spiritually healthy people practice simplicity in their lives. Why should we seek simplicity? Because simplicity will clarify your life in the following ways:

  • Simplicity refines our spirituality. The spiritual discipline of simplicity may not seem like a “spiritual” health issue at all, but the Bible says to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). “These things” refers to what we shall eat, drink, or wear (Matthew 6:31). Our simplicity is often centered on these earthly things—having a nice house, eating at nice restaurants, wearing designer clothes. And if we are worried about these earthly things, then we have little time to be concerned with heavenly things. The remedy is to simplify: to focus less on these things gives us more time to engage in our relationship with Christ and His people. Because if we simplify and seek God’s kingdom first, “these things” will take care of themselves. If you want to clarify your spiritual life, seek simplicity.
  • Simplicity refines our physical space. When I moved into the apartment from the house, though I had a smaller place, I had more space—because I had less junk. This meant I felt less anxious when it was time to clean, because I not only had less space to clean, but I had fewer trinkets to dust and furniture to vacuum around. I felt renewed—I had more than enough space to live! I was reminded that Jesus lived a simple life. In fact, He encouraged us to “not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). The less “earthly treasures” I have, the less I worry about thieves, and the more room I have to store up treasures in heaven. Want to de-clutter your physical space? Seek to simplify.
  • Simplicity refines us emotionally. I did not open up the boxes before I threw them away because I knew that if I did, I would find some reason to keep most of the stuff. “Oh, he gave that to me in middle school…” The more stuff we have, the more emotional ties we have to that stuff! It is the reason we keep so much “stuff”—both physical and emotional—in our lives. In Matthew 6, Jesus continues, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (6:20). I realized when I let go of those boxes, I was letting go of many emotional ties—some good, some bad—that were holding on to me. I was emotionally purified in the process and freed to hold onto what God wanted me to hold onto. So where is your treasure—and your heart?

In our consumer-driven society, simplicity is one of the hardest spiritually healthy habits to practice. But I want to challenge each of you to begin practicing simplicity by changing how you think about things. For the next week, each time you make a non-food purchase, ask yourself, “Am I storing up treasures on earth or treasures in heaven with this purchase?” If you accept this simplicity challenge, then leave me a comment below to let me know how you did. Best of luck!

Spiritually Healthy Habits: Giving

spirit health by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I had just been laid off at my job and I was searching for another one with very little luck. I was getting a small amount of unemployment and living off the little savings I had. I was still attending church and going to my small group, though, and one week, I found myself listening to the prayer requests of a young woman who wanted to attend an internship in another state. She had been accepted into the internship, but did not have the $350 to buy the one-way plane ticket to get there. As I listened and prayed during the group, I heard God say, “Give her the money for her plane ticket.” I opened my eyes wide and muttered, “I know you just didn’t say that, God.” But I heard it again, so I decided to wait a week to see if that was really what God wanted me to do—after all, I was unemployed and needed that money. But the feeling never went away, and the following week, I presented that young woman with the check for her plane ticket—with no strings attached.

Spiritually healthy people practice giving as a way of life. But although giving definitely includes financial resources, giving is not just about money. Here are three ways you can practice giving more in your life:

  • Give your money cheerfully. This is probably the hardest thing for people, because money is such a necessary commodity in our world. Whenever we earn some, we think it is “ours” and that we need to hold onto it, save it, or use it for our own good. It’s hard to write that check to the electric company, or the mortgage company, or (especially) the church—because we need that money for ourselves! But the Word says that God “loves a cheerful giver” and that we should give “not reluctantly or in response to pressure” (2 Corinthians 9:7). God wants us to give, but He also wants us to have the right attitude. When is the last time you gave away your money cheerfully?
  • Give your time abundantly. Time is another commodity we have a hard time giving away because like money, we want to spend time selfishly on ourselves. And while it is healthy to have some time to ourselves, we also have to give our time to the things that God tells us is important. Some people say time is the most precious of all our resources—because you cannot earn it back. But Christians know that our times are in the hands of the Almighty (Psalm 31:15). And if our time belongs to Him, then we should seek what He wants us to devote our time to instead of what we want. And we should give it abundantly to those people and causes! Where do you give your time abundantly?
  • Give your whole self lovingly. Giving yourself is more than just giving your time. I have spent plenty of time doing things for friends. I’ve worked it into my schedule and given it time; I may have even spent money on them. But I have only been there physically. I haven’t invested myself emotionally and spiritually; I haven’t laid down my life for my friends. If we are truly loving and giving people who want to be spiritually healthy, we have to lay down our lives—ourselves—for our friends (1 John 3:16). Jesus said there was no greater love, and that is the love we should strive to achieve. To do this, we have to be authentic and willing to be held accountable. When is the last time you laid down your life for someone else?

The young woman to whom I gave the plane ticket ended up staying in that state, and I love seeing how she continually gives back to the community there. It reminds me that I don’t give so that *I* can receive in return, I give so that others can receive and see the glory of God. So I encourage you to give—because none of it is really yours anyway. 🙂

Spiritually Healthy Habits: Prayer

spirit health by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

“Pray continuously.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

When I was younger, this verse scared me to death. My mother would get up every morning and pray for an hour or so, and she would encourage me to do the same. I just couldn’t sit still that long, even as an adult. Plus, I wasn’t sure I could come up with enough words to say to God for a whole hour! And praying continuously throughout my day…well, I just didn’t think I could do that, either. Then one day recently, I realized that as I was going through my day, I was often stopping to whisper prayers to God, talking to Him while I was in the car or just doing things around the house, and listening for His still, small voice. And then it dawned on me: I had actually learned how to pray continuously.

Prayer is not meant to scare us, prayer is meant to invite us into deeper relationship with our God. If you want to be spiritually healthy, you must talk to the Giver of spiritual health! And here are three thoughts about prayer that have helped me to learn to pray continuously:

  • Prayer is talking to your Papa. Sometimes, my prayers are different, but mostly, I come to God as a little girl wanting to talk to her Papa. I think of when I want to have my mom’s undivided attention and I climb into her lap—yes, still, as a 37-year-old woman, I do that! I also do that in my head when I’m praying. I imagine that I’m climbing up into God’s lap and talking to Him about everything—my hopes, my fears, my failures, my successes. I confess, and I receive forgiveness there. I express my gratitude and I humble myself like a child. Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Praying to my Papa in this way is how I live out this verse.
  • Prayer is talking to your Friend. Sometimes we think of God as a taskmaster waiting to punish us when we do something wrong. But Jesus tells us something different in God’s Word. In John 15:15, Jesus said, “I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” A taskmaster has slaves, but we are not slaves—we are friends of God. Jesus confided in us what the Lord told Him, so we can be confident in talking to Him as a friend would. And just like our earthly friends, God can handle our anger and our doubt, He can share in our hurts, and He can laugh with us and enjoy our sense of humor. Even better, God is the greatest Friend who will never let us down!
  • Prayer is talking to your Creator. We have to remember that God is not only our Papa and our Friend, but He is also our Creator—and the Creator of the entire universe. I don’t call Him my “homie” but I bow before Him. I talk to Him as my Abba Papa and Friend, but I don’t disrespect Him or treat Him as a human being—because He is not! In Psalm 50:15, the Lord says, “And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” God can deliver me from evil, defeat darkness, help me be an overcomer, and speak things into existence. He can bless me beyond my wildest dreams and answer every one of my prayers, if it is in His will. As such, I will regard Him with awe and respect, because He deserves it.

Knowing these three things about prayer has made it easier for me to pray continually throughout my days. Every situation I encounter can be filtered to my Papa, my Friend, and/or my Creator, so I can go to the Throne before I go to the phone (Joyce Meyer). If you want to be spiritually healthy, try increasing your prayer life and communicating continuously with the God who will be there for you in every possible way!