Archive | Contenders of the Faith series

Doxology

Thanks for joining me for Contenders of the Faith. 6 voices, 4 weeks, 2 verses, ONE purpose: Contend for the faith.

I think it’s fitting that Jude’s name means “He shall be praised.” Though this post will wrap up our series, I want to take you back to the very beginning—to the first five words Jude selects to follow his name in this letter we’ve been reading.

“Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ…” Jude 1:1

Doxology

He could’ve claimed half-brother status, but he didn’t. Jude called himself a servant. The blood Jesus shed for him was more important than family blood, Jude seems to say. Within this humble title, Jude gently reminds us that following Jesus’ means keeping His command to love God and love people.

Jude knew that if we follow his lead and maintain a posture of servitude, we automatically place ourselves in a position to recognize that every gift we’ve been given is for the building up of the body of Christ.

When your aim is love, there is no greater title than servant.

Contenders are servants. And they are worshipping warriors. Contenders align their lives with the anticipation of Jesus’ return. So praise Him. Serve Him. Keep yourselves in His love always. He’s coming back. Jude ends his letter with the most beautiful doxology:

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. Jude 1:24-25

Earlier this week, Kristin beautifully defined what Jude meant when he wrote “keep yourselves in the love of God.” (Jude 1:21) This word keep shows up in 1 John 2:3: “Those who love me keep my comamnds.” Jude closes his letter with, “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling…” This keep is a different Greek word. Phylássō means guard, watch, protect, and most importantly, save.

Jesus is willing and able to save.

He saves us from the penalty of sin, from the enemy’s arrows meant to destroy us, and from living ineffective, powerless lives. Jesus is willing and able to save us from ourselves.

God keeps those who oppose the gospel for judgment, but He has the power to keep from stumbling those who place their faith in Him. God’s power and authority offer a protective shield for this fight today. We contend not to prove ourselves worthy, but so that the glorious good news entrusted to us proves itself through our very lives.

To Him be glory, majesty, power, and authority… now and forever.

Winner of Giveaway

Morgan Clayton is the winner of the giveaway! Thanks to all who entered and took part in this series. If you want to purchase Women of the Word and start your own small group, you can get yours here.

Contenders of the Faith (new series)

Click the image to see all Contenders of the Faith posts

INTRO: Contend for the faith. Jude 1:3

Contenders of the Faith Series

FAITH {video}

PART I: But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith… Jude 1:20a

Lost & Found: A Story of Identity by Bethany Dufilho

A Faith That Grows by Misty Keith

IDENTITY {video}

Jesus Friends by Jackie Hooks

PART II: …and praying in the Holy Spirit, Jude 1:20b

Love and the Power of Prayer by Leigha Balchus

SPIRIT {video}

PART III: Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Jude 1:21

The Gift of Waiting by Julie Cassol

Waiting for Our Beloved by Kristin Brown

LOVE {video}

Conclusion: To him who is able to keep you… Jude 1:24

Doxology

May the words of these contenders challenge and encourage, nourish and convict, and remind you at your core that you are loved.

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Waiting for Our Beloved

My final guest’s humble words relay a powerful message as we near the end of the Contenders of the Faith series. Kristin Brown has a quiet way of drawing others into the heart of God. Today, she invites us all to consider what it means to await our coming King. (If you’ve missed the other posts in this series, get caught up by starting here.)

Contenders of the Faith Part 3

Waiting for Our Beloved by Kristin Brown

We have never been as near to the second coming of our Lord Jesus as we are now. The evidence is all around us. The creation itself groans with labor pains as hurricanes spiral and earthquakes devastate. The signs in the heavens couldn’t be clearer as constellations cry out His coming and the sun is darkened by the moon. The peoples are raging as nations are rising against nations and persecution abounds against the saints.

The tiny book of Jude, written in the first century AD, delivers a powerful message to the church today. Initially desiring to write about the great salvation that has been entrusted to the saints, Jude, most probably the brother of Jesus, shifts gears and presents a message of admonition to the believers. He warns that the church has been infiltrated by godless men who reject the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and who encourage the church to abuse the grace given to them by indulging in sin. And then, Jude passionately calls the believers to wake up and remember that in the last days, evil men will try to divide the church, but that they must stand their ground and contend for the faith.

“But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”   Jude 20-21

Now, more than ever, the church must awaken. We must pursue godliness, releasing anything in our lives that prevents us from obeying completely the Word of the Lord. We must get on our knees in prayer, and learn to hear his voice. And we must keep ourselves in God’s love as we wait for His return.

But just how do we keep ourselves in the love of God, as Jude urges us to do? And how do we await His coming?

As I dusted off my Greek New Testament and lexicon and began to dig into the original language of Jude 21, several things jumped out at me. The first was the strange ordering of the sentence. In a very literal translation the wording goes like this: “Yourselves in the love of God keep ye!” The Greek word for “keep ye” is teresate and it means to keep unharmed or undisturbed. It has the nuance of keeping a virgin pure before marriage. I looked up other cross references in the New Testament that had the same word and found Jesus’ clear words to his disciples just before his death, “He who has my commands and keeps them, he is the one who loves me,” John 14:21. And then in 1 John 5:18, “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe and the evil one cannot harm him.”

Keeping ourselves in the love of God is not just an emotional declaration of our love for God. It is a resolute commitment to obeying his words. It is keeping ourselves pure for our bridegroom. The ordering of Jude’s words makes it clear that this keeping is something we must do ourselves and at the same time, as 1 John declares, (to my great relief!) it is something that Jesus Himself does in us.

Waiting For Our Beloved

Concerning awaiting His coming, Jude uses the word prosdechomenoi to describe the way we are to await the mercy of the Lord to bring us to eternal life. This word literally means “toward receiving” and it conjures up the image of a child holding out his arms waiting anxiously for a gift. We are to await His coming with that same kind of convinced expectancy.

Over thirty years ago, my Aunt Carolyn suffered two major brain injuries and had to learn to do everything over again. Things like eating and swallowing and speaking and walking had to be relearned, just like a baby. Reading and writing are still especially difficult for her, but she is a faithful prayer warrior like few I have ever known. For years now she has said the same thing in the midst of the difficulty of her earthly life, “Maybe the Lord will come today!” It is her greatest hope and the very thing that keeps her going day after day. Like a little child, she reaches toward the return of the King.

I have been meditating on Hebrews chapter 10 during these exciting days leading up to the time when we will see His face.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, ‘He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.’ But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. Hebrews 10:35-39

He is coming soon! Let us press forward then, throwing off every sin that entangles us and let us await the coming of our beloved with pure and expectant hearts.

Just think. Maybe the Lord will come today!

About Kristin

About Kristin

Kristin Brown lives in the country with her firefighter husband, Jason, and three children, Adeline, Jeremiah and Thaddaeus.

She spends her days homeschooling her children and helping manage the family’s small working farm.

She writes about how her farm experiences testify to the presence of God.

 

You can check out Kristin’s blog, Respite Ranch, at kristinjoybrown.wordpress.com.

Final Thoughts…

A life of faith requires listening, believing, trusting and obeying; it never requires empty striving or weary proving. As the gospel intersects our hearts, Jesus proves His love through our surrendered lives, making us all contenders of our sacred faith. Today, may Kristin’s beautiful words encourage us to throw up our arms and exhale as we await His return.

If you haven’t already, grab your free download of Jude1:20-21 here. Follow me on Facebook and tune in for one more live video Wednesday at noon!

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The Gift of Waiting

My next guest is a girl I’ve known since I was ten years old. God has wound our journeys together and revealed His character to me through her life of obedience. He has taught me so much through our friendship. Today, Julie shares with us all God is teaching her about waiting. I love the gentle way Julie encourages us not to resent the wait but to accept it as a gift straight from the God who calls us His beloved.

(If you’ve missed the other posts in this series, get caught up by starting here.)

Contenders of the Faith Part 3

The Gift of Waiting by Julie Cassol

The kitchen was a mess.  Between my husband and I we had managed to use just about every dish, pan, pot, and cooking utensil we owned.  In the midst of the mess, as we waited on various dishes to cook, I decided to whip up a posset.  Pinterest had just recently introduced me to the posset, a simple, three ingredient, tangy English dessert whose roots run centuries back and I was excited to try it. I followed the simple directions and within fifteen minutes I was pouring the sweet, creamy mixture into little glass dessert dishes so they could cool and set in the refrigerator.  I was already licking my lips thinking about enjoying this lemony treat after dinner.  That’s when I noticed the directions said to, “chill in the refrigeration for at least three hours or overnight.”  What?!  Three hours?!  Overnight?!  How could anything take that long?  Surely this posset would be ready before then.  But with each anxious check into the refrigerator I grew more and more dismayed.  The hands on the clock were telling me it was bedtime and the stubborn posset still wasn’t set.  I felt cheated.  I didn’t want to enjoy it tomorrow, I wanted to enjoy it tonight.  My heart was set on it now.  In the middle of this childish rant of disappointment it all clicked. I’m always trying to avoid the wait.

My mind flooded with memories from my past: all the Christmases I stealthily peeked under shiny wrapping paper before December 25th; the time I did a little joy ride in my sister’s car before I was legally allowed to operate it; giving my heart away before I could fully understand the consequences; and all the seasons of my life I spent trying to rush into the next one before fully experiencing being right where I was.

I’m currently in the middle of a season of waiting.  I don’t like it.  It’s uncomfortable.  It feels unproductive.  I feel exposed and small.  Sadly, I’ve spent most of this season praying for God to make it be over.  That posset helped me see I’m living for the finish line and trying to skip all the work that it takes to get there.  I’m rushing to get to the end to simply check this off my list, and I’m missing the point of why God ever put me in the race to begin with.  Isn’t the whole point of this for me to know Him and be changed by Him into something new?  Recently I’ve changed the focus of my prayers.  I’m asking God to teach me contentment and joy in the middle of the wait.

As I’ve shifted my focus from the finish line to Jesus, I’ve noticed how frequently God uses the wait to teach us. Isaac and his wife Rebekah waited twenty years for Rebekah to finally conceive.  Joseph saw two dreams at the age of seventeen and he waited over twenty years before he saw them fulfilled.  David was anointed by Samuel to be king as a young man and waited until he was thirty years old before he finally sat on the throne.  Esther and Ruth both waited until exactly the right moment to present a life-altering request to a man for help. Paul was blind for three days after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus before Ananias showed up to heal him.  Every account in the bible has waiting woven through it.  The waiting is where the truth of our hearts is exposed. The wait is a gift, an invitation to know God in new and deeper ways.

You can do more in my waiting than in my doing I could do.

As I’ve asked God for more understanding and wisdom in waiting He lead me to Psalm 40:1, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.”  In the lonely, dark space of the wait we are able to see the truth of our faith.  The ugly truth was my heart was in no way waiting patiently.  I had been rushing around in vain, anxiously trying to make things happen on my own instead of resting in the promises of God and trusting Him to do what He has said. I kept believing the lie that the wait was because I wasn’t doing enough.  Now I’m seeing that the wait is the place where God does the most work in me. The wait is where I learn to surrender.  To let God transform the ugly parts of my heart into His beauty.

In the waiting I can embrace that I am weak and learn to live, move, and breathe in God’s strength.  The wait allows me to find Jesus as my hope and joy.  My trust is deepened and my faith grows as I learn to patiently wait.  Waiting is a gift worth receiving.  When God offers you the gift of the wait, how will you respond?

About Julie

About Julie

After living a life pursuing perfection while being stuck in empty religion, finding a real relationship with Jesus wrecked my life.  I’m a normal girl, living a normal life pursuing Jesus. Some days that’s easier than others.

I’m thankful for the people God has in my life that encourage and challenge me to keep chasing Truth and sharing my gifts.  I live with my husband of fourteen years and am learning how to spot the beauty of Jesus in all areas of life, especially the mundane.

You can share this journey with Julie at SpeakingBeauty.blog.

 

Final thoughts…

Whether you’re in a waiting season or not, we all wait for Jesus. May we shrug off doubt and the pressure to perform and simply surrender today. May we trust the transformative power of God’s love and allow gratitude to change our entire perspective this week.

Download your print of Jude1:20-21 here.

Follow me on Facebook and tune in for live videos every Wednesday at noon.  Let’s meet midday/midweek to talk more about how we can contend for the faith. Click here to watch the first three videos:

INTRO: FAITH

Part I: IDENTITY

Part II: SPIRIT

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Love and the Power of Prayer

I hope God is speaking to you in powerful ways through this collection of voices; I know He’s speaking to me. Today Leigha Balchus is leading us into Part II of the Contenders of the Faith series: Jude’s instructions to pray in the Spirit. Leigha is fluent in the language of prayer, because prayer has been foundational in her personal story. Her words invite us to notice this hidden yet significant element of our faith.

If you missed any of the previous posts, you can read from the beginning of the series, right here.

Part 2

Love and the Power of Prayer by Leigha Balchus

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. (Jude 1:20)

As I sat in the prayer circle waiting my turn, I could feel my heart racing, my palms getting sweaty. I desperately tried to gather my thoughts.  What would I say? Everyone else’s prayers sounded so eloquent, so perfect.  I didn’t know any scripture to quote.  What if I froze and couldn’t find any words at all?  I’d look like a fool.  I felt like a total fraud.  Everything in me wanted to run away and hide.  I loved Jesus with all my heart, but what kind of Christian was I if I didn’t know how to pray out loud?  I felt ashamed and embarrassed. Have you ever been there?  If so, you are not alone.

We are often intimidated by prayer, both corporate and private, because it requires vulnerability and the world tells us that to be vulnerable is to be weak.  However, author and researcher, Brené Brown, has discovered through her research that the opposite is true.  Being vulnerable actually takes great courage, and with great risk comes great reward.  In her book Daring Greatly, she shares that “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.  It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.  If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”

If we want to grow spiritually and strengthen our prayer life, we must be willing to be vulnerable, not just with our peers but with God, and even ourselves.  When we are vulnerable before God, it makes our hearts open to receive his love, and when we receive his love, our faith grows.  There are no magic words and no script to follow when we pray. He simply wants us to come to him, hearts wide open.

He already knows our burdens, but the free will he offers us means that he allows us the choice of whether to bring them to him or not.  God isn’t so much interested in our words TO him as he is in our hearts TOWARD him.  I love how R.K. Hughes puts it in Ephesians: the mystery of the body of Christ, “Prayer is not so much the articulation of words as the posture of heart.”

Praying in the Spirit

When we are filled up with the love of God, when we are rooted and grounded in his love and when we believe that we are indeed the apple of his eye (Zechariah 2:8), the power of the Holy Spirit is unleashed in us.  In fact, in the book of Ephesians, just a few chapters before Paul talks about putting on the full armor of God, he prays these words over the Ephesians.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)

Paul prayed these words because he understood that when we grasp how much God loves us, our eyes are opened to the power that dwells within us as believers in Christ, thus enabling us to pray in the Holy Spirit.  It was important for the Ephesians to know this because it is through the power of the Holy Spirit in prayer that we unlock the power of all the other pieces of our spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10-17).

In her bible study, The Armor of God, Priscilla Shirer says this about it, “Prayer is the mechanism that brings down the power of heaven into your experience.  It is the divinely authorized method that activates your spiritual armor and makes it effective.” Therefore, it is prayer that is our most effective weapon on the spiritual battlefield, so we must never believe the lie that our prayers are not good enough or that they won’t make a difference.  They make a huge difference!

We all go through times in our lives when we struggle to have faith and to believe in God’s love for us, but it’s in those times that, just as Paul prayed for the Ephesians, we too, can ask God to open our eyes to the power of the Holy Spirit within us and give us the strength to grasp the depth of his love for us.

If prayer is an area in which you’d like to grow stronger in your spiritual walk, I encourage you to begin each day praying Ephesians 3:16-19 over yourself and your loved ones, and watch God move in mighty ways!  The more we practice the discipline of prayer and the more we fill ourselves with God’s Word, the more comfortable praying becomes.  Yes, even when it’s our turn in the prayer circle!

Here’s an example of the verses from Ephesians turned into a personal prayer:

Dear God, I pray that out of your glorious riches you may strengthen me with power through your Spirit in my inner being, so that Christ may dwell in my heart through faith.  And I pray that I may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that I may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19) In Jesus’ name, Amen.

May you go forth and be blessed and always remember that “greater is HE who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

About Leigha

About LeighaLeigha Balchus is a wife of 18 years and mom to two amazing kids.  She is head-over-heels for Jesus and, for the past decade, has followed Him on a great adventure filled with many joys and much sorrow.  It is through this journey, when so many times God was all she had to cling to, that she has become so passionate about prayer and the power of His Word.

Leigha is a teacher turned stay-at-home mom who recently decided to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an entrepreneur as a Distributor for SeneGence International.

In her spare time, she loves to cook, read and, most recently, play with make-up because, in the words of C. S. Lewis, “You’re never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.”

Final thoughts…

What is God confirming or clearing up for you in regards to prayer? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. This Wednesday (over on my Facebook page), I want to talk about how understanding the Spirit’s role in our lives can recharge our prayer lives as we contend of the faith.

Grab your free download of Jude1:20-21 here.

If you missed any of the videos from this series, you can tune in here:

[New Series] Intro: FAITH

Part I: IDENTITY

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Jesus Friends

I cannot wait to introduce you to Jackie Hooks, the girl with a Texas-sized heart for God. She makes me laugh but she also invites me to think deeply about what it really means to follow Jesus. Most of all, she inspires me to trust Him for big, bold things. Today, Jackie is talking about what happens when some ordinary women decide to follow Jesus together.

(If you’ve missed the other posts in this series, get caught up by starting here.)

Contenders of the Faith Part 1

Jesus Friends by Jackie Hooks

“The twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others.  These women were helping to support them out of their own means.” Luke 8:1-3

We are “Some Women”…
Following Jesus Together.

I walked into the Women’s Bible Study at the age of 30.  I had smoked almost an entire pack of cigarettes on the way…it was such a long drive and I got lost like 8 times.  I was angry and annoyed and cussing up a storm as I drove my Honda civic to some girl’s house.  The Sunday School teacher had “encouraged” me to go.  She said the girls were nice.  She said it was a great way to “plug in”.  And I was just lonely enough to give it a shot. Just desperate enough to make the drive with printed out directions (no iPhone y’all).  Just daring enough to give it one shot.  And forever I will have an enormous place in my heart for girls who drive alone to Bible Studies in women’s homes they have never met before.  It is overwhelming to say the very very least.

And I walked into a room with a circle of women in it.  They all knew each other.  They were all so cute. They were all girls from our Sunday School class (the Nearly/Newly Married Class…Except we weren’t nearly or newly anything…my husband and I were two super sinners climbing out of a ditch).  And I may have instantly hated them all.  And I may have wanted to set myself on fire.  And I may have tried to smile a time or two through gritted teeth.  And I couldn’t hear what anyone was saying over the pounding of my heart and the panic attack I was certain I was having.

And Jesus Just Showed Up.
Like He Does.
When Folks Get Together for Him.

And they listened when I told them I didn’t really want to be there.  And they listened when I had a million and four questions.  And they listened as I fell apart again and again in their living rooms over the next several years.  Y’all.  These girls became my Jesus Friends.  I looked up from my messy life, and to the right and left of me were some girls following Jesus.  And so, we became friends.  Because Jesus placed us right next to each other. We became Jesus Friends.

Jesus Friends are the friendships only Jesus could place in your life.  They are the friendships only Jesus could orchestrate.  They may have no rhyme and no reason at all.  But they are pictures of what Jesus can accomplish when we trust Him with our friendships.

And that y’all, is really the beginning and end of it for me. It was the beginning of Jesus creating my community. It was the end of me searching high and low for the perfect “bestie”.  It was unbelievably freeing knowing Jesus is BIG enough to pick the right gals at the right time to walk right next to you. Because He loves us y’all. He really really does.

Jesus Friends

So, this verse…this obscure little Luke 8:1-3…It is everything to me.  It is some women who were not necessarily best friends…not necessarily anything like each other…not necessarily having one dang thing in common…except the following Jesus part.  And really, y’all, it’s all we need.  When we look to the right and left of us and see another Christ Follower or two or ten getting dusty in the footsteps of Jesus…these are our Jesus Friends.  We love them because they are all following Jesus next to us.  And that is the BIG part.  That is the part that makes us Jesus Friends.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  The love of Jesus lived out in our lives.  No matching t-shirts necessary.  Just Jesus. It’s that simple. You love them because Jesus placed them in your life, and hold on tight y’all, you let them love you too.

And really, this is my prayer for all of us…I pray we are willing to stop hoping for matching personalities or perfect age/kid/spouse/pet dynamics.  Maybe we could quit looking for the person who completely gets us, and we start noticing the gal who completely gets Him.  And y’all, this is when life gets good.  When the folks Jesus placed next to us become the folks we make a place for…We meet our handpicked travelling buddies.  And the road sure gets a lot less lonely.  I promise.  He does too.

About Jackie

I am an everyday ordinary gal who started following Jesus just a little over a decade ago, and has fallen madly in love with the Carpenter King who saved my life and my marriage.  Corey and I are raising four holy moly messes (Jake 13, Jude 12, Grace 10 and Joshua 4).  I am technically a stay at home mom, but rarely do I find myself at home, and the soap opera and bon bon life hasn’t found its way into my living room just yet.  I do occasionally allow for a small celebration when all the laundry is clean AND folded at the SAME TIME on the SAME  DAY…and that is typically twice a decade.

And I write. And I speak.  Words have been the tool Jesus gave me from the very beginning of my life to navigate every road I have walked.  My hope is that my words inspire and encourage you to see Jesus in your everyday too.  He is right here waiting for each of us, in the daily mess, hoping we see He wants so much more from us and for us than we could ever imagine.  I pray my words will lead you to Him.

Connect with Jackie on Facebook, Instagram or subscribe to her blog at jackiehooks.com.

About Jackie

Final thoughts…

Who has God handpicked for your journey? Which ordinary women has He placed in your path for this season?  May Jackie’s words encourage us all to link arms with those sisters and love them well as we walk the narrow road together. And may the visible community we share draw our hearts to the unshakable, unseen kingdom of God, the kingdom in our midst.

Grab your free download of Jude1:20-21 here.

Follow me on Facebook and tune in for live videos every Wednesday at noon.  Let’s meet midday/midweek to talk more about how we can contend for the faith. If you missed any of the videos from this series, you can tune in here:

[New Series] Intro: FAITH

Part I: IDENTITY

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A Faith That Grows

A contender gains strength when he or she understands the power of the weapon in his or her hand. My next guest in the Contenders of the Faith series possesses a bold and vibrant faith because she clings to the Word of God as her source of strength.  Join me as Misty Keith shares what it means to build ourselves up in our most holy faith.

You can read from the beginning of the series, right here.

Contenders of the Faith Part 1

A Faith That Grows by Misty Keith

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Jude 1:20-21(ESV)

Every living and healthy thing is expected to grow and at some point, reach maturity. If it becomes stagnant, it’s either dead, dull or slack. Healthy living things need nutrients to grow and develop. Without a constant supply of nutrients, there is no sustainability. A person’s faith is known to be synonymous with their spiritual health and maturity. In Jude 1:20-21, we see in that he is addressing Christ followers to essentially have a faith that grows and matures, so that when Jesus Christ returns for His Church, the believer will be ready to spend eternity with Him in heaven.

When we think of the word maturity, we think of something that is growing or becoming fully developed. For example, the sunflower is a healthy, vibrant and beautiful flower. It is recognized worldwide for its color, nutrients, sustainability, strength and most of all, it is valued for its growth. We see that some types of sunflowers grow thick in size and can reach between eight and twelve feet tall. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but sunflowers are known to be a symbol of faith. They are one of the fastest growing plants and rumor has it that sunflowers like to face and follow the sun throughout the day as it rises and sets. They are named “sunflower” because they are a flower that resembles the sun in appearance. You can especially see the resemblance in the larger, healthier plants.

Our personal faith in Jesus is a lot like the sunflower.

A Faith That Grows

In order to be healthy, vibrant, and beautiful, we need our faith to mature and grow. As we face Jesus (the Son) each new day and let His Word build us up, our faith becomes most holy (sacred and consecrated), growing and maturing into a strong belief which is ultimately geared and used to sustain us until Jesus returns for His church.

How does one build up their faith? There are three steps we can take as believers to grow our faith.

Step One: Read the Word.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17 (NKJV)

If I never picked up the Bible and read God’s Word for myself, I would be clueless about my faith and the need to have my own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Reading or hearing God’s Word is like planting flowers. If you want to grow a bushel of sunflowers, you must first plant the sunflower seeds. God’s Word is the “seed” that grows our faith. Personally knowing Jesus, His promises, what He and the Father says about you, about your life, and Their plan for your eternal life won’t be known to you if you don’t take the time to read what they have already said. Get comfortable with the Bible, it will give you the basis for growing and increasing your faith.

***Christians are tempted to read what everyone else says about the Bible rather than going directly to the Bible itself. Which then brings up the argument for primary verses secondary sources. If you had an opportunity to meet the person who created something or the one who copied the original and duplicated it, who would you rather meet? Chances are, you would rather meet the author or original creator over the one who was the impersonator. This argument applies to reading God’s Word. Read what He says, over what others say about what He already said.***

Step Two: Attend the Word.

But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves for if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was… James 1:22-24 (NKJV)

Not only do we have to read God’s Word but we have to attend to His Word by doing what it says. Going back to the example of our sunflower, there is no possible way that the flower is going to grow if it does not receive personal attention and care. It has to receive water regularly and be rooted in nutrient rich soil in order grow. As the gardener plants, waters and attends to the sunflower, it matures and grows into a healthy bushel. It doesn’t forget to grow or all of a sudden stop maturing if it is being properly attended to. If we fail to heed what the Bible says and ignore what God is telling us, then our faith grows stagnant, dead, dull or slack. It took faith in Jesus Christ to become a child of God in the first place. Therefore, in order to grow and increase in faith, we need to use and attend to the “measure” of faith God gives to everyone in order to build it up.

Step Three: Test the Word.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

As we read and follow the Word, we are called to be critical and see the Bible through the lens of exegesis. Exegesis is the discipline of having textual criticism. We are not being “critical or judgmental” of God and what His Word says, but we are thinking in terms of dissecting, examining, picking apart, analyzing, interpreting and explaining the merits and faults of the scriptures. This critical approach is needed in order to comprehend and define the meaning of what the scriptures say. You see, taking an exegesis approach to the Word helps build our faith. It truly does mature us. We become complete and ready to do exactly what the LORD has called us to do.

Going back to our example of the sunflower, how does the gardener know that he has a beautiful bushel of flowers before him? He sees a fully grown, bright and vibrant stalk of sunflowers and he knows full well that they have been planted, watered, and have reached maturity. They are ready to shine in all their glory. The same goes for our faith. How does our faith become a built up and holy faith? By reading the Bible, doing what it says and allowing it to mature us so that we are equipped and ready for the return of our Savior. In the meantime, we who have faith get to shine like the sunflower at noonday. The sunflower is glorious! Those who see it, know full well that it is beautiful. It is a testament to the Creator and Sustainer of all life. The sunflower makes the gardener proud of the story behind growing it, especially when it reaches maturity.

About Misty

Misty KeithHello, my name is Misty. I am a daughter of the King of all Kings, wife to Richard, mom to Reagan (13 years), Kylee (10 years), and Karis Delaney (8 years).  I am a teacher by trade, an encourager and up-lifter by calling and a writer by practice. I enjoy being a friend to those who will have me. I currently live out in the country in Salado, Texas. My husband and I have the privilege of homeschooling all three of our children. I also teach Reading for a private college in the Master’s/Credentialing program. I like to stay busy and enjoy the hobbies of Reading, Writing, Scrap-booking and Running. As a family, we attend First Baptist Church in Georgetown, Texas. We enjoy traveling and taking “family fieldtrips” often. All of life is an adventure and we are thankful for every life lesson that the Lord teaches us in the process.

I would love for you to join me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, goodreads and my personal blog.

Final thoughts…

Read the Word, attend the Word, and test the Word. A great place to start applying these steps on your own or with a group is Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. Be sure and enter my giveaway for a chance to win a copy. To enter, subscribe to carried by love and leave a comment on any of the posts written by my guest bloggers. I’ll announce the winner at the end of the series. [GIVEAWAY CLOSED]

Join me on Facebook for live videos every Wednesday at noon.  Let’s meet midday/midweek to talk more about how we can contend for the faith. Don’t forget to download your free print of Jude1:20-21 here.

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Lost & Found: A Story of Identity

We are kicking off this Contenders of the Faith series by talking about our identity in Christ. God’s love is the source of our identity, which is why God calls His children by the name Beloved. My first guest, Bethany, is sharing with us her journey to discover this amazing truth.

If you missed the very first post in this series, you can catch up right here.

Contenders of the Faith (new series)

Lost & Found: A Story of Identity by Bethany Dufilho

I was one of those kids who never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I liked singing so I was always in a choir at church or school. It was something I never really worked at but I experienced some success and enjoyed the sense of identity and belonging it gave me. I was a big-ish fish in a few small-ish ponds.  As I got older, the ponds got bigger.  I played into a comparison game full of my own perfectionism and pride and eventually, my tender ego was deflated.  Add to that a neurological issue diagnosed in my 30s causing tremors in my voice and I gave up singing for a while. It was a painful stripping of an identity I hadn’t realized I had clung to so fiercely.

After I was married, still not really knowing what I wanted to do, I enrolled in graduate school. Holding some identity also in “being smart,” I had always known higher education would be in my future. I was training to become a school psychologist. I also very much wanted to become a mother. I knew these two could coexist, but seeing things as very “all or nothing,” I struggled with the pieces of understanding how I could be good; rather, perfect at both. My identity felt at odds with itself.

When I had our first child, my outward achieving stopped for a while. I developed the slower pace of stay at home motherhood. Here I threw my perfectionist tendencies into overdrive, pouring my anxieties onto my tiny babe.  Was I doing this the “right” way?  If not, oh God, I’m screwing him up!  The struggle to identify myself as what I thought a mother should be was frightening and real.

After emerging from the fog of new parenthood, I then developed a hobby for pure enjoyment: painting and rearranging my house.  Friends and family took notice and I prized the recognition of a new identity forming: decorator. I ran with it, eventually creating a small business.  Was this now my identity? I decided to go all in: taking classes, ordering business cards, even making a website. I took comfort, dare I say, pride, in finding my thing.

After a while, I took on too much.  The work, impinging on my introverted self, also became a burden on my desire to still be a stay at home mother to my now three children. I felt resentful when I couldn’t be my version of perfect for both my family and my clients. The stress was hard on both my home and marriage. I was disappointed in myself but also relieved in admitting my need to pull back.

So here I am now. I still decorate, though in a smaller way than I once imagined. I’m still a wife and mother of course.  I’m even singing again- every Sunday morning along with my husband, for a group of eager and antsy first and second graders.  I have no labels or job descriptions to succinctly tell you who I am or what I can do.  Looking back though I can now see the thread running through every turn in my life.  It’s always been the same, because it has always been me.  I still bear the same sin struggles, the same personality, the same weaknesses and strengths.  I am the same soul.  Whether I have been singing, mothering, in school, decorating, it has always been me.  And at times I found myself wondering… is it enough?  Am I enough?

I’ve been studying the enneagram lately.  I’m not sure if you’re familiar with it, but it’s really just a tool, similar to anything else that can help you know yourself better, like seeing a therapist or reading a book on personal growth.  It teaches the importance of knowing yourself fully– the good, the bad, and the ugly.  It’s an uncomfortable act of faith- to bring into light the sins you bear, but also (at times equally uncomfortable) to develop compassion and grace for yourself, seeing and loving yourself as God does.

So how would my life change if I could fully and daily embrace that truth- that God loves me entirely, imperfect as I am?  So much so that Christ died for me while I was (am) still a sinner (Romans 5:8)? How much more would I be able to love others when, freed from the trap of perfectionism, I could set aside my own needs for approval and acknowledgement?  I could lay down comparisons, defensiveness, and pride.  How healing this is- this embracing of the gospel message in my own identity: as a beloved child of God.

This very struggle is what I think it means to contend for my faith; to work out my salvation with both fear and trembling (Phillippians 2:12).  Sometimes I want contending to look more like a sword fight- a big battle fought and won, once and for all.  But I think it is more quiet and small, done in hidden and daily stillness before the Lord.  Seeking His wisdom; His love.

I cannot do this on my own, because truthfully many days I find myself unable, un-remembering to even cry out from the very outset of the morning. I start to again believe the lie that it would be easier to have a job title or task to hide behind:  “I’ll serve you in this way, Lord!”

And this is why I need Him. Oh, I need Him.  Every hour I need Him.  He has entrusted to us the gospel, this good news of love and redemption through Christ.  This message is not only to be received once and then shared, but also to be remembered over and over in our own lives- we are loved. May we seek Him and may we cry out to Him, for our healing and for His glory.

Lost & Found: A Story of Identity

About Bethany

Bethany Dufilho has been married to Paul for 13 years and they have three children ages 9, 7, and 4. They live in Katy, TX where she is a stay at home mom and part time interior decorator. She is a lover of beauty and a seeker of Truth and occasionally blogs over at thehouseoffigs.com. There you can read about her adventures in decorating and hear the heart behind her beauty with a purpose philosophy.

About Bethany

Final thoughts…

We’ve been given gospel identities, rooted deeply in perfect Love. May Bethany’s story remind us all that Love is greater than our doubts, fears, and insecurities. I love how she describes contending as a quiet, hidden wrestling of soul. As God transforms us into the image of His Son, may we remember that our faith is a precious gift to nurture, protect, and defend.

Grab your free download of Jude1:20-21 right here.

Follow me on Facebook and tune in for live videos every Wednesday at noon (Central Time).  Let’s meet midday/midweek to talk more about how we can contend for the faith. You can watch this week’s video here.

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Contenders of the Faith [New Series]

I don’t consider myself a fighter. I prefer a slow pace and quiet surroundings, but every time my bible fell open to Jude’s letter this summer, my pulse quickened and God’s word echoed strong in my ears.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. Jude 1:3

Contend for the faith.

Jude’s letter is short, yet weighty. It’s a battle cry, a call to arms, a plea to all believers to contend for the faith.

A contender is well acquainted with difficulties and danger yet shows up ready to fight day after day after day. Contend is an intensified form of the word agonize. Jude summons us to battle and grapple, to resist and stand firm, to struggle and affirm. His word choice reminds us that our struggle is ongoing.

Jude points out all that draws us away from the love of Christ. He labels these people, ideas, and idols, false. The opposite of truth, they are unable to hold us, carry us, or sustain us. We may expect Jude to tell us how to deal with them. We might brace ourselves for his solution or take notes on how to shoot holes in every argument. Maybe we should listen for loud voices to make a big scene. Instead, Jude surprises us with this:

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Jude 1:20-21

Remember the God of love. Find Him in the hidden moments of a creation groaning in wait.

I’ve invited some amazing contenders of the faith to unpack these two verses for us this month. In Part I, we’ll discuss building up our faith; in Part II, we’ll explore Spirit-led prayer; and in Part III, we’ll consider our role in waiting for Christ. As you join me for this series, I hope you notice the common chord audible throughout this harmony of voices.

Keep yourselves in the love of God.

More than ever before, we need to anchor ourselves in the love of God, the very center and heartbeat of our Christian faith. My prayer for this series is that we would discover together how to earnestly contend for the faith and keep love our aim. Love is our what and our why. Above all, Love is our who.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

A few more things about this series…

Weekly video chats: Follow me on Facebook and tune in for weekly videos every Wednesday for the month of October.  Let’s meet midday/midweek to talk more about how we can contend for the faith.

Free download: I’m so thankful that you continue to show up here again and again, so I have a little something for you. Click the image to download this print of the verses from Jude that will guide this series. Place it somewhere special, so you can be reminded of our sacred call to contend for the faith.

Jude 1:20-21 free download

Click to download print {Jude 1:20-21}

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