Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development Uncategorized

Living a Life of Grace and Freedom in Christ

Author: Charles Hegwood

When I was a student, I thought of the word ‘freedom’ as that one moment on the last day of school as I walked out the door. The promise of summer and all of the fun that it would bring could be felt riding on the breeze. I could wake up late with no real schedule. The chains of study and homework were at least temporarily loosened and I was free. Well, mostly free. Temporarily free. Thanks to God that freedom in Christ is much more permanent and much more valuable than a brief reprieve from schoolwork. Paul talked about freedom from sin and death. He talked about freedom in Christ. Hear the words of Paul as he pleads with his readers to stand firm in the freedom Christ gives and avoid placing the law’s yoke back around our necks.  

What is Freedom  

There is beauty in the freedom we have in Christ, but what does it mean to be set free? Freedom in Christ is not freedom to sin. We are not to think of being free as an excuse to sin and do whatever we want, all the while waving around the credit card of grace. Far from it. Paul’s definition of freedom is wrapped up in the context of Galatians chapter 5.  

The issue in the Galatian church was that they wanted to place the yoke of the law back on their shoulders. They wanted to be circumcised because they thought that circumcision would grant them favor in the eyes of the law and the eyes of God. Verse 2 helps the reader to understand the mindset of those seeking circumcision. Paul stated that “Jesus would be of no advantage.” This should alert us that these men were trying to obtain or add to their salvation in another way apart from Christ. The cultural law was familiar and therefore comfortable. Paul, however, relates their previous state to that slavery. Freedom was new and scary for these men. They were quick to retreat to what they knew. They wanted circumcision as a “faith and…” This desire displayed a lack of faith in Jesus according to Paul.  

For us today, it is not a question of circumcision. It is about us chaining ourselves to other practices with the hope of obtaining salvation or holiness apart from Jesus. The add-ons are often the former things we left behind before submitting our lives to Christ. Those things are comfortable and easy. These add-ons could also be extra behaviors too. We may feel insecure about our faith in Jesus and therefore try to add qualifications on top of Jesus’ sacrifice. This is an attempt to further be justified, which is our way of telling God, “you are not enough to save me, let me help.” This is textbook legalism, obsession over obedience apart from faith in Jesus.  

What Freedom Looks Like 

The freedom in Christ that Paul speaks of, frees us from sin and from trying to earn God’s favor. Paul said in many other places that we are not to crawl back to our sinful lifestyles. Some in the church at Galatia thought the blood of Christ was not sufficient for them and therefore they must do more to earn their own righteousness.They then crawled back to their old beliefs and practices. Paul called for freedom from the chains of earning God’s merit because the reality is you cannot. Freedom in Christ is the knowledge that because of Jesus, God is pleased with us. God sees the righteousness of Christ when he looks at us. This is great freedom. Freedom is the grace of God poured out on us. Do not throw extra steps into salvation. In verse seven, Paul called this action disobedience to Christ.  

Where Freedom Is  

Freedom in Christ is found in our daily lives. As I mentioned earlier, freedom from doing things to earn salvation does not equal doing nothing. A believer who is enjoying true freedom in Christ still lives an obedient life to Christ. This believer does not go through life uncaring about what they do, say, or think. Freedom manifests itself in your interactions with people and when no one is looking. Paul was saying that freedom in Christ was the freedom to obey Christ. This means we do good things to please Christ. Doing good things to please God is far different than doing good works to earn God’s favor. Do you see why this is freedom? We never have to wonder if we have done enough good to be righteous. So do not do what the believers in Galatia were doing. They were trying to add extra works to earn God’s salvation in their lives and in the lives of others. Be free to obey Christ because you love Him, and not to earn His love for you.  

3 Important Questions to Ask of Freedom and Grace 

As we wrap up this discussion of freedom in Christ, we must ask ourselves how we apply this text in particular and the freedom of Christ in general to our lives.  

  1. What freedom in Christ truly looks like? 

We have to be aware of the patterns in our lives that we tend to fall back to. If you are like me, a result-oriented person, your temptation might be to add results as a measure of salvation. This is folly and sinful according to Paul.  

  1. Where is freedom in Christ in our lives? 

We need to see this freedom in the good things that we do. It is refreshing to think that as believers, God already loves us . Doing good works is but the icing on the cake of our relationship with God.  

  1. Have I added works and actions to earn faith or call others’ to do so? 

Do good works as an outpouring of your love for God. Help your brothers and sisters embrace their freedom in Christ, breaking free of the shackles of legalism. It is after all, for freedom that Jesus set you free, so be free to live for Christ.  

Spiritual Development

Living for the End: How We are called to a Life of Holiness

Author: Charles Hegwood

Have you ever wondered how you should live in light of the end times? I mean if the world will end in fire and creation will melt away, what do we do with our time now? Live it up? Be oblivious? Or live like there is no tomorrow? I remember sitting in a Systematic Theology class and hearing the professor say, “the end of all things is near, and I know many of you are hoping it comes before this test and paper are due. But Peter said you should be found preparing for both when Jesus returns.” Every student was hoping the Day of the Lord would come before the day of the test. But the professor’s words ring true. In light of the end, be found doing what God called you to do. Be found living a God-honoring life. In 2 Peter 3:13-18, Peter told us how to live as we face the end of all things. Peter commands all believers to live holy lives as we eagerly await Jesus’ return.  

 A Firm Promise to the End 

2 Peter 3 is all about the end times. It is after all the end of the letter and Peter is giving us his parting words. His words are also encouraging believers as they wait for the end to come. We must ask ourselves if we believe that the end will come just as Peter said it would, what then should we do with our time and our lives now? Peter would answer that with a firm promise that the destruction of the old creation is much less about destruction and more about a renewal. The promise Peter gives us is that the old creation will be destroyed and there will be a new heaven and a new Earth. Peter encourages his reader to hope in the promise of that new heaven and new Earth. Yes, the old will be destroyed, but the promise is that God will make all things new. That is good news in tough times. We can hope in the promise that God will make a new place for His people to dwell with Him. As we consider the end times and the scary imagery used in 2 Peter 3, let this promise of a new creation bring you hope and peace.  

In the Meantime  

You may be wondering, but how does this settle the question of what we are to do in the meantime? Do we just sit idle until this happens? The answer to that is in verse 14. “Therefore,” marks a purpose for what had just been said. It was verse 14 that my professor had in mind as he encouraged us to continue writing and studying. “As you wait, be found without spot or blemish.” As we wait for the promise of the new heaven and the new Earth and as we wait for the current creation to fail, be found living holy lives and doing the things of God. The world ending is not an excuse to do whatever we want. Instead, it is every reason to “be diligent” and put effort towards being active living in holiness.  

Peter is pushing us to be found doing godly things by Jesus when He returns. It is like preparing for the arrival of a baby. What do you do? You get things ready to bring the baby home. If you are awaiting a meeting with an honored guest, you are getting the house in order. The promise of Jesus’ return that Peter talked about should also inspire us to prepare ourselves for His return as we would a baby or an honored guest.  

If Jesus tarries, then we take that as an opportunity to share the gospel with more people. Take the patience of Jesus in returning as a time to get your life and the lives of those around you in order. God’s patience should inspire us to go to the nations and proclaim the good news to those who have no hope. Share Christ in the meantime. So let us answer the question, what do we do in the meantime? We share the gospel and live lives that are pleasing to the Lord.  

Practical living for the End  

As Peter concludes his letter, he reminds his reader that Paul has also written about these things. Peter encourages the reader, and us, to know Paul’s teaching. This is practical advice. As we seek to live holy lives in light of the End Times, we need to grow in our knowledge of God. Put simply, read and know your Bibles. You will grow in the “grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Peter warns us however, that Scripture can be difficult to understand and that some people use it wrongly for bad purposes. So Peter commands that we, therefore, take care and be diligent in knowing what Scripture rightly says. Read your Bibles and read them well. Stay away from Bible teachers whose lives are marked by lawlessness for they will only lead you away. Find Bible teachers whose lives are marked by Jesus and learn to read Scripture from them. So as we wait for Jesus let us live holy lives, share Christ, and read God’s Word well.   


Hear the words of Peter as we think about Jesus’ return. One, these promises are sure. We can trust our God. Two, we are to be diligent in living holy lives marked by repentance and grace. Three, share Christ as we wait for His return. And four, we are to read and know God’s Word so that we can grow in our understanding and knowledge of Him. In doing these things we may be found by Jesus without spot or blemish seeking Him in everything we do. Go and do likewise.  


Digging Deeper into the Word Prayer Spiritual Development

Peace in Chaos

Author: Rachel Kidd

Joy is peace dancing. Chaos is peace undefined. 

-F.B. Myer  

Baptist minister and prophetic evangelist Frederick Brotherton Meyer is best known for his part in the revival. Fittingly, his words on peace describe not a still peace, but rather one that moves, a living, active sort of peace.  

Revival happens when God’s presence brings hope and new life to His people, a renewal of faith, energy, and worship. Revivals tend to be on a large scale, inciting broad social change and inspiring zealous action.  

In short, revivals are not typically associated with peace. Many would describe revivals as chaotic, even sometimes energetic, and impassioned. Yet, they are also places of profound joy and peace, springing with God’s presence.  

I understand Myer’s description of peace as a spectrum, where joy becomes abounding peace personified and defined by the act of dancing. On the other hand, peace can also be utter chaos in its undefined and unregulated state.  

Without a clear definition and boundaries, peace can easily descend into chaos. God has the unique power to create, define, and transcend peace. Without the scripture, peace lacks the anchor it needs to exist. God and His word are the grounding force that defines peace, breathing it into our lives.  

 Peace, Defined 

You turned my wailing into dancing, you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. –Psalm 30:11 

Here in Psalms, God is described as a giver of joy, the source of a joy so profound, it overwhelms deep sadness and grief. A sackcloth was a piece of clothing made from rough, unfinished fabric worn by the Israelites in times of mourning.1  

By replacing the fabric associated with grief and death with fibers made from pure joy, we see God working to define peace as joy. This joy is manifested through dance, transforming into praise from tears.  

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,  a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. –Ecclesiastes 3:1-:4  

A scriptural support for the idea that peace exists on a continuum, this verse describes seasons of life. There is a time for everything, like the seasons change from summer to fall, from winter to spring, so we have times of sadness and times of joy. 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. –Romans 15:13  

Romans encourages us with the hope of believing, praying joy and peace over those who believe in Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit. It’s a beautiful reminder of the power of faith and the peace that follows.  

For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. –Isaiah 55:12 

A prophecy of peace, this verse proclaims joy in the name of the Lord that is expressed through singing and clapping.  

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  

—John 14:27  

Jesus reminds us that He leaves us in peace, that He is the source of peace. He calls us to live not in fear and worry, but in peace that is not of this world.  

Peace Framework 

The concept of the peace framework helps us break down what it means to curate a peaceful life and truly understand the steps needed to take towards peace. There are three sides to the peace framework triangle; place, provision, and physical health.  

Each month in this series, we will dive deeper into each piece of the framework and get a better understanding of how we can apply these concepts as we create a peaceful life.  

 Much like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the Peace Framework provides a structure that helps us understand the components of a broader concept. It breaks down something that can be difficult to grasp into pieces that are much easier to understand. 

  1. Place:  
    • Your environment, whether physical, mental, or social. 
    • Your place can impact your peace for the positive or negative. 
  2. Provision: 
    • Your belongings and monetary provisions that sustain you.  
    • Whether you have enough or not enough, the worry of providing for yourself and your family impacts your peace. 
  1. Physical Health 
    • Your well-being, safety, and mental stability.  
    • In times of sickness, whether physical or mental, people often experience a lack of peace.  

Each piece of the peace framework is applicable to everyone, regardless of where you live or your socioeconomic status. Helpful frameworks are broadly applicable and are easily adaptable to nearly anyone’s experience.  

 This series will delve deeper into each aspect of the peace framework and how we can apply the concepts to our lives, along with biblical knowledge, for a more peaceful and joy-filled life.  

Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development

That Sinking Feeling

Author: Rachel Kidd

Jesus Walks on Water 

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.  

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said.   

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  

Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” –Matthew 14:25-29  

Many of us heard this bible story retold to us in Sunday School as kids, intended to encourage our budding faith in Christ. I don’t think it occurred to me then how miraculous, how frightening it would be to truly see someone walk on water in front of me.  

Sinking Feeling 

When I was 16, I had the privilege of traveling to Israel on a school trip. That incredible experience connected me in a very tangible way to the Bible that I grew up reading, making it come alive.  

My group took a bus to the Dead Sea, a greatly anticipated final stop on our educational tour. In our swimsuits and sandals, our tour guide made sure we understood that the salt concentration in the water would be unlike anything we’ve experienced before and would make our bodies buoyant. 

As prepared as I thought I was, I cannot quite describe to you the shock I felt when I slipped into the oily, crystalized water. Like a ball of dough being dropped in hot oil, you don’t sink. Instead, the thick water immediately pushes you back up and cradles you on the surface.  

 I had never felt anything like it, floating on the Dead Sea. It defies logic, upends everything you thought you knew, the principles of the universe you previously believed were concrete and unchanging.  

I can imagine that even though the disciples knew that Jesus performed miracles, seeing Him walk across the water would have been incredibly shocking. Defying the laws of gravity in front of their very eyes, upending everything they thought was true.  

 I probably would have screamed too, out of fear and disbelief. I can’t even imagine Jesus then asking me to walk out to Him, asking me to suspend my understanding of the world. I certainly would have been afraid, even knowing Jesus was right in front of me.  

Peter the Rock  

I think we are often judgmental of Peter, who’s failings are frequent throughout the Gospels. It can be easy to do, but we also should be mindful to remember Peter’s strengths and successes too.  

Peter was the only man in the boat on the Sea of Galilee to step off and into the storm. And yet, we only remember the fact that he sank because he took his eyes off of Jesus.  

Peter demonstrates incredible discernment, only walking on the water once he is sure that it is in fact Jesus, and that He has called him to do so.  

When Peter does stumble, he calls out to Jesus for help; “Lord save me!” and Jesus does. He models responding to Jesus’ call and asking for help when we need it.  

Peter is often the face of doubt, impulsivity, and misjudgement. But, he is also a great church leader, the one who Jesus called the rock. He becomes who Jesus called him, the Rock.  

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Purpose 

Like Peter and His other disciples, Jesus called ordinary people to His ministry. He used people who may have otherwise been discounted and ignored for His purposes, which often ran in opposition to the religious leaders of the time.  

In Mark 7, Jesus is sitting down to a meal with the Pharises.1 Instead of cleansing themselves in the proper way as per tradition, Jesus and His disciples simply sit down to eat.   

The Pharisees are appalled and rebuke Jesus, asking why He allows His followers to eat with unclean hands. Jesus takes this opportunity to teach, replying:  

“Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” 

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions. –Mark 7:6-8 

Jesus explains that it is the soul, the inner part of man, that makes us reflections of God the Creator. It is not our outer bodies, our external appearances, our cleanliness that makes us righteous in the eyes of God.  

He then declares all food clean, again defying the Jewish tradition of eating Kosher.2  

“Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) –Mark 7:18-19 

Jesus says that nothing from the outside can defile a person, rather it is the inside that defiles them. It is not dirty hands, unclean foods, or unfit friends that we should be worried about. He instead places the blame on the internal and the spiritually dark.  

“…sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” –Mark 7: 21-23 

Jesus consistently and persistently flipped the rules and traditions of His time on their heads. He upturned natural laws like gravity even, calling Peter to walk on water and raising people from the dead.  

He calls ordinary people, people that will likely be scared by these abrupt changes to their world, to have faith. He calls even people like Peter, sinking Peter, to be the rock of the church and fulfill extraordinary purposes.  

Prayer Spiritual Development

What is True Peace?

Author: Rachel Kidd 

In a tumultuous world riddled with anxiety and pressures ranging from irritating to life-threatening, we are constantly battling attacks to our peace. We are also bombarded with potential solutions for our anxieties, from spa days and self-care to therapy and medication.  

While these things are certainly beneficial and often life-saving and necessary, it is impossible to substitute any of these solutions for a relationship with God.  As believers, we know Jesus as the peace that passes understanding. He is the source of true peace.   

Finding Peace in Hard Times  

There is no doubt that life is hard, for everyone. We all experience the pain, heartbreak, and stressors of being human. While our experiences differ greatly based on our age, socio-economic status, and location, part of being human is going through hardships.  

 Particularly as Christians, God tells us that difficult times are to come, that we will face persecution and difficulties because of our faith. These trials, while seemingly impossible in the present, are used by the Lord to fortify us and bolster our character and faith. He provides us with strength and peace, enabling us to get through even the most difficult of circumstances. Leaning on Christ through earnest prayer and petition, casting our worries on Him, brings peace in dark times. When I feel discouraged, lonely, hurt, or scared, I open my Bible to find comfort. Praying and pouring over the Word promotes peace and a feeling of security, helping you grow closer to God.  

Peace in the Scriptures 

If you are feeling anxious, scared, discouraged, or alone, these verses may be what you need in those moments. Read these verses for a breath of God’s peace in your overwhelming day.   

Philippians 4:11-13 

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. 

Paul is an excellent biblical example of finding the peace of the Lord in even the most dire of circumstances. He was beaten, imprisoned, and alone- yet he remained joyful and thankful to God. Paul reminds us that he understands our pain and that anything is possible with God.  

Matthew 5:9 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 

When you work to bring peace in your relationships and to others, God is sure to bless you. Blessings are not always tangible on earth in the form of money or possessions, but Christians can find comfort in the knowledge of heavenly rewards.  

Psalm 29:11 

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. 

When you are a believer and walk in faith, God calls you His and blesses you with strength and peace.  

Isaiah 26:3 

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.  

In the Old Testament, in Isaiah, we are told that there are two conditions that must be met before God can bless us with peace. First, we must keep our minds steadfast, or resolute in our faith, and we must fully and completely trust in Him.   

Philippians 4:6-8 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  

Paul tells us that our thoughts are connected to our peace. When we ruminate on pain or darkness, we feel unsettled and discouraged. But, when we think of good and lovely things, even when those things are hard to find, we feel uplifted and encouraged. While it can be difficult to take control of our thoughts, doing so can make a dramatic difference in our emotional state.  

2 Corinthians 13:11 

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.  

Paul encourages us to live in a joyful community, fostering a spirit of peace and unity with our brothers and sisters. When we are in harmonious relationships with others, God blesses us with peace.  

Colossians 3:15 

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  

We are called to be thankful for what God has given us, allowing Him to rule over our hearts with peace.  

Romans 5:1 

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  

 Being faithful and sanctified through trials enables us to grow close to God and find peace in Him.  

To read more on peace and Paul’s explanation of the conditions God sets for peace, check out Prescription for Peace.  

Digging Deeper into the Word Prayer Spiritual Development

Prescription for Peace

Author: Rachel Kidd 


Since the dawn of time, people have waged war and wished peace on each other. In the midst of feast and famine, peace and war, Believers in the early church pronounced blessings of grace, peace, and mercy. In the years that followed, followers of Christ continued this tradition of blessings of peace, especially in the most trying times.. This Gaelic Blessing is an excellent example of this emphasis on the peace that comes with Christ.  

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you.
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.
Deep peace of Christ, of Christ the light of the world to you.
Deep peace of Christ to you.
A Gaelic Blessing
God of Peace 

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. – Isaiah 26:3 

In the Old Testament book Isaiah, we are told that there are two conditions that must be met before God can bless us with peace. First, we must keep our minds steadfast, or resolute in our faith, and we must fully and completely trust in Him.  

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:6-8  

In Philippians 4, Paul shares his practical advice for daily Christian living; a prescription for peace. He is talking about the peace of God, not world peace, rather the kind of perfect, personal peace that can only come through God.  

 Like Isaiah, Paul prescribes us twelve additional conditions we must meet in order for God to grant us His perfect peace.  

  1. Do not worry about anything.  

Paul was shackled in filthy, painful conditions in a Roman prison, beaten, whipped, and stoned. Paul was shipwrecked and blinded, experiencing all the horrors of persecution at the hands of the Romans. Yet, he did not worry because he relied on God’s grace.   

  1. Pray about everything.  

Sometimes prayer will deliver us from the pain we are experiencing, sometimes it will not. God sometimes chooses to give grace to live through the difficulty, the ability to endure it for His glory. 

  1. Think about good things.  

We are to control thoughts instead of letting them control us, not only for peace, but for sanity. To dwell on things that are unjust, painful, or impure only makes us feel discouraged and low. Even in the most difficult circumstances, thinking of good things that praise God will be uplifting to our soul.   

  1. Do what is right.  

Paul encouraged the Philippians to follow his example and live in a way that is right in the eyes of God. He tells them to do what they know and believe to be good and right.  

  1. Do not question the value of the good you have done.  

It can be difficult to live righteously and suffer in poverty, pain, or sickness while watching immoral, evil people live in comfort and wealth. But Paul reminds us that even if our good works are not rewarded on earth, we will be rewarded in heaven.   

  1. Be thankful.  

In prison, beaten and alone, Paul had two choices. He could grieve his unfortunate circumstances, or he could thank God for what he did have. He was alive and able to commune with the Lord, and so he chose to thank God for the opportunity to spend so much time with Him. We have that same choice too in our own difficult circumstances.  

  1. Be gentle.  

When we accept even our most difficult circumstances as the will of God instead of fighting against them, we can be at peace. This gentleness is of acceptance, understanding that we are a part of God’s plan.  

  1. Be patient.  

We have to learn to wait on the Lord, even when we don’t understand His ways or His plan for our life.  

  1. Remember the nearness of our Lord.  

The Lord always stands by us, even when others desert us. Paul was never alone, even when everyone he knew abandoned him, God never left his side. Remembering that our God is near brings us peace when we are lonely or afraid.  

  1. Find joy in knowing Christ and growing closer to Him.  

Our relationship with God should bring us joy as we learn about Him, bringing us peace rather than relying on the unreliable joy of earthly things.  

  1. Value the approval of God, far above that of others.  

The approval of man is conditional and fleeting, but walking in the way of the Lord means peace.  

  1. Rest your hearts and minds in Christ, knowing that He can do what you cannot do.  

It’s not what I am, it’s what He is. It’s not what I can do, it’s what He can do.  

God wants you to find true and lasting peace in Him. While the Western mind typically operates in “either, or” categories, the Eastern mind operates with the understanding of “both, and” categories. While God is a God of righteous wrath and judgment, He is also a God of peace.  May His peace rest upon you knowing that he wages war against the evil one on your behalf. 

Utilize this list from the Great Physician as a blessing and medicine for your soul in the midst of the battle. 

Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

The Grace of Giving

Author: Rachel Kidd

Paul’s teaching about Christian stewardship 

Money is a tense subject, something that causes arguments and fights in nearly every relationship. Having too much or too little can put a strain on even the healthiest marriage, and poor money management can lead to immense stress.   

Some pastors even avoid the subject of money altogether in hopes of avoiding this tension. But, good stewardship and understanding of money is an important factor in spiritual wellness. Paul and his ministry provides us with a clear picture of how to teach about money and what good stewardship is in a Christian context.  

Faithful Stewardship 

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 

 In 2 Corinthians, Paul provides us two of the greatest chapters in the bible on the subject of stewardship. An adept salesman with keen diplomacy skills, Paul persuades Gentiles to give to a collection to benefit persecuted Jews In Jerusalem and Judea. Paul had incredible empathy for these particular persecuted Christians, as they were the primary targets for his own crusade against the church prior to his conversion. While Paul’s ministry was primarily centered on Gentiles, like those at the church in Corinth, Ephesus, and Colossi, he was able to raise an impressive collection for the persecuted Jewish Christian community.  

Paul holds up the giving patterns of the Corinthians, or the Maccedonians, to the Phillipians as an example of faithful stewardship. He tells us about the principles that should be involved in our stewardship.  

Primarily, he says that we must give ourselves to God. Paul did not accept monetary gifts from non-believers on principle, he only accepted gifts from those who were faithful. He asserts that you must keep in the will of God in order to further the will of God.  

Joyful Giving 

As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;  their righteousness endures forever.” 

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. –2 Corinthians 9:9-13  

Paul also says that giving should be of our own volition. He emphasized the importance of giving only when the Lord leads us to, rather than at the coercion of a pastor or spiritual leader. We give because we love Him, because we are grateful for what He has done for us, and because we are full of joy and want to give back to Him. Our motivations should be love and gratitude, joyfully giving back to God a portion of what He has given us. 

It may seem difficult to imagine giving joyfully when you are not financially blessed. Maybe you are struggling, much like the Phillippians in poverty. They gave out of their severe poverty in a time of trials. Paul says that their giving was based on what they had, not what they did not have. God blesses us with money as He sees fit and with whom He can trust us with. If you have little now and do not tithe 10% as commanded, then you will not give more if you had more.  

Paul explains that our gifts are not measured by their size or worth, rather on the attitude with which we give. Paul called giving a “grace” because we are enabled to give by His power and blessings on our lives. It’s proportional to what we have, not to what we could have. All that we have is God’s, we are simply stewards of it, called to further the kingdom of God with our wealth. When we give freely to God what He has given to us, God responds to our good stewardship. God provides for us and makes sure that we have all we need. When we give of our own volition in joy, God sees us and blesses us in return.  


Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

All in Love

Author: Rachel Kidd

Do everything in love. 

Corinthians 16:14 

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. 

Proverbs 17:17 

We all have an innate, God-given desire to love and to be loved by others. As infants, we need the loving touch and tender words of our parents and caregivers to grow. As children, we need unconditional love and acceptance, and loving discipline as we develop. As teenagers and adults, we need the loving support of community in order to thrive. Romantic love brings joy to marriage and loving your own children as a parent is another layer to that love.  

We also have a God who loves us, so deeply and unconditionally. He created love for us, calling us to love one another and treat each other well, as He loved us. Love in the modern context can seem dulled, a cheap alternative to what God designed for us. We see love over and over again in the scriptures, a constant reminder of God’s will for us; love for eachother and for Him. But is all love created equal?  

The Four Loves

There are four types of love that align with God’s design. C.S. Lewis explored these types in his 1960 book, “The Four Loves.”2 He begins his study of love with an introduction to St. John’s famous declaration; God is love. Lewis warns against conflating the two, love and God, without a safeguard in place.  

St. John’s saying that God is love has long been balanced in my mind against the remark of a modern author (M. Denis de Rougemont) that “love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be a god” ; which of course can be restated in the form “begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god.” This balance seems to me an indispensable safeguard. If we ignore it the truth that God is love may slyly come to mean for us the converse, that love is God (Lewis, 17).   

Affection (Greek: Storge) 

Affection is comfortable love, the nostalgia you feel in your hometown or the safety of your mother’s embrace. Often associated with the love children have for their parents and parents for their children, storge is rather undiscerning and does not rely on attraction or compatibility.  

Lewis called storge love humble, the kind of love that lives with “un-dress, private things; soft slippers, old clothes, old jokes, the thump of a sleepy dog’s tail on the kitchen floor, the sound of a sewing-machine…” (Lewis, 56-57).  It is the love of the mundane, the people you see so often they become important features in your life, like pets or coworkers.  

Friendship (Greek: Philia) 

Friendship can also be overlooked in our culture, overshadowed by family or romantic connections. But, deep connections with friends and a strong community can be incredibly fulfilling. Lewis explained that “to the Ancients, friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it” (Lewis, 87). Unlike other types of relationships that are formed out of pure necessity or chance, friendship is a conscious decision made out of simple desire. Lewis described friendship as that luminous, tranquil, rational world of relationships freely chosen. You got away from all that: This alone, of all the loves, seemed to raise you to the level of gods or angels” (Lewis, 93).   

We enjoy companionship and so we create it. Often, we form friendships with others based on common interests and shared values. We build close bonds with friends overtime, supporting each other through hardships and celebrating successes.  

Romance (Greek: Eros) 

Beyond simple sexual desire for the act, “Eros wants the Beloved”. To be in eros love is to desire one person, to love them fully. C.S. Lewis says that lovers are “absorbed in each other”. 

While we are cautioned to be careful with romantic love, Lewis also tells us that eros love is a beautiful picture of Christ’s love for the church.   

“In one high bound it has overleaped the massive wall of our selfhood; it has made appetite itself altruistic, tossed personal happiness aside as a triviality and planted the interests of another in the centre of our being… It is an image, a foretaste, of what we must become to all if Love Himself rules in us without a rival” (Lewis, 126).  

When we love our spouse in this way, we get a taste of what it means to love so completely and better understand God’s love for us. Lewis describes it eros as having the unique ability to “obliterate the distinction between giving and receiving” (Lewis, 137).   

Charity (Greek: Agape)  

The love of mankind or agape love is the ultimate goal, to love others as God loves us. It is unconditional and eternal, forgiving and true. Agape love is something deeper than what Lewis calls the other three “natural loves.” It goes beyond a feeling, it is “goodness… the whole Christian life in one particular relation” (Lewis, 163).  

It is the beauty and curse of being human, the nature of love and the pain of loss that Lewis explains is God-willed.  “Even if it were granted that insurances against heartbreak were our highest wisdom, does God Himself offer them? Apparently not. Christ comes at last to say “Why hast thou forsaken me?”” (Lewis, 169). 

Five Love Languages 

People give and receive love in different ways. Knowing how you love best is important to feeling secure in your relationships. Being conscious of how your friends, family, and significant other receive love improves relationships by reducing conflict and improving emotional intimacy.  

The Five Love Languages were developed by counselor Dr. Gary Chapman to help people improve their relationships by better understanding their unique personalities and needs.  

  1. Physical Touch. A hug from your best friend, a kiss from your spouse, or the cuddles from your dog make you feel loved and secure.  
  1. Acts of Service. When your loved one does something to make your life easier, like picking up dinner for the family on their way home or doing the laundry, makes you feel supported.  
  1. Quality Time. Quality over quantity, you value uninterrupted time with your loved ones and the ability to connect with them in person.  
  1. Words of Affirmation. Encouraging and positive words make you feel valued in relationships.  
  1. Receiving Gifts. When your loved ones take the time to pick out a gift that they know you’ll love, you feel understood and connected with that person.  

Take the Five Love Languages Quiz3 and find out your love language. This is a great quiz to take with your partner, as a family, or even with friends to improve understanding and communication in your relationship.  

Love and Loss 

In an incredibly powerful conclusion to “Four Loves,” Lewis urges us to love, even though it makes us vulnerable to heartbreak and pain. In fact, he says that avoiding love in fear of the pain it may cause, only further separates us from God.  

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell. 

Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development

Beyond Rituals: Embracing True Worship in John 4

Author: Charles Hegwood

The term ‘worship wars’ has become a prominent and sometimes heated discussion topic within certain Christian circles. While it may be tempting to reduce worship to a debate about musical preferences, we can learn from Jesus how He defines true worship in His conversation with the Samaritan Woman. When reflecting on John 4, we should take the time to think critically about our forms of worship and strive to deepen our understanding of what God desires in our practice. Are we worshiping God in spirit and truth? Are we seeking Jesus as our source of life? Both of these questions jump from the pages of John 4 and are worthy of our consideration regarding worship and life.  

The Samaritan Woman at the Well 

As Jesus and his disciples journeyed, weariness set in. Thirsty and hungry, the disciples ventured off to find food while Jesus rested at a nearby well. Then, a Samaritan woman approached, unaware that her meeting with Jesus would transform not only her life but also the lives of all those around her. She was about to encounter the source of living water; Jesus.  

Why was this meeting between Jesus and a Samaritan woman such a big deal? You see there was hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Samaritans had intermarried with the deported exiles of other lands under the Assyrian Empire. The result was centuries of mutual hatred and cultural disgust. This sets up an earth-shaking encounter between Jesus who is a Jewish man and a woman from Samaria.  

As we briefly look at the following conversation we will see that Jesus used practical images to make spiritual parallels. He is at a well. He asked the Samaritan woman for water, but the conversation went from practical to spiritual. Jesus began talking about living water. He was telling the woman that He was the source of this living water. People went to the well for life-sustaining water but they would have to come back. What Jesus offered was radically different. The water He offered would be a spring that travels with you. This well is not fixed to one location. 

The woman is interested but still does not fully grasp it. And again the conversation moves from practical to spiritual. Jesus tells her about her life’s current condition. She was living in sin and she knew it and Jesus knew it. What she did not know is that she was speaking to the one whom all of the Scripture foreshadowed. He was the one whom every part of Scripture whispered His name. Then the conversation shifted to worship. The woman asked about worship location. She worshiped on a mountain, and the Jews worshiped in Jerusalem. “Who is right?” she asked. But Jesus again took the conversation from a practical location to a spiritual one. The conversation ends with the woman telling the village that Jesus was the Messiah and Jesus stayed for two days teaching the people. 

Living Water and True Worship 

Did you catch it? As we ask the question of what is true worship in an age of ‘worship wars’ we must lock in on what Jesus said here. They are having a conversation at a well. A well was and is a location you go to receive life-sustaining water. Now compare this truth with what Jesus is saying. He offered living water that “will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” That is something you can take with you wherever you go. 

The true issue the woman seems to have with worship is location.  For the woman, it was the mountain she worshiped on and for the Jews it was Jerusalem they worshiped. These were like the spiritual wells people went to receive thirst-quenching spiritual water. And yet they would have to return to the spiritual well in a set location. Jesus offered the woman living water that removes the need for a location. Living water goes with you wherever you go. Jesus is saying the location does not matter, instead it is the source and object of worship that matters. It is no longer about a mountain or a city but a person; Jesus. Worshiping in spirit and truth must start with following Jesus and thus receiving living water.  

God is not seeking people who worship at a certain location, but people who seek Him in spirit and truth. The heart of your worship is far more important than the location and mode. People must seek God as the ultimate source of spiritual nourishment and satisfaction. People who worship in spirit and truth seek the Father over the things of this world.  

Living Water and Our Worship 

As I have already said, true worshipers seek to worship God wherever they go. He then becomes their source of spiritual life. But how does this relate to what style of worship we partake in? Again, let us as Jesus did, move the conversation from practical to spiritual.  

 Instead of location, insert musical style. Our worship of the one true God should overshadow our preferences in musical choice. That is not to say that the music style is unimportant. There is a place to evaluate certain music, lyrics, and styles. What I am saying is that we must lock in on the theme of this passage, which is that our worship must find its source in Jesus as our living water and seek Him in spirit and truth. 

Worship is a central part of our relationship with God, and encompasses much more than music or singing. It’s something that should be done throughout the day, in how we talk to others, interact with friends, and how to act when no one is watching. It is in our reading of Scripture, prayer time, and sharing of our faith. It encompasses all parts of our lives. True worship makes God the foundation and object of everything we do. Let us reflect on some questions. Are we seeking spiritual fulfillment from Christ or from somewhere else? Is true worship being offered in spirit and truth from us? These are who the Father seeks. Are you one? 

Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

Faith & Doubt

Author: Rachel Kidd

Part of growing up is coming to terms with big questions and what the answers mean for your life. I was raised by two faithful Christian parents, who were each raised by two faithful Christian parents of their own. I come from a legacy of people with strong convictions and rock-solid foundations of truth. I went to church every Sunday and youth group every Sunday night nearly my entire life. And yet, I doubt.

Ever since I could read, I had questions. Really, even before that- I’ve been questioning authority since I learned to talk. “Why?” I would ask my mom and dad, “why do I have to eat my broccoli?” “Why do I have to go to school?” “Why do I have two little brothers and no sisters?” My grandparents like to tell stories of my defiant personality as a toddler. Once, after playing with a new baby doll my Nana had bought to be played with at her house, I tried to take the baby home with me. She stopped me at the door and asked me to leave it there. I hugged the baby doll close and said, “share Nana, share!” I clearly understood the concept, asserting my own understanding above the authority in front of me. My grandmother of course laughed, but took the baby back anyway.

As I got older, my questions became more complex, as did the answers. Sometimes, I couldn’t even find the answer to satisfy my question, no matter how fervent my search. “Why does God let horrible things happen?” “Why do some Christians do horrible things in the name of God?” “Is there more to life than this, than what I can see?” Often, I wasn’t satisfied with the standard answers spouted at youth group or Sunday School. I asked my dad, one of the smartest people I know, who has a doctorate in theology and a seminary degree. Sometimes, even he didn’t know, or his answer wouldn’t make sense to me. I prayed for answers, read theological texts and scripture, discussed with other believers and non-believers alike. I wanted clarity, concrete answers to my big questions. To this day, it has yet to come.

Can we be faithful while still having doubt?

I have many, many unanswered questions and doubts. And yet, I can still be a believer. Faith is not dependent on having it all figured out. God doesn’t need us to be 100% sure of everything. It is impossible to fully understand why God chooses to act in the ways He does or why He allows evil to persist on earth for the time being. Yet, in choosing to worship Him and follow Him anyway, we are acting in faith.

Faith is believing despite not seeing.

Mary’s Faith

Mary asked the angel, “How can this be? I’m a virgin.”

The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come to you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy child developing inside you will be called the Son of God.

“Elizabeth, your relative, is six months pregnant with a son in her old age. People said she couldn’t have a child. But nothing is impossible for God.”

Mary answered, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let everything you’ve said happen to me.”

Luke 1:34-38

When the angel appeared to young Mary, she was a virgin. She understood it was physically impossible for her to become pregnant, even when the words came from the mouth of a heavenly angel. She asks the angel, “how can this be?” He tells her that she will conceive the Son of God through the power of the Holy Spirit, reassuring her that even what is impossible, is made possible by God.

Mary, I can imagine, was scared and confused, struggling to understand what the angel said. And yet, she chooses to act in faith anyway. Without fully understanding, Mary says yes, “I am the Lord’s servant.”

Peter and Doubt

Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Matthew 14:28-31

We see Peter as a figure with a great deal of insecurity and fear that he grapples with throughout the Gospel. Despite being a close disciple of Jesus, he betrays Him three times the night of His death. He acts in violence in the Garden of Gethsemane. And he sinks in the Sea of Galilee.

Peter calls out to Jesus, testing him by asking him to let him walk on water too. Jesus tells him to come, allowing Peter to walk on the water’s surface. And yet, despite being a part of this miracle, Peter’s fear of the storm causes him to sink. He doubts Jesus and His power to control the very wind and waves He created. As Peter sinks and starts to drown, he calls out desperately to Jesus, asking to be saved. Jesus pulls him up, but challenges Peter’s lack of faith.

Because Peter allowed his fears, or doubts, to overcome his faith, he began to sink. Jesus reminds him, and us today, that faith keeps us afloat. Doubting God’s power causes us to stumble, leading us astray and to potential dangers. Faith causes us to experience the power and wonder of God.

The Cursed Fig Tree

Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Matthew 21:18-22

While some may read this passage as a funny story of a hungry Jesus who becomes angry at a fig tree without any figs, we should moreover see the power of faith. Jesus tells the disciples that faith without doubt is immensely powerful. Faith can make disappointing fig trees shrivel up and die, it can make mountains throw themselves into the sea, and it can bring answered prayers.

Throughout each of these stories, we see faith in the miraculous birth of Christ, in Peter’s walk on water, and in the cursing of the fig tree. Mary may have been afraid and confused, but her faith allowed the great miracle of Jesus to be performed through her. Peter, while faithful in many other ways, fell short as he walked on the sea towards Jesus. His doubt prevented him from truly experiencing the gravity of his experience with Christ on the stormy sea. Through scripture, we see God rewarding the faithful and rebuking the doubters. Even when the faithful are frightened and don’t fully comprehend the magnitude of what God is asking them, their faith carries them through.

Abraham in Genesis 22:12-14 is another example. When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son that he had waited so many long years for, Abraham doesn’t understand. He is terrified of losing his beloved son. And yet, he takes Issac up the mountain to die anyway. Because of his faithfulness, God blesses Abraham.

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

Genesis 22:12-14

Abraham demonstrates that when we act in faith, even when we don’t understand, God provides. He takes care of His faithful followers, blessing them for their strong faith.

Today, while I may not be taking baby dolls from my Nana’s house anymore, I still hate being told what to do. I like to think that I am competent and wise, but usually, my parent’s advice is far better than my own wisdom. I am still learning to heed the advice of people wiser than me, still learning to act in faith to God’s commands, especially when I don’t understand them. I only hope to walk in the faithful legacy left for me by my parents and grandparents, and the great faith-bearers of the bible like Mary and Abraham.