The Dragon in the Dungeon

 

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Are you brave enough to slay the Dragon who is trying to devour your mind?

 

Deep within the castle of a person’s mind, there is a dark dungeon.

This dungeon holds hostage many unpleasant thoughts, including bad memories of all kinds which we desperately wish we could forget. As Christians who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, we know that God sits on the throne of our hearts and minds; nevertheless, this dungeon still exists for all of our earthly lives. The black shadows of former things that continually cause us pain are determined to resurface in our minds, no matter how hard we try to ignore them. Even though we might earnestly ask God to help us defeat them, we constantly struggle to achieve the victory in keeping these metaphorical monsters in the dungeon where they belong.

Still, there is an even GREATER monster that lies deep in the dungeon who is responsible for setting these dark shadows free…

A destructive Dragon, who is so bitter about his own future imprisonment that he wishes for nothing more than the total and utter defeat of mankind, Christians included.

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This Dragon is none other than Satan himself, whom the Bible describes as “that old Serpent.” (Revelation 12:9) He is hateful and spiteful, full of nothing but malice and contempt for mankind. He is painfully aware of the fact that Jesus Christ dealt him a deathblow on the cross, and since he can’t do anything to change his fate, he’ll do everything he can to drag down all the people he can with him. His attitude is, “If I’m doomed to darkness and despair for all eternity, then I refuse to be the only one!” Even if he can’t drag born again Christians to Hell with him, he’ll try with all his might to drag down the thoughts in their minds, as well as the emotions in their hearts. Satan knows full well that God reigns as King in the throne room of Christians’ hearts, but he still seeks to destroy them within the dungeon of their minds. He realizes that infiltrating the walls of their castles and attacking from within is the most effective way to ensure their defeat.

“But how did this Dragon get in?” you may ask. “How can he possibly sneak his way inside a fortress where a mighty King reigns supreme?”

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The answer is simple – the royal guards fell asleep on their watch. Being constantly vigilant on a daily basis is quite tiresome, as you would probably imagine. The royal guards that are supposed to protect the castle of a Christian’s mind are godly habits that everyone absolutely MUST take the time to develop. These habits include meaningful, Spirit-filled prayer, and Bible reading. Doing these things each day will remind the guards of their duty to keep the royal fortress safe from Satan’s attacks. However, every once in a while, even when the guards are doing their very best to stay awake, that crafty creature still finds a way to creep inside the castle, evading the watchful eyes of the guards who would try to keep him at bay. This is because Satan is incredibly subtle, just as he chose to possess the body of a slithering, silent serpent in the garden of Eden. It’s not always easy to recognize when he’s moving in for the kill, even with our best efforts to remain vigilant. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” – (1 Peter 5:8)

Once the Dragon realizes he has made a successful entrance unnoticed, he proceeds to wander the endless, abysmal halls of a person’s thoughts and consciousness, sniffing out the passages to a person’s greatest weaknesses.

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Satan knows that if he can distract your thoughts away from the awareness of God’s presence and power within you, he can easily have access to roam freely wherever he will. Remember, this castle is a metaphor of your mind, so if you see or hear something that might turn your thoughts from God or the things that please Him, Satan takes the opportunity and runs with it. That sly serpent is able to spy on you in secret, taking note of the things that upset you, frustrate you, or stoke the fires of unmet desires. As he makes his way through the dark, hollow halls, he leaves a trail of temptations to follow behind him, confidently expecting you to take the bait and leave the safety of the King’s quarters. This is why it’s so important to keep you thoughts focused on Christ, Who would have you to fix your eyes on Him at all times so you won’t be led astray. All too often, however, we follow the Dragon’s alluring scent, who promises us a false sense of security in entertaining the thoughts of our flesh. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.” – (Romans 8:5)

After succeeding in leading us away from safety, the Dragon delves down deep into the dark dungeons of despair, where he knows all of our worst memories are held prisoners.

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Reaching the very core of what makes our minds most vulnerable, the Dragon knows he has us right where he wants us. He seeks to ignite the torches hanging on the damp walls, releasing the fearsome phantoms of former things. While there may be many cells containing painful pieces of the past, the Dragon purposely unshackles the memories we hate most to deal us the greatest possible harm. Once he sets them free, the Dragon stirs them up by fueling them with his fire. He causes us to believe the lies we’ve battled for many years, forged in our thoughts by the actions and words of other people, or even ourselves. Satan wraps his scaly tail around us, hoping to crush us to death as he forces us to confront the powerful pain of our inescapable memories. He knows that if he can isolate us in the shadowy dungeon of our past, he can easily make us feel lost in a labyrinth of endless distress and sorrow. The mighty, arrogant Dragon whispers his hateful lies in our ears, wanting to steal our hope and joy, the greatest gifts from God. To add insult to injury, he even blames us for being so weak and easily overcome, making us feel guilty for allowing him to invade our castle in the first place. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” – (Ephesians 6:12)

How can we possibly escape the death grip of the Dragon in the dungeon? By crying out to our King and looking upon His light.

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In spite of the strong hold Satan might gain upon our thoughts in his attack, he forgot one important fact – our mind’s castle is still GOD’S stronghold. We have to muster the courage to call for God’s help in order to overcome the Devil and claim the victory. Instead of being clouded by confusion and cares from our past, we must remember that Jesus is deeply concerned for our mind’s well-being; He CARES about us! “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” – (1 Peter 5:7) / “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,” – (Philippians 3:13) It’s our responsibility to sound the royal alarm to alert the Holy Spirit of the Devil’s presence in the dungeon of our memories. He was already aware of it to begin with, but He was anxiously awaiting our call for His help, acknowledging our need for Him. While the all-powerful King might not be available to physically help us in our mental and emotional predicaments, He is more than willing to send us the strength we need to withstand Satan and all His subtle snares. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” – (1 Corinthians 10:13) That prideful, selfish, wrathful Dragon might consider himself king of the castle, but he will never truly succeed in his quest to destroy us as long as we ask God for His help in slaying Him. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” – (1 John 4:4) That wiley wyvern has already received a mortal wound at the hands of Jesus Christ through His death on the cross, yet he continues to return in search of his revenge while he still can! With the aid of our loving, kind, all-powerful King, we can cast out that slinking serpent by turning over our bad memories to Him each and every time they resurface in our minds, keeping them captive forever. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” – (2 Corinthians 10:5) Then, and ONLY then, will we be able to truly defeat the Dragon in the dungeon!

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Five Reasons To Stay “Weird”

 

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Live boldly. Live Loudly. Live life in FULL COLOR!

 

Have you ever heard of the quote that says, “Be yourself – everyone else is already taken?”

This is not only a true statement, but also the only option that is presented to each and every individual. While “stay true to you” has become an increasingly popular motto over the past few decades, our society at large has purposely hidden the fine print of this philosophy. Through the lense of political correctness, it is only okay to be 100% yourself when your qualities properly align with whatever is popular with the world at any given moment. Yes, that’s right – the world doesn’t tell you about all the minor details concerning the circumstances of your acceptance as a unique individual.

This unfortunate reality is not exclusive to the context of the secular environment’s behavior towards Christians, however: sadly, there are also plenty of “Christians” who are more than willing to pass judgment on each other, which is often unmerited. I’m not talking about spiritual judgment of another person’s sins; I’m talking about plain old shallow judgment of another person that originates in the prideful flesh. Take it from someone who has spent her whole life growing up in Christian environments – no matter where you go, there will always be at least one person, if not several, who will reject you as an individual. This fact is proof that even born again Christians still struggle with their sinful nature, and it is most evident in the way they sometimes treat other Christians.

It doesn’t matter where you come from, what you look like, or how you act; people will always form assumptions about you as an individual based on their own natural perceptions and shallow prejudice. Even if you go out of your way to be nice to some people, they will undoubtedly find some superficial reason to exclude and isolate you from their personal or group acceptance. They may even fabricate lies about your character to ostracize you, showing zero remorse for their malicious behavior. The saddest part about all of this is that some Christians who act this way are either completely oblivious to the harmful nature of their actions, or willfully proud and ignorant in their hearts, believing that they are still right with God in spite of this. They may even go so far as to twist God’s Word out of context or use their so-called belief in Him to justify their wrong behavior.

Like I’ve mentioned before in other posts, there are always going to be some people who will just make up their minds that they don’t like you. Even if you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong to them, they can still choose to make this ignorant decision. Sometimes, the reason for their judgment is as simply shallow as thinking you are WEIRD. Whether these people come right out and say it or not, they expect you to automatically conform to their standards of what they believe is normal.

Well, as a person who has experienced this unfortunate circumstance several times in my life, I’m here to give you five reasons why you should go against the negative flow and STAY WEIRD.

  1. You are one of a kind.

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The truth is, you weren’t made to fit in – you never were! You were made to stand out as a unique, special part of God’s infinite creation. Out of billions of people in this world who may share similar traits with you in one way or another, NO ONE will ever be exactly like YOU. That’s something to be excited about! You are so rare and special as God’s original work of art, that all of your qualities combined together cause you to stand out from a massive sea of other people! Imagine being in an art gallery in a big city – there are literally hundreds of different pieces to look at, and they all have unique features of their own. However, there will usually be at least one piece in particular that catches your eye for some reason. That’s the artwork that will stick with your memory when you leave the gallery or museum. I encourage you to BE that work of art. Don’t waste your time wishing that you were made like everyone else in the gallery of your life; instead, stand proudly on display for people to appreciate who you are!

2. You won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay.

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Ask God to give you the courage to accept and acknowledge the fact that some people will never like you, as I already mentioned. Because every person is different, possessing a unique flavor of their own, they will constantly be seeking others who only match their own flavor, because they’re too afraid to try new tastes. They might have been expecting something ordinary like sweet tea, while you’re serving something special that totally surprised them, like chamomile or Earl Grey! So before discovering the bold elements in the flavor, they might spit you out upon their first sip. Don’t let this discourage you into trying to change your recipe – for every person out there who dislikes your flavor without giving it a chance, there will always be at least one other person who thinks your flavor is the best they’ve ever tasted! Take the time to discern and recognize who these people are in your life, and focus your mind on the positive influence they give you. In other words, don’t waste your time worrying about the doubters, haters, and snobs – appreciate those who appreciate you.

3. Your uniqueness is worth celebrating.

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Just as everyone else who chooses to exclude you may exalt their own self-importance and qualities, you too have a reason to celebrate your individual identity, within the bounds of reasonable humility. Ask God to remind you daily of the special way He made you, and rejoice in it! Thank Him for making you the way He did! Realize that He designed you a specific way for a specific reason. Know your worth, and don’t let anyone else convince you otherwise. Wake up every day and be happy that you’re different! Be confident in the Lord, and remember that as your Heavenly Father, He rejoices over you with singing! How great is that?! When other people fail to include or recognize you for who you truly are, God always knows and appreciates you. There is nothing wrong with appreciating yourself either, within reason.

4. Only you can show the world what you have to offer.

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All of the special talents and abilities that God gave you, as I mentioned above, are meant to accomplish a specific purpose for His glory. Only God knows what that exact calling is, but He counts on you to stay close to Him and ask Him about what it is each and every day. No matter how many people He put on this planet, He still needs you to be faithful in fulfilling your ultimate purpose. Whatever this purpose is, you were specially designed to carry it out, in a specific time and place, whereas no one else can. It’s your job to discover this through the course of your life, and boldly go forth into the world with the special calling God has given you. You were handpicked and chosen by Him alone to reach out to a desperately hurting world! Don’t throw away your opportunity to change it for the better in a way that only you can!

5. Your colorful personality deserves a place in the spectrum of society.

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Just as everyone else in the world shines with their own bright, vibrant hues and intensity, so should you! We all have different personalities, and we were all made to complement each other in beautiful, colorful harmony! Don’t envy the colors of others; embrace the rich, saturated hue of your own identity! Put together, the human race comprises a remarkable rainbow that makes this world a wonderful place to live in, despite our sinful nature. This was God’s divine design (NOT SIN), the way He intended it to be. Discover your true colors and own them, wearing them proudly for everyone else to see! If everyone else gets a place on God’s canvas with their special colors, then so do you! Don’t doubt your importance or value that your existence contributes to this world!

Don’t be afraid to be different – you were made that way on purpose!

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Now that you know the five reasons to stay weird, you can possess a new sense of confidence like never before! Best of all, you can rest assured that your confidence is well placed in the hands of Almighty God. This does not mean that there won’t be any more days when you’ll struggle with keeping it, but hopefully it will be much harder for Satan and the world to snatch it away from you in the future. In other words, you’ll find the strength and courage you need to achieve victory every day in the quest to keep your God-given confidence. As for all the other people who choose to reject us for no good reason? The best thing we can do is to pray for them and ask God to change their hearts. Whether or not they decide to apologize to us and give us a chance is up to them; however, it is also up to us to forgive them regardless of what they do or don’t do. Remember, God loves everyone, including those who do wrong things to us. He doesn’t ask us to do anything that He doesn’t already do every day – showing others His mercy, grace, and unconditional love. The important takeaway for us to remember is that we are always appreciated and accepted by God for who we are no matter what.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Redeeming the Reprobate

 

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“So farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear, Farewell remorse: all good to me is lost; evil be thou my good;” – Satan in Paradise Lost, Book IV, lines 108-110.

 

Is there really such a thing as a point of no return?

In the Christian faith, God’s Word teaches us that all men are capable of being saved, no matter how many or what kinds of sins they’ve committed. God’s abundant grace and mercy are more than sufficient to release us from the chains of darkness and condemnation. It’s all because of the selfless sacrifice that Jesus Christ Himself performed on the cross over two thousand years ago, giving up His life to redeem us by atoning for the wrong things that we have done, effectively releasing us from the eternal punishment of sin. However, this free gift of eternal life, also known as salvation in Christian vocabulary, is ONLY accessible through the voluntary act of a person choosing to accept it, changing his life forever. No one can make this decision for anyone else; it HAS to be an act of their own free will. God does not force anyone to believe in Him or trust Him and His Son Jesus to receive salvation – He only wants it to be a conscious choice from the sincere desire of a person’s heart. God knows that the only way a person is guaranteed true happiness and eternal life is by choosing to serve Him, but it is not in His character to make His human creations mindless slaves to His will. He is only interested in a person’s heart that is willing to serve Him out of pure, genuine love.

So yes, it is possible for a person to be redeemed… – but only if they want to be.

The above paragraph describes people who have yet to become Christians, but what about those who claim to be saved, though their lives and actions would make you seriously doubt their spiritual identity? Yes, it is the sad truth that there are many, MANY people out there who will swear up and down that they are Christians, yet the evidence of their personal lifestyle proves that they actually live without a conscience. By this, I mean that their lack of self-control or respect for God’s requirement of holiness shows that the Holy Spirit’s presence is either nonexistent in their hearts, or pushed so far into the background that you could hardly recognize it anymore. You probably know someone like this in your own life, from either your past or your present. This person may have accepted Christ in his heart, but eventually moved so far away from God that His influence in the person’s life became imperceptible. The way this person acts is so indistinguishable from the world, that you wonder why he bothers calling himself a Christian to begin with. In his mind, being a Christian is more like being in a trendy, exclusive club, rather than the life-altering, sacrificial transformation it really is.

There’s a word in the Bible for this kind of person – a reprobate.

 

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Satan traverses the dark, void realm of Chaos during his escape from Hell, unaware that his physical form has changed from angelic to demonic.

 

In further detail, a reprobate is someone who is fully aware of God’s truth in his life but chooses to ignore it anyway, despite receiving multiple warnings from other people that he is going in the wrong direction. He is incredibly stubborn and stiff-necked, refusing to heed spiritual advice when he needs it the most. When he is corrected by a pastor or other spiritual influences in his life, he reacts with anger to loving reproaches, lashing out in rage at the very wisdom that is meant to benefit him. The only thing he cares about is having his own way, acting as if he were God Himself. No matter how many times he has been warned, he refuses to listen to anyone who contradicts his ideas and desires. He has no use for the feelings of other people who know him and care about him; he doesn’t give any thought or remorse about how many others he hurts along the way. He has chosen to go so far along the path of darkness in his life, that any attempts to stop him or change his mind have proven to be utterly futile. In essence, a person like this can be described as strikingly similar to Satan’s character in John Milton’s classic epic, Paradise Lost.

In this book, the first chapter begins with the aftermath of Satan’s rebellion in Heaven, where he finds himself bound in chains to the Lake of Fire with the other fallen angels who followed his influence. Despite being completely overthrown and cast down from grace, Satan is literally Hell-bent on getting revenge on God. He is so disgustingly filled with pride that he is incapable of recognizing that the whole incident was entirely his fault. He blatantly claims that God is an unfair tyrant, while he is merely misunderstood. Not only does he hold these blasphemous beliefs, but he also fills the minds of his demonic followers with these wicked ideas. Throughout the entire book, Satan stubbornly holds onto the belief that he doesn’t need God and outright states that it’s better for him to “reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.” He’s a rebel and a vagabond, whose only real home is in Hell after his betrayal against God; however, he refuses to accept the fate of his punishment and plots to drag down mankind with him.

How sad it is when someone who formerly served God and claimed to know Him turns against Him out of pride and selfishness!

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Satan is cast out of Heaven by God, fallen from the grace of His presence.

Anyone who falls under the biblical category of a reprobate has had numerous second chances given to him, both by God and the people in his life, yet he has chosen to repeatedly spurn and squander them. The Bible says that when a person chooses this path, God decides to turn him over to a reprobate mind, giving him exactly what he thinks he wants – to be king of his own life, free to revel in his own wickedness. God says to this person: “You want Me to leave you alone? Fine. I’ll do just that. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the consequences though.” Eventually, God gets tired of fighting against a person with a strong stubborn will, and leaves him to his own devices, no matter how foolish or evil they might be. This is an extremely dangerous zone for a person to enter, because once you have effectively pushed God’s influence completely out of your life, you open the door for all kinds of Satanic influences to fill the void.

Judas Iscariot, the traitorous disciple of Jesus, is a perfect biblical example of a reprobate. He spent so much time walking with the Savior, yet he never got saved. He witnessed all of Christs’ miracles (except for His resurrection), yet he never glorified Him as the Son of God. However, to the outside observer, Judas looked just like the rest of the eleven disciples, closely following Jesus’ every move; who could suspect him of becoming filled with the Devil at the time he later betrayed Christ? The same thing is true of faux Christians – no one ever suspects their true spiritual nature, since they are experts at putting on a good show on the outside. On the inside though, they are rotten to the core. In a previous post I wrote, called “Betrayal By A Loved One,” I described how we all know at least one person in our lives whom we would describe as our personal Judas. No matter what manner of wickedness our Judas has wrought on us, we still are required to forgive him since it’s what God commands us to do.

However, it can become a dangerous trap for us if we allow ourselves to obsess over the possible redemption of this reprobate.

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Satan is sent away by Michael the Archangel when he is caught hiding in the Garden of Eden.

God wants us to forgive those who have wronged us, yes, but He does not expect us to devote every ounce of our energy towards whether or not their hearts are convicted. We are told in the Bible to pray for our enemies, but not to the point where it becomes the main focus of every waking moment in our lives. There is a very fine line between praying fervently for someone and having an unhealthy fixation on that person. Why do I say this? you may ask. Because, when you repeatedly pray for the same person, you need to assess what your intentions and expectations are for God’s answer. If you have good intentions while praying for this reprobate, you sincerely want him to turn back to God before it’s too late, and you fully trust that God is in control of the situation. However, perhaps your intentions for praying for him are a little bit self-serving – maybe the reason you want him to get right with God is somehow related to your own personal benefit, and what you see as devoted prayer is really an indirect way of trying to control the situation’s outcome. Whether we like to admit it or not, this can very well be the case.

The reprobate I’m referring to in my life is someone whom I once loved very much, with all my heart. Like Lucifer the Angel of Light, he first portrayed himself to be perfect, everything I ever wanted – but later his true nature revealed itself to be dark and rebellious, much like Satan in his demonic form. When he betrayed me, I had already fallen so deeply in love with him to the point where my affection for him was unconditional, regardless of how he treated me. So in an effort to save the only love I had ever known at that point, I prayed for him every single day for an entire year, begging God to change His heart, convict him of betraying me, and lead him to apologize to me. I would always break down crying each day as I desperately pleaded to God: “Dear Lord, please…CONVICT him. I don’t even care if you give him back to me; I just want him to be right with you. I love him unconditionally, the same exact way You do. Please protect him from the foolish choices in his heart! Please keep him safe!” Even though I still loved him deeply, I didn’t even ask for God to renew my relationship with Him; I just wanted him to get right with God so I could be reunited with him in Heaven someday, even if I never got to see him again on Earth. I later came to severely regret this, for even though I was reunited with him a year after, his apology to me was a temporary ruse designed to manipulate me and betray me all over again. Thus I was once more sucked into his cycle of emotional abuse, all because I lost myself by praying for him because of the unhealthy attachment I had from before.

Here are some verses to remind us that the fate of a reprobate is his own doing, not ours:

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Satan falling from Heaven as he escapes to Earth.

Proverbs 1:24-28 ~ “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:

Isaiah 14:12- ~ “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to Hell, to the sides of the pit.”

Jeremiah 7:16 ~ “Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee.

Hosea 4:17 ~ “Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone.”

Romans 1:28 ~ “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient,

Hebrews 10:26-31 ~ “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

2 Peter 2:4 ~ “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;

So what can we do to redeem the reprobate in our lives? Nothing?

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The simple answer to the above question is this – Let go and let God.

We can present the issue and our concerns about it to God, like we’re supposed to, without letting it consume our minds and hearts. We need to trust God that He knows what’s best, and that He has absolutely everything under His divine control. However, if we do allow the situation to consume us, we’ll be caught in the trap of subtle idolatry, placing our fears and desires above God’s will. When it comes to the redemption of a reprobate, it is utimately up to that person himself, since neither we nor God Himself can control the free will of someone else. It’s so easy to obsess over a situation in the name of fervent prayer, when really we’re indirectly trying to control the outcome since we don’t fully trust God. If we can learn to set the matter entirely in God’s hands and forget it, then we can know true peace that surpasses all understanding. God does not hold us accountable for the actions and choices of a wayward person in our lives, so we shouldn’t have to worry about it since it’s out of our control. Instead, we can say to God, “I know You hold this person in Your powerful hands, and I trust You to take care of this situation no matter how hopeless it may seem. God, I relinquish my desire to control the situation and circumstances regarding this person I’m concerned about. Please help me to keep my focus completely on You, so I don’t lose sight of my own purpose and identity. Amen.”

– Gloria D. Hopkins

 

A Missed Understanding

 

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We all need someone who “gets” us, but do we care enough to “get” God?

 

“No one understands me! What’s the point of talking to anyone anymore?!”

Teenagers are often ridiculed for this verbal stereotype, but sadly, this desperate claim of angst is true for people of all ages. This anguished question has resonated from the minds and mouths of every person who’s existed down through the ages. Human beings were created by God as social creatures, desiring more than anything else to connect with other, separate entities. This truth is described in the book of Genesis, when God created a helper for Adam in the person of his wife, Eve.

Unfortunately, after they opened the gateway to sin on this earth, Adam and Eve inhibited themselves in all areas, including the realm of communication. Once they bit into the forbidden fruit, which grew from the sin of selfishness and pride, their true natures were transformed from serving God and each other to serving their own egos. They were no longer concerned with listening to each other’s words; they cared only for the thoughts inside their own heads. Ever since then, mankind has constantly struggled to make his voice heard, crying out loud to the dark, far reaches of the universe.

“If only there was someone who’d listen!” he cries. “I would give anything just to have someone care enough about me to understand how I feel inside!”

Oh, what a sad, tragic mistake it is when man has chosen to remove himself so far away from God that he forgot how God has always been there for him in the first place! In human relationships, misunderstandings often stem from a lack of communication; the same principle applies to our relationship with God. We choose not to open up to Him because we assume that He’s just going to judge us for our thoughts and feelings, just like what many teenagers and young adults assume about their parents. So instead of pouring our hearts out to God in prayer, we shut Him out of our daily lives by not talking to Him, just like a typical moody teenager locks him or herself inside their bedroom.

The surprising truth is, God is FAR more understanding than we give Him credit for.

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How do we little, puny humans get the nerve to think that God is incapable of knowing our thoughts and feelings when He’s the One Who orchestrates the circumstances of our lives to begin with? Within a parent/child relationship, the parents have years of experience dealing with the same issues that their children face every day, but a self-absorbed teenager or young adult either does not realize or refuses to acknowledge that fact. This is due once again to the common faults of stubbornness and pride, when they think or say out loud, “Mom and Dad don’t know what they’re talking about! They’re just trying to control my life; why should I listen to what they have to say?!” This ignorant claim echoes constantly in today’s world when people say horrible, blasphemous things like “God is dead!”, or “If there is a God, why would He care about me?!”

We are fortunate that God bestows His grace and mercy upon this world at all times, for there are innumerable lost souls who try His patience and kindle His wrath every day. The very fact that He delays the punishment of man’s wickedness until death is proof that He is mindful of our fallen, corrupt state. God is longsuffering, meaning that He’s patient beyond our human comprehension, and is merciful enough to let every man live long enough to have a chance at knowing Him. Unfortunately, there are many people who pass away from this world without ever knowing Him, therefore missing out on the very thing their souls craved the most – a loving Being Who infinitely understands them.

Sadly, there are also many Christians who miss out on God’s gift of understanding.

Now, please don’t misunderstand the above sentence – this is not in any way meant to question the salvation of those who claim to be born again Christians; that deeply personal matter is between their hearts and God alone. What I mean is that some Christians fail to take full advantage of all the privileges they gained access to once they formed a renewed relationship with their Creator and Savior. Of course, the one particular privilege I’m referring to is the aforementioned gift of being completely understood by Someone, regardless of circumstances. Why do they miss out on such a wonderful treasure? Because of mistaken, preconceived notions on their part, also known as faulty assumptions. This symptom occurs when Christians choose to listen more to the inner voice in their human minds, limited by human reasoning, rather than the voice of the Holy Spirit, Whose purpose is to draw them closer to God. Another reason that faulty assumptions are formed about God and His character is when Christians might also choose to listen to the voice of Satan, the Father of Lies, who desires nothing more than their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual destruction. In fact, sometimes the lies that Satan tells Christians on a regular basis are the same exact lies that he tells to unsaved people to prevent them from knowing their Savior and gaining eternal security for their souls.

He whispers wicked things like, “God doesn’t care about your happiness.” “He doesn’t want you to have any fun in your life, because He’s selfish.” “Why should you trust Him with the things you care about the most when all He cares about is telling you what to do?”

Rather than entertaining these malicious lies from the pit of Hell, Christians should seek the assistance of the Holy Spirit Himself to gain the courage and strength they need to say, “Get behind me, Satan! Leave me alone, and get out of here!”

 

So, to help anyone who might be struggling in this area, here are three things to always remember about God to prevent missing out on His understanding.

 

1. God LOVES you.

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A few months ago, I wrote a post about how God is everyone’s true “First Love.” In it, I described the two main attributes of God’s love – it is eternal and unconditional. Knowing that God’s love for you will never end should bring hope and peace to your soul while knowing that He loves you unconditionally should bring comfort and reassurance to you. With these two truths combined, you should always know that God will NEVER stop loving you, no matter what you do or don’t do. Therefore, you shouldn’t be ashamed to share anything with Him, including all the hurts, hopes, fears, failures, pain, and passions that reside within you. Many people are afraid that God is always angry with them for sinning, and is only interested in judging them for it. While it is true that God cannot and will not tolerate sin in our lives, His attitude toward us as Christians is not spiteful or passive aggressive. God is so loving to us, that even though He knows about the sins in our lives, He is patiently waiting for us to confess them to Him so He can forgive us. God waits for us to do this in His mercy since He is fully aware of our every weakness. With that being said, here is the next thing we should always remember about God:

2. God knows and wants what’s best for you.

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Because God is so loving, it’s only natural that He would also be caring and concerned about every detail in your life. Now, God is sovereign, and it is important to remember that He has complete control over all circumstances; however, even though He possesses this authority and power, God does not try to directly control our lives. If we claim to know Him as our Savior, then we should want to give Him complete control over the decisions we make, because He deserves it after all He’s done for us. Saving our souls from an eternity in Hell while we were yet unworthy is MORE than enough reason to justify giving God the divine right to direct us in everything we do. From the very beginning, God has only had man’s best interest at the core of His heart. Consider how Earth is the only planet in our galaxy that is capable of sustaining human life, and that’s where God chose to make our home when He created everything. Also, don’t forget how even though man chose to rebel against God’s command in the Garden of Eden, resulting in sin, God provided a free way for Him to escape eternal punishment so he wouldn’t have to suffer in the same place that was made for the Devil and his fallen angels. So if you remember these facts, you should be more than comfortable with trusting God enough to share whatever is on your heart with Him, and know that your past, present, and future has always been, and will always be in His hands. With that knowledge, here is the third and final important thing to always remember about God:

3. God MADE YOU.

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Yes, that’s right – contrary to popular, secular belief in today’s world, God is STILL the Creator of the entire universe, including man himself. No matter how many false theories are proposed, celebrated, or taught in schools and museums as fact, the Word of God, the Bible, still stands true and firm. Man was created in God’s divine image, with three parts to his being that form a complete whole. The Bible says that God fashions every person in the womb with His own hands, and I believe that is true because of how different each individual looks from another. To me, the eye sockets on a person’s face appear to be molded by a Person’s thumb to make two, deep, circular impressions. The nose and jawline are always so unique on each person that it looks like they were sculpted by hand. The same principle applies to every other part of a person’s body, in my opinion. However, that is only the outer, physical evidence of Who made you – the internal part that is the real you is unrepeatable and irreplaceable. Your soul, the true, essential identity of your being, is God’s signature as the Master Artist Who crafted you. Your inner essence is the most intrinsic part of your existence as a person, the part that processes emotions, thoughts, and ideas. Since God designed you in a specific way to express all of these things, He certainly knows and understands all the reasons why you respond to various feelings you experience in different circumstances. Because of this fact, God isn’t going to judge you or condemn you for your feelings when you share your heart with Him, unlike how some people do. You can always feel completely free and comfortable to be yourself in God’s presence, no matter what.

 

Here are some verses to assure you that you can trust God with your innermost thoughts and feelings:

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Psalm 9:9 ~ “The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.”

Psalm 31:1, 5, &7 ~ “In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness. Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities;”

Psalm 32:7 ~ “Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.

Psalm 46:1 ~ “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Psalm 61:2 ~ “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Psalm 91:1 ~ “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”

Psalm 139:2, 23-24 ~ “Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Isaiah 41:10 ~ “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Zephaniah 3:17 ~ “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.”

Matthew 28:20 ~ “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

1 Peter 5:7 ~ “Casting all your cares upon him; for he careth for you.”

Hebrews 4:15 ~ “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

 
God’s understanding is our true “safe space,” our purest secret place.

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Now that you know these three important truths to always remember about God, you should never again feel discouraged by the failed attempts of man to understand you. God will always be there for you with loving, open arms that are ready and willing to accept you no matter what. No secrets you have will ever surprise Him, because He is omniscient – meaning He already knows everything anyway. If you know God as your Creator and Savior, then He is your Best Friend and trusted Confidant. He alone has the power to free you from the negative influence of other people’s thoughts and judgments about you. He is reaching out His hand to you today, waiting for you to take it in full confidence and assurance that He will take care of your heart and all its needs. The disappointment of man’s failures to understand you won’t matter anymore once you’ve received a taste of His glorious compassion and mercy. God is inviting you to experience life with Him as a thrilling adventure, filled with intimate moments that you can share with only Him. Don’t miss out on God’s gift of understanding – take His hand, and let Him embrace you with the warmth of His unconditional love today.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Why It’s OK To Be “Broken”

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Many have said that we’re all a little broken.

To some extent, that statement is true. Whether we like it or not, we have all gone through something (or several things) in our lives that left us in a very dark place for a very long time. When we finally emerged from the situation, we found that we could never be the same way again, the way we used to be before it happened.

Yes, these are the dark circumstances that scar us, the situations that Satan uses to try to destroy us. If you think you haven’t experienced a traumatic event in your life yet, you can almost count on it to happen at some point in the future. For those of us who have already survived dark circumstances, however, we know just how hard it can be to reclaim our inner peace and heal our broken hearts.

Sometimes it feels like we’ll never get better.

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No matter how much time passes after our traumatic experiences, it often feels like we’ll never reach the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. It seems to be taking forever for our hearts to heal, despite our desire to just “get over” whatever it was that happened to us. We tell ourselves that there must be something wrong with us, since there are many things to be thankful about, and yet we still can’t force ourselves to just “be happy.” Other people might tell us to stop whining, complaining, or feeling sorry for ourselves, because there are so many people in the world who might have it worse. While in some cases we might be guilty of falling into self-pity, and there are certainly always going to be other people who “have it worse” than us, that in NO way invalidates the pain that we feel in the aftermath of a traumatic event.

If your heart is feeling pain for a long period of time, then there has to be a valid reason for it, regardless of what other people say.

Fortunately for us though, our lives aren’t supposed to revolve around what other people say about us. When they fail to understand what we’re going through without making an effort to help or listen, they have no right to judge or criticize our pain. If we know the Lord as our personal Savior, He will ALWAYS understand what we feel and why we feel it. His Word promises that He is close to the brokenhearted, and that truth will never, ever change. (Psalm 34:18 ~ “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”)

Just remember: whatever pain you’re going through, God will use to make you new.

When people say that everything happens for a reason, it’s not some random chance of fate that was the result of some explosion in the vast cosmos. Even though God doesn’t like to see us in pain, He has a divine purpose for our suffering. God desires to make us stronger in Him by strengthening our faith in the midst of trials. (James 1:3-4 ~ “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”) It’s a long, tedious process to build strength, whether in a physical or spiritual context. The end results aren’t going to happen overnight, even though we wish they could. Therefore, it is hugely unfair for us to beat ourselves up emotionally just because we’re not in a better place yet like we want to be.

Depression black and white

Healing TAKES TIME.

That’s all there is to it.

If you try to rush through it, you’ll have an exercise in futility, even with your best attempts. Don’t try to deny your pain, just accept it. It is only by acknowledging and accepting our feelings that we are able to finally move past them. That’s why it’s called a “grieving process,” not a “grieving express.”

By denying or ignoring our pain, we are only prolonging it. God seeks to help us through it if we have the courage to acknowledge our need for Him. He wants you to know that you are not alone and that it is perfectly okay to be feeling the way that you do. God isn’t going to shame you or make you feel guilty about the emotions He gave you; He wants to help you learn how to handle them. They are there for an important reason, and that reason is most likely a natural reaction to whatever traumatic event you went through.

 

However, there is a far greater important reason that you experience pain in your life.

 

Remember the Sunday school song “This Little Light of Mine?”

 

That doesn’t just apply to the context of having a godly, Christian testimony in your personal lifestyle. It also applies to the light of the Holy Spirit that you have inside you from the moment of your salvation. The light of the Holy Spirit isn’t just there for the conviction of sins; it’s also there to inspire other people with what God is doing in your life. People around you might notice that you’re going through a dark time in your life, but they’ll also be able to see that you’re still shining with the joy of the Lord in your heart because you trust God and His goodness.

They’ll look at you, and they’ll say to themselves, “Hey, that guy or girl has every right or reason to give up in life, but they’re still going strong because of God’s help! I want to have that kind of strength in my life too!”

That is what this blog, called “Do You Glow In the Dark?”, is all about – not necessarily about shining exclusively to unsaved people for their need of salvation, but shining to the unsaved AND Christian population to prove that it is possible to keep your joy in spite of dark circumstances.

(2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ~ “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”)

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So don’t look at your current condition and despair of your life, even if you do feel “stuck.” You might feel broken because of what life has thrown at you, but that does not detract from your value as a person whatsoever. You are still incredibly special, as a human being that God made with His own hands, no matter what other people (or you yourself) tell you. Your purpose in this world will prevail, regardless of your pain. I don’t want you to look in the mirror, gazing at your brokenness, and think that there is something wrong with you. YOU ARE NOT WORTHLESS just because terrible things happened to you. You never have been, nor will you ever be, worthless. God is going to use you and your story as a powerful testimony to bless other people and improve their lives. You are a beautiful creation of a loving, Almighty God, and nothing He allows to happen in your life will ever go to waste. That’s why it’s okay to be a glowstick – whatever God allows to happen in your life that breaks you will also allow you to shine for Him.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Remember Your First Love?

 

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Before your heart was ever broken, there was always Someone Who loved you long before you were even born.

 

Do you remember what it was like the first time you fell in love?

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Before I begin, allow me to express that I do not wish to bring up any unpleasant memories unnecessarily; I ask this question first of all so I can lead up to the point I will make later on. There is a first time for everything, and as humans, when we experience something for the very first time, it tends to be all or nothing – that is to say, we choose to invest our energy into that particular thing either one hundred percent or not at all. For many of us, the first time we fell in love was during adolescence, perhaps even much sooner than that. When you become enthralled in the throes of infatuation at such a young age, it is quite easy to put the other person up on a pedestal by seeing them as absolutely perfect. If you were like most teenagers at this stage, you probably thought that you were going to marry that person without a doubt, swearing your loyalty to him or her by promising them that you would be willing to die for them. Yes, that is indeed exactly how intense the emotions of young people in love can get, which is what makes it such a beautiful thing, and yet also a deadly one.

Sadly, this initial stage of romantic attraction is usually short-lived, and for one reason or another, adverse circumstances inevitably led to the relationship falling apart. Because you were most likely entirely invested in the relationship, chances are that you might have lost your identity in the other person, whether intentionally or not. Since it is a perfectly natural, God-given desire to become completely united with another person you love, it’s no great mystery as to why you felt like a piece of your heart went missing as soon as the other person disappeared. You probably spent a long time swearing that you would never fall in love again during your entire life, either because you felt incapable or unwilling to do so. However, no matter how much pain you felt because of that person who broke your heart, deep down, if you’re truly honest with yourself, there will always be a part of you that loves them, or at least the person you thought they were.

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For you see, no matter how much time passes by after a person breaks our heart, we will always remember the feelings we had when we first fell in love with that person, and hold onto the memories of how we became involved with them in the first place.

 

“Why do we do this?” you may ask. Does the human brain delight in torturing itself?

While the quick, simple answer would be “yes,” that is not the complete, correct answer. My most reasonable explanation for the brain’s illogical behavior in this matter is this – the human heart is impossibly stubborn, and refuses to let go of its own understanding of events. In an effort to hold onto what little happiness we may have known in the past, we harm ourselves emotionally by also holding onto the inevitable pain that followed. This torturous process can go on for many months, even long years before we are willing to finally accept the truth and move on. However, it is highly important to understand that sometimes this is actually part of the healing process, and should never be rushed under any circumstances, lest you risk undoing all your progress as a result of your hurry. True healing can NEVER be hurried; pain must always be processed by the brain in all of its natural grieving stages.

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Don’t stop reading just yet, because I have something to share that might help you.

After the loss of your first love, and possibly many other loves after that, you might feel like your heart is long gone with them, with no chance of it ever being returned to you. You might feel utterly empty inside, like a shadow of your former self, unable to recall what it was like before your heart was broken. I know exactly what all this feels like, for I have endured this same pain myself for great lengths of time in my past. However, I eventually discovered a powerful secret that held the key to my emotional freedom –

Did you know that no matter how many times you gave your heart away to someone, or had it taken away by someone, that it is still held in the hands of Someone Who loves you?

That’s right – before you ever fell in love with someone, you had a First Love long before you even met the person who broke your heart.

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This mysterious First Love is none other than Jesus Christ, the Son of God Himself. Keep in mind that when I say “God” or the “Son of God,” I am referring to the same divine Entity, one Person in three parts. Before you were even born, your entire existence was planned out in God’s mind as an important part of His universe. God created your unique personality and fashioned your form in your mother’s womb with His own hands. The minute of your conception, God breathed the breath of life into your body from His very own nostrils. Even though you had no control over being born into the sinful human race of Adam, that didn’t stop God from loving His wonderful creation that is you. Because your eternal soul means so much to Him, God was willing to sacrifice the life of His own perfect Son Jesus, just so you could have the chance to live with Him in Heaven forever.

There are two essential truths that are inherent to God’s love for you –

 

1. God’s love is unconditional.

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2. God’s love is everlasting.

Everlasting love

 

It’s important to remember these two truths at all times, for there will be many instances where Satan, the Father of Lies, will go out of his way to convince you that God does NOT love you, usually as a result of your sins. Once you arm yourself with these two essential truths, you will always be protected by the knowledge of God’s undeniable love for you. If you can always remember how much God loves you, then all the pain from the so-called love of people will fade into the background. Let’s explore the reasons why these two truths are so important for us to remember.

God’s love is unconditional, which means that no matter what we do (or don’t do) in this life, His love will always remain constant and unchanging.

Divine Image

From the very beginning of Creation, God has unconditionally loved ALL the souls that He has ever made. Although we are all born with a sinful nature, God still chooses to love us because we were created in His Divine Image. That perfect Image was tainted by the very first sin that Adam and Eve committed in the Garden of Eden, but it didn’t change the fact that they were still made to be a reflection of God’s nature. Since God imbued man with three parts, body, soul, and spirit, he became a direct replica of the Holy Trinity, which consists of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Because of this significant resemblance, God couldn’t find it in His heart to hate the man that He created, although He did hate the sin he committed.

The same thing is true for us to this very day. There is absolutely NOTHING we can do that will ever make God love us any less than He already does, or make Him stop loving us altogether. No matter how far we run away from Him, or try to keep Him out of our lives, His love for us will always remain the same. This truth applies to all people, both Christians, and non-Christians.

Seek and Save

Those of us who are Christians are merely sinners saved by grace, and we, unfortunately, are still prone to giving in to our sinful tendencies. God will try to get our attention back to Him in many ways and knows which ways will work best for us individually – through gentle reminders, or stern chastisement. Even though we have the privilege of knowing God’s unconditional love, we should be extremely careful that we don’t fall into the trap of taking it for granted. God’s grace and mercy do NOT give us a license to sin at will; they are there for the purpose of freeing us from it. Those who choose to ignore or reject God’s love in this life are putting their souls in eternal danger, a future where they will be forever separated from God in darkness and torment. While they live on this earth, they have every opportunity to put their faith and trust in the salvation of Jesus Christ, thus becoming a believer in Him. The time they have to live is God’s grace and mercy manifested, by giving them a chance to accept Him before it’s too late. No matter what decision they make about their eternal fate, God will still love them regardless of their choice, since they were made in His Divine Image.

 

God’s love is everlasting, which means that He will NEVER stop loving us. It also means that He loved us before we existed and will continue to love us through all eternity.

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As I already stated earlier, God loved us before we were even born. Since God is infinite, having no beginning and no end, He alone is capable of such a love. It’s impossible for our finite minds to fathom the meaning of this, since we can only understand from a limited perspective while on earth. However, this is the beautiful thing about it – we don’t HAVE to understand God’s love for us; we only have to accept it. God loves us from everlasting to everlasting, because He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. God calls Himself this in His Word, because He literally was there before the beginning of the world, and will also be the One Who ends the world when He decides it is time. This is a statement which shows us but a glimpse of just how powerful He is – He is Almighty God, and NOTHING is impossible for Him. With that knowledge, we should be perfectly capable of believing that God loved us before Creation, and will continue to love us long into eternity.

God keeps proises

We never have to worry about God’s love ending, because He is never-ending, neither do we have to worry about God’s love changing, because He never changes. We may have experienced tremendous amounts of heartbreak on this earth at the hands of people who couldn’t care less, but God will never break our hearts by going back on His Word or leaving us. He promises these things to us many times in His Word, to give us assurance and comfort. While people are untrustworthy, God is MORE than worthy of our trust, because He is without sin. God is SO perfect, that He literally CANNOT sin. He is simply incapable of it. This, in turn, means that He CANNOT lie, so we can be sure of His promises to us with absolute certainty.

All of this might sound too good to be true, but our souls can rejoice in the fact that it IS true. God is the only Absolute that we can ever depend on, and the same thing goes for His love for us. When man disappoints us, God is there to exceed our expectations. When man lies to us, God embodies absolute truth. When man forsakes us, God is always there by our side no matter what. NOTHING can separate us from this glorious love of His, not people, not demons, not even the Devil himself. For you see, God’s love is just as powerful as He is, being that it comes from Him. God IS love.

His love gives life

 

Now that we know the truths about God’s love, we can understand why He is our REAL First Love.

God alone is the One Who is truly deserving of our hearts, and their full capacity for love. This is His divine right because He made them. As if that reason were not enough, God has divine rights to our hearts because He PAID for them with the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. We are forever indebted to our Creator to give Him the maximum depths of our heart’s devotion, loyalty, and love. We would be remiss if we ever forgot Him. We should love God because He first loved us, and He knew that we had a choice to love Him back. God sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins to prove His love for us, knowing full well that our free will gave us the potential option to reject Him. That is just how powerful God’s love is, because He was brave enough to allow it to be rejected, and even scorned. God’s true love is fearless for that very reason, and we should fearlessly return His love.

Trapped heart

I will readily admit that I still remember my first earthly love, and I will always remember him, no matter how much time has passed since he’s been out of my life. I was so devastated by his repeated betrayals of me, and could never forget every word he said to me, both good and bad. I completely lost my identity in how much I loved him, and felt unspeakable anguish once I finally realized that he never really loved me. I was a hopeless prisoner of all the pain he caused me, and remained trapped emotionally for years, until the day God revealed to me that I was totally missing a crucial point. It was one day that I was riding in a van while working at a summer camp, exactly one year after my first love betrayed me for the last time. I was sitting in the back seat while gazing out the window, watching the trees and fields fly by rapidly, and my thoughts were utterly consumed with all the good and bad memories of the previous year. Then I turned my gaze up towards the sky and the sun, which always reminded me of God’s presence. It was at that moment that God silently got my attention through the whispers of His Holy Spirit – He asked me, “Why are you focusing so much on how much he didn’t love you, when instead you could be focusing on how much I DO love you?”

Chained hearts

I felt totally shocked at this revelation, feeling like I was completely oblivious to that point. When God whispered that question to me, the voice of His Holy Spirit sounded slightly offended that I didn’t recognize it sooner, as if to imply that I was being foolish and ignorant in my stubborn heart. However, that question was a turning point for me emotionally, and it was only then after I realized its logic that I truly started to heal. All of my former attempts to ignore my pain by distracting myself with my busy schedule at summer camp were in vain, but not after God asked me that question. I even shared this moment with a good friend of mine who also worked there that summer, and she told me that it also helped her in healing from her own heartbreak. That was the year that God set me free from the chains that were holding my heart hostage, and I’ll never forget what He taught me that summer. I found the key to my emotional freedom when I listened to God’s voice in His quiet question to my heart. So now that I have shared this story with you, I hope that it will potentially help you in the same way if you too have been hurt in the past by your first love.

 

Here are some heartfelt messages from your real First Love to remind you of His passion for you:

 

1 Chronicles 16:34 ~ “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.”

Psalm 86:15 ~ “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

Psalm 103:17 ~ “But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children;”

Psalm 107:8-9 ~ “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.

Psalm 139:13-18 ~ “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.”

Jeremiah 31:3 ~ “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”

Zephaniah 3:17 ~ “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

Matthew 22:37-39 ~ “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

John 3:16 ~ “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

John 13:34-35 ~ “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

John 15:13 ~ “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Romans 5:8 ~ “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 8:38-39 ~ “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Galatians 5:13-14 ~ “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Ephesians 5:2 ~ “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

1 Peter 4:8 ~ “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

1 John 3:1 ~ “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.”

1 John 3:16-18 ~ “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

1 John 4:7-8 ~ “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”

1 John 4:9-11 ~ “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

1 John 4:18-19 ~ “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us.

Hebrews 13:5 ~ “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

Revelation 1:8 ~ “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”

Revelation 2:4 ~ “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
The pain of your past is powerless to control you when you remember your real First Love.
My Healer
Everyone says that time heals all wounds, but I disagree with that saying. The passing of time only distances your memory from whatever happened that hurt you. Deep in the recesses of your mind, you’ll always remember what happened, and your heart never forgets the feelings it once had. However, GOD heals all wounds. Once you discover that His love is greater than all others, you will achieve a powerful victory. For me personally, it actually hurts to think of how long it’s been since I was hurt by my first love, since it makes me feel like there was no justice, as he was never truly sorry. It’s been almost ten years since my heart was first broken, and yet I still remember everything as if it happened yesterday. That is how I realize that time is simply a human construct to help us measure the days and years. I know that my earthly first love has long since forgotten me, but I have never forgotten him. It feels like it’s been a thousand years since I first fell in love with him. I’m sure that if you’ve been reading this, you most likely know what I’m talking about from your own experiences. God exists outside of time – one day to Him is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day. Don’t worry, for God has promised to avenge our past sorrows on this earth; revenge only belongs to Him. He still remembers our pain just as well as we do, and yet He also helps us to overcome it. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been forgotten by your first love, because God has never forgotten you. When we ask Him to help us remember every day just how much He loves us, then Satan is powerless to use our past pain to defeat us. We must always remember our real First Love, because He is the only One Whose love is actually worth remembering.
– Gloria D. Hopkins

Looking Over the Summit

Triumph.jpg
So you’ve reached the peak of personal success – now, what comes next?

As we recently welcomed a brand new year, it’s also time to welcome an all-new adventure!

So, it’s now 2018. We have officially turned the page from yesterday to reveal a new beginning for the present and the future. Whether we’re ready or not, time is going to just keep flying on by, regardless of us noticing it. The new year is a time of celebration, in two different contexts – leaving behind the past and all its negative memories, while also embracing the present and future with all their positive possibilities!

Perhaps this past year was more than a little bit rough for you, as I know it was for me. You know what? Don’t let it keep you down, for there is still a whole new world out there for you to explore! Maybe you just accomplished a HUGE personal goal over this past year that has been gnawing at you relentlessly for years. If so, I wish you a whole-hearted congratulations for that important triumph! You’ve definitely earned it! If this past year prevented you from achieving all that you hoped you would, don’t let that discourage you – this year is another brand new chance for you to make it happen!

After wishing you a heartfelt congratulations over your achievements or ongoing goals, I just have three helpful tips of advice to give you:

1. Don’t get stuck on the summit!

Snowy mountain

You’ve spent a long time trying to climb this mountain, and it took you a whole lot of effort just to get this far, so I understand the desire and need to stop and take a rest. However, don’t let this temporary resting period become your final destination! You don’t want the achievement of your goals to be a trap, where you stay stuck on the very top and have no idea how to get down again! Remember, life on this earth is a journey, and if you know Christ as your personal Savior, then Heaven is your final destination! In the meantime, we are supposed to be advancing the Kingdom of our Heavenly Father as much as we can with the precious time He has allowed us. There is a time for everything, just as the Scriptures say, for celebration and resting – but don’t let that be the only phase of your life just yet! God seldom calls His people to do just one thing for Him throughout the course of their lives, and if there is one specific calling, it usually has several components that go along with it. After you’ve finished recognizing your hard work and reaping the rewards of your labor, ask God to help you seek the next path on your way down, which leads us to my next tip…

2. Don’t be discouraged by the valley that lies before you.

Mountain Trail

As you prepare to descend the steep slope leading away from the previous summit in your life, you’ll surely discover a brand new, challenging obstacle course standing in your way. We have to remember that there are as many lows in life as there are highs, and accept them all with equal courage and humility. I understand the fear that comes from stepping out of secure, familiar territory very well. During this past year, my family had to move away from the place I called home for the last twenty-two years of my life. The location we moved to was more familiar to my parents, but I was too young to remember living there when I was just a baby. I only mention this to tell you that you’re not alone when it comes to facing daunting obstacles in life, for the purpose of helping you and providing comfort. Try your best to not view these winding valleys in a negative way – instead, view them as exciting opportunities for endless discoveries! Sure, it can be a little bit unsettling, but that’s the exciting part. When descending a mountain into the valley below, you don’t always know what you’re going to find: it could be a beautiful river full of crisp, refreshing spring water, a dense forest with lots of dark shadows, or a barren landscape with little more than sharp rocks and dead shrubbery. Whatever you might find at the bottom, just know that God has a purpose for it, and holds your best interest deep within His heart. After all, without exploring the valleys, we wouldn’t be able to proceed further on our journey, which leads us to my next tip…

3. Boldly explore the chain of mountains that the Lord has laid out for your life!

Sitting on the peak

Once you finish accomplishing one goal or dream in your life, don’t be afraid to pursue another! You’ll find that your life is full of more possibilities than you realize, if you give it some careful consideration. We only have one life on this earth, so in that sense, we really do only live once, but that’s all the more reason to live it wisely! What we do with the time God has given to us makes all the difference in our quality of life. It’s up to us to form the proper priorities that please our Creator, by learning which ones fulfill His purpose for us, and which ones don’t. Rather than being sad or feeling apathetic after completing our achievements, we should be reinspired to conquer whatever new worlds God has called us to! The ending slope of one mountain is usually connected to another, and that’s just what we need to keep our lives interesting! As we take the necessary courage to look out beyond the horizon of our surroundings, we should not be filled with fear over what lies before us, but full of awe and hope. How boring would it be if God chose to only give us one quest in our lives? Be inspired to do all you can, while you can before the Lord escorts us up to Heaven someday!

 

The Lord is our travel Guide in this grand expedition we call life, so let’s take a look at His Special Map for directions to our ultimate destination:

Mountain path

Deuteronomy 5:33 ~ “ Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.

Deuteronomy 13:4 ~ “Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.

Deuteronomy 31:8 ~ “And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.”

Joshua 14:8-9 ~ “Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the Lord my God. So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden will be an inheritance to you and to your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God fully.’

Sunwashed Mountain

Psalm 23 ~ “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

Psalm 27:33 ~ “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.”

Psalm 40:2 ~ “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.

Psalm 119:133 ~ “Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 ~ “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

Isaiah 48:17 ~ “Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.

Jeremiah 2:2 ~ “Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.”

Jeremiah 3:19 ~ “”Then I said, ‘How I would set you among My sons And give you a pleasant land, The most beautiful inheritance of the nations!’ And I said, ‘You shall call Me, My Father, And not turn away from following Me.'”

Jeremiah 29:11 ~ “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

John 8:12 ~ “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

John 12:26 ~ “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.”

Philippians 3:13 ~ “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

Hebrews 13:5-6 ~ “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”

 

Now that I’ve shared these tips of advice with you, take them with you as you enjoy scaling the slopes of success and exploring the peaks of prosperity!

I'm ready

Our life is meant to be one grand adventure, with many winding roads and twisting turns. The journey we travel cannot be lived in one place, otherwise it simply isn’t a journey. We can’t allow ourselves to be satisfied while staying in one spot – it is our divine privilege and duty to keep on exploring the paths God has for us, while staying connected to Him through the spiritual ground of His Word and the special power of prayer. With God’s help, we can set our sights on any mountain He wants us to climb, so long as we have faith the size of a tiny little mustard seed. Just like the nun sings to Maria in the classic movie, The Sound of Music, we truly can “climb every mountain” we face in our lives, by keeping our faith in God and overcoming our fears. After succeeding in the dreams and goals God has given to us, we still have so much to look forward to as long as we live, both in this life and the next. It’s our job to just be brave enough to look over the summit, and see the beautiful view for ourselves.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Appreciating Your Present

 

golden gift
“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”

 

This Christmas, did you feel satisfied with your gifts?

Now, I know you think I expect you to say “yes,” as if that were the only right answer, but let’s just be honest here for a minute – do you truly feel satisfied with what you received for Christmas this year?

There are many different types of gifts, whether they be material or intangible. Today, we’re going to talk about both of these categories that encompass a wide spectrum of things.

I can already imagine what you might be thinking at this point – “Oh great; this is another cliched post about being thankful for what you already have and not being greedy or materialistic, right?”

Well, get ready, because the answer to that cynical question is a big, fat

NOPE.

So, let’s get started as we delve into today’s complex topic, shall we?

First of all, we all know that Christmas is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year.”

blue gift

I apologize in advance if that previous sentence got the song stuck in your head, but I don’t apologize for using it in this context. Granted, there are countless wonderful things about this season that are capable of making people happy. I won’t waste time by listing all the things we’re already MORE than familiar with, but I’m sure you understand what I’m talking about. Yes, the season itself holds an abundance of positive elements that are allegedly supposed to bring joy to people, yet does the so-called “magic of the season” always do the trick?

Unfortunately, the sad but true answer is no.

No amount of Christmas cookies, rich food, decorations, or fun activities can truly fill the void people feel that exists within them throughout the rest of the entire year. For every person who might identify as a “Who” from Whoville or a Bob Crachett from Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” there is always going to be another person who, whether intentionally or not, identifies as a Grinch or a Scrooge to be their perfect foil.

Regardless of where you fall into these two categories, there are going to be some years where you just won’t be feeling as much of the Christmas spirit as you think you should, or at least what you think society expects you to feel.

There is a variety of circumstances that can contribute to people feeling more “ho-hum” rather than “ho ho ho” during this time of year – the annual stress of preparation, financial complications, family strife, hectic work schedules, contagious illnesses, and many other things.

In addition, there is one other possible circumstance that can make people say “Bah, humbug!” during the holidays – being single.

Yes, with all the sappy love songs about keeping each other warm, wanting no other gifts than their “presence” or heart, and how Christmas isn’t the same without the other person around, the radio and other media shoves these romantic cliches into single people’s ears whether they like it or not. Add onto the sappy Christmas music the effects of social media, where people shamelessly flaunt their relationship statuses of “dating,” “engaged”, or “married” more than ever, and you have single people wanting to throw a rock solid loaf of fruitcake at their computer screen or sleep in their beds until after New Year’s is over.

Is it wrong to feel unhappy when we experience these things at Christmastime? No, but it is very normal, especially when people are suffering from all these circumstances combined.

So, the question is, how can we be truly happy when we don’t have all (or any) of the things we want before, during, or after Christmastime?

gift of joy

The first thing we need to remember is that personal happiness is based on changing circumstances, while true joy is based on knowledge of and a relationship with God. We might not be anywhere near where we want to be in life, nor may we have all the material possessions we desire, but the most important aspect of our circumstances must always be where we stand with God. Just as it’s so incredibly easy to take our material things for granted while coveting more stuff, it’s also dangerously easy to take our Creator for granted, even during the very holiday that is meant to celebrate Him.

We can become so focused on the circumstances in our lives that we wish we could change, that we might be oblivious to the possibility that God is trying to change us through those very circumstances.

Even though the frustration or sorrow of our difficult circumstances may seem inescapable, there is one solution that actually works, if you’re willing to try it. When your thoughts are overwhelming you, and you feel stressed or helpless about your current situation, that is precisely when you should turn to the One Who sees all and understands all. Seeking God’s face in His Word or through prayer is the absolute best way to dispel all these various emotional problems we have amidst life’s turmoil.

When you find it hard to celebrate the seasonal festivities with everyone else around you because of the pain or worries in your heart, God wants you to draw close to Him and cling to Him for comfort. Every circumstance we go through that is capable of making us cry is meant to help us cry out to our Heavenly Father. Once we acknowledge that the situation (whatever it might be) is out of our control, we then allow ourselves to have the courage we need to fully trust God with it, just like we’re supposed to. After we succeed in this crucial step, we unlock the key to true, fulfilling joy in our lives that lasts all throughout the year, not just Christmas, which is…

Being perfectly content with our present circumstances, regardless of our limited understanding.

Screen Shot 2017-12-30 at 8.25.05 PM

Just like how Christmas presents are supposed to be a surprise to their recipients, God’s plan for our lives is meant to be an exciting journey, a thrilling mystery that we uncover one step at a time, each and every day. When it comes to Christmas gifts, we usually make lists when we’re children of all the many things we want; as adults, we drop a few not-so-subtle hints here and there to the people that care about us. Although we hope to receive the things we wanted, that is not exactly always the case. There are certainly contributing factors to not receiving specific things we wanted, such as financial strain, item availability, or mail delivery arrival issues. More often than not, these factors are out of people’s control, and should not be mistaken as a lack of love or consideration for our desires. Therefore, whenever we are disappointed by the things we receive (or don’t receive) for Christmas, we should try our best to be understanding of the efforts of those who gave them to us.

The same exact thing applies to God in how He handles the circumstances of our lives. We don’t always get exactly what we want, but sometimes that is for the best in God’s eyes, since He knows everything.

Other times, it’s simply a matter of not getting what we want exactly when we want it. It’s our responsibility to acknowledge God as our Heavenly Father, Who owes us NOTHING, but chooses to bless us far more than we deserve anyway. We, however, are merely His children who can only understand things from our limited perspective. If we can have enough faith in His goodness to trust Him, then we should be satisfied with whatever outcome He chooses to give us. After all, our personal happiness is nothing in comparison to the importance of God’s glory in our lives. Are we living this life to please ourselves, or giving it as a sacrifice to the One Who sacrificed His own life for us?

When we are brave enough to ask ourselves the hard-hitting question above, it is then that we discover the real, honest truth about our hearts. We as Christians are supposed to be thankful and satisfied with what God has given us no matter what, but are we really? If not, then it’s high time that we reassess our spiritual priorities. Sometimes we can be guilty of greed, pride, and selfishness in its ugliest forms, but other times, personal discontent can be the result of unintentional ignorance and a misunderstanding of God’s plans for us. Either way, we must confess these feelings to God in prayer and ask Him to forgive us. He is always faithful to do so, and He gives us more grace to persevere in the life He’s called us to in spite of all the difficulties. We must always remember that God still loves us and that the trials we go through should not be mistaken for Him punishing us out of cruelty like Satan wants us to believe.

 

Here are some special verses from God’s Word to help you learn how to appreciate your present:

 

Psalm 16:8 ~ “I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Psalm 27:14 ~ “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”

Psalm 38:15 ~ “For in thee, O Lord, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God.”

Psalm 39:7 ~ “And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.”

Psalm 42:11 ~ “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”

Psalm 120:1 ~ “In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me.

Psalm 139:5 ~ “Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.

Psalm 142:1,2, & 5 ~ “I cried unto the Lord with my voice; with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication. I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble.

I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.”

Jeremiah 29:11 ~ “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

Matthew 6:25,33 ~ “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Luke 22:42 ~ “ Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”

John 16:22 ~ “And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.

Romans 14:17 ~ “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

Romans 15:13 ~ “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

1 Corinthians 10:13 ~ “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

Philippians 4:11 ~ “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

Hebrews 4:15 ~ “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 12:2 ~ “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 13:5-6 ~ “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

James 1:2-3 ~ “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.”

1 Peter 5:7 ~ “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

 

Once you learn how to fully appreciate the gift of your present, true Christian joy will always be within your grasp.

Paper present

I realize that this subject is one I’ve thoroughly exhausted on this blog already, but it is such an important lesson for Christians to learn, since it is reoccurring for all of us. Trusting God no matter what and keeping your joy in all circumstances is a lifelong challenge that we have to face while on this earth. With these words, I’m not just speaking to you, but to myself. This is the very topic that has been on my heart lately, which is why I chose to write about it to help others like myself. So this post actually was about contentment, but not for material things – spiritual ones instead. While God doesn’t expect us to like whatever trials we face, He does expect us to trust Him and learn more about His unconditional love for us. The more we get to know our Heavenly Father, the closer we will be to Him, and understand His ways. For that reason alone, difficult circumstances should be a source of true joy for us, acting as a stimulant for bonding with the Lover of our souls. Even if we don’t have what we want in our lives right now, we can be satisfied by our Savior’s love for us. In this manner, we can sincerely appreciate our present, given to us by the Giver of all things. Your present is waiting for you right now… all you have to do is accept it.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Getting Cozy In Christ

Girl with cozy sweater
Wrap yourself up in the warmth of Jesus’ love for you!

It’s officially sweater season!

During this time of year, the current popular fashion trend of wearing oversized sweaters couldn’t be more fitting. When the fall weather brings harsh winds and gusts of cold air, we need all the protection we can get so we don’t risk getting frostbite or hypothermia. Aside from the practical reasons to wear sweaters, people like me just can’t wait to unveil their fall wardrobe that’s jam-packed with sweaters, hoodies, jackets, and anything else that will keep them looking stylish and feeling warm. Sweaters are super comfortable, and they can be even more fun to wear than normal shirts because of how stretchy they usually are. Without a doubt, sweaters are my favorite part my closet! Whenever I put one on, it feels like someone is giving me a warm, loving hug throughout the entire day!

You know what else is very comforting that will keep you feeling warm everywhere you go? Jesus’ love for you.

cozy sweater

That’s right, the affectionate reassurance of Jesus’ daily presence with you is something that you can take great pleasure in every single day. No matter how cold and harsh people might be in the outside, unsaved world, Jesus’ love for you is something that is always there for you. When you wake up in the morning and see His beautiful sunrise, let it remind you of the brightness of His glory and the light of His holiness. Every time I see sunlight during any time of day, it always reminds me of God’s presence with me and of Jesus’ wonderful love for me. Although I realize the sun is not the Creator Himself, it is a strong visual symbol of His identity for me. When I’m driving by myself in the morning, and I see the soft rays of light stretching through the sky, God gently brings my attention to His constant presence with me.

Jesus’ faithful, loving presence is a soft place of solace for you, even on your hardest days.

tired sweater girl

At the end of the day, no matter how rough my time was at work or how rude people might have been to me, Jesus’ love is a soothing embrace that I can look forward to snuggling into the minute I’m alone. I try my best to please Him every day, even though I know I’m FAR from perfect, and I can feel Him smiling on me because He knows my heart was in the right place. I hope and trust that you who are reading this have shared similar experiences to mine with God also. When people mistreat you through their careless actions and unkind words, just remember Who it is that loves you unconditionally. He is the only One that you should truly care about pleasing in your life, and the thoughts and opinions of other people are actually irrelevant in comparison.

In order to feel the warmth of Jesus’ love for you every day, you must first remember to put Him on.

sad sweater girl

The only way to experience lasting comfort in your daily life is by making good use of the glorious Gift that was given to you at salvation. Just as a sweater can’t keep you warm from the cold if you never wear it or forget to put it on, you’ll have a hard time remembering Jesus’ love for you if you neglect to acknowledge Him every day. This does not mean that His love isn’t there for you if you forget about Him, it just means you won’t consciously feel it or be aware of it as much than if you had remembered Him. Why settle for feeling sad, unwanted, or unloved the whole day when you can feel joyful, accepted, and loved unconditionally because of Jesus? Jesus cares about you, and God is your Heavenly Father if you are already saved. Whether you live all by yourself, have very few friends, or simply don’t get to spend much time with the people you love, God’s presence with you is the one constant that will NEVER go away. If you’re single, you never have to be lonely because God is always there for you. If you feel like you have no one to talk to, God is always ready and willing to listen. If you wish you had pleasant company, God is the best Source of it that you could possibly turn to.

Here are some verses to help you remember the cozy comfort of Jesus’ love for you at all times:

Deuteronomy 31:6 ~ “ Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

Joshua 1:9 ~ “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

Psalm 16:8 ~ “I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Psalm 25:5 ~ “Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.

Psalm 34:18 ~ “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”

 

Psalm 139:7-12 ~ “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;

Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.”

Isaiah 6:3 ~ “And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

Isaiah 43:2 ~ “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”

Jeremiah 23:23-24 ~ “Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.”

 

John 14:16 ~ “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

John 14:26 ~ “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

John 16:7 ~ “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

Acts 17:27-28 ~ “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.

Hebrews 13:5 ~ “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

 

Are you ready to face the cold, outside world with the protection of Jesus’ warm, loving presence?

Irish sweater girl

While you are busy collecting all the sweaters you can for the coming winter months, make sure you are equipped with the benefits of the most important sweater of all – the sweater of eternal salvation. Your sweaters won’t do you any good locked in the closet while you go outside, and neither will you be prepared to face the world without acknowledging God’s presence and Jesus’ love for you. God is the perfect Parent of all time, and He cares about you far more than your earthly parents ever could, so take time to appreciate Him as you’re on your way out the door each morning. Whether you’re still living with your parents like I am, or if you’re already out on your own, you will ALWAYS need God in your life. He is the only One Whom you must truly depend on for everything. Wrap yourself up in His warm love for you by praying to Him, which doesn’t have to be fancy, but just a simple, pleasant conversation with Him. When you take the time to get cozy in Christ, the cold, harsh wind of this fallen world will never shake you.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

Speak Up, Don’t Give Up!

 

Alone At Sea
Please don’t choose to end it all, when you don’t know the end of it all.

 

I realize that September is nearly over already, but I feel compelled to write about this subject before it passes: National Suicide Awareness Month. While I am happy that there is a specific month dedicated to making people more mindful of this issue, I wish that our society would realize just how serious it is throughout the entire year, as this problem will never completely go away while this dark, fallen world exists.

There are countless people in this world who suffer from depression, which as a condition itself comes in many different forms. It is far more than just a negative emotional state; it is medically proven to be a mental illness that strongly affects one’s emotions and sense of rationality. However, I’m not writing this post to elaborate on the complex definition of depression – I’m writing this to help those who might be struggling with it, and also people who have loved ones in their lives that are also struggling with it.

Before I continue, let me clarify that the entire reason I started this blog was for the purpose of encouraging people to keep their joy in spite of dark circumstances. Satan’s primary goal when attacking Christians is to steal their joy. He achieves this by causing them to focus far too much on all the many negative things in their lives instead of God and His goodness. You see, because Satan hates God so much, he goes out of his way to convince people, including Christians, that God is not the good, loving Creator that He says He is. Satan even tells himself this lie to justify his rebellion against God when he still lived in Heaven. Satan reasons that if he can’t win against God, then he wants to pull as many people into the darkness with him as he possibly can.

Now, Christians have already been saved from the darkness of Hell, but they are still not immune to emotional and spiritual darkness.

God has already won the victory over Satan, death, and Hell, and Christians who have accepted Him are granted eternal security. Satan knows this, and he HATES that there is absolutely NOTHING he can do about it. God’s power will ALWAYS be superior to his, and Satan can never change that fact. However, Satan is certainly not above being petty against God, because he is the biggest sore loser in the entire universe. Even though Satan cannot counteract what Christ did for us at Calvary, he resorts to an alternative strategy to try to destroy Christians’ lives – he wants to render them completely useless for God’s service in this world.

“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:” ~ Colossians 1:12-14

 

Painful Reflection
Artist credit: Geoffrey Jones

 

Satan knows that a Christian who is filled with God’s power will be victorious over him, so he makes it his primary goal to convince Christians that they are powerless over their lives. He relentlessly attacks people by taunting them with the difficult life circumstances they face and drives them into despair and agony by reminding them that they are helpless to do anything to change their miserable condition. Satan wants to emphasize how Christians don’t possess God’s power over their circumstances themselves and wants to keep them ignorant of the fact that they are capable of spiritually and emotionally rising above the circumstances that he (Satan) is using to harm them.

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13

Once a Christian makes the heartbreaking decision to end his or her own life, Satan rejoices at winning a trophy against God.

Now, please don’t misinterpret the above statement. After receiving salvation, a person belongs to God for all eternity, and Satan can never possess custody of his or her soul again. However, if a Christian chooses to kill himself, Satan sees his death as one less warrior in God’s army to be used in the ongoing spiritual battle against him. The more Christians that Satan can take out of the fight, the less opposition he’ll have to face in this world, meaning that the billions of other lost souls that exist will have a much stronger chance of remaining lost forever, doomed to Hell.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” ~ Ephesians 6:12

Therefore, committing suicide as a Christian is not only a sin, but it is also STEALING a valuable servant and potential warrior from God Himself.

When Jesus died on the cross for your sins, He gave everything He had just so you could be freed from Satan’s evil clutches and join Him in Heaven forever someday. Jesus gave you this opportunity through His glorious act of unconditional love on the cross, even though you had the option of never loving Him back. Jesus gave up His own life because He loved you enough to rescue you from the punishment of sin; He didn’t make His ultimate sacrifice just so you could throw your life away and all of your limitless potential you had to serve Him. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, God literally bought you back from Satan himself, since he is the god of this present world. After you accept salvation, Satan and the love of self are no longer your true masters – God alone is. Without trying to sound harsh or judgmental, my friend who is reading this, what right do you have to rob God of the service of your life that He rightfully purchased with the blood of His precious Son?

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Now that I have explained the tragic loss of suicide from God’s perspective, allow me to just talk to you as a friend.

First of all, let me just say that I know exactly what it feels like to struggle with suicidal thoughts. In my life, I have been through several dark experiences that Satan has tried to use to destroy me to the very best of his ability. These include being bullied severely during my entire childhood at school – in elementary, middle, and high school; being involved in an extremely emotionally abusive romantic relationship; being betrayed by people whom I thought were my real friends, and the list goes on and on. I fully realize that I am not the only one who has suffered these things, but that in no way detracts from the great deal of pain I have been through because of them all. In fact, to this very day I still have to ask God to help me deal with the emotional scars that I’ve gained from my difficult past. There are certain negative things that will trigger my memory, which just so happens to be photographic, and my brain doesn’t need help remembering what it already holds onto so vividly whether I like it or not.

Mood Ring Finger
I’ve worn this mood ring on my right middle finger since the summer of 2013, the last time I was really struggling. Half of it changes color, and the other half glows in the dark. My mom bought it for me at the beach when she was trying to help distract me from my pain. I have worn it every day ever since to remind me of my mom’s love for me, and also to remind me to keep glowing in the dark.

The way that people have treated me throughout the course of my relatively brief lifetime has taken an immense toll on my personal self esteem. Because of this, I am not ashamed to admit that I still struggle with issues such as my self worth, since many people made me feel like I was never good enough for them, and that nothing I did could ever please them. Satan loves it when I feel this way, because he wants me to forget about how God sees me in His eyes – which is a valuable soul that He created, and sent His Son to rescue from Hell by dying on the cross for me. Whenever I’m tempted with suicidal thoughts, I remind myself of how I belong to God in both body and soul, and I have no right to steal from Him what He has already rightfully bought.

 

So I say all that to say this –

 

I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed with the rainstorm of your own emotions.

 

Alone In the Rain

I have endured many sleepless nights where I was drowning in my own tears, helplessly engulfed in the sea of personal sorrow. My mind has the potential to be my own greatest enemy, if I allow it to be. When I don’t give God full control over my thoughts, I can very easily be dragged down into the depths of despair if I’m not careful. My negative emotions, if left unchecked, can numb me to the outside world around me to the point where I don’t even notice all the other many people who are suffering from their own pain. That’s the thing about Satan’s strategy of self-pity – he wants us to be so wrapped up in our own problems that we won’t have any time left to care about those around us. Who knows how different things would be if we took the time to ask other people how they’re doing, and discovered that they’re struggling with the same problems that we are? Not only would we be helping other people to see that they’re not alone, but we’d also be helping ourselves to find out that WE’RE not alone after all like we thought!

If you feel like you just can’t take it anymore, please, by all means, TELL SOMEBODY. Speak up, just don’t give up! Don’t feel ashamed to be honest about how you’re feeling with someone you trust. Believe me, that person would much rather have you tell them NOW about your problems than feel guilty for the rest of their life after you’re gone because they didn’t know you were struggling. You are NOT a bother by telling someone whom you trust about the issues you deal with, even if you might feel like it sometimes. You might have had other people treat you like a bother in the past, which is what probably led to these negative feelings you’re having now. However, if you can find someone that you believe is willing to listen to you, they will assure you that your feelings are perfectly valid and worthy of consideration. Be aware that Satan will whisper lies in your mind that everyone else doesn’t have time for you or your problems, because he wants to keep you from the help you need.

Furthermore, Satan seeks to isolate you physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

 

Alone In The Mist

When you’re feeling depressed to the point of having suicidal thoughts, your natural instinct is to shut yourself off from other people, simply because you assume that nobody else understands what you’re going through. However, this is the worst possible thing you can do, since Satan loves to attack us when we’re most vulnerable, just like the roaring lion the Bible describes him as. He attacks when you’re locked away in your bedroom, silently crying in anguish as you play the same sad songs you relate to on repeat. He attacks when you’re out in public and you see other people around you who appear to be perfectly happy, enjoying all the different things you wish you had. He attacks when you go through your daily routine at work or school, through the comments or actions of other people that may or may not be intended to hurt you. I know exactly how Satan approaches his prey, because I myself have been his targeted victim in all of these scenarios.

Instead of hiding out in your room or anywhere else you go to avoid other people, try seeking out those who you feel you can trust, even if you don’t think they’ll ever understand how you feel. Chances are, you’ll wind up surprised at just how understanding other people can be in spite of your pre-existing judgments. Even if there is no one in your everyday life that you truly feel you can trust, you can seek out the help of professional counselors, as their whole career is about providing the listening ear you need and desire. If you cannot afford professional counseling, another option is seeking out someone involved in a ministry who has a godly testimony that has been proven over a long period of time. Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you spend sufficient time in prayer about it first. Don’t neglect the resources that are available and designed to help you. Remember, your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being as a whole is the most important thing you can invest in for your life.

 

You life HAS MEANING, and the unique touch that you give to this world would forever be sincerely missed.

 

Handprint

Whether you realize it or not, your life is important and special, because God created it ON PURPOSE. You do not exist for no reason! Every single person who has ever lived was made by the hands of an Almighty Creator because He wanted them to be a part of His living Masterpiece. There are countless other lives that you touch every day which you are unaware of, and will most likely remain unaware of until you get to Heaven. Once there, God will reveal to you all the many other people who were affected by your life in a positive way, regardless of how significant you felt your words or actions were. That is the true definition of eternal riches – affecting and influencing other people’s lives so their souls can have hope and happiness forever.

Refuse to believe Satan’s lie that “everyone else would be better off without you.” The only thing he can do is tempt you with his evil influence; YOU are the one who has the free will to make a decision. If you need help resisting Satan’s attacks, pray to God to give you the strength, courage, and determination you need to fend him off. Satan is persistent, so don’t expect to see the last of him if you succeed in pushing him away the first time. Become resolute in your heart that you will turn to God for help every single time you need Him when it comes to this deadly temptation. If you feel that you lack the ability to achieve victory in this area on your own, ask God to send you someone who can be your human guardian angel. Just remember, the amount of emotional pain that you’re feeling right now will NEVER outweigh the pain of everyone around you once you’re gone.

 

If you know someone who is severely depressed and struggling with suicidal thoughts, please try to be sensitive to their feelings and HELP them.

 

Depression

Whether it’s a friend, family member, or just a casual acquaintance, anyone you know could be secretly struggling with suicidal thoughts on the inside. Because these feelings are symptoms of severe depression, they also make the person feel too ashamed to talk about it voluntarily. Society has placed a negative stigma on this issue for years, but recently it seems to be getting progressively better about being sensitive to it. We should always be concerned and care about the well-being of others, but if we ever have good, solid reason to suspect that someone is sincerely struggling emotionally, we ought to go out of our way to reach out to them. Suicidal feelings are a result of the notion that nobody cares about the person, and that no one would care enough to ask how they’re doing. You never know how much of a difference you could make in someone’s life if you decide to step up and show that you care about them. In fact, the difference just might be that you helped save their life.

The correct way to approach the issue is by just being a friend to that person. DON’T treat them like a freak who has something wrong with them. DON’T come across as patronizing or condescending. Just talk to them, ask open-ended, non-threatening questions, and BE THERE to listen. You don’t have to be a licensed therapist to listen to someone else’s problems – being a friend to someone includes being their personal confidant, with whom they can share their deepest thoughts, feelings, and secrets. Do little things for them to help them out, such as chores or errands that they might lack the emotional or physical energy to do. Surprise them with little things you know they like. Write them an encouraging note or letter to express just how important they are to you. Or, if writing by hand isn’t your thing, just a simple text message or email to let them know you’re thinking and praying about them would suffice. No matter what you choose to do, make sure that person knows that you have love for them in your heart, as God’s unconditional love is what makes ALL the difference.

Here is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, if you or someone else you know is struggling and needs help RIGHT AWAY:

Call 1-800-273-8255

You are NOT alone.

– Gloria D. Hopkins

 

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