“Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

As followers of Jesus, we’ve all had the feeling of grasping for one of these fruits of the Spirit while wondering if we had a single one to give. A reader once wrote to me, “I think I have plenty of each of the fruits when I don’t need them. It’s when I’m in a trying situation that I discover the fruit I need is the one I’m short of.” I’ve always loved this woman for her honesty because we can all relate to her sentiment. I have patience in droves when everything is going my way. I’m the kindest person I know when people are treating me well. I’ve got humility for days when no one is challenging my pride. You see where I’m headed here…fruits are not fruits until they’re tested.

Which leads us to another challenge: What do we do when we’re trying to heed Paul’s advice to wear these fruits, yet we have very little compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, or patience growing in our hearts? Not to mention, when we study these fruits we realize that each has a powerful meaning, and Jesus embodied all of them (perhaps another post for another day). In other words, when Paul asks us to put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, he’s asking something extraordinary of us. This way of living and being around others isn’t something we can simply will ourselves into. I tried to do this for the longest time until Paul’s opening line grabbed my attention: “Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved…”

“When I truly believe I’m significant to my Savior, the fruits flow more freely from within me.”Click To Tweet

For most of my life, I’d inadvertently leaped straight over these doctrinal principles, not realizing that these truths are the very basis for being able to love one another with the fruits of Jesus. And oh the difference this has made.


The Greek word for chosen is eklektos. It means picked out, chosen to obtain salvation through Christ. When we sit in the reality and mystery that God chose us before the foundations of the world to be His adopted son or daughter (Ephesians 1:4-5), our heart can’t help but soften and enlarge. When I truly believe I’m significant to my Savior, the fruits flow more freely from within me.


In addition to being chosen, we’ve been made holy. The Greek word here is hagios, and it means to be set apart for God, to be exclusively His. The word can also mean sacred, unlike or otherness, different. When we’re grounded and settled in the reality that we’ve been set apart for special and sacred purposes within God’s Kingdom, the fruits come more naturally. When we’re secure in our calling, the posture of humility and the ability to cheer for others will flow more freely.


Some Bible versions say beloved instead of dearly loved. Both express the deep and beautiful meaning of the Greek word agapao, which is an active love. It means “to be fond of,” “dear,” “precious,” and “costly.” Growing up I sometimes felt more tolerated by God than I did precious to Him. As though I’d barely made the cut as His child. But Paul boldly declared that we are His beloved in Jesus Christ. We won’t be able to effectively embody the fruits of Jesus without first knowing how dearly He loves us.

Simply put, we often try to live the fruits of the Spirit in hopes of being chosen by God, loved by Him, and set apart by Him, when in reality it’s the other way around. Because we are chosen, made holy, and set apart, we are now able to bear the fruit as Jesus has taken up residence in our hearts. While sanctification plays a part in fruitful living, and sanctification takes time, the fruits of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience are always accessible to you, because Jesus is the embodiment of them all. And He loves you dearly.

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I grew up in a church environment where a “Plan of Salvation” was regularly presented. If you prayed the sinner’s prayer, it was generally understood that no matter what happened from there on out, you were saved and good to go. Bibles were sometimes passed out with...



Most of us enter Christmastime with anticipation and dread, hope and jadedness, excitement and I’m-already-over-this. Perhaps for most of us, it’s a blend of all of these and more. You may not be able to tell where one emotion ends and the other begins, or even why....



As we move into the Christmas season my hope is that we'll find ways to bless one another on social media. Perhaps we can think of ways to use our voices to encourage and champion others, instead of merely looking for a platform for our opinions to be heard. Here are...



Two years ago I began to hit a wall.

I was run down and burned out. It wasn’t that I didn’t love the Lord or people anymore. It wasn’t that I’d lost my passion for God’s Word, teaching the Bible, writing, or taking mission trips to the Amazon and Moldova with Justice & Mercy International.

I simply had no margin. I was so busy that there was little room for anything fresh to come in. Little was growing, and I felt as though all I was giving others were crusty leftovers.

I met with my pastor and he encouraged me to evaluate the way I was using my time. He challenged me to guard the most important tasks the Lord has given me to do and say no to what wasn’t part of that agenda. Since that meeting, I’ve recognized six things that have significantly supported my spiritual and emotional health. I’ve put them in the form of questions so you can think personally and critically about how well you’re covered in each area.


While it sounds simple, I realized that part of my problem was that I’d stopped learning. Teachers often forget to take time to be taught. Even if you don’t consider yourself a teacher, we all need to be fed and led spiritually. In addition to being involved in a local church that feeds your soul, commit to a Bible study, take an online seminary course, listen to podcasts by teachers who point out truths from God’s Word. Continuing to learn and grow is vital to our personal refreshment.


In busy seasons we tend to depend on our resources and strength to make it through, meanwhile prayer is the first thing to go. Several years ago I decided I wanted to see God do immeasurably more than I could ever do on my own. I wanted to be an intercessor for others who are hurting, sick or stuck. And because I love what I do, I also wanted to make sure I have a stronger relationship with Jesus than I have with my ministry. Prayer has been the game-changer for me in these areas. Whether it’s praying alone in the mornings or praying with a group, this is where the supernatural happens.

Whether it’s praying alone in the mornings or praying with a group, this is where the supernatural happens.Click To Tweet So make a commitment to be renewed and encouraged in prayer, and don’t allow it to be edged out by busyness.


Who builds you up? Who listens intently to you? Who makes you laugh? Who encourages you especially as it relates to your relationship with Christ?

The Apostle Paul described his friends Onesiphorus and Philemon as people who refreshed him (2 Timothy 1:16, Philemon 1:20). I love that word refreshed. It can mean “to cool and refresh by a breath.”¹ Soon I’ll be flying to New Jersey to visit friends who have been missionaries in Italy for nearly 40 years. They’re older in the faith than I am, have a fantastic sense of humor, inspire me in my relationship with Christ, and they cook me authentic Italian meals. Being in their presence fills me up and renews me so I have more to give when I return. How can you proactively schedule time to be with those who refresh you?


We all have to have people in our lives with whom we can share our struggles, doubts, fears, even our sins (James 5:16). That last one might seem a little over-the-top, but my friends and I often confess our bad attitudes, ask one another for forgiveness, or simply talk about the struggles we’re having. One of the enemy’s oldest tricks is leading us to believe that we can’t tell anyone what’s really going on inside us. 

One of the enemy’s oldest tricks is leading us to believe that we can’t tell anyone what’s really going on inside us. Click To TweetJesus, on the other hand, desires that we live in the light. I’m so thankful that part of His plan to accomplish this is through safe and open relationships where we can be truly known with the best and worst parts of ourselves out in the open. While you may have lots of relationships, make sure you have a trusted few with whom you can be completely honest and transparent.


It’s taken me many years to discover that I’m a much better friend, family member, and person in ministry when I’ve taken time for rejuvenation. When I race from commitment to commitment without any margin I’m no good to anyone. For me, hobbies like gardening, cooking and long walks are restorative to my soul. I don’t have to think too hard in these spaces and ironically it’s in the midst of these activities that some of my best thoughts come to me. I’ve learned to be intentional about guarding time for activities that feed my body, mind and spirit. Ask yourself what you love to do and make some time for it.


One of the worst assaults on our spiritual and emotional health is our addiction and connection to television, the Internet, and social media. Without being intentional it’s nearly impossible to disconnect from our phones and computers, even for brief periods. Times of solitude are so foreign that they can make us feel uncomfortable. We can even grow anxious with that much “peace”. But solitude is vital for quieting our souls and the voices around us so we can hear from God. I emerge from periods of solitude with calm and clarity that are simply impossible to find in the midst of busyness.

¹ Schweizer, E., Bertram, G., Dihle, A., Tröger, K.-W., Lohse, E., & Jacob, E. (1964–). ψυχή, ψυχικός, ἀνάψυξις, ἀναψύχω, δίψυχος, ὀλιγόψυχος. G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, & G. Friedrich (Eds.), Theological dictinary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 9, p. 663). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans

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Most of us enter Christmastime with anticipation and dread, hope and jadedness, excitement and I’m-already-over-this.

Perhaps for most of us, it’s a blend of all of these and more. You may not be able to tell where one emotion ends and the other begins, or even why. I’m personally entering this season with some real gratefulness along with some unmet longings, and the holidays accentuate both for me. I imagine the same is true for you. While the Hallmark movies, nostalgic Christmas carols, and commercials that emphasize more stuff and romance and flawless families call forth in us an ache for more, I’m especially grateful for the way Luke begins his account of the very first Christmas.

The curtain opens on Zechariah and Elizabeth, a married and childless couple, who are longing to be parents. In a Jewish culture where having a son to carry on your family name and legacy was paramount, life hadn’t worked out the way Zechariah and Elizabeth had hoped. And we simply can’t miss that up to this point in their lives God had been silent for 400 years. No prophets, angels, signs, wonders—not a peep from heaven. It was with dashed hopes in the thick of God’s silence that Zechariah and Elizabeth move toward the very first Christmas. 


“Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord. But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years.” Luke 1:6-7

 It’s Elizabeth and Zechariah’s faithful obedience that makes the tiny conjunction but appear so starkly here, “But they had no children”. You can be following the commands of Jesus this Christmas season and seeking Him the best way you know how, and still there can be aches and gaps and even silence. You’re in good company with these two. My simple encouragement is to keep doing what Jesus has told you to do from His Word. Don’t complicate the way forward by turning to consumerism, numbing the pain with busyness or throwing your hands up when God seems quiet. He sees you, He knows your longings and even when He’s silent He’s moving. He had never forgotten Zechariah or Elizabeth for a single moment.

He sees you, He knows your longings and even when He’s silent He’s moving.Click To Tweet


“But the angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John’.” Luke 1:13

When the angel Gabrielle shattered the 400 years of silence, he did so by letting Zechariah know that his prayer had been heard. The impossibility of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s situation didn’t stop them from praying about it. The angel is almost certainly referencing all those prayers for a son that they had been praying for decades. What prayers have you given up praying? What or who have you stopped praying for because it’s been too long or too quiet? Follow the lead of these two and keep praying because God hears your prayers. Like Zechariah, even when you don’t feel it, keep serving in your houses of worship this season, expectant to encounter the Lord. He may show up in a way you least expect.


“The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people.” Luke 1:25

I have a lot of favorite Bible verses but this has to be one of my favorites of the favorites (plus, it has the word favor in it, so this works out splendidly.) The child that Elizabeth would give birth to, John the Baptist, was no doubt a gift to the world. He was appointed the forerunner of Christ who would prepare the people for the coming Savior. But notice what Elizabeth proclaims: He’s done this for me. Yes, John the Baptist would help prepare the world for the Messiah, but God is very good at doing global things while also intersecting the lives of individuals and blessing them along the way.

This Christmas while we should certainly turn our eyes to Christ and rejoice in what He has done for the world; don’t miss what He’s done for you.

This Christmas while we should certainly turn our eyes to Christ and rejoice in what He has done for the world; don’t miss what He’s done for you.Click To Tweet After years of longing, God removed Elizabeth’s disgrace and gave her a son who would be a joy and delight to his parents. He invited these two faithful yet flawed humans (Zechariah wasn’t able to speak for 9 months because of his unbelief at Gabriel’s promise) into His story and blessed them with the longing of their hearts. Most importantly, they were blessed by encountering their Savior (Lk 1:43).

No matter the ache, the years, the quietness, the Savior has come and I know He wants you to encounter Him this season. In the midst of our culture’s holiday ideals, hold fast to Him, choose obedience, commit to serving and worshiping with other believers, and who knows what the Lord might just do this Christmas for you. Encountering Him will be greater than any gift we can hope for.





As we move into the Christmas season my hope is that we’ll find ways to bless one another on social media. Perhaps we can think of ways to use our voices to encourage and champion others, instead of merely looking for a platform for our opinions to be heard. Here are a few things I’ve been thinking about recently. I hope they’ll be helpful for you.


It seems to me that the rise of social media has pushed people from a place of freedom of speech to duty of opinion. In other words, we’ve moved from the privilege of enjoying freedom of speech to being compelled to give our opinion on every matter, sometimes several times a day online. The sheer volume of opinions and re-sharing of opinions has led to pain and divisiveness. Just because we have an opinion on a public matter doesn’t mean it’s needful to share it publicly, and it doesn’t mean it builds up the body of Christ, not to mention those who are not yet followers of Jesus.

I speak often with friends and family and close church members about the issues of the day, policies, and politics. But I do it within the context of real life community. That said, I do believe there are especially well-informed believers who are poised and gifted to speak to public issues in a public format, and I’m very grateful for them. While there’s no formal way to know who is called or not called to this kind of public service, I think we would do really well to ask ourselves if we’re one of the called or if we simply feel compelled to be heard for the sake of getting our opinion out there. It’s helpful for me to ask myself: is my opinion about a certain matter something I should share on social media, or something that’s best discussed in real life community?


Growing up in a Bible church, I remember the distinct sense of having a home base whenever a doctrinal or political issue arose. In other words, if you weren’t sure where to land on a matter, you had your go-to people who would tell you what to think. I could always count on this Bible teacher or that author for the home-team opinion on just about any matter. Social media, among other things, has essentially blown that up. Take the most recent Supreme Court vote, or the last presidential election, or any recent hot topic, and you have all manner of Christ followers—good ones, solid ones—decisively falling on different sides of these issues.

While the once tried-and-true home base felt safe to me, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that in some respects it’s not there anymore. This means I have to dig into the Bible for myself, be more prayerful, and press into my local church with the people in my community. This replaces what used to be a comfortable and even lazy approach of just seeing what so-and-so-amazing-Bible-person thinks, and taking that as my stance. This is not to say I don’t look to trusted believers and leaders who wisely speak about current affairs from a Biblical perspective. I absolutely do. But at some point we have to dig in for ourselves, and never have I felt this more than I do right now.


As I consider some of the most controversial issues of the past few years, I often get the impression that our personal agendas, political aspirations, and general associations seem to be the driving force rather than a desire for righteousness. Regardless of what “side” a person is on, I’ve noticed the tendency to place ambitions and desires against what matters to the heart of Christ so as not to let what matters to Him “get in the way”. More subtly, I’ve seen the temptation to corral the truth down certain paths for personal desired outcomes. All of this is problematic in many ways, not the least of which is using the truth for our own gain. Or caring more about our gain even if our agendas and the truth happen to agree. Do you see how pride and selfishness can still be at the root?

I wonder how we as the Body of Christ might be able to promote peace and unity by caring more about loving others than our personal agendas, and remaining silent when adding another opinion to the pile only deepens the divide.

I wonder what would happen if we cared more about righteousness than ambition.Click To Tweet I wonder what would happen if we cared more about righteousness than ambition, trusted Jesus, His Word, and our local church as our ultimate home base instead of that one person in our “tribe”, and spoke (tweeted, posted, blogged) more sparingly about controversial issues and more liberally about uplifting truths. Maybe we would find something a little more like unity, and the world might just know us by our love.


This blog post originally appeared at


3 Questions to Help Approach Social Media with a Servant’s Heart

3 Questions to Help Approach Social Media with a Servant’s Heart

Social media has been one of the trickiest territories for me to navigate not only as an author and Bible teacher, but also as a friend, neighbor, and family member.

Do I retweet a positive comment about a book I wrote or does that look like self-promotion?

If I’m in a beautiful setting with friends having a remarkable dinner, do I share that with followers or will that leave people out?

Should I upload images while serving on a mission trip or does that look self-congratulatory?

Do I post thoughts about controversial issues or is that divisive to the body of Christ? Is it possible to share personal wins and joys without engaging in the humble-brag?

I hope I’m not the only person who feels this conflicted when it comes to social media.

One simple concept that’s helped me reframe the way I view my place within social media is this:

As a follower of Jesus Christ, social media has to be about a desire to serve people before it can be about anything else. Platform building, self-promotion, circling around our cliques must not be our ultimate aim.Click To Tweet

Servanthood, of course, can take many forms and doesn’t mean we can only post Bible verses and Christian quotes—that would be terribly rote and uninspiring. Rather, servanthood is a posture that helps shape what we post and why. If our ultimate aim is to love God and love others, many of our internal dilemmas about what to post or not to post will solve themselves. With this in mind, here are some questions that have helped me navigate social media.


Whether you’re mostly on social media to keep up with friends and family, you’re in some form of ministry, or you use it for business, you can always look for ways to encourage others. This will eliminate posts that are solely for our own self-advancement or that make us look better than others. When we look for ways we can encourage the lonely, leave an uplifting comment for a stranger, or get the word about someone else’s work, we’ll be using our social networks in ways that love people and honor Christ. Again, we don’t have to get legalistic here. We can, of course, post about special experiences and celebratory moments as a way of sharing a piece of our lives with others. This, too, can be used to build up others, as long as our hearts are in the right place.


In Matthew 6, Jesus referenced three acts of righteousness the religious people of the day were regularly engaged in—giving to the needy, praying, and fasting. In each case the motivating factor behind these acts of “righteousness” was to receive the applause of others. The problem wasn’t that they weren’t doing the right things, but that they were doing them for the wrong reasons. In today’s jargon, they were putting their good deeds out there in hopes of more followers, likes, and approving blog comments for the sake of boosting their pride and platforms. Jesus pointed out that even though their activities looked good, the motives and intents of their hearts were purely self-focused.

When it comes to the updates or images I post, I try to regularly ask myself: What’s my intent? Even if what I’m posting is true or doctrinally sound, if my heart’s motive is about my pride or the applause of others, then I either need to not post it or wait until my heart is right. The Holy Spirit is always good to help me here.


Since posting out of heightened emotions is never a good idea, I try to make it a rule not to post when I’m emotional about something. If I’m hurt, angry, or frustrated, it’s always a good idea to wait on hitting publish. Sometimes I come back a day or two later, and I feel free to post that picture or update that status. Other times it’s clear that posting wasn’t the right decision. I find it freeing to remember that the social media world has never suffered because it was missing a comment from me.

Our motives will never be perfect. We’ll never be perfect judges of our hearts. But when our overall posture is to make the name of Jesus great and to love His people, so much of what we publish on social media will naturally take care of itself. And we won’t have to spend so much time asking if we should post this or not post that. We’ll already know. And if we don’t, we’ll save a draft and wait.

This blog post originally appeared at


Easter Post: Jesus, The Perfecter of Our Faith

Easter Post: Jesus, The Perfecter of Our Faith

“Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

First off, I want to congratulate you! Six weeks ago today, on the first day of Lent, you decided to fast from something you value and focus on the Person of Jesus in a special way. For many of you, the sacrifice has been difficult but exceedingly worth it. The space you’ve created to draw near to Jesus has become fertile soil from which new life is beginning to emerge. As we close our Lent Devotional Series, I want to leave you with an encouraging word from Hebrews as we focus on Jesus as both the Source and Perfecter of our faith.

Jesus, The Source of Our Faith

Some versions of the Bible use the words author, pioneer, or founder instead of the word source. The original Greek word is archēgos describes “The ‘hero’ of a city, who founded it, often gave it his name and became its guardian…”[1] The word entails both leader and founder. Without Jesus, we could have no faith in Him in the first place.

Reflecting on Jesus as the archēgos of my faith brings me great comfort. My faith starts with Him, and He’s the guardian of it. My faith is bigger than me and what I’m able to muster on any given day. I need to know this for the ones I love who are struggling with their faith, who have maybe even ditched it. And I need to know this for myself, especially when trials arise that provoke doubt and questions.

Earlier in Hebrews, the author tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Since my faith can wax and wane with my circumstances, rising and falling depending on how strong or frail I am in a given season, it’s a great relief to know that Jesus is the eternal source of my faith. He’s the well of faith that will never run dry. A well sourced wholly, eternally, freely in Jesus.

He’s the well of faith that will never run dry.Click To Tweet

Jesus, the Perfecter of Our Faith

Not only is Jesus the Source of our faith, but He’s also the Perfecter of it. Maybe it’s just where I’m at in life right now—a little low, a bit tired, disappointed in some areas, hurt in others—that makes me want to shout from my couch “praise Him!” (And I’m not a big shouter.) I’m relieved to know that the perfection of my faith doesn’t rest with me but with Him.
The Greek word for Perfecter teleiōtēs means “the one who accomplishes.”[2] It refers to ‘one who brings someth[ing] to a successful conclusion, hence perfecter’.[3]

When we read in Hebrews 11 about all the people with great faith, we see incredible examples. But no one’s faith was perfected in the way that Christ’s was. He carried the cross, bore our shame, and resurrected on the third day. He now is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Faith has been perfected. Accomplished. Completed. The work is finished.

While the work of faith in Jesus has been perfected once and for all, I also believe that He is the perfecter of our personal faith in Him. Through suffering we would have never chosen, Jesus refines our faith. Through answered prayer, He strengthens it. In overwhelming blessings, He fuels it. In grief and loss, He sustains and even increases our faith.

As we look toward Good Friday and remember the death of Jesus, let us thank and worship Him for being the Source of our faith. And as we look toward Easter this coming Sunday, let us celebrate His resurrection and the reality that He is the Perfecter of our faith. No matter what you’re facing or what you’re going through, Jesus is the founder. He’s the guardian, and He’s the perfecter of your faith. Cast all your cares on Him, for He died for you, He rose for you, and now He’s seated on His throne inviting you to approach Him with confidence. How can our faith not be strengthened?

Happy Easter, my dear sisters.

He died for you, rose for you, & now He’s seated on His throne inviting you to approach Him with confidence.Click To Tweet

Questions for Reflection or Discussion

1. What speaks to you specifically about Jesus as the Source of your faith? (Think of these other words as well: author, pioneer, founder.)

2. What speaks to you specifically about Jesus as the Perfecter of your faith?

3. Has something rocked your faith recently? How do these two realities about Jesus help you understand that your faith is steadier than you may realize because of Him?

4. What specifically will be different for you about this coming Easter because of your reflections on the Person of Jesus?


[1] Delling, G. (1964–). ἄρχω, ἀρχή, ἀπαρχή, ἀρχαῖος, ἀρχηγός, ἄρχων. G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, & G. Friedrich (Eds.), Theological dictionary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 1, p. 487). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
[2] Delling, G. (1964–). τέλος, τελέω, ἐπιτελέω, συντελέω, συντέλεια, παντελής, τέλειος, τελειότης, τελειόω, τελείωσις, τελειωτής. G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, & G. Friedrich (Eds.), Theological dictionary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 8, p. 86). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
[3] O’Brien, P. T. (2010). The Letter to the Hebrews (p. 454). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.