Heaven is Better

By Emily Moore

The three-word phrase at the top of this article has become my personal catch phrase this year, and here is why. Our lives are made up of both good, prosperous, times and hard, not-so-prosperous times. If we made it through life without a single trial, our faith would never grow. But if our lives were filled only with trials, we would probably lose our minds. So, God, in His infinite grace and wisdom, provides for His children’s needs (Matthew 6:25-34), and He also allows us to experience growth-inspiring challenges (Hebrews 12:3-11). 

Now, with these thoughts on your mind, think back to the phrase “Heaven is better.” The truth is whether you find yourself in a peaceful life season or in the midst of the most difficult situation you’ve ever faced, you will find a needed dose of perspective in remembering that Heaven is better. Like Paul in Philippians 4:12, when he says, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound,” we can all better remember to glorify God in any season of life when we remember that, ultimately, our actions in this life should be motivated by the eternal life hereafter.

As humans, it seems that staying focused on our end goal can be equally difficult in both good and hard times. Are you currently in one those wonderful phases of life in which your family and finances are all in order? Remember that Heaven is better than any level of temporal happiness or security we experience on earth. Praise God for those blessings, but remember that He has an even greater blessing waiting after this life.

It could be that you are on the opposite end of that spectrum, facing the hardest physical, financial, or spiritual circumstances you ever have. If that’s the case, take heart in knowing that Heaven is better, and faithfulness to God will lead you to an eternal life filled with nothing but peace and glory in God’s presence. 

It’s true. Shouting “Heaven is better!” when you find yourself struggling with materialism or going through hardships won’t immediately eradicate the problems in your life or change your level of earthly prosperity. But keeping your mind on the glory of Heaven will completely change, for the better, your perspective of life on earth. In the best or worst seasons of life, may we all remember that Heaven is better!

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Dear Chelsea

By Chelsea Pollard

Kathy’s article two weeks ago really got me thinking. Since leaving home I’ve frequently thought, “I wish I knew this when I was younger.” I know this is something everyone’s experienced! While it’s nice to have the knowledge, it’s quite frustrating. I could have saved myself from so much heartache, embarrassment, anger, regret and pain. 

Sometimes I feel like I don’t have any wisdom to offer since I’m still in my early 20’s and I’m not a mom (unless you consider Bear to be my child, because I do #dogmom). But I’ve often thought about things I wish I knew growing up and about what I could’ve done differently.

Here’s what I would tell myself:

  • Your parents are more than likely trying their best. I am ashamed to say that I was maybe 20 when I realized that my parents are people, too. They have their own struggles, whether it’s sin related or mental or physical health. Or all of the above! They’ve been through their own trauma and have to cope with it while raising a child. They are trying to figure it out and they’re not perfect. Show them grace and patience. Recognize what they do for you and thank them every now and then.
  • Take time to ground yourself where you are. We all struggle with this, but focus on the now. Stay out of the past. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.  Stop creating scenarios in your head. Spend time with people you love and be present.
  • For the most part, your current trials are temporary and likely won’t matter in a year or two. That does not make them any easier, but putting them into perspective and keeping a positive outlook will make a world of difference. 
  • While this is sometimes used as a cop out, there are times when “you’ll understand when you’re older” is a legitimate statement. There are some concepts that you can’t fully understand until you have life experience. Get that through your head, young Chelsea. 
  • Take your relationship with God seriously. Have your own faith. If you have questions, please ask. If you can’t find the answer, keep trying! The answers are out there. Finding your own faith is liberating and exciting! There’s nothing like having a personal relationship with your Creator. 

Learning these things the hard way is unforgettable, but often costs so much more. Some mistakes can live with you your whole life! It might not be glamorous or fun but your adult life could be 70 or 80 years longer than teen and young adult years. Do your future self a favor and remember that your parents are likely doing their best and have troubles, too. Enjoy the present. Your current trials are temporary, and being positive will you make an even stronger person. Accept that there are some concepts we can’t understand until life widens our perspective. Most importantly, challenge your faith and make it your own. Learn from my mistakes and your future self will thank you!!!

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Living on Leftovers

By Emily Moore

Eating leftover meals for lunch or dinner is a great way to save money on groceries and save time preparing food after a busy day. There are countless ways to get creative with leftovers, like turning them into casseroles or soups. Nonetheless, the leftovers all get eaten after a few days, or your family gets tired of them and is ready for different meals. Sadly, leftovers don’t last long! As a soon-to-be wife, learning how to work with leftovers has definitely been on my mind. But I also started to think about how easily the idea of “living on leftovers” creeps into our spiritual diet.

Everyone experiences those seasons of life where you have such a full plate (pun intended) that feeding your soul becomes very difficult. It’s in these times that we often start trying to spiritually survive on leftovers. When a week has been stressful or exhausting, think about how a refreshing worship service on Sunday or one hour of mid-week Bible class will keep your soul full and thriving for the other five days of the week. But what happens when an evangelistic opportunity appears or when you’re hit with a conflicting decision or when you suddenly find yourself having doubts or temptations you’ve never before experienced? When these situations arise, it doesn’t take long to realize that leftovers aren’t enough. A fuzzy recollection of Bible verses here and there or a small excerpt from a sermon heard way back when will not be strong enough to sustain spiritual strength. Of course it is good and useful to remember those things, but just like babies mature and require more than a few ounces of milk, so we must continue to grow and ensure that our soul’s appetite grows with us (1 Peter 2:2).

As Christians, constant renewal, growth, and learning are essential to survival. Think about the idea of renewal in Romans 12:2…

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Renewal is a perpetual process; it takes time and intentionality. If you’ve been scraping by on spiritual leftovers, here are a few ideas for feeding your soul throughout the day:

  • Pray everywhere (1 Thess. 5:17; Jam. 5:13)–At work, while driving, on your lunch break; you can also set reminders on your phone to pray for specific people.
  • Sing (Psa. 13:6; Eph. 5:19)–Singing or listening to hymns in the car with the kiddos or by yourself is guaranteed to bring joy and encouragement to a new day.
  • Listen to podcasts or an audio Bible (Psa. 1:1-2; 119:16)–A car ride, lunch break, or any free moment can be filled with the Word.
  • Set aside time each day for in-depth Bible study (2 Tim. 2:15; Jam. 1:5)–Alone time with God and His Word is the heartiest meal for the soul.

**If you’d like suggestions for podcasts or Bible study tools, feel free to email me at emnem317@gmail.com.

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A Season of Renewal

By Chelsea Pollard

Spring is an amazing time of year. Flowers are blooming and life has a fresh start! Spring is a time of renewal when the dead, brown look of winter is replaced with vibrant life. 

Our relationship with God is like spring, only it doesn’t have to be limited to a single season! If we’re doing our part, God gives us new life. 

When David was confronted over his sin with Bathsheba he wrote, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). David asked God to correct his flaws and accept him spiritually. “Renew” was a word that meant, “Go back to how it used to be.”  David didn’t want what he had currently to be his relationship with God. He wanted a pure heart and he wanted to return to the spiritual life he had before. 

God gives us a physical example of spiritual renewal with Spring. We can watch the earth bloom into new life. Just like the old, dead person we used to be is replaced with a new, living spirit! We are told to throw away our old selves because that way of life is corrupt. We have to have new minds and new behaviors (Eph. 4:20-24) because that’s more like God. 

We have new minds and behaviors when we encourage people instead of using our words to tear them down. Misusing our words actually hurts the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:29)! 

We have new minds and behaviors when we get rid of negative thoughts, feelings, and actions (Eph. 4:31). We replace those bad qualities with kindness, compassion, and forgiveness (Eph. 4:32). 

Many climates get new life during Spring, a big contrast from all of the death in Fall and Winter. When we show kindness, compassion, and forgiveness and we’re trying to be faithful, God makes our souls new like Spring (Eph. 4:32, 1 John 1:7-10). We renew ourselves because our ultimate goal is to be where “new” is the only thing we’ll know (2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1, Isaiah 65:17, Romans 8:18-24)!

As we watch the flowers bloom, the gardens grow and the earth return to its green, beautiful state, I know I’ll be humming to myself, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

Spring Cleaning

By Janelle Pollard

The first of spring is always an exciting time for many. For those of us who aren’t fans of the cold, it is such a happy feeling to be able to spend your day outside without as much as a light jacket. While I try to keep our house clean through the winter, once spring arrives, I have this strong urge to start cleaning. And thanks to the excitement of a new (warmer) season, I have the energy and motivation to do just that. While cleaning the house, I also like to get rid of things we don’t need. Throughout the years, we collect all kinds of extra “stuff.” Some necessary and important for our day to day lives, but some not so much. These extra things may have seemed to be a necessity at the time but now they just take up space. Being married to a self-proclaimed minimalist has inspired me to have less. I love that about Dale. He doesn’t have to have “stuff” to be happy. He knows that when we leave this life, we can’t take it with us when we go, so there’s no need to collect all kinds of extra stuff (that will most likely find its way to a shelf or a stack of things to be stored later). Of course, there is nothing wrong with owning and enjoying our earthly possessions, as long as we aren’t making these things our whole life. This could lead to idolatry and the Bible teaches that this is sin.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:10).

Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf” (Proverbs 11:28).

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1).

While Spring is still officially five days away (and some parts of the country probably don’t feel like winter is even close to being over yet), here in ‘ol North Alabama, it feels like it’s already here! Spring is a time to refresh and renew. While I am cleaning my home this Spring, I want to make sure I am also, and more importantly, refreshing and renewing my spiritual life. If we have too much stuff, or we are allowing it to become more important to us than it should be, let’s ask God to help us let go of it. If we have things in our lives that are getting in the way of putting or keeping God first, we must get rid of those things. Let’s let this season be one of refreshing and renewing not only our homes, but our priorities and relationship with God, first and foremost! Happy Spring!

Trending Now

By Janelle Pollard

My husband and I don’t watch much TV. We have shows we watch on demand, but we never watch the news or even the weather. If there is a tornado headed our way, we are more likely to find out from friends or by a slight feeling that the house is starting to shake somewhat. Some may see this as choosing to be ignorant but we simply don’t miss it. Life seems a little less stressful and chaotic with fewer scary headlines displayed on our TV screens. And for a recovering worry wart like myself, I don’t want to add to the problem!
While chatting with my mom last night, I found out just how out of the loop we are. She mentioned that the Super Bowl was going on and I didn’t even know it. Not only that, but this may be the first time I didn’t even know who was playing. Growing up with a dad who loves football, I at LEAST knew who would be playing in the Super Bowl that year. But these days, life is busy and the Super Bowl has dropped many notches from my list of things to pay close attention to. (That is probably also influenced by my husband not being big into TV or the NFL, ha!) With this realization of how out of touch I have become with the goings-on of our current society, I decided to see what types of things people are searching on Google these days. Some of the top currently trending searches included Britney Spears, Tom Brady, The Bachelor, and of course, the Super Bowl. I became curious how words like “Christianity” might compare with “Super Bowl” and found that Google offers a nifty little tool for this exact comparison (see below). Of course, over the past 90 days, as it got closer to the day, the “Super Bowl” has been increasing in popularity. However, I noticed that, in general, it is always more popular than “Christianity.” At least in Google searches. This isn’t surprising but it is disappointing. (I would like to add that I don’t write this article while sitting on top of a very high Clydesdale horse! I have searched countless words on Google that have nothing to do with Christianity and I don’t believe this makes me a bad person or “un-Christian.” However, I do think it can help us to re-focus our thoughts!)
This is a good reminder that the world needs a Savior! And that is obviously Jesus. So, how can we help our non-Christian friends and acquaintances be aware of this? The book of 1 Peter gives us some insight…
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:14-16).
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:9-11).
The Cliff Notes:
  • Be obedient to God
  • Don’t be like you used to be before becoming a Christian
  • Be holy in ALL of your conduct, like Jesus
  • Proclaim the greatness of God
  • Remember that, as a Christian, you have received mercy and are part of God’s people
  • Stay away from things of the flesh, things that will tempt you
  • Be honorable in your conduct
We may not get it right every day, but we must try our best! And while trying, may we cause others to want to know more. Let’s always remember to pray that our being different isn’t for our glory, but for God’s. And that it will lead others to Him!

It’s Not About Me

By Chelsea Pollard

We don’t like hearing this, do we? I certainly don’t. Living in an individualistic world, I often find myself only thinking about, well, me. “I just want to be happy.” “I want to do what I want to do.” “This is inconvenient for me.” Occasionally, I have to be mindful of the fact that it’s not about me.

My husband, Gary, was preaching this past Sunday on 1 Peter 4:7ff. I’d like to share some thoughts on the topic of suffering for a purpose.

The end of all things is near” (v. 7). Our lives are very short (James 4:14), which is why Peter gave us commands for how we are to respond when coming under fire for our faith. We are to be alert and of sober mind. This means we need to be rational instead of reactionary. When we come under fire for our faith, it’s easier to stoop to their level. If someone is being ugly towards you, it’s easy to be ugly back. As Christians, we need to be calm when dealing with persecution, so that we may pray. This is essential in order for our prayers to be heard by God.

Above all, love each other deeply” (v. 8). He is emphasizing how important our love for one another is. When we are dealing with persecution, we need to love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and rely on them. Having a strong and supportive church family can make all of the difference for a Christian who is just going through it, whether they are under fire from family, friends, or coworkers.

Offer hospitality and use your gifts to serve others (v. 9-10).  If you can use your words to help others, do so. If you can serve others, do so. Don’t hold back for your family!

So that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ” (v. 11).  It’s not about me. It’s about Him! It’s about loving and serving your Christian family so that God may be praised in all things.

Chelsea lives in Bowling Green, KY, with her husband, Gary, and her dog, Bear. Chelsea and Gary have been married for five years (woo!) and Bear was rescued from a swamp. Chelsea works at Western Kentucky Heart and Lung. She enjoys quiet nights in with her husband and playing all the card/ board games she can with family, even if she loses (sometimes).

God Will Be by Your Side, and I’ll Be on Your Other Side

Every now and then I get caught up in the what-if’s.  This afternoon was just such an occasion.  I was worrying about something to the point that Neal asked me what was wrong.  I unloaded my fears.  “What if this happens….what if this doesn’t happen…?” Neal listened and reminded me that God is in control.  I said, “I know but what if…..?”  And I proceeded to try to get him to understand all my reasons for being concerned.  He finally said,

“Even if the very worst scenario happens, God will be by your side and I’ll be on your other side.”

Okay, that was powerful.  How comforting to know that, no matter what, God will never leave me and neither will my husband.  That truth helped me take a deep breath and let go of the useless worrying.  I thank God for His promise to always be with me (Heb. 13:5).  I thank God for Neal’s wisdom and his commitment to caring for me.  I know that next time my “anxieties multiply within me” (Psa. 94:19), I will recall the peace-giving image of God and Neal flanking either side of me.

I wonder how many others need those words said to them?  I can think of individuals I know who are hurting and could probably use the reminder that they’re not alone.  May I never get so caught up in my own little world that I neglect to comfort those around me.        That’s part of the purpose of the church, right (Heb. 10:24-25)?  I love knowing that I could go to another Christian with my fears or failures and be reminded of God’s faithfulness and their love.  May I ever strive to be that Christian for others, too.  I may not be able to solve problems or make the pain go away, but I can certainly hug more, pray more, and remind more that “God will be by your side and I’ll be on your other side.”

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another…1 Pet. 4:8.

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Revive Me #30–Love the Unlovable

Revive Me, Week 30– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Love the Unlovable

I spent the past week with 50 teen girls at a Christian Bible camp.  During one lesson, they were asked to come up with a specific way they would be willing to shine their light.  One young lady wrote, “I will love the unlovable.”

The 50 girls were from different states and had different backgrounds.  They didn’t all grow up in sweet Christian homes.  They weren’t all at the same level of spiritual maturity.  And yet by the middle of the week, there was a unity taking place that was beautiful to behold.  They were reaching out to each other.  They were (mostly) patient with each other.  They were drawing in the shy, the awkward, and the scared.  They even managed to soften the one or two with a chip on their shoulder.  By the end of the week, as we sang in a big circle holding hands, they were family.

Most of us encounter many people each day.  We know we are commanded to love them (Mark 12:31) but not all of them will be easy to love.  Some will be prickly or grouchy or mean.  Some will look unapproachable.  Some will simply reject any attempt to reach out to them.  While we won’t be thrown into a camp situation where it will be easier to grow to love others, we must still determine to love the unlovable.  The outgoing, warm, friendly, happy people around us are probably receiving love and good attention.  It’s the ones who are edgy, odd, or giving off “leave me alone” vibes who most need us to show them the love of Christ.

“Let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”

(1 John 3:18)

“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

(1 John 4:8)

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Pay close attention to outsiders.  Reach out to them in a specific way.
  2.  Show warmth in your smile and your words to those who are not nice.  They need it the most.  Remember, “hurt people hurt people.”
  3.  If you are afraid, ask God to give you courage.
  4.  Don’t give up if your first attempts to reach out are rejected or even ridiculed.  And definitely don’t react in a hurt or indignant way.  That’s what they expect.  Instead, smile and try again at first opportunity.
  5. Pray for those who are unlovable.
  6. Instead of mentally tagging others with harsh labels, identify them as lost souls or lonely and outcast.

Read it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

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Revive Me #28–Show God’s Peace

Revive Me, Week 28– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Show God’s Peace

What a week!  Do you find yourself thinking that more and more?  We live in a world of violence, tensions, unrest, and anger.  People are shaking their heads and asking, “What is this world coming to?”  Christians know the answer to that question.  We need to be ready to share it.  But first, how will those in the world know to come to us?  They need to see God’s peace in us.

Many are wringing their hands in fear and frustration.  We need to be folding our hands in prayer.  We need to be extending our hands to give and help.

The faces around us are anxious.  Our brows need to be smooth and our expressions should reflect the calm in our hearts.

The words swirling everywhere on the news and social media are angry and provoking.  Our words need to be healing and life-giving.

The world needs to see something different in us.  Yes, we are indeed surrounded by violence and injustice.  But we are filled with the peace of God.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Your, because he trusts in You” (Isa. 26:3)

Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble” (Psa. 119:165).

“The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace” (Psa. 29:11).

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6,7).

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).

Let’s show the world this God-given peace!  They may be ready for the security that comes from serving the One who is in control.  

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way.  The Lord be with you all” (2 Thess. 3:16).

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  If you are struggling with fear and anxiety, pray for peace.  Your trust in God during these unstable times will draw others.
  2.  Read 2 Thess. 3:16 again.  How does the Lord want to give you peace?
  3.  Do the Bible-marking on True Peace.
  4.  Center your family devotionals this week around the topic of peace.

Read it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

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