Now We Live with Great Expectation: Relying on a Hope That Will Never Disappoint

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines hope as “the feeling of wanting something to happen and thinking that it could happen : a feeling that something good will happen or be true.”

When it comes to our children, our health, and our safety, we hope for the best because we know that the best doesn’t always happen. We hope because we know that this life is uncertain and can change at a moment’s notice. We hope…

 

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Praying for a Baby: A Story of Refinement | alyssajhoward.com

Praying for a Baby: A Story of Refinement

A big thank you to my amazing mother for sharing her heart in this guest post. I knew for most of my life that my parents longed for another baby. I remember the journey well, and I can honestly say that my entire family grew in the process. Thank you, Jesus, for refining each member of my family as we learned to seek You first in all things.

 


 

I was a young mother, marrying my husband at the tender age of 19 years old.  Our family was started immediately with a baby girl born 1 month after our first wedding anniversary, and a baby boy to join her 17 months later.  What more could I ask for?  Two perfect healthy children, relatively easy pregnancies, I was content.  My husband and I also had another daughter from his previous marriage that was 5 years old when we started our own little family.  Life was busy and full.

 

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Impossible Battles: Even the Winds and Waves Obey Him | alyssajhoward.com

Impossible Battles: Even the Winds and Waves Obey Him

We all have them. Obstacles and impossible battles that we have no idea how to overcome. We are taught from an early age to face them head on. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. For some of the battles, this is true. We can face them head on and win.

Then there are the impossible battles. The ones where it seems that no amount of fighting will keep us from defeat. The ones where our demise seems inevitable. What about these battles? How can we possibly face these head on when we feel hopeless about the outcome?

 

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Are We Desensitized to the Things of God? | alyssajhoward.com

Are We Desensitized to the Things of God?

When the early Christian church was expanding after Jesus ascended into heaven, amazing things were taking place. Thousands were coming to know Christ as their Savior and the message of the gospel was being preached throughout the known world. These new believers were passionate about their new faith as well as the expansion of the Good News.

At the time, however, they were also being intensely persecuted. I find it interesting to think that while Christians everywhere were dying for their faith, somehow the church was still expanding. The message was getting out there, and people were responding by surrendering their lives to something that could potentially get them killed.

 

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Lukewarm Christianity: 8 Ways We Can Avoid It | alyssajhoward.com

Lukewarm Christianity: 8 Ways We Can Avoid It

Lukewarm Christianity. It was a phrase I heard often growing up in the church. It’s described in the book of Revelation where God speaks to the church of Laodicea:

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”Revelation 3:15-17 (NLT)

 

He goes on to tell them that true wealth, health and happiness come from Him alone – rather than things of this world.

 

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I Am the Lord Your God Who Has Done Amazing Things

I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.

When the Lord would address His people, He would often remind them of all He had done for them. The phrase, “I am the Lord your God who…” is repeated countless times in the Old Testament. The Israelites didn’t simply know Him as “God.” They knew Him as the God who had rescued them, who had been merciful to them, who had provided for them in the desert, and who had conquered their enemies.

 

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Victory at the Finish Line: Building Endurance in Our Faith

One of my favorite things about running is that the results are tangible. Growth can easily be measured by time and distance. Just five months ago, I competed in my first half marathon. This weekend, I will be racing in my second. I can’t begin to tell you how different it is training for this race versus my last one.

In my first half marathon, my goal was simply to finish. When beginning my training, 13.1 miles seemed like an incredible distance…one that seemed nearly impossible. I achieved my goal, but not without my fair share of physical and mental exhaustion. It was hard. Not to say that training for my second half marathon has been easy, but it has certainly proven to be less exhausting. 13.1 miles doesn’t seem quite as daunting this time around. Continue Reading

When You Feel like a Grasshopper in a World Filled with Giants | alyssajhoward.com

When You Feel like a Grasshopper in a World Filled with Giants

No one enjoys feeling weak or vulnerable, yet it is inevitable to feel this way at some point in our lives. We all feel small at times…especially when it seems like the cards are stacked against us. When it came time for the Israelites to finally enter into the Promised Land, God commanded Moses to send 12 spies into the land to survey the scene. After forty days, the men brought their reports back to the Israelites. Needless to say, there were mixed reviews.The land was exactly as God had promised. It truly flowed with milk and honey, and it was everything the Israelites could ever need or want. There was just one problem…they would have to fight for it.

 

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Unshakable: How Secure is Your Foundation? | alyssajhoward.com

Unshakable: How Secure is Your Foundation?

Many of us like to believe that we’re unshakable. We like to think that we are strong enough to handle anything life throws our way. The truth is, however, we all have our breaking points. We all experience problems that seem to be bigger than life itself. It’s times like these when we begin to realize that we’re not as unshakable as we once thought.

 

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Embrace the Uncomfortable: Stepping Out of Our Comfort Zones to Grow in Our Faith

Stepping out of your comfort zone can be frightening. Nobody enjoys being uncomfortable. In fact, most of us despise it, and we will do anything to avoid it. The truth is, however, that our comfort zone can actually be the most dangerous place to be. Why you ask? Because when we are too comfortable, there is no inspiration to grow or move forward. We become content with where we are at in life. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing…it’s not exactly a good thing either.

 

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Faith is a Verb: Putting Our Beliefs into Action | alyssajhoward.com

Faith is a Verb: Putting Our Beliefs into Action

As Christians, we hear a lot about faith. But what is faith exactly? Many of us equate it with belief. I have faith when I believe in something or someone. But I have to think that perhaps faith is more than simply believing in something. The Bible tells us that we are called to walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) It isn’t a feeling or an emotion; it’s a way of living.

 

Faith is a Verb: Putting Our Beliefs into Action | alyssajhoward.com
The book of Hebrews gives us a glimpse into history in order to demonstrate what faith truly means:

 

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation. …By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. – Hebrews 11:1-2, 33-35 (NLT)

 

The great men and women of God mentioned in Hebrews 11 all have two major things in common. First of all, their faith moved them to do great things for God. All of their stories involve action. Many of them accomplished what most would believe to be impossible.

 

Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. – James 2:21-22 (NLT)

 

The second thing they all had in common was their hope of a better life after the resurrection. None of them had the chance to serve Christ the way we do now as believers. After all, Christ had not come yet. They trusted in God, however, to have a plan of redemption for His people, and they lived their lives accordingly. They chose to look ahead at the big picture of what God was trying to do through them, rather than to focus on their own personal lives and what He could do for them.
As Christians, we often have to trust in God’s bigger plan. We serve Him even when things don’t make sense. We can easily look back at these great men and women of faith and see how God was using them at the time. These men and women trusted God even without seeing the whole picture. I’m sure that there were many times when they had no idea what God was trying to do in their circumstances. I personally would have been awfully frustrated with God if it had been me sitting there in that lion’s den. We need to trust God in the same way these men and women did. God gave them to us as examples for a reason.

None of them were perfect, but they chose to trust God and to trust that He had everything under control.

 

Faith requires action. We often hear the phrase “love is a verb.” I believe that faith is a verb as well.

 

As Christians, we don’t just believe in God…we live for Him.

 

In addition to living out our faith, we are also called to see the bigger picture. Faith moves us to serve God and obey Him even when things don’t make sense.

 

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. – James 2:14-17 (NLT)

 

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Milestones: Crying Out for Spiritual Growth

The day our first daughter was born, it all began…milestones. We documented everything. It’s crazy how many “firsts” there are in the first year of life! Every holiday was a first (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, etc.) There’s also the first time she ate solid food, her first words, her first tooth, etc. And don’t get me started on the biggest milestone of them all…the day she became mobile! It was time to baby proof the house!

I also love how my youngest daughter is starting to communicate. She only has about 5 or 6 words that she uses correctly; but between that and hand gestures, I’m starting to get a little glimpse into her personality as well as her wants and needs. Did I mention that her words are incredibly cute? She asked me to go “nigh nigh” this afternoon. Yes, you read that right. My one-year-old asked if she could take a nap. Too cute!

 

Milestones: Crying Out for Spiritual Growth | alyssajhoward.com

 

Does God get as excited about our milestones as we do for our children?

I believe He does. For one thing, the Bible tells us that there is great rejoicing in heaven when someone repents and gives their life to Christ. (Luke 15:3-10) In the parable of the prodigal son, the father is overjoyed and throws a party when the lost son returns home. As God’s children, I believe with all my heart that He rejoices over our milestones, both big and small.

 

Milestones equal growth. Every time I take one of my daughters to the doctor, they check to make sure particular milestones are being reached. They do this to make certain that my daughters are growing properly. In the same way, spiritual milestones are a clear indication that spiritual growth is taking place.

 

When a baby learns to walk, they become mobile and can do more things. When they learn to talk, they can communicate their thoughts, feelings, and desires. These are all important steps when it comes to growth and development. These milestones are what eventually lead them to independence and effectiveness as adults. Spiritually speaking, we can’t be effective without hitting certain spiritual milestones as well. We can’t be born again, and then choose to remain a helpless infant for the rest of our lives. We have to choose to grow.

 

You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. – Hebrews 5:12-14 (NLT)

 

I believe that God delights in us as His children, just as we delight in our own children. I look forward to my daughters’ milestones. As much as I love the stages of life they are currently in, I desire growth for their lives. I look forward to the day when I can have long conversations with my girls. As they grow, we get to do more things as a family as well. I love my babies, but I don’t want them to be babies forever. I want to see them grow into young ladies. In the same way, God longs for us to grow in Him.

 

Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness. – 1 Peter 2:2-3 (NLT)

 

I love how this verse tells us to “cry out” for nourishment. Just as a baby cries when she is hungry, we are called to crave the things of God in the same way. So what does the Bible mean by “pure spiritual milk”? I believe 2 Peter gives us a clear succession of growth. It starts with faith in Christ and ends with us being “productive and useful” as Kingdom builders:

 

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 1:5-8 (NLT)

 

As someone who has been a Christian for as long as I can remember, I know how easy it is to become spiritually dull and inactive. Know that God is looking forward to your next milestone. Just as we pull out the video camera every time our children do something new and exciting, God rejoices over our progress as well. Let’s choose to learn and grow and be effective in our walk with Christ.

When was the last time you experienced a spiritual milestone?

 

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Pushing Through the Pain Towards Victory in Jesus | alyssajhoward.com

Pushing Through the Pain Towards Victory in Jesus

When I find myself exhausted during a long run, it’s easy for me to concentrate on how tired and weak I feel. If I stayed in that mindset, however, I would probably find myself defeated. I have to change my thoughts in order to find the strength to keep going. I need to remind myself to breathe and to persevere. I tell myself that pushing through the pain will be worth it.

 

It is during these difficult moments that I develop the most strength as a runner, and the same is true in life. Learning to endure during a difficult run is very similar to enduring through life’s struggles. If life was never difficult, we wouldn’t have the opportunity for growth.

We usually learn more through our struggles than we do in the good times.

 

We all endure trials. It’s easy to feel like you’re the only one struggling or that your struggles are somehow more difficult than the struggles of others. The truth, however,  is that every person on this planet endures tough times. We all have a story to tell when it comes to the battles life has thrown our way. Continue Reading