4 Things to Consider When Choosing a Church

We all have different methods of finding a local church to attend. Some of us go where we have the most friends. Others pick churches for their amazing worship team or inspiring sermons. Some of us like a more traditional feel, while others prefer a more contemporary vibe. Truth be told, many of us will attend several different churches throughout our lifetime. Our personal preferences change, we move to new cities, we get married, etc. We all have our reasons for attending a new church. So is there a “right” way to go about choosing a church to attend? Continue Reading

5 Things God Will Use in Your Life to Produce Spiritual Growth | alyssajhoward.com

5 Things God Will Use in Your Life to Produce Spiritual Growth

Do you crave spiritual growth? Do you long to mature in your faith? As Christians, we are called to aim for growth. We make efforts to grow closer to God by praying, reading our Bibles, attending church, etc. But what I find interesting is that the New Testament claims that true spiritual growth occurs when we endure trials. Can we grow by spending more time with God? Of course, we can! But truth be told, more growth happens in times of difficulty than any other time of our lives. Continue Reading

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.

 

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

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

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.

 

Embrace the Uncomfortable: Stepping Out of Our Comfort Zones to Grow in Our Faith | alyssajhoward.com Continue Reading

Potty Training is Easy: Learning the Fundamentals of Our Faith

“Potty training is easy and fun!” I’m pretty sure no one has ever uttered these words. This past week has been a wonderfully delightful experience as my husband and I decided to take on the challenge of potty training our toddler. (Notice my subtle sarcasm.) Potty training is not fun, and it is certainly not easy. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for no longer needing to use diapers, but cleaning up accidents is not exactly my favorite thing to do either. All said and done, we know it’s time. Our daughter has been ready for quite a while, and absolutely loves using the “big kid” potty. Now if only we could get her to tell us before she has to go rather than during! (Any tips?)

 

Potty Training is Easy: Learning the Fundamentals of Our Faith | alyssajhoward.com Continue Reading

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?

 

Milestones: Crying Out for Spiritual Growth | alyssajhoward.com

 

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