Determining Your Worth: Is Self-Esteem Biblical? | alyssajhoward.com

Determining Your Worth: Is Self-Esteem Biblical?

How do you see yourself? Are you worth it? These are questions our culture asks on a regular basis. My preschool daughters are constantly receiving messages through media about the importance of a strong self-esteem and how we should believe in ourselves. But is it scriptural to “believe in yourself?”

Let me pose a question: When it comes to retail, how is price determined? If I were to drive to the mall right now and purchase a shirt, how much would I pay? Well, it would depend on a lot of factors. Am I purchasing this shirt from a high-end store or a store known for its “good deals?” Is the shirt on sale or on clearance maybe? How well-made is it? Is it casual or dressy?

Here’s the bottom line: The shirt would cost whatever someone was willing to pay for it.

When clothes move to the clearance rack, it’s because they need to lower the price so that someone will actually buy it. Maybe the shirt isn’t in style any more or maybe it’s out of season. Or perhaps it just didn’t sell for one reason or another.

 

Now let me ask you another question: How much are you worth? Continue Reading

What It Means to Be the Child of a Good, Good Father

What is your perception of God? If you had to describe your Creator, what would you say? For many who don’t know Him, God seems distant. They will say things like, “God, if you’re out there…” But we know that He isn’t far away. He hears our prayers, knows our thoughts, and cares about the smallest details of our lives. He’s a good, good Father, and we are His beloved children.

 

I often wonder if we struggle to get past the God of the Old Testament. He seems to be quite angry… a lot. We read about judgment and wrath. We see His people suffering the consequences of their choices by being exiled, losing battles, and wandering in the desert for 40 years. This is a picture that many non-believers have of God. You have to love Him and obediently serve Him, or He will send you straight to hell. Continue Reading

Trust vs Worry: 4 Practical Ways to Rid Yourself of Worry | alyssajhoward.com

Trust vs Worry: 4 Practical Ways to Rid Yourself of Worry

Why do we worry so much? Honestly, I worry about the craziest things sometimes. I worry about my relationships, my safety, my finances, what to make for dinner… I seriously don’t know why I devote so much of my time and attention to worry. Well… maybe I do know. Worry is simply a lack of trust.

 

There are certain things my children never worry about. They never worry if they’ll have food to eat for breakfast or if they will have clothes to wear tomorrow. They never worry about finances or getting good grades in school. At 3 and 5 years old, they have no idea what it’s like to worry about these things. Why? Because they trust. They trust that mommy and daddy will take care of them. And if they experience sadness or they fall and hurt themselves? We are there to pick them up and nurture them back to health, both physically and emotionally.

 

As adults, we worry much more than our children. We suddenly have responsibilities. We have bills to pay and mouths to feed. After experiencing heartache and brokenness of our own, we learn that sometimes people can’t be trusted. We’ve been let down, and we ourselves have let others down as well. So needless to say, there’s much more to worry about. Continue Reading

Truth vs Reality: Understanding Your Place in Christ | alyssajhoward.com

Truth vs Reality: Understanding Your Place in Christ

The Bible has a lot to say about us as children of God. We are new creations, royal priests, set free from sin, partakers of Christ’s divine nature, and co-heirs with Christ. It even tells us that we are currently seated with Christ in heavenly places! But when we look around at this world, it can be difficult to claim this truth. We see ourselves still struggling with sin, We face tragedies and hardships. We don’t feel like new creations. Many things still feel old.

So what’s the truth?

 

Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ. – Colossians 3:3-4 (MSG)

 

As a child of God, you have been given the Holy Spirit. You were reborn on the day of your salvation. The old life is gone, and the new life has begun. On the outside, however, you look exactly the same. Walking down the street, no one would know that you are now an adopted son or daughter of the Creator. They can’t visibly see the Holy Spirit living inside of you.

But I’d like to pose an important question:

Which is more true – who you are in the physical realm or who you are in Christ? Continue Reading

Thought Life: 6 Things to Spend Your Time Thinking About | alyssajhoward.com

Thought Life: 6 Things to Spend Your Time Thinking About

If someone were to ask you to describe your thought life, what would you say? Is it deliberate and intentional? Do you entertain thoughts and ideas you shouldn’t?  How much time do you spend each day worrying about your to-do list or day-to-day activities? Or maybe your thoughts are consumed with your job, your kids, or your hobby.

 

The truth is that everyone has a thought life; and according to the Bible, it’s important. Your thoughts matter. They have the power to inspire action and change in your life. But they can also cripple you and keep you from your calling.

Your mind is a powerful thing indeed. It was created by God for many purposes. We meditate, make decisions, imagine, create, organize, worship, pray… and the list goes on. So yes, your thought life matters. And it is up to us to be deliberate about how we choose to think. Continue Reading

It's All About Perspective: Focusing on the Unseen Truth | alyssajhoward.com

It’s All About Perspective: Focusing on the Unseen Truth

It’s all about perspective. 

I’ve heard this phrase countless times, and yet I often need to be reminded of its truth. When we encounter a difficult situation, we can choose to see things differently – through new eyes. If we would simply change our perspective, we can change how we feel about any given situation.

I’ve heard it said that we as Christians should see things through an eternal perspective. But what does that mean exactly? How do we go about seeing the world through “eternal” eyes?

 

First, I’d like to point out what it doesn’t mean. In an effort to escape the pain and struggle of this life, it’s easy to focus on heaven and our eternity with Jesus. And we should look forward to the glorious hope we have of spending eternity with our heavenly Father! But it is possible to become so eternity-minded that you become no earthly good.

We were meant to be present in this life. God has amazing plans for us and divine encounters that He’s called us to fulfill. We all have people we were destined to reach, and conversations that were meant to be had. We don’t want to become so anxious to leave this life, that we don’t live it to the fullest. Continue Reading

Be Prepared: Why You Should Know God’s Word Well | alyssajhoward.com

Be Prepared: Why You Should Know God’s Word Well

What would you do if you were wrongly accused of a crime? You’re on trial and about to appear before a judge and jury with your testimony of events. How would you respond? What steps would you take to be prepared to testify?

I’m an organized, to-do-list kind of girl. So I would probably have a binder full of documents, pieces of evidence, and whatever else I needed to present my case fully to the jury. I would be as prepared as a person possibly could be.

 

Peter actually addressed this very issue:

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. – 1 Peter 3:13-16 (NIV)

 

To say that the early church was greatly persecuted is a vast understatement. Paul was put on trial, persecuted, and imprisoned throughout his ministry. He was even stoned at one point and dragged outside the city assumed to be dead. (Acts 14:19-20) The church was “eager to do good” but often suffered for their choice to follow Christ and spread His message. In the midst of being threatened, Peter tells them to be prepared to share their reason for hope. And not with anger or force, but with gentleness and respect.

I’m not sure what I would need to be prepared for most –  having an answer to give or speaking that answer in truth and love. Continue Reading

Sober-minded: Keeping Your Mind Alert | alyssajhoward.com

Sober-minded: Keeping Your Mind Alert

What does the Bible mean when it tells us to be sober-minded? Obviously the first thought to come to mind in terms of the word “sober” is abstaining from alcohol. But is that what the Bible is telling us? Is it telling us not to drink? I personally believe that the biblical definition of being sober-minded goes beyond abstaining from drunkenness. We are called to keep our minds alert and prepared for action. In fact, the Bible speaks of our “sober” mind most often in the case of warfare.

 

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)

 

We’re called to be alert because we have a very real enemy. And even though Jesus already defeated him on the cross, he is constantly trying to sabotage God’s plans and our call to advance the Kingdom. Keep in mind, the enemy cannot hurt you. He cannot steal your salvation or “pluck you out of the Father’s hand.” But he can try to inhibit your growth. He can try to deceive you and render you useless in the Kingdom. And he can certainly try to keep you from spreading the Good News to the world.

 

We are told to be sober-minded and alert because when we are constantly on guard, the enemy doesn’t stand a chance.

Continue Reading

Guard Your Mind: How to Be Proactive in Your Thought Life

How often do you think about your thought life? For most of my life, I just let my mind do its thing. Thoughts were thoughts. I couldn’t control them – right? Wrong. Not only is it possible to change your thinking, we are commanded to do so as believers. But it doesn’t happen overnight. Renewing your mind towards Christ is a daily (sometimes minute to minute) process. And it starts by learning how to guard your mind.

 

Is it easier to break a long-term habit or to prevent that habit from taking root in the first place?  You see, your mind often operates out of habit or routine, and dwelling on negative thoughts becomes a habit rather quickly. Wouldn’t it be easier to guard your mind and prevent the pattern of negative thinking in the first place?

So I must ask, what are you doing to be proactive? How are you guarding your mind? Continue Reading

What It Means to Be Double-Minded

What does it mean to be double-minded? As we’ve discussed throughout this series, your mind and your thought life are crucial. We are called to have the mind of Christ, to meditate on Him and His promises, and to allow the Holy Spirit to transform us from the inside out by the renewing of our minds.

Certainly there’s no room for double-mindedness.

 

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. – James 1:5-8 (NIV)

 

In this passage from the book of James, we  see a double-minded man. Part of his mind believes that God will give him what he asks for (wisdom), and the other part of his mind doubts that God will keep His promise. In this case, his “double mind” consists of both faith and doubt.

Continue Reading

The Art of Biblical Meditation | alyssajhoward.com

The Art of Biblical Meditation

Meditation is nothing new. It’s a part of many traditions and religions, and studies have shown it to have great benefits in terms of health and stress levels. Setting aside the fact that it may actually be good for us, many Christians consider it to be sinful. Have you ever wondered why that is?

The answer lies in the simple fact that it is practiced heavily by other religions. Many of these religions use meditation to focus on the mind. They train themselves to control their thoughts, which in turn changes their perception of the world. They are better able to cope with stress, become more compassionate and peaceful people, manage their emotions, and become diligent in their thought life.  Sounds all good right?

 

Now before you write me off, let me explain what’s wrong with worldly meditation. Something is missing – and that something is actually a Someone. You see, worldly meditation is all about you. It takes everything that’s right with meditating (and there is a right way to meditate, but more on that later), and it removes God from the picture entirely. Worldly meditation places the power, the control, the ability to transform, and the ability to experience peace in the hands of the one who is meditating.

 

So is there such a thing as biblical meditation? If so, what does it look like in practice? Continue Reading

Our Minds and the Law: Understanding Your Conscience | alyssajhoward.com

Our Minds and the Law: Understanding Your Conscience

My young daughters are constantly bombarded with messages telling them to do the right thing. Even secular books and television teach them to live by an “inner moral code.” The world calls this your conscience. But as believers, are we supposed to listen to our conscience? Is this biblical?

 

The Ten Commandments were written on stone tablets. The Jewish people had a written Law, a written visual reminder to obey God. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. The people lived in rebellion towards God for much of the Old Testament (with a few exceptions of course). By the time Jesus came in the first century, the religious teachers of the Law had been corrupted by their own pride. They followed the Law to the letter, but they did so with selfish motives and a heart that longed to show the world (rather than God) how well they could obey.

They not only had pride issues, but many of the Jewish people hid behind the Law. In other words, they felt that God would always be on their side because of their covenant – that their Law would bring them salvation. But Paul made it clear in Romans 2, being a Jew by birth wouldn’t save them.

 

A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. – Romans 2:28-29 (NIV)

 

So why bring up the Law and the old covenant? Aren’t we supposed to be discussing how to renew your mind? Continue Reading

Positive Thinking Was God's Design | alyssajhoward.com

Positive Thinking Was God’s Design

The world knows that positive thinking is good for us. Nearly every self-help book on the market will tell you that your mind plays a crucial role in shaping not only your life, but also your health.

I used to believe that positive thinking belonged to the world. I would see “positive” encouragements online (with the absence of God of course) and think to myself how wrong the whole positive thinking movement is. The problem with that, however, is that positive thinking was God’s idea first. The world simply took a spiritual truth, removed God, and packaged it up for everyone who needed it.

It caught on, because it works. And it works, because it’s a God-given spiritual truth.

 

Paul describes the mind of the believer in his letter to the Philippians:

 

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. – Philippians 4:4-8 (HCSB)

 

We are called to think about what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable – and not just think about them but dwell on them. Speaking from experience, it’s not easy to keep my mind positive all day, every day. In fact, it’s downright hard sometimes – especially during difficult circumstances. But I truly believe that God’s desire for our minds is that we learn to replace our negative thoughts with positive thoughts – that we fill our mind with His truth, His love, and His peace. Continue Reading

Is It Biblical to Have an Open Mind?

Is it biblical to have an open mind? Most in the church today would probably say no. Open-mindedness is often associated with worldly thinking and culture. It’s an acceptance of all faiths and lifestyles in a way that says, “There are many paths to God.” But the truth is that open-mindedness was actually God’s idea. Not in the way that it’s preached today, but in a way that says, “My mind is open to things of God, and I want to fill it with nothing but Him.” Continue Reading

3 Ways to Actively Pursue a Renewed Mind in Christ | alyssajhoward.com

3 Ways to Actively Pursue a Renewed Mind in Christ

When the Bible talks about having a renewed mind in Christ, it leaves most of the responsibility to us. We are called to change our thinking, guard our minds in Christ, and actively pursue filling our minds with the things of God. Now that doesn’t mean God leaves us empty-handed. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are given the strength we need to accomplish the task. God has certainly equipped us with some powerful tools to help us live out our faith. Continue Reading