The armor of God

Just like soldiers have to be ready for war with equipment and training, we have to be constantly armed and ready for spiritual warfare. Though our battles may be long and difficult, God did not leave us to fend for ourselves. He has already won the war through Christ Jesus. There is a war out there for your heart, spirit, and peace. Your priceless heart is so valuable, and God has given us all that we need to fight our battles. In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul tells us of the armor which is given to us by God and through His Word. The battles that we fight are not of flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (v. 12). We are told that we must take up the WHOLE (complete, and not lacking) armor of God in order to be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm (v. 13). Each day we must put on the whole armor of God to be able to stand against the schemes of the devil (v. 10).

ARMOR OF GOD:

14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (V. 6:14-20) ESV

In Ephesians 6:19-20, the Apostle Paul asks God to help him in opening his mouth boldly to proclaim the Gospel, for which he is an ambassador in chains. Paul expresses that declaring God’s truth is absolutely the right thing to do, and keeping quiet would not be honorable. To me, this is a shocking response considering he had already been imprisoned for spreading God’s Word. How amazing is that? He calls himself an ‘ambassador in chains’. He had already been imprisoned for being an ambassador of God and his Word, yet he asks God to help him have the words to boldly proclaim the mystery of the gospel (v. 19).

We are called to use the tools that God has given us in order to survive the attacks of the enemy and to use the tools against the tactics that the enemy throws against us. God is so good that even though the war is already won, he has given us the WHOLE armor of God, everything we need to fight the battles that come our way. I absolutely love this and it just makes my heart gush because it shows me just a glimpse of how much we are loved. God has prepared us and given us all we need for a VICTORY THAT IS ALREADY OURS. Death is defeated, we are offered eternal life through Jesus, AND though our lives may be tough to handle in our time on this earth – we are given all we need to fight the battles that God has already won for us. We don’t need to go through the motions, we don’t need to fear, and we certainly don’t need to feel defeated. We are to pray at all times, keep alert, and persevere (v. 18).

Paul ends this letter beautifully,

23 Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible. (Ephesians 6:23-24) (ESV).

PRAYER

God, help me to always remember that I lack nothing in loving and knowing you. You have given me all I need to persevere, I lack nothing in your presence. I pray that you would guide me in your ways, and help me keep my armor on. You have prepared me to fight the battles I face in my time on this earth, and you have already claimed my victory in advance. I want to thank you for your goodness, your grace, and your love. All of which I do not fully comprehend, yet you overflow my heart with your peace and you are beside me through all circumstances and situations that I have faced, and will face. Help me to always remember that I am an ambassador for Christ, and I ought to boldly proclaim my faith and your good Works throughout my life. Help me have the confidence and perseverance that I need to keep my faith in you, God. You never fail me and you never will. Thank you for dying on the cross for me, and for never forsaking me. Amen.”


To my younger self

If I could go back in time, I would just encourage myself. I would show up at certain points of my life where I thought the world was going to end. I would remind myself how important it is to put God first. I would not focus on my appearance, and the things that others had to say about it. I would not shed tears over things that mean nothing to me now. I would allow myself more time to grow, and to be patient in the process. I would be there for myself at times where I felt others weren’t, and I would tell myself over and over that I am loved, I am worthy, I am strong, and that I am free. I would allow myself to seek God and tell myself the good things that were to come, but also about the rough season that would slip in-between those good times. I would give myself a reminder that my bible is always beside me, and within reach. I would emphasize that fear is a lie, and that God always pulls me out of the dark. There’s so many things I would say to my younger self that even now, still apply to me, and different aspects of who I am. Writing a letter to my younger self is also a letter to my current self, and my older self. Though I can’t see the future, my thoughts and emotions try to worry ahead of time for my future self, even in the ‘here and now’. Looking back allows me to say “I’ve gone through this already, and though the times are different, the plan is still the same.” God’s plan doesn’t quit, it doesn’t waiver, and it doesn’t lose track of us. Though we may make decisions that seem like a detour, God’s looking at the bigger picture. Everyday he offers opportunities to trust in him, to be in his presence, and to break free from old things. We can get so caught up in the things of the earth because we live our physical lives here. We are constantly bombarded with lies, and tempted with distractions. Despite this, God always extends a hand. The more we trust Him, the more we SPEND TIME WITH GOD – the more we are reminded of the truth and who God is. 

Don’t allow yourself to believe lies, and be constrained with the ways of the world and the distractions that are unavoidable. Be there for yourself, and plan for the future. Speak to God, pray for your future, and seek God now and always so your heart will see that the future is bright and God is always with you. If you focus on your past, you can’t move ahead. If you allow yourself to trust God and allow him to remove those thorns of the past that stick out and throb,  — you can build up your faith, and not have to worry or be constrained by your past. You will live in freedom. 

Verses to meditate on: 

PSALM 18:23 (AMP)

“I was upright before Him and blameless with Him, ever [on guard] to keep myself free from my sin and guilt.”

DEUTERONOMY 31:6 (ESV)

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave or forsake you.”

2 CORINTHIANS 5:17 (ESV)

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”


Let’s get real

let’s get real

Do you ever have days where you feel discouraged, or in a ‘Spiritual Slump’? (YES, I said it). I want to be real with you. There are days when I don’t feel like reading my bible, or praying, or even getting up out of bed. If you’ve ever been in a slump before, you know it makes you feel down, discouraged, and like your faith isn’t moving mountains.

I gave my life to Christ when I was twelve years old. Since then, I can honestly say that I haven’t felt my faith to have always been consistently strong throughout my everyday life over the last eleven years. There were periods of time where I wasn’t involved in church, I wasn’t reading the Word, I wasn’t praying consistently, and I wasn’t acknowledging God in everything I was doing.

I’ve gone through a few trials in life so far, that really challenged my faith and increased my fear. Though, now at twenty-three I am confident in my relationship with God and I feel so much more mature, spiritually. I struggled with guilt and shame because I felt I could have been so much more faithful and consistent through my difficult times, and God would pull me out of the dark anyways. This is why I feel that it’s so important to sit and B R E A T H E, even if just for a moment everyday. The world changes so much, so quickly, and so unexpectedly that it can leave us feeling like “What’s next?”.

I love reading the book of Psalms, because it is one of the main parts of the bible that shows us the good, bad, and the ugly. In Psalm 13, David feels that God has forgotten him and hidden his face from him (v. 1). In verses 5 and 6, he says “but I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation (v. 5). I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me (v. 6)”.

Psalm 13

I want to encourage you to follow these four steps the next time you feel that God has forgotten you, or like your faith is low.

1. TRUST in God’s promises

2. REJOICE in your salvation

3. PRAISE his name

4. REFRESH your spirit, and PRAY.

Whenever we feel that are faith is lacking, we need to be reminded of our trust in God and the promises he has made for us. We need to rejoice, praise his name, and refresh our spirit through consistent prayer. Remember that God is always with us and we are never alone. Psalm 16:8 (ESV) tells us “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” Psalm 16:11 also tells us “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

I want to encourage you to not be discouraged. God has already won the war of the battles that we face everyday. When we are deep in our sorrow (I have been there) it clouds our vision of the future that God has planned. Remember that God made these promises, knowing our every move from the minute we are born until the moment we pass away. He is still here. Do not give up. No matter what you are going through, tell God everything – the good, the bad, the messy feelings and regrets. He wants it all.

No matter who you are or where you think you are headed, our God has so much more for you. Don’t allow the enemy to convince you otherwise. Life is tough but God is stronger than anything that has a grip on you. He never gives up on you. He’s there with open arms, no matter what you feel guilty about or however long its been. It is time for you to hold onto the hands that are extended to you, and trust that there is so much more.


My Salvation

My name is Mackenzie Matthews-Cook, I am twenty-two years old and I am in my first year of marriage. I am originally from the great state of Texas, but last June after I got married I moved to West Virginia! It has definitely been a great change in my life but I whole-heartedly believe that I am following God’s plan for my life.

But lets start from the beginning. I was raised in a home where we believed in God, we occasionally went to church but it was not a huge deal. The older I got the more curious I got about God. In high school I really struggled on what I believed in for myself. I would go to church more often but I would also go out drinking and amongst other things. I let boys rule my life, instead of Christ. I did what I wanted to do even if I knew it was not right. Living my life this way, I really struggled with my mental health, specifically depression and anxiety. I used medicine to “help” and even saw a therapist to try and help me overcome these obstacles. I was not only living in sin but also going through so much hurt and loss throughout my high school years and that is a story for a different time.

Have you ever heard the saying “having a God shaped hole in your heart”? Well this is the best way I can describe my situation. I had this hole in my life that only God could fill and I was trying to fill it with things of this world and it was only making me more and more miserable as time went on.

In 2015 as a seventeen year old girl I made the realization that if I were to die that I would be going to hell, that I was a dirty rotten sinner and I needed Christ. I went to my youth pastors wife and told her I needed to get saved and she led me to the Lord. The next year of my life was a constant struggle because I knew I belonged to the Lord but I still constantly lived a worldly life. About a year after getting saved and graduating from high school, I decided to finally get serious about my relationship with Christ. I finally got baptized and from then on out I did my best to stay close to the Lord and live my life for him. Then at 18 years old I surrendered to full time ministry. I did not know what God would have in store for that fully, I was still single and I was getting ready to leave for Bible College. I knew God wanted me to be a teacher but that was it. I attended Heartland Baptist Bible College for a year and then I transferred to Crown College of the Bible and met my husband there. We dated for about ten months, then we were engaged for about eight months and then married. After we got married, my husband was asked to come on staff at his church in West Virginia as the mission and outreach director. I help him in those ministries the best I can and I teach a Sunday night children’s class.

Serving the Lord with my husband is the best thing that I could be doing in my life. Living in the Lord’s will is way better than living out of his will. If you are struggling with the call that God has for your life I would highly recommend spending extra time in prayer and ask God to give you direction.


Self love and daily affirmations

daily affirmations & bible verses

If you’re anything like me, you may experience burnout pretty often. Between work, school, responsibilities, and trying to squeeze in some fun once in a while — it can seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day and you can’t get anything done. I constantly need to re-route the thoughts in my mind that say I’m not enough, I can’t do this or that, or that I’m all alone in my problems & issues. 

These things make me feel so vulnerable and I feel guilt and shame for just for having a bad day or feeling down & anxious. 

If this is you, I want you to know that you aren’t alone & that this is not the end. There’s so much more for you. God has created you exactly as you are and he loves you. There isn’t any single person on the earth, nor that has ever lived that is an exception to that. 

Sometimes we need to shine a little light in our own lives, and we can do that by seeking God. For instance, I’m overwhelmed at moment with homework, laundry, and preparing for another week at work. These things may seem silly and there isn’t anything wrong with those tasks. These are mundane things that I do regularly – but, when I’m running my to-do list, anxiety creeps in. I start worrying about days that haven’t even come to pass. I want to be living here & now. I want to take a minute to BREATHE. 

If you’re feeling anxious and you’re thoughts are spiraling: 

  1. You are not alone 
  2. Take a minute to BREATHE 
  3. Sit somewhere quiet and read the daily affirmations (in the picture above), changing ‘you’ for ‘I’ 
  4. Jot down the Bible verses alongside the affirmations & highlight them in your bible 
  5. Remember that whatever you are feeling does not reflect who or how you are – but is simply the stress you feel in your current situation 

It is difficult, when feeling down/anxious/emotional to separate our situation with our individual being and relationship with God. If you’re anything like me, you may internalize your emotions and your thoughts tend to dictate how you may feel about yourself. Just know that those NEGATIVE THOUGHTS WILL LEAVE. Even at 23, I am still learning what self-love is. Sometimes it is just taking a moment to say “hey, you are loved.” “You are beautiful.” “You are unique – and there isn’t anything wrong with that.” 

Don’t let the enemy steal your joy, take your happiness and convince you of anything opposite to what God says about you and who you are. 

This spiritual battle that we fight – it begins in our mind. 

STAND YOUR GROUND. Flip those negative thoughts into bible verses and positive affirmations. We are all loved. We are all forgiven. We all exist and have a purpose that is handpicked by God. Don’t let the enemy deter you from your truth. Pain is real and life has some bad times. No matter the reason for what you are feeling, YOU ARE YOU! There isn’t any better way to be! 💛


Be Still

I thought a lot about whether I would want to post about this or not, and I’ve chosen to share my story.

Earlier this year I was in a car accident and it was by far the scariest thing I’d ever experienced in my life. In a matter of seconds, my whole life was placed on hold. Everything I had planned, looked forward to, and had in mind was cancelled in the aftermath of the accident. The day following my accident was my 23rd birthday and I didn’t know what to do or how to feel. I was grateful that God protected me, but the little voice inside my head had me running in a downward spiral of “how could this happen?“, “why would this happen?” and “where do I go from here?”.

For me, driving was my biggest fear as a teenager. I hated the idea of getting behind the wheel of a car and having to be in control of a car. I had so much anxiety with the thought of getting hit by a car, or causing an accident. Then, it happened. I was driving home from work one night and another car struck mine. I am still very anxious throughout any traffic jams, but I have been learning and putting effort towards calming my fears and anxiety while letting God work in me.

At first, I was in total shock. More so because I hated driving in the first place and this event confirmed my fears. I was grateful that God kept me alive and throughout the days following the accident, I was mentally in a different place. I didn’t want to be stressed about dealing with insurance companies, and finding out ways to place all the pieces of my life back in order.

I was still. I can honestly say that despite the fear, anxiety, and mood swings — I had time to just sit and be still. I didn’t want to be worried about my full-time job, my classes for school, nor all the errands I had to run. I truly feel that sometimes we need to experience these moments that make us re-evaluate our worldview, and show us what’s really important.

I felt that before all this, I was putting a lot of my wants before my relationship with God. I chose not to focus on the ‘who’, ‘what’, or ‘why’ in the accident. I chose to look at God, who still had my back. There are so many times in life that I have gotten caught up in things that weren’t necessary for me.

I really feel that my experience was an epic ‘Be Still’ moment. Despite my fears, my anxiety and the aftermath of the physical event – I was spiritually reset. Once again, my heart is full and I know that God is always with me and he has a plan for me. A future that I sometimes doubt but, he always remains faithful.

Be still before the Lord

    and wait patiently for him;

do not fret when people succeed in their ways,

    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

PSALM 37:7 (NIV)

If you ever experience anything that you feel has turned your world upside down, take a moment to give God a chance to work on you and to speak to you. Allow yourself to have a ‘Be Still’ moment, and trust God through the process. He is always there, and there is nothing that can keep us from him goodness, and his plan for us.

“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”

MARK 4:39 (NIV)