Godly Confidence: Embracing Your Identity In Christ

“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39 (NLT). 

We live in a culture that consistently feeds us the lie that we’re not enough.

Whether it be from Hollywood, magazines, or toothpaste ads, we are told time and time again that we should be prettier, thinner, smarter, cooler, or otherwise different from the person that we are. Time and time again, we are fed an ideal of ‘perfection’ from our culture—and too often, we have accepted this lie as truth.

Recently, I posted to my Instagram account asking for suggestions for future blogs and video blogs, and one of the suggestions that I got was to write a post on loving yourself. And this got me thinking—what does this look like for us as believers? How do we, while following the Biblical principal of taking up our cross to follow Christ (Matthew 16:24), love ourselves the way that we’re called to as Christians?

I believe this starts with looking to who God says we are in Scripture, and planting our identity firmly in Christ.

From the very beginning, we are shown that we have innate worth simply by existing and being. In Genesis 1:27, we read, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (NIV). Each one of us is created in the image of God—which means that each one of us bears the mark of our Creator.

Furthermore, in Psalm 139:13-14, King David writes, “You formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside and my intricate outside, and wove them all together in my mother’s womb.[aI thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex! Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking. It simply amazes me to think about it! How thoroughly you know me, Lord!” (TPT). Each one of us is created wonderfully complex, from our unique personalities and passions to our outward appearance!

I remember times during my teenage years when this truth didn’t always line up with how I felt. There were plenty of times when I felt awkward (who doesn’t as a teenager?), gawky, and like I totally broke the mold of how a teenager ‘should’ be.

I was pretty tomboyish. I was obsessed with all things books and words (still am, as you’ve probably figured out). And a lot of my interests fell more into the old lady category than the teenager category (hot tea…Hallmark movies…cats…the whole nine yards). But the older I got, the more comfortable in my skin I became. Slowly I learned that everyone has things that make them unique—and I learned to own the person that God has created me to be. To embrace my quirks, rather than run from them.

If you can relate to any of this at all, I want to challenge you to fully embrace what God has said about you. Not just on a head level, but on a heart level. To see that God has bestowed you with so many incredible gifts and talents and ways that you paint your own unique colors onto the canvas of this world. To show up fully in your sphere of influence knowing that God looked down when He created you and said ‘It is good’. To drown out the voices of the world that tell you that you have to be different to be accepted, because in Christ you are already enough!

In the words of a quote by George MacDonald, “I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking.” 

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How about you? What are your thoughts on living out your identity in Christ? I’d love to hear your input in the comments section below!❤️

Confident

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:14. 

Confidence. It is something that all of us want and desire. A topic we discuss often in our modern day society. It’s also pretty much the theme of my blog’s tagline—”striving to live confidently in Christ”. But what does it mean to truly be confident—and what does it mean to live confidently in Christ?

I’m going to be honest with you guys. I wrote this same post almost a week ago, but later, felt that I needed to take a different approach with it. Because while I spoke the truth and said it in a way that sounded pretty good and ‘Christian-blog-esque‘, I didn’t tell you a whole lot about my own battle, and my own journey with confidence. And after talking with a group of friends this week, and really getting real about what we were dealing with, it occurred to me that sometimes, what we need to hear most are people’s stories. We need to know that we are not alone in our struggles—and that they’re not all that unique. That other people have dealt with the same things we have, and that others are fighting the same battles that we are. 

You see, the truth is, even though I’m twenty-one years old, and even though I’ve been a Christian for over half of my lifetime, I still sometimes struggle with confidence. I still sometimes get insecure. I still have my moments. I still feel inadequate sometimes. And one of my biggest struggles in confidence is my tendency towards quietness.

I’ve heard people say before that I can sometimes come off as ‘stoic’ in group settings. Because I’m quiet, people don’t always realize that underneath the ‘stoic-ness’, I really do desire to connect on a deeper level with those around me. I just don’t always know how. I get stuck inside of my head. I try to make a good impression. I wrack my brain with conversation topics that I think will help me grow closer to the people around me. And, in the end I find myself spinning my wheels so hard that I sabotage myself from being able to do the one thing that I am trying to do to begin with—and forget that the only opinion that truly matters in the end is what Jesus thinks of me. 

I think if we’re honest, a lot of us can relate to this struggle in some way, shape, or form. Maybe you’re insecure about your intelligence, so you hesitate to answer questions in class—even when know you know the answer. Or maybe you’re insecure about your appearance, and feel too embarrassed to hold your held high as you walk down the hallways of your high school. Or maybe you struggle with confidence in something else. Regardless of the specifics, the root is still the same. We have forgotten who we are. And more importantly, we have forgotten whose we are.

Contrary to popular opinion, self confidence never begins with self. It begins with something greater—something outside of ourselves that can never be changed and never be shaken. Self confidence starts with God confidence, and who He has said that we are in His Word.

When we feel inadequate, we can remember the words of Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (NIV). When we feel worthless we can remember what God says in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV). When we feel weak, we can think back to Deuteronomy 31:6 , “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”’ (NIV).

When we remember who we are in Christ, the lies of the enemy and this world start to lose hold on us—and we begin to see ourselves as God sees us. Beautiful. Capable. Strong. Courageous. Worthy. Loved. And when we remember these words and begin to speak them over ourselves, we will find that God created us exactly the way that He did for a purpose and a plan that only we can accomplish through Him and for His glory.

This is what I believe it means to live confidently in Christ. To wake up every day knowing and remembering that we are fearfully and wonderfully created by a God who loves us and knows us intricately. To recognize that He has given us gifts and abilities to impact the world and bring Him glory. To recognize the lies of the enemy and to remember that we have the fingerprints of our Creator within us. To live in full realization of God’s extravagant love and share this love with every single person that we encounter.

This week I want to challenge you to walk in confidence—carrying with you the knowledge that God loves you. I want to challenge you to see yourself through His eyes, and not your own. I want to challenge you to live confidently in Christ.

Loving God.

Loving people.

And, loving yourself by seeing yourself through our Father’s eyes.

Do you wish you had more confidence in what God is calling you to do? This post shares why we can be confident in Christ and use the abilities and gifts God has given us with assurance and boldness.

“For God will never give you the spirit of fear,[a] but the Holy Spirit who gives you mighty power, love, and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (TPT).  

How about you? Have you ever struggled with insecurity? If so, how did God teach you (or how is He teaching you) to have confidence in Him? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

The Cross = Love

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13 (NIV).

As a writer and aspiring author, I’m somewhat of a fan of stories. 

Ok, I’m going to be totally honest with you guys – that’s an understatement. I love stories; like really love them. I was that kid who went to the library every weekend to get new books to read all through grade school. You know the kid I’m talking about.

The one who brought books with them wherever they went. Who would sit on the steps at recess to read the new book in their favorite series. Who stapled very-homemade looking stories together and illustrated them herself with her crayons. That was me, I was that kid. And today, I’m pretty much a grown-up-version of that kid. 

I have a pretty wide range of stories that I have read and loved, but some of my favorite stories are the ones that focus primarily on the friendships and relationships between characters. Not just romantic relationships—but relationships in general. Stories about friendship, and commitment, and sticking by the people who matter most through thick and thin. Stories that give us hope, and show us the better side of humanity.

I think the reason that stories like this have always stood out to me is because there is something inside all of us as humans that longs for this. To have someone in our corner who has seen us at our best and our worst. Who knows us better than we know ourselves. Who will always stand by us, through the thick and thin. Who loves us unconditionally.

We were wired for this kind of extravagant love—however, too often we can try to look to the wrong place to find it. 

So many of us try to fill this need with our relationships with those around us. Maybe we look for it in a particular friendship. Maybe we look for it in a clique, or the approval of a certain group at school. Or, maybe we look for it in a dating relationship—believing that if we can just have our happily-ever-after with the perfect rom-com soundtrack, all of our problems will dissolve in an instant.

However, none of these relationships will be able to satisfy us in the end. Sure, they might be great and they might bring us some sense of happiness, but they will never truly fill the need that we were created with—to know and be known by our Creator. No story that we hope to create or recreate can ever compare to the greatest story ever told—the story of a God who came down to save a world that was broken and shattered and completely without hope. 

Jesus was with God in the beginning, when they (as a Trinity, along with the Holy Spirit) created everything in the world that we see and know today. Every blade of grass and every branch on a tree. Every cell and every particle. Every fish in the ocean and every bird in the air. He also created the first humans (Adam and Eve) and had perfect communion with them, until they broke God’s law and brought original sin into this world—separating an entire human race from a Holy and perfect God. But even still, He loved us far too much to let us stay lost, and broken, and in chains.

He took on the sin of the entire human race and offered Himself as a final sacrifice so that we could be welcomed into God’s Kingdom. He loved us so much that He couldn’t bear the thought of spending eternity without us—even suffering on a cross to give us life. And it is in His death and His Resurrection that we find life, love, purpose, and everything that we were created for.

I know this is a familiar story to many of us and I know that this is something that many of us have heard time and time again. But it is still something that is so important to remember—perhaps, especially during Easter week, when we remember and celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, and the sacrifice that He made for each and every one of us.

If you are reading this and you are already a Christian, than I want to encourage you to never stop seeing this story with fresh eyes, and sharing this hope with a broken world.

If you are reading this and you have never heard it before, than I want you to know that God loves you so much and desires a personal relationship with you—all you have to do is let Him in.

If you are reading this and have somehow been burned by the church or by Christians who have acted less than Christ-like, than I want you to reconsider your ideas about God—and not hold God responsible for the things that people do. To know that God loves you and is still pursuing you—and wants you to see Him for who He really is.

Whoever you are reading this, God loves you. 

And this, to paraphrase Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas, this is what Easter is all about. 

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“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (NIV). 

 

Fix My Eyes

“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” – C.S. Lewis. 

In our day to day life, it can be so easy to get caught up in our everyday troubles, and miss what matters most. To miss the one thing that we were put in this earth to do; know God and make Him known.

Recently, this has been something that God has been placing heavily on my heart, and I felt led to share. It is something that I have been learning, and processing, and figuring out in my own life. Something that I cannot say that I live out perfectly, but that I have been striving to improve in. Something that I feel like every Christian must grasp in order to grow.

Hebrews 12:2 says much of what I would like to try to say in this blog, as it reads, “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.” (MSG). As Christians, we are running a race. And if we want to achieve full victory, we must keep our eyes on the prize, which is Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

I cannot stress enough how easily it is to stray our focus onto other things. It is something that I battle in my own life, as a Christian college student in the 21st Century. There are a million things that scream for our attention as we struggle to juggle all of these things at once. I have seen this struggle in friends and peers in regards to school. I have seen this struggle with others in regards to work, or a goal of some sort. I know I personally have dealt with this in a variety of situations at various points in my life—ranging  from potential jobs to potential relationships. From lifelong dreams to algebra exams. 

However, last week in my hometown there was a shooting at a local high school. Someone took their own life right in the middle of the school. Tragedies like this remind me how important it is that we always keep first things first, and never let the everyday-ness of life distract from the things that God has put us on earth to do. To never let school, or work, or guy-drama detract from sharing God’s love with those who are hurting or who don’t know God at all.

There’s a world out there that is starving for love. That is starving for someone who is willing to reach out to them, and share the love of Christ. And as Christ’s hands and feet here on this earth, it is our job to spread that love to those around us. To never miss a chance to share the Gospel with someone, even if it may be uncomfortable in the moment. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “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.” (NIV). This is our calling as Christians, no matter what other callings God may have given us – to share His Word with the World.

To conclude, I would like close with a passage that I believe speaks into this. It’s found in Philippians 3:15-17 (MSG). “So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision – you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal.”

Every day is a new opportunity and a new chance to set our eyes on Jesus. To focus on our Savior and the mission fields that God has given us in our day to day lives.

To, in the words of the Hillsong New York Pastor, Carl Lentz, ‘Occupy all streets’.

What will we do with these opportunities?

What will we do with these chances? 

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How about you? What are some ways you are striving to ‘occupy all streets’ in your town for Jesus? I’d love to hear how Jesus is working in your lives in the comments below! 

Perfect

“I got a couple dents in my fender. Got a couple rips in my jeans. Try to fit the pieces together. But perfection is my enemy. And on my own I’m so clumsy but on Your shoulders I can see. I’m free to be me.” – Francesca Battistelli, Free To Be Me.

I was approximately nine years old when the song Free To Be Me, by Francesca Battistelli, first aired on the radio. My family was just starting to listen to the local Christian radio station around this time, and immediately, I resonated with this song. I felt like  Francesca Battistelli had written those lyrics just for me. Ever since I was young, I have always struggled with perfectionism.* And, in some ways, it is still something that I struggle with from time to time today.

To give you all some context on this, I’ve recently discovered that I’m an Enneagram 1w9. Ones are notorious for being perfectionists, and they tend to set extremely high standards for themselves. On the surface level, this can look like a good thing. I’ve never drank or used drugs, I’ve always made pretty decent grades, and I do my best to be kind to the people around me. These are all good things. The not-so-good thing is how, at times, I’ve made my faith about me more than God. How I’ve sometimes put my worth in what I’ve done rather than what Jesus has already done for me. How I put weights on myself that Christ never intended for me to carry.

A couple of years ago, back when I was still in high school, I read a book about this by Emily P. Freeman called Grace For The Good Girl. I wrote about it in a previous blog post, here. The author, like me, has struggled with perfectionism for most of her life. She writes, in one part of the book, describing her struggle, “When bad girls perform to get their needs met, they get in trouble. When good girls perform to get the same thing, we get praise. That is why the hiding is so easy for us. We work hard, we do right, and we try not to ruffle feathers. And even if we do all that by the strength of our own selves, we tell ourselves it’s okay. It seems to work, therefore it’s acceptable.It is not wrong to try to do the right thing, and follow God’s ways and His heart to the best of our ability. The problem occurs when we put our worth in what we do rather than who we are in Christ. When we rely on ourselves rather than relying on God.

Here’s the thing guys, Jesus did not come so that we can make a couple small behavior adjustments and throw Him into our backpack along with our grades and our accomplishments. He came to completely wreck our lives with His love and make dead people alive! To quote Emily P. Freeman once again, “The story of redemption and healing is that Jesus came to exchange my not-good-enough with his better-than-I-could-ever-imagine. He came to trade my life for His, my weak for His strong, my ashes for His beauty. He longs for each of us to receive the gift of Himself.” It is only when we fully grasp this truth that we can really experience the fullness of God’s power and the freedom that He intended for us to have in Christ.

If any of you are like me, and struggle with perfectionism, I want to challenge you to sink more into Jesus. To rely on His power more than your own. To realize that this journey with Jesus is so much grander than to-do-lists and checklists and trying to be good. To fall in love with Jesus and live your life as an outpouring of that love. To realize that grace is not simply the thing that we experience at salvation, but the thing that carries us and sustains us through the rest of our days and the rest of our life. 

To live faithfully, clinging to Jesus every day and every moment. 

Bringing your best, and trusting God with the rest. 

Loving God and loving people every step of the way. 

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*Full disclosure: I’m also a tad clumsy. So I can also admittedly relate to that part of the song.😉   

How about you guys? Do any of you struggle with perfectionism, or trying to win the approval of God and others? If so, feel free to share about it below! I’d love to discuss this in the comments! 

Role Models

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV).

You are a role model. Whether you think so or not, there are people in your life who are watching you—and looking to your example for guidance on what to do—or, not to do. Whether it is a younger kid in your neighborhood, a younger sibling, or a cousin, you are already a role model in someone’s life, even if you are still relatively young yourself.

When I started this blog almost five years ago, I based my title largely after this theme, and the verse listed above. I was sixteen at this point, and have already had a number of role models who have influenced me in my own life—ranging from youth leaders, to celebrities (such as Bethany Hamilton and Francesca Battistelli), to older girls at my church. I also knew that as a Christian teenager, I wanted to set an example in my own life for those who were younger than me. People who were where I have already been, and who were striving to live out their faith to the best of their ability. I wanted to live out the words of this verse in my own life—and set an example for other people my age through speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.

It doesn’t take long to look around at our society and see that as a whole, people don’t really expect much from middle, high school, and college students. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people say “Oh but they’re a teenager! Of course they’re going to do XYZ!” Even at twenty, the stigma remains. It is simply assumed that people my age and younger are going to party, drink, and sleep around*. It is something that is simply thought of as something that is normal for people our age.

However, we have the chance right now at our current age to be the change that we want to see in our culture. We have the chance to rise up and be role models for the next generation, defying the expectations that come with youth. We have the chance to be a leader in our spheres of influence for Christ. To rise up and defy expectations—running passionately after our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Recently, I had the chance to talk to a younger girl at my church who is starting a Christian club at her high school. I know another girl who, at only fourteen has started making Christian vlogs and posting them to YouTube. These people are living examples that you are never too young to make a difference and lead people closer to Christ. You have the chance now—right where you are! 

I want to challenge you to go into your week with this takeaway: you have a chance to be a role model in your generation. You have the opportunity influence those around you in a positive way—it is up to you how you use it. Today, in this day, you have the chance to be a positive influence in the lives of the people around you. 

To lead people closer to Christ.

To encourage kindness in those around you.

To love people like Jesus.

To live a life characterized by faith and purity.

You have the chance to set an example. How will you use it? 

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“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV). 

*Note, if you have some things that you’ve done and regret in your past, I want to be the first to let you know that God doesn’t love you ANY less! He can still use you and use your testimony for His glory. I know a number of people who haven’t always been walking with Christ who are now fully on fire for Jesus—and making a difference for His Kingdom every day! You are never to far gone for our God!🙂

Social Media

In our modern world, social media is something that we use at rapid pace. 

Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and a host of other apps and websites, we have information at our fingertips literally twenty-four-seven. We can go on Twitter to see the latest thoughts and anecdotes of our favorite celebrities. We can go on Instagram to see what our friends and classmates are up to. We can go on Snapchat to chat with our friends and post to our “stories”. We can go on Facebook to see everyone’s opinion on literally everything.

And in many ways, this is good. It lets us keep up with those closest to us and allows us easy access to what’s-going-on-in-the-world. But, like with most good things, social media also has it’s drawbacks. And as young people setting out to impact the world for Christ, it is important to be aware of these drawbacks as we navigate the wonderful and complex world of social media and devices. 

A couple of weeks ago at my church’s youth group, our youth pastor mentioned social media in his lesson. He was talking about culture, and he said that statistically in our modern world, the average teen gets anxiety when separated from their phone. That’s scary y’all. Have we as a culture become so attached to our phones that we get stressed out when we don’t have them? And, is it possible that we could be part of that statistic?

The truth is, I’m writing this to myself just as much as I’m writing to you. As a blogger, it can be a real challenge for me to keep my social media use in balance, and not spend more time online than I should. A couple of weeks ago I was at a leadership meeting and before it started, I was hanging out with a group of my friends, laughing and talking. And as we hit a pocket of silence, I got out my phone and got video footage of the room for my Instagram story. And thinking back to that moment, I couldn’t tell you why I felt such a compulsion to post over just enjoying the moment. But at this point in our society, that’s part of the culture that we live in. You do something fun and post about it—without stopping to just soak in the moment free of phones and devices. 

Yet at the same time, social media can be used for so much good, right? It can be used to spread the Gospel and share God’s Word with the world! You often have a bigger audience on platforms like Twitter and Instagram than you do in your real-day-to-day life, giving you the perfect opportunity to use those tweets and posts for good—and for the glory of God! So, how do you balance it? How do you use your social media for good without letting it run your life? 

I think the first thing remember is to keep it in moderation. Try to limit the amount of time that you’re online per day and try not to mindlessly scroll when you have a free second. There are so many things that we can do when we’re bored besides go online—read a book, listen to music, pray, or call a friend! Live in the moment, and try to enjoy the minutes of your day, without feeling that you have to post everything online.

Second, give yourself a mission! I talked last week about being leaders and social media gives us the opportunity to do just that—right where we are! Use your social media to share your favorite Bible verses, or highlights from a really good sermon at church*. Use it to encourage people and help them in their faith. I have one friend who recently started an online prayer ministry, which I think is an incredible idea! Be creative, and let God show you how He wants to use you in the online world!

Third, be realistic. This is something that we don’t always do with social media but that I feel needs to be said. You know that girl who always posts those perfect pictures of herself at the beach or in meadows of flowers? The girl with the perfectly braided hair who always looks happy and excited about everything? Her life likely isn’t as perfect as it appears online. We have a tendency to post our best selves on social media, which can make many of us think that everyone else’s life is going better than our own. But we don’t see the ugly cries behind the scenes. We don’t see long nights of insomnia. We don’t see the stress, insecurities, or piles of homework. We don’t see a person’s real life on social media—so never compare your behind the scenes to another person’s highlight reel. 

Fourth, be careful about oversharing! This pertains both to safety and to spilling our personal lives online. Not everyone should have access to your personal information (which could be used against you by online predators) and not everyone should have access to your most personal moments. Rather than share your schedule, share your heart. And rather than posting about your messy breakup with your boyfriend, call a close friend who can talk to you and pray with you about it! Social media has a purpose, but it should never replace our real life interactions with those closest to us! 

Fifth, never post anything that you wouldn’t want your children to see or read in the future. Some of you may read that sentence and think, “I’m twelve. That’s a looooong ways off Courtney!” But the truth is, things online have a tendency of sticking around for a while. And if you don’t want your future employer, your children, or your future spouse reading something or seeing a questionable picture, than you probably shouldn’t post it. I’ve tried to live by this rule for as long as I’ve had social media, and it has helped me keep the right perspective when posting stuff online. In the worlds of Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.Post about the things that will uplift and inspire, not that will tear down or embarrass you later down the line!

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How about you? What are your thoughts on social media and stewarding it well as Christians? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below – I always love a good conversation!😀

*But for the sake of your pastors, please do this after the service is over.