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We serve a God who not only calls us by name, but calls us to walk in His identity as a disciple of Christ as well. It's a role that we're called to fulfill in God's Kingdom, but it's not an easy role to fill. Yet, many of us mark it with the label that it is because we don't realize the true cost of discipleship until we're faced with moments that we have to either defend our faith or keep quiet about it.

Why is this?

Why can we look at Jesus and see the cost that God paid for our sins through his crucifixion, and not be willing to die for a faith of our own?

Discipleship isn't just something that we can freely choose to partake in when we want. It's easy to show up at church on Sunday and agree with the words that the preacher says and leave it at that "until next week," but that's not how we fulfill our roles in the Kingdom. We come to church to be filled as disciples and affirmed that we've taken on our one, true identity so that we can walk in confidence with a fearless faith to proclaim the Gospel to a world that so desperately needs to hear it. We don't come to church to feel good and proud of ourselves in the fact that we were able to wake up and get there on time "this week." We come to church to grow as a community of believers that share the same passion for the one and true living God, Who has a mission that He desires to achieve through us.

We have to understand this. And as the church, we must wake up, rise up, and walk. 

Disciples follow Jesus because he is the way. His life is the example for how we are to live ours. We cling to him through faith because he is our reason to live. He gives us life.

"And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it,'" (Mark 8:34-35, ESV).

Disciples help others follow Jesus because they know his goodness and desire for the world to be a witness to it as well. Having a relationship with Jesus is vital, but it doesn't- and it can't- end with us. We are called to embody the qualities of Christ into our everyday lives as we proclaim his goodness to the world. He opens eyes through us.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age," (Matthew 28:19-20).

Disciples replicate Jesus because it is through him that we receive life and are able to give it.  We are called to be fishers of men and that city on a hill through acts of love, humility, grace, service, and obedience every day, for all of our days.

"For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps," (1 Peter 2:21, ESV).

Disciples must realize that the cost of discipleship requires sacrifice.  When heavy waves come crashing down, we must swim with faith instead of drowning in fear. Trials will come, and when they do we must draw near to the Lord and seek His face. We don't serve God simply for profit. This life was never guaranteed to be easy all the time, but folks, the destination will sure be worth it. Even in the suffering, God is still sovereign and good. He will take care of you.

“Christians today like to play it safe. We want to put ourselves in situations where we are safe 'even if there is no God.' But if we truly desire to please God, we cannot live that way.”  -Francis Chan

Disciples depend on God's gentle grace because without it, we would fail- over and over again. Disciples are not perfect by any means. Disciples are on the journey of life just like anyone else, but they don't allow their mistakes to define them because they know that they're forgiven and desire for everyone else to know that they're forgiven, too, by reflecting the light of Christ to those around them. There is no power that can match His grace.

"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit," (2 Corinthians 3:18, ESV).

"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God," (Acts 20:24, ESV).

Ladies, living this life is not about us, or our convenience. It's about the calling that God has placed on our lives and doing whatever it takes to live for Him.

We belong to God. So what are you waiting for? Shout His name from the rooftops and proclaim the freedom that He gives us as we take delight in Him! Wake up, rise up, and walk.

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About the Author :

Emily Townsend is a 20 year old southern girl who has a heart for loving Jesus, loving others, and serving the world. She is currently pursuing a career in ministry as she continues to fall madly in love with Jesus by the day. Emily is also a lover books, coffee, koalas, Pinterest, Pilates, and weddings. Her daily dose of life consists of a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus. You can also find her blogging on her personal blog The Joy of My Joy.

I have always felt that I have to have enough of something left over for me
The things I believed were my liberty became the bounds that began to cover me
I never realized that I was chained upon a thrown of enslavement
Even though I was no longer surrounded by the abuse, I still became the abuser
I created a cage that I would soon dwell in
The cage was a sound and sturdy construct of words and voices, creating invisible bars around my heart
Soon, things that were once within my grasp, seemed so far away, developing a distance that kept me isolated and continued to magnify with growth through time
I felt myself at one point, straining to reach my freedom just beyond the cage bars
The tips of my fingers could feel the warmth of it skin
I thought to myself, freedom, I feel that you are near, if only I could reach the key that would release me
I slowly pulled my arm back into the cage, clasping my hands to pray, asking the Lord if He would spare my life 
I said, Lord, I am hungry, trapped, and have nothing to eat
Lord would please unlock this cage so that I can be free
He said, the bars that you speak of have not been built by me, though I create boundaries to protect you, you have designed your own fortress that has been used by enemy 
Just take a look down, right into your hand, you have always had the key.

"Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord," (Romans 6:19-23 New Living Translation).

Sometimes we do not realize as Christians, that we are holding the key to our freedom.  We often try to fill empty voids believing that we have been deprived by our past in many significant ways; though this may be true to some degree.

This deprivation creates idols that we look to more than we seek God.  This puts us in a position where we end up doing things for our own glory so that we receive love and acceptance the way that we want.  

I am learning continuously that the only true fulfillment is in Christ, because other than that, we end of trapped in our own snare.  

Seek to glorify God in all that you do rather than doing things unto your own glory.

"So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God," (1 Corinthians 10:31 New Living Translation).

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About the Author :

Francine E. Ott is truly thankful to have a relationship with God and is seeking Him daily for guidance and any opportunities to walk closer with Him in truth and love. Francine is a choreographer/dancer, teacher, and soon to be counselor who has a heart to see God's transforming power, renew, restore, and heal the minds, souls, and bodies of people's lives.

"Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches." 
(John 5:1-3, 5-7 NLT)

One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” 

In the 5th chapter of John, we meet a man. It doesn't tell us his name or very much about him. But, we do learn that he had been sick for 38 long years. And he was here, like so many others, hoping that today would be the day he could finally make it into the pool. That he would finally be the first to step in and receive his healing. 

Jesus noticed him lying there in his condition and asked him a question.  "Would you like to get well?"  And, this man, who had been sick for 38 years,  had a response for Jesus. He said, "I can't sir."  "For I don't have anyone to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone always gets there ahead of me."

Did you see his response? His response was filled with lots of "I's" and "me's".

"I don't have anybody to help put me into the pool."  "When I try to get in myself, somebody else gets in before me".

This man was so focused on himself and, on what he wasn't seemingly able to do for himself.

He could only see his own inabilities and what he wasn't able to make happen. He focused on the fact that he had no one to help him.

Jesus simply asked him one question, "Would you like to get well?" He never asked him for any excuses.  Jesus never does. 

And, He doesn't want our excuses today. The Lord wants you to take your eyes off of your own inabilities, faults and weaknesses, and respond with a yes. No more excuses. Yes, I want to be whole. Yes, I want to fulfill my destiny. Yes, I want to see your promises fulfilled in my life. 

If you focus on what you consider to be weaknesses, you will never see yourself in other condition. You will never see the strengths and abilities you do have. This man focused so much on what he could not do for himself, until he was convinced he could not be healed any other way. His condition and not having someone to help him all spoke defeat to him. And the countless times he saw others step down into the pool before him convinced him that, no, it would not happen for him. 

What condition or circumstance is speaking to you today?  Telling you that you can't or you won't?

And, are you agreeing with your condition because of what you've experienced in the past?  Are you saying, like the man in the gospel of John, "I can't"?

What is your response?  Do you want to be made whole?  Do you want to walk in purpose?  Do you want to be healed?

Jesus does not want your excuses.  All He wants to know is that you agree with His plans and purposes for your life. He is not limited by what you call weaknesses.  His strength is made perfect in your weakness.  And His grace is sufficient for you.
You must get to a place where your gaze is fixed on God and His might. The things that you consider as weaknesses are nothing for God. You must remember that you worship a God for whom nothing is impossible. 

Cancer?  Not impossible. Debt?  Not impossible? Starting a business?  Not impossible.

Nothing is too hard for the God you worship. Our response to whatever God asks of us can no longer be an excuse.  It can no longer be about your ability, power, or might.  But, it must be all about God and His power, ability and might.  

Let's look at verses 8 and 9 in the 5th chapter of John.

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath," (John 5:8-9 NLT).

Jesus was not moved by this man's excuses or inabilities. He simply commanded him to do the very thing which he felt he couldn't do because of his own inabilities.  He commanded him to simply do that which he desired to do. 

The man had a decision to make. A decision to step out in faith and do. Do what? Walk. He had to step out and be. Be what? What Jesus purposed that he be. Whole. He could not, in that moment, focus on his so-called weaknesses. The things that he called inabilities became as nothing when he arose in faith at the command of the Lord.

I want to encourage you today to respond in faith to the word of the Lord. 
Arise, and step out in faith.  

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About the Author :

Pastor Pamela Bell is a passionate, lover of God, who desires to see God's people walk in the knowledge of who they are in Christ. She resides in Mobile, AL and serves as an Elder at her church, Gulf Coast Christian Center. Pastor Pamela enjoys reading, spending time with friends and all things chocolate.

Some days, I feel so fatigued and and just blah! So, I'll go to the medicine cabinet and get an iron pill thinking that'll fix the problem. Nope, problem still there. So then, I'll get up and try to exercise but that only helps to make me feel even more tired.

What's the problem?

My connection with Jesus was the problem. I can search around all day trying to find a fix (coffee, water, mountain dew, etc.) but nothing seems to work except for being connected with God. You know how sometimes when your phone is about to die and it gets this dim tent to it without manually turning it down yourself? That's how I feel when I'm unplugged from God. My battery is just low and I have no connection. And what can you do with a phone that has no connection? Nothing.

God wants us to stay plugged into Him because He knows that we need Him. In Him is where we find peace, love, comfort, and acceptance. In a world that's constantly trying to get our attention in some way or another, God just wants a little bit of our time. My pastor always says: "The only thing we should fear is not being in God's word." Which is very true. God's word is the only thing that can make us completely whole. We may think we will find it in love, friendships, degrees, etc., but God wants US first, then He will prepare us for what He wants us to have. Matthew 6:33 says; "Seek first the kingdom of God and all of these things will be added to you." And why would we want it any other way. Sure, we want great things for our lives but imagine what GOD has in store for us! All we have to do is surrender to Him.

How should we expect our spirit to grow if we only feed our flesh? The spirit and the flesh are at a constant battle everyday to win you over. Who will you let win the war? The spirit is what leads us to be God-like. Have you ever met that Christian girl that acts like she's all holy but when you actually get a chance to know her she's just shallow and has no depth? More than likely she's not seeking God and staying plugged in. We don't want to end up like that. We want to be open to anyone we come into contact with so that they can see the God in us that has been growing through our spirit because it's getting fed good nutrients. 

I can guarantee you that once you make God your number one priority everything else will come to you just as Scripture says. You won't even be thinking about anything else because He truly is enough. Just try Him out. He's standing right in front of You with open arms waiting for you to come back. He loves You more than any other man ever will. Tell Him about all your concerns, He's always there

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About the Author :

Cortnee is a 26 year old TV Host, for her television show, City Savvy based in Philadelphia. She enjoys going to the beach, cooking, shopping, traveling, and visiting with her family that lives out-of state. Cortnee is best described as bubbly and outgoing. She works by day as a substitute teacher. Jesus is her best friend who provides for and protects her.
For several months now God has put the twelve month beautification process in my mind.  A process that Esther had to go through prior to being able to go before the king.  At first I didn’t understand why God was showing me this. I did not have a clear understanding of the beautification process and to be honest at first glance, it looked very vain.  The more God revealed to me, the more I began to understand and in turn I was encouraged.

At first glance the beautification process seems vain and bigoted.  It appears to be purely physical, but delving deeper it is actually an inward beautification that overflows on the outside as well.  This was a process of purification, renewal, healing and cleansing.  The outcome was not just a physical change, but a change from within that shined outwardly. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key components of the beautification process.

“Before a young woman's turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics.” (Esther 2:12)

Myrrh was a highly precious and valued oil used for purification and healing.  Myrrh was used in the purification process to beautify the women who were presented before King.  Myrrh was distinctive and wonderfully fragrant.  It was a requisite that Esther and all the other women in the harem to spend the first half of the twelve months working on purification, healing, restoring and cleansing. Through this mandatory process it ensured a wholeness of the inside as well as the outside. 

Although scripture does mention Esther’s physical attributes as, lovely figure and was beautiful (Esther 2:7),” what was mentioned repeatedly was that Esther won favor above all the other beautiful women that could have been chosen.  In Esther 2:8-9 she won the favor of the man who was in charge of the harem;

 “Esther also was taken to the king’s palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem. She pleased him and won his favor. Immediately he provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven female attendants selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her attendants into the best place in the harem.”

We read further that, Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her,(Esther 2:15). When she finally had her turn (and possibly the only turn) with the King we read that, “the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the maidens, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti,” (Esther 2:17).

It was the beauty of who she was not what she looked like she was.  It was her whole being, she was refreshingly honest, graceful and not self-seeking in all she did.  More importantly, she was a woman of God and His scent was on her and dwelled everywhere she went.  She was the Proverbs 31 woman in all ways.

Can you imagine, one shot with the King?  One shot with the man that could be your Husband and earthly King?  Honestly ask yourself, if you had that one shot right now would you be ready?  Or would you be a bitter smelling flower carrying around dead weight from years past?  Or would you have a beautiful scent, one from the Holy Spirit, winning unplanned favor before those who paths you cross? 

Are you in the midst of the beautification process, including mind, body and soul?

I came across something the other day that really hit the nail on the head;
Today, not many young ladies want to wait for their King, they don’t want to go through the process that God has set aside for them to prepare to be Woman of God and the Queen she needs to be for the King of her life. Instead, we jump on the first good looking man that 'seems' to fit what we want and possibly what we think we need.

I urge you to submit to the beautification process that God has designed for you, without it you may never fully become the wonderfully deigned woman God designed you to be.  Yes, I know the process seems like it takes forever, but really in the big scheme of your life it’s not a huge amount of time. 

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About the Author :

Leilani is a single mom to a beautiful 4 year old little girl. She is in love with the Creator of the stars. Her mission is simple yet so big, to encourage and bring Jesus to all in need. To bring hope by loving people, writing, photography, music, poetry/spoken word and meeting people right where they are. God's Grace is her air.

May my spirit be brave.

She stood before them, ten thousand warriors strong. Her heart thumped wildly beneath her breast as she gazed upon their stone-cold faces. Their heavy-set brows bore deep into her as a fragile hope fluttered within her spirit. She set her mouth into a determined line, knowing full well that it was her they all looked to. As certain as the sun rises in the East she knew what she was about to do. She was to send her countrymen to war, to kill. Brothers, fathers, lovers, and friends would be sent out on her command for justice. The flesh and blood of life that left families and long-endeared love would stand and fight for her. She knew there would be sacrifices made this day and that she would be responsible for all that is lost. She regarded heaven and as the sun’s warm rays gently kissed her face, she knew that she was always meant to be brave and lead these men.

May my spirit be brave.

Not far from the battle there lies a tent. A woman sits silently listening intently for the muffled sounds of war that drift upon the breeze. Her muscles tense and tighten as her mind lingers on the sounds of those dying men. Her body comes alive, consumed by a thirst for vengeance; she will see justice this day. The urgency of her passion propels her to the tent’s entrance. She pulls back the fabric of her home and peers across the valley and spies a man making haste. As he approaches she recognizes him as the commander of the Canaanite army; a war lord. Her heart thumps in her throat with an intensity she never felt before and she knew what she must do. Heat flushed her face as the blood-lust raced through her veins and she knew that to be brave was to be calm.

So with the elegance and grace of a queen she met him outside the tent and with the coolness of a wet cloth on a burn said, “’ Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; have no fear’” (Judges 4:18). Every move is made with a calculated measure of deceit. She covers him with a rug to wrap his shuddering body and when he begs for water, brings milk instead.  As his trust lulls him to rest she approaches again, a formidable force of silent power, heroically delivering peace from a violently chaotic place. Then, “She put her hand to the tent peg and her right hand to the workmen’s mallet; she struck Sisera a blow, she crushed his head, she shattered and pierced his temple. He sank, he fell, he lay still at her feet; at her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell dead” (Judges 5:26-27). And so the day was given into the hand of woman.

May my spirit be brave.

I may be afraid of the dark, get a little jumpy around sudden noises, and retreat in disgust when I see an insect but these are not the things that I am terrified of.  It is not the things that quicken my step and cause me to double-check to see if I have locked my door at night that truly cover my heart in shadows of fright. There are many challenges in my life that force me to be brave and to be brave is a terrifying obligation. This is what sends my heart to skipping beats. So many times my spirit is made weak and frail; I cannot muster the courage necessary to see these dreams through, to do the right thing.

Yet, here is a gift given to us by the ancients of these warriors, these brave women. I wonder what must have been going through Deborah’s mind as she gazed upon her brothers, the very men she was about to send to a very possible violent end. What of Jael? Was her heart beating wildly in her chest as she poised that peg above the head of one of the most powerful men she knew? Was she scared? I would like to think so because otherwise their stories would mean so little to me. These women risked death in order to do what they believed was right; could I not be expected to do half as much?

The fact these stories recount the glorious victory of women makes a difference to me and I hope it makes a difference for you too. But I don’t want this to become a reflection where the only thing we’re given is, “As a woman you should [insert some stereotype of what it means to be feminine].” Let’s just forget for a moment that we have skin: that we are dark or pale, that we have breasts or that we don’t, what color of hair we have, if it’s straight or curly, and break these mirrors of glass that reflect nothing meaningful at all. Let our hearts, for just a brief space in time, finally come to the surface and be spoken to. These stories tell us to be brave, not just as women, but as people of God. These stories tell us to be calm in the face of danger, to lead all types of people, to be fierce, to love justice, to risk, to take charge, and to have a spirit of bravery, of courage. Deborah and Jael were not defined by their anatomy but by their response to the call of the Lord. Perhaps they were shaking and unsure but they acted in spite of their nature and became brave.  

May my spirit also be brave. 

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About the Author :

Sarah Dannemiller is a crazy-confused post-grad from central Indiana who is a curious, fun-loving individual doing her best to leave a legacy of love and laughter. She might have the tendency to obsess over words, corny jokes, and delicious cookie-dough ice cream! But she has a passion for justice, believes in this world, and the good work that God is doing in it.