6 Items You Won’t Find on a Supply List

Some of you have already started school and said goodbye to the snooze button. Others are soaking in the last of summer break sunshine before hitting the books again.

Either way, the most important gear for a successful school year won’t be something you checked off a supply list.

Click over to LindseyPBracket.com to read my full post 6 Items You Won’t Find on a Supply List. I had the privilege of meeting Lindsey at a writer’s conference in February. Despite the busy conference schedule, we found time over lunch to learn about each other’s writing projects and personal passions. When she asked if I would guest blog on her site about back-to-school, of course I said yes.

Her site Just Write Life is a beautiful journey of finding meaning and God’s hand in the “messy mundane magnificence” that makes up this crazy journey of life.

So again, I encourage you to click over to her site and learn about the most important supplies you’ll need to succeed this year in school. Your biggest hurdles won’t be mental or physical. They’ll be spiritual, so you can’t afford not to have these items.

~ Kristen

Tweetables

6 Items You Won’t Find on a Supply List – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

The most important gear for a successful school year – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

 

2 Spiritual Allergies We Should Develop

I know people can develop allergies in their adult years, but I never thought much about this reality—until this weekend when I had the unexpected and uncomfortable experience of a food reaction. Apparently, I’m now allergic to either pineapple or kiwi (and despite the helpful suggestions I’ve received, have no desire to determine which one).

The good news is I didn’t need an EpiPen®. Benedryl® worked well enough to decrease the swelling of my supermodel-sized lips and constricted throat.

The experience left me wondering two things: 1) Why would ANYONE pay to have bigger lips, and 2) What can I learn from this?

The advice to avoid Botox® is free, and you’re welcome.

But if you’re up for a more difficult challenge, then read on to consider two spiritual allergies we believers would do well to develop (despite the discomfort they may bring).

Allergy #1: Gossip

Do you know if Julie is dating that boy any more? Is something wrong with that student? Why did so and so get fired?

These all seem like harmless questions, and all of us are probably guilty of asking them. Many people find the juicy details of others’ lives irresistible.

We can tell ourselves that we have “good intentions” and just want “to know how to pray better.”

Hogwash. We’re just being nosy, and it’s none of our business. (Now if someone has entrusted you with a prayer request, the only responsibility you have is to tell Jesus and no one else about it.)

Proverbs 16:28 warns about the danger of gossip. It can destroy friendships and divide families and churches.

A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.

The next time you hear gossip, sneeze and excuse yourself from the conversation. Don’t listen to it, and don’t spread it. Treat it like an allergy, and avoid any stimuli or situation that will cause a reaction.

Allergy #2: Critical Spirit

Unfortunately, human nature is to criticize. The pastor’s sermon was boring. I don’t like the new order of worship. My teacher dresses as if the 1980s were yesterday.

I’m not talking about constructive criticism (which is what I want from my editor and what students need from their teachers). Constructive criticism is designed for our good. Yes, it might wound our pride, but in the end, we’re stronger and better for it.

A critical spirit is different. There’s nothing beneficial about it. In many ways, it is similar to gossip, because it tears people down.

The Bible has much to say about our words. Its definitions leave little room for complaining, criticizing, and malice.

  • “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6 ESV)
  • “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 ESV)

If someone does need correction, the Bible provides guidelines for restoring that person “in a spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 1:6). But for the grace of God, we ourselves could be guilty of the same sin.

When someone does something we don’t like, our knee-jerk reaction is to criticize. The truth is, we rarely know all the details or circumstances. Maybe the teacher doesn’t buy new clothes so she can pay for her father’s cancer treatments. Maybe the “boring sermon” was exactly what someone in the congregation needed to hear.

Unless someone’s actions violate Scripture, be slow to criticize. Be forgiving. Be understanding. Be kind.

This week

Some of us are more sensitive or susceptible to certain spiritual pitfalls. Maybe you don’t struggle with gossip, but you have a hard time saying anything nice about the girl who sits next to you in Spanish class.

Perhaps you’re weak in another area. Maybe you struggle with a low self-image or fall prey to the comparison trap.

I challenge you to ask God to show you spiritual areas where you’re susceptible. Then, make these areas a matter of daily prayer. Find verses in Scripture that speak to your weakness, and memorize them.

I won’t guarantee immediate victory. More than likely, you will struggle with the same spiritual battle throughout your life, but remember this: We can be “more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Romans 8:37).

This week, go out, and conquer. Before you do, arm yourself with God’s Word and a box of tissues; keep the Benadryl handy, and avoid situations that will bring you into direct conflict with stimuli.

Oh, and no pineapple or kiwi for me, please.

~ Kristen

Tweetables

2 Spiritual Allergies We Should Develop – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

The next time you hear gossip, sneeze and excuse yourself from the conversation. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Annual Physicals but Daily Thought Checks

For many, school has started or will be starting in the next few weeks. Schedules are changing. Last year’s gym shoes no longer fit. The new teacher doesn’t seem to like you. Maybe you had to wait at every bus stop during your morning drive.

Do you find yourself needing a thought check?

After all, students and many adults schedule annual physicals. They’re routine, part of the checklist of things to do before school or a new year starts.

So why not take thought checks? Only, we’re going to need these more than once a year.

Try multiple times a day.

A word of caution: They sound easier than they are, but I challenge you to give them a try. Throughout the day, be intentional about checking your thoughts. Am I letting negativity steal my joy? Am I complaining more than giving thanks for what I have? 

The best “thought life” filter I’ve found is Philippians 4:8. (That’s our theme verse here at ThinkTrueThoughts.com for a reason.)

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (NKJV)

I certainly hope your annual physical goes well, but more than that, I hope you keep your thoughts accountable every day.

Do you pause during the day to focus on what’s true? How do you look past the interruptions and little problems that threaten to steal your joy?

Until next time, live in abundance.

Kristen

 

Tweetables

Annual Physicals but Daily Thought Checks – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet) 

Back to School Thought Checks – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

The Philippians 4:8 Thought Life Filter – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

 

Olympic Dreams, Baby Steps

I always get excited about the Olympics and will probably watch more television this month than I will the rest of the year combined. After all, it’s not every day that I can watch our gymnast teams compete or Kerri Walsh Jennings and her new teammate take on the most intense volleyball players of the world.

As the athletes marched together opening night, their faces revealed so much. Some were screaming with excitement; others were almost bawling.

They’ve worked so hard for a chance at their Olympic dreams. We enjoy the privilege of watching them perform, but we don’t see the countless hours and early mornings that have led up to this moment. These athletes had to be intentional every day to take the steps and make the sacrifices necessary to reach this opportunity.

That made me think. What steps does God want each of us taking to reach the dreams He’s planted in our hearts?

#1: Desire God more

Wait a minute, Kristen. I thought you were going to talk about steps we can take to achieve our goals?

That’s right. If we’re God’s child, then should not He inspire our dreams? Who better to teach us and train us for the journey than the Dream-Giver Himself?

The only way we know God’s best plan for our lives is to spend more time with Him in prayer and in His Word. Seeking His will on a daily basis is essential for walking the path He wants us to travel.

He invites us to do just that.

‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’ (Jeremiah 33:3 NKJV)

#2: Be willing to work hard

No one wakes up one day and accidentally becomes an Olympian. If we’re serious about achieving our goals, we need to roll up our sleeves and get busy.

Did you know God’s Word both commands and commends hard work?

Yes, God calls us to give our best.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might … (Ecclesiastes 9:10a NASB)

He also promises to reward our best.

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24 NKJV)

So why would we give anything less than our all?

#3: Do the next right thing

I’ve probably mentioned before that the next right thing is my daily motto. The reason is simple: I’ve learned that sometimes my long-term plans just don’t go as planned. I can’t control tomorrow, but I can focus on the task at hand.

You know what? That’s okay. Proverbs 16:9 explains why:

A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps. (NKJV)

I’d rather have God redirect my steps as He sees best than always get my own way.

Parting Challenge

Think about where you were four years ago and where you are now.

What have you done with the dreams God has given you? What baby steps can you take this week to work toward the goals He’s laid upon your heart?

~ Kristen

 

Tweetables

Olympic Dreams, Baby Steps – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

What are you doing with the dreams God’s given you? – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Book Drawing Winner!!

Congrats to Ashley for winning the random drawing for Little’s Know What You Believe. I also want to say a big thank you to all who posted comments and subscribed to my newsletter during the book giveaway. I appreciate you all!

 

A Lesson in Contentment

A few weeks back, I enjoyed spending time with my niece and nephews. They taught me several things:

  1. Sugar rushes are real. When you mix a nine-year-old and a Boston Creme donut, you get off-the-wall energy and contagious laughter.
  2. With a little imagination, you can reinvent board games so that any age can play.
  3. If there are two boys and one has the toy helicopter, the other will want it too—even if he has a whole box of LEGO® blocks. The toy itself isn’t the issue. The fact that the other one has it is.

The truth is that we all tend to want what we don’t have. Maybe we’ve graduated from coveting toy helicopters, but we fall short in many other ways.

  • Why can’t I be more musical like Sarah?
  • I wish I had Pete’s athletic skills.
  • If I could only be smart like Claire, I wouldn’t have to do summer school.
  • I wish I were taller, thinner, prettier, etc.

I imagine that some days, God sees us and wants to shout, Cut it out! 

Stop fighting. Stop envying. Be content. I gave each of you good gifts, so instead of wanting the ones you don’t have, start using the ones you do.

A Special Skill Set

In I Corinthians 12, Paul reminds his readers that the Holy Spirit has equipped each believer with his own skill set. The purpose is not so that we can glory in our gifts, but rather so that we can better serve each another.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (I Corinthians 12:4-7 ESV)

Paul underscores this point by using the body and its parts as a metaphor. What if the ear wished it were an eye, or the hand wished it were a foot? Ridiculous, of course! Yet how ridiculous are we when wish to trade places with Justin, Katie, or Sam?

Never Say Can’t

But, Kristen, I really want to make the team this year. I’m just not as good as my peers. Are you saying I shouldn’t even try?

That’s not what I’m saying at all. Maybe you’re not as naturally athletic as someone else, but if you have a desire to play, go for it. Even if you don’t think you’ll make the team, you ought to try.

Why? Because God uses things we’re not good at to keep us humble, to make us depend on Him more, and to prove that we can do things beyond our natural capabilities in His strength.

There’s a fine line between coveting another’s talents and growing your own.

Here’s my practical, though imperfect, measuring tool:

  1. Thank God for the gifts and talents He’s given you.
  2. Recognize and praise the gifts and talents He’s given others.
  3. Attempt the desires He’s placed on your heart.
  4. Regardless of the outcome, praise Him.
  5. Celebrate others’ successes. One day, if God wills, your turn will come.

The moral I have learned is this: Don’t fight over your gifts. You’ll enjoy life more when you share them with others.

How has God uniquely gifted you for a specific task or job? What is one thing you can do this week to share the talents He’s given you with someone else? 

~ Kristen

If you didn’t have the chance last week to enter the book giveaway for Little’s Know What You Believe, I’m extending the deadline through Sunday. To enter, simply leave a comment below, or subscribe to my newsletter.

Tweetables

A Lesson in Contentment – Such Things as We Have- @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

There’s a fine line between coveting another’s talents and growing your own. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Book Giveaway – a classic that will strengthen your faith – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

 

 

 

Do You Know What You Believe? Book Giveaway

You’re playing sports with friends or participating in a summer camp when all of a sudden, someone recognizes you. “Hey, I’ve seen you at youth group,” or maybe, “You’re the girl who goes to that Bible club, right?”

Um, yes.

“So do you really believe that stuff? I mean, about Jesus being God?”

You stand straighter and reply that you do.

“But if Jesus is God, why does he allow these terrible things that are happening?”

If someone asked you that, would you know what to say? Or as we saw last week, could you explain why attending church is important to you or why God’s Word remains relevant?

If you couldn’t, you’re not alone. Many teens and adults have only a basic knowledge of their faith.

The Need to Know

The Apostle Luke wrote his gospel to a man named Theophilus for one purpose: that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed (Luke 1:4 NKJV).

Likewise, the Apostle Peter challenged his readers:

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear … (I Peter 3:15 NKJV)

Don’t you want to know with confidence that what you believe is the truth? Don’t you want to be ready to share your faith with others?

I do.

When I was a teenager, my Sunday school class did a study on Paul E. Little’s book Know Why You Believe. I still have my marked-up copy and checked Amazon to see if it’s in print any more. It is, along with two other books by Little: Know What You Believe and Know Who You Believe. The What book talks about foundational tenants of our faith including the Bible, God, Jesus Christ, Jesus’ death, people and sin, the Holy Spirit, the church, and more.

A Giveaway for You

I wish I could give you and every teen in my youth group a copy of these books, but for now, I’m starting with one copy of Little’s Know What You Believe.

Between now and Sunday, leave a comment below or subscribe to my newsletter, and I’ll enter your name into a random drawing.

The winner will be announced in next week’s post.

~ Kristen

 

Tweetables

Do you know what you believe? Book giveaway! – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Book Giveaway – A classic that will strengthen your faith – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

4 Reasons Teens Need God’s House, Pt. 2

Last week, we saw two reasons why church should matter to teens (and a person of any age, for that matter).

We’ve all heard excuses why people don’t go to church anymore. Common ones include:

  • The church is full of hypocrites. (I’m sorry if that’s been your experience, but I encourage you not to let other people’s mistakes steal your opportunity to grow closer to God by sitting under Bible preaching.)
  • Someone at church wasn’t nice to me. (Hello! News flash: Christians aren’t perfect. And which of us hasn’t said something we later regretted and wished for a second chance?)
  • The Bible isn’t relevant. (God’s Word is the most time-enduring book there is. If you take time to read it, you may discover why.)

So instead of finding excuses not to go, let’s look at two more reasons church matters for us today.

#3: A Place to Serve

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)

If you’ve grown up in church, you probably know Ephesians 2:8-9 by heart, but verse 10 is equally important. Although we are not saved by good works, God designed us to do them–to share the gospel with others and to shine for His glory.

Church isn’t the only place we can serve, but it certainly is a start. Opportunities abound and include: praise team, orchestra, choir, children’s church, youth group, AWANA, VBS, ushering, greeting, etc. For many, church offers training opportunities for future ministry and outreach.

If you’re not already serving in God’s house, I challenge you to ask Him to show you a ministry where you can plug in and share His love with others.

#4: A Place to Remember

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19 ESV)

Jesus told His followers to remember Him by observing the Lord’s Table, an ordinance churches practice to this day. In doing so, we remember His sacrifice on the cross and look forward to His return.

Whether your church observes communion once a week or once a month doesn’t matter. This practice provides reflection and self-examination (I Cor. 11:28) and private worship in a communal setting. It sets apart intentional time to make sure nothing is between our souls and our Savior.

Final Thoughts

You can probably think of more reasons why church matters, and I hope you do! But perhaps someone at church has burned you. Maybe taking a break seems like a good idea.

I’ll be the first to admit church has disappointed me at times, but more often than not, I’ve been fed God’s Word, challenged in my spiritual walk, and blessed by going (and giving back).

No church is perfect, but God never designed for us to walk this life alone. Being part of a local body of believers keeps us connected and accountable.

The choice to attend church is yours and not one to be taken lightly. I hope you won’t walk away like so many have but stay faithful to the Lord and His house.

Join the conversation! What are your reasons for attending church? What ones would you add to this list?

~ Kristen

Tweetables

4 Reasons Teens Need God’s House, Pt. 2 – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Is church relevant for today’s teens? – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

4 Reasons Teens Need God’s House, Pt. 1

I’m grateful to Girlz 4 Christ for publishing the original version of this post in their summer issue, because this topic is close to my heart. As a millennial, I’m saddened by the absence of my age group in the church. I don’t want that same trend to continue with the next generation.

Does church matter? It’s a fair question and one I hope you’ll think about. I welcome your feedback on this topic and encourage you to share it with your friends.

Perhaps it’s not even one you’ve considered. Maybe you’re a recent graduate or will be a junior or senior in the fall. You’re so busy with college applications and internship programs that the last thing on your mind is church and whether you’ll keep going when you move away from home.

If that describes you, you’re not alone. Studies show that most young adults who drop out of church never intended to stop going; they just weren’t intentional about it. As a result, 70% of teens between 17-19 years old leave the church, some to return later, some to return never.[i]

So let’s be intentional today. Does church matter? God’s Word reveals that it does, because it plays several important roles in our lives.

#1: A Place to Gather

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)

Face it. We need encouragement in our daily walk with the Lord, and we aren’t going to find it in a world that loves darkness more than light (John 3:19).

The church provides a meeting place where we believers can encourage and comfort one another (I Thess. 5:11). It’s a place where we can share our burdens and where correction and restoration can take place (Galatians 6:1-2).

The size, shape, or location of the church doesn’t matter. What matters is that church provides a place for like-minded believers to gather.

#2: A Place to Grow and Worship

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16 ESV)

Sitting under the preaching of God’s Word is critical to our spiritual success. We need to know what we believe and why we believe it so that we can always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks us about our eternal hope (I Peter 3:15). Our personal devotions and Bible studies are vital to our growth–and I certainly hope you set apart time each day to talk with God and read His Word–but this time is not intended to replace Bible teaching in God’s house.

Attending church also implies intentional worship. Yes, you can worship in your car, at a sunrise service or at a concert; but church provides regularity of worship. Other places and methods can certainly complement it.

Next week, we’ll look at two more reasons church matters. Until then, I challenge you to talk to your peers about this topic. Some possible opening questions to start the conversation could be: 

  • Why will you stay in church even if your peers leave?
  • Why do you think teens leave the church, and are their reasons valid in light of God’s Word?
  • How has church made a difference in your life?

I welcome your comments below.

~ Kristen

Tweetables

4 Reasons Teens Need God’s House, Pt. 1 – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Does church matter to teens today? – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

[i] Ed Stetzer, “Dropouts and Disciples: How many students are really leaving the church?” Christianity Today, May 14, 2014, http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/may/dropouts-and-disciples-how-many-students-are-really-leaving.html.

 

Happy Independence Day!

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

— Declaration of Independence
July 4, 1776

Truth for today

The Declaration prizes virtues our forefathers fought and died to preserve. Eternal freedom, however, is found in Christ Jesus. Click to Tweet.

  • Equality: All men and woman are equal to God who shows no favoritism (Gal. 2:6).
  • Life: He offers eternal life to those who believe by faith in the atoning blood of Jesus to forgive their sins (Eph. 2:8-9).
  • Liberty: We can stand confidently in the liberty found through our new life in Christ (Gal. 5:1).
  • Happiness: We discover true joy when we delight ourselves in the Lord (Psalm 37:4).

Wishing you and your family a blessed Independence Day!

~ Kristen

Tell Little Lies to Bug Off

It’s summer. Can’t you tell? My morning run starts with bug spray and ends with anti-inch medication.

Biting insects take chunks out of my skin, and irritating as they can be, the bites heal in a few days. Other pests aren’t so easy to ward off, and I’m not talking about ones with wings and stingers.

More dangerous are the ones that penetrate our thoughts and convince us to believe lies about ourselves.

A few weeks back, I moved, and to make a long story short, am now able to serve in my church’s youth group again. My small group is finishing up the Demoss/Gresh study on Lies Young Women Believe: And the Truth that Sets Them Free

Last week, our assignment was to answer these questions and be ready to share:

  1. What is one area where I struggle to think truthfully?
  2. What are one or more specific lies I’ve been believing?
  3. What do I need to do now?

I wrote the questions on a note card in my Bible and thought them through on my drive home. Sometimes, teens think their leaders have life all figured out, but the truth is, we need Jesus and His guidance every day too. We need forgiveness for our failures and strength to press on.

So here I go. These are my answers to those tough questions.

  1. Self-worth
  2. Lie: My identity comes from an ideal set of circumstances, and if I fail to achieve those dreams, I am therefore a failure.
  3. I need to remember that I am more than both my accomplishments and my failures. My real identity is that I’m a daughter of grace and a child of the King.

Sometimes, lies become so ingrained in our thinking that we can’t tell them apart from reality. Or perhaps we’ve grown so comfortable with them that they no longer bug our consciences. Maybe we’re embarrassed to admit that we’ve been believing them.

I love what Jesus tells his followers in John 8:31-32.

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (NKJV)

Lies ensnare us, but truth frees us. Click to Tweet.

In order to enjoy fellowship with the Lord and live in the light of His truth, we have a responsibility. Did you catch the condition?

If you abide in my Word…

The only way we can defeat falsehood is to combat it with truth from God’s Word. And the only way we can do that is to spend time daily with Him.

Next to the chair where I have my morning devotions is a picture that reads: In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.

Yes, praise the Lord that His mercies are new each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23 says:

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness. (NKJV)

Now, it’s your turn. I’m passing this assignment onto you. How would you answer the above questions?

What area of your life do you need God’s truth to penetrate and expose the lie(s) you’ve been believing?  What truth from God’s Word can set you free?

~ Kristen

Tweetable

Tell Little Lies to Bug Off – Let go of the lies we believe and embrace the truth that frees us. Click to Tweet.