Book Giveaway! Listen, Love, Repeat

christmas-giveawayHow many of you find that listening and loving come naturally? Before you answer, take a quick quiz with me:

  • T/F: I always actively listen when my friends are talking with me, instead of anticipating how I’m going to respond.
  • T/F: I can remember all of the prayer requests from Sunday school class.
  • T/F: If I can remember last week’s requests, I prayed for them regularly throughout the week.
  • T/F: I make a point of being nice to the kid in class who is socially awkward and unpopular.
  • T/F: I welcomed the new student/coworker instead of racing off to my next class/meeting.

I wish I could say “true” to all of those (that apply to me), but the truth is that sometimes, I can’t. And maybe you can’t either.

Perhaps unintentionally, we become so busy with living that we’re swept up in our own little worlds and unaware of the hurts and needs of those around us.

That’s the problem Karen Ehman addresses in her book Listen, Love, Repeat. Her bottom line is that we need to be intentional in listening to and loving others.

About Listen, Love, Repeat

When I first picked up Karen’s book, I was intrigued by the sub-title: Other-centered living in a self-centered world. She talks about our “selfie-centered” culture and sets about to combat this mindset with the challenge to “live alert.”

… to become a person who thinks of others first takes great effort on our part. It requires us to live alert (18). – Ehman

She calls for Christians to cultivate sensitivity to “heart drops” or “when a person, either directly or in a cryptic way, gives you a peek into his or heart heart” (15). Do we pay attention when others share their interests and needs, or are we too busy to notice?

Karen builds upon the premise of Matthew 22:36-40 and outlines what she calls a Three-Step Life Plan:

  1. Love God.
  2. Love others.
  3. Love yourself.

Then, she spends the rest of the book outlining the major categories of people who cross our paths and develops ideas for how we give of ourselves to them.

She’s quick to clarify “the why” for loving people. Our motivation shouldn’t be that others notice us but that they notice our Savior.

We need to remember our why: the reason we love and serve and give thoughtful gifts and do good works. It is so that others will see Jesus. They may look at us, but we hope they see him (100). – Ehman

An ideal Christmas gift for Christian women

Are you not sure what to give your mom, sister, or friend for Christmas? I recommend Listen, Love, Repeat for godly women (and godly young women, too) who want to make a difference right where they are but maybe aren’t sure how.

Karen drives home the reality that we pass people every day who are hurting and in need of Jesus’ love. Some of them may even live in the same houses with us.

Blending the biblical with the practical, Karen offers easy recipes to share with hurting families, simple ideas for making someone’s day, and personal stories of victory and failure.

Christian women who love Jesus and lead busy lives will find this book refreshing and challenging. The beauty of Karen’s message is that we can serve God and love others right where we are.

Because Jesus wasn’t about doing big things. He was about doing the right thing. And often for him, the right thing was noticing one simple soul (19).     – Ehman

Listen, Love, Repeat is a book that will keep giving long after Christmas.

Book Pack Giveaway

I’d like for you to have a copy of this resource to use yourself or share with someone you love. It would make a great study for your small group, Bible study, or with your mom or girlfriends.

Merry Christmas early! I’m giving away one gift set, which includes:

  • (1) Copy of Listen, Love, Repeat by Karen Ehman
  • (1) Study Pack, complete with a six-session DVD and Study Guide

Four Ways to Enter

To enter, simply do one of the following: 

  • Leave a comment below. (It can be a comment about this post or something as simple as: Please enter me into your drawing.)
  • Subscribe to the Think True Thoughts newsletter.
  • Share this post on Twitter and tag me @kjhogrefe.
  • Share my Facebook post with your friends.

The winner of the random drawing will be announced on this blog next week. I hope this resource will be a blessing to you as it has been to me.

~ Kristen

Special thanks to The Blythe Daniel Agency for making this book pack giveaway possible!

 

Tweetables

Book Giveaway! Listen, Love, Repeat by Karen Ehman – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Listen, Love, Repeat is a book that will keep giving long after Christmas. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

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Problems from God’s Perspective

Recently, I flew to Georgia to see some of my girlfriends and their families. During my first flight, I was sandwiched in the middle seat, but the returning flight, I reveled in my window seat view.

The day was clear, and as the plane took off, I watched its shadow grow smaller and smaller on the ground until it disappeared from sight. Once we cleared the cloud line, I couldn’t see a trace of it.

God is greater than our shadows.

Do your problems seem larger than life? When we focus on how big they are, we often can’t see anything beyond them.

In those times, we need to step back and ask God to help us see from His perspective. Like a plane’s shadow, our problems become smaller from God’s viewpoint, because His power and plan are much greater.

In John 16, Jesus tries to prepare His disciples for His coming death and the persecution they will face for sharing the gospel. He warns them that they’ll have troubles in this world, but He offers them a greater hope.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (I John 16:33 ESV).

What an amazing truth! Yes, as God’s children, we’ll experience trials and troubles, but be encouraged: He’s already overcome them.

God strengthens us in the shadows.

The Lord can even use problems to strengthen our trust in Him. In 2 Kings 20, we find an incredible story of God’s power and presence in dark times.

King Hezekiah was ill, so ill, in fact, that the Prophet Isaiah told him he needed to get his house in order, because he was going to die. Talk about some bad news!

The king wept and pleaded with God to spare him. God heard and answered his prayer, sending Isaiah to give Hezekiah the message he would live another 15 years. However, the king doubted, asking for a sign or confirmation that he would indeed live.

We’re in no place to judge the king for his doubts, and perhaps he was so ill that he felt as though he were dying! Regardless, God graciously strengthened Hezekiah’s faith by giving him a supernatural sign, literally turning back time or “the day’s shadow” to prove His promise (2 Kings 20:8-11).

God may not turn back time today, and sometimes, He doesn’t answer our prayers the way we ask. However, He does give grace when we need it and hope for eternity.

God sees us through the shadows.

I don’t know what you’re facing today (and I certainly hope it’s nothing as serious as King Hezekiah’s illness), but the words of Psalm 23 remain true. Regardless of how dark and deep your problems look, if you’re God’s child, He’s always with you.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me … (Psalm 23:4a ESV)

In youth group, we sing a song by Chris Tomlin entitled “Our God.” Let the words of the chorus wash over you and help put in perspective whatever you’re facing.

Our God is greater, our God is stronger,
God, You are higher than any other.
Our God is Healer, awesome in power,
Our God, Our God.

Yes, He is.

If you’re tempted to become discouraged, remember the plane’s shadow. On the ground, it looks enormous, but from the sky, it’s small.

How has God demonstrated his power and grace in your life? What biblical promises help you keep problems in perspective? I’d love for you to share in the comments below.

~ Kristen

 

Tweetables

Problems from God’s Perspective – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Keep problems in perspective – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Reformation Day: Celebrate the Light

What’s the first word or image that comes to mind when someone says October 31?

Maybe it’s the silly costume you wore last year or your favorite candy or the fall festival your church is sponsoring for the community.

For me, I think of my college Bible professor dressed in a long robe and hammering parchment paper to his office door.

You see, most people celebrate October 31 as Halloween, but few realize this day marks a milestone of Christianity and the Protestant Reformation. On this day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses, or arguments, to the castle door in Wittenberg, Germany in defiance of the Roman Catholic Church’s sale of “indulgences.” The pope promised that buying indulgences for a deceased loved one would shorten the relative’s stay in purgatory, thus “buying” his or her way into heaven.

Those who sold indulgences created a clever ditty to drive home the sale: “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”

Essentially, the organized church was robbing people to pay its debts and giving them false hope for forgiveness of sins.

Luther called the church out on this non-biblical teaching, and in doing so, sparked a flame that began the Protestant Reformation.

Many Reformers and those who held to Protestant beliefs were martyred for their faith and stand against the established church. Among them were John Huss and William Tyndale, both burned at the stake.

Their crimes? Both dared to share the Bible with ordinary people in their common English tongue, Huss through a chapel service and Tyndale through an English translation of the Bible. Many others suffered similar fates for spreading the light of the gospel.

A challenge for us today

Believers have different opinions about what is acceptable and not acceptable for Halloween. This post is not going to argue those questions of conscience.

However, I do think Luther’s actions those many years ago hold a challenge for modern believers.

share your faith, even if it’s unpopular.

The rebuttals and cold shoulders we may receive for sharing the gospel are nothing compared to the persecution of the Reformation Era. However, they can make us want to wait on the sidelines or keep our mouths shut.

Romans 1:12 dares us to stand up for what we believe and not be ashamed to speak out:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek (NKJV).

Celebrate Light, not darkness

Halloween tends to glorify the macabre and the grotesque. Oftentimes, this holiday presents sin as “fun” and something in which to revel. Never give in to practices that celebrate darkness.

There are plenty of other alternatives available. Local churches host fall festivals and community outreaches were children can safely enjoy clean fun and even learn about the gospel in the process. When my grandpa was alive, he used to give out gospel tracks with candy.

Whatever you do, be different, not dark. If you spread the light of the gospel, others will notice.

So if the cashier at the supermarket or your hairdresser asks what your Halloween costume will be, you can tell them (if you want to and have one) or just say, “Did you know that October 31 is also Reformation Day?”

Now, you’re ready to explain what Reformation Day means and why it’s worth celebrating. Who knows? You might even have a chance to tell someone about Jesus.

Happy Reformation Day!

~ Kristen

 

Tweetables

Celebrate light, not darkness on October 31 – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Reformation Day: Celebrate the Light of the World – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

Rest and Be Thankful this Labor Day

Labor Day is a day set aside to recognize the hard work that has helped build America.

The Department of Labor explains the holiday this way:

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

We know that God commands hard work (Colossians 3:23), rewards hard work (Proverbs 13:4), and equips us “both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Sometimes, the temptation can be to boast in our accomplishments, yet the Bible makes clear we are not to boast in our works themselves but in the power of Christ that works within us.

Although I realize some of you will spend the day working (your job) or catching up on personal work or house chores, I hope you find time to rest and relax with family and friends.

Perhaps the best advice for the day are the words of William Wordsworth:

Rest and be thankful.

Thankful to Whom? James 1:17 reminds us.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights … (ESV)

Blessings to you this Labor Day,

~ Kristen

 

Tweetable

Rest and be thankful this Labor Day – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

 

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)

Every Day Carry for Success – @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)

 

 

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.