"Fistfight For Your Beauty"

Hi TBL readers! 

I have been reading a lot of books lately but none of them WRECKED me as much as Get Lost, which is a book about finding your true love by getting so lost in God. I thought that this book was only for teen girls and boy was I mistaken! I read the first couple of pages and it immediately started to challenge and convict my love-thirsting heart! Last week, I had the pleasure of talking to Dannah Gresh about Secret Keeper Girl, the Penn State Scandal and her upcoming book, "Pulling Back The Shades" and here is what she had to say:

FD: Who is Dannah Gresh in five words or less?

DG: A girl who loves God. (Chuckles) that's the shortest way to put it. 

FD: What led you to start the Secret Keeper Girl Ministry? 

DG: It was totally a God vision. I was sexually active at a young age which led to a series of disappointments. So when I had a nine year old girl of my own I decided to take a stand. The things we believe when we are nine affect the decisions we make when we are in our teens and adulthood. Moms know that they need help starting a conversation that is age-appropriate.

FD: Is there a story behind the name, Secret Keeper Girl?

DG: After I wrote my first book which quickly became a best seller, my husband and my publisher sat me down and said you should write about modesty and I have to tell you that that was the hardest thing for me to do because I like to shop! I like clothes and fashion so I was not excited about that idea but I said I'd pray about it. As I did, I found that a girl appearing older than she actually is one of the top five risk factors for a very early sexual debut. The name Secret Keeper came out of that first book on modesty to say that it was valued and noble to keep the secrets of your beauty to just one man. Modesty is not about being ashamed of your sexuality; it's about prizing it. Prizing it so much that it's a gift and a treasure worth keeping! So that is kind of where the name came from. We found out that the values for modesty and sexuality were formed much younger than most of us considered. If you wait until your child is 13 or 14, you've really missed it. Especially in the inner city where temptation is greater, the culture is pressing you harder and harder to grow up, it's really important to start that conversation when they are younger. 

FD: Are you still residing in State College, PA?

DG: Yes, we live on a farm with horses and llamas (chuckles)

FD: While reading your book "Get Lost", I love the fact that you brought up the Penn State scandal, making your book relevant to the issues going on during our time. What is one thing that struck you about this particular story?

DG: When you are to be a virgin there is a stigma associated with that.  The greatest travesty in the Sandusky Penn State scandal wasn't that there was a man who did that horrible evil thing but there were well able men who knew that he had done it, yet turned a blind eye and that's what tolerance leads us to. It brings us to a place of such complacency that we are able to tolerate things that are evil and my concern at the same time is that there is no tolerance for virginity. If you talk to a student at the Penn State campus today, who is a virgin they will tell you that they feel stigmatized and that they are often told that it's a mindless decision, the fact is that it takes a lot of willpower and character to make that choice and it's the healthiest choice too, but there is just no tolerance for that. Take for example Tim Tebow. Football player, great role model but then when it's discovered that he's a virgin there is mockingly a $1 million ransom placed and they recruit people to take his virginity. There is no respect for it.  At Penn State, I have been sounding an alarm for a call to virginity. I did a TED talk last year on developing a tolerance for virginity (view the clip here--> http://bit.ly/1f9TsJm) . Not even from a Christian standpoint but from a medical point of view, we were created for monogamy which is very difficult to argue in terms of sexual chemicals and how we were designed. 

FD: Tell me about your upcoming book, "Pulling Back The Shades" which is in response to the popular book, 50 shades of Gray.

DG: I was actually in Indianapolis with Priscilla Shirer and Dr. Juli Flattery and Christian women were coming up to us saying that they were reading this book, 50 shades of Gray. Priscilla invited us to a national talk show and it just struck a cord that we really needed to go deeper with it. The thing that really hurt out hearts was when one of the biggest Christian publishing companies did a survey that revealed the most read book amongst Christian women was 50 shades of gray. The church is not very good on talking about sex. Christians want to hear about sex, they want to know what God says about sexuality. So it's a very edgy book. Jesus broke the traditions of the day because He was not very tolerant of the Jewish tradition that kept Him from rescuing hearts. When He met the woman at the well, He broke many of those traditions. He spoke to a woman. A Samaritan woman. And then He talked to her about her sin. It was scandalous to talk about sexuality and sin in that day and age but he was untouchable. But He did it to rescue that woman. So Dr. Juli Flattery and I are taking our prompting from that story and the topics that Christian women have questions about today that are really taboo in the Christian field so we are going to break Christian tradition not biblical law to bring them the help they need to be rescued. We're talking about erotica, spanking, sex toys and things that the Church has shied away from. We are addressing what are the longings of her heart? What is leading her to a well of water that will never satisfy her thirst?

FD: Wow. This is going to be POWERFUL. Can't wait to get my hands on that book! When does Pulling Back The Shades come out? 

DG: comes out in March of this year.

FD: Great! Looking forward to it. How many daughters do you have?

DG: I have two daughters, including one who we adopted from China. She will be touring with the SKG team and will be ministering to some of the girls one on one. I am so excited to share this opportunity with her! We had moms and daughters all over the country donating to us so we can go. There was a girl who attended a Secret Keeper Girl event and she came forward and gave her life to Christ. She heard about us coming to New York City and she wanted to help. So she did a Christmas bake sale so we could be invited to come. We raised money to buy some of our own resources to give to the Secret Keeper Girl attendees, and give away CDs from One Girl Nation. Brooklyn Tabernacle will be the first event kicking off our 10th anniversary year of Secret Keeper Girl so we are really excited!

FD: wow, praise God! That's so awesome to hear.

DG: The moms that I really want to reach out to are the single moms on very limited income, that couldn’t afford the book nor the free resources we will be giving out that night. The risk is higher for her daughter just because she doesn’t have a dad in her life and New York is the epicenter of the world! 

FD: What small group resources do you have available?

DG: SKG has a series of books between moms and daughters. Research indicates that moms' fears will reduce greatly if moms have conversations about modesty, boys, friendship, and true beauty. The moms and daughters that attend our Brooklyn Tabernacle event will receive the book on friendship. It's important for girls to have the right friendships so that book will be amazing for girls to have. Several moms took these tools and had small groups and bible studies with their girls!

FD: Final question before we go, if you had the opportunity to sit with a middle school girl who is battling low self-esteem, has a poor body image, and struggling with her sexuality what would you say to her?

DG:  The first thing I would say before anything is that whatever we feast, whatever we dwell on, becomes what we believe. If you're listening to Beyonce, and songs like "Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me", then she is going to believe that she is not perfect. Not even the women on the cover of the magazines look like that! It shows me she has been dwelling on the wrong things.

I would ask God wisdom that would help her to dwell on God's truth, she is at the center of the battle over her soul. She is the damsel in distress! God is fighting for her and so is Satan. It's a fistfight for her beauty! But, we know satan is the father of lies and God is the Father of truth!

I would open up scripture where it says in Psalm 45:11 that God is "enthralled by your beauty". I would help her look through scripture until she has an entire list of scriptures and I would call her every day to feast on that truth. There is nothing I could say, it only matters what God can say. Slice out the lies of the enemy. Choose who you're going to cooperate with. The liar or the creator of your soul?

Thank you Dannah, for empowering us through your ministry to bridge the connection between our moms and daughters. Can't wait to see you THIS Friday January 10th!! 

Moms and Daughters of New York City, we urge YOU to take a stand and be there to partake in this awesome event for both you and your precious girl. Be empowered. Grab some FREE goodies, Be encouraged. Start the uncomfortable conversation. YOU can do it! Because the enemy surely will. Let's win the fistfight for our beauty!

**the event is primarily for moms and daughters ages (7-12) but Brooklyn Tabernacle would like to extend it to all women who need to hear what God thinks about them! I will be there, will YOU? **

To register, please email your name and your daughter's name to btkids@brooklyntab.org. See the picture below for more info to this FREE event!!!

"Unwanted Defenses in Community" | Marian Amo

If I got a dollar for every time I heard someone explain their irrational behavior as a “defense mechanism” I would be rich right now.  We call it “defense mechanism” like the scientific categorization of it justifies the nonsensical attitudes that come from it.  Defense mechanisms look like this: you not talking to someone for over extended periods of time because he or she ‘ruffled your feathers’, breaking up with someone so they don’t break up with you first, guilt tripping someone so you won’t have to take responsibility of your own shortcomings, acting uninterested in someone you are interested in so you don’t feel vulnerable, playing mind games, disengaging and systematically marginalizing someone because you feel threatened by them or just playing the silent, nonexistent treatment on someone because they failed to prop up your ego. The only thing those behaviors defend is our own pride and fears. Unfortunately, Christians have bought the lie that these defenses are acceptable and should be regarded as normal.  Well, they’re not, and even more importantly, they hinder us from being blessed and being a blessing to others. Last year God taught me a very simple but fundamental truth about serving alongside fellow Christians; we are a community, accept that and get over it. So hiding behind our “defense mechanism” isn’t going to be much use.

What does being a community mean? It means that not everything is about you. It means you can’t treat one person like they don’t exist because that person is connected to everyone else you care about. It means you’re not the only person given a calling to do something great or the only one chosen for a particular gift. As much as I believe that there are specific things only each individual can do, I believe that those calling only manifest in power when they come alongside others. You don’t own a position, I don’t own a ministry. Community means that God can use and call whomever he so chooses to do the work that needs to be done. God is not interested in our cliques or our crews. His will is above our preference for certain people.

God tells us to love one another. When God commands something, it’s not only because it reflects who he is but because it really is to our own good. Christians need to love each other because they are the ones God has chosen to work together for his glory. You can’t leave a church every time you encounter conflict. You can’t keep running away whenever things don’t go your way. You and I are in community. We are gifted with many different talents, there’s no room to be territorial over one area because it was never designed to only be for you or me. Whether we like everyone or not, God’s plan has made it that we will work with those we fellowship with. He never designed church to be a place you come, sit and then leave until next Sunday. Church is us when we look in the mirror. It’s us living as genuine Christians. So when we bring in divisional mentalities we only end up hurting ourselves.

Truth be told, most “defense mechanism” are just the excuses we give to not properly address the issues we face with people. I’m not saying that it’s easy to let your guard down. In fact, it rarely is. But let’s stop making that our scapegoat. Let’s seek after God for the areas of brokenness and hurt. Let’s fight past our emotions and chose to forgive. Let’s battle with the doubts we have about God’s character through his word, let’s wrestle against the spiritual laziness that often hinders our consistency with God. Let’s not be ashamed to ask the Holy Spirit to continuingly create godly desires in us because we naturally crave the things of this world. Let’s learn to communicate; that means ask, listen and wait to speak rather than ASSUME, DISENGAGE and then CONDEMN. Whatever it is we do, let’s STOP excusing poor attitudes, corrupted beliefs, and selfish mentalities.

If your defense mechanism looks anything like what I’ve mentioned, please understand that you’re not protecting yourself and you’re definitely not guarding your heart.  The word of God says His peace, love and wisdom guards your heart, not your “defense mechanism” - whatever it is. As much as we would love for every Christian to always live like they are filled with the Spirit, the process of redemption over sinful tendencies means we will encounter some ugly things about people and ourselves the longer we are in community with people. So Paul was right when he wrote: make allowance for each others' faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you – Colossians 3:13.

Rather than trying to justify what’s wrong by a label, let’s remember that the more we love each other the easier it is for everyone to live as a community.

Marian Amo, a prolific writer of poetry and creative nonfiction is a student of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer's Guild with a certificate in publishing and working towards an MFA. Her spiritual insight can be credited to the power of God's word, her personal experiences and her personal relationship with Christ. Marian grew up in New York City and has been exposed to a wide range of cultures and ideas, which have often challenged her faith. The consistency of the word of God shown true in a plethora of different circumstances has made her capable of delivering biblical insight that is relevant and practical.

"Correcting In Love" | Nicole Crews

To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction. (Proverbs 12:1 NLT)

You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. (James 1:19)
Again, humility comes to my mind. You cannot be prideful and correct in love, or receive a loving correction with pride. I personally prefer when someone shoots it straight to me. If my attitude is off and my actions are poor, I appreciate to be corrected in love. Now don’t get me wrong, there have been times when my pride got in the way, or it was a tough humbling pill to swallow.  But in all situations I have grown and learned something.
It is very important to discern the differences between a loving rebuke and a harsh judgment. You cannot rebuke anyone out of frustration or annoyance. The right way to rebuke someone is in love.
An open rebuke is better than hidden love!  Proverbs 27:5
It is very important to ask God for wisdom. You have to be filled by the Holy Spirit to know the right timing and the sensitivity in tone. I noticed also, when I’m transparent and use my personal experience to shed light on a possible danger the person could avoid, they are more likely to receive it then me just pounding on them and making them drown in their misery.
Here is an example on how NOT to correct: I was very emotionally involved with my close friend's relationship. We shared a lot personal stuff and kept each other accountable. There were some things about her attitude I was not understanding and realized I became frustrated with her. One evening after prayer meeting, she confided in me about breaking up with her boyfriend and I lost it. I began to share some concerns I had with her and didn’t even realize my tone was raised. What was supposed to be a private conversation turned out to be exposed by all the people who where standing around us. I began to cry and tried to reason with her about her relationship. I was angry at the situation. She was shocked of my reaction and embarrassed to deal with this in front of other people. When I look back, I get very sad. I got ahead of myself and totally lost control. When I realized what happened, it was too late and I felt stupid. The consequences of this scenario almost cost me my friendship with her. She was very hurt by my actions and we didn’t speak much for over a year and a half. But thanks to God for His amazing grace, He has restored our friendship and is building it up. I surely learned my lesson. Please do not make the same mistake.

Now by God’s grace I seek Him first, secondly I pray, daily I spent time in God’s Word, I ask for wisdom, and wait for God's timing. Trust me you do not want to be outside of the God’s will, it will fire back at you. Sometimes we feel the need or think we have the right to speak up so quickly. There is a time and place for everything. Trust God, and allow him to correct you and others. If he wants you to do it, he will make it clear.
 If you feel the burning need to correct someone, please make sure you go before God and search your heart. Are your motives pure? Do you have a concern for the persons well being? Are you sincerely interested in helping the person? Do you want what is best for the person? Or is it about you proving a point? You want to up one on another person?  You got easily offended and need to retaliate? Your pride got in the way? Or are you frustrated with the situation?  
Once you got the green light from the Lord, you are good to go. You also don’t want to waste any ones time and beat around the bush. Get straight to the point and honestly share what God has placed in your heart to express a concern to the other person. The Holy Spirit will help you and guide you through the conversation.
It’s amazing what God’s grace can do, when you make yourself available to Jesus and allow him to do the work He has to do in you.

Nicole Crews is married to her beloved husband Todd Crews. She is a follower of Jesus Christ and ever since have loved the journey God has placed her on. Nicole has a strong desire to be used for His glory. She was born and raised in Germany and a sister of two brothers. Nicole loves going on dates with her husband, listening to her husband preach, and serving along side him in ministry. She is passionate about people, cooking and traveling.

"Humble Love" | Mohan Bell

My friend gave me a gift for Christmas 2009:  a copy of Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love. I was not a usual reader of Christian books at the time, seeing that I spent my time engrossed in novels and plays. However, I was fresh out of undergrad with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and finishing my first semester in graduate school. I was confused as to how I was to proceed in this world. I was a Christian, dissatisfied with my Sunday morning life. The non-conformist, bohemian hidden deep within me was crying out for meaning and definition of life. I was struggling with depression. It was the best gift I could have gotten at that time. It was God sent.

I read the book and from the beginning I was convicted and affected. The Holy Spirit was stirring within me and I came to a final conclusion at the end: I did not love people: I did not love God. It is interesting when this realization hits you. I had been a Christian for most of my life, accepting Jesus at the age of 7 and being baptized at age 9. I had learnt the stories. But I struggled with many inner struggles and bondages. I had my ups and downs. All my life I had a slight aloofness to life, going about it mechanically, feeling that it was supposed to have larger deeper meaning. I was considered to be good and fun, but I did not have deep, close friendships. I was a stunted man. Reading the book shook me at the core because I came to the realization that the importance of life circled around Jesus’ command in Matthew 22: 37-39 “Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’”. Following this revelation, I decided to do a 40-day sacrifice of sweet food, concentrating on seeking God. What followed was a world wind shaking up of my life, finding God in the midst of emotional brokenness, changing my church home and finding a new challenging yet healthy relationship with God and people.

I came to realize the deepest impediment in my life that prevented me from developing the deep love relationships that God required. Yes, I had experienced incredible crushing events in my life that contributed to me becoming internal and separated from others, not giving out love. This inability to love came from my separation from God. Without falling in a love relationship with God, I could only love conditionally (many of us love, but we love conditionally). For me, I loved nothing…no one. When one does not have a personal love relationship with God, one ends up being deficient of what I have discovered to be the most important characteristic in a love relationship, be it with a lover or a friend or a mother or a sister or most importantly God: HUMILITY.

Andrew Murray defines Humility as “nothing but that simple consent of the creature to let God be all, in virtue of which it surrenders itself to His working alone.” When I first read this statement, I was affected because it said to me that what was required of me when I enter into a relationship with God is that everything about me must be put aside and God becomes everything. What does it mean to be put aside, for me to enter into a relationship with God and not allow my need to be validated or my want for my life to operate in a certain way or my discomfort in the face of a task that God is prompting me to take up to hinder my obedience or my patience. This is the love relationship that I saw God calling me to: submission to him and understanding that he knows best, that He will never hurt me and that I am secure in Him. When I understand that security, I will be best able to be humble and love others as a service in humility.

I discovered that my biggest impediment to Humility is its opposite, Pride. My pride could be defined by labeling it another word: narcissism. M. Scott Peck defined Narcissism as the inability to separate ones identity from others. It was me not being able to see others as independent people who have struggles and who are not in the commerce of my gratification. Others were not put on the earth to circulate around me as planets do the sun. I was obsessed with myself; I was easily insulted by a comment that may have been deliberate or not. I committed the biggest crime of a narcissist; I assumed what others were thinking when I did not understand the reasons for their actions. I would read a text message and assume the texter was upset at me and create a narrative around them. This prevented me from loving others truthfully because A. I expected others to be in service to my emotions B. I was afraid of giving out everything just in case I got hurt. I found my security in other’s approval and taking the risk of being insulted meant I would be crushed C. I was not able to look at others and see them as created by God with their own lives and emotions and who themselves struggled with things similar to me. I could not see that maybe someone reacted to me the way they did because they had insecurities and hurt just like me. It is what C.S. Lewis explained when he referred to the verse “Do unto others as you would have them do onto you” as the reasoning for forgiveness. When you see how much of a mess you are and see that you are both victim and villain you will be able to see the complexities in others.

I still have my moments of narcissism and pride. I forget that God loves me and that all is required of me is humbling my self to him, dying to self. The realization that I am allowing my self to be the defining voice in my life causes me to go to God, repenting of my blunder and asking for him to help me to find my security and sustenance in Him. Since entering into this new place, I am realizing how much closer I have gotten to God and how much I have become friendlier as well as beginning to take risks when it comes to friendships and loving others because love has becomes a service and a ministry as opposed to my own personal political campaign. Andrew Murray says it best when referring to the byproduct of Humility:

Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is for me to have no trouble; never to be fretted or vexed or irritated or sore or disappointed. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord where I can go in and shut the door and kneel to my Father in secret and be at peace as in a deep sea of calmness when all around is trouble. It is the fruit of the Lord Jesus Christ’s redemptive work on Calvary’s cross, manifested in those of His own who are definitely subject to the Holy Spirit.

Mohan Bell is a Graduate Student studying English Literature. He is also a writer who is seeking to honor God through his literary work joining in with many of the servants of God who in the past have created beautiful pieces of literature in the name of God's glory.

"Love Covers All" | Nicole Crews

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 TNIV

I love Jesus for who He is and for all He has done for me. He covered my multitude of sins and saved me. No matter what I have done or been exposed to, God forgave me and restored my heart.

I wish someone had told me, about the love of God, when I was a child. I learned religion in school, but by no means have they portrayed our Father in Heaven for who He truly is and what He has done for us. God is love and if you don’t know God you can’t love, for God is the essence of love.

If you truly love God, you will imitate His character. To cover someone in love means to protect them and don't expose their weaknesses or flaws. The more we grow in Christ, the more compassion we will have for all people. We will be quick to forgive and quick to help others in need. I love the story Pastor Cymbala shared with us one day, about a man who wanted to jump of a building. Pastor had the opportunity to speak with the person. He was able to convince him not to jump. Once he came back in the window, the cops immediately put handcuffs on the guy. This disturbed our Pastor and he kindly ask if he could put his coat around him to cover the handcuffs as the guy was escorted to the car.  That was a true example to cover someone in love. God gives us many opportunities to do the same and share acts of love to our friends and families.

Have you ever gotten involved with an outrageously angry person? How many of you experienced, by responding with an act of love, the person was able to calm down? Whether it is by listening, showing affection, expressing understanding, speaking gently, encouraging and smiling. Which all of these, are an act of love and by doing that most people’s anger will defuse. Love is so powerful and it is able to cover over a multitude of sins. Trust me I know all about anger issues, because I was that person. A lot of things shaped me in my upbringing and caused me to be angry about life. But God just knows how to get into your heart and change your mistreated emotions. Anger in itself is not sin. God expressed or mentioned anger in the bible 465 times. It is our faulty action that makes us commit sin. I’m so grateful for the many friends and leaders God has placed in my life, that patiently loved me through my weakness and taught me many lessons. 

I love the scriptures below, it is one of the most quoted when people get married. It really should be our daily meditation of the day. If you replace the name of love with your name, don’t the verses starting to reveal something to you? Try it.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, love does not boast, love is not proud. 5 Love does not dishonor others, love is not self-seeking, love is not easily angered, and love keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Whoa, I have some heart searching to do, because there are a few I fall short on a daily basis. I couldn’t even get through the first one. Nicole is patient. I want to believe it, but I know I would be lying to myself. I may be patient in some areas, but in others I find myself get aggravated and complain. Lord have mercy on me. I’m truly a work in progress. Don’t judge me, if you have mastered all of them that would mean you are perfect. And we know there is only one person who is perfect and that is JESUS!


Lord I thank you for your unconditional love for us. You are so gracious to us and we don’t even deserve it. I thank you for being the true example on how to love each other. Lord I pray that you will continue to show me the right way to speak, act and live. I ask that you will correct us in love and make our hearts tender to receive it. Please do don’t allow any stubbornness and pride to get in the way. Expose all of the lies and give us grace to face it. I pray you will make us true examples of your word and encourage each other. I pray this blog will lift people up and give you all the glory.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen. 

Nicole Crews is married to her beloved husband Todd Crews. She is a follower of Jesus Christ and ever since have loved the journey God has placed her on. Nicole has a strong desire to be used for His glory. She was born and raised in Germany and a sister of two brothers. Nicole loves going on dates with her husband, listening to her husband preach, and serving along side him in ministry. She is passionate about people, cooking and traveling.

"Love God. Love People." | Gabriella Portalatin

"Teacher, what is the most important commandment?" Jesus answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, "Love others as much as you love yourself." Matthew 22:36-40 (CEV)

The thing that Jesus talked about most while he was here on earth was love. It is the cornerstone of Christianity. In the New Testament alone, it is mentioned over 180 times. Jesus himself said it over 50 times. Because of this, you’d think that Christians would have a great reputation in the world. You’d think that we’d be known for being the most loving people on the planet. Yet, why is it that Christians have bad reputations? Unfortunately, instead of being known for what we stand for (love), we are known for what we stand against (gay marriage, abortion, etc.). The message of our wonderful and loving Savior is being drowned out by judgmental, political and proud Christians. People now reject Christ because they don’t like his Christians. Gandhi said,

“I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

          Back in 2010, something hit me really hard. Something I had learned growing up but had never officially applied to my life. I realized that Christianity is summed up by these two things: love God with EVERYTHING in you and love others as much as you love yourself. That’s it. That is the epitome of what it means to be a Christ-follower. You see, if you love God with everything in you, everything else in your life falls into place. If you love him with your whole mind, heart and soul, every aspect of your life will come together naturally.
          I find that as Christians, we tend to “try” too much to be better (myself included). This has been a struggle of mine in the past. I would basically try to work hard to be a better Christian and please God. But, the harder you try to be a better Christian, the more you fail and the more frustrated you get. Things are SO much easier when you simply surrender yourself to God and let him help you become more like him.
          When I realized all of these things, I decided to live my life by these two principles alone, and guess what? It was life changing! I decided that the first and most important thing I had to do was love God with everything in me. Any sin we’re struggling with, any issues that we can’t get over, any problems that we have can only be fixed by loving God more. How do you love God more? Sounds a bit complicated. It’s actually really simply. You fall deeper in love with Jesus by spending more time with him! Reading the word, spending time in prayer and worshipping God in his presence will draw us closer to God. When you increase your love for God, things start changing radically. This all seems so simplistic, but it’s something that most Christians forget.
          As a natural consequence of loving God more, we begin to love people more. Loving your neighbor as yourself is not something that is natural to our human nature. Human nature is selfish and greedy, impatient and merciless. This is how we respond to people when our relationship with God has grown cold. Check this out: when ANYONE is cold towards people, you know that something is off in their spiritual walk. That applies to pastors, evangelists, famous Christian authors, ministry leaders or your friends/family. When we love God with everything in us, we will naturally love people. And to truly love people means to love them as we love ourselves.
          The bible says to love our neighbor (others) as ourselves. Who is our neighbor? One of the definitions of the word neighbor is “one’s fellow human being.” This means that everyone on this earth is our neighbor! The annoying coworker, the crazy cousin, and the little girl starving in India…they are all our neighbors, and we are required to love each of them as we love ourselves. That is NOT an easy task. When you realize exactly who your “neighbor” is, things in your heart change. When you imagine yourself in your neighbor’s shoes…things change within you. This is the part that radically changed me the most.
          In Acts 1:8, Jesus tells his disciples: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Pay attention to the last part. Jesus is instructing them to start with Jerusalem (their hometown), Judea and Samaria (their region) and finish with the ends of the earth. So, you start with your family, then you go to your community, then you go to the entire world. When you get to the point where you see the world as your neighborhood, you realize that out of the 6 billion people on this earth, over 3 billion of them have never heard about Jesus before. When you look at the 6 billion people in the world and see that 3 billion live on less than 2 USD/day, something in you changes. You realize that it’s not all about you. The Bible gives us the responsibility of loving them as we love ourselves, and we cannot simply ignore this. If we truly love our neighbors as ourselves, we will not look away when we hear about the famine in Somalia, or religious persecution in Saudi Arabia, or the 27 million sex slaves around the world. When we truly LOVE others like we love ourselves, we realize that if it were us out there suffering, we would desperately want someone to help us. And that is what Christianity is all about. When we are truly living like Christ-followers who love God with everything in us, it causes us to love our neighbors as ourselves, which causes us to want to radically change the world.
          Do you love God with everything in you? Is this causing us to love others as much as we love ourselves? Do you know that you have a divine destiny? Do you know that God has put you on this earth so that you can change it? This might seem cliché, but it’s true. God put you here for a purpose. The only way that you will truly be able to live out your divine destiny is if you love God with everything in you and love others as you love yourself. You can get by without doing this like many others do, but just imagine how powerful you could be if you surrendered everything to God. There is way too much craziness going on in this world for us to simply want to “get by” in our own power and strength. There are way too many people suffering without Jesus and without hope for us to sit by in complacency. Don’t you want to do more for God? Don’t you want to be a world changer? If you do, you know what needs to be done: Love God. Love people. That’s what it’s all about.

Gabby Portalatin was born and raised in Brooklyn.   After 19 years of living a relatively self-centered Christian life, she traveled to Sao Paolo, Brazil to work with street children. It was that experience that put the call to be a missionary in her heart. That experience turned her world upside down, and since then she's been traveling to the darkest parts of the world to bring the hope of Christ to those who need it most.  As she waits for the day for God to call her to the missions field full-time, she works with the kids, youth and young adults at her church, while also teaching English as a means of sharing the gospel. You can follow her on twitter @gabby_tweets!

"When "Keepin' It Real" Goes Wrong" | Nicole Crews

The mentality is, you think you know it all, when at the end you know nothing. Ouch! The word that keeps coming to my mind is HUMILITY! 

When you humble yourselves as the scriptures say: Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3 Phew, God is pretty clear and direct with us.

Many justify their inappropriate behavior, by saying; “I’m just keeping it real”. It basically means, having no filter and think you have the right to just say what ever is on your mind. I have fallen short of this many times and I’m grateful that by God’s grace he is working constantly on my heart.  One of the main lessons I have personally learned is to do everything in love.

Another thing that is very dangerous, when people gossip during prayer. That just smells like “when keeping it real goes wrong.” God is all about unity amongst the body of Christ. Any gossip, even in prayer destroys unity. Please do us a favor and keep silent, if you can’t sincerely pray for someone in love.

Self-righteousness reflects insecurity.  It really breaks my heart, when I see Christians think they are superior then other people. We all started with the same need of salvation and God’s grace. Then somewhere down the road, we can lose perspective and judge others left and right. I remember a humble smack down in my life. In BC (Before Christ) times, I used to dress very inappropriately. My modesty was compromised. When I got saved, I learned over time to cover up and dress respectfully. Then I went to the other extreme and dressed so modest I looked 30 years older then I was.  Next thing you know, I got quickly upset when I saw another girl in church dress to impress her “goodies”. I began to judge others and got insecure around some of the women.  Today I’m so grateful for God’s forgiveness, to know my father so closely, that my heart started to break for the girls and I had compassion for them. God reminded me of my BC times, when I was in their shoes and he convicted me about my behavior. How many of you are so thankful for God’s mercy and grace. He began to expose my insecurities and gave me the grace to face it. I disciplined myself to submit my thoughts to the Lord and pray for others in love.

On a different note, sometimes I ask myself the question: What are we doing with the information God is exposing to us? Have you ever thought about it?  Why would God choose you to reveal certain information? Maybe, because He entrusts you to accomplish a greater task. I was so blessed by Rick Warren, when he said he is not a great writer, yet God chose him to write a book called “Purpose Driven Life” and it sold 25 million copies. What if God would have chose you to write this anointed book? What would you have done with the revenue? Now with the attitude of “when keeping it real goes wrong”, we can deceive ourselves and spend the money on the wrong things and end up hurting ourselves and others.  God knew what Rick Warren would do with the money.  He is tithing 90% of his income, now that is faith. He is giving God all the glory. I want to be a woman of integrity and give generously with God’s love and to bless His people. 
Nicole Crews is married to her beloved husband Todd Crews. She is a follower of Jesus Christ and ever since have loved the journey God has placed her on. Nicole has a strong desire to be used for His glory. She was born and raised in Germany and a sister of two brothers. Nicole loves going on dates with her husband, listening to her husband preach, and serving along side him in ministry. She is passionate about people, cooking and traveling.