• Articles

    5 lies that keep us from spiritual growth

    Written by Madeline Kalu

    I’ve been a born-again Christian for 12 years. During this time, I’ve learnt a lot about the Lord and have been blessed by revelation of His ways, experienced His grace when l didn’t deserve it, and encountered His unconditional love.

    Attaining such knowledge hasn’t always been easy though: At times it required the Lord to test me and refine me of impurities that were hard for me to let go of. However, l am grateful for the challenges that God allowed me to endure, as it enabled me to grow spiritually.

    That being said, there have been obstacles to my spiritual growth. Some of these have occurred from trying to navigate a Christian life amidst superficial societal expectations, coupled with the pressures of living the COVID-19 life; others have originated from my own inner doubts and insecurities.

    These stumbling blocks are lies that l believed for a long time, which made me think that God wasn’t for me, and that contrary to what the Bible says, He didn’t love me, because l didn’t deserve it. Consequently, such thoughts held me captive and made me miserable.

    In the last year, God has been revealing Himself to me through numerous means – His Word, songs, as well as words of encouragement from friends and family. These revelations have helped me realize that the viewpoints l previously held are in fact not true.

    The following are 5 of the lies which had personally kept me from growing in the Lord in the past. In sharing these, l hope that my experiences will help free you of the untruths that are hindering you from maturing spiritually.

    1. I’m not a “good” Christian

    I am a perfectionist, and as part of my all-or-nothing character l want to be a “good Christian”, who reads her Bible, spends time with God in prayer, and worships Him through praise and song – daily.

    This self-expectation used to put me under a lot of pressure. Consequently, if l couldn’t keep up with my daily “God time” l would condemn myself. Additionally, l felt guilty of not being spiritual enough to approach God and felt unworthy of presenting Him with my prayer petitions.

    However, God doesn’t love us in proportion to how much time we spend with Him and His Word, how much we pray, or even how many good deeds we do. God loves us because He is love (1 John 4:8) – it is simply who He is.

    Now that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t read the Bible and spend time in prayer and praise: The more we know about God and His ways, the more revelation we will have of Him, which will lead to greater intimacy with Him and give us victory in our daily lives.

    What is important to remember is that God loves us for who we are, not what we do. For that reason, He sent His precious Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.

    2. God has favorites

    l used to look at Christian influencers on social media and see their posts about the new house they had bought, the exotic locations they visited, or the dream job they had. The carefree lifestyle they presented made me feel that God was favoring them and that they were doing something l wasn’t to deserve such great blessings.

    However, in Romans 2:11 it states that God does not show favoritism. Even David, who was “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) was not granted the task of building the Lord’s Temple; rather, God blessed his son Solomon with the honor.

    In the past year, God has been showering my husband and l with blessings: provision, job opportunities, favor, inner peace, and more. Through such acts of His grace, God has taught me two things:

    1) God gives customized blessings to meet our individual needs, in accordance to the current chapter in our lives

    2) We should always be grateful for what He gives (1 Thessalonians 5:18), regardless of our circumstances.

    God does not have favorites. If we compare our blessings with others, we risk falling into a bottomless pit of self-doubt and envy, which prevents us from growing spiritually.

    3. Other Christians don’t like me

    I get along well with the women in my church, however any attempts l make to connect with them outside of our place of worship are constantly rejected. Since church services have stopped due to lockdown, l have not heard from any of my female acquaintances, which leaves me feeling like a social outcast.

    God has been showing me through the love and encouragement of my husband and my non-Christian friends, that l am a kind person and a loyal friend. Through Christian therapy, l am learning that l’m not deficient or unworthy if others don’t desire my company: The issue lies with them, not necessarily with me.

    Additionally, God has brought two amazing women into my life through our love of writing. They live on the opposite sides of the world in Canada, but we are close to each other’s hearts.

    Most importantly, God is encouraging me to grow spiritually by forgiving those who are not for me, and to have sympathy and pray for the issues that the ladies in my church are enduring in their own lives.

    4. God doesn’t want to heal me

    The previous year has been especially difficult for my mental health. I am in recovery from burnout and chronic depression; however, the global pandemic and its consequences have negatively affected my mental state further.

    One of my biggest prayers is for healing from my mental torment. So, when God allows me to keep on suffering, and thereby miss out on the joys of life, l begin to doubt whether He will heal me at all.

    However, God is Jehovah Rapha – The God who heals. In His Word, God assures us that He hears our cries, and promises to heal us (2 Kings 20:5). God keeps His promises, because that is who He is (Numbers 23:19). When that healing will occur, we can only trust Him and leave it up to His perfect timing.

    5. Satan rules the world

    With 2020 exposing the injustice, discord, and tragedies of the world through the COVID-19 pandemic, racism, political deceit, as well as natural and personal disasters, is it consequential to say that the world is ruled by the orchestrator of darkness – Satan?

    And if so, why does God allow this?

    First of all, we need to remember that we live in a broken world. Self-interest, greed, and the pursuit of materialistic gain have resulted in the world suffering at the hands of man’s poor stewardship of the earth’s resources and lack of love for his fellow brother.

    However, regardless of what we as mankind do to the world and to each other, God has the final say over the events and outcomes of this earthly plain. In Isaiah 40:21-26, the prophet describes how God is the One who created the earth, including the heavens and the stars. He raises rulers and He can also bring them down again, for no one is His equal. He rules the world!

    Indeed it is true, that Satan is an enemy to man, whose goal is to “kill, lie, and destroy” (John 10:10). However, he is no match for God!

    If this is the case then, why is there so much evil on earth?

    Jesus warned us in the Book of John that our lives would not be free of trouble of adversity. However, He also said that He has conquered the world (John 16:33). Similarly, God promises in Romans 8:28 that He makes all things work out for good.

    Therefore, whatever trials and tribulations you personally face or witness happening around the world, know that God sees what is meant for evil and is turning it around for our good!

    When a broken world threatens to compromise our faith, and our own mind becomes a battlefield that feeds us lies and nurtures self-doubt, God’s Word is the truth that sets us free (John 8:32).

    How good then, that we serve a God who is not only our Father, but our Teacher, Friend, and Comforter, who love us and guides us from faith to faith and from glory to glory, in His name!

    About the author:

    Madeline Kalu is a Christian writer and the co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog and Faith Love Life Designs. She was born in England, was raised in Australia, and currently lives in Germany with her husband, Solomon.

    Madeline is in recovery from burnout, chronic depression, and anxiety. She believes that God can take life’s adversities and work them out for His good; hence, she uses her writing voice to raise awareness of mental illness, as well as to spread the light of God’s love to those who are mentally trapped in the dark, and provide them with hope and encouragement.

  • Articles

    18 New Year Scriptures to encourage you and give you hope in 2021

    Written by Madeline Kalu

    2020 is a year that many of us bade a cheerful farewell to.

    The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus took away a normalcy that many of us had previously taken for granted, caused serious financial and socio-economic disruption, and challenged our hope for the future.

    That advent of every new year is marked noticeably by a renewal of hope for a better future, a motivation to change, and a desire for new beginnings. Making New Year’s resolutions, like starting that new diet or taking up a new hobby, are just a few of the habits and mindsets that lay testimony to this.

    However, with the arrival of 2021, our need for consolation that this year is going to be better than last year is more apparent than ever.

    For that reason, we at Jacob’s Ladder have compiled a list of 18 Scriptures that we believe will encourage you and give you hope in 2021.

    Note: Our Bible reference of choice is the NRSV, unless otherwise stated.

    Isaiah 43:19–“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

    1. Isaiah 43:19–“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

    A desert or wilderness is a landscape that has long been exposed to unruly desolation. It can be associated with circumstances in our lives where we have experienced defeat, felt hopelessness, or endured failure. 

    However, where we see only a hopeless situation, God sees potential for change. He can reverse any arid landscape and cause waters to flow through it, returning dead vegetation to life and giving it a new beginning. 

    In 2021, God is going to revive situations in your life you assumed to be dead and re-open doors of opportunity and favor for you!

    (Photo by sgcdesignco on Unsplash)

    2. Jeremiah 29:11 “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

    From before we were in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5), God knew us and had a good plan for our lives. This plan includes living a fulfilled life with eager anticipation for the future. 

    At times, through prayer and revelation, we may be blessed to gain an insight into what God’s plans for our individual lives may entail. However, for the most part, God does not reveal His intentions for us, so that we may continue to trust and rely on Him, and give Him glory, instead of giving ourselves credit for life’s victories.

    What is important to remember is that God keeps His promises. Therefore, regardless of what adversity we may encounter, may it be a global pandemic, financial struggles, or health issues – God’s promise of provision, direction, and hope that He declares in Jeremiah 29:11 will prevail over everything else.  

    3. Psalm 118:24 – “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

    With the dawn of each new day, there is so much that we can be grateful to God for. First and foremost, He allowed us to wake up and be alive to see another day! This is a day that He has scheduled into your life timeline, and He has great and wonderful plans as to how you should spend it. 

    Your hope for a better future starts TODAY – with this day that the Lord has given you. 

    Therefore, instead of envisioning how much better things could be when this pandemic is over, or that you can start to enjoy life only after you have finished paying your bills, enjoy this day – with all its ups and downs – and appreciate the blessings that God has allowed you to experience in it.

    2 Corinthians 5:17– “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

    4. 2 Corinthians 5:17– “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

    Once you have entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ, the old version of you is gone and instead, you have a new beginning as a Child of God. 

    As an extension, the earthly values, societal pressures, fear, and worry which used to oppress you are rendered insignificant in comparison to the values that God wishes His children to abide under, such as to love one another (1 John 4:7), to abide in peace (John 14:27) and to trust Him and rest whilst He fights our battles for us (Exodus 14:14).

    (Photo by Candice Picard on Unsplash)

    5. Philippians 3:13-14 –“Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own, but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”

    The imagery presented in this Scripture of our lifespan being compared to running a race is an apt way of encouraging us to stop looking at the past and instead, focus our attention on God’s promises for the future.

    Although 2020 was a difficult year for us, let us refuse to dwell in the past, and instead, ask God to direct our path towards reaching the goals He has set before us for 2021, which should include loving and helping others, and claiming His blessings over our lives.

    6. Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

    This is such a beautiful Bible verse, as it claims the source of our strength and power – Jesus Christ.

    Through the grace of Jesus, which we receive by faith, we are infused with an eternal source of energy, which He uses to charge us and rejuvenate us with.

    Consequently, when we are confronted with a situation that would otherwise overwhelm us, we can instead rely on the power of Jesus Christ and be confident of victory through the assurance that comes from being backed up by the divine majesty of Christ.

    Although the difficulties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic may have followed us into 2021, know that you can face them and other challenges that may come your way with a fully charged battery pack of Christ’s power!

    Proverbs 23:18 – “Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”

    7. Proverbs 23:18 – “Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”

    When it comes to an assurance of hope for the future, there are few Bible verses that claim God’s promises on this subject more than this one.

    I love this Scripture as it evokes an expectation of good things to come. I hope that it evokes in you an expectation for the good things that God has planned for you for 2021.

    (Photo by Jose Llamas on Unsplash)

    8. Psalm 20:4 – “May He grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans.”

    May the desires of our hearts be not of superficial or fleshly pursuits, but rather, may they be in accordance with the desires of God and that He may fulfill these plans for each and every one of us in 2021.

    9. Isaiah 40:31 – “But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

    Did you know that when an eagle encounters a storm, it determinedly flies into it? It uses the tempest to mount itself upward until it reaches the heights above the storm where the sun is.

    The Hebrew translation for “mount up” is alah, which means “to go up over a boundary or to ascend.” Just as the eagle is equipped with the strength to ascend in triumph over the storm, so too, does God give strength to us when we seek Him, which enables us to triumph over our adversities.

    Isaiah 65:17 – “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.”

    10. Isaiah 65:17 – “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.”

    In Genesis 1:1 it states that in the beginning, “God created the heavens and the earth.” God was pleased with His creation and deemed it “good”.

    However, since the fall of Adam and Eve and their forced exit from the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3, earth has become an increasingly broken place, with one of the consequences being the onslaught of the COVID-19 virus.

    In Isaiah 65:17, God promises that He will create new heavens and a new earth – He is making a clean slate. This doesn’t mean that He will annihilate our current existence, but it does mean that our Father is a God of new beginnings and that He will additionally heal us from the pain of the past.

    (Photo by Vijay Sutrave on Unsplash)

     11. Job 8:7 (CEV) – “Your future will be brighter by far than your past.”

    What an encouraging Bible verse! 

    God keeps His promises, therefore we can enter 2021 with confidence, knowing that God will make this year better than the previous one. 

    Watch with wonder how God will take the small beginnings you made last year – at work, with new relationships, with health, and with your finances – and increase them exponentially. 

    Troubles that previously burdened you will have no effect on you, long-standing ailments and illnesses will be healed, and broken relationships will be repaired in Jesus’ name!

    Just keep believing and keep walking in faith!

    12. Ezekiel 36:26 – “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you, and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

    Have you noticed that the heart of man, in general, has become progressively colder, self-centered, and full of malice and hate?

    In 2020, we experienced significant displays of these characteristics through the outbreaks of racial protest as a reaction to racial discrimination, racial profiling, and police violence. 

    Even our kids did not go through 2020 unscathed from discrimination and hate. Statistics from last year reveal that more kids around the world were falling prey to cyberbullying and the numbers are rising. 

    Is this truly the way we want to interact with each other?

    Is this the kind of 2021 we want to experience as a global entity?

    It doesn’t have to be. In Ezekiel 36:26, God offers to replace the cold and unyielding hearts of anyone who wishes to enter into a relationship with Him and to replace it with a cleansed and changed heart that is filled with the Spirit of God. 

    Lamentations 3:22-23 – “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

    13. Lamentations 3:22-23 – “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

     This is such a comforting Bible verse as it not only declares God’s everlasting love for us, but also His endless outpouring of mercy.

    No matter how things were in the past for you in 2020, this is a new year, with fresh mercies that God provides you with every morning to confidently approach each day’s challenges, adventures, and discoveries.

    (Photo by Chris Liu-Beers on Unsplash)

    14. Romans 8:31 – “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?”

    In this Bible verse, the contrasting prepositions of “for” and “against” give a wonderful illustration of how God is always on our side and fights on our behalf. 

    Therefore, we need not become anxious or worry when a situation appears to be “against” us, as there is no power, person, or circumstance that is mightier than our Father who is “for” us!

    15.  Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”

    A friend once told me, that if she were to reject God and instead be completely self-reliant on making her way through life, she would not last even one day. Her life is fulfilled, she is full of peace and wisdom, and is a blessing to others as a result of her admitting that she needs God in her life. She trusts God with all her heart.

    In the same way, God will guide your life in 2021, open doors that others have closed, give you spiritual revelation, and enable you to live a life of peace and joy, if you choose to put your trust in Him and not in yourself.

    Psalm 40:3 – “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”

    16. Psalm 40:3 – “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”

    I love this Bible verse as it proclaims the joy, relief, and gratitude that the psalmist King David experiences after being delivered from a bleak, unbearable situation, which he describes as a “desolate pit, a miry bog” (Psalm 40:2).

    Instead of leaving David to his miserable fate, God “set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (Psalm 40:2). In response to being freed and in gratitude for the new beginning he has been gifted, David opens his mouth in praise to God.

    In 2021, God will also deliver you from the burdens, pain, and despair that weighed you down last year. When He does so, be like David, and audibly show God your gratitude by thanking Him and praising Him for His goodness and mercy! 

    When people see how God has rescued you from situations where a human solution was not possible, and you give Him all the glory for your deliverance, others will see that and also put their trust in God.

    ( Photo by Hudson Hintze on Unsplash)

    17. Ephesians 4:22-24 – “You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

    The advent of a new year is a prime opportunity to renew yourself – to focus on new priorities, think more positively about yourself and others, and to gain a new perspective in your spiritual life, and become more intimate with God.

    This year, make it a priority to focus less on what the world deems as important, and instead, aim to spend more time with God and His Word in order that you may grow spiritually, experience revelation, and be a blessing to others.

    18. Matthew 7:7 – “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”

    This final Bible verse in our list summarizes with three verbs how we can greet 2021 with encouragement, hope, and faith in new beginnings:

    Ask:  God is not a fictitious figure who resides in Heaven on a golden throne, nor is He a cold-hearted harbinger of justice to hapless sinners on earth. God loves us and wishes to have a relationship with us. Just like a father loves a child, and will do anything to provide for him, so does God loves us and wish to look after us. 

    Therefore, do not be afraid to reverently ask God when you need His help. In Hebrews 4:16 it states that we can “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

    Seek: It’s a life-changing decision to enter a relationship with God, but it doesn’t end there. In order to spiritually grow and mature, we need to keep on seeking God’s face. This means, spending time in His Word, allotting time every day to just sit quietly and be in His presence and pray and worship Him. 

    The more time you spend in seeking God, the more intimate you will grow in your relationship with Him, which also includes hearing His voice better and trusting His ways over your own. If you do all this, you will have such revelation of His purpose over your life and He will lead you on paths of blessings and growth that you never deemed possible!

    Knock: When we knock on a door, we are intentionally arousing the attention of the person on the other side, in order that he or she may open it. Knocking implies an earnest request to seek communication and an expectation that new possibilities are “literally” opening up for us.

    In the same way, when God brings new opportunities our way in 2021, let us be open to receive them. It may require coming out of our comfort zone, it may be a bit scary, or even demand that we learn new skills or change our priorities. However, our lives will be all the more richer for it. 

    In fact, let us be proactive and work together with God to make the dreams and goals He has put on our hearts a reality this year. Start that online shop you’ve been meaning to open, form the online women’s church group that God has put on your heart. Donate to that charity you’ve been meaning to send money to. 

    Your boldness in being open to new opportunities will not only benefit you but will additionally help make this world a better place for everyone. So, start knocking! 

    If you found our selection of 18 New Year Bible verses encouraging, we have created a digital set of these Scriptures for you to download and print. They are available from our Etsy Shop “Faith Love Life Designs”.

    Set of 18 printable New Year Bible verse cards

    Use these Bible verse cards for Bible study purposes, for memorizing Scripture, or to supplement your Bible journaling. They also make great inserts for greeting cards, books, packages, as well as serving as bookmarks. You can also stick these Scripture cards on your fridge, mirrors, frames, etc. around your home for additional encouragement.

    Our Bible verse cards are a great aid to help you study the Word of God.

    To shop our set of 18 New Year Bible verse cards, click here.


    Our 18 New Year Bible verse cards are also available in travel size.

    Set of 18 printable New Year Bible verse cards – travel size

    We hope you enjoyed reading our article and are feeling encouraged and hopeful for what God will be doing in your life in 2021. 

    If you would like to receive more motivating Christian content from us, feel free to sign up to our email list (on the right-hand sidebar) and be notified when we upload our latest posts. Additionally, we will be providing our subscribers with offers and free gifts, so that’s definitely something to look forward to!

    From all of us at Jacob’s Ladder, we wish you a wonderful 2021 full of God’s peace, mercy, and love. 

    Stay safe and blessed,

    Co-Founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog

    To shop our selection of Christian printable art, scriptures, prayers, and more, visit our Etsy shop at faithlovelifedesigns.etsy.com.

    Sources:

    christianity.com, “Does Jeremiah 29:11 Have Meaning for Us Today?”, Glory Dy.

    charismamag.com, “The Isaiah 43:19 Solution for Your Hopeless Situation”, Joyce Meyer.

    dailyverse.knowing-jesus.com, “What Does Psalm 118:24 Mean?”

    bibleref.com, “2 Corinthians 5:17 Parallel Verses“

    biblehub.com, “Philippians 3:13-14“

    studylight.org, “Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary – Philippians 4:13”

    spiritmeat.net, “The Power of Expectation – Proverbs 23:18”

    bestirrednotshaken.com, “Studying Psalm 20:4 – Our Heart’s Desire and Accomplishing Our Plans“

    gotquestions.org, “What does it mean to mount up with wings like eagles?”

    sermonwriter.com, “Biblical Commentary Isaiah 65:17-25”, Richard Niell Donovan.

    desiringgod.org, “Today’s Mercies for Today’s Troubles”, John Piper.

    studylight.org, “Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary Job 8:7“

    comparitech.com, “Cyberbullying facts and statistics for 2020”, Sam Cook.

    dailyverse.knowing-jesus.com, “What Does Ezekiel 36:26 Mean?”

    thefellowship.site, “God is For Us – Romans 8:31-34”

    biblehub.com,  “Psalm 40:3“

    desiringgod.org, “Put on the New Person”, John Piper.