Posted in Life

3 Ways To Open Your Heart Instead Of Presents This Christmas

 

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What’s your definition of Christmas? What does Christmas mean to you?

For most of us, Christmas means spending quality time with family and loved ones. For others, Christmas means buying gifts and hosting the biggest parties. In the case of most children, Christmas is a day they get to open presents and take pictures with Santa.

So really, what is the true meaning of Christmas?

If you grew up in Church, you know by memory the famous verse found in John 3:16,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

When was the last time you heard or read this verse for yourself and actually pondered it?

It had been a while for me. But after recently reading it over and over again, I was reminded of its value and significance. God did not only love you and me. He didn’t just love the Christian or the goody two shoes.

God loved the world! And still loves the whole world!

But what does that mean?

It means He loves everyone. From race to race, religion to religion, culture to culture, God loves the people of the world! And He doesn’t just love us. He SO loves us! There is emphasis in his love for us all.

As an outpouring of His great love for each and every single one of us, God did not spare His one and only Son from coming into the world and dying a death He did not deserve. On the contrary, God gave his ONE and ONLY Son so that whoever BELIEVES in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

God’s desire is for us to have an eternal life with Him in heaven. He does not want us to suffer a spiritual death. Sending Jesus to die on the cross for our sins was the only way to prevent us from dying a spiritual death and give us the opportunity to live in relationship with Him as our Father and Friend.

The gift of God’s love and salvation is ours for the taking. All we have to do is surrender our lives to Him as our Savior and open up our hearts to Him to receive the love He is forever pouring out on us.

Here are 3 ways in which we can open our hearts instead of presents this Christmas:

  1. Be Intentional

During the holiday season, it’s easy to go through the motions of shopping and striving to get the best gifts, the best outfits, and the best everything else. We have this urge to impress when we should have the urge to be intentional.

If we’re not careful, we can easily forget to be intentional about the true meaning of the holidays, which is to thank God for his Son Jesus and to intentionally love and appreciate our family and loved ones.

It is a mindful decision that we make each day to open up our hearts to give and receive love. Instead of focusing on the hustle and bustle this Christmas, focus on the true reason for the season: God’s outpouring of love on us through the gift of salvation through His Son.

  1. Humble Yourself

Christmas is not about receiving gifts or opening presents. Christmas is about giving and sharing the love of Christ with others through our hospitality. Rather than expecting gifts from people or high-class service, we should humble ourselves by freely giving with no expectations.

Humbling ourselves will open our hearts to remember the true meaning of Christmas. We would not be where we are without God’s unconditional love. We are humbled by His gifts of love, joy, peace, and purpose in our lives that we have done nothing to deserve. When we open our hearts in humility, we begin to overflow in the goodness of God’s love.

It is only from a place of humility that we can truly receive all that God has for us, and it is from that place that we also freely give to others.

  1. Show Gratitude

A grateful state of mind is good, but greater is the showcasing of gratitude. Christmas is an opportunity for us to show gratitude to others and to God. Showing gratitude for what we have (and even for what we don’t have) opens our heart to receiving the fullness of joy, peace and love that comes only through Jesus. We can show gratitude for all God has done in our lives by being a blessing to others just as He has so blessed us.

My hope and prayer is that we would learn to open our hearts throughout the year, and not just during the holidays. Jesus is the reason for the season. He is the reason for every season of life we find ourselves in. It’s through the varying seasons of life that God opens our hearts to make us more like Him.

Take time to open your heart before opening presents this Christmas.

Praying for a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year to you and your family! I know God has many blessings in store.

Let’s chat: In what way listed above can you open your heart this holiday season? (comment below)

 

Posted in Life

Are You Ready To Embrace Your Journey?

Hi friends!

Guess what?!

I recently embarked on a health and fitness journey! It may seem a little weird that I did such a thing, but let me explain why. Oftentimes we associate health and fitness with outward appearance. However, health and fitness has more to do with your inner self than with your outer self.

You may look at me and quickly assume I’m a healthy and fit person because of my outward appearance. And although outward appearance is a good indicator of physical health and fitness, one’s outward appearance is not always an accurate indicator of emotional and spiritual health and fitness.

Our overall well-being involves good health and fitness in our physical, emotional and spiritual self. We can fool people by the way we look, but we can’t fool them for long periods of time once they truly get to know us intimately.

When I started this journey, a few friends asked me why I did it. They probably thought I didn’t need to because I look good physically. On one occasion, I got asked if I was trying to lose weight because I was eating carrots.

These questions from people are all valid and normal to ask. However, I quickly realized people have a huge misconception of what health and fitness should look like.

Honestly, although my physical health looks good, my emotional and spiritual health weren’t measuring up to my outward appearance. About 2 months ago, I was really struggling emotionally and spiritually. I was going through some personal things that made me question my purpose, my future and my faith.

My circumstances weren’t matching society’s expectation for a twenty-something millennial. And neither were they meeting my parent’s or other people’s expectations of my educational background.

For a long time I was ashamed and embarrassed to answer people’s question, “What are you doing with your life?” or “Where are you working?” “What are you doing with your degree?”

Every time I met new people, I dreaded this question. I hoped with every fiber of my being that they wouldn’t ask that question because I didn’t want to deal with the feelings of shame and embarrassment.

The fact of not having that dream and desire of my heart fulfilled, strongly discouraged me. I felt so purposeless and like a failure at life. I had to do something to remind myself that if I set my mind and am willing to stay focused and consistent, no matter the distractions or temptations, I could do it!

This is why I chose to join beach body and become a coach! My motivation for joining a workout program was not to get skinnier and “prettier.” My motivation for joining was to prove to myself that if I could get through this workout program without giving up halfway or giving in to life’s distractions and temptations, I too can get through anything life throws at me including any attacks on my emotional and spiritual health.

Best of all, becoming a beach body coach has given me the opportunity to do what I love- empowering and encouraging women as well as young girls to embrace their journey by knowing their identity in Christ.

I want to be there for you! Rooting for you in every season of your life! I want to remind you of your why and encourage you that your journey in life may look different from everyone around you, but you don’t have to hate it, you can embrace it with the end in mind.

I hope my journey empowers you and encourages you to embrace your own journey! If you’re ready and willing to put in the work required to see change in every area of your life, I want to be your coach and mentor! Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns. I’m here to empower you to embrace your journey!

Let’s embrace our own journey together,

Crystal

 

Posted in Faith, Life

Even If

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

– Habakkuk 3:17-18 –

Have you ever been discouraged by the lack of something in your life? I have. There have been several areas of my life in which I have gotten discouraged from. These areas of my life are areas of your life too.

And I’m sure you too can relate to the discouragement that can come when we don’t see any change in these areas. I’m referring to the financial, relational, and societal status of our lives.

We may lack everything this world offers as “good” such as fame and riches. Or we may lack basic essential needs like food, water, and shelter. But the one thing we can be sure of never lacking is the love of God and His salvation.

Habakkuk 3:17-18 reminds us that even if we don’t see any change happening in our finances, relationships, or our life, God is still good. Even if we don’t get what we’re hoping for, God is still the giver of joy.

No matter what our finances look like, whether we have less than or more than enough. God’s love is always enough to carry us through.

Where does your joy come from? Does it come from the things you possess or the status you hold? Or does your joy come from knowing God? I’ll be honest with you. I used to rely on my accomplishments and achievements for my joy.

If I didn’t have something to brag about to others, I wasn’t joyful. My joy depended on my own doing.I had to hit rock bottom to learn joy is not dependent on my possessions, finances, or relationships.

Joy comes from knowing God and His faithfulness. He is our Savior. Even if we don’t have the job or things we wish we did, God is still good, and His joy is still available to us even if.

 

Dear Lord, thank you for your never-changing love and joy for me. My circumstances may never change, but you God, still remain faithful in giving me your love, peace, and joy. Help me to know you more intimately to fully receive the joy you give. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Encouraging you always,

Crystal Castillo

Posted in Faith, Life

Not Today Satan. Not Ever

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

– Matthew 4:1-3 –

Jesus was the Son of God. He was perfect and blameless. Yet he was still tempted. He was still attacked and disturbed by the tempter and accuser. Otherwise known as Satan the devil. Although Jesus was God himself in human form, he was not excused from living like a human. And that includes feeling every emotion we as humans feel.

As I meditated on these verses, I asked myself, why did the Holy Spirit lead Jesus into the wilderness? The wilderness sounds bad. I think about isolation and loneliness. Why would God lead Jesus to such a place? As I continued to read along, my question was answered. Jesus was led to the wilderness not only to be left alone. He was led there for the purpose of being tempted by the devil! Seriously?

I mean being led to the wilderness was already scary. But being tormented by the devil while being there is just too much to bear. Don’t you think? To top it all off, Jesus was in a very vulnerable state. After fasting forty days and forty nights, Jesus was hungry. It was in that moment of weakness and vulnerability when the Spirit of God led Jesus into the wilderness.

Why? Why not lead him when he was strong enough to resist the devil? Perhaps after he had eaten. I’m sure you too have asked questions similar to these pertaining your life or someone else’s life. Why would God allow me to go through this? Why now when I’m not feeling my best? What did I do to deserve this?

Friend, you are not the problem and never have been. We have a real enemy who is out to steal, kill and destroy us (John 10:10). This is Satan’s purpose and desire. He strategically plans to target and aim at our weak and vulnerable places of our lives. He did this with Jesus. He used Jesus’ vulnerability as an opportunity to steal His identity by persuading him to do something that was against God’s will for him.

Jesus could have turned the stones to bread because he was God himself in human form. However, Jesus’ purpose was not to obey the devil or do as he willed. Jesus’ purpose in the wilderness was to do the will of the Father. And in that moment the will of God was for Jesus to stand strong and firm against the lies and schemes of Satan.

Satan has not changed his strategy of deception. He still manipulates the situation to make us give into temptation and fall into sin. I have personally experienced temptation from Satan. Not once, or twice, but multiple times. He tempted me by asking, “If you are the daughter of God, why hasn’t He come through for you?”

The devil was trying to destroy everything I had believed about God since I was a little girl. I had a choice to make in that wilderness of mine. Choose to listen and give in ultimately giving up on God and His promises. Or choose to rebuke and declare God’s goodness and faithfulness despite my wilderness.

Like Jesus, we are sons and daughters of God! The reality is, we will never be exempt from temptation. Don’t believe the lie that once you turn to Christ life will be easy. The difference between knowing and not knowing Christ is that we as His followers are given the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is our advocate (John 14:16). He is our comforter and encourager. The Holy Spirit is a powerful person on our side, working for and with us.

Don’t be surprised next time you find yourself in a dark and scary place. Be prepared and ready to rebuke the lies of Satan. Often times the Spirit of God will lead us into wildernesses to reassure us of our purpose. To let us know that although we are weak, He is strong and stronger than anything around us.

Lord, I desire to know you more intimately. Help me draw close to you so I can be filled with your truth and be ready to rebuke any lie the enemy has formed against me. No matter my circumstances, I will choose to believe your promises over my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Embrace Your Journey,

Crystal

 

Posted in Faith, Life

Am I Following God’s Commands For My Life?

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors.

– Deuteronomy 8:1 –

As Christians, God commands us to do several things such as love one another, serve one another, pray for one another, and bear one another’s burdens. Yes, it is true. God wants us to obey every single one of His commands every single day.

However, I believe there are specific commands He wants us to focus on today. Not tomorrow. Today!

As I read and meditated on this verse, Deuteronomy 8:1. I was reminded to be mindful. To be aware of the promptings and convictions God is giving me today. Likewise, I believe God wants you to obey every one of those promptings and convictions, those commands He has given YOU specifically.

Today.

I had to pause for a moment and ask God,

Lord, what commands have you given me for today?

As I sat there in my room in front of my desk, God gently responded,

“Crystal, my beautiful and want to know-it-all daughter, I want you to trust me with all your heart and not to lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, in everything you do, I want you to submit it all to me. Let go of what you cannot control. Allow Me to make your paths straight.”

God literally answered my question with His Word! He quoted Proverbs 3:5-6 to me. The tears began to slowly make their way down my cheeks as I heard His voice whisper this truth to me.

God knows me perfectly. He knows you perfectly too! He knows us far to well because He created us. With every day that passes by and every experience I encounter, God is growing my faith.

What is God commanding you to do today?

Pause for a while before reading along. Ask God what He wants you to do today.

What are some things He wants you to surrender?

What person(s) does He want you to forgive today?

Search your heart. Allow Him to respond to your question.

He wants to.

He will.

God desires for us to obey His commands because He wants to bless us. Deuteronomy 8:1 confirms that, “Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors.”

Without our obedience to His commands, to His convictions, His promptings, we cannot receive His blessings. And we will not be in position to enter and seize the promises of God for our life.

I want to live life to the fullest the way God designed it (John 10:10). I want every area of my life to increase and prosper.

I’m sure you too want to witness God’s blessings over your life. In your finances, relationships, and health. If we want to experience this increase in our lives, we must follow and obey every command God gives us daily.

Dear Lord, I want to enter and possess every promise you have predestined for me. Please help me and strengthen me to follow every command you give me every single day for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Encouraging you always,

Crystal