The world you’re growing up in is drastically different than the world of my youth. Society is ever-changing, and cultural norms are constantly shifting. For those of us who have put our trust in Jesus and consecrated our lives to Him, it can feel as if we’re losing ground. Our faith is ridiculed, our Bible is tossed aside, and our Savior is misunderstood and rejected. Turns out, the Enemy is a formidable opponent, skilled in the art of war against Christianity and adept at recruiting both non-believers and believers to his cause. Satan’s ultimate goal is to deceive and distract as many of us as he can, and he never takes a day off.
As mere mortals, we are severely ill-equipped to triumph against such an adversary. Thankfully, as believers, we have an immortal advocate who stands in front of us, shielding danger with one hand while He fights our battles with the other. This Jesus I speak of embodies all the wisdom, strength, and love inherent to Almighty God. He left a Heavenly throne, lived sinless among humanity, challenged cultural and religious conventions, and offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice, receiving punishment that was meant for us in order to bridge the gap between a Holy God and a sinful people. Regardless of what’s trending or who’s in charge, we can live victorious because He has already vanquished Satan’s evil plan.
In the meantime, there are three things to remember when we face spiritual battles here on earth. Here’s my take on how I am striving to respond as a follower of Christ when faced with vehement opposition to my faith and my beliefs.
- I am not a victim. I am victorious.
Romans 8:37 – Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
Some of the recent comments I’ve seen from believers on social media have had a fearful and self-pitying tone. Many followers of Jesus seem to be surprised and offended when they are rejected by those with opposing points of view. At times it does feel like Christianity is in the minority, especially when it comes to Biblical truth vs. popular opinion. It’s hard to hold a viewpoint that most people around you think is hateful, even when you don’t feel hate in your heart. Being a believer in the Word of God doesn’t always win you popularity points; often your convictions place you at odds with the majority. When you feel like you’re repeatedly fighting the same battle with no relief in sight, it is a natural reaction to feel sorry for yourself and want to throw in the towel. What’s the point? It’s discouraging when strangers take your words or your beliefs and twist them into something you never intended to say. Being misunderstood is no fun.
Remember this truth: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities , against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
Your fight is not with the stranger on Facebook who insults you and your perspective. God isn’t expecting you to go to war with a friend who believes differently than you or the sinner who defies God with their speech and actions. Your battle is spiritual. Your fight is against the evil one: he who ensnares souls in his bottomless net of sin, despair, and hopelessness; he who tempts you to engage in the name-calling, mocking, and hatefulness that are hallmarks of those unfamiliar with the grace of God.
Not only do we need to remember who our enemy is, but we must remember who our Warrior is! God is ALWAYS working and fighting for us. He has already conquered Death and Hell, and He isn’t worried in the least about the destiny of His children. No matter what the future holds for the faithful in this life, we can rest assured that our Lord will win in the end. He cannot be beaten. Satan is doing as much to damage the name of Christ as he can, and we add fuel to his fire when we respond to lost and broken people with self-righteous, pious, and judgmental attitudes. Approaching someone with a combative spirit is only going to push that person farther away from a God who is trying to use YOU to reach them in their need.
We lead victorious lives as Christians when we allow God to fight for us and instead focus on humbly reaching out with genuine love towards others. And if we happen to be mistreated or misunderstood, we can have victory over our emotions if we remember that God knows us completely and understands us inside out.
- I am not powerless. I have prayer.
James 5:6 – Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
So, maybe instead of publicly engaging others in arguments with the intention of humiliating them or demonstrating our own intelligence, perhaps we should turn to God and pour our hearts out to Him when we are facing a fight. His strength is made perfect in our weakness, and when we pray for those who disagree with us, miracles can occur! Our hard hearts begin to soften, and we see our opponents for who they are: created and loved by the same Heavenly Father who made us. God can then use us to speak truth and grace into their lives.
When we pray, God eagerly steps in and lifts the heavy burdens off of our shoulders. When we intercede on behalf of our city, state, nation, and world, He hears. Prayer is a powerful thing. Prayer fosters a deeper understanding of God’s character. Prayer restores shattered relationships. Prayer brings healing and forgiveness, allowing us to treat others with divine mercy. When all else seems to fail, try praying!
- I will not lash out . I will love others.
John 13:35 – By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another
John 15:12 – This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
1 John 4:12 – No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.
I guess what saddens me the most about the comments I’ve read on social media debating hot-button issues is the overwhelming lack of love. I see post after post, from both sides, filled with hate and disrespect. Now, I would expect someone who doesn’t know the love of Christ, who hasn’t been redeemed, to respond to a perceived attack in a less-than-graceful manner. I truly believe, however, that God wants His people to take the high road when we face those who openly defy our faith. The high road is paved with love. Not a cheesy, mushy, naive kind of love, but a selfless, sacrificial, difficult kind of love. If loving others were easy, I don’t think Jesus would have chosen to command it so many times. God saw it necessary to remind us that He set the example for loving others by his life, death, and resurrection.
Loving others doesn’t mean I excuse their behavior or support sin. Loving others means I take time to listen to, mentor, and respect those who may hold a different opinion than I do. Loving others is not always easy, especially when dealing with people who are irritating, self-absorbed, and simply exhausting to be around. Jesus loved us enough to die for us – knowing we might not ever receive Him or love Him back. Follow that example and respond to those around you with honor, respect, and patience.
The next time you’re led to go to bat for the cause of Christ, remember these three truths found in God’s Word: you are already victorious, your power comes from prayer, and you are called to love others. Before we turn our apologetics into personal attacks on those we consider our enemies, His desire is that we will let our fingers hover over the keyboard long enough to consider the ramifications our careless or self-serving words can have on those searching souls who desperately need the love of our Jesus!
The first time someone told me I was cool was in 1991. I was in the 5th grade, and a sneaker brand, LA Gear, was at the height of its popularity. By some miracle, I came to own a pair: white ones with black and purple accents. The first day I sported my new high tops at school, Michael, one of the legit trendy kids at Coleman Elementary, leaned over his desk and approvingly declared, “You got some LA Gears? You’re cool now.” I’m almost positive I walked with a good bit of extra swagger the rest of that day! It’s been decades since I first “nailed it” in the fashion world, but the acceptance I felt had a lingering effect on my psyche.
The thing is, I am a non-conformist soul trapped in a people-pleasing body. This dichotomy presents an obvious inner turmoil: do I care what people think, or do I march to my own beat? For some people, the choice is easy. Let’s just say that, for me, the struggle is real! And the battle rages on, even as I’ve grown older and (somewhat) wiser. On the really tough days, the verse that keeps me grounded is Romans 12:2.
I’m not ten years old anymore, but many days I still find myself seeking the approval of others.
I fix my gaze on a closet full of (hopefully) trendy clothes, trying to pick an outfit that will garner a few compliments.
I scour Pinterest for the most eye-pleasing images to add to my boards. Boards carefully crafted, presenting a refined image to my followers.
My followers. I have followers. People who like, comment on, or share bits and pieces of my online persona. People to keep happy.
I shut my mouth when confronted with an opposing viewpoint. I only speak out when I’m pushed to the point of anger. And you know those times always end well…
At least that’s what I do when I’m conforming myself to the standards of this world…
Then, there are those other days. The days that count for something beyond my limited earthly life span. The days I conform to who I was uniquely created to be instead of who the world tells me to be.
I fix my gaze on those around me. I notice a tiredness on the cashier’s face and strike up a conversation. I bring dinner to a friend. I give up checking Facebook for the fifteenth time and interact with my child instead.
I scour the Bible for some much needed soul-food. I feast on His truth and hide those precious, inspired words in my heart. I renew my mind. I meditate on my Savior (Psalm 119:15-16).
My Savior. I have a Savior. He created me, redeems me, and calls me His own. I worship Him. I talk to Him. He keeps me happy.
I open my mouth to speak encouraging and uplifting words. When I encounter one who opposes what I know to be real, I do my best to humbly point them to Jesus.
And you know what? Those good days don’t happen enough for me. That’s why I keep coming back to Romans 12:2. Because the days when I’m focused on myself and what society’s standards say I should be, my mind cannot be renewed. I don’t experience the transforming, refreshing wind of the Holy Spirit. I look too much like everyone else and not enough like myself. People don’t see Jesus in me on the days I’m conforming to the world. They just see me. And it’s not about me, this life I’m living.
That’s the whole point of this verse, in my opinion. It’s like a chain reaction: fit in with worldly behaviors – corrupt your mind – miss out on God’s purpose and plan for your existence.
On the flip side: keep step with the beat God has placed inside you – renew your mind – learn what God’s specific will is for you.
If you’re struggling with acceptance, know that you’re not alone. I’d venture a guess that humanity as a whole is exhausted from all the fitting in, keeping up, and showing out we do. Maybe you’re ready to walk a path less traveled. What better time than now to do a little self-inventory…Who do you strive to please? In what ways do you conform? Are you invigorated or disheartened by the direction your life is taking? Do you want to know what the Father’s good, acceptable, and perfect will is for you?
Do not conform to this world. Be transformed. Renew your mind. Know God’s will.
Dare to be different.
I’m writing this letter about twenty years early (or forty if your father has his way), but one day you will read these words and they will connect. They will mean something to you. What I need to tell you can be summed up in one word: WAIT.
Let me explain…
Yesterday I was resting in my favorite chair. It was about 5:00 pm, and I had been feeling under the weather all day. I sat and watched your daddy take stacks of folded clothes from the couch into our bedroom to put them away. Stacks that I folded two days ago and that I could have easily put away, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. He didn’t say anything; he just did it. He did it for me because he knew I needed help. And as I watched him, I had to fight back tears because I suddenly had this thought: “I hope Molly finds this some day.” And I think you will, if you can remember to wait. Wait on the guy who finishes your chores for you – who comes through in little ways to let you know he cares.
Wait on the man who looks you in your eyes and holds your gaze as he tells you you’re beautiful. Wait on the man who has a habit of telling you this when your hair is greasy, you’re makeup-free, and you’re wearing yesterday’s sweatpants. You’ll know he means it.
Wait on the man who gets up and goes to work. Wait for the guy who sacrifices in order to provide for his family. Wait for the guy who has a strong work ethic and takes pride in what he does. Wait for that man who dreams big and invites you to dream with him.
And when your dreams seem too big, too scary to ever come true, I hope you wait for the one who listens to your insecurities but then speaks truth into your heart and breathes confidence into your spirit. This man will bring you to tears by reading Proverbs 31 to you, telling you YOU’RE that woman, and believing it with every fiber of his being.
Wait for the man who thinks for himself – the man who stands apart from the masses unapologetically because he is rooted and grounded in God. Wait for the man who doesn’t need anyone’s approval. The man who teaches you how to be brave and courageous. The man who will fight for you and for what he believes in. Wait for this man.
Wait for the man who looks at the stars with you and ponders the mysteries of the heavens. Wait for the one who writes you poems…not all the time, but just enough to remind you how deeply his love for you goes. Wait for the man who buys you jewelry and flowers, but no stuffed animals (because that’s just cheesy)!
Wait for the man who makes you feel strong, capable, and worthy. Wait for the man who would never disrespect you. The right one will honor you even when he’s out of your presence. You wait on this man, and your heart will never doubt him.
Wait on the man who allows God to break him down and mold him into the man he’s meant to be. Wait on the one who has a calling to serve his Heavenly Father. Wait on the man who isn’t perfect, but who keeps pressing on, getting back up, and learning from his mistakes.
And finally, wait on the man who smacks your booty when he walks by, who hugs you for a full 60 seconds when you need him to, and who gives you amazing massages, even though you’re quite possibly the world’s worst masseuse and will never be able to repay him!!
My darling daughter, one of these days you will be wondering if it’s love and if some boy is the right one. My prayer is that your daddy will set such a high standard in your eyes, that you will never be tempted to settle for anyone less than who you deserve. Don’t get in a hurry to find love. Don’t feel pressured to give yourself away. WAIT. Wait on the Lord, and He will send you a man who is everything to you that your father is to me. God will grow the love between you as the years pass. Your patience will be rewarded.
(Check out Emily’s blog here)
Some statistics show that only around 8% of people that make New Year’s resolutions actually achieve their goal. That seems very discouraging to me and I wonder why that is sometimes. What I’m really pondering are the positive and negative consequences of reaching our goals. Fads versus lifestyle changes… One of my ideals would be to be able to just say no to sugar. But if you know me, you know how much I love ice cream and cookies. And that this goal seems nearly impossible – it would definitely be a fad.
I started to think about how people can often be so glorified for having some awe inspiring testimony, like overcoming cancer, losing a ton of weight, finally kicking the drug habit, or being a hardcore rock star then finding Jesus and becoming a worship leader. What about the guy who’s been a steady Eddy his whole life? Or the mom who has made many a sacrifice for her children and spends an hour a day in prayer? The person who lives upright and has been rock solid always. I don’t hear those stories as much.
This line of thinking makes me ponder on the story of the prodigal son; the lost son of whom Jesus shares about. The son I most often think of is the guy that squanders his inheritance, comes crawling back, and is welcomed by a feast rather than a shaming environment. And then there’s the son who has been there all along and experiences jealously and resentment when his dad starts throwing a big bash for the bratty brother. The dad still loves them both in the midst of the tainted history and temper tantrums. Can you relate to either brother, or maybe both? Whichever end of this spectrum you may be in, or if you’re somewhere in between, take heart and be glad. God loves us, each and everyone. He wants to bless us with parties and long-term, ongoing abundance, even through trials.
I can definitely relate to both brothers. When I came to accept that alcohol and drugs really had created damage in my life, I had to look at not only all the negative consequences that had occurred, but also at all the positive consequences that did NOT occur. It was very revealing to me to think of the things I might have done with my life if I hadn’t been so consumed with the party lifestyle.
So I bring this all the way back around to what’s going on with me today. I was researching natural ways to treat an under-active thyroid, and the results are very similar to natural treatments for many other sicknesses: cut out gluten, take the right vitamins, eliminate processed foods and sugars, eat healthy fat, exercise, practice relaxation techniques, etc. There are very few people I know that really practice ‘clean eating’. It’s a battle in our culture and society. But I think about them and the positive consequences they experience like satisfaction with their bodies, higher energy, less illness. And then I think about all the negative consequences they might NOT be experiencing, like hypothyroidism and having to take hormones – and the list could go on and on, but I’ll leave it at my issue at hand.
So I want to strive to be the steady Eddy this go around. The other brother that’s sticking around and intentionally hanging out with God, my Father (hopefully without too many temper tantrums). And making healthy choices all the way around that include nourishing my spirit through prayer, Bible reading, and meditation,
and nourishing the body through cleaner (I can’t imagine not eating ice cream) eating, relaxation, and exercise. The body, mind, spirit connection is far beyond what we’ll ever completely comprehend and I could write another blog just sharing my thoughts on that. But I’ll leave you with one last thought: may we glorify God through each decision we make today and enjoy the positive consequences and be grateful for not suffering through negative consequences that haven’t happened.
How about you? Do you feel like the older brother? The younger brother? Both?
Deep, dark secrets. No one has to know. My secrets are not hurting anyone as long as they just stay here with me.
So what’s the point of sharing them? I don’t get it.
Those were my thoughts as I sat across from my sponsor at her patio table one summer morning. I was working on what was probably my tenth cigarette of the hour– smoking like a train because #1, I loved cigarettes, and #2, we were talking about things that took me out of my comfort zone quickly.
We were discussing some things I had never shared with anyone, ESPECIALLY the people I respected the most… my parents. They just happened to be coming into town that day to visit and celebrate with me my one year sobriety birthday. My sponsor looked me in the eye and with a concerned, loving look said, “I think you need to tell your parents about everything. It’s eating your lunch.”
I looked at her straight in the eye and with a tone of determination and authority, said, “No F’ing way in hell.”
In those days, the “F” bomb for me was quite common. I was struggling in my recovery. I was depressed and couldn’t get out of it. After throwing the “F bomb” in her face, she gently said, “Ok, how about this…go home, get on your knees before God, pray about it, and if you still feel this way, don’t talk to them about anything.”
I said, “Ok. I can handle that.” After all, I wasn’t agreeing to anything. Talking to God about it was not a problem at all. I could do THAT!
Walking back in the door of my duplex, I went straight to my bedroom and fell on my knees and started to cry. No…I actually started sobbing…overwhelmed with fear: fear of rejection…rejection from the two people I respected most in this world, full of frustration wondering why this was so important to say… couldn’t I just repent and let my past stay in the past?
“LORD THERE IS NO WAY I CAN DO THIS! IF THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO, YOU HAVE TO GIVE ME THE STRENGTH TO DO IT. I CANNOT DO THIS! THERE IS JUST NO WAY!
Leaning against my dresser, I felt hopeless. Then, I heard it…coming from the kitchen: my sobriety song…the one I’d listen to when I felt discouraged.
My ipod was on the charger and I’d left it on shuffle that morning. It had been playing all morning from the time I’d left my house to go to my sponsor’s, until now. I hadn’t touched it. There were about 1,500 songs on my ipod and I was amazed THAT particular song started playing.
The next song right after that was “Happy Birthday.” It was my sobriety birthday! I sat there in awe of the two “random” songs I had just heard on SHUFFLE and hope started creeping in through those fearful tears. That defensive attitude I displayed just a short while ago started to soften. Music is one of the most powerful ways the Lord touches me and He got my attention that day. He got me good.
Getting up, I walked into the kitchen and stared at my ipod. The next song that came on began with these words:
“I’m forgiven, because you were forsaken, I’m accepted, you were condemned. I’m alive and well, your spirit is within me, because you died and rose again. Amazing love, how can it be, you my King would die for me? Amazing Love, I know it’s true, it’s my joy to honor you in all I do, I honor you.”
If there was anything I needed to hear, it was those first words: “I’m forgiven.”
Then the next line… “I’m accepted.”
Wow, how powerful those words were to me in that moment. God was showing me that the outcome of this conversation with my parents didn’t matter. I am forgiven and accepted by Him. HE is my security. I started to cry again and said, “Ok God, I’ll do it.” I couldn’t believe how my mind had changed so quickly. All of a sudden I had total peace. I had the strength to do it. Just leaving that small door open of praying to God made all the difference.
My parents showed up not long after. We sat and talked for over an hour and I confessed, making amends with them. They were so gracious to me and we even prayed together when it was over. I realize that other people do not always have the same grace given to them as my parents showed me that day and I will forever be grateful for that. But even if they had not responded in a grace filled way, walking in obedience to God was what had to take place in order for my healing to begin. It still would have been worth it.
Because of my confession and amends, a new freedom and a new power rose up in me, leading to more healing. So THAT’S WHY His word says we are to confess our sins– so that we may be healed!
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16 paraphrased) In other words, healing starts with CONFESSION. And you know what? The more I tell my testimony, the more freedom I receive EVERY TIME.
There would be many more moments like this one in the years that followed and God would continue to show up and walk beside me during those steps of obedience. The more steps I took, the more freedom and confidence I would receive. I started experiencing His faithfulness, His peace, His joy, self-control, and His love. I started getting into His word and actually applying it to my life. Getting a taste of the fruit of His spirit only made me hungry for more. I realized THAT was the fruit I had been seeking for so long that I just never could find. I was just looking in all the wrong places.
As a result, today I no longer walk in shame or guilt over my past mistakes. I don’t have to keep secrets for fear of rejection from others. I realize that my purpose on this earth is to GLORIFY HIM. Because God is the center of my life, I’m able to accept His grace for the times I mess up and then make it right with the people I’ve hurt, Experiencing Him overrides all my fears of not measuring up or worrying about what other people think. It’s so much sweeter that I’ll take the risk.
Now the question remains…will you take the risk? I hope you will…because YOU’RE WORTH IT. Join me in risking it all for Him. He is faithful and waiting.