I mean this in two ways. First, at least in America, we have lost our sense of unity and pride in our country. We are divided to an extent that this History teacher has not seen in a long time.
The other identity problem we have, however, is worse. Since our culture has thrown out God, we have thrown out our hope and purpose.
You see, the Bible says that every human is made in the “image of God.” We are all made to represent Him. He thought us up—each of us—and He has given each of us a specific role to play in the story of life. Psalms 139 says, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb” and “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Each of us was planned. No one is an accident.
But most of us in Western society have forgotten that. We have been been persuaded by popular phrases like “Follow your heart” and “Make your own destiny,” thinking that we are actually the source of who we are. We have become the captains of our own ships, leaving God as an afterthought. However, this empty way of thinking will lead to nothing but anxiety and depression. (Oh, yeah, and it’s no surprise those are some of the top issues that Americans struggle with.)
I work at a facility for teenagers with major life trauma. They have been abandoned, raped, assaulted, hated,…pretty much everything but loved. And these kids have some serious identity issues. Most of them cut themselves regularly and do other things to injure themselves. Others try to commit suicide. Others attack people, verbally and physically. Many of them are confused about their sexuality and gender identity. These kids have no concept of who they are, and it permeates every area of their lives. They are miserable.
But God loves them and created them. I try to tell them that as much as I can. I want them to know they are created who they are for a purpose.
Skeptical?…Read Psalm 139. It tells about how God knew you before you were born. He chose you. He created you. He knew every day of your life. He loved you immensely—and still does.
And as believers in Jesus we can say, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. The life I now live I live through faith in the one true God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20). My identity is in Jesus Christ. It’s not about me anymore. It’s about him!
Ok, this is confession time. I have had an affair going on for years—not against my husband but against my Savior. And the only person it’s hurt has been me. It’s not an affair with a man; it’s an affair with something even more tempting.
Yep, this is embarrassing to admit, but I have struggled with this affair since I was about ten. I remember starting my first diet (consisting of trying not to eat the whole family size bag of M&M’s myself) around that time. By the time I hit high school I was committed to daily exercise and only eating 20 grams of fat a day (of course, fat free chips were free game). In college, after purposefully getting myself addicted to Diet Coke, I increased the exercising and graduated to Slim Fast. I was able to keep my weight down until my second child was born (when I was around 30) and since then the struggle has been more obvious (on my waistline).
I’ve realized, however, that the struggle isn’t truly with my weight. And it isn’t really with the rules of my diet. My struggle is with myself.
My biggest problem is that I don’t want to deny myself. I want what I want when I want it.
Ok, yes, I do believe that sugar and carbs are addictive and that I have an emotional connection to food. I know that I am an emotional eater, that I’ve established bad habits over the years and that I would feel much better to go gluten free. I know I get in the shame cycle of addiction and eat more when I feel hopeless because of the four pizza slices I ate last night.
These are all what I would say if someone told me this was their problem. I would “diagnose” them with so many typical eating issues.
But the real problem is my heart. I am a sinner saved by grace, and, while I don’t struggle with stealing or violent crime, I do struggle with saying “No” to myself. This is the age old struggle of humankind: the desire to be our own god. We want to control our lives without God, the “cosmic killjoy,” telling us what to do.
But Jesus tells us in His Word, “If anyone comes after me, let him deny himself and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) He goes on to say that if we want to save our lives we must lose our lives. This doesn’t really mean dying; it means giving up our selfish desires.
That is my problem. A daily struggle with giving up my desires minute by minute, for what God desires for me.
And we know what God desires for us is good. (If you doubt that read Psalm 34, Jeremiah 29:11 and Psalm 139.)
So, I would appreciate your prayers and comments if you are struggling with this too. Or with anything else pulling you from God’s best. We can fight this day by day with God’s Word in our hands.
Please feel free to contact me if you have a question, comment or need prayer! Lnewsom77@protonmail.com
Ok, picture this: A bride all dressed and ready to walk down the aisle. She pauses outside in front of the country church for one last photo. Her hair is perfect. Her makeup is perfect. Her dress is perfect…or is it? When she turns around to let the photographer capture the decor on the back of her dress, everyone freezes. As she looks curiously at all the pale faces and big eyes of her bridesmaids, she realizes something is wrong. “Don’t move!” is all she hears. Her brother comes up and carefully reaches behind her, picking something off her back. To her horror, her brother is holding a HUGE, pregnant spider by the leg as the other seven legs wiggle in the air! The bride screams and runs into the church, throwing off her bouquet, her veil, and her shoes in her fright!
This memorable wedding day happened to my coworker’s daughter, and I’m pretty sure I would have run just as fast! (I probably would have run to the bathroom and tore that dress off of me!)
That scene is what I picture every time I read Hebrews 12:1.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”
Hebrews 12:1 NIV
We are supposed to “throw off” everything that could hinder us (meaning anything that could hold us back) or any sin that we easily fall into.
We’re not supposed to just slowly walk away from these things. We’re not supposed to hang out there a little while. We are supposed to run like a bride from a spider! Throw those things off!
God knows how damaging sin is to us. It corrodes our lives. We tend to think it’s no big deal sometimes. (“Oh, I’ll just do it this once!”) But it is like that pregnant spider; if you let it hang around it will birth hundreds of tiny baby spiders all over you! (Ok, not spiders, but bad stuff for sure.)
Jesus said, “The thief (the devil) comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
So, I struggle with sin as much as anyone. But I just wanted to give you a picture of how destructive it can be in our lives. Next time we’re tempted, let’s throw off that temptation like a huge, pregnant spider! 🕸
This is something I’ve learned recently. In this crazy spring. (2020 we will not forget you.)
Fear is everywhere in America. Fear of a virus. Fear of being alone. Fear of not having enough food. Fear of losing a job. Fear of being judged. Fear of being shot. Fear of those people. Fear of that group. Fear of those who should protect us. Fear of people who look different from us. Fear of riots. Fear of economic depression. Fear of a growing divide in our country. Fear of rejection for who we are. Fear of government control. And the list goes on and on…
Fear is everywhere right now.
But, ya know what? We don’t have to give in to it. We don’t.
Fear is a choice. And we don’t have to choose it.
You see, fear is Satan’s trademark. It is his operating system. He wants it to be like the WiFi in your house: everywhere…you can’t see it, but any moment you can hook right up to it.
For most of my life, fear was like oxygen. I just breathed it in and out constantly. It was always with me, even when I wasn’t aware of it. Sometimes I would forget and feel happy, but wait a minute or two and that fog of fear would be around me again.
Reading my Bible and singing praise songs have the best affect on making that fog leave. However, two things that have really made a difference lately have been a book I read and a comment my pastor said.
The book is Fear is a Liar by Daniel B Lancaster. In his book, Lancaster refers to the verse “Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) He says that believers in Jesus can claim this verse , knowing that God is Love. We can either choose to walk in the path of love or the path of fear. Love is right there to keep us safe and free, but we so often ignore it and choose to walk in fear. From that moment on, I chose to walk on the path of love.
The comment that impacted me was when my pastor pointed out the other day that Jesus often said, “Take courage!” (Matthew 14:27, Mark 6:50, and so many more times.) My pastor, Steve Gaines, emphasized that we have to take courage. He said, “Take it! Pick it up! It’s right there for you to take!” It’s a choice.
Both of these instances made me realize I don’t have to sit there, overwhelmed in fear! I’m not a victim. I am a victor! I can choose the path of love! I can choose to “take courage” and trust the Lord! After all, He is faithful. He is sovereign. I have nothing to fear. My Father rules the universe!
Fear is a choice. Choose courage. Choose faith. Choose love.
I was flipping through my coloring Bible today and I came across the page where I had colored in a drawing of Psalms 118:24.
“This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm118:24
We used to have to sing this song every week at the little Christian school I went to for grades 1-5. We got so tired of singing it over and over, and it seemed to mean nothing.
But as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that this verse is not just a comforting truth (that God designed this day); it’s also a challenge.
It’s a challenge to us to see every day—with its good and bad parts—as a blessing appointed by God. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like a blessing—some days seem full of curses–but many bad times are blessings in disguise. God promises us that he works out all things for our good (see Romans 8:28); therefore, all our days are blessed days, whether or not we can see the blessing in it yet.
Would you join me in this?
The This is the Day Challenge!
I challenge you to post this verse somewhere you can see it each day and to either write down or post a picture of something you found to be a blessing that day! Something you found that was rejoicable! (Is that a word?)
Let’s see if we can make a difference in this broken world. Or at least in our attitudes.
“Write an essay about the person in history that has most greatly influenced your life.” The teacher stated the prompt as she wrote it on the board. It was tenth grade, and I was quickly searching my brain’s data base for the subject of my essay. Although I wanted to sound intellectual and impress the teacher, I could not deny the fact that the person who had impacted my life the most was not a president or a Civil Rights activist. It was my mother.
Nothing has changed since then. My mom is still the person that has most greatly impacted me. You see, I was blessed to get the best. I know everyone says that, but mine really is the best. Although she raised four children and worked off and on during my childhood, she still found time to help anyone who needed it and to be very involved in our church. When her mother became elderly, my mom jumped right in and took care of her–despite their strained relationship. My mother gives until she has no more to give. She is one of the most selfless, humble, and compassionate people I know. She’s now retired, but she continues to volunteer at the church, go on mission projects overseas, teach ESL to immigrant women, and take care of grandchildren. She gets paid for none of it. And to top it off, she’s wise–really wise. I once told a therapist something that my mom had told me all the time growing up, and the therapist said in a matter-of-fact way, “I didn’t know your mom was a therapist!” My mother’s wisdom got me through so many trials in my life, and if she didn’t have the right words to say she pointed me to the Book that did.
So, now that Mother’s Day is approaching yet again, I wanted to share with you the blog post I started last May but couldn’t finish. These are five of the many things I learned from my wise and loving mother. I hope they bless you as much as they have me.
1. People Matter More Than Things
Throughout my childhood whenever things would break, my mom would recite, “Well, people matter more than things!” And that was that. Even if it was something of hers, or the new lamp in the living room. No matter what. People are more important. Relationships are more important. Things will come and go, relationships are what last. She is like a saint, but, no, she wasn’t just born this unattached to material things. She got this philosophy from Jesus. It’s how he lived and loved. And he is the love of her life (no offense, Dad, she still loves you!), and she imitates Jesus. He taught that “Heaven and Earth will pass away…” and that knowing God and loving others is all that lasts for eternity. And if we believe something, we live it. Even if it’s hard. Even if means we choose time with an elderly relative over going shopping or that we don’t scream at our kid when they break something. Relationships before stuff. Before comfort. Before me, me, me. I’m so thankful to have learned this truth, and it has been a huge blessing in all of my relationships.
2.It’s Not All About Me
My poor mother was a full-time mom, teacher, and shoulder to cry on for most of my childhood. My adolescence was plagued with social anxiety, so Mom became my resident counselor almost nightly. I often followed her around lamenting my lack of social status at the well-to-do Christian school that my parents scrimped and saved for us to go to. (Yes, we were those “poor” kids at the private school that had five rotating outfits and never went to Disney World over spring break.) I cried to her over and over again that “I have no friends!” And she patiently listened and asked, “Have you been a friend?” To which I would roll my eyes and whine, “Mahhh-ahm!” You see, my mom taught me to put others before myself. She told me to think about them instead of about me. She often said, “When you walk into a room, instead of wondering what they think of you, find someone who needs a friend and ask them about themselves.” Mom believes that if you focus on the other person–listening to them, encouraging them, asking them about their life–you will forget about you and your insecurities. And it worked. Focusing on others brought a confidence and freedom, and I gained a lot of new friends! (Nowadays, you might say it worked too well…I never meet a stranger and I love to talk! Ask my poor husband!)
3.God Comes First
My mama loves the Lord Jesus, and it shows. I often saw her with her Bible open in front of her, and it affected all parts of her life. She lives her faith. For real. And she taught us that God is number one. He is the Creator of the world, the Lover of our souls, the Prince of Peace, the King of kings, the Counselor, Confidant, and Friend. We went to church every week, and to Christian school, but it wasn’t just “religion” to my family. My parents took time to read us God’s Word (and maybe also a Chronicles of Narnia book) as a family almost every night. We actually talked about God’s Word and how it affects our lives. Even when each of us hit our rebellious teen years, we had been taught enough about the awesomeness of God and His Word that we did not stray far from the fold.
4. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
One of my favorite parts of the Bible is 2 Corinthians. It seems like Paul, the author, writes over and over about how we humans mess up. We are weak. Or forgetful. Or selfish. Or disorganized. Or rude. Or we ignore that person we knew in middle school when we see them at Walmart, because they were once that “nerd” that everyone made fun of. (Ugh, yes, I did that once. Not proud.) Paul writes, “We are like treasures in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not ourselves” (2 Cor. 4:7). And in chapter 12, verse 9, God says to us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” This is one of the big life lessons Mom taught, and still lives out: Don’t worry about your failures or your imperfections. God is bigger than that. It doesn’t matter to him. That stuff is “small stuff.” Now, we can learn from our failures and do better next time. But my mother taught us not to dwell on them. What seems like “big stuff” to the rest of the world, really isn’t that important. Material success or fame or the approval of other people don’t matter. “Don’t worry about that, Lauren,” she still tells me. “God will handle it.” All problems are “small stuff” to our God, who cares about each detail but never worries. He’s got it all under control.
5. This Too Shall Pass
Finally, the phrase I have heard numerous times–especially when I had a newborn at home–is “This too shall pass.” I don’t know who originally coined that phrase, but my mom has stolen from them pretty often. But I’m glad. Because it’s true. And this truth has helped me get through some really tough times. Break-ups. Labor. Divorce. My first baby’s bout of colic. Migraines. Working two jobs as a single mom of three. Depression…Mom has always been there to remind me lovingly that this trial is temporary. And one day we’ll be in Heaven, and all of these hard times will be blurry memories. Keep perspective. It’s gonna get better. And then life will be hard again. And then it will get better. Rinse and repeat. But we know where our future is and the Creator of the universe has us in his hands. We don’t have to worry. The story ends well for those who follow Jesus.
As I finish this tribute to my heroine, I want to say that if you don’t have a Mama like mine: I’m sorry. If you met mine, she would give you a big hug and make you feel like one of the family. However, Jesus, the source of her joy, is there for you. He is a “father to the fatherless” and a comforter to the lonely. He will listen to your problems, and his Word (the Bible) will speak back to you words of hope. If you have any questions or would like to know this Prince of peace, please fell free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Bible says, “He puts the lonely in families…” (Psalms 68:6).
God bless you and Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!
If someone asked you to make a list of the people who you really, truly love, how many names would you come up with?
Ok, now answer this question: How many of those people would you still love if they betrayed you? Or hurt someone you loved? Or caused you to lose your job? How many of them would you still love if they publicly rejected you? If they tried to turn everyone against you? If they became absolutely unlovable?
Most people would take a few names off the list. Some might even throw the whole list away. Not many people would continue to show love to someone who hurt them like that. It wouldn’t seem logical to consider those people worthy of our time.
Most people have a maximum amount of abuse they will take before considering the other person unlovable. The average human would feel it’s more than reasonable to turn their back on someone once they’ve reached this point. I admit I sometimes feel completely justified in treating these people less kindly, or at least giving them the cold shoulder. Most of us definitely wouldn’t go out of our way to be nice to them. Nobody would look down on us for defriending them on Facebook or even for telling everyone how much they hurt us.
Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about how God views things so differently. When my husband really hurts my feelings, I want to ignore him all day. (Not that chill type of ignoring; more like the really obvious, slamming doors kind of ignoring!) During our worst fights I’ve even struggled with wanting to take the kids and leave.
But God has been teaching me something lately about love. I’m not really living his love until I’m loving the unlovable.* It’s easy to love people who are nice to you and cute little babies (except when they wake you up at 4 am). Jesus loved beyond our earthly, shallow love. He loved us at our worst, and his love was action, not just words.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 NIV
Jesus Christ didn’t tell us to get our crap together and maybe after we were living like “good Christians” He’d consider sacrificing for us. He gave His life for us without strings attached. He knew all the bad things you and I would do in our lives (cuz He’s God, He knows everything!) and He still made that choice. That’s love.
In his book, Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt, Jentezen Franklin writes, “You have to love like you’ve never been hurt. You have to refuse to be bitter. You have to refuse to get angry. You have to refuse to get even. When you love in this way, God will raise you up and use even the worst that has been done to you for His glory.”
This is real love. Love that chooses to be kind, forgive, serve, stay married, show up, etc. Even when that person doesn’t deserve it. Especially if that person doesn’t deserve it.
So I’ve realized that before now I wasn’t really loving my husband. I was only showing love when I thought he deserved it. God wants to transform our marriage and use it to bring joy to us and others. In order for that to happen I’ve got to love like Jesus. He’s the one who taught me how to really love.
*(Note: I’m not saying you should endure abuse. There are times you have to love people from a safe space and pray they get help they need. If you are in a relationship where you are afraid of what someone will do next—physically or mentally—get out, get to a safe place, and find some safe people! I’ve been there before, and God does not want you staying in danger like that.)