If You Really Want the World to Change, it Starts with This

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach the transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.” Psalm 51:12-13

After Nathan confronted King David regarding his sin with Bathsheba, David’s spiritual eyes were open to the bondage he had been held to for nearly a year’s time. His sin had left a gaping wound in his relationship with God, and during this time he experienced a void where God’s presence and peace should have been. When David finally came to a place of repentance he was changed from the inside out. He was released from the bondage of rebellion, lust, envy, and deception, among other things.

But David’s repentance didn’t just serve to restore his own relationship with God. In being released from the bondage of sin and once again experiencing God’s perfect peace and freedom (life to the full, see John 10:10), sinners were brought to redemption. First, his own joy of salvation needed to be restored, then he was enabled to teach others the truth, and only then were sinners restored to God.

We live in an age where the Church is hyper-focused on the behavior of the world, when it should be hyper-focused on the spiritual health of its members. We have churches full of people anxious and willing to serve, yet these same Christians have unwilling spirits when it comes to personal repentance. Yes, we can teach the truth of the Word even while living in bondage, but the impact will not be as effective as it was meant to be. In order to see the revival we so long for in our society, we need Christians asking God for a willing heart; a heart willing to uncover any bondage of pride, bitterness, fear, anxiety, depression, self-pity, legalism, double-mindedness, inconsistency, criticism of others, malicious attitudes, and impure motives. A heart that wants to experience the fullness of the joy of the salvation it proclaims to others.

Imagine if believers not only taught about the value of life, but demonstrated it with their own actions. Maybe then the issues of abortion and suicide would start to be impacted in a positive way. Instead, we have Christians preaching about the sanctity of life, while failing to even treat their own temples with respect and care. Never mind what our poor examples are teaching our children about their own value in God’s eyes. Really, the way society is should not surprise us. We’re stuffing our faces with Big Macs and preaching about the sanctity of life at the same time. Do we really believe we are fearfully and wonderfully made and that our bodies are temples? Our behavior gives us away every time.

And how often do we preach of racial tolerance, yet some churches are still segregated by race (this has always baffled me)?

Or we’re quick to boycott the next business that supports gay marriage, because we believe homosexuality is against God’s plan, yet many Christians fail to even ask God what His plan is for their own lives—nor do they care. They’d rather do what they want and ask God to bless it. No bother of His plan for us to forgive each other, live in peace, and be united in Christ. Instead, we can hate each other, tear each other down, gossip and slander each other, then go and tell the world to follow God’s will or go to hell.

Only when Christians experience life to the full will the lost be reconciled. It’s up to each of us, as believers, to commit to believing the truth and experiencing the freedom we were created for on a daily basis. It starts with us, and that influence spreads to others, one person at a time. Experiencing freedom as individual Christians will impact the lives of others. People will see our peace and joy despite our circumstances, and they will want that for themselves. We need Christians with integrity to rise up and speak (in love) to each other. Instead of calling the world out, we should call each other out. The problem is not the world—we cannot hold the world to a standard (the Bible) it has not accepted as authority. The problem is with the Church and its members who are living in bondage. The world sees no difference in the believer, and therefore no need to live by the rules that believer proclaims. Sure, the world sees Christians who attend church and preach a lot, but do they see Christians really living in peace? Or just believers who live to point fingers? This needs to change! It starts with each of us, one at a time, choosing to live by the truth minute by minute, day by day, despite our feelings and circumstances.

Living free and full of joy and peace is an attractive way of life, something the world is desperately searching for. Let’s stand together as warriors for truth, proclaiming it with our lives (not more religious duties but more sincere and godly attitudes), not just our words. Perhaps the next wave of revival will be ushered in by a group of people who made a choice to follow and actually believe the words of Jesus once and for all—no turning back, no turning back. Choose to believe God’s truth today, and don’t look back!

“He has put a new song in my mouth…many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3

“Let everything you do reflect the integrity of your teaching.” Titus 2:7b, NLT

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation with a lost and hurting world, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

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The Worst Illness a Christian Could Get….

It’s one of the worst illnesses a Christian could get. Evidence of this cruel disease has popped up everywhere over the past several decades. No doubt, it has infected more believers now than ever before. Perhaps you have already contracted this disease without even knowing it. The symptoms are silent and deadly, spreading through thoughts and rationales. And how am I qualified to speak on such an illness? What gives me the right to draw attention to its ravages amongst the bride of Christ? Well, as the saying goes, “It takes one to know one.” I, too, have been infected with this deadly virus.

Where it all began…

Recently my husband, daughter, and I went to a favorite restaurant. We were quickly seated at the table where we proceeded to browse the tempting appetizers, entrees, and deserts colorfully displayed throughout the menu. Our mouths watered with anticipation. As the waitress approached I smiled as I usually do, getting ready to show my best Christian politeness while ordering. But the waitress kept on walking. She hadn’t even looked at me. A little disappointed I reasoned, “She probably has another table that was seated before us. No biggy.” But over the next fifteen minutes servers walked by our table, nary a one looking us in the eyes. My husband was irritated as my five-year-old grew increasingly hungry and restless.

“I think they’ve got ‘Somebody-Else Syndrome,’” I told my husband.

“What?” He asked looking confused.

“Every single one of them seems to think ‘somebody else’ will take care of us. And because they all have that mindset no one ends up helping.”

Eventually I went to the hostess at the front of the restaurant and explained our plight. It was still another five minutes before a server came to our table. As annoying as that situation was, God used it to speak to my heart.

So, what now?

I have no idea if any of those servers were Christians or not. It doesn’t really matter because the principle lies within the thought process. It goes something like this: the preacher brings attention to a need within the church and you nod, even pray about. “Lord, please meet this need. Please bring the right person along to help.”

Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with such a prayer, but it fails to really address the issue. Whether consciously or not, it has an underlying tone of, “Lord, let someone else take care of this, because you know I can’t do it.” Obviously there are legitimate needs that cannot be met by every individual. I know when my pastor shows slides of the orphanage our church funds in India that I cannot fly there and personally get hands on. I understand these things. So, before you post an angry comment, this is not about giving people a guilt trip. As I said before, I too have prayed such prayers and thought such thoughts.

But what would happen if we prayed, “Lord, what can I do to meet this need?” You see, such a prayer puts the ball in our court, and that makes us uncomfortable. Because the reality is, in most circumstances there is something we can do.

Here are some of the excuses I have used to rationalize away any personal responsibility in helping others in a hands-on way.

“I don’t have enough money. God wants me to get out of debt first before I donate financially.”

In this day’s economy, I have a feeling I am not the only one who has used this excuse. It’s tantamount to saying I need to stay at home and study the entire Bible inside and out before I go in to the world and share my faith or serve in the church or surrounding community. It’s a clever ruse tempting to keep us in the stagnant waters of selfishness.

“I don’t have enough room, I don’t have enough resources. I don’t have enough time.”

Once again I refer to the above explanation. If we wait until we are “ready”, until we have enough, are enough, or own enough, then we will never—I repeat—never make a tangible move forward because we will never be “ready”. There will always be more bills to pay, more books to read, more personal “needs” to gain. I am convinced this is one of the single greatest deceptions among believers and it has immobilized the church. While some are willing to write checks, few are willing to get their own hands dirty. Like I said, I have been there too.

If all of us sitting in the pews on Sunday are infected with Somebody-Else Syndrome, the needs of our communities, even the needs of our brothers and sisters, will never be met. And what a shame that is. Indeed, I know many unbelievers who are far more generous with their time and resources than Christians. And this becomes a roadblock for them. After all, why should they believe in God when the people who say they follow God are so self-absorbed and inward focused?  If that is what God is all about, just judging, pointing fingers at sins, and not actually doing anything else, then what is the point?

Service not Serve-us…

A couple of weeks ago my pastor used this phrase, “service instead of serve-us”. How true is this, though? If we had a mindset of “what can I do, Lord” instead of, “Lord, let somebody else step up” more needs would be met.

If it sounds like I’m worked up, I am. I write this with high emotions as I watch a friend in need being turned away. Too many Christians infected with Somebody-Else Syndrome. Initially, when I heard of her need, I prayed, “Lord, please meet her need.” You know what He said? He said, “You can meet this need.”

He reminded me of a verse I had recently posted on facebook and twitter:

“I want you to share your food with the hungry and bring right into your own homes those who are helpless, poor, and destitute.” Is. 58:7

“But Lord, you know this type of situation has turned out badly in the past. You know our circumstances, finances…blah blah blah.” It was clear what God required. I was given an opportunity to practice what I preach, to get my hands dirty; to sacrifice comfort and resources. And I admit, I hesitated. But I am glad that after a few minutes of spiritual wrestling I submitted.

But here we are again. The same friend in the same situation and I am left wondering, “If this person was a missionary or speaker, or someone famous, the same people who say they cannot help would be willingly opening their doors.” Maybe that is too cynical, but it’s what I am left with after weeks of watching my friend struggle.

Once again I know what God requires of me, and I am willing now because I have seen the blessings and spiritual rewards for following His voice. But I am still reeling over the occurrences of Somebody-Else Syndrome that has infected many believers today.

Who is willing to sacrifice comfort, time, and resources to meet the needs around them? Who is willing to take a dose of God’s word, God’s truth, and eradicate this disease lurking within? Who is willing to serve Him by serving others instead of serving self? It’s time we rise up and get uncomfortable. Our brothers and sisters are hurting and are being rejected by their own spiritual families. This ought not be! It’s time we say “Lord, I want to share my food with the hungry and bring right into my own homes those who are helpless, poor, and destitute.”

Golden Goggles

What a difference perspective makes.

One Olympian is devastated to receive a silver medal while another makes history with a bronze. One Olympian rejoices like the greatest victor making it to third place while another Olympian totes a sour demeanor as a second place finalist.

Throughout the Olympics I’ve noticed a recurring theme transcending every event. There are athletes only happy with a gold medal, and there are athletes who would be happy with any medal at all. There are countries who have never received medals in certain events and others who are expected to receive gold in every event. For me, the layperson at home, I marvel at the attitudes of some receiving silver or bronze medals. One athlete even sobbed uncontrollably at their disappointment receiving a silver medal.

If there was an event for coffee drinking I might have a chance at Olympic gold, otherwise my days will be spent in the mediocrity of mundane every-day living while the “real” champs make millions in endorsements.  I’d like to think if I was talented in a given sport, was honored enough to make it to the biggest forum the world has ever known, and took away a silver or bronze medal-beating dozens of other world-class athletes-that I’d be thrilled beyond comprehension. I’ve seen that response in a few athletes, but the overwhelming take-away from many post-event interviews is that anything less than gold is trash.

And what does this message teach? If you work hard, sacrifice much and come in second place you’re a worthless piece of garbage? What a shame. I’ve seen interviews where athletes are practically defending their silver/bronze medals to a broadcaster determined to squeeze out a dramatic interview. “Oh, you must be so disappointed you didn’t get gold.” One athlete responded to this statement (loosely paraphrased)”I’m at the Olympics and I’m on the medal stand-I think that’s good enough.” Bravo.

And how often does this type of thinking play out in every-day life? We have big goals, big dreams, and great ambitions-and then we fall short. We feel there is only one outcome that will work, and when that outcome isn’t realized we are sobbing in second place. Our golden-goggles blur our vision of greatness.

Could it be that maybe, just maybe, our less-than-grandeur finish was what God had planned for us all along? That perhaps our un-notoriety was the greatness God destined us for? Isn’t His plan the best plan, and His outcome the best result?

There’s nothing wrong with high aspirations, but we must remember our plans are not always His plans. When we’ve done our best and come up short of what we expected, we have to trust His purposes. That place of trust is the only place that soothes lost dreams and dashed hopes.

“Commit your actions to the Lord and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3

If I commit every action to the glory of God, the outcome will be a success in God’s eyes, though not necessarily in man’s eyes. I want to wear the golden goggles of God’s success. I want to be okay with His outcome. I want to have His perspective.  What color goggles do you have on today?

“We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives. Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:1-3

3 Sentences to Good Parenting

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Deut 6:5-8

This shows me how to be a good parent in a few short sentences.

Parents are often led to believe that their success is measured in their child’s abilities, accomplishments, and academia, but the Bible says a parent’s success is measured by their choice to love, serve, and obey God with all their hearts and teach that to their kids. Society chooses to fill the minds of children with useless garbage, yet all parents have a choice what to teach their kids and what they are allowed to spend time with or participate in. All of these things will affect their eternity and it falls on the parents to teach them the right path.

We will all answer for our choices- to teach our children-or not teach them the only thing that truly matters.

Life is not a joke, and I am responsible for equipping my child with appropriate tools to deal with life in a godly, wise way. But, I can’t expect her to do this unless I am doing it. After all, I am an imitator of Christ, and this is what I want my daughter to emulate in me. (Kids will replicate what they see, and if you’re a parent you already know this.)

But, some may argue, my child needs to learn how to work with a team, how to physically train their body and how to have responsibility. There is nothing wrong with sports, classes, lessons, or other activities for children but there is something wrong with placing those things above their relationship with God.

If they know, understand, and love the Bible they will automatically know how to play on a team, share, treat their bodies well, and be responsible because they’ll  know and respect what God’s word says about those things.

It’s easy to quote Proverbs, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”, however, that training involves a lifestyle, not just filling my child’s minds with knowledge or sending her to Sunday School once a week. The passage from Deuteronomy is perfect; I am told to walk it, talk it, and live it every morning noon and night. It is a way of life. It starts with me as a parent.

 Do I love the Lord my God with all my hearts, soul, strength, and mind? If I start there I won’t need to worry so much about what happens with my child later in life.

Prayer: “Lord, change ME, teach ME, and let my child see YOU in me; let her grow to love YOU as she sees me loving you!”

Godly Friendships and the Bible

Godly Friendships and the Bible

 

What does the Bible say about Godly friendships? What does the Bible say about how we are to conduct ourselves once we have found ourselves in a Godly friendship? We can be certain that there are principles to be found in the Bible relating to this important message and how we can be sure our friendships are God-honoring, personally edifying to the glory of God, and sanctifying to both individuals.

First and most importantly we are told in Ecclesiastes 4:12 that a close Godly friendship is essential in our Christian walk. It is not really an option if we want to be successful and victorious in our Christian living.

“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back to back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple braided cord is not easily broken.” (NLT)

 

A Godly friend is necessary if we hope to stand firm against the Enemy’s attacks. Without that companionship we are made weaker. So, once we have found that Godly friend/s, how are we to act within that friendship? Will it always be perfect since all people involved are “Godly” and seeking Him first with their whole hearts? What happens in real life within the parameters of these friendships?

1-Face to Face Fellowship

“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” Exodus 3:11 (NIV)

In this day and age this simple concept is quick to be overlooked. We text, we type, we email. Rarely do we meet face to face in real time fellowship with our friends. Can you imagine God texting Moses? Did you laugh? It sounds ludicrous doesn’t it? You might argue that this is the day and age we live in, and while there is truth in that statement, there is even greater truth in the words we read in Exodus. Friends see each other face to face. Let’s face it, when we can talk to each other and see each other’s facial expressions, hear each other’s tones, it lends itself to a lot less misinterpretation, misunderstanding, hurt feelings…etc. (Why didn’t she text me back? Why hasn’t she emailed me in 3 days? She hasn’t called me back, I know she must be mad, I better call so and so and talk about it!) Let’s commit to getting back to basics within our Godly friendships and just have some coffee (or tea or whatever!) and have some real fellowship, because that is how true Godly friendships are cultivated in a healthy way.

2-Influential

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)

It’s very clear from this simple verse that those we choose to keep company with will influence our attitudes. Whether that’s in a Godly way or in a worldly way depends on those we spend time with. Proverbs is full of wisdom written by the wisest man on the earth, and we would do well to listen to the advice given when choosing that Godly friend. If we have our radar set on someone, we should ask ourselves, is this person going to influence me towards the character of Christ? Will this person be “sharpening” me into the fruits of the Spirit or the lusts of the flesh?

3-Openly Honest and Always Sincere

“An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” Proverbs 27:5-6 (NLT)

Sometimes even our best intentions are hurtful. The fact of the matter is this: even in the closest and Godliest of friendships, people are going to get hurt. This proverb tells us as much. It also tells us that this “friendly fire” is better than an enemy who merely pretends to be nice to your face while speaking blasphemies behind your back. I think we all know what it feels like to be betrayed in this way. You find out this person who you know and trusted has been gossiping about you, spreading hurtful rumors about you all the while pretending to be something totally different to your face. We are warned about this person, this person is double-minded, and not to be trusted. The friend who wounds us in their sincerity is much more desirable.  You can be reminded that even this wounding is a blessing! Your Godly friend is being honest and sincere as God has designed! Not that it makes the hurt any less painful…but we will deal with that.

4-Loves at All Times

“A friend loves at all times.” Proverbs 17:17

Here we have the first solution to our issue of hurts. Love. It doesn’t say “A friend loves when it feels good”, or “A friend loves until he is hurt”, it states very clearly “all times”.  Love is an action, and it is a choice. Love is not a feeling in the context of this verse. There comes a point when the hurts are going to be so deep, perhaps the pain so intense that love will not come easily, and it may not seem possible. The most logical choice may seem to move on and be done with the whole mess. It is at this moment we are faced with a crucial choice-will we love at any cost? This is the Godly friend that you want in your life! This love has no strings attached, it is unconditional, and is not related to circumstances. It is the love that Jesus has for us, and the love He tells us to have for each other.

5-Forgives First

“This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.” Matthew 5:23-24 (The Message)

Loving through hurts must involve forgiveness. This passage could not possibly be interpreted any other way then to forgive first before bringing your worship to God. God is not interested in your lip service when you have outstanding debts of bitterness against your friends. Settle all accounts before offering your praises to God! He sees our hearts, knows our thoughts, whether or not we like it! There is no way around this one. If we are hurt by the actions or words of another, we need to speak up and be honest and sincere always of how we feel, in love. Our feelings are valid, and our friend’s feelings are valid. We need to be heard, and they need to be heard, and we need good communication in order to have Godly friendships that glorify and edify each other towards love and good works! When we fail to communicate in a timely manner we allow the hurt to fester as we turn it over in our minds, often making things bigger than they are, and further misinterpreting the situation, so by the time we do talk about it, emotions are really running high. It makes things that much harder to be made right. These are the times we are tempted by our Enemy to “end” relationships. We are whispered lies that we must give up on this friendship, that it wasn’t what we thought, it wasn’t the right person, we were wrong, we failed again, we messed up again, we better just start over with someone who agrees with us on everything we believe in or hold to so as to avoid any problems. That is when we need to hold fast to the TRUTH of God’s Word, and what He says about Godly friendships. If we have already determined that the friendship we are in is an “iron sharpening iron” friend for Godly character then we must go back to our principles laid out under such a friendship. Am I loving, am I being honest, am I forgiving. Have I laid aside all my offerings to run to this person and make things right? Have I done all I can do to bring restoration, or am I insisting on being right and is that getting in the way of peace? I think the most important question here even than all of that is: am I honoring God in my decision to end this, or would He want me to obey His own command in Matthew 5:23-24? That seems rather clear. (There are SOME exceptions where relationships do need to end because of excessive sinful lifestyles or rebellion…etc, but for the sake of our discussion, I am not referring to those specific incidences.)

6-Sacrifices

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 (NIV)

Jesus as our Friend made the ultimate sacrifice for our sin, the price we could never pay. He gave His life, so we could have eternal life with Him. With this He modeled His idea of the Godly friendship for us. The true Godly friend is one who sacrifices without question. I’m not just talking about the sacrifice of taking a bullet for your friend in some “what if” scenario that will likely never occur. I am talking about the much smaller things, but perhaps more difficult. The sacrifices of time: the middle of the night phone calls, the house calls, the food delivered when sick, the trips to the hospitals, the sleepless nights, the hours of Bible study when your friend has a crisis and needs an answer, calloused knees from hours of earnest prayer….on and on it goes. These are the sacrifices of life that the true Godly friend gives without a blink of an eye. This person is selfless, and giving, and authentic. This is the person you want as your Godly friend, helping you on your journey of sanctification. If you have this person in your life, thank them, and pray for them! Because you have an Enemy who wants to destroy the beautiful relationship that God has joined together. Satan knows you are stronger together, and it scares him!

Remember to keep up the face to face contact with your dear friend to avoid that confusion and misinterpretation of email and text that may occur, especially in the early stages of a growing relationship. Ask God to help you have the Christ-like influence on your friend that you desire them to have on you, and commit to always being openly honest and sincere no matter how difficult that may be. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in speaking the truth in love at all times. Face to face is best! Throughout everything, choose to love and forgive quickly. As you reflect on building your own character, ask God to help you continue to become the sacrificial friend that He modeled for us in His Word. Putting the needs of our friend first, and truly esteeming each other better than ourselves. In this way we can cultivate our Godly friendship deeper and draw closer to our Creator in unity.

A Godly You+ Your Godly Friend+God Himself=A Triple Braided Cord Not Easily Broken!