Three Lessons to Take Away from the 2014 Winter Olympics

Three Lessons to Take Away from the 2014 Winter Olympics

 

            Admittedly, I’m an Olympic nerd. I love the drama, the personal stories, the action and intensity of the individual events, and of course, I love rooting for my home country. Normally I tune in to my favorite events, usually whatever is shown on the major networks in prime-time. But this year was different. So far my 2014 has been wrought with more physical nightmares than 2013 delivered. Both my daughter and I contracted a rarer type of flu, one that sent us both to the hospital, one that had us sick for two weeks, and one that eventually gave me pneumonia (which I still have). So, aptly timed, the Olympics aired while I was on bed rest; quite convenient! Having the opportunity to watch not only my favorite events, but all of the events (yes, I even watched Curling!) afforded some great learning opportunities.

 

Shut Up and Own It

           

            After an abysmal performance in Speed Skating, an athlete provided an explanation in an on-camera interview, “I don’t know what it was, but I know it wasn’t me!” Um, ok bud, thank you for clearing up the confusion, because I’m pretty sure I just saw you put up a not-so-stellar time, in more than one race. But it’s ok, it’s not you. It’s the ice, the elevation, or the whacky design on your evidently not so aerodynamic skating suit. But it’s not you. Even worse, this was an American athlete. Not a proud USA moment for me but a clear reflection of how most of society thinks—blame someone else and avoid personal ownership, no matter how ignorant.

            But as much as I want to get down on the guy, I have to admit, I do the same thing. I get defensive about my performance as a Christian, as a wife, or as a mother and I make excuses for my behavior. It’s just easier to heap the blame on someone or something else than it is to own my mistakes, short-comings, or outright blatant meltdowns of maturity. Seeing that interview was like seeing my own reflection. I wanted to judge the guy, but I saw his excuses within my own heart. Maybe there are reasons, circumstances, or outside influences affecting my behavior, but in the end, what I say and do is my own choice. How I perform (behave) is my choice, how I respond to adversity is my choice, how I react to conflict is my choice. It boils down to an attitude and response that either attracts or repels others. Squashing pride, owning our choices, and humbly admitting our faults will attract the right attention (and people) in our lives. Making excuses, blaming everything and everyone, and refusing to take personal responsibility will only serve to show our immaturity and pride, while simultaneously poisoning the relationships in our lives. So, let’s all do each other a favor the next time our attitudes and behavior fall short; let’s shut up and own it, and move on.

Keep a Golden Perspective

 

            Dozens of athletes compete in each Olympic event, but only three walk away with hardware around their necks. Over the last two weeks of competition I’ve seen every range of reaction to a given outcome. Some athletes were overjoyed beyond comprehension just to get on that Olympic podium, they didn’t care what color they got, while others had no trouble hiding their disdain over the color of the medal around their necks (think USA women’s hockey medal ceremony—you would have thought that silver medal was battery acid). By far the attitudes of gratitude spoke volumes more to me than the whiny, it’s-not-good-enough looks of resentment. But again, I find myself looking in the mirror, seeing the reflection of my own heart.

            Truth is (I know, it’ll come as a shock, because we all know I’m perfect…) more often than not I have a spiritual attitude of ingratitude. I compare my circumstances (i.e. what medal I’ve received) and gripe about what the other guy got that I deserved. I studied hard, obeyed a lot, and tithed my paycheck, so why didn’t I get God’s golden favor of physical health and material wealth? But alas, in the real world it simply doesn’t work that way. Christianity is not a vending machine religion, where you dial up a result, put in your coins, and know what you’re going to get. You can do everything “right” and still end up as a widow, a grieving parent, or permanently physically handicapped. Our obedience to God, our choice to follow Him and choose to live from Truth guarantees us nothing (as far as circumstances goes) while we’re walking around on this earth (but it does guarantee a whole heck of a lot in eternity!). No, in this world we will have trouble, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have peace at the same time. That’s the promise of a golden perspective. When we keep our eyes focused on Truth we live and breathe the peace that passes all understanding. That other guy can get the gold medal, we’re fine with the bronze, because we know we’ve been promised much more in a time not too far from now. It’s easy to say but hard to practice, yet maintaining a golden perspective is what will determine how we react to the success of others (as well as our own failures).

 

Well, What Do You Expect?

 

            Don’t even get me started on this issue of unmet expectations. Well I guess I got myself started. Anyways, I could easily be the poster child for this problem, but watching the Olympics reassured me that I’m not alone in the fight. As I listened to the announcers talk about the athletes I was left with an expectation of who was going to come away with the shut-out victory. I mean, the way some of these athletes were discussed, you would have thought everyone else should have just forfeited and handed them the medal. But then the competition would begin and whatever the announcers just said seemed, well, foolish. In some ways, it was humorous as the announcers would be just as shocked as everyone watching. But hey, the unpredictability of the games is part of the excitement. On one hand you’ve got an athlete who can scarce believe their own performance and the gold medal they’ve unexpectedly received, and on the other hand you’ve got a gold medal “favorite” sitting in 4th, 5th, or even 30th place, wallowing in disappointment and “what-ifs”.

            If there’s one thing nearly every conversation about disappointment and despair (“I want to quit!”) has in common, it’s the issue of unmet (and often unrealistic) expectations. Someone didn’t respond to us the way we thought they would (or should), the person we thought was our best friend turned out not to be a friend at all, our financial security was blown out of the water with an unexpected job loss, the happily ever after was cut short by a death…on and on we could go. Like it or not we all have expectations of ourselves and others, and when those expectations aren’t met we get grumpy. There’s a little phrase I learned as a kid, “Give all your expectations to God.” I wish I had paid more attention to it, because it could have saved me a lot of depression, despair, hopelessness, self-loathing, bitterness, resentment, hurt feelings, and lost relationships. Sometimes people won’t treat us the way they should, sometimes we won’t treat others the way we should—it happens. One way to avoid the trap of despair (and self-loathing and self-pity and living life as a victim) is to literally release all our expectations to God. One of my favorite quotes is from Charles Stanley, “Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him.”

We have control only of ourselves, our own choices, and our integrity (that is, whether or not we have integrity). So then, the only thing we can reasonably expect is the unexpected. That doesn’t mean it won’t hurt, it will be easy, or we should stuff our feelings down when things don’t go as planned, it just means we shouldn’t be surprised by it. Whenever we’re struck with feelings of resentment, hurt, despair, feeling like the world is out to get us, etc. it can likely be traced back to an unmet expectation. Like tracing our steps as we search for our lost car keys, we need to trace the pain back to its source and then give that “source” to God. We can try to manipulate others or our circumstances to fit our expectations, but we will never have peace until we relinquish the idea that we have control over anything other than our own free will.

 

Closing Ceremonies

 

            I actually had a longer list than this but I’m tired of typing and you’re probably falling asleep reading. So I’ll end it here. I hope the next time the Olympics rolls around you’ll watch and look for the lessons, because there are many to be found. So, this is Bob Costas bidding you a good night from Sochi…

Alright, it’s just Rebecca, and I bid you a “thanks” for reading, as well as inviting you to share what lessons you may have learned as you watched (or read about) the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Rebuking the Devil’s Deadly D’s (Part 5)

Rebuking the Devil’s Deadly D’s (Part 5)

Rebuking the Devil

 

To review the previous deadly ds of the devil, simply click on the “d” of your choice:

#1—Disappointment

#2—Discouragement

#3—Despair

#4—Doubt

#5—Disbelief

#6—Distraction

#7—Double-mindedness

8. Dishonesty

Lies are lies whether they are outright blatant deceptions, careful manipulations to overstate or understate a situation, or words that have been omitted to avoid a particular consequence. Many times I have been advised by Christians to not tell my husband something that might upset him. Usually this is justified in their minds because of our faith differences, “He won’t understand because he doesn’t have the same faith as you.” But no matter how good the intentions behind the advice, I know I am to respect my husband, and part of that involves being honest with him, even if it means I may get a response I don’t like.

Dr. Willmington wisely states, “To be less than we should be as pastors, parents, or workers is to cheat our people and children and thus become dishonest.”

When we choose to believe the word of God and walk by faith, the people around us will be blessed (<<< Click to Tweet)—especially our children and immediate family members. Likewise, when we fail to trust God or walk by faith, the relationships around us will suffer, cheating those people of the blessings God wants us both to receive. It’s an issue of spiritual integrity that needs to be addressed and dealt with in each of our hearts.

“To be dishonest is to forget 2 Corinthians 4:2,

‘But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.’”¹

If you recognize a spirit of dishonesty within your heart, pray out loud: “Lord, thank you for bringing this issue of honesty to my attention. I realize I have been dishonest by __________ (not speaking the whole truth, exaggerating circumstances, minimizing feelings/circumstances, omitting details, etc.). In the name of Jesus I now renounce the spirit of dishonesty and choose to embrace a life of spiritual integrity. From now on I will concern myself with having a clean conscience before you, God, rather than worrying about how I am seen in the eyes of people. Lord, continue to teach me how to walk with integrity in both word and action as I seek to glorify you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

9. Deceit

Deceitfulness is yet another one of Satan’s weapons of mass destruction, not only for unbelievers but for the Christian as well.

•Non-Christian (Unbelievers)

Many of us know people who are living according to the deceptions of the god of this world through cults, New Age teachings, astrology, atheism, indifference to God, or false doctrines of salvation, and we need to pray for them:

“Lord Jesus, I come before you believing that if I ask anything according to your will, you will hear me.² I know you desire that none would perish but that all would come to repentance³ but I also understand that your gospel is veiled to those who are perishing because the god of this world has blinded their minds. In the name of Jesus I now ask that this veil of deception be lifted, and all demonic interference hindering ________ (name of person) from coming to a saving faith will be disrupted and abolished. Give _________ (name of person) a hunger and thirst for righteousness that will bring them to a complete freedom through Christ. I ask this with the authority of the blood of Christ, Amen.”

•Christians

When we contort the word of God to fit into our ideologies and human reasoning then go and teach that message to others, we are both deceived and deceitful. We have the will, as humans, to agree or disagree and to obey or not obey God’s written word. But we do not have the authority to add to, or subtract from the Word of God. And that is exactly what occurs when we twist the meaning of Scripture to fit our purposes.

As a writer and Bible teacher, it is my responsibility to accurately interpret the word of God to the best of my ability (see 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17 and James 3:1). This includes careful preparation and research before I write/teach on a subject. I am not to grab a random verse and try to squeeze a devotional out of it, or worse yet, take a verse out of context and develop a doctrine out of it! I am to take what is clearly stated in the word of God and make it more easily understood and applicable to those I share with.

Each one of us will be held accountable for how we treated the word of God in both personal application and teaching (<<<Click to tweet!)—it’s serious business! In that light, we are to remember to ask the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth, and not to add to or subtract from it. We are not to be deceived nor are we to deceive others.

“To be deceitful is to forget Jeremiah 17:9,

‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?’”¹

Don’t follow your heart, your feelings, or your ideas of God. Follow the facts as presented in the Bible. (<<<Click to tweet!)

Accept the word of God for what it is and don’t twist it to fit into your human reasoning. His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts (see Isaiah 55:8). (<<<Click to tweet!)

If you have been deceitful, whether intentionally or unintentionally, pray out loud: “Lord, I confess I have tried to twist your words into something more comfortable for me to accept. In the name of Jesus I now renounce the spirit of deceit and choose to live by your word alone, not my ideas of your word. I will accept the authority of the Bible as a whole instead of picking and choosing what I want to believe while tossing aside the less palatable portions. Guide me into all truth and convict me when I stray from, or misuse your precious Word.”

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1- Dr. H.L. Willmington, Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, ©1981, 1984 by H.L. Willmington–all rights reserved.

2- “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” 1 John 5:14-15

3- “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

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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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You can support Rebecca with one click! If you enjoyed this post, please take a second to click the FOLLOW button on the space provided on the right hand side of the computer screen (or scroll to the bottom of your screen if using a smartphone) and you will receive new posts in your email inbox. This is absolutely free and your information is never shared!

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Let’s Get Honest

**Originally published in The Christian Online Magazine, April 2013**

 

We need to get honest with each other. When God put, “Thou shalt not lie,” in the Ten Commandments, do you suppose He meant something other than lying? Did He have a distinction between a little white lie and a big ugly lie? God says what He means and means what He says, He’s not out to throw riddles at us. He wants us to understand His word so we will obey it. But every day we, as a community of believers, lie to each other. When we say we’re fine and we’re not, or when we put on a face that says, “I’ve got it all together,” when we’re really falling apart on the inside. Our own insecurities draw us into deception. It needs to stop!

 

To start the ball rolling I am going to be honest with you. While I get the awesome privilege of writing this column every month, drawing on my experiences in the health/wellness industry, I also want my readers to know that I haven’t got it all figured out. That I’m not a size two stick-figure who eats carrots and lettuce all day and that I don’t spend two hours in the gym every day lifting weights and preparing for marathons. That is not who I am! I am an average sized woman, with hips and a butt, who doesn’t always practice what I preach when it comes to health. Sometimes I sit at my desk all day without dropping a bead of sweat in physical activity, and sometimes I even drink a soda (gasp!). I’m a real person who strives to live a God-honoring life of balance (remember 1 Corinthians 6:12). But sometimes I get out of balance and fail to live out what I know to be God’s best.

 

The Holy Spirit is quick to convict, though, and I am learning how to repent in a timely manner because eating right and taking care of my temple is not a choice, it is a command. It is a command we, as believers, have all been given. Though I know this and believe it, I sometimes fail to behave it. So I’m getting real with you. I am a real person with real issues who sometimes struggles to apply what I know to be true in the area of health and fitness.

 

Is this really about weight loss, having a beach body, or looking like Brad Pitt (for the men out there)? NO! It’s about honoring God with our choices. Every time we choose a fruit or vegetable over a processed, chemical-laced boxed product, we honor God. Every time we choose to incorporate some exercise into our day, we honor God. This is the essence of maintaining our God-given “temples.” It’s a process: one choice at a time, one minute at a time, one day at a time, one week at a time, one month at a time, and one year at a time.

 

We need not feel ashamed if we’ve fallen short in this area. Instead, Jesus commands, “Go, and sin no more (John 8:11).” So, if you’re like me, and you’ve had trouble, at times, applying what you know to be true to your physical and spiritual life, confess it to God, dust yourself off and press on! And while you’re at it, find a support partner who will hold you accountable. Both spiritually and physically.

 

Most importantly, choose today to get honest with God, yourself, and the people in your life. We’ll never progress in our spiritual lives if we continue to wear masks in our relationships. Sometimes that even means admitting we can’t do it on our own and we need help—accountability and prayer.

 

And finally, let’s choose to honor God by respecting and taking care of what He’s given to us, showing others—through our actions—what being a good steward of God-given gifts really looks like.

 

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

©Rebecca Aarup

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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.

_______________________________

You can support Rebecca with one click! If you enjoyed this post, please take a second to click the FOLLOW button on the space provided on the right hand side of the computer screen (or scroll to the bottom of your screen if using a smartphone) and you will receive new posts in your email inbox. This is absolutely free and your information is never shared!

If you were encouraged by what you read here, please share with your friends and/or leave a comment.

 

Rebuking the Devil’s Deadly D’s (Part 4)

Rebuking the Devil’s Deadly D’s (Part 4)

Rebuking the Devil

#1—Disappointment

#2—Discouragement

#3—Despair

#4—Doubt

#5—Disbelief

#6—Distraction

7. Double-mindedness

Double-mindedness is evident in the person whose behavior is disconnected from their words. (Perhaps hypocrisy is a more familiar term?) No matter how long we’ve been a Christian or how much knowledge we have, we’ve all been guilty of behaving in ways that contradict our faith. In Greek, the word double-minded means “Two-spirited, vacillating (in opinion or purpose).” In other words, it’s an inconsistency of behavior.

As the saying goes, it takes one to know one, and I definitely know a thing or two about living inconsistent. Just like it’s easier for a recovered alcoholic to detect the attributes of alcoholism in another person, so it is with the double-minded person. I lived many years in such a state, vacillating from one opinion to another, saying one thing with my mouth while having an inward attitude completely contrary to my words. I mean, I was abusing drugs while performing on a worship team! Yes, I’ve been there and done that, and unfortunately I know a few Christians who are currently trapped in a double-minded state of living. Maybe it’s not drugs, but it’s an unforgiving spirit or a prideful heart.

As believers, especially those of us in any type of leadership position, integrity is a must. If we’re teaching something on Sunday that we’re failing to apply Monday through Saturday, we are living as a double-minded man. As James said, our faith is left unstable (see James 1:8). This is a key weapon in Satan’s arsenal. Maybe for a while we can get away with our inconsistencies, but eventually someone will catch on, and when the cat’s out of the bag the crud really hits the fan (overuse of clichés were intentional). When unbelievers (or other Christians) “catch” us saying one thing while doing another, it diminishes our witness and effectiveness as a Christian. It gives us a dead (Greek rendering means “like a corpse”) faith.

As someone in an unequally yoked situation, I have had to learn this lesson the hard way. What my husband observes in my character Monday through Saturday will speak more to him then what he sees on Sunday. And God has used my husband to point out inconsistencies in my life on more than one occasion (much to my chagrin). But in the end I am thankful for a situation I once cursed, because in it God has brought me to an authentic place of transparent living. I am who I am—on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, you get the point—and because of this, I no longer feel the need to defend myself to those who accuse or slander me in public or private. This type of peace didn’t come easy; it was a difficult process that required honesty and a commitment to allowing God to develop a character of integrity within me. This isn’t to say I don’t screw up, because God and my husband both know beyond doubt that I screw up. Consistency isn’t about perfection, it’s about honest living. It’s about being able to admit my faults in a timely manner before God and man, and put the “right to be right” to death daily.

“To be double-minded is to forget James 1:8 and 4:8,

‘A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.’”¹

If you’ve found that your behavior, attitudes, and words are disconnected from your faith, pray out loud, “Jesus, I know I have failed to consistently demonstrate in behaviors and attitudes what I say I believe in your word. In the name of Jesus I now renounce the spirit of double-mindedness and choose to allow you to develop a spirit of integrity in my life. I want my actions and thoughts to reflect the character of Christ. I want my life, behind closed doors, to be the same as my life on Sunday morning. I humbly submit my ‘rights’ to you, and ask you to purify my heart of pride. And I choose not to live in regret over missed opportunities, but instead will, in your strength, go and sin no more.”

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1-      Dr. H.L. Willmington, Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, ©1981, 1984 by H.L. Willmington–all rights reserved.

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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.

_______________________________

You can support Rebecca with one click! If you enjoyed this post, please take a second to click the FOLLOW button on the space provided on the right hand side of the computer screen (or scroll to the bottom of your screen if using a smartphone) and you will receive new posts in your email inbox. This is absolutely free and your information is never shared!

If you were encouraged by what you read here, please share with your friends and/or leave a comment.

Refusing to Back Down: What it Really Means to Speak the Truth “In Love”

Refusing to Back Down: What it Really Means to Speak the Truth “In Love”

On the heels of yet another heated political debate the tweets, status updates, and blogs are running full steam. I would certainly be no exception to this. On the other hand, though, there are many Christians who feel it is offensive to openly talk about their political views or their beliefs on touchy subjects such as homosexuality and abortion. This proverbial “duct tape” silences many well-meaning believers, especially in the world of writing, where platforms and likeability are ranked high on the author’s list of things to succeed in.

No doubt, this is a controversial topic. To speak or not to speak: that is essentially the question. For me the answer came in the form of another question. Do I care so much about getting “likes”, “follows”, and “subscribers” to build my platform that I keep quiet about such topics? What is more important, speaking the truth or being liked?

I live in a state where people have been arrested for holding Bible studies in their homes. Refusing to allow and even prosecuting such acts of religious expression is becoming more common in today’s world. Am I to look the other way when things like, say, who will become the next president would directly affect issues of religious freedom? I’m not convinced that speaking the truth “in love” or having my words “seasoned with salt” means to keep silent. But let’s look at the Bible– because I am human and maybe I am wrong. If so, I want to allow God to correct me and keep me on His path to truth.

First of all we have Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount. The things Jesus said were highly offensive, especially to the Pharisees who were the most “spiritual” people of that time. They knew how to follow all of the rules and live about as perfect as a sinful person could possibly live. But Jesus wasn’t impressed because He saw their hearts. He called them out on their hypocrisy and warned the crowds of listeners not to be like them. I really can’t think of anything more offensive then calling someone out in front of other people, pointing out their faults, and warning the audience not to be like them! But—Jesus was, well, Jesus! As God living and breathing in a human body, He had the right and lived the life to back up His words of truth. I don’t have that luxury. I’m not perfect, I am not God. I cannot see someone’s heart, so publicly calling someone out is probably not a form of expression God has called me to partake in. (And under this light, I am aware of some instances where I have sinned in this area.)

But then we come to Paul. Now, the Colossian Church had become infiltrated with false teachers, and Paul, led by the Spirit of God, stepped in and spoke up about a controversial topic: false teaching. In this same letter to the church he says, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. (Colossians 4:6)” Several verses in the Bible have been taken out of context to support erroneous practices, and this is probably no exception. It has been used over and over again as an admonition to keep quiet about important issues. In the context of the passage, however, that is absolutely not what Paul is saying. In fact, in the previous three chapters Paul warns the church about following the philosophies of man and the patterns of the world (2:8) while at the same time pointing the congregation to the Solution to their problems (2:9-3:1). Now that is what it means to speak the truth with love and grace.

The difference between condescending pious gibberish and sincere warning in the nature of love and concern come out of a sincere heart focused on the One who has given abundant life as well as freedom from the bondage of evil entanglements.

So what does all of this mean? As Christians we have a responsibility to speak the truth, to always be ready with an answer for the hope that dwells within us. When I stand up and say why I believe one candidate it a better choice for America, I am doing so out of love for my country and the people in it. I do not want to see our religious rights taken away. I want to be able, for instance, to hold a Bible study in my home without fear of retaliation. If one candidate can provide that, then I am going to talk about it. In the same regard, if one candidate is clearly supportive of the dangerous deception that a “woman’s right to choose” or a woman’s right to kill her baby is more important than the life growing inside that woman, as a Christian I have a moral responsibility to speak up for the unborn who cannot speak for themselves. I haven’t always done this, and I live every day with the regret of my silence and what became of a situation where I refused to speak. Never again will I make that mistake.

I think an important distinction in all of this is the delivery used to convey our messages. Are we saying things like, “If you vote for so and so you’re an evil demon of darkness” or are we saying, “I believe so and so is a better candidate because…” One of these expresses a view with respect and dignity while the other bashes on those who would hold a different opinion. I can’t find any example where Paul put down the character of another believer because of the choices they were making, no matter how poor those choices might have been. Instead, I see a great man of God who desperately wanted people to understand the truth, and understand where the truth comes from—Jesus. Paul always, always, always pointed people to Christ. I know I have failed in this area many times (and I confess it to God), but that is my ultimate goal in all I say and do.

I will not apologize for my views because they stem from personal convictions. On the other hand, I want to keep me speech grace-full, making sure to avoid name-calling and character bashing of those who would disagree with me. In the end, for me, I feel it is more important to be real with people rather than sensor my beliefs in the name of “likeability”. Do I want to be a successful author with a large platform to reach others with the message of Hope? Of course I do! But I will not compromise the truth in the form of silence. This is a critical time for our country, and we cannot afford to exchange silence for popularity. Yes, I want to have integrity in all I say and do, especially in a public outlet. But I also want people to know I am a real person, with real struggles, real opinions, and real convictions. Maybe I’ll lose a few “fans” along the way, but ultimately I will be the only one held accountable for my choices. In that regard, God’s opinion of my words and actions are all that really matters.

How about you? Have you experienced backlash in your efforts to speak the truth in love? How has God used your experiences in approaching touchy subjects to teach you how to speak in a grace-full way? Have you every failed in this area of “seasoned” speech? Do you feel it’s more important to convey a certain public “persona” then it is to convey your personal convictions? I look forward to your responses and hope to learn from what God has taught you through your experiences.

Liar, Liar

“Everyone lies to their neighbor; they flatter with their lips but harbor deception in their hearts. May the Lord silence all flattering lips and every boastful tongue.” Psalm 12:2-3 TNIV

Where has all the integrity gone? Lying has become a way of life for the majority of people, even Christians. The following are lies I’ve heard from self-proclaimed Christ-followers:

“I told this guy I was married so he’d leave me alone”.

“If you get pulled over by a cop, never, under any circumstances admit fault (even if you know you were wrong)!”

“Just say you’re busy so you won’t have to go to [an event].”

The Bible is clear about lying. It is sin. The excuses one conjures up to justify lies are evidence of a guilty conscience.

“It’s not hurting anyone.”

Wrong. Sin always, always bears consequences. Jesus said, “The good man brings up good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that all men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:35-37 (emphasis mine). Though a person may never know they’ve been lied to the most important One knows: God.

How can we expect to witness to our unbelieving friends and neighbors when our character stands in question?

As a Jesus-follower, I never want to find myself caught in a lie. The best way to not get caught in a lie is to not lie. I never want to be responsible for turning someone away from a saving faith in the Gospel because I had no integrity. A Christian who lies gives the unbelieving world another excuse to hold on to their godless existence. Let’s be salt and light, friends; after all, how can we call ourselves Jesus-followers when we make a habit of deceiving people?

As Christians we are called to a higher standard, even if taking that high road is more difficult or painful.

I recently read an “inspirational” article saying women want to be lied to by their spouses and it creates a better marriage by boosting the woman’s self-esteem. Apparently, when she asks if she looks fat she wants to hear “no” whether it’s true or not.  It’s likely our spouses are afraid to tell the truth because of reactions they receive. No wonder relationships have so much angst and heartache. Lying is so commonplace that hearing the truth hurts our feelings so we decide we want to be lied to and we think others want to be lied to.

If we want to bear witness to the life-transforming power of Jesus, we need to be people of integrity who refuse to tolerate even an inkling of intentional sin. May our prayer resonate with the Psalmist, “Because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.” Psalm 119:128 (emphasis mine)

Dear Critical Christian….

Dear Critical Christian,

I was so delighted to hear your request to understand my purpose in your life and the life of other Christians. I will address a few issues you seem to have recurring trouble with, and offer suggestions to help eradicate those feelings.

Critical Christian, I realize the family around the corner may appear to be in constant financial distress, but please try to refrain from suggesting the wife get a “real” job. What you may not understand is she is doing exactly what God has called her to do by raising her children at home and teaching them as instructed in Deuteronomy 6.

Critical Christian, I know the music is a bit loud every week at church but your mind may be put at ease through demonstrating your acceptance and understanding of your Pastor’s worship decisions. Reading 1 Timothy 6 will prove beneficial in this area. If it seems more than you can bear, you could consider a different congregation with the more aesthetically pleasing sounds you prefer.

Critical Christian, I understand you hold personal convictions regarding the use of alcohol, but I must refer to Romans 14. The family across town may not hold the same convictions as you. Just as you believe going to the theatre is perfectly fine while they choose to not own a television or view any secular media. Each person is subject to God equally, and will answer for their choices. Pointing fingers at everyone else’s decisions is tiresome work and I wouldn’t want you to get an ulcer.

Critical Christian, I know you feel bitter about the success of the family next door, but I would like to point out they have worked hard for more than three decades to attain what they have. They did not win the lottery but saved and sacrificed most of the time to make ends meet. Their hard work paid off, and now they enjoy the fruits of their labor as well as generously sharing their goods with their neighbors.  Be assured if you work hard, be a good steward of God’s blessings, make wise choices and generously give to those in need as God leads, you too will reap great rewards. I cannot promise your reward in this life on earth but can assure your reward in the Kingdom of God will be great. Matthew 25:14-30 illuminates this principle well.

Critical Christian, I sympathize with your ill feelings towards the family across the way and their poorly behaved children. I understand they are loud, rude, and often troublesome. I thought you may want to know that despite appearances, their parents have recently given their life to the Lord. As new believers they are uncertain how to apply Biblical principles. It may be good to remember you never really know what’s going on behind closed doors, and it’s probably best to focus on your own family and training your kids as commanded in Deuteronomy 6. As you understand my work in your life to a greater degree, you will be given opportunities to share it with other believers.

Critical Christian, my time is running short and there are many others requesting my presence in their lives, so I must end this letter.  I pray you come to a perfect place of peace, letting nothing offend you as is written in Psalm 119:165.

Love God’s law with all your heart and serve Him with gladness. Memorize Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 and practice it always.

Preach truth with your life always more than your words, for your life will validate your words.

Read Matthew 5-7. Study Matthew 5-7. Invite the Holy Spirit to live Matthew 5-7 in your life daily.

You may also enjoy reading words of wisdom in James 1:20-26.

Finally, Critical Christian, remember that to speak the truth in love first requires a heart of love. Any words of truth from a heart divided will certainly fall on deaf ears. You may consider memorizing Ephesians 5:1-2 as well.

Study Jesus and His example, for he and I are intertwined as one. There is no greater demonstration of my work than through His life and message.

A final warning: your experience of me may be hindered if you become deceived with your fleshly desires or the Enemy’s lies, so keep in fellowship with the Father always. John 15 explains this well.

The best advice I could leave with you regarding my work in your life is found in 1 Peter 5:5-10. Clothe yourself in humility and my presence will pour over your life continuously.

Sincerely,

Grace