Hot Air Balloons, Fence Lines and Lies: Why does God Have Rules?

hot-air-balloonImagine a man slowly sailing through the clouds in a bright, striped hot air balloon. The air is cool, save for the spurt of fire keeping the balloon bellowed and full. As the current toys with his hair, he studies the tiny images below…rectangles of green and brown grass, houses and snaking highways. Everything seems so small, and from his vantage point, he feels so very big.

His hand cups the canvas edges of the basket wall and he frowns. Everything is perfect except for the stupid walls keeping him in. He wants to feel like a bird, to fly, to soar and be free. How can he do that with the ridiculous barricades in place?

What kind of morons would create this beautiful balloon and trap its passengers in a cage underneath? The walls were ruining his fun. Heat burned his chest at the thought. No one could tell him what to do. He was his own man.

He pulled himself over the edge and jumped, no longer bound by restrictions.

man-falling

Tell me, do you think the man made a wise decision?

Welcome back to our series Liar, a look at the enemy’s most frequent lies, how to identify them and replace them with truth. We’re up to lie number seven: God’s rules are too restrictive.

Some people have the mistaken idea that when you give your life to Christ, God plops a big manual in your lap filled with a list of “don’ts” and “thou shall nots”, all with the expressed purpose of making sure your life from then on is miserable.book-of-rules

This is a lie.

Unfortunately, this is a lie even some Christians believe because they have failed to understand the true meaning of grace, or are caught up in the controlling cycle of legalism.

God does give us some boundaries to follow. A fence line, if you will, with clear warnings of what will happen if we go beyond the property lines. He doesn’t do this to ruin our party, or make us miserable. Please hear me. God gives us boundaries to ensure we have the best and happiest life possible.

It’s no different than pulling a toddler’s hand away from a hot stove, or yanking a child away from an oncoming car. You tell them ‘no’ because you don’t want to see them hurt. When a child chooses to ignore a warning, what they perceive as making them ‘happy’ for the moment could actually lead to their destruction.

But, boy, the enemy is so sneaky at making us think what’s beyond that fence is the very thing we can’t live without.

It’s not a new tactic. He’s been trying it from the very beginning. Go to the Bible and look all the way back in Genesis 3.

I still scratch my head, wondering how good that fruit must have looked. After all, Eve was literally living in paradise. Perfect weather, perfect beauty, perfect body, no cellulite, perfect food, perfect husband and a beautiful bond with the God who’d created her. What more did she need?

God told Adam and Eve, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 3: 16,17)

God basically said, “Look around you! You can do whatever you want, except eat from this tree. That’s all.” It was a pretty sweet deal. But instead of thinking of all the things she could have, Eve became fixated on the one thing she couldn’t have. She ate and plunged the entire human race into a spiral of death, disease and decay.

apple

Just like Eve, when we throw aside God’s instructions, we discover instead finding freedom, we actually end up in bondage. Satan promises life but gives death. Always.

This lie, that God’s rules are too restrictive, is closely related to another lie: God really isn’t good.

The enemy knows that once we doubt the goodness of God, we will feel justified in rejecting His will and making our own decisions about right and wrong. And once we’ve shoved Truth out of the picture, our life becomes a hasty spiral into a toxic mess.

“So the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear [and worship] the Lord our God [with awe-filled reverence and profound respect] for our good always and so that He might preserve us alive, as it is today.” Deuteronomy 6:24

God only has your best in mind. No matter what you’ve been told, or what earthly examples you’ve been shown, He’s a good Father. There’s no need to learn the hard way.

Know your enemy. There’s nothing better waiting beyond the fence. I promise. Life, beauty and joy waits inside with Jesus.

“Buzz Lightyear Did It”, “I Can’t Help the Way I Am” and Other Ways We Stay Stuck

I stared at the Hot Wheels car submerged at the bottom of our toilet and frowned. I arched my brow and turned to spear my wide-eyed three-year old son with “the look”. He stood in his under-roos, clutching his Buzz Lightyear doll in his chubby arms, blinking those big brown eyes up at me with the innocent look of a deer.

“Nate, did you throw your Hot Wheel car in the potty?”

He swallowed, his eyes darting side to side. When his gaze landed on his Buzz Lightyear, he offered a hopeful, lopsided grin and pointed to the toy with his free hand.

“Buzz did it.”

 buzz-lightyear

Ah, the blame game. It’s nothing new. Adam and Eve tried the same thing in Genesis 3. As soon as they got busted for eating the forbidden fruit, Eve said, “The serpent tricked me.” Adam told God, “The woman you made for me offered me some.”

Welcome back to our blog series Liar, a look at the enemy’s most common lies and how to recognize them. We’re up to lie #6: “I can’t help the way I am”. 

How many of us are tired of messing up? How many of us find ourselves falling back into the same cycle of mistakes over and over again? We tell ourselves we should stop our bad behavior and it might even work for a while but then we find ourselves right back at square one. Sometimes in worse shape than how we began.

true-false

Let’s stop for a moment and ponder a vitally important truth here: Every sin in our life, especially when it comes to an habitual sin, comes about because somewhere along the way, we’ve fallen for a lie.

A lie is only harmful to us if we believe it.

If I had actually believed my son’s lie that his Hot Wheels ended up in our toilet because Buzz Lightyear did it, then I’d have a real problem. Paranoia would be an understatement. I didn’t believe his lie, so therefore, it didn’t bug me.

But for a lot of us, we have believed the lie that screams, “I can’t help the way I am”.

I’ve always been stubborn, even as a baby.

Everyone in my family is fat. Guess it’s just hereditary.

Look how I was raised.

My dad was an alcoholic. I never had a chance.

I come from a poor neighborhood.

This is just my personality. I can’t change it.

My family never supported me.

History repeats itself.

The problem with the whole “I can’t help the way I am” philosophy is that it’s rooted in a victim mentality, which leads us to think we are helpless, forever a part of the system. It’s a subtle form of keeping us locked in bondage.

Isn’t the enemy sneaky? prison

Think of it this way…if our circumstances, or how we are raised, or any other condition around us makes us who we are, then we are all victims. We have no choices, no input, and no reason to even want any.

But the truth is we do have choices. Sometimes, it’s just easier to play the victim.

“I can’t help the way I am” is another way of saying “It’s not my fault” or, to quote my mischievous son, “It’s Buzz’s fault that the car is in the toilet”.

If the enemy can make us feel trapped, if we never question the cage he’s put us in, then he wins. He has us right where he wants us…defeated.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of us were born and thrust into some tough stuff. The sin curse has permeated everything, rippling down through generations, pooling deeper in some families than others. But you are not doomed to flounder in its sticky mire forever. As Nancy Leigh DeMoss has wisely stated, “Circumstances don’t make us who we are. They only reveal who we are.”

Just like Adam and Eve, it’s easy…wonderfully easy to blame someone else, our family upbringing, our circumstances, our hormones, Mondays, the idiot driver who cut us off in traffic, or any other thing for our issues but ultimately, we are responsible for the decisions we make.

If  you’ve spent your life pointing a finger at the unjustice of your upbringing, the system, or any other blame shifter, then you’re stuck, forever chained to a life of a misery. But on the other hand, there is good news with sin. Yep. You read that correctly. If you sin, that means there is forgiveness. A way out. A way has been made to break free from those cycles that keep pulling you back down.

The lie: “I can’t help the way I am.”

The truth from God:

We know that our old self [our human nature without the Holy Spirit] was nailed to the cross with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. For the person who has died [with Christ] has been freed from [the power of] sin.” Romans 6:6,7

Jesus died to free you from your families’ bad decisions, from your chains, from your broken way of thinking, from yourself. We may not be able to control the circumstances around us, but Jesus died and rose again to guarantee that those circumstances no longer have to control us.

Replace that lie with God’s truth and then walk in it.

And make sure Buzz Lightyear isn’t hanging around. woody-and-buzz

The Boy in 22 F: When There are No Answers

I was sitting on a rumbling plane in Chicago, waiting for the painfully slow pilot to push us back from the gate. No one seemed to be in a hurry that morning. Not the airline nor the stewards. Even the ground controllers outside my window appeared to be dragging their feet. I blinked the grit from my eyes. I wasn’t faring much better. The stale air blowing through the circular vents overhead wasn’t helping. Everyone seemed sluggish…except for the four year boy seated behind me in 22 F.

kid-on-airplane

The squirming tyke with his high-pitched voice was chattering nonstop, barely stopping for breath, peppering his Dad with question after question.

“Why are dese seats so big?”

“Will we get ice cream on dis plane?”

“Will we be flying into outer space?”

I found myself smiling at his Junior Asparagus style voice and contagious enthusiasm. I set down the book I trying to read as God impressed this directive into my heart, “Listen.”

The boy had apparently pressed his face up against the window, for his voice sounded muffled and mushed. “Why are dose men waving dere arms?”

His father patiently replied, “They signal the pilot and other workers where to go. The plane is big and there’s a lot going on. The men help the pilot see all around him so we don’t bump into anything.”

The boy squirmed and pointed. “What are dose little trucks for?”

I heard a smile in the father’s voice. “Those trucks bring different things to the plane. Some bring fuel. Others carry our suitcases.”

“That’s cool.”

The boy grew silent for a moment when another vehicle must have caught his eye. “What about that one, Daddy? What is that truck for?”

The father looked at the open-air truck carrying spiked pallets. “I’m sorry, buddy. I have no idea what those are used for.”

The boy was quiet.

The father leaned in. “I wish I could tell you the answer. Are you upset that I don’t know?”

The little boy giggled. “Don’t be silly. I don’t need all the answers. I just like asking you questions and having fun with you!”

And then I knew why God had me eavesdrop on their sweet conversation. The boy in 22 F was teaching me, and anyone else who was willing to listen, a beautiful lesson.

i-want-answers

We are an answer-driven people. We want to know why.

Why did I lose my job? Why is my health failing? Why is _____________ battling so hard when they have given their life to God? Why does it seem like the cruel people flourish while the good guys barely scrape by? Why was my child born “different”? Why doesn’t my spouse love me anymore?

We want answers. They give us a false sense of control. When we beg God to know the ‘whys’, what we are really saying is, “I need to know the plan. God owes me the details. I want to be the one in the driver’s seat.”

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Are you ready?

You and I have no control. None. Control is an illusion. Period.

I can’t control how my boss, or anyone else, will treat me. I can’t control or understand how good and bad falls on both the just and unjust, nor can I control it when airlines lose my luggage, when a loved one dies, an unexpected diagnosis, or a thousand other things the human heart hopes to never hear. guarantees-or-god

We can beg and plead for answers all day long. Sometimes we get them. Sometimes we don’t. But in all of our crying for answers, we can miss out on the most important part of walking through the unknown…that is experiencing the God Who is walking through it with us.

A friend recently asked me if I thought my recent struggles with my voice and gastroparesis were due to an attack by the enemy or because God is closing a door in a specific part of my ministry. I told her I had searched and prayed for months but honestly, I had no idea. And that’s okay. I’ve learned to be content in not having the answers. Instead, God has taught me how to redirect my focus into the joy of simply being with Him. In knowing Him in a deeper way, a relationship that isn’t dependent on answers because my trust isn’t based on what He does but is grounded on Who He ispsalm-23

I want a relationship with my Father the way the little boy in 22 F looked up to his. ” I don’t need all the answers. I just like asking you questions and having fun with you…”

I want my faith in Jesus to be unshakable…no answers needed.

Lie #5: Approval Means I’m Loved

We’re up to lie #5 in our series on exposing the enemy’s schemes…”Approval means I’m loved.” This lie was nearly my undoing.

I desperately want people to like me. There. I said it. The thought of someone being displeased with me in any way drops a sick feeling in my gut.

What’s one way to shake that cold feeling of dread? Work harder. Be more agreeable, more likable. Fit in. Be accepted and never, ever let them see the real you. After all, if they know what you’re really like, the acceptance will disappear. Right?   please love me

That’s what I told myself, anyways.

I’ve battled people pleasing all my life. I can readily admit it now, but I would have died a thousand deaths to confess such a thing ten years ago.

At one point, my people pleasing was so bad, and weird, that I couldn’t even express my own tastes for fear of someone thinking I was odd. One day, my friends were chatting about how much they loved fresh tomatoes.

One of them turned to me with smile. “Is there anything more delicious than a fresh tomato, Tara?”

I replied, “Of course not! Nothing better.” tomato

Confession: I hate tomatoes with a passion.

Why did I lie? Especially over something so trivial? Because I craved acceptance. I needed their love. And I mistakenly thought that disagreement led to loss of love.

At the time in my life of my “tomato lie”, I did anything that anyone asked me to do. If a deacon said the sanctuary windows needed to be washed at midnight, guess who was down at the church at the stroke of twelve with Windex in hand?

All of that changed one night in 2002. For lack of a better word, I snapped. My physical body reached its limit and my emotions lay in scattered wreckage. I crawled on to the bathroom floor and curled myself into a ball on the bathmat while I sobbed into the wee hours of the night.

I was so overwhelmed, so undone and so completely exhausted I thought I was drowning. I couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t escape. Every fiber of my being cried out for relief. cry

I remember curling the long soft tufts of the burgundy bathmat in my fists, clenching my teeth as salty tears filled my mouth.

God, You lied to me. You said if I served You, You would give me joy. I have no joy. I have no peace. This is not the victorious life You promised.

I was lied to, but not by God. The enemy had fooled me into believing the best way to feel loved was by doing whatever it took to make people like me. I fell for it…hook, line and sinker.

It wasn’t until I found myself begging God to take me out of this life that I realized I had been had.

Somewhere along the way, I took my eyes off Jesus and began living for the applause of people. Men and women just like me. Sinners and failures, just like me. People who have made a mess of their own lives, just like me. People who didn’t die for me, yet I esteemed their opinion as if they did. And I lost sight of my Savior in the process. I gave away freedom and unconditional love and traded them for conditions, hopelessness and chains. hands in chains

I’m tired of shackling myself to others’ expectations when obeying Him is all that matters. I’m tired of being sucked into a spiral of exhaustion when He has promised me rest. I’m tired of living like everyone else’s opinion of me is more important than His. I have no desire to place people, and their approval, as my idol, my focus or my hope any longer.

And that’s what this lie breeds…idolatry.

The common ground sought by people pleasers the world over is this: we have a desperate need to feel loved. We search for unconditional love in conditionally minded people. We crave approval, using it as a gauge to tell us our own worth. But all that matters is what God thinks—and He loved me so much, He gave His own life to redeem me from the land of darkness. It doesn’t matter whether I’m on top of the world or scraping bottom at my worst…His love never changes. And I’ve discovered this amazing truth is what my heart has been searching for all along.

Approval and love are not the same thing. Anyone who tells you differently is a liar. Take it from a girl who learned the hard way.

approval vs lovegalatians 1 10

 

A Writer’s Prayer

journal.png

Lord, thank You for the gift of language. Thank You for written words that connect and reveal Your heart to ours. Thank you for the gift of creativity. The way Your Spirit moves through the realm of the unseen muse is a precious gift.

I lift up my words, my written thoughts, my stories on the altar to You, Lord. I do not idolize them, Father, or think they are without flaw, for like me they are messy and tainted by sin. Yet I offer all that I have and yield it to You. In my weakness, show Yourself strong. Where I fail to understand, teach me. When criticism shreds my heart, remind me my heart is to beat for You alone.

Take these feeble words and work Your perfect plan. Spin and weave them into a dance that reveals Your love to hurting souls. Remind me that I cannot continue to fist these words in my hands, even loosely, and still lay them on the altar. Help me surrender all control to You.

I kneel before You in awe of what You are going to do. You are the Author of Life, my Redeemer and King. I love you, Lord. Amen.

 

 

Lie #4: God is not really enough.

As part of our series “Liar”, a look at the enemy’s schemes and how to defeat them, we’ve come to a rather tricky little lie. Little #4: God is not really enough.

Why is this one so sneaky? I think it’s because many of us don’t realize we have fallen for it.

The truth is we say Jesus is all we need, we sing it in countless hymns and worship songs and print it on t-shirts and bumper stickers. But do we really mean it? jesus is all i need

I was recently singing Kari Jobe’s beautiful song “What Love Is This” in worship one Sunday morning at church when I came to the line, “You’re all I need”. I was struck by my own hypocrisy. I want to be the follower who truly finds complete and total satisfaction only in Christ, but if I’m honest, there are many days when I’m woefully short.

Usually I say He’s enough, but I also want my kids to behave. I say He’s enough but I also want a healthy bank account. I say He’s enough but I’d also love to have a publishing contract. Am I the only one? Somehow, I doubt it.

Too many of us have the Jesus-plus syndrome. Jesus plus a husband. Jesus plus children. Jesus plus good health. Jesus plus a break. Jesus plus a job that pays enough. I hate to break it to the lot of us but if we’re living our lives with the Jesus plus anything mentality, we have fallen for the lie that God isn’t enough.

Every time we give in to complaining, to wallowing in irritability or fussing about the things that “just aren’t going our way”, we’re telling a world of people around us that Jesus isn’t enough. It tells them that our happiness is dependent on things or circumstances.

Ever since the Fall in the garden of Eden, we have a hole inside. (Genesis 3) It’s a hole we try to fill with all kinds of things: food, shopping, friends, relationships, alcohol, approval, money, power, drugs, our job, sex, achievements or our family. I call these things hole fillers. Do we truly believe God is enough, or are we looking to things and people to fill the empty places of our hearts? hole in heart

It kind of reminds me of the Cherokee Legend of the Wolf.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity and truth. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” ~Galatians 5:17

We must recognize that the deepest longings of our hearts cannot be filled by any created person or thing. People and circumstances will not make you happy.

I tend to find myself rolling my eyes whenever I hear some young, starry-eyed teenager telling her friend, “I can’t wait to meet the man who will complete me.” Cue my snort of derision. I think all those Disney princess movies messed us up in this department. Sorry, ladies, but there is no human man that can fulfill the desires of your heart. No guy, no matter how awesome he is, is flawless. He will let you down. Marriage is not a cure for loneliness.

No man can complete you. Only Jesus can do that. God made us in such a way that we can never be truly satisfied with anyone or anything less than Him.

corrie ten boom hold lightlyOne of my personal heroes is Corrie Ten Boom and I yield to her words here. “Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.” Wise words. Sooner or later, everything here on this earth will fail. It will die or dissolve. All that will remain is the spiritual. Jesus really is all you need.

As far as those old hymns and popular worship songs of the day go, I’ve tweaked a few of them. Now they say something along the lines of “Teach my heart You’re all I need…” A bit more honest. And after all, honesty is what we’re going for here, right?

 

Lie #3: “I’m Worthless” and Other Labels

worthless

Welcome back to our blog series “Liar”, a look at our enemy and the lies he tells us. As a refresher, we’ve discussed Lie #1 “God’s Main Concern is my Happiness” and Lie #2 “If my life were different, I would be different”. This week’s lie seems to be an arrow flung with far too much frequency by the enemy and one believed by far too many of God’s children. Lie #3: “I’m worthless.”

Whenever I’m teaching at retreats about the enemy’s lies and I come to this one, I ask the ladies to raise their hands if they have believed lie #3 at some point in their lives. Without fail, every hand in the room has gone up. Why? count of monte cristo quote

After listening to story after story, one common denominator seems to resonate through most of these women’s issues…someone at some point gave them a label that stuck.

Names have power. Nicknames can be fun but when nicknames turn into labels, it can be a problem. Let me explain.

I recently conducted a Facebook and Twitter poll asking my friends what their nicknames were growing up. Some of my favorites were Snicklefritz, Squeaky, Casper, Noodle, Idgit, and Sassafras. Cute. Sweet. Then things took a twist.

Soon people started sharing their, uh, less flattering nicknames…monikers like Tubby, Fatso or Motor Mouth to name a few.

Names can turn into labels. Labels stick. Soon we begin to believe the lie that we are what the label advertises.

peachesTo put it another way, labels usually tell us what’s inside, right? If I walk into my pantry and grab a can that bears a label of plump, juicy peaches, I don’t expect to open the can and find black eyed peas inside. The label system works great for canned foods and organizing closets, but not for defining our own worth.

Some of us are slapped with a label just once, maybe twice by some cruel person and we believe the lie. We mistakenly believe we are what the label advertises.

“That boy said I’m ugly. So therefore I must be…

*unattractive to everyone.”

*I’ll always be unattractive.”

*I’m unattractive on the inside too.”

*No one will ever want me.”

On and on the lies go.

A dear friend of mine was told from the time she was young that she was unwanted and it wreaked havoc in her life. Why? Because she believed it. A lie is only detrimental if we believe it.

Maybe you have a label stuck to you that refuses to come off. Maybe it’s “Unwanted”. “Unlovable”. “Black Sheep”. “Depressed”. “Divorced”. “Loser”. “Mess up.” “Victim”. “Condemned.” “Never Good Enough”.

You are more than the label someone has given you.

value and worthThis lie of feeling worthless is based in rejection. Sometimes it may be more than words or feelings. You might have lived through the slicing pain of divorce. A nasty break-up. Perhaps you’ve been rejected by your family, mistreated by your coworkers, or fired from your job. For some, the most devastating blow of all is being forgotten by your children. For others, you might be dealing with the mess from your own consequences and poor decisions and you just need a little grace from people unwilling to give it.

Here’s the thing…your worth does not change based on someone’s ability to see it. 

Consider a priceless work of art. A Van Gogh painting. Pretend you are walking down the street and are stunned to see an original, authentic Van Gogh painting carelessly tossed into a dumpster. Why would anyone do such a thing? Clearly the owner had no idea of its worth. trash

Did the painting’s worth change based on its location or who owned it? No. Its value remained the same. This scenario only shows us the ignorance of the person who discarded it.

Don’t let someone who doesn’t understand your value define your worth.

As always, we need look no farther than Jesus. The Prince of Peace knows exactly what it’s like to be labeled worthless and rejected. 1 Peter 2:4 says this:

“Come to Him [the risen Lord] as to a living Stone which men rejected and threw away, but which is choice and precious in the sight of God.”

Did you catch that? Men rejected and threw away Jesus…the Creator, Redeemer, Savior, their Hope and King. There aren’t enough books in the world to contain all the words to describe the worth of Christ, yet men still rejected Him and threw Him away. It said nothing of His worth, only the inability of the people to understand that God Himself had come down to them. They didn’t understand the treasure they’d been given.

You are precious to God. He loved you so much He would have rather died than leave you in the dark. If you’re still battling lie #3 in your mind, you need look no further than the cross. jesus

Jesus didn’t die for junk. You are immeasurably priceless and loved by the God of the universe. When He gave up His life for you, He gave your life its worth.

Never let anyone tell you differently.

Lie #2: If my life were different, I would be different.

Welcome back to our blog series “Liar”, a look at the lies Satan tells us and how to defeat them. Lie #2 is a sneaky one, one that I’ve fallen for many times. “If my life were different, I would be different.” 

if only

If my job only paid better…

If my husband treated me like he cared…

If our house wasn’t so small…

If my health was good…

If my kids would listen…

Have you been there? It’s a tempting way to live life. The “If Onlys” provide us with a fantasy world of perfection. A land where all our troubles vanish and then, finally, we can be who we really want to be. Happy. Content. Joyful.

There’s just one problem. That fantasy land does not exist this side of eternity.

Ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, this world is a broken, twisted mess. We know there’s a mess, but we mistakenly think the worst of it is around us. It’s our surroundings. Our families. The people we work with. Our houses. Our finances. Our money (or lack thereof.) Our own bodies. The world system. We complain. We scrape and claw, trying to find some way out of the muck and mire but fail to realize the biggest mess isn’t the one around us. It’s the one inside us.

Let me put it another way. Whenever there’s a long period with no rain, what do people do? Complain. Pray. They beg God and search the barren sky for one sign of a coming cloud. They want rain. They can’t live one more minute without it.

grumpy nateAnd finally rain comes. Boy, does it come. So much rain that soon social media is flooded with bitter complaints. “Okay, I know we needed rain, but I didn’t want to build an ark today”. When it’s hot outside, we say we want snow. When it snows, we say we want the beach. We are never satisfied. Satan lies and tells us that we have a circumstance problem, but quite honestly, the majority of the time we have a heart problem.

To quote Nancy Leigh DeMoss, “Circumstances do not make us what we are. They merely reveal what we are.”

If we aren’t content in our current situation, it’s doubtful we will be content in any other situation. Here’s why: contentment has nothing to do with our surroundings. It’s 100% about the condition of our hearts.

Truly content people aren’t content because they are living in a perfect situation. They are content despite the adversary they live in. Look at what Paul penned in Philippians 4.

I have learned to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances.  I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need.  I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]” (verses 11-13 AMP)

horse tied to chairFalling for the lie that “If my circumstances were different, I would be different” enslaves us. It locks our minds into the mentality of a victim with no hope of breaking free. Trapped, empty, hopeless…that’s exactly where Satan wants you.

You don’t have to live in discontent. You have a choice. We have very little control over our circumstances, but we don’t have to let our circumstances control us or our attitudes. The best way to combat a lie is with the truth.

Truth:

Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him.” ~James 1:2-5 can cross

God may not remove you from an uncomfortable circumstance because He’s working to shape you more and more into the image of His Son. Lean into Him. Embrace the uncomfortable. Give thanks in all things…even those rough circumstances. He’s making you complete.

Have you ever been in the middle of a circumstance you couldn’t wait to get out of only to find it wasn’t easy street on the other side? Have you found ways to challenge yourself to be content, like a 7 day no-complaining challenge? What have you learned in the middle of difficult circumstances? I would love to hear!

 

 

 

Lie Number #1: God’s Main Concern is My Happiness

Welcome to the launch of a new blog series entitled “Liar”.

No, I’m not talking about what we regularly scream at our scales during weigh-ins. pug on scalesFor the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at the enemy of our souls, Satan, and some of his most common lies.

I know from talking with many of you, we are stuck in the same cycle of behavior. The same mistakes and failures, the same steps to repair the damage, a step forward into freedom and then, whoops! We fall into the same old mess again. Part of that, I’m afraid, is just being human. But part of this detrimental cycle could be that we aren’t getting at the root of some of our issues. Our behavior is a result of a belief about ourselves, each other, or God. What if the belief we are basing our decisions on isn’t the truth? What if we have fallen for a lie?

Satan is an expert at distorting God’s beautiful truth into a warped, twisted lie. He hisses his deception, mingling it with just enough truth to make us second guess ourselves, or worse yet, second guess God. A counterfeit is only good if it looks like the real thing and that’s what he does…he offers counterfeit solutions to God’s peace and love.

counterfeit

“He [Satan] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)

The only way to uncover a lie is to measure the beliefs we have built our lives upon against the unchanging Truth…God’s Word.

So let’s look at, what I believe, is a common lie too many of us have fallen for, myself included.

Lie Number #1: God’s Main Concern is My Happiness

Our culture has inundated us with the lie that it’s all about us. From coffee shops to restaurants to television commercials, we are constantly told, “Buy this product. You deserve it.” “You get it your way here.” “All that matters is what you want.” me_universe_centerYou, you, you. Me, me, me. The focus has become what makes each of us happy. This twisted theology has even crept into our Christian culture and bled all over what we read, what we hear on the radio and what we hear renown speakers of the day preach.

I believe God is delighted when His children are joyful, BUT it’s not His primary concern.

That sounds harsh, but it’s true. Let me explain.

Pretend you live on a dead end road. There is very little traffic and it’s not uncommon for the children on that road to ride their bikes out in the middle of the street, since the only cars who usually traverse the area belong to the parents who live there or the mailman. It’s a pleasant spring day and your son is happily riding his tricycle on the road, pumping his chubby little legs and grinning, proudly showing off his skills.

Then you hear it. The sound of car coming, way too loud. Way too fast. You look up to see a giant truck screaming down the street. Does the driver even see your son?

You yell, “Son, get off the road! A truck is coming!”

He frowns, intent on his play. “No! Don’t want to.”

Why doesn’t your son want to leave? Because he’s happy. He’s playing, enjoying life. He doesn’t see, or understand, the imminent danger about to befall him. So you have a choice. Do you choose your son’s happiness or his safety? truck

We would, of course, all choose to drag him off the road, despite his protests, before the speeding truck could hurt him. Would he be happy about it? No. But his happiness would not be our priority at that moment. His safety would be.

God wants you to be safe. He has a plan and a purpose for your life. A plan that He prepared before you were even born. His ultimate concern is seeing His plan worked out for His glory.

Here are several reasons why “God’s concern is my happiness” is a lie.

1) Oftentimes what makes me happy is not ultimately good for me.

Happiness is good when it’s within the confines of God’s will, but here’s the problem: sometimes what makes me happy is far outside of His will.

It makes me happy to guzzle down an entire carton of chocolate peanut butter ice cream, but boy, it’s not good for me. It fills me with happiness to wear new outfits, even if that means I’ve over spent and made my credit card weep for mercy.

gluttony

I conducted a social media poll to ask my friends what things made them happy, even though it might not be good for them. Here were some of their responses:

“Watching television for hours.”

“Drinking alcohol.”

“Shopping.”

“Laying in a tanning bed.”

“Eating obscene amounts of chocolate.”

“Staying in bed all day.”

You get the idea. Without God-defined boundaries in our lives, happiness turns into excess, which turns into a out-of-control life.

2) Suffering, or the refining process, is vital for growth in the Christian life. It’s also uncomfortable and can be painful.

What happens to a pond where the water never moves? Yeah, it gets scummy. To grow into the image of Christ, we cannot stay in a perpetual fog of self-induced bliss, like a doped up bear at the zoo. I think you and I would both agree we are not yet molded perfectly into the image of Christ, which means we have some changing to do. Change, by definition, means something will have to become different. We cannot stay the same. We have to allow God to stretch us. Stretching is uncomfortable, even painful.

When in doubt, I continually return to this pivotal verse Jesus gave to those who wanted to follow Him:

 “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'” ~Luke 9:23  carry cross

Nothing about personal happiness in there. Quite the opposite, in fact. Don’t get me wrong. There is joy, tremendous joy in giving your life away and following Christ. And the happiness we’ll have beyond this life is incomparable to anything we have here. But what most of us consider happiness, the temporary pleasure of this life, cannot be grasped if we are taking up a cross. It’s hard to a carry a cross if you don’t like to be uncomfortable.

3) True blessings like the ones Jesus spoke of had nothing to do with possessions, material wealth, career success or the like.

From His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said the blessed were those who mourned, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and the persecuted. Nothing about personal happiness or financial success in there. You won’t find any verses about God’s will for his children to climb the ladder of accomplishments or to be comfortable.

God is not nearly so concerned with our happiness, or even getting us out of our current circumstances, as He is in transforming us into the image of His Son through our circumstances. His goal is His glory for His great Name.

My friends, we’ve been lied to. It’s time to trade the pursuit for temporary happiness and instead pursue the eternal joy that is found when we choose to give our lives away and fall at the feet of Jesus.

“He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?” ~Micah 6:8

God loves you. He loves you so much He died for you, and He loves you too much to let you dabble with things that will destroy you, or let you be less than the glorious plan He intended for you. Don’t listen to the lie. Choose life.

Why I Gave Up Talking Politics on Social Media

I will no longer talk politics on social media.

There. I said it.

You may be thinking, “So what? This chick probably isn’t very politically minded anyways.”

Wrong.

I’m a musician, and to be honest, I rarely know the top hits of the day because my radio is always tuned into news talk stations. I’m extremely well-informed. My kids are almost as well informed as I am. I keep my thumb on the political pulse of our world every day. No, that’s not why I’m giving up talking politics on social media.

“But, Tara,” my friends say, “the stakes have never been higher. The United States is at a tipping point.” I get it. I really do. And trust me, I’m on my knees daily, praying that the apocalypse that we are about to descend into will somehow be reversed by God’s mercy. I can tell from the looks on their faces they think I’m just discouraged about the upcoming elections, weary of all the talk, the mud-slinging, the scandals. I am, but not in the way they think.

trump vs clinton

I’m giving up talking politics on social media because of Christians like myself.

These past several weeks have been eye-opening. Accusations and name calling. Assumptions and judgmental barbs flung like daggers. Temper tantrums and junior high style snarky posts about people without technically calling the person by name. Passive aggressive behavior. “I can’t believe a Christian would support this candidate.” “I can’t believe any Christian wouldn’t support this candidate.”Blah, blah, blah. Snark, snark, snark. Sin, sin, sin.

And all the while, unbelievers watch, watch, watch.

The number of people who can state their opinion in a calm way without stirring up a hornet’s nest of vitriol are shockingly few. Fewer still are those who can scroll through Facebook without be constantly offended by someone or something.

All of it breaks my heart.

facebook fight

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no holier-than-thou. I’ve done it too. That’s the problem. One crazy item in the news and my emotions fire up. Then my fingers start typing and before I know it, I’m in an argument with some dude I barely knew in high school over a political issue that neither of us are experts about.

A niggling unease has been building in my spirit for the past several weeks and I’ve had troubling identifying just why it was there. Every time I opened Facebook and saw yet another heated interchange between fellow Christians, it only grew worse. (This is aside from my normal aversion to confrontation.) Suddenly one day it hit me: we talk about what we’re passion about. And all I’m seeing plastered across social media is politics.

That’s well and good if you don’t know Jesus, but as a believer, we are called to something, no, to Someone much higher.

I have friends in my social media accounts from various walks of life. Some are conservatives and some are liberals. Some are straight and some are gay. Some have been in church all their lives and some have never even stepped foot inside a church building. If I’m not careful, I can forget that my life (including social media) is no longer my own. It’s God’s. I’ve been bought with a price. I have a tremendous opportunity to each the farthest corners of the globe with His message of hope. But what do I do? I get on Facebook and squabble about the election.

No more.

If my opinion becomes a stumbling block to someone receiving Christ,

If venting my opinion spirals into an angry exchange or even a perceived angry exchange,

If those who read my words can no longer see Christ in me,

then it’s not worth it.

When this life is over and I stand before God, this election won’t matter. It will be over and done. The outcome will have long been decided. But what will matter is how I treated people in my circle of influence. Every person I meet is either moving closer or farther away from God. Am I encouraging them or discouraging? Am I a voice of love or a voice of rage?

As love peoplebelievers, what instructions did Jesus give us until He returns? Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19,20)

Jesus didn’t say, “Go therefore and make Republicans of all nations…” or “Go therefore and sell the people on a government funded Democrat run program…”. Not at all. Politics have nothing to do with our job. We are supposed to be passionate about telling a dying world about Him.

And lest we forget…governments rise and fall at the hand of God alone.

When Jesus was spilling out His life on the cross, He was not dying for a nation. He was dying for the entire human race. Am I more interested in how a person fills out their ballot, or where they will spend eternity?

This is not a plea for Christians to stop posting political news or opinions on their social media accounts. Please don’t misunderstand. Each person’s account is their individual voice of freedom. What this is a cry for is a plea for wisdom. If we as Christians cannot engage in political discourse without our emotions running rampant, we should yield to the Holy Spirit and exercise self-control. People are watching. Unbelievers are watching and they are trying to figure out what they think of God based on how His kids behave.

This is why I’ve said goodbye to talking politics on social media. The price is high. Souls are at stake. And when souls are at stake, my Facebook and Twitter feed should be flooded with light, all signs pointing them to a loving Savior…not an election or my personal opinions of temporary problems.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

They won’t know us by whether we vote Republican or Democrat, whether we support the hot-button issues of the day or how well we can argue our position.

They will know us by our love.