Euphoria in a Rice Field…I Think Not

Euphoria in a Rice Field…I Think Not

by Tara Johnson

I was getting a bit bored, driving through soggy rice fields on my way to a prison in Arkansas, preparing to speak to inmates on a drizzly Sunday morning.

Maybe it was the lack of scenery that made me notice it. Maybe it’s because it was the only building around for miles other than a few silos. But when I saw the building perched on the side of the road, I shook my head.

There in big, bold print, a sign advertised: Euphoria.

Now, if this establishment offered chocolate or books, I would have pulled right in. This business, however, offered things along the darker side. Nasty and vile things. From the looks of the sign, if you could imagine it, it was likely offered there.

Yet, it was named Euphoria. So at odds with what it ultimately gave.

The thought suddenly struck me that if it was called what it really offered, nobody would want to step foot inside.

Instead of plastering Euphoria on the outside, how about Shame? Instead of Exhilaration, how about Disappointment? Instead of Ecstasy, how about Broken Lives and Heartache?

 shame

I know, I know. It sounds harsh. But it’s true.

I’ve spent much of my adult life analyzing the lies that Satan tells me, lies that I used to believe. Ugly, hateful vicious lies hissed in my ear when my heart was bruised and my soul was achingly vulnerable. The enemy would attack my worth, and like an idiot, I believed him. I would allow his schemes to make me forget my God-worth…who I am in Christ.

But Satan uses another scheme, one that might be, perhaps, more deadly. He either attacks our worth or he goes the other direction—he makes sin look like everything we’ve ever wanted.

He says, “I care about you. No one appreciates you. It’s time to do what you want to do.” Or “Your spouse doesn’t understand you. But that co-worker of yours, he gets you. Let him fill that emotional need you’re craving.” He whispers, “No one will know. After all you’ve been through, you deserve to play by your own rules for a change.”

Lies, lies and more lies.

trust meHe makes sin look attractive, irresistible. Satan himself was once the most beautiful angel in heaven before he fell. (Luke 10:18, Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28) My youngest daughter recently mentioned something about Satan having horns and a tail.

I shook my head. “No, Honey, the Bible says Satan was God’s most beautiful angel. He’s extremely attractive.”

Flabbergasted, her little mouth dropped open. “What? But he’s evil!”

I nodded. “Exactly. Think about this…would we want anything to do with him if he was hideous and scary-looking? He does the same thing with sin. He makes it look stunning. Wonderful. But it always leads to death. Always.”

“And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” 2 Corinthians 11:14

In our own culture, we’re manipulated constantly. Those beer commercials show happy people frolicking and having a blast. But it doesn’t show you the broken family, the debt or the life-destroying addiction that comes with overindulgence. Men and women alike are lured into pornography, thinking no one will know, no one will see—whether it’s computer images, books or the popular movies our society so ignorantly soaks up. Yet those websites and movies never show the destroyed marriages that come after sin has had its time to erode and decay. It fails to show the damage absorbing filth will do to you mind and spirit. Not to mention the way embracing it will crumble your testimony to rubble and drag God’s name through the muck and mire, as well.

 abandoned shack 4

And all of it breaks my heart.

We were made for so much more. It’s one thing for a lost world to act lost. Without Jesus’ transforming power, they are acting exactly as they are supposed to: blind, empty, dead. But as God’s redeemed children, we are to be different. Set apart for a special purpose. Children of light.

One night as I was teaching my junior class at church, I asked one of the boys to come up front so I could show the class something. Before he even finished walking to me, I reached out and shoved him down. Eyes wide, he gasped. “What did ya do that for?”

I shrugged. “No reason. I just felt like it.”

He got up and smoothed his rumpled shirt, his irritation obvious, as I reached out to shove him once more. Only this time, he was ready. He stiffened his little body and dug his feet into the ground. He was immovable. On alert. I couldn’t push him over, wiry and tight as he was.

I grinned and told the class, “That’s how Satan works. If you’re not on guard, he’ll do everything he can to knock you down. But the second time I tried to shove Noah, he didn’t fall. Why? Because he was braced and ready.”

Be ready. Be on guard. Be wise. Satan will come after you, make no mistake about that. Stay close to God and remember, dabbling with sin never, ever makes things better. It always leads to heartache, affecting not just you, but those you love as well.

Euphoria, indeed.

Now it’s your turn to help a girl out—What are some other lies Satan tells God’s children?

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Untied Shoelaces: Insecurity’s Scream

I could hear the fight from the trail below me as I climbed Pinnacle Mountain. Actually, everyone in the vicinity of the snaking path could hear the epic battle of wills between the frustrated father and his stubborn son on the crowded mountainside.

“Son, I mean it. Stop and tie your shoe.”

“No, I don’t want to.”

“You’re going to trip and get hurt.”

Silence as the determined boy marched past his father.

“Ethan, I mean it. Stop right now and tie your shoe. It’s an order.”

“I won’t!”

By now, the father is so angry he’s almost screaming. “Fine! If you fall and break your neck, it won’t be on me!”

Little Ethan huffed. “I’d rather break my neck than stop and tie my shoes.”

I could almost hear the exhausted father ripping his hair out at the roots. “Why? Why on earth won’t you just stop and tie your blasted shoe?”

Little Ethan turned, a scowl on his freckled face. “If I stop, everyone around us will think that I’m tired! That I’m a wimp! I’m not going to stop and let them think I’m not tough enough to climb up this mountain!”

The father scratched his head. “Maybe they’ll just think you needed to tie your shoe.”

Ethan shook his head. “No, it’s not worth the risk. I’d rather fall than anyone think that I’m a wimp.”

That, my friends, is rampant insecurity on display.

Have you ever been there? Insecurity makes us jealous. It makes us control-freaks. It causes us to wallow in suspiciousness. Insecurity births braggarts, fits of temper, infidelity, needing constant validation or the inability to be happy unless everyone around us is happy. Its nagging voice makes us think the worst of others, assigning them motives that don’t exist. In short, insecurity causes us to do the stupidest, and sometimes, most harmful things imaginable…not just to ourselves. It colors and stains every single relationship in our life.

Boiled down to it’s most fundamental existence is this: insecurity is a lie from Satan that screams, “You’re not good enough.”

 insecurity is loud

There is no louder scream than insecurity.

And there is no greater display of insecurity than when we compare ourselves to others. Have you ever heard the saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy”? It’s true. Painfully so.

In my own life, these kinds of refrains are common: “If I could just sing like Mariah Carey… If I could only write like Francine Rivers… If I could just speak like Beth Moore…if I was as funny as Tim Hawkins…

Please tell me I’m not the only one.

The problem with insecurity in the life of the child of God is that it devalues a person He’s made for a glorious purpose. You.

“Your eyes saw my unformed body: all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16) Before you ever took a breath, God had a distinct plan for your life and that plan did not include having you pretend to be someone else.

The world already has a Mariah Carey, a Francine Rivers, a Beth Moore and a Tim Hawkins. The plan for your life is distinct for you.

If you’ve been inspired to write a song, rejoice. God gave that unique idea to you. If a story is inside of you just begging to come out, be glad. For He gave that story to you. If you fear you are royally messing up as a parent and that things will never get better with your children, take a deep breath. He entrusted those precious lives to you.

My friends, it’s time to silence the screams of insecurity and replace them with God-worth.

God-worth is knowing Who we belong to. It’s grasping hold of the truth that Jesus thought you were so valuable, He went to the farthest lengths possible to save you. He would have rather died, died, than leave you in the dark.

That is true love. And it makes each of us more precious than all the silver and gold the world could contain.

Insecurity screams, “I’m not as good as _________.” But having a healthy God-worth says, “Another person’s talents and abilities does not diminish my own.” Insecurity shouts, “I have to be perfect or no one will accept me.” God worth whispers, “God’s unconditional love for me never wavers, whether I’m at my best or scraping bottom at my worst.”

If you’ve given your life to Jesus, you’re redeemed. Protected. Fought for. Sheltered. Precious. An heir. Royalty. Loved.

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

Cling tight to that truth, my friend.

Oxygen Masks

Have you been burdened to do something big for God? Maybe you have a desire for ministry that is burning inside you. In this day and age, the opportunities are endless. Missions, human trafficking, homeless shelters, women’s or men’s ministries, Celebrate Recovery, pregnancy centers, prisons…the possibilities are exciting and dizzying. Thoreau said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” We all long to matter. We all want to make an impact and somehow know that our lives will leave an eternal mark for future generations.

I have to say, though, many of us try to skip past the preparation time and instead run towards the ‘doing’. The problem with this is that we can never effectively help anyone else until we’ve worked through our own ‘mess’. You can’t give what you don’t have.

Think of it this way: flight attendants always tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone next to you. When I was younger and flew on a plane, I thought these instructions seemed harsh. If a four year old is gasping for breath, he needs oxygen first! But the issue is that you can’t help those smaller and weaker than you are if you are dead! You have to breath in that life-giving force yourself before being able to help others receive what they need.

oxygen mask

Are you struggling with hidden issues that you’ve pushed down for far too long? Insecurity, feeling unloved, people-pleasing, depression, addiction, grief, anxiety? What do you strive so hard to hide? My friends, we can never truly be healed, and help others, until we have brought those problems to the surface and exposed them to God’s healing light.

Our Father wants us to have a desire to help others and to live a life of loving, sharing and giving. But the honest truth is, until we let Him heal us too, we will never reach our potential that He’s created for us. Don’t be so intent on running ahead to ‘do’ that you miss the gift He wants to give you today. Strap on the oxygen mask!