Categories
Wisdom Wednesday

When Fresh Water Looks Familiar

We just set up a television in our office to display a calm waterfall scene.  So far, the scene has managed to distract me from getting work done because it is so relaxing!  My eyes are drawn to the water spewing out of the waterfall.  How does the water look so fresh every time, but the water is never replaced by an outside force (well, obviously, besides rain in real life, but in this picture, there is no sight of rain anywhere).

I feel like the word of God is accurately portrayed in the vision of a waterfall.

I’ve heard people ask for a fresh word from the Lord.  We want to hear something new from God, not something that we’ve heard before.  We’ve been following His direction about an issue for several months, and we need something new to follow.

Isn’t that so much like our culture, to always expect the new and unfamiliar?

Come on, God!  Let’s get on with it.

God really challenged my belief when I was brought to read Psalm 23.  Let me tell you, if I could get a Masters in a verse or passage in the Bible, it would either be Philippians 4:6-7 (thank you, anxiety) or Psalm 23.  I had to memorize Psalm 23 for one of my classes in my undergrad.  I had done a Bible study on Psalm 23.  I heard a speaker talk about Psalm 23 during another one of my Bible studies.  I had studied sheep and shepherds and understand the importance of the sheep and the shepherds.  I studied each and every word out of the study.  I analyzed every, single, verse.  I sucked the verse dry, as if it were a hose with a limited amount of water.

So, why was God leading me back to read it again?  Didn’t I already graduate from Psalm 23?  Where was my fresh word?  Where was God going to meet me?

I read the chapter, and nothing in particular stuck out to me.

But that is exactly what I learned.

See, I approach God with what I want Him to teach me.  I approach God expecting Him to speak to me, expecting a fresh word, expecting His Word to bend and mold so that I could be satisfied with new information.  But I realized that God isn’t going to change His Word for me.  He isn’t going to feed me new food when He has already provided me my daily bread.

When the Israelites wandered through the desert, they got sick of the manna that the Lord was miraculously providing them daily.  The LORD was literally making bread fall from Heaven, and the Israelites were mad that they had to have manna again.  They were getting sick of it.  They were so numb to the miracles of God that they had forgotten that their provision truly was a miracle.

Instead of expecting a fresh word from the LORD, I should be grateful every time I approach God’s Word because God speaks to me through His Word.  Even if He keeps repeating “I love you” or “I will provide what you need,” God is speaking to me.  Psalm 23 may be a familiar word, but the word will always be true.  No matter if I’m about to walk into a difficult season, if I’m walking through a difficult season, or I just came out of a difficult season.  I’ve learned through time that the LORD is my shepherd.  Even though I can believe that now, there have been times in my life where I’ve really had to trust God to provide financially or emotionally, and I’ve seen Him provide money for me when I need it, as well as peace when I was going through a panic attack.

In that moment I was getting a reminder of the times that God had revealed Himself to me as shepherd, and has taken me through the hard times.  If I was expecting a fresh word, I would have missed the wonderful lesson that God wanted to show me.  When we approach God’s Word, let’s not be expectant of a fresh word.  Let’s be humble, teachable, and let God speak to us through His Word.


Photo by Robert Lukeman on Unsplash

Categories
Wisdom Wednesday

How to Overcome When You’re Overwhelmed

As I’ve been slightly overwhelmed these past few weeks, I find it appropriate to write about what to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed.  Two week ago, I shared that if you’re overwhelmed, you’re in good company.  This week, let’s talk about what to do in the heat of the moment.

It amazes me that some people don’t know what a panic attack feels like.  For me, they are a regular struggle; I used to have multiple panic attacks a day, and then they stopped for a few months, and now I have about one every two weeks.  Needless to say, panic attacks are a major inconvenience, no matter how often I get them or how long they last.

For those who don’t know, let me describe a typical panic attack (although panic attacks look different for everyone): throat feels tight, trouble breathing, racing heart, dizziness, blurry vision, hot flashes, nausea, muscle spasms, dry mouth, and stomach knots…all in a matter of five minutes.

Panic attacks tend to occur when I’m feeling overwhelmed.  When I have a ton of things to do and I don’t even know where to start, my muscles tense and I literally become frozen.  I pray and wait until the storm within passes.  Eventually, it does pass, even when it feels like it will never end when it’s actually happening.

If you’re anxious or overwhelmed right now, you probably don’t want to read about it.  You just want help.  Look no further!  Here are five things you can do to calm your nerves and get back on track:

  • Close your eyes: Looking at the pile of work on your desk, the dirty laundry in your bedroom, or a person with whom you have a conflict, can be very overwhelming.  It may help you to just push your chair away from your desk for a minute, turn your head away from the mess, or even go into another room to collect your thoughts.  Don’t let this become an excuse to not get your work done, but taking a break for a few minutes can help you calm down and be ready to face whatever comes your way.
  • Take a deep breath: When I’m anxious, I forget to breathe.  I didn’t realize that I do that until I was in college, and my friend noticed I wasn’t breathing.  Anxiety actually subsides when we let oxygen flow through our brain and allow the body to heal.  I just did a quick search on how oxygen helps with anxiety, and I found that people actually use concentrated oxygen (under doctor or professional supervision, I’m sure) to heal from anxiety and other mental disorders.  So, the air around you can help you if you just, well, use it!
  • Make a list: Write a to-do list and study it.  Seeing all your tasks causes you to look at them and make a plan of action.  They can be counted; they are not innumerable.  You will feel more in control, and you will remember your tasks, if you list what seems like impossible activities.
  • Pray: You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.  He will give you the wisdom to handle your tasks, and the peace to overcome your anxiety.  Pray for clarity of mind as you use wisdom to sort through your to-do list.
  • Move: Do not let the fear paralyze you.  As I said before, anxiety or feeling overwhelmed may hinder you from getting anything done.  Sometimes the best way to overcome the stress is to simply do the task.  When you start moving, you’ll be able to accomplish what you thought was impossible.

The Bible says that when we meditate on the word of God day and night, we will be like a tree planted near streams of water (Psalm 1:1-3).  Wouldn’t you rather be a tree that is rooted on the ground than a leaf that is blown around by the wind?  Trust in God in the midst of anxiety.  He is our foundation, our ever present help in trouble.  Through Him, we can overcome when we feel overwhelmed.


Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Categories
Wisdom Wednesday

Feeling Overwhelmed?

I’m writing this post after an overwhelming day.  I woke up, left late for work (but by the grace of God made it to work on time), worked eight hours straight under pressure, had a wicked stomachache (which is an absolute nightmare for someone with a fear of throwing up), dealt with crazy drivers on the way home, quickly ate dinner with my husband, and then washed the dishes for two hours.  All the while, I tried to keep a smile on my face and plow through the day without having a breakdown.

Trust me when I say, I know what it’s like to be overwhelmed.  I honestly feel like God puts me in these situations not only to grow me, but to encourage someone else who may also be feeling overwhelmed.  So, if you’re overwhelmed, this one’s for you!

For a long time, I wished that the craziness would stop and that I could just live at peace.  I thought that if I just worked a little bit harder, spent time with the right people, and prayed a little more, I would sort of get to the next level of life, which is the relaxing time.  My older friends lovingly pointed out that the craziness never stops, that life will grow busier and busier as I progress.  This fact honestly just makes me want to dig my face in my hands and cry for a little bit.

What if I told you that God actually wants you to be overwhelmed?

I looked through the Scriptures to find out what to do when I’m overwhelmed.  Although I wish that I could have found evidence that God wants to completely eliminate our chaos, what I’ve found is that God actually wants us to be overwhelmed.  Think about it: Do you think Abraham was overwhelmed when God called him and his wife to start a new life in a foreign land?  Do you think Jacob was overwhelmed when he had twelve kids and two quarreling wives, and he eventually thought his son was dead?  Do you think Gideon was overwhelmed when God shrunk his army from 22,000 to 300 to fight an army that was considered innumerable?  Do you think David was overwhelmed when Saul literally vowed on his life to kill him? (David was so overwhelmed that he wrote several psalms about his experience!)  Do you think Jesus was overwhelmed when He sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane?

Friend, if you’re overwhelmed, you’re in good company.

When you are at the end of your rope, that’s when God reveals His strength to hold you up.  When you are running on empty, that’s when God wants you to run to Him.  When you feel like there’s no hope, that’s when God wants you to find hope in Him.  When you’re overwhelmed, that’s when you need to take a deep breath (in through your nose, out through your mouth) and pray that God would give you what you need in that situation.  And when He reveals Himself to you, you realize that your problems aren’t so big anymore.  That’s when your faith in God grows.

So, if being overwhelmed is supposed to happen, how come it feels so wrong?

The difference between being overwhelmed in the way we understand it and being overwhelmed in the way God understands it is the source of our overwhelming.  In other words, what overwhelms us defines whether or not we can live at peace.  Being overwhelmed by the things of this world (our jobs, our families, our school, our health, our chores, etc.) will drain us, but being overwhelmed by God will fill us.

When the people of the Bible were overwhelmed, what did they do?  They looked up. They remembered that their Heavenly Father was bigger than anything they could face. As Abraham walked, God revealed all the land that He had created, the land that Abraham’s descendants would one day inherit.  When Jacob had doubts, God wrestled with him and overtook him, reminding Jacob of the Lord’s mighty strength.  When Gideon doubted that God could use the weakest member of the smallest clan of Israel, God used him and 300 willing men to defeat an innumerable army. When David was overwhelmed, he meditated on the greatness of God, and it brought him peace.  When Jesus was overwhelmed to the point of death, He spent the last few hours of His life on Earth praying for God’s will to be done.

If you’re overwhelmed, you’re in good company.  You’re also in good hands.  If you trust in God, He will guide you in the way you should go.  When you’re feeling overwhelmed, look up at Him and remember that what you are facing is no match for your great God.

Oh, and did I mention how I actually made it through the day today?  I started the day with worship.  My commute to work was so much easier knowing that God was with me in that car.  The prayers I prayed and the moments I shared with Him in the morning planted the seeds of hope that I needed for the rest of the day.  I sat in the car, overwhelmed by God, and not overwhelmed by my circumstances.

Next week, I will address practical steps to handle stress in the heat of the moment.  But for now, I think it’s time for bed!


Photo by Rich Lock on Unsplash

Categories
Wisdom Wednesday

Let’s Be Honest

I walk through the church atrium, greeted by many smiling faces.  “How are you?” they ask me, already knowing my answer.  “I’m good, how are you?”  Their smiles grow wider when they act exactly the way that they expect.  “Good!” they reply enthusiastically.

Little do they know that I’m not really “good.”  The truth is: I’m hurting inside, but I don’t want to talk about it.  I’d rather stuff it deeper and hide behind a polite smile.  I lift my hands in worship, putting on a show rather than truly surrendering to God, fearing that if I didn’t lift my hands, someone would ask me what was wrong.  The pastor leads us in prayer at the end of the service, but all I want to do is go home.

Sadly, I lived for too long under the mask of false positivity and rehearsed answers.  Sadly, people I love have lived the same way.  Sadly, the world makes it nearly impossible to be honest with others, with ourselves, and with God.

I believe that a huge portion of my anxiety was a result of hiding my feelings and being dishonest with those around me.  I would walk through life as if I was carrying a big package and I could never put it down.  It was difficult to breathe under the weight of my hurt.

Someone recently asked me if it was normal to be upset at God.  Learning to be honest with God was so liberating.  For most of my life, I believed that emotions were bad.  I believed that I should avoid emotions at all cost and just focus on the positive.  After all, the Bible says to give thanks in all circumstances.  Doesn’t that mean it’s a sin not to be thankful at any given moment?  But after meeting some great accountability partners in college, I learned that the Bible had a lot to say about being honest with our emotions!

Yes, it is normal to be upset with God.  Think about it.  God is sovereign over everything.  He can easily stop whatever is going on that is causing you pain or frustrating you.  He can easily heal me from my anxiety.  He can easily make the cars part on the parkway so that I have no traffic on the way home.  But for some reason that we don’t understand, He’s not stopping the pain or the confusion.

The beautiful thing about honesty is that it shows God your heart. I believe that God would rather have an honest worshiper who was angry than a fake worshiper who was happy. Psalm 51:17 says that God will not despise a broken and contrite spirit.

The Psalms are filled with honest prayers to God that make you wonder “Should those really be in the Bible?” As a matter of fact, David prays that his enemies’ babies would be dashed against the rocks (see Psalm 137). That’s obviously really extreme, but it shows how much anger was in David’s prayers. He was angry that his enemies had taken Israel into captivity; he was removed from his homeland and all he wanted to do was go back.

I sometimes drive home from work and simply ask God “Why?”  Why do I have to sit in this traffic?  Why do I still have anxiety?  Why is life so difficult?  The world calls this complaining, but I call it honesty.  The key to being honest with God about our emotions is that we must not stop there.  The Psalms never ended on a bad note and neither should we.  David would pour out his anger, sadness, and anxiety to God…but then he would declare his complete trust to God.

“God, I’m sad.  I’m angry.  Why is this happening?  Although I don’t understand what You’re doing, I trust that You will work all of this out for good, and You will never leave me or forsake me because You love me.”

I don’t know how long this season of questioning will last for you.  I don’t know what God has for you in the next season. All I know is that when you are honest with God, and you surrender your hurt, confusion, or anger to Him, you will grow closer to Him. It may be a daily surrender instead of a one-and-done deal. You may go to bed one day and surrender your hurts to Him, and wake up the next morning and still have the hurt. Keep surrendering, and then remind yourself of the hope you have in Christ.

 


Photo by Geetanjal Khanna on Unsplash

Categories
Wisdom Wednesday

Anxiety Brings Me Closer to God

Since I was seven years old, anxiety has manifested in my body in a variety of ways: from stomach pains, to headaches, to chest pains, to nausea, to insomnia, to simply obsessing over a thought…I’ve felt like I could never catch a break!  Some of my close friends and family members also suffer from PTSD, OCD, and GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder).  It is not only a struggle to suffer from anxiety; it is also a struggle to watch others suffer with it.

I conducted a poll on my Twitter, and even though only 16 people voted, I want to give a voice to the 94% who suffer from anxiety to some degree (including 44% who consider anxiety a daily struggle).  Based on this poll, it’s safe to say that anxiety looks different for everyone.  Some people get anxious in certain situations, such as going on a plane or speaking in front of a large crowd.  Other people have difficulty controlling their thoughts and emotions, so their thoughts and emotions control them on a regular basis.

Truthfully, I wish I had a cure-all answer for anxiety.  However, there is no blanket statement, no perfect pill, no secret diet that can make anxiety disappear.  I can only speak from my own personal experience, and offer a voice of encouragement to help those who may be plagued with anxious thoughts, or who don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.

After all that I’ve been through, I’ve learned that my anxiety brings me closer to God.

This isn’t the typical Christian answer to anxiety.  When I tell people I’m feeling anxious, they quickly whip out Philippians 4:6.  Anxiety, I’ve been told, is a sin, and must never be entertained in the mind of a believer.

When I mentioned this to one of my pastors, he let me borrow the book God Will Make a Way by Henry Cloud & John Townsend.  The book mentions that fear is not all bad.  As a matter of fact, fear can be a good thing, as long as it does not debilitate you from living.  For example, if you’re in an area of the world that experiences tornadoes, if you see a dark cloud forming in the distance, your natural instinct is not to say, “Wow, look at that!  What a pretty cloud.”  Your reaction is to panic, grab all you need, and hide in a safe place.  When traumatic things happen to us, it is natural and correct to freak out and try to figure out how to get our lives back to equilibrium.

My life hasn’t been exactly easy.  Lysa TerKeurst’s book Uninvited encouraged me to think about how I’ve suffered as a child, a teen, and an adult.  Between the death of my grandma, breaking my elbow, dealing with an abusive step family, and loved ones moving out of state, I really wondered how I made it through.

By the grace of God, around that time is when I remember learning that it is possible to trust God.  Literally a week before my grandma died, I read in a fiction book that a girl was going to trust God with whatever situation she was facing.  It was such a foreign concept to me, to trust someone who was so far away and yet seemed so interested in my life.  However, taking the responsibility off of myself in these difficult circumstances and putting my trust in God gave me such overwhelming peace that I was able to overcome my pain, and even forgive those who have wronged me.

Knowing what I know about anxiety, it makes so much sense that I reacted to most of these occurrences in fear.  My grandma died unexpectedly; I missed her, and seeing my mom upset affected me as well.  Breaking my elbow caused me to miss a lot of school, resulting in lost contact with a few of my friends, and falling behind on my school work.  Having a verbally abusive stepfather instead of a loving father in my house caused me to question what family is supposed to look like.  But I didn’t stay in fear.  I cried, I journaled, I prayed, and I trusted that God would be glorified in this experience.  Here I am today, twelve years later, thankful that God did not disappoint.

So, if you’re facing anxiety, I applaud your body for reacting in a way that is natural given your circumstances.  But don’t stay there.  Whatever you are facing, ask yourself what is triggering your anxiety.  Are you about to do something out of your comfort zone? Are you currently in the midst of a conflict with a loved one?  Are you overwhelmed at your job or at school?  Pinpoint exactly what makes you anxious.

Then, pray about it.  Be absolutely honest with God; He can handle how you really feel! If you are comfortable, share your anxiety with a trusted friend.  Sometimes, just saying the fear out loud decreases its power over me.  After you’ve confessed the fear, take your mind off of it by focusing on the Word of God.  Memorize Bible verses.  Listen to a worship song that is based on Scripture.  Watch a sermon online.  Do a Bible study with a support group.  You might not get the instant results that you crave, but over time, you will notice your anxiety losing its grip over your life.

When you decide to give your anxiety to God, He uses your difficult circumstances to draw you closer to Him. Life with Jesus is the most beautiful adventure I’ve ever had.  Trust Him today, and see how He moves in your life!

(If you would like to see other posts about my journey with anxiety, please type “anxiety” in the search bar on the left side of the page).


Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

Sources:
Cloud, Henry & Townsend, John. “Fear and Anxiety.”  God Will Make a Way. Brentwood, TN: Integrity Publishers, 2002.  Print.

TerKeurst, Lysa. Uninvited Study Guide. Nashville: Nelson Books, 2016.  Print.

Categories
Wisdom Wednesday

Wisdom vs. Discernment

At church a few weeks ago, our pastor gave a message on faith.  He taught us that faith doesn’t just believe; it also acts.  He challenged us with a question: “Are we asking in faith, or are we just asking God to fix it?”

When I first heard the pastor’s question, I thought to myself, Aren’t those both the same thing?  Don’t we ask in faith when we can’t fix it ourselves?  Don’t we trust that God is going to fix our situation because He has greater strength and resources than we do?

Almost as soon as I began to think about this, I realized the answer: Yes, but you need discernment to know when you’re boldly asking for God’s will to be done and when you’re just cowering in fear because you don’t want to go through pain.

Merriam-Webster defines “discernment” as “the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure.”  When you first start reading the Bible, it appears to contain obscure and almost contradictory statements.  You are saved by faith, but you need to do works to show your faith, but don’t do works just to look like a good person.  If you save your life, you will lose it.  Bad company corrupts good character, but go into the world and preach the gospel to those who are far from God.  Be all things to all people in order to win some, but do not love the world or anything in the world.  Although these statements look like they contradict each other, they are all true and they all exist in perfect harmony.  However, you need discernment to comprehend the meaning behind the text, as well as to know how to apply the text to your life.

Wisdom involves the tools you need to live righteously; discernment is the way in which you use those tools.  But how do you get discernment?

  • The Holy Spirit.  Ultimately, the Holy Spirit is the one who opens the eyes of our hearts and helps us to live righteously.  Peter knew that Jesus was the Christ because God revealed it to him (Matt. 16:17).  When Jesus resurrected on the third day, He revealed the Scriptures (and who He truly was) to some of His disciples (Luke 24:31-32).  When you need help understanding the Scriptures, and in turn understanding God’s will for your life, you can depend on the Holy Spirit to guide you.
  • The Bible. Despite what people may tell you, the Bible does not contradict itself. When you read a passage that does not make sense, read it in light of the context in which it was written, as well as in light of the rest of Scripture.
  • Wise Counsel (Accountability). I love the fact that there are people around me to help me interpret the Bible and to unpack what I feel God is saying to me.  You don’t have to live life alone; you were created to live in community.  If you are struggling with discovering where God is leading you, call a friend that you trust to encourage you to walk in faith in God.
  • Sermons/Devotionals. There are pastors, writers, and teachers who have dedicated much time and energy to studying and applying discernment.  Listen to what they have to say.  Spend some time praying over what God has spoken to their hearts, and see how those words can apply to you as well.  It is also helpful to do a devotional in community, so that you can come up with ideas together that you would not be able to on your own.

These beautiful words from the Apostle Paul summarize my prayer for those who read this blog:

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” – Philippians 1:9-11


This featured image has been uploaded to Subsplash by Diz Play.

Categories
Wisdom Wednesday

Heaven on Earth

I have good news to share with you all:

The Kingdom of God is here!

I’m so excited that this is a reality, that this is the good news that we are called to share.  The gospel is not simply a one-way ticket to Heaven (although it is an important part of the Christian faith).  The gospel is not a way for God to remove all the pain and suffering from my life (although I believe God has the ability to heal me and give me a life free from suffering if He wanted!).  No, the gospel is God meeting us where we are right now and setting the world free by destroying death and redeeming His creation.

Do you want to be a part of it?

I’ve been reading the book Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright*, and that book has changed my entire perspective on my life as a Christian.  On Monday, my friend and co-worker shared a sermon from John Ortberg* with me that was about the kingdom of God, and the fact that eternal life begins here and now.  So, I felt like there was a pattern in what God was teaching me, and I would like to share what I learned with you today.

We have been taught from an early age that the gospel is simply believing that Jesus died so that you can go to Heaven.  We have this mentality that Christianity is all about what Jesus can do for me, and whatever I suffer in this life, I will never have to deal with it in the next.  It doesn’t matter if I sin, it doesn’t matter if I’m mean to people, it doesn’t matter if others hurt me…my ultimate hope is going to Heaven when I die.

Sadly, I spent much of my Christian life like this.  As one who tends to avoid pain and responsibility, I like the idea that Jesus died so that I can never be hurt, so that there will always be sunny skies and comfy pillows and blessings.  I guarded my heart, protecting myself from the world, believing that if I just held on long enough and kept myself free from sin, I would be able to enjoy sitting on fluffy clouds, eating ice cream with no calories, and partying with my relatives who had gone before me.

This was my gospel; it was the gospel centered around me.

Although this life sounds pretty great, the life that Jesus promises is even better.  His plan involves helping us see beyond ourselves.  His plan involves restoration, redemption, and revival…and we are able to be a part of it.  Jesus did not come just to protect you from this “evil” world; He came so you could help Him in restoring all of creation to what it used to be.

It starts when we accept Jesus into our hearts.

This means recognizing the work Jesus did on Earth, believing that His sacrifice was enough to save your sins, and then submitting to God’s will.  Having a relationship with Jesus is asking Him what He desires, knowing full well that He loves us, and trusting Him to not only provide for your needs, but for the needs of all of His creation.

When we accept God’s will for us, we begin to pray as Jesus taught us to pray: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

After that, we trust in faith that God will provide us the guidance and wisdom to know how to live in Heaven on Earth.  Whether it’s caring for someone who is sick, advocating the rights of the poor, or even smiling at a friend who needs encouragement, you can assist in bringing the Kingdom of God to Earth. And since God is a good God, we know that His Kingdom will make the world a better place, one soul, one smile, one prayer at a time.

Are you fixing your eyes on the problems in this world and losing hope, or are you hoping that Jesus comes back soon so that He could clean up all of our mess?  I have even greater news for you than either of those two options: Before Jesus comes back, we have the opportunity to bring Heaven to Earth through our worship, our service to God, and overall, through His love flowing out of us.

 

 


Sources:

bd daniel. “John Ortberg The Kingdom of God Pepperdine University
2014.”  Online video clip. YouTube. 10 April 2015. Web. 17 July 2017.

Wright, N. T. Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection,
and the Mission of the Church.  
New York: Harper Collins, 2008.  Print.

Categories
Wisdom Wednesday

What Wisdom Do You Share?

Talking (or posting on social media) does not always produce wisdom. Proverbs 10:19 says that where words are many, sin is not absent.  The more we talk, the more likely we are to sin.

Are you sinning with your words?

Here are some reasons why people generally post on social media, or give advice that may or may not be helpful:

  • I want to be heard. Social media makes it so easy for us to feel important. When we receive information, we have a desire to share it, simply so that we can hear the sound of our own voices.  Have you ever talked and thought to yourself, “I have no idea what I’m even saying, but if I stop now, it will look awkward”?  You’re the type that has a lot to say, but may not be saying much at all. You may be motivated by the desire to feel significant, which, in and of itself, is not a bad desire. However, when you seek approval from others, it not only puts an unhealthy responsibility on them, but also an unhealthy attachment in you.
  • I want to put someone down.  So that I do not act as a hypocrite, I will not call anyone out when I bring up this point. However, I challenge you to ask yourself: When you post on social media, when you retaliate, when you wave your finger at another person, what good comes out of putting that person down?  You claim you’re trying to educate the ignorant ones in your sphere of influence, but the minute you start insulting them, they don’t want to listen to you.  You will no longer be teaching them, but using them as a sounding board to express your own frustrations and sound important (see previous bullet point).
  • I want to promote my business.  In essence, there is nothing wrong with this.  I mean, how else are you going to get the word out and make money?  As a writer and a blogger, I have to somehow weave my writing into conversations so that others will know about it and read it.  But I, along with my fellow artists and business owners, must consider my motivation behind promoting my products.  I write to encourage those around me to find freedom in Christ, especially from anxiety and discontentment (two struggles that I have overcome through Christ).  Fitness trainers can promote their services, not just to make money, but to provide others with the tools they need to live a healthy lifestyle.  Business owners can promote their products, not just to meet a quota, but to improve the lives of others through what they sell.  Advertising is not unwise, as long as the person comes before the product.

As I shared in my post last week, true wisdom comes from knowing Jesus Christ personally and learning the Word of God (the Bible).  That being said, here are the ways you can share godly wisdom with your loved ones:

  • Encourage them with Scripture. I want to stress the importance of keeping Bible verses in context.  Jesus promises to reward the faithful, for example, but in light of the rest of Scripture, that reward is not monetary.  There are plenty of examples of Scripture that has been used out of context, but if you do your research, you’ll be able to understand how to share Bible verses with others.
  • Humbly give your testimony. Sometimes the greatest evidence of our wisdom is our own personal experience.  On college essays or in debates, personal experience is considered a reasonable source.  You may not be an expert on psychology, but you can share how deep breathing or self-affirmation has helped you cope with anxiety.  Please keep in mind, what works for you might not work for others.  All you can do is tell them what has helped you, and hope that your advice at least points them in the right direction.
  • Pray. James 1:5 says that God freely gives wisdom to those who ask.  Your friend who is earnestly seeking wisdom could receive guidance and counsel if you simply lifted him/her up in prayer.
  • Nothing.  When you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything.  It is better to say nothing than to say something foolish and steer them in the wrong direction.  Sometimes the only support your friend needs is a listening ear, a hug, or a fun activity to get his/her mind off of the situation.

Colossians 3:14 tells us to do all things in love. No matter if you’re giving advice, receiving advice, or simply being there for a friend, do everything with the knowledge that God loves you and with the charge from God to love others.

Categories
Wisdom Wednesday

Choose Your Wisdom

You guys have known me long enough for me to say this: I’ve been struggling with making decisions lately.  This isn’t the first time I’ve had this problem, but nowadays, it takes me even longer to feel peace about the decisions I’ve been making.  And after several months of praying, waiting, and hearing mixed messages, I realize the reason behind the confusion.

I need to choose my wisdom.

Now, this is not a new idea, but because of social media, TV programs, and extended families, we now have a lot of people trying to pour into our lives.  Losing weight, planning vacations, making a family, and choosing careers have never been more difficult.  We have so much information available to us that we don’t even know where to start.

We’re getting bombarded by “wisdom.”

As a Christian, I believe that true wisdom comes from knowing God and studying His Word.  I wrote last week about the importance of reading the Bible every day.  We receive wisdom from God when we read His Word and apply it to our lives.  When we read/listen to the Bible in the morning, we gain wisdom for the day ahead of us.  With every decision that comes our way, we can hold the “wisdom” we hear from others against the perfect wisdom of God.

If I read Colossians 3:23 about working for the Lord, I will choose to give my best at work and not slack off on the job.  If I read Philippians 2:14, I know not to join in on complaining with others.  If I read Proverbs 20:19 and I hear my friends gossiping, I won’t jump into the conversation.

So why is it so difficult to make decisions, if all I have to do is read the Bible to know what is right?

The wisdom of this world, the popular wisdom, does not always correlate with God’s wisdom.  Instead, the wisdom of this world correlates with human emotion and what feels right.  When God says that we get wisdom from spending time with Him, the world says, “No, you can get wisdom over here too, away from God.”

This earthly wisdom can come from a Facebook article that sounds so cleverly and creatively crafted.  This earthly wisdom can come from a news reporter who is “just trying to state the facts” (AKA their opinion).  This earthly wisdom can even come from a family member who genuinely wants to see you happy and successful.

But this earthly wisdom, in the end, will lead you down a path that could bring you  away from God’s plan for your life.

The wisdom of this world is transient.  What works for me might not be right for you.  One example of this is with weight loss.  There are so many diets out there; they can’t all be right!  One diet says to eat all carbs and no fat, one diet says to eat all fat and no carbs, and one diet says to eat fat, carbs, and protein, as long as you keep it balanced!  For me, I’ve discovered that eating less carbs has helped with bloating and hunger, but maybe for someone else, fats make them feel, well…fat.  If I follow the wisdom of everyone else, I will end up discouraged.

Instead of choosing wisdom, I’ve been grabbing onto any wisdom that floats my way.  Anytime someone offers me what appears to be wise, I chew on it for a little bit and consider what they’re saying a possibility.  Then someone else comes along and says something different but also considerably wise, and I am conflicted with two pieces of information that cannot both be right.  I’ve been so obsessed with appeasing the voices around me that I’ve lost touch with the voice that’s whispering within me.

It may take time, but I will hear the voice of God again, and I will feel the peace of God that only He can give me.

Although the Bible may not explicitly explain how to handle each and every task, I know from experience and from hearing others’ testimonies that once we put God first, once we make it our mission to please Him over everyone else, once we pray in Jesus’ name for God’s will to be done…then everything else falls into place.

And I mean, everything.

Whether you’re deciding what to make for dinner or where to go to college, choose the wisdom that aligns with the wisdom of God.  Surround yourself with encouraging, wise people who can offer you advice that correlates with God’s Word.  Just because it’s on social media doesn’t mean that it’s advice that’s been tested or researched.  Choose wisdom, and choose wisely!

 

Categories
Wisdom Wednesday

When You Don’t Have Time to Read the Bible

Reading the Bible is what makes us successful in our fight against the devil’s schemes.  When we memorize and recite (read it out loud) Scripture, we proclaim God’s promises and truths. Reading the Bible is, quite literally, life-changing.  The world would be a completely different place if Christians read the Bible and applied the Word of God to their thinking, actions, and beliefs.

And yet, despite the Bible’s life-altering, God-breathed, power-harnessing qualities, the book continues to collect dust on our shelves as we’ve moved on to “bigger and better things”.

I used to hardcore judge people who didn’t have time to read the Bible.  In college, I had a full schedule; between classes, studying, social events, running errands, and working, I barely had any free time.  Nevertheless, every morning, I rolled out of bed, sat on the floor, and opened up my Bible.  I would spend an hour completely focused on God: journaling, highlighting Bible verses, praying out loud, and even coloring if I felt led.  When I graduated college, I had even more time to spend with God, especially since I didn’t have a full-time job yet.  People I knew would tell me how difficult it was to give God even five minutes of their day.  Really?  The One who gave you life isn’t worth five minutes of your time?

Now that I’m “adulting,” my life is literally planned out to the minute.  I find it difficult to give God the time I used to when I had plenty of time to give.  Often, I’m too tired, distracted, or burnt out to read the Bible.

I pray that God can remind us of the truth, that time with Him is more valuable than time anywhere else.

I’ve thought about the excuses I use when I decide not to read the Bible.  Here are the reasons that I’ve actually said (or heard people say) about reading the Bible.  If it is difficult for you to keep a quiet time, I encourage you to take one step toward making a consistent time with God a priority:

  1. I get bored: Thanks for your honesty!  God knows your heart, and He would rather have you spend time with Him being genuine than being  complacent.  If the idea of reading the Bible bores you, start off praying that God would renew your love for His Word.  I also learned in college that there are different ways to study the Bible.  You can do a full-on inductive Bible study where you study a whole chapter or book of the Bible, or you could meditate on a short passage of Scripture in prayer.  Start small for now, but the important thing to do is to be consistent.  Lately, it has been so freeing for me to know that God does not expect me to spend my whole day reading the Bible.  As long as I have intentional, consistent prayer time with Him, my faith grows.
  2. I don’t understand it: The Bible is a complex book, that’s for sure!  It has been translated into hundreds of languages around the world, and there are multiple commentaries written on each book of the Bible.  The best way to understand the Bible is in community.  Let your small group or your church help you.  Even if you read a commentary or do a Bible study on a topic, check your facts with a small group.  There are a lot of different interpretations of the Bible out there, and not all of them are accurate!  Connecting with others can hold you accountable and help you keep your theology in check.
  3. I do a lot of driving:  The struggle is real when it comes to sitting in traffic!  But here are some tips for you if this is your excuse.  First of all, audio Bibles are $30 online.  If your car has a CD player, pop a CD of Genesis into the player and listen to the Bible on your morning commute to work.  Some apps on your phone can also play an audio recording of the Bible.  If you get distracted by road raging drivers, make a commitment to listen to worship music on your commute instead.  Worship songs are based on Scripture, so singing along is like memorizing Scripture.  I’ve also found that uplifting worship music keeps my road rage at bay 🙂
  4. I have too much to do: Let me reiterate this, not to condemn you, but to make you realize the severity: Without God’s love and mercy, you wouldn’t have life.  God is in control; He gives and He takes away.  The least you could do is thank Him for what you have by giving Him a few minutes of your day.  Even if you are involved in ministry, nothing is more important than making that time with God a priority.  If it really is a struggle to make time for God, maybe you should reevaluate your schedule and see what you need to take a break from doing.  As I said, even if you’re doing a good thing, no thing should come before God.