True Freedom

sea-gull-bird-sky-nature

 

Guest Post by Stephanie H.
Freedom is a word with a very different meaning for the soldier than for the child. The latter is keenly focused on wanting to do the opposite of what they are told (and often, what is right and good), and seeks freedom as the opportunity to indulge whims rather than heed the wisdom of his parents. The freedom of the mind of a soldier is a far different thing. During the Civil War, with rumors of a draft to take place, many men enlisted in the army so that there would be no doubt about their loyalty to the honor of their nation. They considered it a shame to need to be forced to do what they considered they highest honor and most basic duty to their nation. The freedom exercised in the life of a soldier looks suspiciously like slavery to the wayward child.
Consider then, the freedom of Christ. We dearly like to talk about the freedom of Christ allowing us to let loose, and forget the laws laid out in the Old Testament. We embrace the freedom to indulge. We are free to state our opinions in whatever manner we like, regardless of ramifications, because we are free to think our own thoughts. We can season our conversation with profanity, because we are free to speak. We can sleep late, eat this or that, sit back, relax, and do unto others as they do, because we are free. We are not required to atone for our sins and selfish quirks, so what have we to fear?
In choosing this freedom, we choose to return to the slavery of the natural man. For centuries, the Israelites kept a very close account of right and wrong, and had very specific penalties and payments when they were transgressed (though many generations turned away). When Jesus came, there were many who seemed to be able to meet the standards laid out to Moses in the wilderness. Jesus did not remove that standard so that the prostitutes and tax-collectors could get in too. He did not reverse the order so that the righteous in deed would be cast out while the sinners were proclaimed righteous. In the fifth chapter of Matthew, Jesus reaffirms the standards God had given the people centuries before, and then raises the bar to include the merest sliver of selfishness that could hide in our hearts. Even if we think we have kept the laws, there are countless ways in which we have mortally sinned against it, without our even being aware. Yet He has given us freedom in that He will be the strength when we choose to pursue His righteousness. In comparing the two, the new covenant is impossible in our own strength, far beyond the difficulty of the old covenant which dealt so greatly with the actions and appearances rather than the heart.
Yes, we are free to choose Christ, or our worldly loves, but that does not mean either path is equally blessed. When it comes up in conversation that I do not do, or have given up certain things, it is not uncommon for the conversation to turn to “freedom in Christ”. True, I am not required to slaughter a lamb or pigeons if I play video games or read fiction or watch television. But I pray that I might use my freedom like a soldier. That when the Lord would ask of me a mile, I would be willing to give Him two at least. When He gives an order, I have a choice to obey or not. Am I wrong to obey simply because I have been given the freedom not to hear His voice? Willingly, I have signed my life away to the One who signed His away for me. His blood has given me the freedom to choose a path so difficult, as to kill my own flesh, and has most often ended in the painful deaths of those who have gone before me. I accept.

Turning Away From The Mirror (and to God’s Word)

mirror

Post by: Anna Faith

 

Ever have one of those days where you just want to avoid the mirror? I don’t care WHAT size you are, we can always find things to dislike about ourselves. “I am too overweight,” “I am too skinny,” “I have a huge nose,” “my eyes are too far apart,” “my hands are huge,” “I’m so stupid,” “I walk weird,” “I hate my laugh,” “my hair is so frustrating,”…and on and on the list scrolls. You probably thought of a few to add just now, didn’t you?

The teen years were a difficult self-image period for me. I was always “curvier” than my other friends, and my closest friend happened to be a “00”. I would squirm when we would go shopping. My friend had the hardest time understanding why I would always have a difficult time finding clothes that “looked right”, when she would quickly fill up an entire cart. I would pile on about three layers of black t-shirts and black sweatshirts, kind of hoping I wouldn’t be noticed that much. I would avoid mirrors because it just reminded me of an area where I felt “lacking”.

As I have gotten older, I have had some health issues which caused me to actually lose a lot of weight (at one point I was the same size as my 15 year old sister is now). But even though my size had changed, my perception of myself didn’t change. Even years later, my mindset–all those thoughts I crammed down and believed in my heart–is often that of “you’re still not as beautiful as they are. You’ll never be like them”. At my smallest, I felt the same as when I was at my heaviest. But even on top of the whole “curvy vs slim ‘n trim” issue, (in my opinion) I’ve got a big nose, tiny fingers that are continually cold, one of my bones in my foot sticks out, and I could continue. I’ve memorized every part I don’t like about this body.

“Anna, I don’t like my nose…It’s just a weird shape and I wish I had a different nose!” my little sister’s voice chimed in from the backseat. What? What is she talking about?As we continued to chat, she kept coming up with things she didn’t like. ” Well, Spudnut (my nickname for her), did you realize you are critiquing something that God made? He made you with your cute little nose, and He made you the height you are. Did you know that?” I said gently in reply. “But, YOU don’t like certain things about yourself…..”

WHAM.

Talking about hitting close to home. She hit it out of the ballpark. I had no idea what to say in reply.

But the truth is, when we critique ourselves, we ARE criticizing what God has made. Something He has invested time into designing. Something that He loves.

Today, as you are faced with yourself in the Mirror, here are three things to remember.

1) YOU are a treasure. You have been bought with an unbelievably high ransom–the Blood of Jesus Christ. His Righteousness and Mercy now cover your shoulders, and you can walk in Purity, Joy and TRUTH. God loves you with an UNCONDITIONAL love–one is not based on what we are able to do for Him, but because of what HE has done for US. Your walk with Jesus is not based upon how trendy you are, how skinny you are, or how even your eyes sit within your face. You have the Creator of the Milky Way for a Heavenly Father…and sweet friend, you cannot imagine how dearly He loves you. How dearly He wants YOU to truly know His heart.

2) YOU are usually your biggest critic. Often the main reason we batter ourselves with all the reasons we should be different is because we are holding ourselves up to someone else. Who are you comparing yourself to? Your cute little sister? Your attractive co-worker? The super-trim-blogging-homeschool mom who always seems to have it together while you’re trying to figure out how to get your kids to stop screaming? We see the outward, but we don’t realize the internal struggles. Maybe that sister struggles with intense depression, or maybe that co-worker just found out some horrible news? Maybe that mom has a marriage falling apart. Don’t judge what you merely perceive with your eyes to be the Truth.

3) YOUR outward body will not last forever. I’m sure we can all recite the scripture “charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting….” verse (Prov. 31:30). But do we really take it to heart? We don’t know the time frame that God will allow us to be on earth. As Christians, our very core should be burning to seek and save the lost. Those whose are truly without HOPE. We can be healthy and exercise (which does make you feel better, by the way!), but there has to be a point where we turn our eyes from fretting about ourselves and turn to JESUS. One day (soon) we will be in the presence of the Lord and all these things–the worrying, the self-loathing, the comparison–will be as a mist. It will disappear. We will receive NEW, Healthy, beautiful bodies and be filled with JOY unspeakable for all of Eternity!!!!

So, sweet friend, today, have mercy upon your outward appearance. Instead of skimming over familiar places with disgust, remember that God invested time into your creation. No matter what you look like–no matter if you have bumps, freckles, frizzy hair, curvy or skinny–YOU belong to the King of Kings. You are His. Seek to love Jesus above all. Put scriptures around your room and ON YOUR MIRROR to remember Who it is that you should reflect: Jesus. Let the desire to hold man’s approval slip from between your fingers as you focus on Christ. Seek FIRST His Kingdom. His Will. HIM.

We would love to hear from you! What are some ways that you re-focus your attention on Christ when you have “bad days”? What are some encouraging scriptures that you have found to be helpful? Share them below in the comments! 🙂

Let your beauty be not just the outward adorning of braiding the hair, and of wearing jewels of gold, or of putting on fine clothing;but in the hidden person of the heart, in the incorruptible adornment of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God very precious. 1 Peter 3:3-4

I praise you, for I am fearfully (awe or reverence) and wonderfully (marvelous, astonishingly) made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

 

Photo credit: {✿D-Munkhuulei✿} via Foter.comCC BY-NC-SA

Is Gay OK?

Waving rainbow flag. Illustration contains transparency and blending effects, eps 10

 

I recently had a conversation with a young lady who, though confused about God’s opinion of homosexuality and how it could work in the realities of our culture, wanted to know the truth. So, I thought I would give a snapshot into our conversation for anyone else who is confused by the general acceptance of this sin in our culture.

 

 

Q: “The Bible says homosexuality is wrong…so does that mean those people no longer believe in God’s Word and have turned from Him, or can they still believe in Him as Lord and share the gospel with others? I know one way to look at this is that if someone is a true believer they would ask for God to keep them from temptation and never even go down that path, but like you said, it’s a sin, and believers sin everyday. So…what makes this so different? Is it because the sin is out there for the world to see? 

I ask all this because I believe some people were born to be this way and I’m always torn on this subject because I know what the Bible says but most of my friends are not straight. Any clarity on this would be much appreciated.”

A: Well, I’d definitely love to try to help clarify it for you.

First, as you said, sin is sin. God says that all lust is sin, no matter if you are a girl lusting after a girl, or a guy lusting after a girl or whatever. He says anger, pride, selfishness, lying, etc., are all sins.

So when someone sins with homosexuality it has roughly the same consequences as someone who steals something or lies.

The thing that most people don’t understand, though is that, when we sin, whatever it is, we are disobeying God. And in order to be right with God, we must repent (say sorry, and turn from our sins). One big problem with all the LGBT stuff, is that it has come in with a tide of intense pride. Pride keeps us from being able to be right with God, because that requires humility, and admitting we are wrong. This does not make it impossible for someone of the LGBT community to be right with God…but it makes it very hard, because they don’t want to hear anything other than praise for their choices. Someone who steals might feel guilty, and therefore, be moved to repent when told that what they did was wrong. But for so many LGBT’s, they have stopped their ears, and because of the pride behind the movement, can’t hear anything that is said against homosexuality, because they are proud of their choices, and not feeling guilty in the least.

Now, you mentioned Christians sinning every day. This is true — how well I know. However, being a Christian means — literally — being a follower of Christ; meaning you love what He stands for and says in the Bible. It is undeniable that God is unwavering in His justice, and when we sin, we must also repent. The Christian who refuses to repent for a sin, or tries to justify it, becomes stagnant and distances themselves from God. I’ve seen it happen in my own life. The moment God asks you to surrender something and you refuse, that is the moment you stop moving forward. The moment you sin, there is a barrier between your relationship with God…and you can FEEL it. The sin that Christ’s atonement covers is CONFESSED sin. Sin that is hidden, or justified, and left unconfessed is sin that is not covered in the atonement of Christ. BUT, as SOON as we confess and forsake our sins, we WILL have mercy, and the barriers are removed, and we can experience the joys of God’s presence again!

So, if you love Christ, and you want to follow His commands, and do what is pleasing to Him…then you are a Christian. Even if you fail, you will be alright if you do what He asks and just humble yourself and say sorry.

However, if you say you are a Christian, but you don’t like some of what He says, that means you can’t really BE a Christian…because it means you are forming a new and different “god” for yourself according to your own passions and desires. God does not change, and we don’t get to pick and choose which commands we like and which we don’t…and which parts of God we prefer. God is God. He has been from the beginning. And He hasn’t changed His mind as the cultures have changed. If we don’t like what God stands for, then we don’t really like God.

Saying God is ok with homosexuality and would encourage you to pursue whatever makes you happy would be like a boyfriend being convinced that you think Hitler was a good guy, that you find running over cats in your car to be funny, and that you love when people drive off of cliffs. It’s simply not true about you, and if this person was only your boyfriend because they were convinced that you believed these things, they’d really be in love with someone else, because the person they have created you to be in their mind is not really you. And, in fact, you would probably be quite offended that they thought such things of you!

That’s kind of a weird example, but I just wanted to illustrate what it is that we do to God, when we say we love Him, but we don’t agree with this command, and this verse here…and that one there.

So, if someone is unwilling to see their sin as sin, and confess and forsake it, I really don’t think they can be “Christians”. I don’t think you can be a Christian and not love and try to obey God’s Word.

1 John 1:6-8 says, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

You might love God…but if you don’t want to be set free from your sins, there’s no point in even calling yourself a Christian…because Jesus came to set us free from sin — not just to save us from Hell…but to actually give us NEW hearts and lives!!

But if we don’t want the heart that HE considers to be new, and pure, and righteous, then we don’t really want the God of the Bible.

So it’s the same for all sins…even though, yes, homosexuality is often zeroed in on because 1) if you don’t struggle with it, then it’s easy to pick on it without your own conscience being pricked, and 2) because the whole movement IS so full of pride, and is very “in your face” about a lot of things, so that if you stand up for God’s standards at all, you *will* likely come head-to-head with them, because they won’t let you go un-challenged.

BUT, there’s also another angle.

A couple, actually.

First, a lot of them are hurt. Angry. Bitter. Many girls who decide to become lesbians/transgender have been hurt…many have been abused…many have been raped. They hate men. They don’t trust men. But they feel like their only safety and security is in becoming one themselves…and becoming unattractive to guys, then they won’t be hurt again. They think maybe, just maybe their hearts will be safer and their longings met in another girl instead of trusting their aching hearts to the gender who has broken them time and time again.

471513151_c262cc8ca9_b

I know someone who went through this. BUT…Jesus has set her free from the anger and bitterness and the intense hurts…and has made her able to love again, and to enjoy being a girl again! (She wrote an article in my last Unshakable Girl e-Mag, which you can read on Issuu.com.)

And I know Jesus sees these hurting little girls inside — no matter what the exterior looks like, and He wants to help them. He loves them…and calls out to them…because freedom is only found in Him.

BUT…then there is our culture. Our media is insanely bad. I haven’t watched a mainstream movie for the past 5 years, because they were getting so bad…and they have only gotten worse since then. Our music is just as bad — maybe worse. I’ve chosen not to listen to any secular music for a long time, but I’ve heard songs in stores blaspheming God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I’ve heard songs glorifying the party lifestyle, glorifying sex, glorifying doing whatever makes you happy. I’ve heard songs saying, “I can’t help it, even if I tried,” about being gay. Everything we are watching and pumping through our earbuds 24/7 is telling us to live for whatever makes us happy, and is feeding us a way of life that is completely abominable to God and goes against His Word and His character in every way. How can someone stand against such a tide of ungodliness?? It’s practically impossible, unless you truly know God and hold onto Him and hold onto Truth with every ounce of strength you have.

On top of it all, all our media (including video games) actually have real, demonic spirits attached to them, and when we willfully listen to and watch those things, we open the door to let those things into our lives…and they are SO deceitful. I’ve felt their power before. The devil can flick on and off our emotions like a light switch. He can enflame us with passion for someone/something that makes no sense at all, and makes it SEEM like it’s our thoughts — our idea…and that we NEED to do it! Or He can make us feel SO depressed and overwhelmed over nothing at all.

But as Christians, we can simply rebuke the devil in Jesus’ name, and he WILL flee from us. However, if we are not following Christ, we don’t have His authority, and these demonic spirits are able to totally wreak havoc on our lives. Even so, Jesus can set us free…but…we have to want to be free. And that is the catch.

So, I personally don’t believe that people are born to be that way. God made us male and female, just how He meant us to be…and even goes so far in the Bible as to say that even a man wearing woman’s clothing and vise-versa is abominable to Him. He doesn’t make mistakes. And He really doesn’t give any wiggle room. Some people may be more inclined to fall into the sin of homosexuality, just like some people tend to struggle with lying more, or anger more. But just because you struggle with the desire to want to throw things and punch people, does that mean you should give in to that temptation? No! The same is true with homosexuality. God doesn’t give us homosexual desires — we choose them because of our sinful nature, as Romans 1:24-27 says; it’s not because of the way we were born, but because of our choices and desires to sin.

Any of us could go that way if we let our sinful thoughts take root…and act on them. But the point of His salvation and the gift of His Holy Spirit is to give us NEW hearts with NEW desires, and the power to resist temptation, and flee from it.

 

 

Q: “I have drifted away from church and believers just because I couldn’t stand how most of them were — and I find myself, now — in that place of picking and choosing what they wanted to believe of God’s Word. I didn’t fully realize it until you said that we can love God but not really love and obey Him. I’ve always thought that He made you to feel certain ways toward certain genders despite what you were on the outside. 

For the longest time I felt like something has been missing…and it seems like I’m growing more attracted to other women, but I’ve kept myself from pursuing those thoughts and feelings because, I knew if I did, I wouldn’t be able to work at places with kids for a very long time — if ever — and that’s selfish. But I feel like that shouldn’t be my reason at all. I should be saying “no” to those thoughts because of what God says and wants from me…but with my tug-of-war relationship with Him that’s hard to do. 

I’ve been through a lot and I’m tired of it. Every time I feel like I’m growing in my faith something happens and I take 10 steps back.”

A: I understand your struggle with the church. I travel to so many churches now with my family’s ministry, and see so many people in the same place of going to church, but not having a real love for the Lord. We fail to realize that just going to church can’t take away the emptiness and cleanse our hearts from their sinful tendencies. So many people in the church are still living in sin, and living with their worldly worldviews, because they don’t actually have a living relationship with the Lord and/or haven’t let the Lord search their hearts for things that are displeasing to Him — because they don’t want to let go of the things that make them feel comfortable or happy. But God didn’t come to make us comfortable or happy. He came to give us new hearts, and lives that are full of light and joy. He came to make us into His children.

However, it is good to keep in mind that, no matter what people around you do and say, God IS real, and following Him with total surrender IS worth it! No matter what someone else does or doesn’t do, what is important is to make sure your OWN heart and life are right with the Lord, and that you are walking in His ways –in obedience– yourself. Not every person who calls themselves a Christian is going to be a true reflection of Christ (we’re all sinners!), many will fall short, and make mistakes…but that doesn’t make God’s Word and the truth of the Bible any less true or real. If you want to have an unwavering relationship with Christ, go to the Bible, and walk according to what it says, not according to what the people around you do or don’t do. Then you will be firmly rooted when the winds of adversity and the struggles and trials of life come.

And, whatever reason you’ve had behind it, it IS good that you have been keeping yourself from pursuing those thoughts you’ve had. That is the starting point for doing what is right. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it,” and, “Resist the devil, and he WILL flee from you,” are two very helpful scriptures in this case. With the first, it is comforting to know that you are not alone, and also, that every time you are tempted, there IS a way out. There is never a temptation that you are forced to give in to. BUT, we have to be willing to actually TAKE the way of escape that God makes for us. And most times it isn’t pleasant to our flesh…because, like I said before, every temptation the devil throws at us is something we LIKE or WANT…otherwise, it wouldn’t be tempting. It would be like if I held a can of rotten eggs in front of your face, hoping it would lure you wherever I wanted you to go; it’s not really that effective unless the bait is something you really want. Now if I said, “Do such-and-such for me, and I’ll give you a $1,000 gift card to your favorite store,” you’d probably jump at the offer! The devil is very clever…and does everything he can to destroy any hope we have of a relationship with the Lord. He seems to especially love anything that will wrap us in guilt, and make us think that we can never be good enough to walk with the Lord again. But the reality is, God makes it the most simple thing ever: we just have to humble ourselves and say sorry…and then he removes our sin from us as far as the east is from the west, and remembers it no more, and will never hold it against us. But the devil tells us, “You can’t say sorry now! You’re too bad. God can’t forgive you for that.” Thinking that any sin you commit is too big for God to forgive it is pride.

 

 

Q: “How can I grow closer to God when the devil really likes to screw up my life? Every time I get closer one of two things happens: 1.) I date a guy who says he’s a believer but turns out to be either lying and have his own religion, or he turns into an abuser or a pervert. 2.) Someone I care for dies. 

I know God does things to test us as well. Just look what he let happen to Job. Sadly, I’m not strong enough to keep pressing into God in the midst of my hardship. 

And…how can I wait on Him to find me the right man? If I’m meant to be with someone?”

A: The key to growing closer to the Lord, and staying close, instead of your relationship with Him being like a yo-yo, is…actually just 1.) Being faithful in the small things, and, 2.) Trusting in God’s good character, and holding fast to it, without doubting or acting out of fear.

So, first, be faithful to seek Him each day. We act like we deserve God’s benefits for nothing — we want God to bless us, and everything to be perfect, but we don’t actually want to exert any effort. But…what friendship is like that?? How can you ever be best friends with someone unless you hang out with them, talk with them all the time, get to know all the things they love, and exert the effort it takes to know all about them?

It is the most important thing in your whole life. More important than making money, more important than friends, more important than anything….so it should be scheduled that way. Even if you have to get up an hour earlier and lose a little sleep, it is well worth it. Our lives on earth are just a fleeting breath, but our spirits will last forever.

Any time you have free time, or you’re doing something that doesn’t take a lot of thought — pray! Sometimes we feel like it has to be a big chunk of time to “count”, but every 10 minutes we get to spend time with the Lord, is a 10 minutes well spent. Also, there have been times when I was feeling so overwhelmed and oppressed and just like I wanted to cry for no reason at all that I could put my finger on…and I just stepped away to pray for 10 minutes, and rebuked the devil and every oppressive spirit, and asked God to fill me with His Spirit and peace — and even joy…and I immediately felt lighter and more joyful!

Also, be willing to do whatever He asks, knowing that it is always for our good — because God knows what things will destroy our lives, and lead us down wrong paths, and sidetrack us from investing in eternity.

And one thought about waiting to find the right guy: It is far better to be single and totally in love with the Lord and walking in a way that is pleasing to Him, than to be in a relationship that is not godly, and which will destroy your life and your eternal life, and take away all your joy in the Lord. There have been many single women who have been sold out for Jesus, and were surrendered to whatever God wanted them to do…and He was able to use them in amazing ways! Women like Gladys Aylward, Amy Carmichael, Mary Slessor…and even Katie Davis, a modern day gal who felt God telling her to give up her life in America, and move to Uganda to be a mom to orphan girls…and she actually just got married this year, because God finally brought along a very godly guy who was glad to be a part of what God had called her to do.

The world makes us feel like our lives don’t really have meaning until/unless we have a relationship…and like we are worthless or useless till then. But that isn’t true at all! ANY person who is surrendered to God, and just wants to be used by Him CAN be! Relationships are really just extra — in fact, Paul says in the Bible that it is much easier to serve the Lord and be single, and HE found the joy in it! Being married is a blessing, but it is not essential, and in fact, can be just one long distraction unless both people actually love JESUS first and want to serve Him with their lives.

So, every story is different, but if you have it set in your heart that you want to follow Jesus, and will not compromise for the sake of a relationship, God will honor that. I personally had to come to the place where I was willing to surrender the concept of ever being married or being in a relationship, before God was able to actually give me my husband. Because God knows that unless we are able to surrender these things and put Him first in our lives, we will make an idol out of them, and love our relationships and our significant other MORE than we love Him. And He knows that would destroy us, because no human can live up to that standard; none of us can fill that hole of needing unconditional love in someone else’s life — only God can do that. So I had to come to the point in my own heart where I was able to say, “God, I love you, and whether I ever get married or not, I will serve you with my life. Even if it means I will never have a companion, never get to have my first kiss, never have the comfort of someone’s hand to hold. I surrender these things, and I say YES, Lord. Yes, I will serve you, even still.”

And it was only after that hurdle was overcome in my own heart, and I gave up my dreams of marriage, that God was able to bring my husband to me…because it was only then that He knew that it wouldn’t destroy me by becoming my first love.

Un-offend-able

Two Teddy Bears

 

I have been praying a lot lately for God’s transforming power in my heart to make me “un-offendable”.  This article is written from the place of not having overcome these things in my own life yet, but just sharing some of my thoughts and the things that God has been putting on my heart about it all, because I have a feeling that many others probably deal with the same areas of weakness. And I know that it is only God’s power that can change our lives and hearts…so I don’t feel like I have to “have it all together” in every area I write about before I share the things God has been teaching me in the midst of my struggles…because any little grain of truth that I’ve gleaned from God along the way could be a help and a guidepost for you, too.

I have found, and perhaps you have too, that it is far too easy to become offended by any little thing that goes against my selfish desires. I can be perfectly happy, and then, along comes some well-meaning person with other plans than what I had in mind, and *POOF* instantly my mind is filled with, “But I wanted to do such-and-such,” and, “They don’t care about what I think,” and “Don’t they realize that they aren’t the only people on the planet,” etc.  Or perhaps someone says something that doesn’t make you feel 150% loved and accepted. *POOF* “They hate me,” or, “I don’t want to ever see them again,” or “Why don’t they think about what they say before they say it,” or “They’re mean,” etc., all flood your mind. And sometimes my mind will take the “poor me” approach in its thoughts, making the selfishness harder to detect…things like, “All I want is for people to actually just love me,” or, “All I want is just a little time to have fun,” or, “I was just trying to help…”…etc. Your flesh takes on the persona of a “victim”; you feel like your rights have been trampled upon, and the simplest little desires that you “deserve” have been snatched mercilessly right out of your hands. Out pops those hurt feelings, and the anger and bitterness bubble up inside before you can even think. But even in these sneakiest of situations, if you take the time to really think about what the root of your offense is, it will almost always come back to selfishness (and when it’s not selfishness, it’s usually pride).

Now, I’m just going to insert a few Bible verses here that throw a bit of a wrench in all of our self-centered thinking:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit [pride], but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3 ESV)

As Christians, all of our lives should point to Jesus, who didn’t hold onto any of His own rights, but gave Himself up for us.  I read an excellent devotional by a man named Oswald Chambers, who has a lot of wisdom in this area. This is some of what he said:

“When you are insulted, you must not only not resent it, but you must make it an opportunity to exhibit the Son of God in your life. And you cannot imitate the nature of Jesus— it is either in you or it is not. A personal insult becomes an opportunity for a saint to reveal the incredible sweetness of the Lord Jesus.

Every time I insist on having my own rights, I hurt the Son of God, while in fact I can prevent Jesus from being hurt if I will take the blow myself. That is the real meaning of Colossians 1:24. A disciple realizes that it is his Lord’s honor that is at stake in his life, not his own honor.

Never look for righteousness in the other person, but never cease to be righteous yourself.”

These things are SO true, and they help you to see in a whole new light! We can look at insults and situations where you would seem, from an onlooker’s perspective, to have every right to be hurt and offended as, instead, an opportunity to display the love of Jesus, and the gentleness which is His greatness. The love that is not overcome with evil, but overcomes evil with good (Romans 12:21). When I choose to be offended by something, it’s a lose-lose situation, because I am responding to “evil” (or what my human nature wants to view as evil – whether it really is or not) with more evil (aka: sin). No good can come from responding in sin, because evil can only bring forth more evil – it is incapable of causing good to come from it. When you breed 2 lions, you get baby lions. It will happen every time. No matter how much you want them to, they will never create a baby horse; they are simply incapable (no matter what evolutionists say). In the same way, sin is incapable of bringing forth good, though God can step in and redeem situations…just like someone could step in and just buy you a horse, after you got tired of breeding lions. So when we hold onto offense because our sinful nature is enjoying the pity party, and because we are hoping that something “good” will come from us being/acting hurt and angry (in other words, we are hoping that we’ll end up getting our own way, or at least getting pity from others), in reality, we are not only causing all kinds of hurt to ourselves and others and our relationships with them, but we are causing God to have to discipline us, because we are actually sinning. No matter how real the hurt is from the other person – that is between them and God – but when you allow yourself to be angry, you are no longer innocent yourself, and you will have to deal with the consequences of your own sin. God has to make consequences for it so that you aren’t so quick to do it again. Furthermore, when we hold onto offense, we are also seeking to draw attention to ourselves instead of seeking to point to the sweetness and gentleness of Jesus. Instead of taking the blow for Jesus, and responding in meekness and love, we are causing Him to have to suffer twice over! It is such a good thing to remember, as Oswald Chambers said above, that we should be more concerned about the Lord’s honor being at stake in our lives than our own honor! When we are grumpy, and talking badly about the person who hurt us, and acting less kindly toward them, we are essentially saying to any and all watching that Jesus hasn’t really changed our lives, or given us love like we say He has. And we are also saying to God that we think He is too far away or unconcerned with us to help us to overcome these things. We are refusing to take hold of the power to overcome our sin nature which is not far off, but right within our grasp…but we prefer to feel sorry for ourselves. However, Jesus says many times in the gospels that, in order to be forgiven ourselves, we must forgive those who have sinned against us! And Ephesians 4:31-32 says,

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

It can be particularly difficult in situations when the person who has hurt you is a Christian. Your good, stout, “righteous indignation” (or at least we can often justify ourselves by calling it such) rises up within you saying, “They should know better!” “They should be different if they really love the Lord!” “I shouldn’t have to put up with that from them – they’re the ones that are supposed to be loving me like Jesus would,” etc. And, while it is true that someone who is calling themselves a Christian should be striving for change in their hearts and striving to live more and more like Jesus, at the same time, I can quote from Jesus Himself and say,

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone…” (John 8:7) 

Who are we to demand perfection from another human when we ourselves are full of sin? Who are we to say that people should know better than to hurt us when we go through our own lives bulldozing people down with our hurtful words and thoughtless actions left and right? It is not our duty to be the judge of what someone else should or shouldn’t be doing – we can’t see what is in their hearts, but God can! It is our duty to keep watch over our own hearts, and to keep our own feet from sinning, whether or not those around us do. I’m going to bring up what Oswald Chambers said one more time, because I think it’s a really excellent goal for us to have in our thoughts and our daily lives: “Never look for righteousness in the other person, but never cease to be righteous yourself.” If we aren’t holding up a standard that we think other people should be living up to, we will be much less easily offended. Instead, I think we need to begin to focus on simply living righteously ourselves, and pleading with God daily to fill us with His nature – his sweetness and gentleness and love – and asking Him for His strength and help to live in a way that brings honor and glory to Him…and then, not waiting until we feel like it…but just beginning to do it!