I’ve been really blessed lately by my YouVersion Bible app, where I find some really great devotionals. This one, by Matt Chandler, is based on one of my favorite books of the Bible, James. Click here for the Instagram post and here for the Facebook post.
Does your faith make you uncomfortable? It should. Jesus wasn’t comfortable. He struggled with temptation, He was cold, hungry and tired, sometimes He was frustrated enough to toss usurpers out of His Father’s house by violent means. He risked censor by correcting the churchy, judgey people of His day in public settings. They tried to stone Him a couple of times and then they nailed Him to a cross to kill Him in a very cruel way. He then died with the sins of the world seeped into His very flesh. Our Savior was not comfortable:
“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, 48 the world would love you as its own. However, because you do not belong to the world, but I chose you out of the world, for this reason 51 the world hates you.
Jesus promised us that we would be as uncomfortable as He was – the world would hate us, we would struggle with our efforts to be His followers, sin would dog our steps.
If your Christian faith does not make you uncomfortable with the world around you and how you interact with it, then something is probably wrong with your Christian walk. Being a Christian in this world ought to feel a bit like having sand in your shoes.
When I write, more and more often, I find myself pausing with my fingers over the keyboard, thinking about how what I feel led to write might make some people uncomfortable. Sometimes it will make non-Christians uncomfortable, but more often than not, it will make Christians uncomfortable. I mostly don’t fear that anymore. I know that’s what God wants me to do … point out the uncomfortable tensions of Christians living in this world. We shouldn’t feel cozy with the world around us, but in many ways, we shouldn’t feel snuggly within the Christian community either.
I want my readers to think about the soldier sitting next to them on the pew – the guy who just got back from the Middle East. Sure, he’s a nice guy and his wife is wonderful. His kids love him and he can quote Scripture. Nothing wrong with any of that. I take him at his word that he is a Christian who walks with Christ every day. Now think back a month or two. What is the job of a soldier? Killing and subjugation of a foreign population. Cut away the politics that took our pew mate to that foreign country and just ask yourself “What would Jesus have said about what this guy was doing a month ago?” Would He have automatically said “Thank you for your service”? I doubt it. I think He’d probably have written the number of the man’s kills in the sand before saying “I forgive those who repent of their sins.” Imagine how uncomfortable that soldier would be as he watched Jesus writing in the sand. Imagine how uncomfortable you would feel watching that if you’d just thanked the soldier for his service. I want my readers to think about the people the soldier killed or subjugated and feel compassion for them, but I also want my readers to think about the scars on the soldier’s soul that were inevitable from that behavior and feel compassion for the soldier. I don’t think Jesus would forgive the soldiers and damn the subjugated based on politics and that’s an uncomfortable thought.
I used this example because I have a lot of friends who are or were in the military and that works its way into my books. I could have used almost any example where our lives outside the church conflict with our Christian faith … those points where we ought to feel uncomfortable but often don’t. You could substitute bar owners, prostitutes, cops, pharmacists, authors … the list goes on and on. Everyone of us has tensions between our faith and our “regular” life and we ought to care about that. But, in our consumeristic society, being comfortable is the chief societal goal and so those authors who seek to market themselves as “Christian authors” feel the need to make their audience comfortable. That is a smart marketing decision that avoids controversy and topics that might make their readers think about uncomfortable ideas.
Is that actually a ministry or is God calling us to something higher … to be the prophets to our society through our narrative talents? Can we entertain readers while teaching eternal truths in a palatable form?
I suppose that depends on how uncomfortable we’re willing to allow God to make us.
Lela Markham is the pen name of an Alaskan novelist who was raised in a home built of books. Alaska is a grand adventure like none other with a culture that embraces summer adventure and winter artistic pursuits.
“I don’t seek to be known as a Christian author, but as an author for whom Christ is so central to who I am as a person that He shines through.”
Love Loves Me: A Testimony
by Talisha Walton
I confess, in all honesty, I’ve always had an intense desire in my heart to find true love. I wanted someone who’d truly love me—unconditioned. I coveted love from someone who’d accept me with all of my flaws, look pass all of the mistakes I’ve made, and love me anyway, exactly as I am. For years I sought to find this elusive love in others, especially men, but to no avail. I certainly found something else, though, and the result of that finding, left me a bad and bitter, broken-hearted mess. It didn’t take long for all of that bitterness and brokenness to become pure hatred and uncontrollable anger toward others. I even hated myself and had began to believe that I wasn’t worthy of having a love that is true because I wasn’t being true to loving myself. If I didn’t love me, than why should anyone else? Sadly, but true, looking for love is what drove me to hate in the first place. It was the primary cause of my self-hatred, and hating myself had done the most damage of all. It had caused my heart to become a slowly crumbling stone in my chest.
I came from a broken home, and I was raised by an unstable and damaged mother who failed me numerous times; however, we’re best friends now. I grew up without my father. He chose to walk out on my mother before I was born and declined every chance given to get to know me; however, may God rest his soul. As a result of his absence and carelessness, I often felt confused, rejected, abandoned, and unloved. My mother abused drugs and alcohol all throughout my childhood; however, she’s drug free now. I was often teased, bullied, and even rejected by my peers because of it. We were constantly evicted from our apartments; she’d buy drugs instead of paying the rent to keep a roof over our heads, and it always left us with no other choice but to live with relatives. By the time I became a teenager, I found myself walking in her shadow, and well on my way to becoming just like her. When I became pregnant at the age of sixteen, I began to notice a similar pattern forming. I came into this realization and knew it was time to make the pattern, at the least, distinct, if not extinct. I knew, even in the condition of having a stony heart, that if a change wasn’t made, the cycle of a loveless life, with all of its failures, would surely repeat itself. A determination to become a better person grabbed ahold of me, but quickly developed into only a longing to do so.
In my eyes, my life was worthless. The process had already begun. I was becoming a victim of my poor upbringing, unfortunate circumstances, and the constant betrayal of the people in my life who claimed to love me, but would leap at any and every given opportunity that presented itself, to hurt me. I couldn’t understand why it seemed like the chances were always taken by the ones who I was really hoping would remain true to me. I thought, then, that if I was more like them, I’d be loved and accepted as one of them. Therefore, I gave up and caved in to all of the endless pressures lowlife had to offer; it was the only thing that surrounded me. I became efficient in every attempt to ruin the life of anyone, all because I had a bad one. I was an alcoholic delinquent who stayed out all hours of the night and was regularly involved in unspeakable acts. I rarely, if barely, attended school and I was down to do whatever I had to do to get my hands on just a little love, and by this time, even if it wasn’t really love, but still—it evaded me.
I ultimately decided, since I couldn’t have love in my life, I’d settle for hate and I quickly fell in lust with it because being with hate, made it easier to hide all of the feelings I had for love. I eagerly took hate by the hand, we went out, and made it a priority to hurt anyone and everyone. Hate introduced me to so much more and soon after, I quickly became a force to be reckoned with. All of the hatred I let inside made me cruel, vindictive, selfish, uncaring, unforgiving, and unapologetic, but much deeper inside, I still wanted love. I was truly just a lonely, lost, and loveless soul with trust, abandonment, and psychological issues who had successfully driven every single person, in my wreck of a life, out of it. I had lost all of my faith, I had no hope for a future, and I no longer believed in love. I finally came to the conclusion that love didn’t exist and if it did, then it definitely didn’t have any interest in ever loving me, so I made the difficult decision to abandon my pursuit to find it—for good. The moment I did, though, Love found me.
What I finally discovered is, I was wrong about love. Love isn’t any of those things I thought I wanted and needed. True Love isn’t even what I thought I coveted and isn’t truly an emotional feeling, at all. True Love, as it turns out, is truly an actual person, and this Person has always known me, although I never knew Him. This Person has always loved me, too, and it’s a true fact that this Person loves me so much, He chose to die so He could save my life. It was when, I finally admitted I was lost, that Love came and found me. He even forgave me and removed my stony heart, then created in me a new one. He made me a new Creation. He showed me, not what, but Who He truly is, and Who He has always been. I accepted Love in my heart by making an everlasting covenant with Him, He showed me how to forgive others, and then myself. He taught me how to love myself, and then others. I believe in Love, now. God is Love, and now, I know Him. I am in Him and He is in me. It is undeniably true, I love Love, and Love—loves me.
Talisha Walton is an author of Christian books. Writing has always been her passion, but she has a more intense passion to inspire believers to dig deeper and experience life as Christ intended through a personal relationship with Him. She stands firm on the fact that it’s completely natural to live a supernatural lifestyle while leading a normal life, operating fully in the gifts of The Holy Spirit and Talisha writes about such a lifestyle to enkindle a strong desire in others to seek after the hidden things The Lord spoke of in His Word. Jesus said that we would do even greater things. Such a lifestyle isn’t considered paranormal, but indeed supernatural. It isn’t at all magical, but is surely filled with miracles. Kingdom life is a spiritual life, not metaphysical. Learn more about this author at WriteousAuthor.com.
How to contact Talisha:
Amazon Author’s Page: www.amazon.com/author/talishawalton
It’s easy to fall into a rut in our Christianity. We choose the music we like and have our pick of worship artists to listen to. The market is flooded with books that encourage godly living and promote clean, Christian content. And, thanks to Netflix and other sources, we can easily tune-in to Christian shows or movies. Not a bad deal, right?
What about our online communications? Well, after surfing the Net a while, we often find our ‘niches’ and settle in to build virtual relationships with people we have things in common with.
People of similar values.
Similar ideas or world view.
Similar methods of worshipping.
In short, people we feel comfortable with.
A few weeks ago, I realized how set I was in my ways. I’d recently joined Instagram (find me there at: christian.creative.nexus) and have been posting images and links from this blog on that platform. Things were going alright. The number of followers increased at a reasonable rate. Until I posted the link to my Freaky Friday Music Jam post on Andy Mineo, a Christian rapper I really like. Apparently, a lot of other people like him, too!
My Instagram exploded with likes and follows. I was thrilled, thinking : ‘This is great! What an amazing response!’
Then l looked closer at who was responding. Mostly rappers and music producers and their threads featured images of a lifestyle that is…atypical of a ‘squeaky-clean Christian’. It’s true that just because Andy Mineo is a Christian, and surely he has a lot of Christian followers, it’s also true that he could have many followers who aren’t Christian. That seemed to be the case, because it wasn’t clear from the threads belonging to the new followers if they were Christian or not.
I struggled with how to respond and asked God for wisdom. My first concern was how Nexus followers might react if I followed back. As you probably have experienced, there’s an almost overwhelming urge to reciprocate when someone follows you. But, as a Christian, the last thing I want to do is be a stumbling block to a brother or sister.
New Living Translation : 1 Corinthians 8:9
But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble.
Also, personally, I wasn’t keen on having my thread regularly filled with some of those images.
At church on Sunday, our pastor was preaching about the sovreignty of God. That sent my mind in various directions, and one of the thoughts that made me pause was this :
1- Christians come in all shapes and sizes and from different backgrounds.
2- In this case, my brothers and sisters in Christ are battling it out every day in the music and movie businesses, some of the most notoriously difficult missions around.
3- They have to overcome temptations, stresses, and spiritual attacks and traps at a level I know nothing about.
4- Not only all that, but the eyes of the world are constantly watching them.
I felt bad. Bad for not seeing it like that before, and bad for being more concerned about what people thought of me rather than looking beyond that to the needs of my brothers and sisters who need support.
Romans 14:13-23 English Standard Version (ESV)
Do Not Cause Another to Stumble
13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
I wanted to write this post as a means of standing with those warriors, to shed light on a situation that I don’t hear many people talking about, and to express my committment to praying for them. I hope to encourage others to pray for them as well.
I don’t claim to understand everything about God and His ways. Sometimes, the Bible seems confusing and difficult to understand, and we struggle to know how to act in a godly manner. What I’ve written about today is something I’m still chewing on, but one thing I do know: God loves all His children and we are supposed to love one another, too. We might not understand each other’s calling, or how we enact it, but we are called to love and pray for one another, not to judge.
We are one Family. There is one Body of Christ. We must lift each other up!
New Living Translation John 13:35
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
In the first part of this series, we talked about our identity in Christ and how that relates to our gifts. When Jesus died on the cross, it was to buy us back from the curse of sin. When we chose to follow Him, we became God’s children and committed our lives to His service. The Holy Spirit enables us to walk with God and empowers us to fulfill our life’s mission until the day we pass on. That’s the general purpose for our earthly existence. How we live that out on a daily basis, including the expression of our creative calling, needs closer inspection.
At the opening of this series I’d asked: Why do we create? There are a ton of reasons, but it’s likely that when we examine them, our main motivation will have something to do with us.
‘I love to write/sing/dance…’
‘I just can’t help composing/singing/writing…’
‘Art is who I am…’
‘I’d go nuts if I couldn’t express myself…’
Notice the ‘I’ in those statements?
Is it wrong to find pleasure in our gifts? I don’t think so. God loves us and He wants us to be happy. But, I think it’s important to note that God is the true source of our peace and joy and that any other source will be incomplete and, ultimately, unsatisfying.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Unconvinced? Well, here are a few questions to consider. What happens when you don’t sell many books? Or the post you spent ages writing for your blog doesn’t get any likes? Or your book proposal is refused, or your song rejected by a producer?
What about the time spent away from your family and the money wasted on products or services that failed to deliver?
What about those feelings of loneliness or confusion when nothing works?
What about when your dream fails?
Do you get angry? Bitter? Are you exhausted? Anxious?
Are you disappointed in God?
In case you’re wondering, I’ve been there. It’s humbling to admit, but it would be wrong of me to pretend otherwise. I’ve seen my dreams melt away, I’ve sacrificed time and money only to see nothing come of it. I’ve cried out to God asking, ‘Why?’, as recently as a few days ago.
And the answer has consistently been: ‘Look up. Deny yourself, and follow Me.’
I thought I was humble. I thought I was submitting myself to His will and doing everything right. It was only when everything ground to a halt and I had nothing going for me that I could see how much of my self-worth was tied to needing to succeed. Once it was just me and God, I could begin to see that I am who I am because of Him. Jesus is my righteousness. If I never write another book or blog post again, if this blog fails or I never score that big book deal, or whatever, He’ll accept me just as I am.
He accepts you just as you are, too.
If you are tired, overworked, frustrated, anxious—ultimately disappointed in God, ask ourself why. Rejection and failure hurt, sure. It sucks to be mentally and emotionally drained from going full-tilt for so long. But, listen. This is the time to throw yourself at the foot of the cross and ask God for help.
Here are two points to reflect on:
We run into trouble when we think that success is the result of our efforts
We are called to work. We are called to be good stewards of our gifts. And know that we are accountable to Him for how we use them. (Matthew 25:14-30, parable of the talents)
But, we have to remember that God is in control and, if we let Him, He will see to everything, including the results. The moment we let our identity and sense of well-being depend on the results of our work or efforts, we’re in trouble.
We run into trouble when we don’t fully submit to the Lord
This is an ongoing, daily process. It is also impossible to do on our own. But with God’s help, we can.
James 4:7 (NIV)
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
The importance of submitting our motivations to God has become increasingly clear to me. We might want to do good by reaching tons of people for His kingdom, create programs, build incredible ministries, but if there is any self-indulging or self-pleasing motivations involved, our plans are in danger because it opens the door for pride.
Psalm 147:6 (NKJV)
6 The Lord lifts up the humble;
He casts the wicked down to the ground.
So, how does that affect us?
If you are stuggling to hear from God, find that your ministry has stalled, feel stuck, lost or confused, then maybe this is His way of getting your attention. I know this has been true for me. The more I submit to His correction and discipline, the more I discover His grace, wisdom, and kindness. God sees everything, including the incoming roadblocks and the weaknesses in our character, and He deals with us in accordance to His love and wisdom.
God is concerned about our success but even more so about our well-being and our relationship with Him. When we walk with Him, our lives will become the greatest testimonies of His greatness, and the works our our hands the physical manifestation of that truth.
Here are a few verses that have helped me :
James 4:3 (NIV)
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Isaiah 55:11 (NIV)
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
I’d like to know what you think. Can you relate? How have you coped with disappointment, overwork, stress, etc? What verses encourage you? What lessons have you learned through your creative challenges? Let me know by leaving a message below!