The other night my ten year old son was asking me about certain cultural realities that bothered him. He was trying to understand why sinful lifestyles seemed to be so promoted in media and it sparked an interesting conversation. I also wanted to gauge the strength of his conviction so I played the “devil’s advocate” and I peppered him with lots of questions challenging his faith and the foundation of what he believed. He was bullied into silence as I spoke and it gave me a revelation of the further equipping that needed to take place for him to withstand the pressure to conform to the culture we live in. Romans 12:2 instructs us concerning conformity saying, Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
The Cost of Conformity
Allow me to expound on this idea of conformity. I believe our current Christian culture sometimes disguises conformity by claiming it is expressing compassion. I believe strongly in the compassion of the Father. God is love. Love is the supreme new testament commandment by which all men will know that we are disciples of Christ. Love is a non-negotioable for the Christ follower, however, there is an insidious deception that is trying to take root in the Christian heart where compromise and conformity are being masked with compassion. In other words, there is no true compassion taking place when in reality what is happening is a watered down version of the Gospel that allows for total compromise where God’s will is concerned. Why must we be transformed rather than conformed? It is to actually have the ability to TEST what God’s will is. Where we lack in mind renewal and transformation, we are completely vulnerable to conformity to the “pattern of this world.” Put simply, when we don’t know God’s nature, God’s character, and God’s ways by knowing what His word says about all of those things, and when we don’t then change the way WE think to line up with HIM – we will without question allow everything else in our current culture to define the way we think, believe and act. We will have no ability to TEST cultural thought with God’s will and God’s ways. This is what I see happening today – many claims of “the Christian” that God is absolutley on board with current trends in cultural thought that promote self-rule, “my truth” and “my choice.” The cost of conformity to the pattern of this world is a people who remain in bondage yet are absolutley convinced that they are free.
A Culture of Followers
In today’s world of social media fame, the rise of “influencers”, and addiction to the consumption of Internet content, the simple message of the cross has become convoluted and “complicated.” Without the solid foundation of knowing God through His word, many claim to be followers of Christ when in fact and in truth they are followers of the content creators that line their social media feeds. If the time spent consuming social media content were to be stacked against the time spent consuming the words of Jesus we would get a great revelation of what is truly forming the heart of many believers today. The true question then is whether those who claim Christ as their Lord have truly yielded their lives to His Lordship. How can we follow Christ and become His disciples (taught ones) if we never bother to find out where He is going, where He is supposed to be leading us; if we never learn what He actually taught? These seem like simple and straightforward questions, but when we desire self-rule and “our truth”, THE truth gets “complicated.”
The Cost of Discipleship
I believe one of the core truths we have lost in this pseudo-Chrisitanity is the understanding that discipleship costs us something. Sadly, for many people the cost is one they are not willing to incur. “If I can’t choose to live however I want to live, love whomever I wish to love, say whatever I feel like saying, then I am not willing to follow.” Can we please just be honest with ourselves? Can we speak the truth in love today? The truth is that every follower of Christ will come head to head with the choice of “my will be done,” or “His will be done.” Every follower of Christ will lose something of his or her own life to truly gain the life of God. Every follower of Christ will have to throw themselves at the feet of Jesus and throw themselves upon the grace of God in order to live as kingdom people in a world that is constantly telling them that God’s ways are outdated and need adjusting. Jesus said His kingdom was not of this world. In fact, everything about the ways of the kingdom are in constant conflict with the ways of the world! There is no room for compromise or conformity. If we are to truly be a compassionate people then we must live with GREAT courage and strength as sons and daughters of a God that is very different from the current cultural climate of the world. We must be willing to stand out, not with arrogance – not with judgment or shame or condemnation – but we must be willing to endure persecution and hardship when we hold fast to our convictions WHILE loving the people who are persecuting us. That requires courage. That requires grace. If the life you are living in Christ is not making you desperate for the grace, and strength, and courage of God; if you are not praying for boldness and greater measures of love and forgiveness to help you reach the very people that tear you down, then you probably have entertained some measure of compromise in your discipleship journey.
The Future of God’s People
Many are leaving the church in the wake of the world events marking the last few years. I believe this is in part due to the arrogance, lack of love, judgment, and shaming that has resulted in the dehumanizing of “the other” in some supposed state of “righteous anger” where the Christian is called into the battle of “God against the world.” This redefinition of what it means to be a Christ follower has turned many away from the church. I have heard from the mouths of young people, “If that’s what being Christian is I don’t want any part of it.” How about if that isn’t what it means to be a Christ follower? What if we actually followed the way of the Master who said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (NKJV, John 18:36) We don’t fight with a war of words on Facebook feeds, neither do we compromise THE truth by calling the acceptance of ANY truth compassion. Our kingdom is not from here. We must live like it – with courageous faith and boldness to speak the truth in love, willing to accept the cost of being a true disciple of Jesus. The future of the church demands that we hold the tension between truth and love in the nitty gritty of every day life as we constantly feel the presssure to conform to a way that is against God’s way. We must live completely dependent on God to empower us to rise to the challenge until we see His kingdom come to earth.
If you have spent any time in the Bible you know that we are taught to meditate on the words and thoughts of God contained in scripture. We are also instructed to speak out or confess what we believe in our heart.
What Does the Word Say?
Joshua 1:8 says, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
We are again encouraged by the Psalmist that the blessed man’s “delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” (NKJV, Psalm 1:2) Paul tells us, “since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed and therefore I spoke,’ we also believe and therefore speak,” (NKJV, 2 Corinthians 4:13) Again, in Hebrews, we are told that Jesus is the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.
How are we born again and translated out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s dear Son? According to Romans 10:9-10 we believe in our heart and confess with our mouth.
Finally, Romans 12:1-2 plainly lays out that we are not to be conformed to this world, but we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.
The Mind-Body Connection
Meditation, confession and mind renewal are straight out of the Bible, but did you know that science bears witness to the power of meditation and confession in the renewing of the mind? There is a mind-body connection! What we think about matters! In fact, the thoughts in our mind (which is the non-physical part of our being that functions and operates through our physical brain) have substance. Thoughts produce proteins which form real, physical structures that change the landscape of our brain.
The thoughts we think grow branches on nerve cells in the brain, so our thoughts are quite literally shaping the physical structure of our brain and, in turn, shaping what our life becomes.
When we meditate on the words and thoughts of God, speaking them out of our mouth, we are building a healthy, flourishing landscape in our brain. We are hard wired to feed on the Word, to grow on the Word, and to flourish in life as a result of thinking and living God’s way. In contrast, the thoughts of the world – thoughts that are anxious, worried, stressful, selfish, angry, depressing, etc. – actually damage the brain and create a harmful, toxic landscape from which to live.
Changing the Way We Think
When we renew the mind, what we are actually doing is renovation in the brain. Think of Fixer Upper or any other renovation type of show. They tear down the old and bring in the new. Mind renewal is the same. We tear down the old patterns of toxic thinking and replace them with new patterns of life-giving thought. How does that happen? We don’t go in with a jack hammer on demo day and start tearing walls down. If we want to change the brain we use consistent meditation and confession of God’s Word to tear down walls and then rebuild our gorgeous new living space!
Science backs up Romans 12:1-2. We are indeed transformed by the renewing of the mind. Science backs up Joshua 1:8. We do make our way prosperous and have good success when we meditate in the Word and live from a mind that thinks, feels and chooses God’s way. So if you weren’t convinced before, be convinced now that meditating in and confessing the Word is valuable, life-changing, and even brain-changing!
For a more in-depth study of the mind-body connection, neuroplasticity, and the thought life visit www.drleaf.com
For our free resources that will help you meditate in the Word go to our RESOURCES page.
When was the last time you sat at the feet of Jesus in worship? I’m not talking about a Sunday morning church service. I’m talking about you and Him, no distractions, pressing into His presence with a heart that is overwhelmed and overflowing with thanksgiving and worship and adoration. I’m talking about praying in the spirit or singing in the spirit or sitting in silence or crying or dancing or shouting – all springing from a heart that is experiencing the presence of God. This is what we were created for. We were made to live and move and have our being in Him.
Have you ever felt like you were going through the motions in life? Perhaps, like me, there have been times that you were so busy working for God that you began to neglect ever spending any time with God, you know, just because you love Him, not solely to get some quick answers to some pressing issues. Am I the only one?
While serving God is a beautiful fruit that comes from being connected to The Root, it is not what we were created for. It is wonderful to be a faithful servant of God. It is wonderful that we are entrusted as stewards over His things, but above all else, we are His very own children. He has lavished His love upon us! Hear this Word:
Look with wonder at the depth of the Father’s marvelous love that he has lavished on us! He has called us and made us his very own beloved children.
(TPT, 1 John 3:1)
Have you ever sat and pondered what this means? I know I can always make the connection when I consider my relationship with my own children. It’s hard to express to anyone what parental love is like. The first time you hold that baby in your arms, the explosion of joy and love that commences is nothing short of miraculous. It’s a deep bond and connection that stirs up every instinct in you to love, nourish, protect, guard and guide them; yet, even in having some grasp of this depth of love, God’s love is deeper still.
God doesn’t want your service, God wants your heart. He wants a Father-son/Father-daughter relationship with you. What about advancing the kingdom and being a soldier in God’s army and fighting the good fight? All very important, but what is the ultimate goal of it all? To reconcile the world back to Himself. Why? He wants a relationship! He wants to live eternally in a deep, authentic love relationship with His children. Why do we preach the Gospel? So people can turn back to God and live in relationship with Him. It’s not to recruit more servants. Again, I’m not saying service is not important, but let’s keep the main thing THE MAIN THING.
We can all fall into this trap – a rat race mentality where we run, and run, and run – we run so far we end up away from God’s heart! We volunteer our time, we execute programs, we counsel people, we are willing to lay down our lives – ALL GOOD! All noble endeavors! Just make sure you don’t leave Jesus behind because you might wake up one day only to end up burnt out, bitter or bored, wondering what happened to the fire that used to stir inside you when you heard the name, Jesus. Don’t let that be you! The Bible exhorts us to examine our own heart, to look at what motivates us to do what we are doing. I repeat, that HEART is what God wants my friends! Hear what the Word says:
I know all that you’ve done for me—you have worked hard and persevered. I know that you don’t tolerate evil. You have tested those who claimed to be apostles and proved they are not, for they were imposters. I also know how you have bravely endured trials and persecutions because of my name, yet you have not become discouraged. But I have this against you: you have abandoned the passionate love you had for me at the beginning. Think about how far you have fallen! Repent and do the works of love you did at first. (TPT, Revelation 2:2-5) (Emphasis mine.)
Is it important to stoke the fire of that passionate love we have for God? According to this scripture it is. Look at the stellar accomplishments of these believers! Hard work, perseverance, no toleration of evil or false teachers – even enduring of persecution without discouragement; but, something was missing, and according to God it was equal to falling very far from Him.
Do you see yourself here? Faithful in service, moral in practice, enduring hardness as a good soldier – yet far from God, burnt out, dry inside? I have good news. You are here for a reason and the solution is very easy. Return to His feet. Soak in His presence. Like a vessel broken open before Him, pour out your heart to Him and begin practicing His presence again.
I believe this is a year of growth. It is a year to bear fruit. Sometimes that means some pruning takes place. Ask God what to cut out and what to keep. Spend time abiding in the vine and drawing strength from Him. As the year progresses, please come back and let me know how things have changed as a result!
What if That Was You?
Last night I was watching the Dodgers play the Brewers in Game 4 of the NLCS. In the late innings of the game, the “closer” is brought out to shut down the opposing team’s attempts to score any final runs. I watched the scene carefully – the look in the eyes of this closer, the sweat dripping from his brow, the way he spun the ball in his hand, the buzzing adrenaline of the crowd, the lights glaring down and the intensity of each pitch as it was released. Then, I laughed inside thinking of how fickle people are. If this man performs to their standard they’ll sing his praises, but if he “chokes” the onslaught of their opinions will commence! It amuses me to think of those same people standing on the mound, crowd swelling around them, heart pounding – how loud would their criticism be if the ball was in their hand?
Yes, I have found a way to spiritualize baseball – my husband would be proud! On a serious note though – the Bible has a lot to say about judgment and criticism. I’m not talking about the light sideline sports commentaries, but the appointing of ourselves as judges over the lives of other people. Back to the baseball game – how many of us imagine what it would be like to walk in the shoes of the people we judge and criticize? What if the decisions fell to me? What if the weight of that responsibility were on me? What if that was my precious daughter strung out on drugs? What if that was my husband that cheated and I was suffering the pain of betrayal? What if I grew up in and out of foster care, rejected by my parents? How would I act as an adult if I never had an example to follow? I’m not justifying the foolish decisions people may make, and I’m not absolving accountability, but how many of us say, “I would never…” – “If that were MY child I would…” – “If it were up to ME, I would…” – see, it’s the same spirit of the sideline critic that has all of the opinions and NONE of the experience!
Judge Nothing Before the Appointed Time
1 Corinthians 4:5 says, Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (NIV)
Paul was writing to the church at Corinth and letting them know that he served the Lord and answered to Him. It didn’t matter whether they judged him. In fact, he didn’t even trust his own judgments about himself! He made it a point to communicate that God was the only one qualified to be the judge. Why? He is the only one that knows the real deal! What do I mean by that? Outward appearance IS NOT, I repeat – IS NOT – our basis for judging anything! God sees right through all of the outer facade and into the secret motives of the heart! At the appointed time all of those hidden motives will be brought to light. You know what? A lot of us will be surprised by how different God’s judgments are from ours. We might even be shocked to see some people in heaven (BRO!? YOU made it!) – yeah – he did. What!?!?!
But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. (NKJV, Romans 14:10)
It’s Not Your Seat!
Notice that the judgment seat belongs to Christ! (I’m preaching to myself too!) What are we doing when we judge? We are saying, “Jesus, step down from that seat. I’m qualified to judge this matter.” Ouch, (I can visualize the cringing faces) – bad move to make right? Here is what makes it even worse: Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. (NKJV, Matthew 7:1-2)
When you look this up – the idea of measuring – it is the idea of a ruler that one uses as a standard. In other words, when you hold someone to a certain standard, you better be meeting that standard yourself because that is the EXACT standard that YOU will be judged by. Suddenly I’m feeling a little more merciful! Think about this! Really think about it! When I blurt out my opinions about how to run the church or the company, or how to parent, or how someone should get their act together, God will pull out a sheet with MY WORDS on it and hold it up as He judges the way I ran my life, and how much I had my act together!
“Kelli, on this date you said this person should have been more decisive. Here is a list of all of the times you were indecisive. Oh, and on this date, you judged this person for not having greater faith. Here are all of the areas in your life where you lacked faith. On this date, you criticized this person for not being more sensitive and caring. Here are all of the times you were insensitive and offensive.”
Wow! What a renovation our lives would experience if we stopped judging others and started judging ourselves! How merciful we would be! How compassionate! How great our love walk would grow! As soon as we began opening our mouths to criticize we would instead look into our own heart and judge where we may be coming short. Again, I am not implying that we never hold a person accountable for their actions, or there is never a case for confronting sin, but I AM saying that there are a whole lot of things that are just none of our business, and the world will keep spinning without all of our poignant observations. Oh, that we would learn this!
Growing in Love
So what is a Christian to do!? Pray, honey! Ask God to help you set a watch over your mouth and guard the door of your lips. Every now and then sneak up behind yourself and listen to yourself talk. Then ask yourself, “Why am I saying this? Why am I bringing this up?” Is it pride? Is it comparison? Is it rebellion? Is it frustration that should be laid before God instead of presented to a man or woman? And finally, listen to this age-old advice, “If you don’t have anything nice to say…” – you know.
I’m on the journey with you. Let’s get this ugly judgment and criticism out of our lives so love and joy can reign supreme in our hearts. One day when we stand before God we will be thankful that we grew in mercy, love, and compassion. So be it!
Before we dive into the idea of approval addiction, let’s just talk for a moment about why you are here. There are four major questions to answer as you progress through life if you are going to do and be all that God called you to do and be.
First, “Who am I?” – and let me answer that for you if you are born again of God’s Spirit. You are His child. Your identity, your value, your self-worth has to come from the unchanging fact that you are a child of God born of the Spirit of God. You are not what you DO. If you place your identity in anything other than Christ you will at some point suffer an identity crisis. Think of it. If your identity is resting on your athletic ability, your position, your looks, your fame, your money, your intelligence, your job, your parenting skills – any of these temporal things – then what happens when the athlete is injured, when the beauty fades, when the company goes belly up or the kids leave home? Identity crisis! We MUST have the foundation of our identity, our value, and our self-worth in who we are in Christ.
Second, “Why am I alive?” – and I can answer that one with scripture:
For we are His workmanship [His own masterwork, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us]. (AMP, Ephesians 2:10)
Why are you alive? Because God prearranged and made ready a life for you to live! He created you the way a painter would create a masterpiece, the way a poet would write a poem, the way a sculptor would carefully chisel away at a piece of stone until it became what he or she envisioned! You are alive to be an expression of God’s heart in the earth; to live as He lived and love as He loved.
This leads to the next question, “Where am I going?” – and this has to do with your destiny. When you know who you are and you know that you were created with a purpose, then you know you are to live into a destiny. What is that destiny? What has God put inside of you? What graces? What gifts? What natural and supernatural abilities? These are equippings that come with the call, and the very moment God gives you the word concerning your destiny, the equipping to do what He has called you to do comes with it! So where has He called you? What has He destined for you to become?
Lastly, “What impact will I make when I get there?” Identity. Purpose. Destiny. Impact. What will your legacy be? What will you be remembered for and how will the world be different because of the life you have lived? What impact will there be when you dream God’s dreams, think His thoughts, and align your values with His values? What will be the outcome of you living into your destiny?
OK – now why did I start out with these very introspective questions? The Bible says in Proverbs 29:25, The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe. (NKJV) Did you know that there is a snare, a trap out there that can keep you from your destiny? It is the fear of man and it is connected to what I mentioned above. If you don’t know who you are you will look to man to find your self-worth instead of looking to Christ. So many of your life’s decisions will be based on what others think instead of what God thinks.
If you don’t know you were created with purpose you will look to this world for your sense of purpose. Your supreme appetite will be for the approval, accolades, acknowledgment, and recognition of man rather than your supreme appetite being the will of God. If you don’t have in your heart the God-breathed destiny – the path you are to travel to come into the fullness of what God has called you to be – and if the vision of the impact is not present in your mind’s eye, you will easily be derailed by the opinions of the masses.
Just imagine me right now grabbing you by the shoulders, looking you in the eye and shaking you! Do not live for the approval of man! It will entrap you! It’s a snare! Stop feeding the addiction! Don’t live for the “Likes” – don’t feed on the number of “Followers” – don’t sell your soul for more “Subscribers” – do you hear me!? STOP looking to man for approval! Live for GOD! Can I get a witness up in here!?
Trust in the Lord with all your heart. There is safety there. Look to God for your identity, your purpose, and your destiny. It is only in living for God that you will have the impact and leave the legacy that He intended for you to have and to leave.