Friday, December 22, 2017

Keepin' It Real!

“Just bein’ real”

This is a phrase I hear often, especially on social media and I’m not gonna lie…I cringe when I hear it or any form of it! 

#keepinitreal #realtalk #letsbereal #justbeingreal

To me, it’s one of those phrases that is full of passive-aggressive punch and condescending tone.  There’s usually always a not so nice message wrapped up in it.  Typically, these phrases insinuate that unless you share some or all of your not so pleasant moments, you are lying or just an overall fake person.  I have even heard some people go so far in saying it actually makes them sick when people don’t acknowledge their #keepinitreal moments and act like their life is perfect because they know…it’s obviously all a show.  Now, I’m not really sure how long this saying has been going around, but these dramatic statements have only been magnified to me within the past year.

When I first started noticing people share their desire for “realness” and “authenticity” on social media, it seemed to be coming from a place of insecurity and it always reminded me of Steven Furtick’s quote, “We compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”   For some reason, people can no longer just see the highlight reel from someone’s life and recognize that these shared moments are only a glimpse into that person’s life.  Social media has given people a false sense of entitlement to know the intimate details of everyone’s life and when they don’t get those details, they begin to fill in the details themselves based on their limited information.  And for many, they make inaccurate assumptions.   They assume people are trying to convince others that their life is perfect if they only share the good times when in reality, they aren’t trying to convince anyone of anything.  They truly are just enjoying the moments as they come and get excited to share these moments with their family and friends hoping to bring a smile to their face as it did theirs!  I mean, maybe people really do take the time to stage photos and lie about conversations and events to paint a lovely picture in an effort to cover up the pain that’s really happening in their lives, but come on people…are we really that insecure with ourselves that we are going to assume the worst about people when all they do is post happy and encouraging posts on social media? 

It kind of takes me back to my middle school days!  Who remembers the term “goody two-shoes”?  This term was used to describe an excessively virtuous person, a do-gooder…but it had a very negative connotation.  No one wanted to be “that person”.  I can remember when someone would get called a “goody two-shoes”, they would begin to spill the beans on every little bad thing they had ever done because God forbid, no one wanted to be known as that kid…the always do-gooder.  They were the ones that would get made fun of and they never fit in.  They wouldn’t get invited to fun parties because the good girls and boys made people uncomfortable.  They weren’t relatable or liked by most.  Many kids spent lots of time and energy trying to convince others that they weren’t as “perfect” as others saw them and many of those kids were embarrassed about being labeled the good kid.
When I started seeing this “let’s be real” trend on social media gaining popularity, I found myself thinking like those middle school kids.  At first, I felt like I needed to tell everyone all my struggles and failures just so they didn’t think I was a fake.  I started questioning everything I posted on social media and said to people.  Would my words be received with smiles or eye rolls?  I found myself feeling like I needed to convince others I wasn’t perfect.  And what better way than to share all my struggles, weaknesses, and mistakes.  I mean, that’s what people are really looking for when they want others to “be real”, right? 

But every time I started to post about my “real” moments…you know, those less than flattering moments, I heard that still small voice whispering to me that I needed to delete and not post.  That still small voice was the Holy Spirit and do you know what I have learned?  The Holy Spirit is our filter.  He helps us take those thoughts captive before we speak them…or type them.  He urges us to be silent when our quest to be transparent can in turn tarnish our witness.  He convicts us of our wrongs quietly and seeks repentance when we would rather use our struggles as an area to connect and be relatable.  He seeks change when we seek comfort in knowing we are in good company.  He really began to work on my heart about this #keepinitreal trend and here is what he taught me.  The quest to be relatable isn’t worth sacrificing my influence. 

I’m afraid that’s what is happening all over social media.  We are sacrificing our influence all for the quest to be likable and more relatable.  I see it on my newsfeed, I see it in blogs, and I even hear it in some churches.  It’s a call for authenticity and transparency.  People want to relate to their peers, bloggers want to relate to their readers, and speakers want to relate to their audiences so in their quest to be more relatable, they share some of their more vulnerable or “real” moments in life.  It’s all about building connections and relationships.  We have been told “You lead with your strengths and you connect in your weaknesses” so in an effort to build connections with people, we are being more vulnerable and opening up about struggles, our weaknesses, and our failures.  But social media is not the place to share our vulnerable moments. 

I am extremely cautious as to who I accept friend requests from on social media.  Because I post pictures of my children and family, I have very secure privacy settings and I only accept friend requests from people I actually know!  Even then, I still have close to 800 friends!  I didn’t even know I knew that many people!  My friends list is made up of family, dear friends, acquaintances, old classmates, previous students and coworkers, pastors, teachers, and many who I admire.  Knowing that all of these different groups of people have access to my posts, I have to make sure everything I post is filtered by the Holy Spirit.  Whether I like it or not, people are watching me and my words and actions will leave a lasting impression.  As a Christ follower, I am more concerned that my posts, words, videos, and photos leave a sweet fragrance that reflects Jesus than I am about people relating to me. 

Several years ago, I did a Beth Moore Bible study and in it she said something that was so profound to me that it stuck with me all these years later.  She said, “Be authentic to all.  Be transparent to most.  And be intimate with few.”

I looked up the definitions to those words because they seem to be trending on social media.  To be authentic simply means to be genuine and accurate.  We should be authentic to all.  When we post things on social media, we need to be sure we are giving an accurate glimpse into our lives.  Notice I said an accurate glimpse.  It’s just a glimpse.  Don’t be posting false information.  Be authentic.  Transparent means easy to perceive or detect, evident, and obvious.  We should be transparent with most.  That means most of the people on your friends list and in your sphere of influence should be able to detect what kind of person you are by reading your posts.  The things you post and the things you say should serve as evidence as to who you are.  When you are transparent, people don’t have to make guesses or assumptions about you.  Your values, convictions, and priorities are obvious.  That’s transparency.  Then there is intimacy.  Intimate means private or personal, detailed knowledge.  This kind of information is intended for just a few people.  This small circle of friends knows your dreams and your fears.  They know your strengths and your weaknesses.  They know the intimate details of your life and your children’s lives.  Sharing private and personal information on social media when you have several hundred or thousands of eyes reading is just not wise.  You may get more followers, more likes on social media, and more clicks on your posts, but at what cost?  As Christ followers, being relatable and likable shouldn’t be our goal.  We need to be set apart from the world and we should be living by a different standard.  Are we perfect?  Absolutely not!  But do we really need to share our flaws and failures to the world just so others can relate?  No!  No!  No!  I see so many people that have a great call on their lives to be influencers and it makes me so sad when I see them compromising their ability to influence all for the sake of likability. 

Research has proven that people remember negative memories far more than the positive ones.  It’s true!  I have a billion amazing memories of my childhood, but wouldn’t you know it that I still remember the one time one of my elementary school teachers had a melt down and cried in front of our class?  And in the 36 years I have lived, I still remember the only time my parents were in a “heated argument” and then there’s that awkward time my Facebook friend told the world what she really thought about her life.  My point is it doesn’t matter how many encouraging words you say over your lifetime on social media or how many good things you do, that one bad seed can leave a lasting impression.

As Christ followers, our sphere of influence should be far greater than our circle of friends that we are intimate with.  Too much transparency can tarnish your influence.  I believe as Christ followers, our number one tool to influence and touch lives is living out your life in a way that reflects Christ.  Hands down…a life well lived will leave a far greater impression on those you leave behind way more than any words or stories you shared.  Period.  So please don’t feel like you need to be transparent with everyone in order for the door to be opened to make a difference in their lives.  Trust me…people are watching you.  They notice how you handle tough situations.  They notice the way you look at your husband.  They notice the way you love your kids.  Let that speak volumes.  Let the Holy Spirit be your filter.  Let Him silence you when necessary and let Him lead you to speak when a message needs to be heard.   Often times, the strongest messages and lessons learned can come from a place of weakness, so I’m not saying never share…just be sure your message brings glory to the Lord and not just another comforted follower.  And don’t be afraid to share your highlights!  I don’t think you are bragging or being fake!  I love it!  I’m so thankful that the Lord has surrounded me with amazing friends and leaders!  I love learning from you!  I love being challenged by you!  I love learning from you on how to be a better mom!  I love to see where I can be a better wife!  And I love it when you challenge me to go deeper in my relationship with Christ!  I’m watching!  I’m listening!  You make me want to be better and do better!  So keep sharing! 

I think we should start a new “let’s be real” trend!  I think we need to change the tone.  I would love to start seeing #keepinitreal on all of the blessed moments of your life.  As Christians, we are living in the favor of God and its time we get real about sharing how blessed we truly are and stop being ashamed about it!  Life is beautiful!  I can’t imagine living any other life than this blessed life that I get to call mine!  God is so good!  So can we start being real without others getting sick of our happiness and mushiness?  Life is short people!  Let’s embrace the good and trust God to change the bad and let’s leave behind a sweet fragrance of Jesus with every word we speak and every word we type friends!  Here’s to my new favorite hashtag for the coming year! #keepingitreal

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Silent Killer in Christian Marriages

Not long ago, I felt the Lord leading me to intercede for my marriage.  Being that I already pray for my husband and our marriage daily, I found this nudging a little alarming…to the point that I stopped and asked God right then, “Why?  Is something wrong?”  No sooner than that thought crossed my mind…literally, I didn’t even have enough time to voice my question to the Lord…He answered.  His response was so clear, it might as well have been an audible answer, but it wasn’t.  I felt the Lord tell me, “All is well, but there is an enemy waging war for your marriage and family.  I tell you to pray that so that you will be alert and aware of his tactics.” 

For those of you who don’t have a personal relationship with the Lord, you may not understand how someone can have these clear conversations with God.  I can’t even explain it other than just tell you that all believers have the Holy Spirit living inside of them and although the Lord speaks to us through His Written Word and through prophets, He most often speaks to us through His Spirit that is within us!  Before Jesus left this earth, He told His disciples “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper (Holy Spirit) will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send him to you (John 16:7.)  The Holy Spirit is a game changer in the life of a believer because He is our helper!  The Holy Spirit plays many roles in a believer’s life, but one of His roles is to be our Guide.  I can’t imagine trying to navigate this life without the help of my guide!  He goes before me and prepares the way.  He leads me every step of the way.  And as my guide, He is in constant communication with me preparing me for the next step so that I won’t stumble.  He is the Spirit of Truth, only speaking what the Father says Himself (John 16:13) and I trust Him completely.  When He speaks, I listen.

So when I felt Him leading me to pray for my marriage, you better believe I was on it!  Not knowing exactly how to pray or what to pray, I just prayed in the Spirit.  Ephesians 6:18 says, “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.  Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers.  I recognized that there is indeed an enemy waging war for my children and my marriage, but as a believer I don’t have to live in fear!  As long as I am living my life devoted to the Lord, I understand that I pose a threat to the devil!  He knows his time is short and it makes him mad!  He is desperate to take out as many as he can in what time he has left and those who are fully devoted to Christ have the biggest targets on their back because they pose the biggest threat to keeping him from accomplishing that which he has come to do!  I have a friend who describes it as “New levels, new devils!”  As we walk in obedience to what God has called us to do here on this earth and go to new levels in our relationship with Christ, the devil isn’t just going to leave us alone and move on to the next one!  No!  He just ups his games and tries to come at us from a different angle in hopes to catch us off guard and defeat us!  But thank goodness for God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, because with them, we have everything we need to be victorious! 

As I have been interceding for my marriage these past few months, the Lord has really opened my eyes to the attacks of the enemy on marriages.  I have seen the effects of those attacks on marriages inside the church today.  It breaks my heart.  I catch myself saying, “I would never…” or wondering “how did it get to this?”  but then the Lord gently reminds me that no one is off limits when it comes to the attacks of the enemy and it very well could be me if I am not on guard and protecting myself from the silent killer in Christian marriages today…Satan’s deception runs deep friends.  It starts with a thought…and then turns to imaginations…and then becomes a stronghold.  Once that spirit of deception takes root in a person’s heart and becomes a stronghold, that’s when a person begins taking actions that lead to destruction…right where the enemy desires to see you fall!  John 10:10 says the devil comes to kill, steal, and destroy.  He hates seeing your marriage flourish.  He hates seeing our families grow and prosper.  He wants to destroy it all and steal all your happiness along the way!  He hates seeing husbands being the priest of their homes.  He hates seeing mothers and fathers train their children in the ways of the Lord.  He wants our kids and he is willing to use whatever he can to get them…even our schools, our government, and our entertainment.  Whatever doors he can open, he’ll go after it because all he needs is a point of entry.  The devil is no dummy.  He knows that if he destroys the family unit, he has easier access to our children so he is waging war on Christian families like never before.  And his tactics...DECEPTION…the silent killer!  It begins as an innocent thought.  Every broken marriage…every family unit destroyed…it began as a thought.

If my husband/wife was more like __________, my life would be so much better.

If my husband didn’t work so much, I would be happier.

She’s/He’s really good-looking. 

I wish my spouse didn’t ____ so much.

He is such a great guy.

She is a really good person. 

I wish my spouse treated me the way _____ does.

I wish we had a life like _______.

This isn’t the life I dreamed about.

I wish…

If only…

We’ve all had them.  Be honest.  Especially now that we have social media showing the highlight reels of everyone’s perfect moments, it’s even easier to have these or similar thoughts cross our mind!  However, when we are alert, grounded in faith, and have the Holy Spirit as our Guide, we recognize these thoughts as bait from the enemy!  He is at work friends and we have to be alert and take these thoughts captive before imaginations begin!  If not, pretty soon we will find ourselves imagining what life would be like if we left our spouse or if we had a life like someone else.  We will begin imagining how much better our life could be.  2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.”  When a couple says their vows, they make a covenant to keep those vows “until death do us part.”  Marriage is a BIG deal to God!  In fact, marriage is the closest thing we have to describe Christ’s relationship with the church!  The Bible tells husbands to love their wife like Christ loves the church and God’s Word tells us Christ is coming back for a spotless bride!  Can you see why the enemy would want to destroy this covenant so badly?  It represents so much more than just a family unit!

Don’t allow Satan’s lies to take root in your heart to the point that your family is destroyed!  Take those thoughts captive!  I don’t care how bad things are in your marriage!  No marriage is too broken for God.  He can restore your marriage and make it stronger than ever before.  It may not be an easy road, but with God, all things are possible.  Recognize that your battle is not against your spouse, your finances, or a career.  “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  2 Corinthians 10:3-5.”   Our battle is with the one who comes to kill, steal, and destroy…not our spouse!  Be alert!  Recognize that when those thoughts come, that is just the enemy’s tactics to bring division in your marriage.  Division is an open door for the enemy!  “A house divided against itself cannot stand.  Mark 3:25.”  The devil wants you to ignore the spiritual reality behind the physical one, because as long as you're focused on what you can see with your physical eyes, he can continue to run rampant underneath the surface.  

I am so thankful for the role of the Holy Spirit in my life.  I am thankful that God is fighting on my behalf and that through prayer and spiritual warfare, we have the power to thwart the attacks of the enemy completely...those fiery darts that we don't even see yet...we can fight for our marriage and prevent the problems before they arise!  Yes, the devil is real.  Yes, his attacks are very real.  Yes, he wants to steal our joy and destroy our future.  It’s no joke.  But you need to hear something today, friends!  Listen to what God’s Word says and get it into your heart today!

“Put on the FULL armor of God, so that you can STAND against the devil’s evil schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore, put on the FULL armor of God, so that WHEN the day of evil comes, you may be able to STAND YOUR GROUND, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take of the shield of faith, with which you can EXTINGUISH ALL the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the world of God.” Ephesians 6:11-17

“Submit yourselves to God.  RESIST the devil, and he will FLEE from you.” James 4:7

“Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

“Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  RESIST him, standing firm in the faith.” 1 Peter 5:8-9

“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper.” Isaiah 54:17

“In all these things, we are MORE than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57

“But the Lord is FAITHFUL, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3

“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and NOTHING shall hurt you.” Luke 10:19

“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you lose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it WILL be done for them by my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:18-19

“The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you.  They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.” Deuteronomy 28:7

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is FAITHFUL; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

“Fight the good fight of faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12

“Do not fear them, for the Lord your God is the one fighting for you.” Deuteronomy 3:22

“If God is FOR us, who can stand against us?” Romans 8:31

“Through You we will push back our adversaries, through Your name we will trample down those who rise up against us.” Psalm 44:5

“For You have girded me with strength for battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.” Psalm 18:39

Friends, when we belong to Christ, we are victorious!  This is just the short list of scriptures that reference battle and how to overcome the attacks of the enemy!  If anything, we need to be aware that there is a real war waging and we need to be alert and aware of the enemy’s tactics!  Do not be deceived!  Take those thoughts captive!  I’m not saying to ignore problems in your marriage as they arise.  There may very well be things in your marriage that need to be addressed.  Talk about them.  Get wise counsel.  Pray together.  Be honest about those problems and ask God to intervene.  But recognize who the battle is with.  It’s NOT your spouse!  The real enemy is the one waging the war on your marriage…it’s the DEVIL himself.  Take those thoughts captive and don’t even entertain them!  Those thoughts cannot become a stronghold in your marriage when you begin to take them captive and make them obedient to Christ!

For the past few months, I have been praying continually for my marriage and for my children.  I have been putting the full armor of God on daily.  I have talked to my husband about what the Lord has put on my heart and we have prayed together.  We have put boundaries in place to protect our marriage.  We don’t even want to open a door for compromise...not in our marriage and we sure don’t want to be responsible for opening a door in someone else’s marriage!  Listen, husbands and wives…guard yourselves and take steps to protect your marriage now!  Do not seek out or accept friendships on social media of anyone you have previously dated.  Do not fall into the comparison trap.  Just don't do it!  Don't compare your spouse to anyone else.  Do not call or text anyone from the opposite sex.  If you feel comfortable calling or texting someone of the opposite sex for just casual conversation, there is a boundary that has been crossed that can easily lead to something more friends.  Guard yourself!  Avoid situations where you are alone with someone of the opposite sex…not only to avoid the appearance of anything inappropriate but to protect yourself too!  It’s just not wise.  The enemy is sly.  He is patient.  He will work on one boundary at a time.  Don’t be deceived.  Recognize his tactics and take precautions now.  Establish boundaries and take those thoughts captive.  Do not be deceived.  Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid!  The battle belongs to the Lord, and He has the final victory!  Just walk in obedience and be alert! 

“As for me and my house, we WILL serve the Lord!”  Begin covering your marriage and your children with prayer.  Pray in the Spirit and put on the full armor of God…daily!  Read the Word of God daily because the more you know God’s voice, the easier it is to recognize the lies.  And pray together!  A marriage that prays together stays together!  I am lifting you up friends.  I see the enemy at work and I see the lives he has already destroyed.  It breaks my heart.  It stirs me to action.  I pray that those who read my words today will be stirred to action as well.  We are in the fight of our lives friends.  Don’t be caught off guard.  We have all the tools necessary to be victorious but if we don’t see the enemy coming, he’ll blindside us.  Open your eyes…your spiritual eyes today.  I’ll leave you with this today and pray it over your marriage daily…”And the two will become one flesh.  So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore, what God has joined, let no one separate.” Mark 10:8-9.