Who Do You Follow, and Why?

With the technological ease of “following” people, we have access to all kinds of resources and individuals. We don’t just read someone’s books; we’re “friends” with them. We tweet a quote, and they favorite it, or better yet, retweet or reply. We get to know their families through Instagram photos. We follow their journeys of celebrations and heartaches. We live life alongside them…or at least, that’s what it feels like. We pray when they announce they have cancer. We grieve when their marriage falls apart. We get defensive when a critic attacks them. We don’t have to wait for the new book to come out; we sat through the writing process with them as they blogged. We preorder every book they write. We attend a conference because they are speaking. We listen to their messages online. Is that so wrong? It’s not just the “famous” people we follow. Look around. Who do you follow at church? Work? In your community? In your family? Who carries significant weight in your life? Not sure? Ask, “Of all the people who ask me to do something, who am I most likely to say ‘yes’ to without hesitation? Of all the people who give me information, who am I most likely to believe without question?” Following people isn’t wrong. God uses others to teach, challenge, and hold us accountable. However, we can become disciples of the wrong people, or of the right people for the wrong reasons. Take an inventory of how healthy your following is. Who would you support no matter what? Do you have a difficult time believing anything bad, especially...

The First

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) Some firsts are exciting. 1st day of kindergarten. (I really liked my pink pleated skirt!) 1st paycheck. (Even if I got sun poisoning lifeguarding that summer.) 1st dorm room. (Cleaning the floor with furniture polish was not a great idea.) 1st plane ride. (And the grandest view of a sunset in my life.) 1st cell phone. (Even if it didn’t fit in my pocket!) Some firsts aren’t so exciting. 1st speeding ticket. 1st overdraft notice. 1st surgery. 1st perm. My first date was boring. My first kiss was sloppy. My first bridesmaid dress was hideous. Firsts can be thrilling, frightening, or disastrous. The first is always a beginning. We don’t stay in the first. We grow from it. We shouldn’t steep in it; we should step out of it. It’s a journey. You experience a first every day of your life. You have a choice to live today in a way that sets the foundation for tomorrow. Hopefully, many of the days leading up to this one have set firm foundations on which you’re now building. The firsts of today set the pace and priorities of tomorrow. You can wait until tomorrow’s today to make changes, but why waste today? I remember the “today” I decided to live all other todays of my life for God. I appreciate the memory of that day, but I’m not going to reside in it. I don’t want to lose today and the opportunity to choose to live for God in the details of my new today. I haven’t filled every today...

An Open Letter (Invitation, Apology, Plea) to Young Women

To the young women at church (and those who are considering church), Please don’t rule us out just because we’re older than you. We might wear different clothes and talk about different things, but we not all that different from you. We have some of the same hurts, questions, and longings. Please give us a second chance…and a third and fourth. We might not reach out right away or remember your name, but it doesn’t mean we don’t care. Sometimes, we’re just as insecure and uncertain as you are about reaching out to new people. Please be persistent and share your ideas, hearts, and hands. We need you. It might look like we’ve fallen into a rut at times, and to be honest, sometimes we have, but we know your enthusiasm and energy can help propel us forward. We need you. Please don’t think we have all the answers, but realize we do have some. When we share our experiences with you, we’re not trying to tell you how to do things. We just want to share life with you, and that requires give and take by all of us. Please know we’re not perfect. You’ll see some hypocrisy in our lives, but as you get to know us better, you’ll also see us authentically struggling through our issues in order to grow. We can all struggle together. Please don’t reject an idea just because it’s not exactly what you would choose. We have a lot more in common than not. Let’s listen to each, respect each other, and try each other’s ideas. We’ll likely discover some fun along...

When The Good News Gets Easy

We boil it down to the basics: Love Jesus. Help others love Him, too. But we have different approaches: Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words. Help people. And if you can’t help, at least, don’t hurt them. Give what you can, and you will receive more. Helping others achieve their dreams will help you achieve yours. We like to boil things down to the simplest form. We like quips that affirm and encourage us. If it sounds good, we think it is good. If we can’t readily see how something contradicts Scripture, we assume it’s consistent with Scripture. That’s not always the case. We have to know Scripture well in order to find what is consistent and what isn’t. In many cases, we can find or recall a verse that supports just about any perspective we want. That approach only affirms us; it’s not a reliable approach to a faith-filled life. That kind of life requires humility, which we don’t always like because it makes us feel vulnerable and gets us out of our comfort zone. Vulnerability and discomfort often describe living out the gospel, too. We prefer living out and sharing the gospel in more comfortable and convenient ways. Lifestyle evangelism—living out the good news in our everyday lives—is an excellent approach to sharing Jesus with others, because we have established influence on those in our immediate circles and regular routines. However, we can sometimes fall back on a distortion of lifestyle evangelism as if we’re falling into a comfortable couch. It feels good. We don’t have to do much more than what would...

A Lame Christmas

Christmas celebrations and seasons have changed throughout the years, but one thing in my childhood home has remained the same: the nativity. It is one of my favorite parts of Christmas, but also a favorite part of “home.” As a child, I stared at the details of the nativity for hours. When I was old enough to touch it, I would rearrange it, deciding which king should present his gift or how far away the shepherds might stand. One flaw to the nativity has been there as long as I can remember. The lamb is missing a leg. Well, that’s not exactly true. It’s missing the plaster on the leg. The wire frame is there, so it can stand up on its own…with a bit of teetering. My mom knows how special the nativity is to me, and she was thrilled to come across a old-looking sheep that was about the same size as this one and would fit well with the other figures. She bought it without hesitation. When she got home, she discovered something. Somewhere between the store and home, the sheep’s leg was broken. It, too, was lame. I took it home to incorporate into my own nativity as a reminder. We don’t have to be perfect to approach Jesus. We need to come as we are. Humility is difficult, because it reveals our weaknesses. But that’s where He meets us. That’s where He serves us. That’s where He saves us. He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves: “When you are invited by...

What If Church Was More Like a Hospital?

I made several trips to the hospital with my dad while he battled cancer, sometimes in emergencies and other times for regular appointments and treatments. He received exceptional care. My mom received generous support. And I got to witness much of it. As I did, I wondered what made this hospital and its staff so special. What if the church was more like it? People are always welcome. I saw people in a variety of conditions—physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally—enter the doctors’ offices and hospital, whether it was a planned or emergency situation. Everyone received the same warm welcome. Each person was treated as a valuable person: not a project, nuisance, or uncomfortable inconvenience. People have time to talk—in plain English. Doctors and nurses rarely rush in and out of rooms. They sit down, look people in the eye, and speak in a language others can understand. They listen to questions and are patient through confusion and off-topic stories. One of dad’s doctors didn’t know dad had been admitted on a weekend, but stopped by once he heard the news and talked for a half hour. We’ve been approached by doctors we didn’t know, when we apparently looked lost roaming hallways and staring at elevator panels, and asked if we needed help getting somewhere. People followed up. Not once did we have to follow up with anybody who said they would call, make an appointment, or give more information. Many times, doctors and others went above and beyond even when they hadn’t obligated themselves to contact us. The head of a department, who didn’t even treat my dad any...

The Difference Between “Us” and “Them”

In my high school Persuasion and Control class, the teacher quietly distributed sheets of paper, then instructed us to work on our own to answer the questions on it: Who is “we”? Who is “they”? We (and probably they) use those words often, but what do they mean? There were a few other questions on the assignment, but they all stemmed from these two. After several minutes of personal reflection, we began discussing, and it was one of the most animated, perspective-changing, convicting class times I remember from high school. Our world was small at the time, but it didn’t seem that way. We had groups in high school, as I assume most do, and the open discussions about what we thought about ourselves, what we thought about others, and what we thought about what others thought about us surprised and unsettled us. The internet was just beginning to creep into our daily lives, so we didn’t have access to as many viewpoints as people do now. But I’m not sure that would have mattered. After all, we have access to a lot of information now; we can easily get to know people around the world or around the corner who are very different from us. Yet we still separate ourselves. Separation helps us feel protected, worthy, and justified. It helps us determine our identity, as we often deteriorate others’. “We” still define “us” and “them.” So now, may my Lord’s power be magnified just as You have spoken: The Lord is slow to anger and rich in faithful love, forgiving wrongdoing and rebellion. But He will not leave...

Should You Quit Social Media?

I want to quit Facebook. Can I do that? My friend’s question was in response to the frustration of scrolling through her news feed and finding vague accusations and threats, gossip, and one-sided claims that blatantly disrespected people. And…all those posts were by Christians. Can you quit Facebook? Yes, you can. Should you? I don’t know. Sometimes we feel victimized by social media, and we get frustrated, but what about the positive influences? What about the encouragement we give and receive? What about the support (the healthy kind, not the “I’m going to jump on your bandwagon and say, ‘You go, girl’ when I should actually be telling you, ‘Whoa! Take a breath and calm down.'”)? What about the opportunities to reach out to and catch up with people (again, healthy connections)? Just like you have choices about who you hang out with on the weekend or who you call when you have a crisis or need an ear to listen, you have choices about social media. You decide how often you check social media. You decide who you connect with. You decide what you look at the most, which determines, to some degree, what floats to the top of your news feed. You decide what to post and how to engage others. Maybe God is leading you away from social media. And maybe He’s leading you to be more discerning. Apply some of the same lessons to your faith. You might complain about your church or specific people in it. You might get into inappropriate conversations with people, ask for affirmation when you really need accountability, or work...

Turning What We Think About Submission Right Side Up, Part 5

  Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth. But avoid irreverent, empty speech, for this will produce an even greater measure of godlessness. 2 Timothy 2:15-16 It’s important to know what to say and what not to say. Restraint is as important as boldness. Both require submission and discernment. We need to understand pure submission, so we don’t confuse it with passivity or indifference.  With which do you struggle the most: restraint or boldness? How can submission help? Now every house is built by someone, but the One who built everything is God. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s household, as a testimony to what would be said in the future. But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household. And we are that household if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope. Hebrews 3:4-6 Seeking the definition and purpose of pure submission humbly seeks God’s authority. It is only when we begin to fathom His authority that we understand the purpose of submission. It’s never self-serving. It always keeps God’s purpose and plan at the forefront. Because He is sovereign, truthful, and trustworthy, we can step into submission without fear or hesitation. It is still difficult, as it always is to pry pride and control from our hands, but it is worth the journey and effort. What do you believe about God’s authority, and how have your beliefs changed over time? Have you noticed corresponding changes in your submission and humility? Moses said to...

Turning What We Think About Submission Right Side Up, Part 4

I have told you now before it happens so that when it does happen you may believe. John 14:29 Jesus repeatedly declares “so that you may believe.” He continually reminds us to submit. We choose to follow over and over again. We choose to believe Him over and over. We choose to trust Him over and over. Faith isn’t a one-time commitment. We don’t get to check the box and move on. Knowing the pure meaning of submission is important to our lives. It reflects the truth. It makes a way in and for life. It’s persistent, just like God Himself. On a regular basis, do you fully take advantage of Jesus’ reminders to believe? How well do you listen to what He has told you? What then? Are we any better? Not at all! For we have previously charged that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin. Romans 3:9 Submission positions us to see the truth alongside hope. We don’t arrogantly claim we’ve received, accepted, or achieved something others haven’t. Humility prompts us to want what we have for others. If we ever point out a lacking, it is only because we see our own and can encourage someone. We can help them see the possible hope. But the moment we let pride taint our attitudes or efforts, we weaken. Submission strengthens us. When have you thought yourself better than someone else, particularly in faith? How did you move on, or how can you now? Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. We...