identity

Owning the Label I Once Spurned

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It took me a long time to own up to being a Christian. I believed in God and willingly accepted Jesus as my Savior—all that was fine.

I didn’t want to be lumped in with some of the other Christians I knew, and frankly didn’t like very much. The sanctimonious girl at school who invited me to church not because she wanted me there, but because she felt it was her job to expose me to her denomination. The cutthroat, super-ambitious guy at work who ogled me daily but wore his churchgoer status like it was his get-out-of-jail-free Monopoly card. The nosy neighbor who’d tell me all about her church bake sale and that Sunday’s sermon while simultaneously gossip-slaughtering everyone else on the block. No thanks.

So when my friend called and offhandedly teased me about having “turned into one of those Christians,” I was taken aback. While I knew what I believed, I certainly didn’t want to be relegated to the judgy, holier-than-thou classification she wanted to pin on me.

I’m not sure whether I laughed her off and changed the subject, or flat-out denied her tag to save face. But I do remember hanging up the phone and feeling just like the Apostle Peter after Jesus’s arrest.

Peter was extremely close with Jesus and part of his inner-circle, so fervent and loyal a Christ-follower that Jesus called him “the rock” upon which He would build His church (Matthew 16:18-19). When Jesus told him he’d fall away and, in fact, reject Christ three times before the rooster crowed that very night, you can almost see Peter’s “no way, never!” scoff (Matthew 26:34).

Yet, sadly, that’s exactly what happened. Trying to avoid capture himself, Peter insisted once, twice, and finally a third time that he “didn’t know the Man.” Just then, the rooster crowed, “And Peter remembered Jesus’ statement, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75 ESV).

That day on the phone with my friend, I denied my Lord. In my reluctance to get categorized as the “wrong kind of Christian,” in effect I’d taken myself out of the category altogether. What I’d done felt like a punch to the throat.

See, denying Jesus isn’t just rejecting our faith. It’s also being embarrassed about the label we carry. It’s being more concerned about the way others see us than the way God sees us. Click To TweetLooking back, I recognize I denied Him in other ways throughout my youth, like when I didn’t speak up when I witnessed injustice, or when I caved to sin instead of holding fast to what I knew to be right.

Today I’m proud to call myself a Christian. When I meet someone who gives me the side-eye, even better—I know it’s a chance to give someone a new perspective on the term, a chance to represent what it looks like to be a modern-day Jesus-follower. Click To Tweet

Owning my Christian label was a big step in embracing my faith and my identity in Jesus. As with Peter, it took understanding how I’d fallen short—and making a choice to step up from then on out—to experience freedom.

Have you ever felt hesitant to claim a label because you were afraid how you’d be perceived? How have you learned to overcome your discomfort?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below and make sure to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram!

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Relationships

The Ultimate Key to Conflict Resolution

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The Ultimate Conflict Resolution

Guest post by Amanda Temoshek

I’m not an expert at resolving conflict, but I often find myself in the middle of it. One night, I couldn’t sleep. My daughter was struggling with a friend, and I found my sweet girl sitting on the stairs, crying before bed. It wasn’t my fight, but I was still angry and hurt. After tucking her in, I stayed up, ruminating on what she’d told me. Should I talk to the other girl’s mom? Had I told my daughter to handle the situation correctly? I wanted to fix everything, but I couldn’t. Hours later, I finally prayed. Peace filled the space once occupied by worry, and I fell asleep. 

So what’s the key to handling bad situations well?

Seven years ago, my marriage was on the brink of failure. And this wouldn’t be my first failed marriage. My relationships – marital and otherwise – seemed so often to hit a wall of strife that I had a tough time getting through. I’ve walked away from good relationships because I didn’t know how to deal with small disputes and I’ve stayed in unhealthy situations because I was scared to confront the problem. 

The problems in my marriage were more than I could handle, but I didn’t know where to turn. I grew up in a Christian home, went to church, and participated in Bible studies. I believed in God and Jesus. I prayed before meals and when times were tough. I sporadically read the Bible. But still, I struggled. The fruit of the Spirit seemed out of reach. It was impossible to have joy when my second marriage was on the rocks. How could I have peace when I had two young children, an extremely high-pressure job, and a marriage that seemed beyond repair?

It wasn’t until I attended an Al-Anon meeting and heard “The Twelve Steps” that I finally got it. Following God was the only way to restore my sanity and relationships. I needed to turn my will and life over to him. I didn’t just need Jesus for Heaven. I needed Him every single day. If I was going to deal with my husband in a way that was loving, patient, and respectful, I needed Jesus. There was no way I could do it on my own, and no amount of self-help books would help me in the middle of a heated discussion. Only Jesus could preserve our marriage.

I didn’t just need Jesus for Heaven. I needed Him every single day.

The Bible became my best resource.

I committed to reading the Bible each day for a year. That daily time with Jesus was changing me. Even though I was walking through the most challenging experience I’d ever faced, I was growing. God was slowly transforming me. In a disagreement with my husband, I stayed calm. I had more patience when my kids were driving me crazy. I felt peace. Jesus was my source of conflict-resolution as He renewed my heart. 

I learned that the opposite of conflict is peace. And Jesus is the Prince of Peace. I can and should turn to Jesus in the middle of battles, but real maturity comes as I invest daily in a relationship with Him. He’s transforming my heart as I read truth and reflect on His love and wisdom. 

Christians 2,000 years ago faced the same choice we do of whether to lead our own lives or submit to the will of God.

The apostle Paul, an early church leader, advised believers to surrender every aspect of our lives to God saying, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5:16 ESV)

As I studied, I learned about how people in the Bible dealt with conflict. Paul, who had poured himself into ministering to the early church, was often rejected and mistreated, but still, he taught the church with compassion, truth, and grace. I learned about Abigail in the book of 1 Samuel, whose husband was mean and selfish, but she chose her words wisely and stayed calm under pressure. In the Gospels, I read about how Jesus submitted to His Father, was honest and bold when confronted, and forgave and loved those who persecuted Him. Conflict is inevitable, but with God’s wisdom we can endure well.

This situation my daughter is facing is out of my control, just like many of the issues I faced in early marriage, but I know God is in control. I’ve seen Him heal damaged relationships, change hearts from angry to compassionate, and work hard situations for His glory and our good. If we ask, He will give us wisdom on how to communicate with someone who has hurt us. As we spend time with Him, we’ll become more like the Prince of Peace during the battles of life.

How’s God asking you to trust Him with your relationships? Pray this week and rest knowing He’s fighting your hardest battles. Join the conversation on Facebook or find more encouragement through our 30 day Emotional Health FREE devotional on YouVersion Bible App. And make sure to grab our FREE Bible study as well. You can find it HERE.

Get to Know Amanda

Amanda's headshotAmanda Temoshek is a mom, wife, and consultant. She grew up in a Christian home, but it wasn’t until 2012 during a crisis in her personal life, that she discovered the life-transforming power of committing to daily time with Jesus. She encourages others to never settle for anything less than investing every day in their walk with Jesus and growing in their relationship with Him. She blogs about what God is teaching her at BecomingMary.com as she learns to sit at the feet of Jesus.

surrender

Letting Jesus Be Your King

kristenquote1-apr15-fbThe guitarist started to strum the background music. The pastor was closing the first message of the conference on Lordship—surrendering full control of your life to God. I’d zoned in and out the whole time. I knew the information already. I’d been doing the Christian walk for over half my life. I’d worked through the study and attended the same conference before. In fact, I’d taught at it.

So, my mind wandered. God had been Lord over my life for a long time…or had He?

I caught something he said along the lines of, “Maybe you’ve surrendered some of your life to Jesus, but not all of it. Maybe you’ve yet to trust Him with your family, or your marriage, or maybe your career. Maybe today you need to fully give Him all of it, not just certain parts.”

Tears flowed. I’d been really good at relinquishing my family and marriage to Him, but it hit me then that I’d held on to my career with a death grip. When it came to my writing profession, I didn’t fully believe He could keep His promises. I still tried to forge my way, relying on my strength to propel my career to another level, a bigger platform, and to an income-producing job my family could count on.

How could I have missed this? I told Jesus often I believed His Word and the promises He’d spoken to me over the years, but the truth was, I didn’t.

Moments after my realization, it was prayer time, and I knew I needed it. I hadto surrender my career to His Lordship, to allow Him to be my King in all things. I went to my conference prayer partner and could barely spit out that I needed to relinquish my career to Jesus, and she started to pray.

There, in the quiet presence of God, words poured out, then she said, “God, You will use her writing for You. She will pen Your words for all to read.”

Here’s the kicker. I hadn’t told her anything about me. She didn’t know I was a writer. But that didn’t stop God from using her to speak promises over me once again. He is thatfaithful. Even in my weakness, He was there, waiting to bless and love on me.

In Luke 9:23, Jesus says, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will save it.” In fact, a version of this verse is found in all four Gospels, and in two of them more than once, making no other saying more emphasized by Jesus. (Luke 17:33; Matthew 10:39, 16:25; Mark 8:35; John 12:25) God needed me to get this Truth.

When we take up our cross & surrender our whole life to God, He gives us the abundant life He’s promised. Click To TweetWhen we hold tightly to parts of our life in an effort to make our own plans happen, we inevitably fail at all we’ve strived for. But it is when we take up our cross (v.23) and surrender our whole life to God, that He gives us the abundant life He’s promised. This is not a life without problems, but one full of peace in the circumstances because He’s on our side, leading the way like only a King of Kings can.
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Months later, I find that my mind doesn’t drift to the “what ifs” or “whys.” I don’t dwell on if one of my novels will be published, or how and if my platform will grow. I just take steps with Him, striving each day to let Him be my Leader and King. Living without the weight of anxiety and fear has blessed me with a worry-less attitude, a joyful spirit to love my family, and a fresh mind to write those words God needs me to pen.I take steps with Him, striving each day to let Him be my Leader and King. Click To Tweet

Maybe you find yourself as I did, having given Him control over only parts of your life but not the whole? Or maybe you’re needing to submit it all to Jesus? You can do so easily. Pray earnestly to Him. Repent for not giving Him your entire life and begin today a new path following your King.

Let’s talk about this! Share your thoughts in the comments below, or join the conversation on social media!

Resting in Christ

When Grace Erases a Record of Wrongs

Feet & Hands with Eph. 2:10 listed to the left

Sometimes I stand in the shower and recount hard conversations, rearranging them until they tilt in my favor. Oh, to heal the hurt I feel! But I’ve learned the danger of this practice and how refocusing on grace helps me heal.

Many times, a thread of offense or unforgiveness can be detected in those rehashed exchanges. I deem it a form of self-protection, a way of secretly wagging a finger at the offending party and holding their actions against them. Seems innocent enough, but is it?

This record-keeping of wrongs fails to solve the problem. It leads me down a dangerous road toward sin through gossiping, bitterness, or withholding forgiveness. But the grace of Jesus adds salve to those wounds. It helps me heal the hurts I feel.

The Lord came to earth, offering grace to all. He keeps no record of wrongs. He refuses to rehash tilted conversations, too. The Savior of the world simply offers a generous dose of unmerited favor to all who will accept it–including perfectionists, those with dark or troubled pasts, people whose words pierce the hearts of others, and yes, even women who hold one-sided chats in the shower.

None of us stand innocent, yet Jesus forgives and showers grace on all. ~ @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

John 1:14 describes Jesus as the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us, one full of grace and truth. Although I’m tempted to think I’m innocent concerning my rehashed conversations, none of us are free from sin. But Jesus forgave us and showers grace anyway.

These days, when hurt or offense singes and I’m tempted to rehash them, I focus on Jesus instead. I hold close the gift of grace my Savior offers, remembering how much I need it and that His grace is sufficient. The Lord loves and forgives undeserving people—even those like me.

Refocusing on Jesus’ free gift of grace, I’m lured from the temptation to gossip or grow bitter and am drawn to prayer, forgiveness, and love instead.Refocusing on Jesus’ free gift of grace, I’m lured from the temptation to gossip or grow bitter and am drawn to prayer, forgiveness, and love instead. Click To Tweet I’d much rather have a conversation with Him than myself!

The next time you’re hurt or offended, why not consider Jesus and the love and grace He offered you? Focusing there helps heal our wounds.