Tag Archives: things to give up

What you miss by being a Christian

Today as I was walking into the grocery store an older gentleman, with kind eyes, handed me a pamphlet. The front of it said in big bold letters: “What you miss by being a Christian”. As a chronic people-pleaser I have a hard time saying no to people handing out fliers, samples, or anything else that’s given freely and with a smile. So I stuck the pamphlet in my purse and later, when I got back to my office, I pulled it out to throw away. But curiosity got the best of me and I opened it up to see what it said.

In big bold letters it read HELL! (complete with exclamation point). And then it proceeded to list a number of Bible verses that describe hell.

Um, OK. That will get a person’s attention. Although, probably not in the way this gentleman was hoping.

Yes, of course as a Christian I believe the only way to eternal salvation is through Jesus Christ. And yes, I believe in hell, and based on the descriptions I’ve read in scripture, it does not sound like a fun place to spend eternity. But, is that the best message to send non-believers? Is a message meant to motivate with fear and threats really the best way to draw people to Jesus? Forgive me, but if I was a non-believer, I don’t think that’s the message that would do it for me.

I don’t mean to dismiss the truth behind scripture, or make light of it, but I do think there is more to the complete picture of Christianity that needs to be shared with non-believers, and would probably better serve to pique their interest.

So, I decided to come up with my own list of 4 things I miss out on by being a Christian.

  1. Condemnation – Romans 8:1-2 says, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

    I don’t know about you, but there is plenty in this world already telling me I am not enough — I’m not smart enough, thin enough, rich enough, successful enough, pretty enough, etc. As a believer, though, I know those are lies from the enemy. I am not enough on my own, but through Jesus Christ I am freed of all my short-comings and sin, and that means no guilt for all the ways I fall-short, no shame for my past mistakes, and no condemnation for the mistakes I have yet to make.

     

  2. Being unloved – “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)

    As the Beatles said, “all you need is love.” But so often we believe that love needs to come from a spouse, a friend, a parent, or a child. When we don’t feel like we are loved the way we want, or don’t have those relationships, it can make us feel completely unloveable, or even unworthy of love. But scripture says that I am loved, and you are loved, by our heavenly Father. And he has proven His love to us in the most spectacular way, by giving up His own son in order to save us, to spend eternity with us. Once you know and accept that truth, it’s hard to ever feel unloved again.

     

  3. Fear – Being unloved leads to number three, fear. In 1 John it goes on to say that “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them…Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” (1 John 4:15, 18)

    Fear comes in many forms. It can be a fear of punishment, as John mentions in this scripture, it can be a fear of failure, a fear of death, a fear of loneliness, fear for our children’s future, etc. But whatever the source of our fear, it can always, always be declared a lie. Because God’s love has no room for fear. To know Him and accept His love is to accept that we need not be afraid of punishment, failure, death, loneliness, the future, or anything else! His love protects, it has our very best interests, and it will never leave us.

  4. Having to do it all on my own (aka self-reliance) – For me this one goes a little bit with condemnation because when I fall into the trap of thinking I have to “do it all” alone, the guilt and condemnation are usually quick to follow when I inevitably realize I cannot do it all. But this is also about casting aside the loneliness that comes with thinking “it’s all up to me”. Anyone who has ever felt like success or failure was riding on their shoulders knows it’s a lonely place to be. Whether you’re a single mom, the CEO of a company, or just an introverted overachiever (raises hand), it can be easy to feel all the weight and pressure of being “the one” responsible for it all. But God says: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness in an uninhabited salty land. “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat  or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:5-8)

    We have a choice — try and do it on our own and feel like dried up shrubs in the desert, or rely on God and be perpetually replenished, strengthened, and productive. When we become Christians and learn that we are never alone, and do not have to rely solely on our own strength and abilities, then the pressure and loneliness no longer have a place in our lives.

These are four things that I no longer have room for in my life because I know God and have a relationship with Jesus. And I can tell you that I don’t miss them one bit.

Featured photo by Robert Koorenny on Unsplash

16 things to give up in 2016

Did you make any new year’s resolutions this year? We’re a little over 1 month into 2016, and according to Statistic Brain Research Institute, 36% of all resolutions have already been ditched.

I’m personally not a big fan of new year’s resolutions. In general I find them to be lofty goals, like lose weight or quit smoking, at which you can either succeed or fail, with little room for anything in between. I am, however, in favor of trying to be my best self…the self God created me to be. The older I get the more I find that my journey to personal betterment has more to do with letting go of worldly tendencies and self-destructive behavior, so that I can make room for the truth of God’s promises. This is not a pass or fail exercise, it is rather a continuation of my journey to live a life of joy and freedom.

Here is my list of 16 things to give up in 2016:

    1. Trying to do it all by myself – or as I sometimes refer to it, the “I got this” syndrome.  It’s my default setting. Whatever comes my way, my initial response is “I got this.” But the problem is, trying to do it all alone is, well, lonely. And sometimes overwhelming. And almost always not what God intended for me.”For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘fear not, I am the one who helps you’.” – Isaiah 41:13

 

    1. The illness of busy-ness – A typical conversation with just about any friend or family member: Them: “So, how are things going with you?” Me: “Oh, you know, the usual. Busy!” And it’s the truth. We always seem to be busy…my husband and I juggle full-time jobs, three active kids, leading a small group, church commitments, family and friend relationships, house projects, and occasionally try to squeeze in some favorite hobbies and past-times.In the last year we have been intentional about trying to reduce the amount of commitments in our schedule, but I will tell you we still have room for improvement here. It takes a real effort to say “no” to the wrong things and “yes” to the right things. Even if the right thing is a Sunday afternoon napping on the couch.

 

    1. Self-doubt – I don’t think this one requires much explanation. but if you’re a chronic self-doubter, like I am, the good news is when we doubt our own abilities, we can turn to Jesus, who said: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

 

    1. Not getting enough sleep – Probably the single worst bit of self-sabotage I inflict upon myself is not getting enough rest. And I know better. It’s critical to our mental, physical, and spiritual health to be well rested. So giving up the late nights is going to be a priority for me in 2016!”It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” – Psalm 127:2

 

    1. Resentment – Oh boy, am I really admitting this out loud? I have a problem with holding on to resentment. It’s usually over little things — washing dishes my children forgot to put in the dishwasher, folding laundry while my husband falls asleep on the couch, compromises I didn’t really want to make — and often I don’t even realize I’m doing it. But it starts as a little seed and then grows into a heavy stone in the pit of my stomach, causing me to either withdraw from the ones I love, or get angry with them. This is not healthy for me nor my relationships!

 

    1. Rushing to everything – My family is perpetually 10-15 minutes late. It seems no matter how early we start, or how much warning we give our children, something happens — a lost shoe, bad hair day, cat vomit, etc. — to delay us. And I HATE being late and feeling rushed! I turn into mean-mommy and start yelling and it makes everyone miserable.While I don’t know that there is a full-proof way to avoid all of those things that slow us down (cats will inevitably vomit at the worst possible moment), I do know that doing less will result in more margin, and more margin comes with less rushing from place-to-place. That, coupled with a hearty dose of keeping things in perspective (is it really the end of the world if we are 10 minutes late to that event?) will hopefully help me ease up on the rush and accompanying stress.

 

    1. Time sucks – This definitely goes with number 6 and the idea of creating more margin. But to me it’s not just about doing less, it’s about doing less of the meaningless, and creating space for the meaningful. Not turning on the TV in the evening guarantees I won’t get sucked into a show and stay up too late. Not opening the laptop or picking up my phone, means not getting sucked into Facebook or Instagram.  I don’t think I’m alone when I say the FOMO syndrome that makes us feel the need to stay connected 24×7 is sucking up too much precious time! Time better spent playing with my kids, sleeping (see #4), reading the Word, praying, or talking to my husband.

 

    1. Waiting to pray – this one is somewhat connected to item one. In my attempt to try and take care of everything on my own and juggle everything, I often forget to seek God’s guidance for things in my life until they get really messy. I strive to live a life where praying before and over each decision or area of life is my go-to move.”Do not be anxious about anything , but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6

 

    1. Complaining – Are you familiar with the app Time Hop? Basically it connects to your social media accounts and then every day sends you a screen shot of what you posted 1, 2, 5, or however many years ago. Having kids, I enjoy this because it can be a nice reminder of how small they were only a few short years ago. But as I started reading these posts of Facebook past, I realized I like to complain. A lot. Seriously, if I read one more “oh it’s been such a long day, work is so hard, blah, blah, blah” post, I will block myself from my news feed!This little bit of personal insight has really motivated me to start changing my tune. Not only do I suspect people are tired of hearing it, but the more we complain and focus on the bad stuff, the harder it is to look for the good stuff. And there is always good, if we choose to look for it.

 

    1. Putting on a brave face – Can we all just agree to stop pretending everything about our lives and our families is happy and perfect and clean? I mean, not only is this not authentic, but it actually prevents us from developing deeper connections and relationships by not being honest and open with our friends and family. I realize this might seem like I’m contradicting myself after reading number nine, but I do think there is a balance between always complaining about life, and being willing to answer truthfully when someone says, “how are you today?”

 

    1. Wanting to change the past – Oh gosh, do I ever need to let this one go! I kid you not, I will lie awake at night re-hashing conversations that took place 10 years ago, wishing I could have done or said something differently. Really? What a waste of energy. I cannot change the past. I can always apologize for things I said and did and, often, I can confront someone who hurt me and tell them how it made me feel. But none of that will change what happened.”Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” – Isaiah 43:18

 

    1. Wanting to change others – Can I just say, writing this list is starting to hurt a little bit? I don’t really like publicly admitting all of the things I need to work on. But the good news I can make changes in my life to correct these unhealthy behaviors. What I can’t do is make other people change theirs. And just like with number 11, agonizing over it, wishing it, obsessing over it is a waste of time.God can change people’s hearts, I can’t. And truthfully, I am not qualified to diagnose what is wrong with everyone else (except when it comes to my children’s personal hygiene habits. I will diagnose unbrushed teeth all the live long day).

 

    1. Preconceived notions – Oh boy, if I had a dollar for every time I ended up disappointed due to false, preconceived ideas of how someone or something should turn out…well let’s just say I wouldn’t be wearing shoes from Payless. I do this a lot around holidays and big events. I get these big ideas in my head of what the day will be like, fantasizing about how perfect it will all be. Then the slightest mishap or conflict will send my Utopian bubble a-bursting.In my heart, I know this comes back to the idea that I struggle with just letting go and trusting God. How different would holidays and special events look if I just walked toward each one thinking “whatever you want for me to learn, to experience, and to feel today God, I praise you in advance, and look forward to this day”?

 

    1. The comparison trap – Related to numbers 3 and 10, the comparison trap is just that — a trap. It captures your joy by making you think that you are less than that woman or family over there. When the truth is, you probably don’t see the real them anyway. And even if you do, what God has designed for another, is not what He’s designed for you. But that doesn’t make what you have any less. I need to do a better job of remembering this, especially when watching HGTV.

 

    1. Guilt – Oh guilt…my old nemesis. I am so over you! The mommy guilt, the wife guilt, the friend guilt, the daughter guilt, the employee guilt — enough already. We are parting ways in 2016.”There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1

 

  1. Waiting for Godot syndrome – Remember reading Waiting for Godot in high school? Just in case you forgot, it’s a play by Samuel Beckett about these two guys named Vladimir and Estragon who spend the entire play waiting in vain for someone named Godot. Poor Vlad and Estra are not happy people and in the end as they realize that each day pretty much plays out the same way: waiting for something that never comes.How much time have you and I spent waiting for something important, something big to come that would change our lives, or fix everything that we don’t like? “Once I get that promotion” or “as soon as the kids are all in school” then life will get better/easier/etc. The problem with this frame of mind is that we end up constantly looking ahead to when we can be happy, instead of just being happy right now in this very moment. And often that “thing” we keep waiting for never comes. Or when it does we are painfully let down because the truth is that “thing” cannot make our lives whole. Only God can do that.

Do any of these ring true for you? What else are you giving up in 2016 to live a life of joy and freedom?