Honour Your Father and Mother

Of the ten commandments given to us by God, I have consistently found this to be one of the most difficult to put into practice. Throughout my life, I have routinely fallen short in my quest to obey the fifth commandment, ‘Honor your father and mother…” Growing up, I was a rebellious and disobedient teenager. Even into my adult years, I struggled to be respectful in my interactions with my parents. I didn’t understand why it was so difficult until I participated in a program that taught on the topic of healing and forgiveness.   

I realized that although I had a deep love for my parents, it was buried under an avalanche of anger and resentment. As a child, I was deeply affected by my parents’ divorce and the tumultuous years that followed. I didn’t know how to deal with my pain at that age, so I attempted to ignore it. But as the years passed, the pain didn’t disappear, contrarily, it festered and grew into hostility and resentment.

As I dug deeper, I discovered that these negative emotions were fueled by unforgiveness; I was unable to move past my parents mistakes and sins. As I remained a prisoner to my own emotions, not only was my disobedience to God preventing me from experiencing His peace and joy, it was hardening my heart toward my parents and prohibiting me from honoring them the way God commands. But how do we honor our parents when we’ve been wounded by their sins? Are we still obligated to honor our mother and father when we don’t believe that it is deserved?

The answer is yes. God uses no uncertain terms in this regard. “Cursed is anyone who dishonors their father or mother….” Deuteronomy 27:16. These are powerful, indisputable words. God doesn’t say, ‘Honor your parents if…’ If they were perfect. If they never disappointed you. If they did everything right. No, God’s command does not come with any loopholes.

As children, we honor our parents through our obedience to them. As we move into adulthood, honoring them takes on a different role. Honor is defined as, ‘to regard with great respect and esteem’. How do we do this when it’s difficult, when we have been hurt, or when we don’t feel like it? Honoring, much like love, is not a feeling, but a choice. Here are three ways that we can practically obey God’s fifth commandment.

  1. Forgive our parents. We need to acknowledge that our parents are only human, with their own struggles, sins and limitations. When I made the conscious choice to forgive my mother and father, I was able to see them as broken people just like me, in need of grace. By extending grace and forgiveness to our parents, as God has first done for us, we not only honor them, but we honor God through our obedience.
  1. Affirm our parents. Instead of dwelling on the ways in which our parents have fallen short, we can choose to focus on the things our parents did well. We can thank them for the sacrifices they made and the support they provided throughout our lives. This includes not trying to change them, but instead honoring them despite their flaws. A little affirmation often goes a long way.
  1. Pray for our parents. We can ask God for His eyes and His heart toward our parents. Repent of the times that you’ve have fallen short of obeying God’s commandment. Pray to see your parents with compassion instead of bitterness and with appreciation instead of as a image of unmet explications. God wants to heal our hearts and give us the wisdom and discernment needed to honor our parents as He instructs us to.

Our love for God and our desire to bring Him Glory is demonstrated through our obedience. In the Bible, God declares, “If you love me you will obey my commandments.” John 14:15. As we seek to honor our parents through forgiveness, affirmation and prayer, we honor God through our obedience, displaying His power and glory for the world to see.

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No Filter

What do the photos of a magnificent sunset, a perfectly plated piece of cake and your friend’s adorable new puppy have in common? They’ve all been considerably edited before gracing the internet with their artistry. A bit more contrast here, a little less saturation there, and voila! Your picture was just transformed from bland to brilliant in ten seconds flat. In fact, altering photos prior to posting them online is such a common practice that it has become significant to note when no enhancements have been made, hence the popular hashtag, #nofilter.

But what’s at the core of this obsession with picture perfection? Could it represent something deeper than the desire to wow your friends with your phenomenal photography skills? In my experience, the answer is yes. Sadly, it would seem that altering photos and altering ourselves are merely two sides of the same image-obsessed coin.

Have you ever met somebody who regularly changes their personality depending on who they are with? Perhaps he or she acts shy and reserved with one group of people, but suddenly becomes wild and reckless when hanging out with a different crowd. If I’m being honest, that somebody used to be me. There was a time when I was so uncomfortable in my own skin that I felt the need to continually change my personality in order to gain the attention and approval of others. Much like the motivation for editing my facebook photos, I would alter my personality in a desperate attempt to impress those around me.

The truth is, however, no one except God has the power to make us feel accepted, valued or loved. He is the One who created us in His image with a specific purpose for our lives.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

Of course, self-acceptance is a continual process and it can be challenging at first to change your way of thinking. But, believe me when I tell you that it is so worth the effort. The first step in this journey to healing is recognizing the lies that are holding you captive. For me, it was believing that I was worthless, unlovable and not good enough. Thankfully, the more time I spent in God’s Word, the more deeply I began to understand that these negative thought patterns were lies from the enemy, meant to keep me in bondage and prevent me from understanding my true identity in Christ.

The next time you are tempted to believe the lies that bring destruction, make a conscious choice to renounce the enemy’s accusations and turn to God instead. Ask Him to reveal His truth about your identity, purpose and value. We will only be able to combat the deception of the enemy once we know who we are and to whom we belong.

We must claim our identity as children of God, reject the lies that we have believed and instead embrace who God created us to be. What does the Word of God tell us about our identity in Christ?

“I am more than a conqueror through Him who loved me.” Romans 8:37

“I am submitted to God, and the devil flees from me because I resist him in the Name of Jesus.” James 4:7

“I show forth the praises of God Who has called me out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

“I have the Greater One living in me; greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

If we believe God is who He says He is, then by extension we can believe that we are who He says we are. Uniquely crafted, creatively gifted and purposefully made. What a glorious day it will be when we are able to fully accept ourselves for who God created us to be and embrace our uniqueness and individuality. #nopretense. #noshame. #nofilter.

Inner Selfie

Have you ever taken a selfie? If you answered no, you’re either a. lying b. living under a rock or c. a very rare breed, indeed.

You can’t be on the internet for three minutes without being bombarded with glamorous pictures of friends and strangers alike, begging for your attention, appreciation and approval in the form of a like or a double tap. It’s no surprise that ‘selfie’ won the award for the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2013. We are a generation that is obsessed with ourselves.

For guys and girls alike, the pressure to appear attractive, cool and desirable comes at us from every angle, every day. We’re expected to look like we have it all together and force a smile for the camera, regardless of what turmoil we may be facing internally. We are taught that as long as our photos are glossy and bright, it doesn’t matter what our hearts look like. But what price are we willing to pay for the perfect shot?

I admit that I have fallen prey to the never-ending pursuit of achieving the world’s definition of beauty. One day, as I was doing my makeup, I had a revelation. I was trying to get my lip gloss just right when God spoke to me.

“Being pretty isn’t enough. It’s time for you to put more focus on being pretty on the inside”

Ouch. As always, God was right on point. How long had I spent looking in the mirror? How much time do I spend on becoming more attractive in the areas that really matter? What would I see if I could take a selfie of my heart?

We’ve all encountered people who are absolutely gorgeous… until they open their mouths. It’s easy to recognize internal ugliness. Anger. Jealousy. Unforgiveness. Complaining. Bad-mouthing. Gossiping. Crude jokes. Negative remarks.

The Bible is clear about what real beauty looks like.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment… Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” – 1 Peter 3:3-4

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Is God instructing us not to put any effort into our physical appearance? No. He is declaring that the kind of beauty that truly matters lies in our character. The world puts so much focus on outward appearance that far too often, the inside is left to shrivel up and rot away. We start to believe that our appearance is what determines our value and worth. But God warns us about this very thing in the Bible:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of… all uncleanness.” Matthew 23:27

“Your beauty should come from within you; the beauty… that will never be destroyed and is very precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:4

So, how do we obey God in this area? How do we put pretty into practice?

Responding with grace and forgiveness to those who hurt us.
Being friendly to the person sitting alone.
Not always trying to be right in a conversation.
Not talking behind somebody’s back.
Going out of your way to help others in need.

True beauty is reflecting the love of Christ in everything we think, say and do. It is Humility. Compassion. Gentleness. Patience. Grace. Generosity. Sacrifice. And above all else: Love. Loving the Lord with our whole heart and loving others in His Name.

What a testimony our lives will be when we can take a long look at our selfie, smile with confidence and say, “I am proud of who I see.”

Abba Father, please help us to become men and women of true beauty, beauty that radiates from a heart that seeks Your Face above all else. Help us not to become slaves to the world’s ideals of beauty but transform us from the inside out until we embody the fruit of Your Spirit and our lives become a reflection of Your Love. Thank You for never giving up on us. In Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.

FOMO

Fear Of Missing Out, more commonly referred to as ‘FOMO” is a modern day epidemic among the Millennial generation. But what’s the real deal with this new addition to the long list of acronyms we’ve become so familiar with? Have you ever felt that pang in your gut when you scroll through a series of fb photos of all your friends having an awesome time at a party… that you weren’t invited to? That right there, that’s FOMO rearing its ugly, accusatory head. “You weren’t invited for a reason. You’re missing out on something incredible.” Dictionary.com provides a little more clarity, sharing that FOMO is “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.”

Don’t get me wrong, social media can be a great tool. It can help you stay in touch with friends, bring awareness to the things you care about and show off those sick new kicks (dang, Daniel!). But, on the flip side, there isn’t much that can make a person more insecure and self doubting than the barrage of images we see online daily. Before social media, people weren’t constantly exposed to the ‘awesome, fun-filled’ lives of everybody they knew (ha!).

The sad truth is that these sometimes candid, often completely contrived, snapshots only capture a moment in time. They simply do not represent the full reality of the situation. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve posted a pic of myself having a seemingly fantastic evening with a group of smiling people. What isn’t shown in my pic, however, is how lonely I felt later that night, the argument I had with my friend and the fact that I didn’t even enjoy the food I was eating. But boy did it look like I was having the time of my life!

So, if it’s all a matter of perspective, where does this intense fear of missing out really stem from? Fear of missing out is more accurately a fear of being left out (FOBLO didn’t sound as catchy). Why are we so determined not to be left out? For me, FOMO hit me where it hurt because it played on my already present insecurities. In my mind, if wasn’t invited to an event, it meant I wasn’t worthy of being invited. Was I not cool enough? Friendly enough? Cute enough? Did they not like me? Had I offended them?

I was so caught up in these negative thoughts, that I didn’t realize I was being irrational and driven by my own insecurities. I couldn’t see that the truth was, my fear was rooted in a sense of rejection, in a false belief that I wasn’t truly accepted. The thing is, if we look to our peers (or anyone else) for acceptance, we will never find it. God is the only one who can speak directly to our identity, value and worth. And the Bible tells us that we are completely accepted by God. “Therefore, accept each other in the same way that Christ accepted you. He did this to bring glory to God.” (Romans 15:7). As hard as it may be to live and think counter-culturally, we must remember that regardless of what social media seems to tell us, God always has the final say.

So, the next time you find yourself being deceived by the FOMO falsehood, pause, take a breath and put things into perspective. You are unconditionally and irrevocably loved, affirmed and accepted through the wonderful work of Jesus on the cross. And no fb photo can ever tell you otherwise.

Escape Room

Imagine this. You and three friends find yourselves locked inside a room with no exit in sight. You spot a tattered notebook on a narrow wooden table. Scribbled in pen on one of its yellowed pages is what appears to be a secret code. Although you think that something critical is being conveyed, you can’t figure out how to decipher the contents of the message. There is an antique chest in the corner of the room and upon opening its creaky lid, you notice a series of four unusually shaped keys laying on a piece of velvet cloth.

What do the keys unlock? How will you make sense of the cryptic message? You must find the answers to these questions before it’s too late. You’ll need to be creative, clever, collaborative and quick, because time is running out! You only have 60 minutes to correctly solve all of the room’s riddles and puzzles or else your team will taste bitter defeat!

Does this scenario evoke in you excitement or anxiety? In my experience, this new craze of team building physical adventure games, known as ‘escape rooms’ is a thrilling, adrenaline pumping race against the clock. The most entertaining aspect of the game for me is the element of surprise. You never know what you’ll find in the next drawer or how the pieces of the puzzle will eventually come together.

If it weren’t already tricky enough, game makers will often include several carefully crafted decoys in order to distract and disorient game players. Their goal is to confuse you with insignificant details so that you’ll lose precious time following dead-end leads. The adventure and the challenge of these intriguing scenarios is that you can’t solve certain puzzles without first figuring out the clues that precede them. It’s the insight you gather from each stage of the game that allows you to move on to the next.

I can’t help but notice the parallels between escape rooms and my own life.

As I look back over the past six years, it is clear that God has been lovingly paving the way, one stone at a time, for me to reach the point I’m at now. He has led me through a variety of seasons, each one gently and deliberately preparing me for the one to come; seasons of loneliness, pain, growth, determination, hope, change, insecurity, blessing and healing. Some seasons evoked excitement, others anxiety, but with each step of the journey I knew that my guide was Faithful and that His goal was to restore and refine me along the way.

As confusing and frustrating as it might be at times, God, in His Sovereignty, chooses not to show us the big picture all at once. Instead, he asks us to trust Him with one step at a time, illuminating the way just enough for us to see His Hand as He guides us along the path He has prepared for us. This slow and steady progress builds our character by allowing us to develop patience, trust, discernment, humility, faith and dependency upon the Lord.

Of course, the process is rarely simple. Real life contains some carefully constructed decoys of its own. Even with the best intentions, it can be easy to get distracted by the trivial, inconsequential lures of this world and begin following the dead-end trails that leave us defeated and dismayed.

Thankfully, even when we prioritize the wrong things and lose sight of what’s most important, God is Gracious and will always be waiting with open arms, ready to lovingly guide us back into His Perfect Will. Although we don’t know how all the pieces of our lives are going to eventually come together, we do know the One who is building the puzzle. And He builds with magnificent purpose, immense power and exact precision. One piece at a time.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

#100happydays

If you haven’t noticed, there’s a trend that’s been going around facebook and instagram called #100happydays. The concept is relatively simple, you post one picture each day of something that makes you happy for 100 consecutive days. The idea behind the trend is that although life is often filled with negativity, committing to taking these pictures will eventually inspire us to find happiness in the small things and to appreciate the simple pleasures of life.

I thought it sounded like a cool idea so I decided to embark on this 100 day photo adventure. I managed to complete the challenge and aside from having a lot of fun along the way, it got me thinking about and reflecting on what ‘happiness’ actually means to me.

I’ve heard many people say that their goal in life is ‘to be happy’. It seems like an obviously subjective term, but the world puts so much emphasis on what happiness should look like that in today’s society, there are a few common definitions.

Happiness = Success. Happiness = Beauty. Happiness = Wealth. Happiness = Power.

The thing about striving for happiness is that it’s a battle that never ends. “I would be happy if I just lost/gained 10 lbs.” So, you reach your goal weight. And then, “I would be happy if I had somebody special in my life.” So, you get into a relationship. And then, “I would be happy if I had a higher grades… if I had more friends… if I got into a better college.” It just. Never. Ends.

The trouble with attaching your happiness to impermanent things is that impermanent things inevitably come to an end. As author, John Ortberg so poignantly penned, ‘When the game is over, it all goes back in the box.’ In other words, when we reach the end of our lives, everything we’ve spent so long and hard accumulating to make ourselves happy ends up being worthless. What will our beloved success, beauty, wealth and power do for us then?

Before you start thinking that life has no meaning and you will never be happy, I want to assure you, that is not what I’m saying at all. Quite the contrary; there is a light at the end of the temporary tunnel!

There is a huge difference between the world’s definition of happiness and God’s definition of joy.

Happiness is directly correlated with how you feel in a particular moment. I’ve often felt happy, sad, angry, defeated, overjoyed, worried and excited all in the span of eight hours. Happiness is temporary. Happiness is fickle. Happiness is fleeting. Joy, on the other hand is something entirely different. Unlike its superficial counterpart, Joy is not dependent upon our circumstances.

The good news is that God calls us to be joyful, not happy. “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NLT) But, in a world so full of drudgery, deceit and disappointment, is this really possible?

Yes, because our joy doesn’t come from the world, it comes from the Lord. The reason we are able to be joyful regardless of our circumstances is that joy isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice.

It’s a choice to trust in God’s Sovereignty even when life doesn’t seem to make any sense. It’s a choice to praise God with your lips when all you taste is bitter defeat. It’s a choice to have a grateful heart even when your heart is breaking.

We experience joy when we choose to believe in faith that God’s Promises are true, that he has a good plan for our lives and that he is committed to finishing the good work he started in us. What a deep sense of hope and joy that brings!

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty inspired. I think I’m going to start my own hashtag. #100joyfuldays. Because this whole ‘happy’ thing is so 2015.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13