Millennial Identity at the Intersection of Faith

Born smack dab into the middle of the millennial generation, I caught the coattails of motivational campaigns to defy stereotypes just in time to ride the tide of embracing uniqueness. Today, myself and my peers boast about what used to be stereotypes in our social media bios. We outline the categories we fit into to make connecting more convenient.

Online and in person, we tend to believe identities are created not given and we mold ourselves into brands in an attempt to eke out a place in this world. Millennial believers like myself are often drawing and erasing lines and traditions trying to figure out how faith fits in with identity.

Focus on the Family and Stand Strong Ministries’ Alex McFarland and Jason Jimenez recently wrote Abandoned Faith to help believing parents (and spiritual mentors) understand the faith trials, confusions, and interests of my generation.

Blending together sociological research, Biblical principles, and personal experience in ministry reaching millennials and their parents, Abandoned Faith is a sobering but enlightening read. The book opens with frank news: many millennials are leaving their childhood faith behind, or at least ditching traditional church models. My generation has its reasons- and some are based on grievous misunderstandings or hurts regarding true faith and godliness.

From my stance as a millennial who loves the local church and Jesus, Abandoned Faith effectively explains the trends, thought patterns, and driving factors of my generation. I admire the authors’ ability to portray millennials as capable individuals with potential and identity, not as statistics that need to be mourned over or maligned.

The authors’ respectful explanations, practical advice, and gentle exhortations hold as dear the parents God gave my generation and my millennial self and peers. I recommend this book to those who want to love and minister to millennials- even those who haven’t abandoned the faith.

What I loved most about Abandoned Faith was the emphasis on relationship. As the authors point out, my generation was raised with a lot of activity, programming, and gold stars for showing up. Many of us have lacked relationships with people invested in us as individuals, willing to just chat instead of point us to a helpful course. Many in my generation lack strong families.

Whether we recognize what we lack or not, millennials do know that we lack. The church has a huge opportunity, as Abandoned Faith highlights, to be the body, be family, be parents to a generation largely craving something more than just another good place to be and with good stuff to do.

Abandoned Faith’s practical organization and demonstrative style makes for easy reading, though it is lengthy and packed with information. Some may find it a bit repetitive and dull at times because of its research bent, though. The authors also strive to be encouraging to those who have raised and love millenials who have abandoned the Christian faith or church, but the authors’ frank honesty in addressing the role of older generations in the process may be hard to hear for many.

For those looking to better understand “Suzie: Nerd. Loves God, not religion. Happy to talk if you’re tolerant” on Twitter, this book will help. Those who want to see the struggling college guy who hasn’t been to church since his high school baccalaureate service, this book will give a new perspective and helpful insight.

Behind the branding, categorizing, and stereotyping of my generation (self-imposed and ascribed) there are a lot of people who, just like everyone else, need Christ aloneAbandoned Faith can help readers get a Christ-alone perspective and gain practical insight into pointing millennials to the truth, to hope, and to an unshakable identity (in Christ!) That’s an answer to prayer for many in my identity-driven generation.

Do you know any millennials who wrestle with identity and faith in Christ?


This review is offered in exchange for a free copy of the book Abandoned Faith through Tyndale House Publishers.

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope, #DreamTogetherLinkup, #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #LiveFreeThursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.
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Taking Fear Personally

Someone lied to you and you found out. Someone rejected you flat out. Someone ignored you, someone hurt you, someone who was supposed to care for you didn’t.

We all have our someones.

If we’re honest, everyone we know is a someone; everyone gives us cause for suspicion.

I’m not paranoid- many of our fears boil down to a well-founded fact: people aren’t perfect. We have good reason to be afraid as long as people aren’t perfect. Reality reminds us every day.

People misjudge us. People have motives in conflict with our own. People make mistakes. People live outside of our control. People have choices. People are insufficient for us.

This world, likewise, is full of uncertainty and imperfection. Beautiful as it is, the world never works in exactly the way we’d like. It isn’t safe. Predictability is an illusion. Sinkholes open up under safe streets. Lightning strikes people in mild, safe regions.

Fear makes sense.

In Kelly Balarie’s book Fear Fighting, we see this firsthand.

Kelly doesn’t run from fear. She doesn’t ask us to scare ourselves out of feeling it or to grow numb to it.

This is personal for me.

Once upon a time, the unofficial topic of my studies was scaring myself silly about whether or not it was worth it to try to do any good in this world since everything’s broken anyway. I was new to faith and wanted to serve the Lord, but feared failing to honor Him.

An advisor asked me- “Do you believe the Lord can handle anything?” The question stuck.

Through clumsily embarking on a different career path than intended to grouchily moving away from everything I knew to painfully setting boundaries in unhealthy relationships, I found out the Lord could handle imperfect plans, circumstances, and relationships.

He could use the things that hurt me and disappointed me to His glory because His ways are higher (and much better!) than my ways.

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But fear fighting got more personal when I picked up the aptly titled book.

I began to read in words what the Lord has been piecing together in my heart: The Lord can also handle working through and in me.

God can display His power in my obvious weakness.

God can redeem for His good use my meager offerings, insecurities, and insufficiency.

God can rework my fear that imperfection is failure into an awed fear of His perfect work.

Yours’ too.

Fighting fear as God’s own children isn’t a matter of learning to lock our knocking knees or bite our quivering lips. There is no 5-step plan for us to fear failing at. We don’t have to undertake an intimidating process of becoming someone we’re not. Fear isn’t squelched when we muster up the guts to stare it down…but it loses its power over us when we fix our eyes on Him.

We let go of all we are not and see all that God is,” Kelly says. Her proposal is simple: “The Spirit says start. Start fearing God rather than fearing everyone is going to take you down.”*

Kelly knows fear, and she knows we can’t beat it by pretending we can. Instead, she reminds us who can and who has.

Our Savior.

Bravery is fearing God.

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Bravery is believing Him about all of the implications of who He is. It’s humbling ourselves before Him because we know Him and we want to know Him more. It’s bringing what’s inside of and outside of our control to His throne, imperfection laid bare because His grace is enough.

Choosing to fear the Lord is choosing confidence because of Jesus. Trust because of Jesus. Awe because of Jesus. Hope because of Jesus.

All because the One who is over all is in us, with us, and working through us fearlessly.**

We can take our fears personally to the personal God. Right up close to Him we can fix our eyes on Him. When our fears come into perspective before His greatness, they end up looking much smaller.

Thank you, Lord, for welcoming us to your fearless faithfulness, thank you for being the only way, the truth, and the life for fear fighting, faithful living, and eternal hope. Help us not to seek or fear anything other than your “only.” You are sufficient, amazing, and perfect. What good news for us imperfect people.

*Pg49, Fear Fighting by Kelly Balarie
**Ephesians 4:6; Galatians 2:20
Kelly shares regular encouragement on her blog, Purposeful Faith. Her first book, Fear Fighting, is available beginning January 3rd, 2017. She’s been an example to me and a kind friend for a couple of years now, and I’m so grateful to share her book with you. The Lord has strengthened me through it and I hope He will you too!

{Please note this post is entered into Kelly’s contest. You can vote here for this or another post entered. You can also enter the contest yourself! This post is number 15 if you’d like to vote for it!}

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.
This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group,  in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Marital Spats and God’s Plan (Giveaway)

**Giveaway details at the end of the post!**

The day our premarital counseling workbook began addressing arguments, my husband and I were relieved. We have always been really good at arguing. It’s one of our unexpected spiritual gifts (ha!) We even told the pastor counseling us.

He was surprised.

Apparently, most couples get married believing they’ll always just get along or are caught up in love to the point that arguing has yet to cross their minds.

Not us. The Lord uniquely blessed us with plenty of practice disagreeing early on.

I mean it. The Lord gifted us with arguments.

My husband and I learned from the Lord Himself to argue well and to resolve issues to His glory. We have been taught to fight- for each other. The Lord has allowed us to experience strife- teaching us to strive to discern the Lord’s will despite our own propensities for sin.

Arguing can be to God’s glory too.

When we learn to disagree in a godly way, we learn to work in unity with the Lord to live according to His will. 

That’s what The Blessings of Unity by Richard Case is about. I really enjoyed the book’s no-nonsense approach to the topic.

Married to Linda for more than 45 years, Case offers Biblical insight into one of God’s primary commands for husbands and wives: to cleave to one another. Case puts the command in context: not only is cleaving in marriage important, but it is also part of the unity of the body of Christ.

As Case says on page 35, “unity is brought about by our desire to pursue God.” We ought to seek this sort of unity in Christ’s body as the church and as couples.

The Blessings of Unity provides comprehensive Bible study examining several angles and forms of unity. I’ve never encountered a topical marriage book so structured around passages of Scripture.

Each chapter addresses challenges and strategies for unity in the context of living by God’s Word.

Being aligned with the Holy Spirit is another main theme throughout The Blessings of Unity. Case explains: “The same one Holy Spirit in me is also in my spouse…our decisions can always go to unity with the Spirit when we are willing to hear what the Spirit has to say” (pg 42.)

Insightful points like these are packed in tightly.

If there is a criticism of this book, it is also a warning: The book is dense to the point of disorganization. You will find extensive, helpful, Biblical truth throughout, but you will have to work to put it all together in a memorable format for yourself.

I imagine spouses would benefit from reading the book individually and discussing it informally, as it’s not clearly organized for shared study. Retreat or study leaders are also likely to find essential truth in The Blessings of Unity, but should expect to create their own more organized materials for teaching and discussion.

Certainly useful and supported by substantial Bible lessons, The Blessings of Unity is an important reference guide for those involved personally or professionally in the work of more faithfully pursuing God through marital relationships.

Find a copy here.


GIVEAWAY of THE BLESSINGS OF UNITY:

  1. Leave a comment on this blog post
  2. Be sure to include your email address in the private form for commenting
  3. Comment by 11pm EST Monday, November 21st.
  4. I’ll randomly select a winner on Tuesday, November 22nd and notify you by email if you won! You will then receive a free copy in the mail. 

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the
Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”


BONUS GIVEAWAY: All For Jesus eBook

If you’d like a practical 6-page eBook on living an unshakable life, you can grab it here.


This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

Confession: I’m Not a Fan of Devotions

Soul H2O Launch Team

My love-hate relationship with devotions started in college. It was my first time immersed in a Christianese culture. I didn’t know much about Jesus, and I didn’t care about the Gospel. I just wanted to be a good person and prove myself worthy to the God I didn’t understand.

In waltzed a dorm-mate one day, announcing she was about to do her “devos.” The word weirded me out.

Since those early days and eventually getting to know Jesus as my Savior, devotions still aren’t my thing.

For me, many devotionals are frustrating because they: 

  • Preach Christian psychology or self-help instead of the Scripture I need
  • Tackle huge topics that get me thinking, but offer no resolution or practical application
  • Are super wordy, in which case just give me a whole book
  • Build day by day, and I’m not that regimented
  • Are bulky, funky, hard covers that I’m too lazy to haul around with me for daily time
  • Tempt me to worship the devotional habit instead of worshipping God

My list says a lot about me and my shortcomings.

But it also speaks volumes about one of the rare devotionals I enjoy!

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I love this devotional book- it’s the exception to most of my “anti-devotional” issues.

Soul H2O, by Sherry Stahl, is a Biblical, digestible, concise companion for straight-up Bible studying and for ordinary life.

Each devotion is 1-2 short pages. The book is soft cover, and it fits in purses, backpacks, and my car’s glovebox. You don’t have to read it every day to keep up.

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Best of all, each devotion is simple. Instead of overwhelming me, Sherry’s words just refresh. They function like the title suggests: to quench thirst for good news from the Lord.

For example, devotional #4 refers to taking “every thought captive” to Christ.

Sherry then goes on to exhort: “Choose today which thoughts you’ll play on the record player of your mind.” The devotion centers on how our thoughts repeat. The thought is simple, Biblical, and gave me practical encouragement to walk with the Lord that day.

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Each of the devotions begins with a Bible verse. Short paragraphs with brief relatable anecdotes and simple life-applicable points about the verse follow. Sherry concludes with a brief prayer and references for additional verses if you’d like to study the Word yourself.

What I appreciate most about Soul H2O is its focus:

Instead of being about big life changes and heavy topics, Soul H2O offers basic life sustenance.

Such a simple blessing, but so important. That’s why this devotion has so blessed me. It’s a cool drink to refresh my Spirit and remind me of the simple vitality the Lord offers us day by day.

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All that to say, I’m grateful to have been part of Sherry’s launch team. It is a joy to recommend Soul H2O to you. Whether you love devotionals or can’t stand them, this one is for you. Soul H2O will refresh your spirit, make you smile, and bring you to praise.

To find a copy of Soul H2O, visit Sherry’s website here.

** I received this book free from the publisher, Word Alive Press, when I joined Sherry’s launch team. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

Book Review: Unashamed by Heather Davis Nelson

“Fear sets in, and you relationally freeze up, locked in shame.

What now?

You need to be rescued. How about a perfect love that drives out fear (1 John 4:18)?”

–pg52

Many of us are familiar with social fears, along with fear of failure, rejection, and unworthiness. We often read about relationship challenges and there are tons of books focused on better communication or finding contentment with ourselves. But these issues and solutions highlight evidences of a deeper issue.

Shame.

As Heather Davis Nelson shares in her new book Unashamed, shame is “not a topic of conversation at a party, although it is an unwelcome guest in every gathering” (pg18.)

Shame has been around since the garden of Eden. A result of sin, shame isn’t something we can avoid altogether.

With that truth in mind, Nelson pointedly walks readers through several aspects of life in this world to expose how shame is at the heart of so many of human struggles.

Meanwhile, she offers a practical guide for recognizing, facing, and living Biblically with shame. As a Biblical counselor, it’s no surprise that Nelson’s thorough workup of shame is absolutely loaded with Scriptural references and examples.

Nelson explains the different types of shame people experience. Next, she offers guidance for responding to shame in a healthy way. Several chapters then focus on specific areas of shame, such as shame in marriage or in the church.

For me, Nelson’s chapter on performance-shame hit close to home. In it, she addresses one of my favorite excuses for….everything. Perfectionism. Nelson relates perfectionism to shame in such a way that my excuses can’t stand.

But, as in the whole of this book, she didn’t leave me reeling from the recognition of shame as is. Instead, she offered practical advice for changing my audience and, consequently, my need for perfection. Then, she went on to make this freeing point:

“So what are we waiting for? Permission? Approval? Recognition?

We already have it in Christ…” (pg96.)

Amen, Heather Davis Nelson!

Though helpful as a whole, each chapter could stand on its own for counseling or study purposes. Other conveniences of Nelson’s Unashamed are the very practical, down to earth tips for addressing shame and reducing the influence shame has on one’s life. The book can at times feel bulky and heavy. However, this topic is so relevant and Nelson’s writing is encouraging.

Through Unashamed, I think many will find themselves freer and more able to walk in confidence just as God made them.

If you would like to learn more about this book, click here.

To enter the drawing to win a free copy, just comment below on or before July 6th! I will randomly pick the winner on the evening of the 6th.

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.