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.

The Nature of Knowing

Do you know your husband’s face? Your mother’s hands? Your grandfather’s voice?

This adorable video shows how children memorize their mother’s features:

What about your loved ones’ preferences? Do you know what they are allergic too, what they colors they like, the phrases they say often? If you think about it, do you know what’s important to your best friends?

Chances are, you do.

When you love someone, you want to know them inside and out.

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We can get to know God so well as we know our loved ones. We can see and hear from God through His Word.

If ever you’ve needed a reason, though you know you love God, to get into His Word, remember what His Word is to us:

His face full of features to memorize. His hand to hold. His voice to recognize and cherish. A sharing of His preferences, dislikes, and values.  The chance to learn about what He loves and what matters to Him.

Do you want to know Him better?

In Abide in Christ, Andrew Murray explains: “man seeks the knowledge first, and often, alas, never gets beyond it” (pg 62.) He goes on further, describing in essence that we like to know about God, but we often miss out on getting to know God Himself.

His Word is for both: knowing about Him, and knowing Him.

My friend Michele describes how memorizing Scripture is about memorizing the mind of God. Yes, in His Word God reveals Himself to us. When we memorize His Word, we memorize much of God Himself. Just the way we do anyone we love.

Just think! How much closer are we to the Lord when we ask Him how He feels about things and what’s going on with His plans?

What a precious gift our God is so relatable and relational.

Find a plan, or just dive in a little each day.

Carry His Word with you.

Tuck verses into your pockets.

Delve into time with Him- letting Him speak through His Word- with your loved ones.

Read a book in the Bible you haven’t before.

Choose a study version with notes.

Pause and memorize a verse that strikes you.

Write it someplace you’ll see it again and again.

Turn to His Word before making decisions.

When questions arise, consult the Lord’s Word in prayer. Ask what God says.

Spend time getting to know Him.

This is the God we get to spend forever with. Our reward in heaven is first and foremost just that: being together with God!

Why wait to begin?

We have a God who, knowing us completely, also loves to be known by us.

Amazing!

Interested in guest posting on First And Second? Click HERE…new series on Sin Lies, looking for your thoughts!

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.

In Acceptance We Trust

{The fourth installment in the In ____We Trust Series}

 Acceptance plays an important role in our self-worth and our reception of love. Without acceptance, it’s difficult to maintain a job, excel at anything, etc….Having other’s approval is valuable for living at peace with others and even reaching people for Christ.

Acceptance, like Google or medicine, is absolutely something God created and works through. When acceptance is viewed and lived well, it’s a gift.

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When acceptance by others is seen an end and not a means or as worthy of our reliance and dedication, we have a problem. Because this is where we trust in acceptance by others rather than trusting in God. Scripture often phrases this issue as trying to please people or win their approval.

Galatians 1:10 challenges us to ask:

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. “

To live as a servant of God is not to live as one seeking to please man. Obviously, the Bible doesn’t also say: make no friends. Make people unhappy. By this, you will please God. (Wow would I be a role model somedays if this were His command!)

The Lord is all about good relationships and serving others.

The issue lies in the stock we put into others’ acceptance.

Trusting in acceptance means that we rely on others’ approval to validate what we do or who we are.

At the heart of acceptance is validation or justification. At the heart of trusting in acceptance- seeking to be justified and approved of.

Putting our trust in acceptance can look like this:

  1. If I am accepted by this person, I will feel loved.
  2. In feeling loved, I will be more worthwhile.
  3. My worthwhileness will enable me to do more good in the world.
  4. By doing good in the world, I’ll be more worthwhile.
  5. By being more worthwhile, I’ll be more lovable.
  6. By being more lovable, I’ll be more easily accepted by people.

Acceptance by others is justification for justification’s sake. It’s a cycle, a circle, and it’s self-contained.

There are two issues here.

Trusting in acceptance by others leaves us perpetually trying to earn more acceptance.

Trusting in others’ acceptance is precarious and risky; when we are rejected, as we will be, that’s just that. And it feels hopeless.

Really, that’s all one issue.

Because trusting in acceptance ultimately means trusting in our works. That’s how human acceptance functions. It’s based on what we do, what we strive for, and which other mere human beings care.

Trusting in acceptance by the Lord is so much more fulfilling and hopeful. Plus- it matters and lasts for eternity.

To be approved by God, all you need to do is be saved by Jesus Christ. Your works don’t matter. Your character doesn’t count. What He has done for you and who He is all that matters.

And the saved need to remember that daily. Because we are being rejected daily. We are failing daily. We are sinning, offending, hurting others, and seeking approval in all the wrong ways…daily.

I pray that we know this truth and live it because this is such a regular avenue of joy in the Christian life. Meanwhile, putting too much stock into being accepted by others is a regular source of discouragement. Take inventory.

How much of your life is based on seeking the approval of man? How much of your life is based on knowing you have been accepted by God and living a life pleasing to Him- worthy of your calling? (Ephesians 4:1)

For this series, I’ll be writing each Monday on something (or someone) I tend to trust in besides God. 

What about you? How do you fill in the blank: In ______ I Trust?

Writers and non-writers are welcome to submit guest posts. Contact me here by June 12th telling me what you trust in besides God and how He helps you trust Him more.

Starting June 20th guest posting will begin!

This post will also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

When Loneliness is a Blessing -The Word Works Series

Writing on her blog Fearfully Made Mom, Abby reveres the Lord and His workmanship in her words and life. Sharing stories and thoughts that many of us encounter in daily our lives, Abby is quick to point straight to the truth we need to hear. Listening in gladly today!
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I remember the first time we drove through this small town tucked into hills of Western Maryland. It was a cold, rainy day and a heavy fog hung over us like a blanket.

As we made our way across the overpass and I looked down at the place I would later call home, I thought, “Oh God, what have I done?” My husband and I were going to be living here in a few months, and I had agreed to the move here sight unseen.

I looked out my window and I thought about the friends we’d be leaving, the church where we’d thrived, and the snowy peaks outside our doorstep in Utah. Had we gone crazy? On what planet did we decide this was a good idea, to pick our family up and move cross country for the second time in five years?

And yet, in late January during one of the coldest winters on record, that is exactly what we did.

After living with my in-laws for a few months while looking for a house, we finally found a place to raise our growing family. We were expecting our second son, and I was eager get active in the community. But the more we tried to fit, to find a church family and make friends, the more elusive our desires became.

I wondered if we’d heard God wrong. Even though we’d prayed fervently before making the move, I couldn’t help thinking we’d made a mistake. What I didn’t realize was that even in the midst of my grief, God was working.

God can use some of our loneliest seasons to draw us closer to Him.

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As we push back against the isolation and wonder where He is, He’s whispering, “I’m right here, my love. Come and sit with me a while. Everything you need is right here.”

During those months where I grieved the life we’d lost in Utah, God drew me to his side and comforted me like no friend ever could.

He gave me an understanding of his Word which can only be gained by living it.

I remember coming across this verse in James during those first few months of transition into our new town.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,

whenever you face trials of many kinds…”

James 1:2 NIV

I used to look at verses like this one and think, “Seriously? That sounds really nice in theory, but how can it apply to my everyday?”

But the move changed me.  It took James words and put skin on them in a way I never expected.

After spending some lonely months in my recliner nursing my newborn, I saw that James wasn’t delivering some clichéd phrase to sound religious. He was speaking truth and life.

joy

I wasn’t happy about my situation, but I had joy. Because friends, joy goes so much deeper than being happy. It is knowing no matter what trials life brings, we cling to a hope which will withstand it all.

As God worked on my heart, he prepared a place we would later call our church home. He brought people to our doorstep who ministered to me in my sadness.

When a new spring dawned and buds formed on the trees outside our window, I knew our winter of isolation was over. And I thanked God for everything He taught me during the cold.

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not- The Word Works Series!

You know the friend who always answers “how are you?” honestly but non-intrusively? That’s how Jeanne writes. Her blog, Where Faith and Grace Hold Hands, bids you welcome, shares an experience, and then turns the “how are you” into “How God is.” Grateful to welcome her today!
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Since I was a girl, I’ve struggled with the effect of rejection on my identity. Being teased and bullied in elementary school left permanent scars on my heart and self-concept. After becoming a Christian as a teenager, I still struggled with the lie that acceptance by others—especially the popular kids—would erase the fear that I really, truly was not enough . . . that I was “less-than” most of the kids I knew.

After I married and my husband and I decided we were ready to start a family, we crafted a timeline and waited . . . and waited for a child to come into our family.

Our walk through infertility, as painful as it was, also freed me from many of the lies I’d carried from girlhood into womanhood. Lies that said, “You are less than.” “You are not enough.”

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One day, as I was driving around town and lamenting to God about how much I wanted a baby, I said something to the effect of, “You must not love me as much as you love others. You give teenagers who don’t want babies a pregnancy. You give women who have four children one more. And You haven’t given me any children. Even though I’m ready to be a mom. I want to be a mom. You love them more than me.”

I could almost hear God’s response audibly. He said something to the affect of: “I love you, Jeanne. I can’t love you anymore than I do, because I already love you completely.

My thoughts stopped, amazed.

Tears began to flow, even as I drove . . .

. . . as I absorbed His words spoken straight to my aching heart.

The biggest truth I took from that conversation is:

God loves each of His children passionately, perfectly, and completely.

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As I spent time with Him in the Bible, He showed me verses that proved just what He thinks about His children.

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Jeremiah 31:3—“The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with loving-kindness.’”

Zephaniah 3:17—“The LORD your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

Psalm 139:17-18—“How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with you.”

Isaiah 49: 15-16“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.”

As I meditated on these verses, I came to realize that to say He loves us less than another is to call God a liar . . . which, of course, we know isn’t true.

I suspect I’m not the only who has doubted that God really loved me. The thing is, when we take the truth of His word to heart, it revolutionizes our understanding of Him, and refreshes and deepens our relationship with Him. To know that there is nothing we can do that will cause Him to stop loving us? That is a life-truth right there. It’s when we grasp this truth that we can walk free of the condemnation that accompanies so many of us.

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As I began to embrace His words to me, I released the tight hold I had on my dream for motherhood. He revealed to me the idol that it had become. I chose to trust His love for me and His plan for me. I began to see that I am His girl. We are all His children. His precious treasures. He loves us.

If you’re not sure about this, ask God to show you in His word what He has to say about you and the inestimable value He places on YOU.

What about you? If you have trouble believing God loves you no matter what, what’s holding you back? What is one life-changing lesson God has taught you?

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

21. BEHOLD: The Unifier

Treaties are signed, even temporarily, for Christmas. In families and between countries, the agreement to live in peace for even just a short time is often made for the holidays. People step out of their normal routines, paying more attention to the needy and giving more than any other time of the year.

At Christmas, people seem to feel more unified.

There’s a reason for that, even if it’s wrapped up and stuffed away inside of many, many layers of worldly tradition and philosophy: Christ unifies us.

He came as a baby. We’ve all been babies. He had a childhood, friends, and even a job. Christ was fully man, making Him just like us. He was even tempted as we are tempted, so that:

“We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.”

Hebrews 4:15

Though He did not sin, Christ died. Just like all of us, He had a time appointed for his life to end. We find unity in that life, and that death.

For those of us who know Him, we also find unity in the hope and promise we have that we will also live –and die- and then live forever with Him. In light of who Christ was and that gift He freely gives, we have every reason to join together in worship, gratitude, and praise.

Our model for unity is found in the trinity. All belong to each other because selfish ambition and pride is absent. In belonging to another, the will in the same, and the goal of each shared. Each one unified is unified for a reason:

“I in them and you in me–so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

John 17:23

That godly gift of unity is found most when we enter the presence of the Lord, coming near to Him, because He is the unifier.

Behold, the only reason we can be unified despite out warring flesh.

Behold, the One who unifies us in praise.

Behold, the unity found in the Christ was fully man and fully God.

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, and 
#Intentionally Pursuing

25 Days of Beholding the Lord

There’s a lot to be said (and done!) in December.

 

Comfort for the lonely during this time of constant reminders of family and togetherness.

Wise reflections on the arrival of Christ and His impact on our lives.

Advice for traditions, planning, and keeping up with the busy schedule.

Celebrating and preparing for winter as it forces its way in.

What strikes me this Christmas season is that even amongst the busy, the heightened emotions, the anticipation, we have the chance to be stayed. Fixed upon. Frozen still in awe. Because during this celebratory time, we have all the more frequent opportunity to BEHOLD.

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Behold –Christ has come. The lamb of God. The light of the world. The hope of nations, king of kings, and prince of peace.

What does that mean?

For the next 25 days, I’ll be writing shorter, daily posts about what we have to behold and what beholding is. Check back, please!

This post is being shared on: #LifeGivingLinkup #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory