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.

How Facebook Made Me a Secret Admirer

Do you remember the middle school concept?

When someone left notes in our friend’s locker signed “your secret admirer,” there were usually lines about wanting to know her more or how great she was. We would all embark on a quest to discover the identity of her secret admirer. It was somewhere between inspiringly sweet and super awkward; some unknown person out there really appreciated her.

That’s where I’m at. Somewhere between inspiringly sweet and super awkward.

My Facebook feed features friends, acquaintances, and followers. Over time, I learn about these virtual connections’ lives and character. I promise I don’t go stalking- this stuff shows up on my timeline!

There’s the girl I barely knew, whose friends were friends of my friends. She took a big leap of faith years ago. I am regularly encouraged watching God honor her choice as the story slowly unfolds on my Facebook timeline.

Or there’s the fellow student I loosely associated with as friends overlapped, who I never thought much about at the time. I regularly wish we were closer because as her story slowly unfolds on my Facebook timeline, I so identify with and admire her approach to the challenges and joys she faces.

When I stumble across posts by another friend of a friend I met twice for a few minutes, I sometimes want to leave comments as if we’re good friends ourselves. We’re not. I just love her sweet personality and how she radiates Christ’s love online through everyday life stuff.

I could keep going.

My list of “admireds” is long.

It makes me wonder, on my bravest days, if I should drop a note in their virtual box. If I should walk through the awkward of flattering-creepy and let these people know that the Lord uses their ordinary, everyday Facebook sharing to encourage my heart.

I haven’t decided yet.

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God..png

But I’ll leave this here for all of us admirers and admireds:

When you share online, people notice. Maybe not the people you expect. Maybe without ever commenting or liking. But people notice how you’re living your life. When you’re living it for Him, it’s so obvious. I am awed by our Lord through much of what people share about Him in their daily lives. It’s so powerful…

…Enough to make this shy, awkward, introvert a secret admirer who “thanks the Lord every time I think of you,” courtesy of my Facebook feed.

Facebook might not seem like a place for testimony, but let me tell you, I see God using it for His glory everyday. 

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.

I’d love for you to guest post on First and Second! Especially for an upcoming series…more here.

What Is Love

We know about many characteristics of love, traits like those listed in 1 Cor 13; patience, kindness, humility, etc.

We certainly are aware of examples of Biblical love, like that provided in John 3:16. The Bible teaches us much about the actions and consequences of love, as in Romans 13 or John 15, which describe doing no wrong to a neighbor or laying down one’s life for a friend as loving.

But…what is love?

Read the rest of this guest post over at Uniquely Yours Ministries

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.

Equally Yoked Friendship

Ever participated in a three-legged race? Your leg is bound to a partner’s. Then, you’re supposed to run, together, to a destination.

I remember the terror of participating in this sort of for-bystanders’-amusement-only activity. The image in my mind is fresh: I was looking up at someone I didn’t know, who appeared larger than life, as they exclaimed “hang on!” Then I tasted dirt. My partner’s frustration at my lack of coordination and pace was all the more bitter to swallow.

I’ve been the friend unequally-yoked, dragged along by someone headed somewhere emphatically I wasn’t interested in or equipped to go to.

But I’ve also been the friend marching ahead, feeling as if I’m hauling dead weight…

Read the rest over at Becky’s My Ink Dance Blog.

I’m honored to be sharing words on her beautiful site!

love-binds-all-together-in-perfect-unity

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.

Just For Me

As the speaker in the video wraps up her lesson, she prays. All of us in the room grow quiet, listening in. The screen grows dark and before anyone launches the discussion questions, a friend speaks up.

“Sorry you all had to sit through that,” she grins, “because that was just for me.

I know what she means.

One of the amazing abilities of our Lord is reaching out to us individually while reaching out to us all.

His sweet love and unique relationship with each of His children involves personal gifts and private moments. There are inside jokes and memories that hold us warmly, tucked into his care.

One of the kindest, more precious things the Lord has taught me is this: He doesn’t just care for me, He cares about me.


Sometimes the sunrise’s streak of gold peeking over the trees is just for me.

The weather isn’t what everyone wanted, but He did it for me. I asked last night.

Whoever donated those exact boots to the thrift store didn’t know it, but they were just for me, an unexpected gift from the Lord.

My husband’s shoulder, though not his own selection, isn’t too large or too small. It’s just right- made, I believe, just for me and my heavy head.

As I speak to God on a matter, asking a specific question, He rephrases it back to me with an answer through the song on the radio proclaiming truth I need in that moment. The lyrics are familiar, but that time, He played it just for me.

At the end of one Saturday, I am tired of struggling to surrender something to Him and I’ve grown weary from the humbling that’s been happening. The reason I press on is the commitment I’ve made to obey Him in this matter. Settling into bed, I open a book I’ve been struggling to enjoy, one I’ve grown weary of plodding through. I’m reading it only because I committed to making it all the way through.

The chapter rubs salve on my soul. Words just for me, custom shaped from an author’s keyboard to my aching heart by the Lord’s own hands.

a

I open the good book, the only one I’m known to actually hug goodnight, and open to the page I left off on. This is His word, active and alive, and it quickly enfolds those feelings of fear in the triumphant embrace of the one who died just for me. Words spoken a couple thousand years ago, spoken right now to me by the same Savior.

In the words of the Isaiah 25:1, “Lord, you are my God.”

And because of Christ, I’m more than your creation. I’m your child. Do you know if you’re His child, too? As His child, do you see God’s good gifts- the just for you kind?

It’s a precious thing, that He cares so much for just me and just you.

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.

Holding and Held

Thinking of Christ as our anchor, we often picture storms raging. Tossed about in the chaos, we think of clinging to Him. Our hands burn, grasping, struggling, to hold on. But the wonderful truth: as we’re holding, we’re also held. Our anchor is bound inseparably to our soul.

Even when we let go, the anchor’s hold is still strong. We’re still in His grip when we lose our own.

anchor holds

Likewise, as lean into the hard and heavy, forging our way along a difficult path, we’re often reaching out to see if God is there with us.

But He, in fact, goes before us, with us, and behind us.

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” –Deuteronomy 31:8

“For the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” -Isaiah 52:12

If the Lord will never leave us, then indeed we are not alone. We are not forsaken by our anchor or abandoned by our guide along the unknown path. Our light will not go out nor will our protector fail to have the victory in the end.

It’s so easy…so easy. To look upon the goodness and the kindness of the Lord in wonder, and miss that the things He kindly does for us are not dependent on us.

This isn’t an excuse to live flippantly or to believe that the Lord will reward us for taking advantage of His grace. But it certainly is a comfort, and a shift in perspective we often need.

“Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”

-2 Timothy 2:11-13

Amy Carmichael once described that when the going was rough, the trouble “was His burden not mine. It was He who was asking me to share it with Him, not I who was asking Him to share it with me.”

Sweet relief.

The nature of our God is compassionate. Loving. Hopeful. Gracious. Merciful. Kind. Stable. Steady.

In all that you and I grasp at and cling to, just trying to hold on, we can know that we will not be abandoned or put to shame. We can be certain that we will never be lost, even when we lose hold.

We are held by one who does not let go, even when we do.

Praise the Lord!

(This is a song I sing along to regularly. Laura Story’s lyrics remind of the truth, comfort me, and bring me to praise. I hope it will you, too!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAAsWj-thsY

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 Control We Trust

{The fifth installment in the In ____We Trust Series}

If I were in charge everything would be okay. People would do I want them to do, and since I generally care about some people, some people would be better off for it.

I would have everything I think I need, really hard stuff wouldn’t happen, and easier hard stuff I’d keep around to make myself sharp. I’d have no reason to worry and I’d feel fulfilled.

If I were in control.

That’s what I want to believe. More importantly, that’s what trusting in control has me assuming. Too often my life is based on that “if.”  I tell myself: If I were control, I’d have what I need to be okay.

But, control is a lie. It’s an illusion.

None of us are really sure what everything being okay would look like.

We can’t even a little bit grasp how to make everything okay for everyone at the same time. I’m even sure that we are incapable of consistently choosing the best for others, no matter how good our intentions may be.

There’s a reason for this: we’re sinners.

If we were in control, sin would be reigning. Because, let me repeat, we’re sinners in a world skewed by sin.

That we aren’t in control is actually a blessing.

in control we trust

What trusting in our own control really comes down to is trusting in an illusion instead of trusting in God. Illusions aren’t sustainable and can’t function fully. They are, at best, lies.

Proverbs 30:8 says:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.”

The poverty and riches rejected here are examples of forms of control we are deceived by.

Isn’t it often in gaining riches of information, money, relationships, etc., that we believe we gain control over our lives?

But wisdom here is clear: these forms of control are elusive illusions.

We don’t actually need them. They can’t actually offer us fulfillment or make life okay. It doesn’t matter what we gain control over: it won’t be enough.

We do well to ask only for our daily bread.

To have only our daily bread is to have only what we really need to live well. Notice also that our daily bread is given. Specifically by the one who is in control of everything.

control

Seeking control over more than our portion is seeking to have something more than what God has given. This conveys that in our hearts, we don’t find God to be enough. Through this, we deny the reality of God’s perfect control over everything.

There are consequences for trusting in control, or anything we seek to gain apart from God’s giving. The rest of the verse reinforces this:

“Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you

and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’

Or I may become poor and steal,

and so dishonor the name of my God.”

-Proverbs 30:9

When we live in pursuit of a false power like control, we stop living in pursuit of the Lord. We’re deceived into believing that what we’re going to gain will be enough or will justify our sinful means.

But the “end,”or the “reward” of control, is disappointing.  

Because ultimately, trusting in control means trusting in ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I really disappoint myself when I get what I want. It’s crushing when at the end of all that toil, all I get is more of what I already have: worries, concerns, responsibilities, weaknesses, and sin.

That’s the stuff we’re made out of, folks.

Unless we’re stuffed full of Jesus. Unless He’s reigning on “our” thrones. Unless we recognize that when we fight Him for control we’re trying to take over a ship we don’t know how to steer. And don’t know the course for. Or the goal.

Take a breath and let it go. Thank Him that He knows where we’re going and how to get there. Thank Him that our daily bread is enough.

Praise Him that we don’t have to live by elusive illusion, but can live abundantly by faith.

Praise Him that He has got all of it under control, so we don’t have to. He guarantees it will all be more than good: it will be perfectly completed in Him!

For the next few weeks, guests will be writing each Monday on something (or someone) we tend to trust in besides God. 

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

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

In ____ We Trust {Series}

As we detail our troubles, we intend for our hearts to trust.

But we overshare our hopes while downplaying our fears. We try to back up our feelings of trust- a form of faith- with evidence and proof that it’s working. That things will get better “if.”

Our trust is half-hearted. So our hearts only feel half-secured.

In God We Trust Title Photo Edited

That’s what real trust is: full reliance on the security of the Lord.

To trust in Him is to stake our hope and put our confidence in our Lord’s will.

Isaiah 26:3-4 says this:

“You will keep in perfect peace

those whose minds are steadfast,

because they trust in you.

Trust in the Lord forever,

for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.”

———

We are not held within that perfect peace when we don’t trust in Him. Our body language, conversations, and dependencies betray us.

Why the wringing hands and nervous speech? Why don’t our hearts believe what they proclaim about God?

One reason? Our trust is divided.

There’s something else we’re relying on and it’s taking hold of half of that

desperate-to-be-steadfast-mind

and half of that

heart-yearning-for-peace.

Our trust might be divided between God and money. God and spouse. God and ambition.

Whatever other thing we’re trusting in, it will disappoint us. And it will all the while compete for the heart that is best given wholly and completely to the Lord.

When we trust in God AND something else, we stand atop the rock, looking for stability, but holding our burdens above our heads. Then, we wonder why it’s so hard to balance.

Do you know the trust(ish)-dance?

For the next few weeks, I’ll be writing each Monday on something (or someone) I tend to trust in besides God.

I’d love for you to join me!  Writers and non-writers are all welcome.

Send me an email message (here) by June 5th telling me about something you trust in besides God and/or how you seek to remove that unnecessary balance beam to stand more firmly atop the rock. If you’d like, we can arrange for a guest post in the series! 

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

 

WordoftheWeek: Knowledge

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

2 Peter 1:3

Said differently:

It is through our knowledge of Him that He has given us all we need for a godly life.

2 thoughts on the matter:

  1. This Knowledge Comes as a Part of His Divine Power

Verses like these remind me logic puzzles. This, then this. But never written in order. So, simplified, Peter says:

  • Everything we need for a godly life we have through our knowledge of God.
  • We have that knowledge of God because His divine power has given it to us.

That we, in our insufficiency, have all that we need to live godly, glorifying lives, is absurd. But the ridiculous statement is true. Because He is that gracious to us. Because He is that loving.

He wants us to know Him. He draws us into knowing Him. God has made Himself knowable to little old us. For example, He gave us the Holy Spirit, sent Christ to become man, and provided His Word . And in so doing, He equips us with all that we need and shows us that He himself truly is all that we need.

divine power

  1. This is Contact-Knowledge

The word for knowledge here is “epignósis.”

Greek to you? Yeah, me too. Here’s what Biblos says:

“   (from…epí, “on, fitting” which intensifies…gnṓsis,

knowledge gained through first-hand relationship.”)

Properly, “contact-knowledge”

that is appropriate (“apt, fitting”) to first-hand, experiential knowing.”

What we need for a godly life is not just academic knowledge of Scripture and theology. Thoughts, and even beliefs, are not what wholly equip us.

Personally knowing God, a gift in itself, is what equips us to glorify Him.

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Do you personally know Christ as your Savior? (Click here to learn more if you don’t.)

And, if you do, do you know Him today, too? Do you speak to Him, do you listen to Him? Do you spend time with Him?

As the definition suggests…are you in first-hand contact with your Lord and Savior?

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

His Word Works in Me- The Word Works Series

The final post in The Word Works Series! I’m so thankful!

Over the past two months, some amazing, gracious guest bloggers have written to encourage, exhort, and testify to the power of God’s Word at work in their lives.

God Himself testifies to the abilities of His Word.

For example, Scripture tells us that the Bible:

I can testify to the work of God through His Word, too.

So many stories to choose from…let me just tell you about 3 ways the Lord’s Word has worked in my heart and my life.

The Word Has Worked in Me:

  1. By Anchoring Me in the Truth

No matter how much time I pour into reading Scripture and participating in fellowship, I am forgetful. Charles Spurgeon explains that Christ told us to have communion in remembrance of Him because we need to be reminded to remember Him! Spurgeon encourages us to “tie a heavenly forget-me-not around our hearts for Jesus.”

Deuteronomy 11:18 echoes:

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”

After really regretting that I did not remember to turn to God throughout several days, I was convicted to take this charge more literally.

I began writing a verse on a small slip of paper each morning. That little note from the Lord is tucked into my pocket for the day. It comes out every time my cell phone or my wallet does.

That way, the Word is bound to me the same way my clothes or my other daily possessions are.

The result?

I am anchored, bound, held, by the truth.

firm and secure

When I pull my phone out to communicate with someone, I’m reminded to listen to the Lord first. If I reach in to spend, His Word has a say. I have His word to think on when I’m sitting, waiting. As I go about my day, His Word is accessible enough to constantly comfort, challenge, and correct me.

It’s a little bit harder to accidentally stray from the truth when the truth is literally on my person.

I value that anchor which fixes me in my place- before the Lord!

  1. By Drawing Me Nearer to the Lord

Why is it that when we’re angry or hurting or doubting, or even happy, we don’t just reach for the Bible? It seems like reaching for the Bible, for most us, is something we tend to do just because we know we should.

How ironic that we often feel we’re not hearing from God or like the truth is unclear! Humbly and sincerely turning our hearts to the Word results in us drawing near to our Lord. This brings us nearer to Him, where His words are audible more clearly. This is where He speaks directly.

2 Peter 1:3 tells us that:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

A godly life is a life connected and obedient to God! One of the greatest gifts He has given us- and one of the most powerful- is His divine revelation recorded in Scripture.

As an avid reader, the Bible is a very personal gift to me from God and one I easily enjoy.

Not so for everybody. If just reading through Scripture is tough for you, consider:

  • Praying through Scripture
  • Listening to it on audio CDs or the web
  • Participating in Bible Studies that walk directly through Bible passages
  • Studying with a partner so that you hear it spoken
  • Posting verses around your spaces
  • Memorizing verses
  1. By Making Faith Personal to Me

Fact: Scripture can seem impersonal. God can too. Part of sin is distance- between us and our God. Christ bridges that gap for us. But often we still feel the expansive gulf beneath our feet when we step out in faith along the narrow way.

The narrow path opens at my feet and promises safe passage. I see that it is my path, ordained by the Lord. He has gone before me, as His Word describes.

I try to remember as I open the Word that God didn’t just give it as a rule book or to speak to people long ago. He speaks through it today. To me.

When I get into the Word, believing it to be alive and active, His word grips me.

In His Word He has anticipated my questions, doubts, and needs. Just like He did with those He spoke to back then.

Have you visited His Word and listened? The time with Him is precious.

Get into His Word, get near to Him. As so many can testify- and God Himself says- there is no better, no more secure a place to be.

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