Life Changes, But God Doesn’t

I have lived a very blessed and privileged life. Don’t get me wrong I have worked hard to get to where I am, but my parents were always very supportive in giving me many opportunities to grow. Some might even say I’ve been spoiled. I grew up going to church and I attended a Christian university. Some might even push to say that I’ve been sheltered. In all honesty, I can’t say I disagree.

On the day of my college graduation, as per usual, many pictures were taken to document the important day. I hate every single one of those photos because, at the time, there was severe swelling in my face that contorted my smile into something unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. My friends kept telling me to smile normally, even though I felt like I was. My boyfriend at the time was always by my side to remind me of how “different” my smile looked. In other words, I no longer had the smile that he had fallen in love with. I no longer felt like myself. Unfortunately, within the few months to come, I would start to feel less and less like myself. My life would no longer be the same.

One week following my graduation, I went to my local hospital to further investigate why there was severe swelling in my cheek. A couple days later, what I had thought was severe swelling from grinding my teeth due to stress, I was diagnosed with cancer.

More specifically, it was a tumor in my right cheek known as a malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor. You say, “That’s a pretty wild name! I’ve never heard of anything like that before!” And that makes sense because it’s an incredibly rare type of cancer. This tumor had been growing since January of 2015, but it wasn’t until after I graduated from college in May of 2015 that I was able to get the proper medical attention that I needed. I was diagnosed in June and began chemotherapy treatments one week after my diagnosis.

Once I had announced my diagnosis on Facebook and called my closest friends and family the cards, letters, baked goods, presents, and the encouraging messages came flooding in. Everyone said they were praying for me. I had visitors in the hospital. But I still felt so alone.

I was the one having drugs pumped through me. I was the one losing her hair. I was the one throwing up constantly and being stuck in the bathroom for hours. I was the one with a constant pounding headache. I was the one with such intense mouth sores that it was impossible for me to eat. I was the one crying myself to sleep at night because I didn’t know how much longer I could handle this pain.

To make matters worse, one of the people that I trusted most to stay by my side in this scary trial — my boyfriend at the time — broke up with me in July. One month after beginning treatments and the day before my birthday. I now not only felt alone but pathetic. I felt as though my life was spiraling out of control. My life was falling apart before my eyes and I felt like I was just an innocent bystander. As it is often said by those who are struggling, I too thought, “Why me?”

At this point in my walk with God, He felt more distant than He ever had in my whole life. He was a powerful enigma that was allowing my life to become a living Hell. And I was pissed.

Prayer seemed pointless. Worship seemed like a waste of time. I just needed to focus on taking care of myself because God was doing a really crappy job.

Everyone experiences pain differently and has their own unique struggles. No one can truly understand what I went through, just like I cannot understand what you may be going through right now. But there is one thing I know…

We need to keep living. There will always be pain, but we cannot let that define how we live our lives. We cannot and shall not be buried in the stresses of life such as work, failed relationships, sickness, financial stress, emotional distress, addictions. We cannot let those things defeat us because news flash: God already won. A good friend of mine just reminded me of something amazing: While there are times in our lives that we will feel very distant from God, such as I have throughout the treatment of my cancer, maybe it’s okay to not have our faith grown during the trials but after the trials. God is constantly growing and changing us, and that does not stop when life gets hard. Quite the contrary, because I believe one of the reasons God brought me through this scary season of my life to help me find my way back to Him.

So here I am, almost a year since I began treatment, a completely different person than I was before. Still just as fun-loving and spunky, but completely overwhelmed by what the future holds for me. I’m terrified and relieved, I’m confident but I’m also unsure, and most of all, I’m much more certain of the fact that God truly is in control of my life.

You know those famous Carrie Underwood lyrics, “Jesus, take the wheel”? Catchy tune, right? Well, I’ve learned that Jesus never lets go of the wheel; He’s always in control of our life. It’s just up to us to stop holding on so tightly, trying to control everything ourselves, and go along for the bumpy and beautiful ride that God already has planned for us.

Our lives are far from perfect, but that’s what makes them exciting. That’s what makes us, and our circumstances, so unique. We’re all different, and not one of us is “normal,” we’re always changing and that’s a-okay.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:9–10, whenever he began to struggle, “[God] said to me ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

So I’m not the same as I was almost a year ago, or even a few days ago; but I am stronger. I’m much more comfortable with myself, imperfections and all because I know this is where God wants me. I’m not sure where I’m going, but I know I’m not living this life on my own.

After all I’ve gone through, and will go through, it’s a blessing to be told my smile is still quite beautiful even if it is different. Life, although it may be different, is still beautiful. I promise.

The Ultimate Love Story: Having an Intimate Relationship with God

“I have to go now,” I said the words, but my heart broke. The time was nearing. I didn’t want to let her go, but I had to do this… for her. “I love you more than the deepest of the ocean, and higher than the heavens. I’ll always be with you.” Tears fell from her russet eyes down to her chest like drops of spring rain falling from vibrant leaves. I pulled her close and wrapped her into my arms; I felt her sorrow with every beat of her heart. “Please, receive this book of my story. Let each morning bring you a word of my unfailing love.”

She took the book and traced her thumb over the gold bold letters. BIBLE. In this moment, she didn’t understand why I had to leave. But one day, in her pain and sorrow, she will. One day in her brokenness, or when she has made an unforgiving mistake, this day will be enough to pay her debt if she’ll adhere to my word. Most importantly, I hope she will know how much I love her.

In a modern day biblical movie, this would be how I would imagine a scene of God speaking to me precedent of making his poetically beautiful sacrifice.

~

Nicholas Sparks, author of countless beautiful love stories, portrays an idea of what people would consider the “ultimate love story” in several of his books — love, anger, hurt, betrayal, sacrifice, and everything that goes into making love come alive. I like to presume that God fulfilled the ultimate love story with me. I remember the numerous times that I’ve become angry at God, and the times I’ve had to work with him to overcome hurt and bitterness. Still, he pulls me close to tell me how much he loves me, waits patiently, and continues to fulfill his promises. What love is this, that he would do that for me? For someone so unworthy and undeserving?

But oh so dearly, God’s love is not solely for me. This is a relationship that God wants with you. Not only that, it is essential to our spiritual survival that we have an intimate relationship with the author of our love story. His love for us is so deep and intimate. Naturally, I can imagine that when God was ready to give himself as a sacrifice, his humanity shook. But because He loves us so graciously, He gave himself so that we didn’t have to live by the standard of our sin.

How can we have a close relationship with God?

An eloquent love story written in the 21st century portrays two ordinary people implementing an extraordinary action. The couple must overcome an obstacle that will enhance their love for one another. At times, the couple may stray; but once they overcome, their journey will continue. Similarly, God went through many hardships, pain, and suffering for us. He gave up his life to live a life with us. God’s sacrifice was extraordinary for us — the ordinary. We will fail him. There will be times when we stray. Life may not offer the Nicholas Sparks fairy-tale and you may not have your prince; but God, the author of our love story, will offer so much more.

“And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us; and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.” (Ephesians 5:2)

To build a close relationship with God, we need to first make him the priority in our lives. This means to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). In accepting marriage, God wants us to know true love and to learn how to be passionate in loving others. More importantly, He wants to know that we will love him, because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). God wants intimacy with us, and desires a relationship much like our human connections. He wants to know our fears and struggles, our desires, our passions. He wants to know that when we wake up in the morning or go to sleep at night, he is the first and last person in our minds. How can someone be so intentional in their love for someone, who can go a full day without stopping and saying, “I love you, Lord!” Life is busy, but taking time to surround yourself with God is so important in walking in his will.

How can God become the center of your life?

For God to be a priority in your life, it means you must be willing to sacrifice a part of yourself. Various scriptures in the bible associate love with sacrifice (John 15:13; 1 Corinthians 13:4; Romans 5:8). Accordingly, in order for a relationship to stay abode and remain sacred, it costs a great amount of time, energy and putting someone else first — much like God did for us. I’m sure those of you who have been in a relationship know how much energy it takes. Frankly, my non-dating relationships take a great amount of energy, time, and effort. However, God desires that we love him enough that it is not a daily hassle to fantasize being close with him, holding hands, or engage in deep conversations with him. Take some time to develop your relationship with God — a few minutes opening up his word and hearing what he has to say. Study his word. Pray in your mind throughout the day because God is continuously thinking of you. What’s more, the Bible goes to say he is a jealous God. When we show our affection to worldly things, and our minds are faithfully dwelling on them, we are creating ourselves idols put before God (Exodus 20:4–6).

This is not about waiting in singleness or what to do when you are in a relationship. It is having a relationship with God before, during, and after those instances. Relationships will fade. Your time of singleness may come and go, but God will remain. His love for you will be there regardless of your sin or your relationship status. No one will ever be deserving of what God gives, but he loves us so much that he overlooks our imperfections. We need to build the foundation of our lives on God’s love and his promises. We need to be vulnerable with him, pure, and honest. Let him see who you are. Let him get to know you, because the “you” that he created is who he loves so dearly. When we commit to put God first, build a relationship with him, and trust our lives to him, he will guide us into being where he wants us in life; and one day, he may give us over to our human prince charming. But for now, let God be the one.

“The best love is the kind that awakens the soul and makes us reach for more, that plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds. And that’s what you’ve given me. That’s what I’d hoped to give you forever.” -Nicholas Sparks

Living From The Inside Out

I have a friend who is a wonderfully talented singer. She leads worship at our church and every time she opens her mouth, it is amazing. I often find myself wishing that I could sing as well as she can. I have another friend who has a high powered job and is very successful in the business world and travels a lot. I think about how great it would be to have a job like hers.

Isn’t that typical? We compare ourselves to others wishing that we had their job, voice, hair, skin or talents. Our culture encourages us to do this, and it leads us to feelings of inadequacy. We find that we feel worthy when others say you are. For example, if you work really hard on a project and no one says that it was well done, you start to wonder if it really was any good; if you’re any good. Also, our culture demands attention. If you measure your worth according to Facebook and Twitter, then attention equals worthiness. But God disagrees. He says that we are worthy because of our faith. We don’t have to try to be the biggest or the best. We don’t have to impress anyone. We only need to be faithful. That takes all the pressure off!

The challenge is learning to live by faith, not by sight. When we look to the outside world for praise and worth, we are left feeling inadequate. The good news is that who you are and what you do already pleases God! He has given each of us unique gifts and abilities and wants us to use these gifts to show our love for Him.

“If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” (Romans 12:7–9)

The verses above present the argument that it’s not about us, it’s about Him. But, it’s easy for us to allow the world’s values to impact our life. We focus on material things to make us happy; believing that our self-image comes from the outside, and often think that it’s ok to bend the rules sometimes. God has an opinion about this…

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of the world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

In other words, to counter the tendency to let the world’s values direct what we do and how we live, we must intentionally choose to live so that we let God’s callings determine how we use our gifts. Using God’s word as a guide will allow you to stay on the right path and focus on His calling for you. The best way that we can show our love to God is to use the special gifts that He has given us. Remember that we are all designed to have different talents and that is what makes us unique. (After all, the world would be a pretty boring place if we all had the same talents.)

So the next time you find yourself in the trap of comparison or feeling less than adequate, remind yourself that we each have our own special gifts. Do what you do best and do it without comparison, for it brings Him much joy, and will make you feel great as well!

Brothers Speak: What Naomi Teaches Us About Faith

The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” (Ruth 4:14-15 NIV)

Her name meant “pleasant”, yet the Book of Ruth starts out in ruin. When Naomi left Bethlehem for Moab, she had a husband and two sons and now that they were dead, she and her two daughters-in-law were left vulnerable and helpless in a foreign land of idol worship.

Discouragement became her constant companion and her faith in God’s blessings and mercy fell to its lowest. In the first chapter, she said to her daughters-in-law: “the hand of the LORD has gone out against me.” (Ruth 1:13 ESV)

Naomi’s lack of faith was so blatant that we are even tempted to look down on it. After all, did she not know our Lord’s compassion for widows (Exodus 22: 22 – 24; Deut. 10: 17 – 18)? Did she not know His love and the covenant He made with His people (Ex. 15: 1 – 21)?

It’s easy to forget the reason her faith is so shakable:

She does not know the end of the story.

She doesn’t know the part where Jesus triumphs over sin. She doesn’t know the part where Light triumphs over darkness. We have the part in our hands where the savior is born, then dies for our sin, and then rises from the dead. Perhaps remembering that fact is what allows us to feel compassion and empathy for this glitch in her faith. But what TRULY allows me to feel compassion for her is remembering this:

I have been Naomi.

I have wrestled with God in prayer when I felt like He wasn’t listening. I’ve looked upon dark times in my life as if it were all in ruin. I’ve felt as if there was no hope left, nothing good left in the cards for me. I have been Naomi. And I think you’ve been Naomi, too.

I think you’ve had those times when tragedy, despair, and setbacks hit your life one after another like waves. I think you’ve felt like you were walking through the valley of the shadow of death from Psalm 23, except you felt fear and you didn’t feel the comfort of His rod or His staff. You wondered if he even heard your prayers. But really, the glitches and struggles in our faith have the same source as Naomi’s struggles in faith:

We don’t know how the story ends.

Now, while all of you wait for me to be struck by lightning, hear me out. I’m not talking about the big story. We know how THAT story ends. We know that our Jesus will return for His bride. We know that if we’re in relationship with Him, we’ll get to spend all of eternity with our King after death.

But we don’t know how our story here on earth ends. We know that anything that happens to us, good or bad, God will use for good.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 ESV)

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20 NIV)

But we still don’t know whether it’s in His plan for us to get everything our flesh wants. We know He intends everything for good, but we just don’t know whether He will write our story the way WE want Him to.

We are just so concerned with the temporary and the earthly. We know how the eternal story ends, yet our faith waivers because we don’t know how the earthly story ends. We know on an intellectual/theological level that God’s way is perfect.

“This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:30 ESV)

Yet, even though we know that His ways are superior to our own, we are not content until our flesh is. We lose faith unless our earthly story is written the way we’d write it ourselves. And sometimes, our flesh is missing out in a big way. Tragedy, loss, heartbreak, sickness.

All of these things challenge our human need for reassurance. Not a reassurance that things will be okay, but a reassurance that they’ll rearrange themselves into how our earthly selves always envisioned our earthly lives turning out.

Naomi lost her faith because God dealt her a hand that she wouldn’t have chosen for herself. Who would? But in his endless grace and loving patience, God blesses Naomi by bringing her out from ruin and returning her joy. He blesses her with renewed faith, family, and security as Boaz redeems Ruth. He used her crisis and desperate trial as a means to showcase His perfect redemptive love, provision, and grace… just as he said He would!

What I take away from Naomi is this…

You don’t need to know the ending of the story to keep faith.

What you need to know is the past. Naomi should have drawn her faith from knowing that God rescued His people from famine (Ruth 1:6), that He blessed foreigners (vv. 8, 9), and that He had made a covenant with His people. She also should have drawn her faith from the blessings through which she could have seen God’s love and provision in her life. Ruth’s pledge to Naomi is boundless.

She also should have drawn her faith from the blessings through which she could have seen God’s love and provision in her life. Ruth’s pledge to Naomi is boundless (vv. 16 – 17). She makes an oath to Naomi, using Yahweh’s name, to stay with her until death. She promises to worship Naomi’s God. She even leaves her homeland, along with most likely marriage opportunities and safety, in order to be with Naomi and the people who worship our God.

Naomi teaches us that to keep faith, we don’t need to know what’s in store for us tomorrow, whether hardship is coming (it is, by the way), or whether God gives us everything our flesh wants. We simply need to know the past. What God’s already done for us, the ways He’s kept His promises, how we can look back on our past trials to see how He’s used them for His glory.

Now, when I move through difficult seasons of my life, I can hold onto faith not because I know what God’s going to do with my trial, but because God and I have a history and He has never let me down.

Forgiveness Leads to Love

Think back to a time when someone hurt you. Remember how that person’s words or actions made you feel? Remember that feeling in your stomach? Remember the anger? Maybe you are still affected by it today.

The Bible says that we are to forgive, no matter how hard it may be.

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25).

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).

God is saying that it is in our own best interest to forgive, and He has given us the perfect example of forgiveness. He knew that we needed to be forgiven for our sins so He sent Jesus to save us from the consequences of our sin. If God was strong enough to allow his son to die on a cross to prove to us how much He loves us, shouldn’t we trust Him when He says, “forgive?”

Colossians 3:13 says: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

For me, forgiveness took a long time. I survived a childhood of physical and emotional abuse from the two people who were supposed to love me the most. My coping mechanism was to avoid (the memories) and deny (that anything was wrong). I didn’t tell anyone for many years because I didn’t want anyone to judge me. I had feelings of anger, shame, and guilt from my past. I struggled with the idea of forgiveness for a long time. I didn’t want to forgive my parents because I believed that they didn’t deserve it.

What I learned was that forgiving others spares us from the consequences of living out of an unforgiving heart. It’s important to keep in mind that forgiving someone doesn’t mean that everything is hunky-dory. Unfortunately, the old phrase of “forgive and forget” isn’t really beneficial in real life. You should remember what someone has done to you, even if it means you can no longer be a part of their life.

Remember, forgiveness does not justify or pardon the deed or the person. Likewise, it does not provide God’s forgiveness for their actions, because only God can do that. And while nothing can undo the past, we can do something about the condition of our own present and future. Forgiving others makes a way for our own healing to begin. That healing process will lead you to be able to love.

Listen to your heart. Is there someone who you need to forgive in order to move forward and truly love as God has commanded us? If so, I would encourage you to do the following:

  1. Pray about it and how the act of forgiveness can help you grow spiritually.
  2. Understand that negative feelings will occur when we are hurt and that’s normal.
  3. Talk to someone about what you are experiencing.
  4. Don’t rush. Forgiveness is a process.
  5. Honor the fact that you are becoming a different person by forgiving.

Waiting With Integrity

We often hear the phrase, “wait expectantly on the Lord.” For someone like myself, whose schedule rivals that of a Congressional member, I find waiting to be one of my most difficult challenges. But to wait expectantly is a little different than the waiting we experience surviving the line at the DMV. It isn’t actually waiting in the sense of presence without action but, in fact, the opposite — waiting with action. So, what are the actions we are waiting with? What is it that we are supposed to be doing?

Well, before we can begin waiting with it, we have to understand what the “it” actually means… integrity. By simple definition it means, “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. The state of being whole and undivided.” Wow, that is a pretty awesome thing to have or strive for! I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t want to be considered an honest and moral person. Growing up, my dad would constantly remind my sister and I the importance of honesty and the value of one’s word. “That is all you have,” he would say, “your word is your bond. So make sure you do what you say you will do, mean what you say, and hold true to your word.” I am sure many of us have heard this same type of message growing up.

Now, as I am raising two amazing little people, I think the same holds true with morals. As a mother, I hope and pray that my children will grow up to have strong morals as adults. It is a hope that they will conduct themselves as honest, loving, and genuinely good people. People who will do what is right even if it is not popular; who know they answer to Christ the King and that not any other desire on earth should be stronger than appeasing Him.

With that being said, how do we as women wait with integrity? Waiting with integrity is about how you conduct yourself, how you train your thoughts, and how you pray. It’s how you are disciplined in your actions against temptation, and how to keep hope when we are working on ourselves to become better in every sense of the word. In Scripture, we are taught about integrity and what that means in regards to our daily activities.

Proverbs 4:25–27 says, Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.

How are we being guided in this Scripture? We are taught to look towards our goal, directly in front of us, not allowing ourselves to be distracted with what is going on around us or outside of the path to get there. Ponder the path of your feet… think about how you are getting towards your goal. For us, waiting with integrity is just that. We are considering our journey and how to stay disciplined, focused, honest and genuine. All while growing as Christian women to eventually receive the man that God has in store for us.

If we stay focused on the path and the direction we are going, if we keep our effort on obtaining that goal… then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. It’s easy to read but harder to put into practice. I think we are often unaware of all of the temptations that the enemy throws at us on a daily basis to simply take our focus off of God and off bettering ourselves. The enemy wants to create reactions of anger, hopelessness, anxiety, frustration and fear. He finds joy in our moments of weakness because it is his hope that it will pull us further away from God. Even our very basic insecurities that we think we just have in ourselves are actually fueled by none other than… the enemy! I am serious.

In fact, the next time you start to feel anxious or afraid of something or insecure about what you look like or where you are in your life… the next moment you feel like you have lost hope, immediately stop that thought and pray! Pray for Jesus Christ to wrap his arms around you and remove whatever negative emotion you are feeling. Tell the devil that you are a child of God and your body, mind and soul have no place for thoughts or feelings of negativity. Tell the devil that you rebuke him and all his efforts of ungodliness and all of the actions he has pressed upon you in the name of Jesus Christ. Remind him that the blood of Jesus Christ is far stronger than anything he can try to do and you will not waiver in your faith or in your mind. In that moment if you say that prayer knowing that God will answer, knowing that the power of Christ is far stronger than any emotion or reaction from the devil, I promise you those feelings will disappear by the time you have finished that prayer. I have put this into action many times and the Lord has never failed me.

I want you to simply focus on that Proverbs Scripture and what it means to put that into action. Think about your goal and practice pondering the path to get there. Over the next few weeks, practice rebuking the enemy’s attempts at filling you with fear, anxiety, insecurity and any other negative emotions that you feel. You can write down that prayer and keep it with you wherever you go. The more practice you have, the easier it will get, and the stronger you will become. Waiting with Integrity takes effort and discipline. One of the easiest things that can knock us off our path is allowing our emotions to make us weak and change our course. I challenge each of you to strengthen your mind and your power in prayer. This will be an awesome tool that you will call on many times during your journey and will be instrumental in building genuine integrity.

We Weren’t Called to be the “Popular Girl”

The title of “The Popular Girl” is ingrained in our adolescent social culture and in our media. We are constantly bombarded with images of a hierarchy, a social ladder we are required to climb. After high school’s over and we start to make our transition into womanhood, many of us continue to pursue popularity, although in a different way.

Buying certain things to impress people and going with the crowd are all ways many women seek out attention after high school with the hopes of an eventual seat with the cool kids.

But Jesus never sought out acceptance from ANYONE, nonetheless the “popular kids” of his day (the Pharisees), and he sure doesn’t call US to do it.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)

Jesus stayed true to what He knew was right and preached the truth, even though he knew that not only would it win him zero popularity points, but that people would hate Him for it so much that they’d humiliate and then crucify Him. To be a Christian is to strive to become like Christ. And popularity was the last thing on Christ’s mind.

God never called us to be like the others, to chase popularity, or to conform to the world. He called us to just the opposite. What does the Word say about being set-apart from the world? Quite a lot.

“For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 7:6)

“’Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.’” (Leviticus 20:26)

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

“The LORD has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession, as He promised you, and that you should keep all His commandments; and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honor; and that you shall be a consecrated people to the LORD your God, as He has spoken.” (Deuteronomy 26:18–19)

“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:15–16)

It’s not inherently sinful to desire to get along with peers and coworkers. It’s not a horrible thing to be want to be well-liked and admired. We all want that on some level.

But when the time comes, I pray you choose the difficult road.

When it’s time to choose between following the crowd and being unpopular, I hope you choose to be unpopular. I hope you make the difficult decision to speak truth. I hope you are willing to suffer socially just like Jesus was in order to pursue us. I hope you choose the eternal over the temporary.

“For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25 ESV)

What good is it to have the applause of the whole world if you have to lose yourself and your relationship with God? Is it worth it? Not to me.

Of course, that’s not to say that you should be rude or cruel when speaking Truth.

That’s not Godly behavior, either. It’s not honoring to God and it doesn’t represent Him well.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”(Galatians 5:23)

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” (James 3:17)

But you also shouldn’t follow the crowd or water down what you know to be true just because you’re afraid of losing followers or friends. Those things are temporary. You have an entire eternity ahead of you.

Jesus didn’t call you to be a pleaser.

He didn’t call you to make friends, chase trends, zip your lip when you see injustice, compromise your values to get into that exclusive social group, or chase Instagram followers. He called you to be set apart for Him and His purposes.

He wants to use you. Will you let Him?