The Biggest Mistake Christians Make

biggestmistake

Recently, I have been struggling with feeling very discouraged about all the trending topics in social media and the news. I see posts and comments daily criticizing Christians for our faith. We are frequently villainized and our opinions are discounted simply because we claim to follow Christ. We are, rather ironically, called bigots by those who refuse to make an effort to understand our point of view. We are ridiculed, stereotyped, and called ignorant for our beliefs. We are accused of being hypocrites by people with a limited understanding of God’s word- even people who have convinced themselves they are experts on the topic.

But.

The part of all of this that really makes me feel a bit sick is that there is an element of truth to all of that. The body of believers has not been presenting as a unified front. Much damage has already been done to our witness. Not all people who claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ sincerely understand what all that entails. Not all people who claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ live a life striving to be like Christ, as we’re commissioned to live.

All through school, I followed the rules and continually made an effort to please my teachers and personal sense of accomplishment by living up to set expectations as best I could. I know. I’m a nerd. I can’t help it. It’s my personality (and actually, I’m quite content being a nerd). I can think of many times in school and beyond, when a few other people made irresponsible decisions and lost privileges for the group as a whole. I always had trouble understanding how some people could act like they just don’t care how they represent others, or about how the consequences of their actions may affect more than only themselves.

Considering this thought from a more experienced point of view- maybe for some, it’s just that they don’t realize their behavior makes a difference for the whole. We all come from different histories with different learning experiences and different personalities. Most of us don’t even realize the impact we can have on those around us- but we all have one.

There are many different spiritual maturity levels among individuals claiming to belong to the Church. Some accepted Christ but never made an effort to mature, and some spent time in the world and with spiritual leadership but then made choices to live how they want to live. Still others strive daily to live a life pleasing to God. But as in many situations in life, a few people can ruin a good thing for the group. A portion of the group can destroy the reputation of the rest.

 

In our situation now, it seems like there are few Christians who truly live as Christ-models. Sure, we get the basics, but tend to justify things that shouldn’t be justified while looking over things that should be given attention.

So, now to what seems to me to be the biggest mistake made by Christians today:

We are not fulfilling the Great Commission.

The body as a whole has not been a living example of who God is. We’re not showing people what God’s love is about.

By recent history, the church overall has seemed to look the other way when faced with many sinful situations, even within the church itself. We’ve been so concerned with wanting to not offend others, to not make situations uncomfortable, to not lose church members, to not lose tithes, or to not be called out for our own poor decisions, that we hesitate. When we hesitate, we often decide to not respond at all.

Scripture tells us that if a fellow Christian is making sinful decisions and we know, we are to go to them and lovingly discuss the issue with them. If they do not listen, we are to take one or two from the church to discuss it again. Does that ever happen? Or do we look the other way so we don’t have anyone do the same to us?

Let’s face it. We are human. We are individuals who, by design, only see from our own perspectives. If we are striving for wisdom, we will make a strong effort to understand the experiences of others, but it does take effort. It doesn’t always come easily.

Because we are human, mistakes are easy to make. Maybe that’s why the Hebrews were instructed to not stop meeting together with other believers. Maybe that’s why Solomon wrote about the benefits and combined strength of like-minded friends in Christ.

Accountability.

Where is it?

We’ve become so timid about approaching fellow Christians about sinful, selfish behaviors that when we DO take a stand on a specific issue, we look like hypocrites.

Notice how that is in bold AND italics?

Perhaps this has something to do with the “don’t judge me or you’re a hypocrite!” mentality that seems to be floating around these days. Side note – is it REALLY judging if God has already proclaimed the judgment in advance? Anyway. That’s another topic…

But, what happened? I’ve heard before that if a frog is dropped into a pot before the water is heated to a boil, it will die before jumping out because the change is so gradual, it doesn’t recognize the threat until it is too late (ok, I don’t know that it is true, and I wouldn’t encourage trying it, but I intend it simply as an analogy).

Have we as a whole really been so comfortable in the water that we don’t snap out of it until something we find shocking happens?

Christians. Seriously. Are we handling “current” sins wisely? Lovingly? It’s easy to become defensive and not present ourselves in a very Christ-like way (especially from behind a keyboard).

We have been called to show others God’s love. Are we picking and choosing which sins to protest? Why are we not holding one another accountable? If we love one another, we need to do that. We need to lift each other up in prayer and offer encouragement. Is that happening as often as it is needed?

Pro 27:6 KJV Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

If we don’t love others and build a mutually respectful relationship with them, what on this earth makes us think they are going to suddenly repent or even try to see our point of view? If we are viewed as the hypocritical enemy, why would they want to listen?

We are not the enemy and we can’t act like we are. I’m not claiming to have all the answers, but I am pleading for Christians to evaluate where we now stand from a different point of view. I have very intentionally left out the naming of any specific sins in the post. Sin is sin. Simply put, sin is choosing to do what we want over what God asks of us. Sin is being selfish.

So. Speaking to any Christians reading this, please allow me to be an accountability partner for you today.

Are you choosing what God asks of you over what YOU want? Or are you indulging in something God has guided you to leave behind you?

Be careful about where you put your energy. Stand firm in what Scripture says, but do it in Christ-like love, and in all things- not only the ones most uncomfortable for you. After all, the frog was comfortable too.

 

Keri

Stay Focused: A Perspective For Christians on Same Sex Marriage

stayfocused 
sterlingpr / Foter / CC BY

Dear Christians,

While those of us who believe scripture as it is know what God has said about giving in to temptations such as homosexuality or adultery, let us not forget our purpose.

It is our job to teach others who God is by loving them.

Contrary to popular social media posts and water cooler conversation, this does not mean to accept and glorify behaviors God has already condemned, but it does mean to offer friendship and spiritual support to fellow humans.

Do I believe that homosexual marriage should have been legalized? No. But I also don’t believe intimate heterosexual relationships should be treated as casually as they are in today’s society, or that marriages should be filled with animosity and self-centered pride. It’s not how God designed it.

Scripture doesn’t tell us to go to others who don’t claim a personal relationship with Christ and give them a list of all their sins. We are commissioned to go and share God with them. God is love, and God is perfectly capable of speaking to their hearts to let them know what may be detrimental to them.

Scripture does, however, instruct us to go to fellow Christians if we see them acting in a way that goes against God’s commands for us and lovingly encourage them to make important changes.

Either way, there is no room for hate-filled speech. Stay focused on the Great Commission- and be prepared to stand up for our own rights as Christians.

 

 

Matthew 18:14-16 New International Version (NIV)

14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Dealing With Sin in the Church
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’

 

 Matthew 28:19-20New International Version (NIV)

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

 

Sincerely,

Keri

What do you expect?

Angoscia
Funky64 (www.lucarossato.com) / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

As a therapist, I have found myself on many occasions discussing some of the reasons why clients experience problematic symptoms of depression, anxiety, and anger. Through those many discussions, it has become clear to me that such symptoms occur when there is a conflict in some area of our lives, and those conflicts occur when our expectations don’t meet up with reality. This kind of interference may be related to any area of wellness (such as emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, etc.).

Typically, it isn’t possible to change the reality of the conflict (we can’t make other people do what we think they should do, and we can’t make the world work how we think it ought to work). Acknowledging the fact that in reality, things don’t happen like we think they should can help us adjust our expectations and alleviate some of the conflict.

If we tell ourselves people should always be loving and kind, we will likely find ourselves indignant when we encounter situations in which people are not loving and kind. The reality is that we can’t make everyone be loving and kind. Though it would be wonderful, all people are not loving and kind. It would be preferable, but it is not realistic to expect such a thing to happen. The truth is, we live in a fallible world, surrounded by fallible people…like us.

With that all said, I’d like to encourage you to examine the expectations in your relationships. What do you expect of your loved ones? Do you expect your spouse to respond to difficult situations in the same manner you do? Do you expect your children to respond like miniature adults? Are your expectations realistic or idealistic?

It’s easy to get stuck on an idea of how we think things should be. Take, for example, fashion magazines. We’ve been so inundated by the images of flawless beauties that we strive to do what we can to attain the same characteristics. We’re pressured to diet, tan, dye, bleach, wax, paint, and cover. The reality is that the models are typically made up and photo-edited. It’s an illusion we’ve been bamboozled into perceiving as reality. In marriage, a husband may expect his wife to run the household like his mother did, or a wife may expect her husband to respond like the character in her favorite chick flick.

“Philippians 4:8
New International Version (NIV)
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

When you catch yourself expecting the unrealistic, challenge it with what you know to be true. “He should have known better!” Sometimes we just don’t know. “She should have had that done already.” She had a lot of things going on that required her attention. “I have to have it all finished tonight.” 20 years from now, your To-Do list for today isn’t going to matter- prioritize. “The kids should never misbehave.” Kids will test their boundaries, it’s how they learn.

Take time to just observe your families. Make an effort to examine your expectations of them. When you feel anxious, depressed, or angry, ask yourself if your expectations are realistic or if you need to make an adjustment. Satan is the father of lies, and will make any effort possible to distract you from what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. Challenge the lies and focus on what you know to be true. Your loved ones will thank you!

Keri

1 Simple Tip for a Happier Household

SMiLE!
Toni Blay / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

I was recently inspired to write an article about something that could make a quick difference to my readers. I spent some time thinking about something simple that anyone could do that would help increase peace and love in a home.

Then, I realized there was something I started doing that makes a world of difference for me. So, I knew what I wanted to share.

While what I am about to share is applied to life with children, the tip is not limited to interactions with children, so stick with me. I recently left my job in community mental health to stay home with my two boys rather than returning to work after maternity leave. My oldest son is almost 3 and is just about as strong-willed (or overly-determined, as I like to say) as they come. Some days, when the baby is screaming, and the 2-year-old is doing everything he can to get my attention back to him, it can be tough.

In those moments that I have to issue a consequence because of directions not being followed or because of disrespectful attitude, my sweet little boy can act pretty hateful. He tells me I’m mean (is that an innate reaction or something?? I don’t know where he got that!). He screams and cries. Most days it’s mild and short-lived, but regardless of how grumpy he gets with me during a tantrum, I’ve learned to do one thing.

Hug him.

It amazes me how, even when he is furiously mad at me because he’s not getting what he wants (I mean, seriously, wouldn’t you be upset if mommy wouldn’t let you pet the Betta?), he still responds to me when I hug him and tell him I love him.

“Yeah, you too, mommy.” All while still crying. Even so, he knows that when I say no, I mean it, AND that I love him even when he’s being grumpy with me.

So, my one simple tip for a happier household is this: 

Always Show Love. Especially when you are most frustrated.

Not only am I amazed when my screaming, tantrum-throwing child wraps his arms around me and lays his head on my shoulder, following my lead, I’m amazed at what a difference I feel. It helps me stay calmer.

To break it down, when you catch yourself feeling like you’re about to have a temper-tantrum/ break-down yourself (whether dealing with a child or adult):

1. Pray. Even better if you can invite the other person to pray with you. Praying as a first resort can help keep you more focused on being loving in any interaction.
2. Keep your voice tone as calm and loving as possible.
3. For the kids, get down to or below their eye-level.
4. Acknowledge how they may be feeling (ex. I’m so sorry you’re disappointed that you couldn’t do what you wanted. -Even children’s emotions are real and deserve to be respected, regardless of whether or not they make sense to adults.) and what they have been saying.
5. Hug him/her (if they will allow it).
6. Say sincerely, “I love you.” (if the kids are still mad and try to argue with you and tell you that you don’t love them… because they do things like that…. either refrain from commenting, or if you feel the need, simply repeat, “I Love You.” )
7. Remember, arguing in that moment will do nothing but escalate the situation. If there are behaviors that need to be addressed, try addressing them after the tantrum is done (unless they are in danger of hurting themselves, you/others, or property).

Yes. I am fully aware that it may sound cheesy or awkward (at first), but let me give you three good reasons why it can work.

  • Many arguments occur because the other person does not feel heard. Acknowledging what they are saying and how you think they may be feeling can help diffuse the situation and present an opportunity for any clarifications to be made.
  • Reminding your loved ones that you love them helps put things in perspective for both them and you.
  • It’s how God deals with us. Even when He tells us no, He will still comfort us and reassure us of His love. 

 

What ways have you all found to diffuse tense situations while showing love?

 

Keri

 

 

 

 

 

(**Please note: all articles here are written with the assumption that both parties in a relationship are making an effort to be loving. If you are in an abusive situation and do not feel safe, please seek outside help.)

The grass is always greener…

Pampa - Santa Fe, Argentina
Claudio.Ar / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

The grass is always greener… in a well-manicured lawn. No, really, how do you think it became so green? It’s easy to look at other couples or families and think, “wow, they have it all together… they have the perfect life.” It’s just as easy to then look at your own life and compare the two. The problem is that this often leads to discontentment.

In reality, relationships take work. To work on a marriage takes self-sacrifice and a willingness to put your spouse first. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it. Healthy relationships with your children take work too. It’s tempting to want to be your little one’s best friend, when what they need is for you to be their parent.

As a therapist, I have had many people present their children for therapy and tell me, in one form or another, that their children have behavior problems and they won’t respond to parental correction. As the conversation progresses, however, the parents will begin to tell me of the inconsistencies in their own parenting techniques. They may know what needs to be done, but it doesn’t get done for various reasons. For example, I’ve been told many times that Time-Out doesn’t work because the children won’t stay in Time Out. I’ve also seen the same children respond very well to Time-Out when the parents consistently and calmly follow through. Initially, the children will kick, scream, flail, and try to bite, but eventually they will realize the parent is going to follow through and they will relinquish control to the parent. It can be heart wrenching to watch the process, knowing that the child is doing what he has learned to do to get his way (after all, we all have that selfish, sinful nature that strengthens if not checked), but doing your best to remain loving, patient, and calm while setting boundaries is important. Remember, you are modeling God’s love to your child!

When trying to make major changes, it always looks like it’s getting worse before it gets better, but in dealing with something like children’s behavioral problems, it’s important to know that if you make a big effort to be consistent and give up after an hour and a half of the child screaming and struggling with you (hello, exhaustion!), you’ve only wasted that much energy and your child will then be reaffirmed that if he fights hard enough and long enough, you’re going to give in. It is our responsibility to teach our children how to cope with their emotions (disappointment, frustration, etc.) rather than simply reacting to them.

When making changes in other relationships, whether with your spouse, a friend, family member, etc., It will also take a lot of work.

  • Practice controlling your tongue so you’re not throwing verbal jabs when your feelings get hurt.
  • Make it a concentrated effort to approach the other person lovingly when you feel like running away/avoiding any and all contact with them.
  • Set aside your own pride and hurt feelings to look for compassion that may help you better communicate with them. You don’t have to agree to have compassion!

So now we come back to the lawn. How much is it worth to you for your grass to be pretty and green? How much work are you willing to put into your relationships? It’s up to you, of course. You can’t have the results you want if it’s not important enough for you to put in the work.

 

Keri

 

 

 

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Battling Bitterness

In any relationship, there will be moments when both parties are just not on the same page. There will be disagreements, and there will be times when expectations are not met.

Unmet expectations may be a breeding ground for bitterness. Have you been there?

The trash wasn’t taken out as expected. He/She forgot to pick up the mail as promised. You were left waiting longer than you believed was reasonable. He/She stayed late at work…again.

Whatever you believe your spouse “should” be doing and isn’t – are you discussing it lovingly, or are you stewing about it?

Human nature says to stew. Oh, the thoughts that pop in our self-centered minds! “I shouldn’t have to put up with this!” “I can’t believe it happened AGAIN!” “Oh, I shouldn’t have to say anything, he should just know.”  ”I wish she’d just stop nagging!!”

It’s so easy to get ourselves worked up when we let ourselves stew over the shoulds, but all it does is give bitterness a foothold. It’s not healthy.

So, how do we combat such negativity? Allow me to share a little secret with you….

Compassion Negates Bitterness.

Challenge your negative thoughts by asking yourself how your spouse may feel. Did he forget because he’s too stressed at work to keep things straight? Is she exhausted? Is that what it was like for him growing up? Does she seem to be nagging because she feels unappreciated and unheard?

Understanding the motivation for your spouse’s actions may not excuse disrespectful or hurtful behavior, but it may help YOU better cope with it so you are better able to remain calm and respectfully address the situations that arise, whether in your marriage or in parenting. Seek understanding and you will gain wisdom.

Philippians 4:8 New International Version (NIV)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

As soon as you begin feeling irritable, negative, and hateful:

  1. Check your attitude
  2. Pray for a compassionate heart.
  3. Focus on what is true, what is noble, what is right…. because love isn’t selfish.

 Keri

Love Isn’t Selfish: Understanding God’s Love Through Human Relationships

Publication Date: December 15, 2012

     Because scripture tells us clearly that God is Love (1 John 4:8), we know that God, by very nature, is relational. Love is an action, emotion, state, and characteristic that requires interaction with another being. Love does not exist alone. Scripture also tells us that we have been created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). We were created to love Him in return, though loving Him will never be forced upon us because love isn’t selfish.

It is this line of thinking that leads me to the belief that the meaning of life is to learn how to love, and then teach others. Considering that our Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is to go throughout the world and teach others about our Heavenly Father’s commands (such as love God and love others; Matthew 22:37-39), we must learn first what Love is- who He is. 

     Every relationship we form gives us the opportunity to learn a bit more about His character in order to have a better understanding of who He really is. Marriage, family, friends, neighbors, and even enemies can teach us much about who God is and who God isn’t. This book examines multiple relationships we experience and what valuable information we can gather from those relationships about the character of Love, which is to say, the character of God. It’s about learning to be unselfish in a selfish world.