I’m so over weak, lukewarm, watered-down Christianity. Seriously. I know of no one who likes lukewarm coffee. Most of us also don’t like lukewarm, melted ice cream. Most foods and drinks are made to be served either hot or cold. Rarely, if ever, have I read serving instructions that state lukewarm as the best serving temperature. Usually it’s either hot or cold. As Christians, we should really devote ourselves to being lit hot on fire for Christ. We live our absolute best lives on fire. We are our best selves on fire. We are most effective on fire. Being lukewarm or cold only leaves us in a place of mere survival and existence instead of fully thriving and living with purpose in the will of God. Settling on lukewarm does a major disservice to ourselves, to the world we’re called to serve and impact, and most of all, to God.
I got saved at 19 because I wanted to be “safe”. You know, I wanted all of the promises, blessings, and protection from God without the commitment. So I got a bit religious and went to church out of mere routine for years. I mastered all of the church culture – how to clap and sing the songs, when to nod my head and holler “amen” when the preacher said something really profound, when to hi-five my neighbor and all the other stuff we learned to do in church overtime. I got rid of (or cut down on) most of the “big sins” (or so I thought) and read my Bible every now and then. I thought I had it going on. I thought I was such the ideal Christian. Young and foolish me. I was so dull and lukewarm. There was no passion. No fire. God did not have my heart. I was just going through the motions. In fact, at one point in time I had a crush on my Pastor and was more excited to go to church to see him than to worship God. Ugh. So lukewarm. It took me years to fully understand the need to be on fire. As I grew in this revelation, every area of my life got better – emotionally, relationally, creatively, etc.
So exactly what does it mean to be on fire for Christ? It means to yield every part of our being to Him, devoting ourselves to an ever growing relationship through consistent Prayer (Colossians 4:2), study and application of His Word (Matthew 4:4), obedience to His Word and instruction (John 14:15), and worship (John 4:23-24). To be on fire for Christ means that we unapologetically seek Him and live as His ambassadors. To be on fire is to be filled with his Spirit (John 14:16-17;John 16:7), rejecting any and everything that is contrary.
The world doesn’t need lukewarm, churchy Christians with no true relationship, no victory, no power, no authenticity, and no passion. What is gained through us merely holding the title of being Christian and congregating weekly in our churches with no fruit to show that we really belong to Him (Matthew 7:15-20; John 15:5). The world is looking for answers. The world is hurting. The world is looking for healing and health. If we bear the title as Christians, it is our duty to point the world to freedom set forth by the truth of a Mighty God (Christ) who is extending a global invitation into salvation, restoration, and redemption. So, it is our duty and privilege to live on fire for Christ.
Last week, something hit me like a ton of bricks- anything is possible. Literally, anything. I find that when I take this approach to life, my hope elevate and I remain in a place of expectancy and excitement. The sky is no longer the limit because God is limitless and infinite, so there is no limit to possibilities. For example, I’m still pretty young. I already have 2 degrees, but if I wanted to I could return to school and embark upon a brand new career path, from Aerospace to medicine. I mean, I could become an astronaut or a physician well before I turn 40! I can get a job in my field in Los Angeles and start a brand new life in the West Coast. I can even land a job in another country and start a completely new life in a completely new culture. I can get on Christian Mingle and probably be engaged within a year or so. Bottom line, I can do and have just about anything I want. But the keyword here is can, which simply implies the possibility. It is vital for us to understand that just because we can do something does not mean that we should. Just because something is possible doesn’t mean that it aligns with God‘s perfect will.
I’ve always been a very strong willed person, wanting things my way on my timing. So, one of the most difficult challenges in my walk with God has been the surrendering of my will. See, I want God to fit all of His infinite, limitless, immeasurable being into my small, finite, tiny box. I would pray about what I wanted and when I wanted it, and I grew upset with God whenever things weren’t moving my way. Such foolishness! I’m so thankful for maturation. One of the most powerful yet simple revelations I’ve had during my development as a Christian is the fact that God‘s will is indeed perfect, it always has been and always will be. Perfection leaves no room for improvement, so it can literally get no better.
Romans 12:2 is one of my favorite scriptures that I frequently use in my blogs because (in my opinion) it is part of the foundation of living the new life in Christ. The scripture tells us not to partake in the mindset, philosophies, attitudes, etc. of the world but to be changed by renewing our minds so that we can grow to understand the will of God, which is good, pleasing, and perfect. The revelation of God’s perfect will provides me with so much peace about the trajectory of my life. It helps me to let go and fully understand and trust that my plans cannot and will never be as good as God’s plans. With this understanding, I’ve learned the importance and necessity of praying for my desires in alignment with God‘s will.
Lately, I’ve been asking for God to make my desires His desires, and His desires my desires. Yes, He will grant us what we want (Mark 11:24; Psalm 37:4), but always in accordance to His perfect will. Now, we can certainly choose to make our own decisions independent of God’s will (without considering His divine guidance and direction), but the outcome is usually less ideal, sometimes downright horrible. I’m still suffering the consequences of decisions I’ve made independent of God’s guidance. There are thousands of different roads we can take in life, but we must trust and believe that He knows what’s best and He has the absolute best in store for us.
When I pray for God’s will over my desires and plans, I am ultimately partnering with God to live the best life. Things may not go as I had planned (they rarely do), but I can be certain that all of God’s plans will work out to my benefit (Romans 8:28). Am I disappointed at times? Sure. I’m human. I still want what I want, when I want it; however, I’ve learned to truly trust that God opens doors that no one can close, and He closes doors that no one can open. It’s all for my good. I can tell when God is making things happen in His will because things seem to flow seamlessly, or if there are obstacles, they are removed. Contrarily, when something is not in God’s will, it just doesn’t work out, and there are always signs. I’ve tried to make things happen my way, but it only lead to unnecessary, self-induced hardships. I’ve learned to be grateful for both open and closed doors because it’s God’s way of making sure we take the right steps along the Perfect will He has orchestrated for our lives. Life just goes better when we trust Him, prioritizing His will over our thoughts, understanding, and desires. He will always lead us in the right direction (Proverbs 3:5).
Love. It’s the foundation of our faith and salvation. It’s because of love that God sent His one and only son to suffer for our sins, providing the gateway to redemption and salvation (John 3:16). Because of love, God was that eager to restore mankind back into His arms, where we were created to be. Loveis the greatest commandment – actually, it’s twofold. The absolute greatest commandment is to love God (Matthew 22:36–38). Then the second greatest commandment follows – to love each other (Matthew 22:39).
I have always been one to hold grudges. I’ve always been one to take offense quite quickly. I can remember the details of an offense that happened 10 years ago as if it just happened today. I can recall what was done and said, how it was done and said, etc. Most of all, I can recall the intense anger and hurt it induced. I’ve always been one to internalize, so I wasn’t always good with expressing my thoughts and feelings. Needless to say, rather than working through relational issues, it was far more convenient for me to just cut people off, leaving no room for further hurt or offense. No conversation, no mediation. I just simply disconnected. Of course, rumination kept the cycle of resentment and anger in full motion. When I examined this attitude and behavior through the truth of God’s word, I realized that I was in agreement with darkness through disobedience, and in the great danger of sin. This is greatly displeasing to God, and should in no way ever be taken lightly (Romans 6:23).
If we don’t forgive others, God will not forgive us (Matthew 6:14–15). Yikes. If we claim to love God but hate someone…well…we actually don’t love God (1 John 4:20–21). Again, yikes. God’s requirement for us to love is nonnegotiable, and I think that’s because God continuously pours out so much of His love on us through His immeasurable grace and mercy. Christ is available to all (no one exempt), and when we except Him into our hearts, He fills us with His Holy Spirit. How sweet! He literally abides in us, helping us to walk in the obedience of His ways. In fact, love is the first stated fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). So, this tells us that love is a choice we are more than capable of making. Simply put, we can make the choice to love and forgive others because God has extended immense love and forgiveness to us. It’s the gift that keeps giving.
Because I know me, I have to make the daily decision of drawing closer to God through prayer, worship, and His word. He’s the only, and I mean the only way I can walk in the love He has called me to walk in. Again, I have always been one to hold grudges. Letting go and forgiving does not come naturally for me. It just doesn’t. Unfortunately, I am a pro at harboring anger, but this isn’t God’s way. It is quite displeasing to Him. So, I must start my day with prayer and worship and I must make the daily decision to choose what is right and pleasing to Him. Lately during my morning prayer, I have been verbally committing to the Lord, “I choose love. I choose forgiveness. I choose joy. I choose grace.” When I commit myself to these things before God, I’m being proactive. So if someone ticks me off (which will happen throughout life), my heart and mind are already set to choose God’s approach. This not only helps me to treat people better, but it also helps me to feel better. Above all, it pleases God and keeps me focused on Him, which keeps me in peace (Isaiah 26:3).
When I think about God’s grace, my heart warms. There have been times when I have willfully sinned, and yet received a blessing instead of punishment. Now I need to make a strong disclaimer here!!!I am in no way implying that God rewards sin. He does not!!! I am, however, emphasizing how God has spared me from the wrath and punishment I deserved. His kindness and patience is meant to draw us to repentance (Romans 2:4). In other words, there’s something heartwarming about being spared from the punishment we deserve, and it makes me want to do better. It brings deep conviction, making me want to turn from any and everything that offends and grieves Him. God deeply loves us, and He wants us to come closer to Him. He wants more than just religious routine. God wants a relationship. So, He lavishes us with so many amazing gifts, like His love, grace, and mercy. Because we are also called to give, He expects (and helps) us to extend these gifts to one another. They are truly gifts that keep giving.
When someone wrongs me, I remember that I have wronged others in the past. I remember that I also have flaws just like anyone else. I remember that I cannot judge or hold anything against anyone, because God is not holding my sins against me. I think about how God loves me unconditionally, and He gives me the ability to love others because He loves me. His grace spares me from the punishment I deserve, so I can spare others instead of holding their wrongs against them. At the end of the day, we all need room for err. Grace helps me to keep my eye on the beauty in others. Grace helps me to look past flaws. Love drives me to embrace the beauty in others because God embraces the beauty in me. Of course the temptation to steep in anger and resentment arises from time to time. But I am training myself not to yield to it. I choose to reflect upon and extend the gifts that keep giving, which enrich my peace and joy.
Rejection. I don’t think there is one human being on earth who has never been hurt by it. It comes in many forms, such as being passed over for a job, not getting into your dream college, being shunned by peers, being dumped by a significant other, self-rejection through low self-esteem/perception, etc. The list goes on and on. One way or another, we’ve all experienced it. It’s painful in all of its forms, and when we don’t deal with it appropriately, it manifests through us in toxic attitudes and behaviors that can derail our lives and the lives of others.
I had a blast during my time at Frostburg State University. In fact, I was more focused on fun than academics. More than anything, I was super captivated by greek life. I stumbled in and out of many frat and sorority parties, and I always LOVED the step shows. Above all, I was in love with the idea of being a part of something. I was always inspired by the letters on the jackets that represented initiation into a “family” where only “certain people” could make it “in”, and I wanted to be “in“. The exclusivity of it was thrilling.
During my sophomore year, I don’t recall exactly how, but me and a couple of friends started getting invited to hang out with the guys from a fraternity on campus (no name dropping). Of course I was like, “Yoooo! They want us!”. Now, obviously we (girls) couldn’t join the fraternity, but the fraternity had a sister group that served for the support and uplifting of the brothers. They weren’t a sorority, but instead they were under the fraternity organization to uphold the mission and values, while supporting the brothers. At that time, I thought it was a privilege and honor to be invited to chill with them, but unfortunately I was a little too chill for their taste.
Everyone from the fraternity seemed cool. Funny enough, one of the sisters under the fraternity would talk to me about Jesus. This was before I got saved. I remember she would suggest cleaner alternatives to my habitual use of profanity. She definitely had a positive influence on me. I guess she knew there was a calling on my life, but at that time my main focus was fun and getting into the greek life. We hung out with the frat folks quite a bit – at their basketball games, house parties, and other events they hosted. My friends and I just knew they wanted us, but eventually the invites stopped, at least for me.
I began noticing that my other two friends started doing things with the frat folks without me. Curious, I asked what was up and they gave really brief, unclear answers. I didn’t really think too much of it at first, but time began to pass and I remained excluded. I kept asking my two friends about us joining and then one of them came out and just told me. The two of them had already begun the initiation process. I still recall her exact words, “Don’t tell anyone we mentioned this to you, but they said you didn’t get in because you didn’t speak to people enough.” “ARE YOU SERIOUS?” was all I could ask. I was surprised. More so, I was hurt.
I really had no idea how or why they felt I didn’t talk enough when I socialized like everyone else at all the gatherings and events we were invited to – or at least I thought I did. I liked everyone and I thought they all liked me, but obviously they didn’t like me enough to invite me to join their organization. Looking in retrospect, I get it. Similar to a job opening, candidates are screened to see if their personality, character, etc. are a good fit for the organization. Of course, the best matches get in. In the case with the fraternity, I just wasn’t a match. At the time I didn’t develop hard feelings toward anyone from the fraternity, but learning that I was basically “too quiet” for them definitely worsened my insecurities.
19-year-old me was far too concerned with what people thought and felt about me. Above all, I hated being labeled as quiet because to me quiet was uncool, lame, weak, etc., and I never wanted to be viewed as such. I also was no stranger to rejection, so this just threw salt in the wound. I wanted to be cool with everyone, and I wanted everyone to be cool with me. So, being rejected by the organization because I was too “quiet” definitely hurt and made me wish I was more “social” in the eyes of others. It was a pretty bad feeling, but one thing I have always loved about me is I don’t fake anything. Never have, never will. I was myself 100% with them. I’d rather be rejected for who I really am, than to be accepted for something that I am not.
All throughout my 20s, the nasty root of rejection poisoned a lot in my life – relationships, my ability to grow, etc. I was hurting people around me. Mostly, I was hurting myself. I got to a place where I recognized the poison in my mind and heart, and I knew I needed to really get honest with God by admitting all the hurt I had suppressed (including rejection from the frat organization) and really allow the Holy Spirit to deeply heal and purify me. As always, God is faithful.
As hard as it was at first, I confessed my pain in prayer, elaborating on painful experiences I hadn’t released. I also chose to forgive those who hurt me. I can’t explain the sweetness of God‘s peace and comfort that came over me during those intimate moments of honest confession. The main thing He revealed to me is that I needed to renew my mind (Romans 12:2). This was the only way I could overcome the many lies that plagued my mind and learn the good, pleasing and perfect will of God, which leaves no room for the concern of human opinion.
I learned that my concern should not be on human praise and acceptance (1 Thessalonians 2:6) but on pleasing God (Colossians 3:1-3). I learned that I was perfectly imperfect, just like any other human being and NO ONE was in the position to appraise my personality, beauty, value, or any other parts of me. I learned that Christ is above EVERY name, power and authority, and if I am in Him, I am also above all those things (Ephesians 1:17-23; 2:6-10). I learned that my value and worth come from God. I learned that God‘s approval was the only approval that I should be concerned with.
13 years later, I laugh when I think about the fraternity incident. I smile because of how far God has brought me. Reflecting upon his good and faithful healing power brings me overwhelming joy. It doesn’t hurt anymore because I am healed. The sting of rejection no longer has a hold on me. I’m free, and I’ve learned how to stay free. Looking in retrospect, most of the folks who dabbled in greek life were just like me – longing for acceptance and belonging. Funny enough, many of those same people are no longer even active in the organization. Also, I was told that I didn’t miss anything, except unwanted drama.
To clarify, I’m not bashing any fraternity or sorority. I’m sure greek life has been great to some, but the rejection that can come with it (along with any other form of rejection) can create painful wounds that need healing. For those who were too quiet, not cool enough, not cute enough, etc. just know God is extending the offer to the greatest initiation of all time – into the kingdom! So accept HIS ACCEPTANCE and let him love you into wholeness. You will not regret it.