A Call to Deeper Holiness

reclinerContinued from here.

Most of you reading my blog this week might believe I’m being overly radical in walking away from viewing television (and movies), but I am doing this because I love God more. I am tired of this medium being used to influence how I view God, myself, and other people. I want my worldview shaped by truth, not by people with an agenda. I find truth by spending time with the God I love, praying, studying His Word, praising & worship Him, and reading books written by Christian authors, such as C.S. Lewis, who encourage me to get to know God better rather than seeking to entertain me with watered-down versions of the same messages the World offers. I haven’t had much time for reading books lately, but removing television viewing from my life will free up the time to do so.

I know this sounds radical, and it’s sure counter-cultural, but so is being a disciple of Christ. I don’t need the same worldly messages of disunity, darkness, etc. packaged between a couple of Bible verses to promote the same propaganda as the World. I’m not looking for entertainment with less violence and sex, seemingly “pure” just because it’s reined in more than in the secular realm. Christianity is not a diluted version of the World – it’s a completely different mindset, and I’m tired of allowing others to shape and mold my mind. Only God has the right to do that. I will no longer allow others to have the power to do this to me.

When I spend time with God, I never risk walking back into bondage. I never experience flashbacks or nightmares after praising & worshiping Him. I never walk away from studying His Word feeling guilt, shame, or tension. I never put down a C.S. Lewis book thinking about how much I have suffered and how others have wronged me. So, why have I allowed this dynamic for so long in what I watch, even through allegedly Christian programming? No more. It’s taken me decades to get here, but it’s time to turn that television OFF, and that is what I am doing.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace asleep on a recliner, holding a remote control. Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Be Mindful of How God is Represented in Christian Movies

alternative_factsContinued from here.

My other beef with many Christian movies is that I do not believe many are written by people with a close walk with God. You cannot communicate well what you, yourself, have not experienced, and (sadly) many script writers do not appear to have a close relationship with God. I’m sure they mean well as they try to convey that God, in His mysteriousness, can work things out even when we don’t get it, but that’s simply not the God I know. When I allow myself to watch Christians movies that portray God as this confusing, standoffish being who I am to keep serving no matter how badly He allows everyone else to stomp all over me, I’m allowing others to influence my perception of the God I love. That’s not who He is!

Before I continue, let me say that I have seen some wonderful Christian movies, so I don’t mean to paint with such a broad brush that I sound like I am slamming all of them. My concern with a movie is that I don’t know what’s coming until I am already invested in the characters, and I find it difficult to turn the program off when I get slammed by what didn’t see coming. Perhaps the answer for me is only to view Christian movies that others have seen so I know what to expect.

Back to the point – The God I know is a loving, relational God who treats me like a beloved daughter. He is kind and compassionate. He deeply cares about every aspect of my life. Yes, it is true that I have suffered much while in a relationship with Him, but that suffering has persisted not because He is so “mysterious” that I must live a martyr’s life as I wait for Him to get off His haunches and actually do something about the situation. Instead, when the pain persists, He is either waiting for me to do my part first (such as to forgive my enemies to pull in the healing), or He is developing fruit in me (such as perseverance) and provides many oases along the way if I will simply rest in them.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing behind a podium in front of a chalkboard that says, “Alternative Facts.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Violence in Christian Movies

scared2Continued from here.

When I decided to obey God to become more holy in my television viewing, I started a subscription with a company that streams Christian and family-friendly movies. While this subscription service certainly provides more positive options, even those have been less tolerable for me as my relationship with God has deepened. This came to a head over the weekend, and I just canceled my subscription to this service as a result.

On Friday, which is when I observe my Sabbath, I scrolled through the faith-based options and selected a movie that sounded promising. It opened and closed with Bible verses and told the story of a young man who got a raw deal in life and lashes out in anger toward God, and then God rights the wrongs with a happy ending. I’ll get into one aspect I didn’t like in my next blog entry, but I want to focus on the one that caused me to pull the plug on watching television for the foreseeable future – the violence.

In the movie, the protagonist’s rival is jealous over a love triangle and puts a drug into the woman’s drink. This triggered my post-traumatic stress, and I had a flashback/nightmare about being attacked in a dark room as my attacker drugged me, and I could feel my mind and body disconnecting as I sank into darkness, knowing that he was going to rape me. I awoke shaking and filled with fear. I don’t need this drama. I have spent enough years of my life reliving my traumatizing past. I don’t need a Christian movie, of all things, resurrecting those dark places and walking me back into bondage. The Bible says,

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” ~ Gal. 5:1

When I watch a movie, even one promoted as Christian, that resurrects the darkness in me, I’m allowing myself to be burdened again by a yoke of slavery, which tramples over all that Christ did to free me. Jesus paid a heavy price to free me from my childhood abuse, and I’m trampling that freedom as I walk right back into the bondage simply because a movie claims to be Christian. I won’t do that anymore.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace and an emoticon looking frightened. Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Violent Television Shows Feed the Darkness

brutalContinued from here.

It might amuse you to learn that by my early thirties, I was leading Bible studies and then watching very dark television programming in the evenings. The more violent the television show, the more I was drawn to it. Torture, rape, and betrayal were constant themes in the shows I chose to watch. I would pray for God to heal my pain from the childhood abuse and ask others to do the same while I fed my mind with violence and pain as I “entertained” myself in the evenings. The darker the show, the more I obsessed over it. It was a huge deal for me to miss an episode. I simply had to travel down those dark paths with characters who were as flawed as I was.

I have shared several times that while I became a Christian at age 8, I did not become a disciple of Christ until 2013. What I mean by this is that I wanted his salvation to avoid going to hell, but I did not embrace his lordship over my life until 2013, and that changed everything. Fairly soon after embracing God’s lordship, He called me to a deeper level of holiness. He placed heavily on my heart that I needed to stop watching any television show or movie that is violent, pornographic (I did not watch pornography, but many television shows aired during prime time are pornographic from a biblical perspective), or filled with profanity. Obeying this one instruction dropped my recording queue from 30 shows to 7, leaving behind mostly comedies. Even those were far from “pure,” but they did not include those three elements.

Within a few months of removing dark, violent television shows (and movies) from my life, I became sensitized to violence again. I went to see a PG movie that few would consider violent, and I had to keep looking away from the screen because what did not even hit the radar on even young children’s violence scale had become quite uncomfortable for me. I even found many Christian movies to be too violent for me to watch the screen during particular scenes.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace grimacing under the word, “Brutal.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


How is Television Influencing You?

tv1This week, I’m writing about a topic that probably won’t be a popular one. I know it’s one that I would not have received well for most of my Christian walk. It’s about the television and the way the World uses its propaganda to lure us away from godliness and holiness. I can see you rolling your eyes now, just as I used to do whenever this topic came up in my church as a teenager. Let me tell you what led me to take the plunge and walk away from viewing the television.

Let’s start from the beginning. I used to be OBSESSED with watching television, and I do not use the word “obsessed” lightly. As an abused child, the television offered me an escape from my pain. I also learned things through the television that I needed. As corny as it sounds, watching the love of the Bradys, the Seavers, the Keatons, and the Cleavers helped me view families in a different way because they were so different than my own family. They gave me hope that a family unit could be different from what I had grown up with. There were families where the parents loved each other and their children, the siblings loved and supported each other, and the families truly seemed to enjoy spending time together.

As I moved into young adulthood, my taste in television shows became less about meeting an unfulfilled need for family unity and more about sheer guilty pleasures. I knew exactly what to watch from 7:00 a.m. through 3:00 a.m. every day, and most of it was pure trash … entertaining, but trash nonetheless. It certainly was not moving me toward holiness and godliness, but I was in rebellion against God at that time in my life, so I did not care. What mattered is that I was distracted and entertained. I had no appreciation for the degree to which all I was viewing was influencing and changing how I thought about myself and the world around me.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace caught inside a black & white television. Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Growing in Holiness

lightI am currently taking a class on family discipleship toward my divinity degree. This class is challenging everything I have believed about the structure of the family and its role within the church. I feel like Josiah after finding and hearing the Book of the Law:

Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD.’ He gave it to Shaphan … Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.’ And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king. When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes.” ~ 2 Chron. 34:15, 18-19

Josiah tore his robes because he realized how far off course his kingdom was, and that is my reaction to what I am learning in this class about family discipleship, all of which is soundly biblically-based. As Josiah might have asked, I wonder how I could have been so blind when God’s ways are quite clear.

I need to ponder and pray over the specifics of my challenges before blogging about them, but I wanted to write about the dynamic of learning through God’s Word that you have been living in unholiness while serving a holy God. I have been through this process several times, and it doesn’t get any easier. However, because I have repented and redirected my life in the past with amazing results, I have the hope that I can change direction in this area of my life as well and experience God’s blessings as a result.

One purpose of the law was to awaken the Israelites to their unholiness. Being awakened to unholiness, as I have been this week, is not a fun process, but it is a necessary part of spiritual growth. I liken this dynamic to being in a room with a dimmer light switch. When I became a Christian, God turned the light on, but it was at the lowest possible dimmer setting. The very dim light illuminated big issues in my life that needed to change. It was overwhelming to see the mess, but God gradually led me through the process, and by the time He was done, my life in the very dim light looked much improved.

Then, God made the light a little brighter. What had looked somewhat tidy in the dimmest light now looked like a great big mess. I felt convicted and wondered how I failed to see this mess before. I worked with God to gradually clean up the mess until it looked good again. And then, God made the light a little brighter, and the process started over again.

This is what spiritual growth looks like. I’m not “backsliding” into my prior messes. Instead, God is inviting me to new levels of holiness.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with a blanket over her head and shining a flashlight at her face. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Holiness in My Everyday Life

lovedContinued from here.

As I have grown to love God more, I find myself wanting to please Him more. I know that it pleased God for me to obey Him, so I have made the decision to do what he tells me to do, even when I don’t want to do it or fear that I cannot do it. This has resulted in me doing things that bless other people. In some cases, it really annoys them, such as my choice not to speed when I drive.

Working God’s holiness to the outside has come in many forms in my life, and it has thankfully been a gradual process. I use the example of a dimmer switch for what this process has been like. At first, God illuminated my heart at the very lowest light setting – no more light than a candle would show. I made changes in my life to be more holy (to obey God) and thought I looked pretty good … until He turned up the dimmer switch a hair more and I saw more that needed to change. We’ve been going through this process for years now, and I still don’t think I could handle God turning on a floodlight!

As an example, over the past few years, I have made a lot of changes in what I watch or read. First, I stopped watching anything that was sexual enough to be pushing its way into soft pornography. Then, I stopped watching anything violent. Next, I stopped watching anything with profanity in it. And then I lost interest in topics that ran blatantly against my values, such as shows with characters with sexual storylines, even though the sex was taking place off screen.

I truly did not see anything “wrong” with any of those shows for many years. However, as God turned the dimmer switch another notch, I grew to recognize the unholiness and no longer wanted it in my life. I did not tell anyone else what to watch or not watch … I simply made the choice for myself that I don’t need to be watching people be murdered or listening to profanity.

I did not appreciate how desensitized I had become to violence and profanity until removing both from my viewing and reading. Now that I have, I’m very aware of just how violent and profane our society has become. A friend helped me make sense of what I was experiencing. She said I’m like a runner training for a marathon. Because I’m so focused on getting spiritually healthy, I’m now more aware when I am around unhealthy things.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling with a heart over her head. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Holiness in Marriage

Continued from here.

One area of my life that has been profoundly improved through holiness is my marriage. In his book Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?, Gary Chapman explores the role of holiness in marriage. I have found that when I make holiness a priority in my marriage, I am much happier, and when I find myself discontented, I realize that I have slipped back into being self-focused instead of God-focused.

What does it mean to be holy in your marriage? In a nutshell, it’s living out 1 Cor. 13. It’s choosing to humble myself in my marriage, always asking what I can do to express love to my husband better than anyone other than God has ever expressed it before. This is not only in the big things but also in the little ones, such as getting a refill for him at a fast food restaurant when his cup is empty.

Sadly, our culture encourages a self-centered view of marriage, which is focused on the many ways my spouse should be meeting my needs. If he doesn’t meet them to my satisfaction, then it’s time to move on and find another spouse who will. What we fail to realize is that we are all imperfect people who are married to imperfect people who are incapable of meeting all of our needs. Only God can do that, and we harm our marriages when we expect our spouses to do God’s job.

I agree with Chapman that marriage provides a wonderful opportunity to practice growing in holiness and humility. Because God has joined the two people into one, what I do for my husband directly affect me. As I extend kindness to him, I extend it to myself. Conversely, if I am hostile to my spouse, I bear the weight of that hostility because we are one. So, marriage provides a unique opportunity that isn’t present in any other relationship to very directly experience the benefits of holiness or the consequences in its absence. My marriage has been a wonderful training ground for developing holiness beyond that relationship.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cover of Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?. Courtesy Amazon.

What is Holiness?

questionContinued from here.

Before we can have a discussion about holiness, we need to understand what it is. I have heard it defined in different ways: righteousness … being in harmony with God … spiritual purity … refraining from sin … being set apart for a special use… My own definition of holiness is loving God so much that I want to please Him, not only in how I behave but also in how I think.

On her television show, Enjoying Everyday Life, Joyce Meyer says that when we receive Jesus as our Savior, he plants a seed of righteousness inside of us, but we have to work to transition what was planted on the inside so it shows on the outside. So while God sees us as holy through Jesus, our reality is that our outside might reflect something very different, and the outside is what other people see. As an example, despite God seeing me as holy through Jesus, I was bitter toward my child abusers for many years, which is what people saw. The seed of holiness planted deep inside of me remained hidden, and I was ensnared in bitterness that made me – and thus others around me – miserable.

The only reason I chose to forgive my childhood abusers is because I love God. God placed this question heavily on my heart: “Do you love Me more than you hate them?” Honestly, it was a close call. When I chose to obey God out of love for Him, I began working that seed of holiness toward my outside. God healed my emotional pain as I repeatedly chose forgiveness (forgiveness is a process, not a moment). As I changed my thoughts and actions to align with God’s will, I became more holy in the sense that more of God’s holiness became apparent in my life.

Now, I could have chosen to stay bitter for the rest of my life, keeping God’s holiness hidden deep inside of me. If I had, not only would nobody see that holiness displayed in my life, but I also would have remained in bondage to my bitterness. By choosing to love God and obey Him, holiness worked its way from the inside to the outside, and my life got better in this area.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with a question mark. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Holiness Series

haloHoliness is a concept I struggled with for most of my walk with God. I understood that holiness means being spiritually pure, but I had a hard time seeing myself as holy because … well, I’m not! I know where I have been, the things I have done, and the evil thoughts and motives I have had. So, you can imagine how impossible a verse like this seemed to me:

Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy’”. ~ Lev. 19:2

Um, not going to happen. I’m too sinful …. too selfish … too self-absorbed! And if I know I cannot do it, then why even bother trying?

I have had enough personal experience with God to know that nothing is impossible with Him. I also know that God is good, so He isn’t going to tell me to do something without equipping me to be able to do it … not on my own, of course, but as a joint venture with Him doing the heavy lifting. What he needs from me is obedience.

And then here’s where the topic of holiness really got confusing for me… I know that God is holy. I also know that Jesus is holy. I am painfully aware that I am not, but through Jesus, God sees me as holy. So, if Jesus’ sacrifice makes me holy before God, why should I strive for holiness since I know I’ll never achieve it and it’s not needed for me to live eternally with God? Paul did a good job of addressing this question in Romans 6, but I still had many questions. This series to share what I have learned thus far.

One of my biggest challenges was the hypocrites who do the right thing on the outside with the wrong heart on the inside. I have found that in many areas of my life, I was doing the right things for the wrong reasons, so what appeared as holy on the outside was rotten on the inside. As God has changed my heart, my motivation has changed, so while I might be doing the same things on the outside, what I experience on the inside is quite different.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with a halo. Courtesy Bitmoji.]