By Tessa Emily Hall
image courtesy of doublelife.com
Did you know that if you move to a different English-speaking country, chances are you will eventually start to sound like them? Your accent, your way of life, and even your mannerisms will fade into the country’s culture rather than your own. Your surroundings will begin to rub off on you little by little, whether you realize it or not.
That’s exactly how it is when Christians hang out with the world. Think about it: If you’ve ever been to a party that served alcohol, have you ever seen anyone praising and worshipping God? No one would do that. Parties are for dancing, drinking, and sinning. Everyone there is doing what their friends are doing; no one wants to stand out at a party by worshipping God.
Likewise, you wouldn’t see someone dancing, drinking, and sinning at church would you? No one would do that, even those who do go to parties every weekend.
Let’s say there’s a girl named Hannah who has been raised in a faith-filled family. Her Facebook says that she’s a Christian. She prays when she needs God’s help. She goes to church every Sunday. However, her friends wouldn’t know that she was a Christian based on her lifestyle. Why? Because Hannah acted just like the rest of them. The only difference between her and the world’s lifestyle was that she went to church every Sunday morning.
The illustration I gave of moving to a different country can apply to this as well. The more you hang out with a crowd, the more you will begin to sound, act, dress, and talk just like them.
God doesn’t call us to blend in with whatever surrounding we’re in. Revelation 3:16 says that those who are living a lukewarm lifestyle—partly living for God, partly living for the world—will be spit out of God’s mouth.
Satan controls the world (2 Corin. 4:4). So when half of us is living for the world, we’re actually living for Satan.
Maybe you have a few friends who aren’t Christians, but you’re hoping that by hanging out with them, you’ll be able to somehow lead them to God. However, despite how good your intentions may be, the longer you hang out with the world, the more you will begin to make compromises. You’ll start blending in with the world’s “culture” without even realizing it.
Adam and Eve, for example, had the greatest intentions to obey God. Yet after having one little talk with the serpent, they compromised their beliefs and disobeyed.
“But I am afraid that your minds will be led away from your true and pure following of Christ just as Eve was tricked by the snake with his evil ways.”
~2 Corinthians 11:3
God calls us to be in the world but not of it (John 15:19). In other words, it’s okay to technically live in the world. But once you start seeing your lifestyle as well as your behavior matching the world’s ways, there’s a problem.
2 Corinthians 6 says to “leave the corruption and compromise… don’t link up with those who will pollute you.” It also says not to join yourselves to those who do not believe, because “light and darkness cannot share together”. If you blend in with the darkness, how can you represent the light? You can’t live for both lifestyles. Instead, we are called to stand out.
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
~Romans 12:2 (MSG)
We simply can’t experience God’s best for us if we’re not living for Him completely. No, living for God doesn’t mean occasionally posting a scripture on Facebook. It doesn’t mean saying the blessing before you eat a meal.
Living for God means being completely sold out for Him in everything that you do. Hebrews 11:6 says that he rewards those who seek him wholeheartedly, not those who seek him half-heartedly.
“We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him.”
Jesus came into the world to be a light for others. No, He didn’t stay clear of sinners. But he also didn’t blend in with them and act as if what they were doing was okay. Jesus’ whole purpose of coming into the world was to stand out. Let’s follow His example. Examine your behavior, examine the way you talk, examine your lifestyle. Are you giving God the glory by the way you’re living? Or are you blended?
Did you know that each of us make about 35,000 choices a day? That’s 12775000 per year. The thought alone overwhelms me; I’ve always been indecisive. Last year especially was a bit difficult for me, with all of the “big” decisions I had to make as a senior—such as which college should I attend… should I even go to college… and if so, what should I study… what do I even want to do for the rest of my life…
There’s a lot of pressure when you know that the course of your future lies on the decisions you make at that age. Especially when you have no idea if you’ll make the right one.
"Why is it that we are always so determined to make the right choice with those kind of decisions, yet often fail to consider the choices in smaller areas of our lives?"
But why is it that we are always so determined to make the right choice with those kind of decisions, yet often fail to consider the choices in smaller areas of our lives? Sure, big decisions may look as if they affect our future more. However, they may only come about three times per year. So what about those other 12774997 choices?
Obviously as a teenager, there are plenty “big decisions” we have to make about our future. However, those are not the only ones that will affect our future for the rest of our lives. The “small decisions” that we make every day actually affect us more than we realize—and whether you believe it or not, the person that you are today is based on the decisions that you made yesterday.
So why do we not give as much attention to those small areas as well? Someone may go back and forth for months about which college to attend, yet may not give even a second thought to the kind of people they’re hanging out with. The “small decisions” we make—such as skipping homework, cheating on a test, or lying to our parents—impact our future just as much as those “big decisions”.
"Are you making your choices for God, or are you deciding by whatever seems desirable in the moment?"
No, these decisions are not to be viewed as little; they direct the course of our lives. Ask yourself: are you making your choices for God, or are you deciding by whatever seems desirable in the moment? As a Christian, it is important that we keep God first in every area of our lives. And if you ever need help with choosing the right thing, ask God to guide you. If you ask, He will show you which way to go in every big and small decision that you make.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.” ~James 1:5
This year, be aware of all of the little decisions that you may make—they’ll cost you more than you think. Remember that our decisions are not just temporary.
“A wise person will understand what to do, but a foolish person is dishonest. Fools don’t care if they sin, but honest people work at being right.” ~Proverbs 14:8-9
One lie that the enemy loves to feed us is that “just a little” isn’t a big deal. Have you ever been in a situation such as that? Maybe you’re at a party and you think that just a sip of alcohol won’t hurt; going just a little far with your boyfriend is okay; copying your friend’s homework just this one time is no big deal. However, if you think back to the Garden of Eden, this is exactly what Adam and Eve believed as well. Satan deceived Eve into thinking that just one little bite isn’t a big deal. It’s just an apple; surely it can’t be that bad. Think about the regret Eve must have had afterwards! If only she hadn’t allowed Satan to trick her into believing that the one little decision was harmless.
“There’s a way of life that looks harmless enough; look again—it leads straight to hell. Sure, those people appear to be having a good time, but all that laughter will end in heartbreak.” ~Proverbs 14:12-13
"Be determined to live this year entirely for Him in every area of your life—the “big”, as well as the “small”."
Strive to make better decisions this year. As you can see with the story of Adam and Eve, just one little rash decision can take you off the path that God had you on.
Don’t do anything you’d regret and mess up the future God had planned for you, all because you decided to make a selfish decision that was against God’s will. Be determined to live this year entirely for Him in every area of your life—the “big”, as well as the “small”. “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.”
However, don’t just be determined not to make wrong decisions; be determined to make good decisions as well.
This includes not skipping out on your daily quiet time with God, or deciding to invite your friend to church, or maybe sitting with the loner in the cafeteria rather than your friends. All of your choices have consequences—for every action there will be a reaction.
What will the reactions to your choices be? “Wise people are careful to stay out of trouble,
but fools are careless and quick to act.”
If you have made decisions in the past that you regret, remember that God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). Let this year be a new start, a clean slate. It’s never too late to turn your life around and start making better choices.
You have never gone too far to call on God and ask him to redirect your life so that your decisions are more pleasing to Him. Refuse to allow yesterday’s choices to keep you from experiencing all that God has in store for you today. Be determined to be a new person this year, and allow God to guide every step you may take.
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
~Proverbs 16:9 You don’t just make your decisions—your decisions are making you.
So choose wisely. Each year brings a whole new set of 12775000 choices that will determine the rest of your life.
What will you decide?Photo Credit: A Well Traveled Woman
By Tessa Emily Hall
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you were Mary—just an average teenage girl living an ordinary life? What would your reaction be if an angel had come to you and told you that you had been chosen by God to bear His Son?
I personally would have been somewhat confused, thinking that perhaps the angel had the wrong person. There is absolutely nothing about me that should qualify to give birth to God’s only Son. However, God decided not to choose someone who was considered “important”. Sure, he could have. And he could've chosen a place other than the small town of Bethlehem to be the birth place of Jesus. God was perfectly capable of arranging for His Son to be delivered to earth in the most beautiful, extravagant way. Yet he didn't.
"We must remember that Mary wasn’t someone of particular significance or importance in Nazareth. She was no daughter of privilege, no sister of success, no cousin to royalty. She was just a kid—a young woman betrothed to a young man named Joseph. An ordinary woman expecting to live an ordinary life. But God had other plans."
It's obvious that God doesn't call the qualified. He seems to pull more for the underdogs to do great things for His Kingdom.
“He used a virgin who was a nobody
to give birth so a Somebody
who could bring the Gospel to everybody.”
That thought alone should be encouraging for anyone who has felt worthless, anyone who has felt as if they will never measure up to anything in life. Don’t listen to those who have bullied you. Don’t listen to what people have told you is necessary in order to “make it big” in life. God is with you, and He has created you unique. He promises that he has something beautiful in store for you. (Jer. 29:11).
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I’ve always felt a bit different from others my age. However, the one thing that has encouraged me throughout the years is that the teenage years are very short compared to the rest of our lives. People tend to change—some a bit drastically, for that matter—after high school. There are still plenty years ahead of us that we can look forward to.
It’s kind of crazy, thinking how I will soon be traveling around to youth groups and schools to speak and promote my upcoming debut novel, Purple Moon. Any of my classmates from middle or high school would be completely stunned to hear this. I’ve always been known as a quiet girl. But despite that personality trait—which I have looked down upon plenty of times in my life—God has shown me that he can still use me. That’s because he doesn’t call us based on our personality, education, reputation, or even our past. Absolutely nothing can keep you from God’s promises.
"Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, 'It’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.' Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That’s why it is said, 'Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right' But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless."
God seems to enjoy creating beautiful things out of the dust—out of the average, the ordinary, and the forgotten. That is, in fact, how the earth came into existence.
“The old is passing away; all things are being made new” (2 Corin. 517). Allow God to transfer you into a new “you” to do the plans that he has called for you to do. When he calls you to do something that seems impossible, don’t question him. Remember the promise that He has given you. Have faith that He will bring it into fruition, despite your past and despite the way things may look right now. God makes beautiful things out of the dust, not out of what is already perfect and beautiful.
Although your circumstances may not look so great right now, He can make something beautiful out of it. And yes, he is going to use you; he is going to use you just the way you are--including your flaws. What I’ve learned is that “in our weaknesses, God is made strong” (2 Corin. 12:9).
Don’t be afraid of releasing the old and receiving the new—receiving all that God has in store for you if you continue to follow Him. He can do beautiful things through you and for you, all in order to ultimately bring glory to Himself.
You'll find proof all throughout the Bible that God doesn't call the qualified. Think about it: Moses stuttered. David was just a teenage boy. Both Sarah and Elizabeth were too old to have a baby. Mary was a virgin. Gideon was cowardly. Jacob was a thief. David had an affair and was a murderer. Noah was a drunk. Zaccheus was too short. Joseph was abused. Rahab was a prostitute.
So when we go out and do the things He has called us to do, it won't be because of us or through our own strength. It'll be God's spirit working inside of us.
"The angel told Mary that she would conceive without knowing a man. In other words, God was saying it could happen through supernatural means. It can happen without the bank loaning you the money. It can happen without having the right education. It can happen in spite of your past. It can happen despite what the critics are telling you. With God, all things are possible."
There is no sin you can commit that God considers unforgiveable. If you confess your sin, repent, and do everything you can not to fall back into your sinful life, God will “blot out your transgressions as far as the east is from the west” (Is. 44:22). His mercy never runs out. In fact, it’s “new every morning” (Lam. 3:22-23). So when you ask for forgiveness and receive Jesus, he rids you from your sins. You are made clean, you are made new, you are made whole, and you are made perfectly capable of doing all that God has in store for you to do. Yes, he can even use your past mistakes for good use. God actually has quite a knack for turning brokenness into something beautiful.
So release your past and receive the new. Receive the plans that God has for you, receive the new you that he is forming which will bring glory to Him.
“All the earlier troubles, chaos, and pain
are things of the past, to be forgotten.
Look ahead with joy.
Anticipate what I’m creating…”
And rather than thinking that your life has been too dirty, or that things look too messed up right now, do as Abraham did; plunge into God's promise. Have faith, keeping in mind that God made you out of dust. Surely he can make something beautiful out of your life as well.
"Jesus came to Mary and Joseph as He comes to us. In seasons of great pain, despair, and disappointment, He comes. Just when you're at the end of yourself, He comes. He appears at just the right moment—never early, but always at the right time. And it is at this moment that you realize it's not the end. It's just the beginning." ~Ross Parsley
The pressure to be perfect seems to be everywhere these days: on television. In magazines. Through our peers. In weight loss advertisements. And even celebrities. The media is giving us a pretty clear message—that in order to be perfect, we have to look a certain way, act a certain way, and wear certain size clothing.
The world’s standard of beauty can be a bit intimidating. And although we know it’s impossible to be perfect, we still try to reach that level of perfection. We still strive to have the approval of man.
Why is this? Especially since it’s such a struggle, trying to meet the world’s definition of perfect. The thing is, you’ll never be satisfied. That level of perfection doesn’t even exist! If you’re constantly trying to please people, you’ll always find something about yourself to complain about. You might think your nose is too big, so you need plastic surgery. Or your hair might be too plain, so you want to change its color. Your clothes may be too “last season”, so you need to go shopping. You’ll have to be extremely cautious about each calorie you consume, because you have to maintain a perfect figure. And every time you take a picture, you’ll need to suck in your gut—even if you’re already thin—and put your hand on your hip in a way that makes your stomach look tiny. Come on, don’t act like you’ve never done this before.
Honestly, it gets on my last nerves, as I’m sure it does with God. In fact, it hurts when He sees you trying to be someone that He didn’t intend for you to be—striving to reach a standard that the world created, although it technically doesn’t even exist. It hurts when He sees you abusing His creation, His masterpiece, and calling His work “ugly”.
Why should what people think of you even matter? You were created by the Master Artist Himself, so why do you constantly try to find something about yourself to try to fix? When you act as if you hate yourself, you’re basically telling God that you don’t think he did a good job with his creation. If all of the best artists in the world who ever lived can’t create anything as perfect as God’s creations, why do you keep finding things to hate about yourself?
“Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you.
Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work.”
You were made for God and by God. He gave careful consideration to the way your body is shaped, to every feature on your face, and every aspect of your personality. He designed you for a reason. Stop trying to mess with His design. Stop resenting it just so the world can consider you to be beautiful.
If all of us did this—if none of us cared about changing the way we looked and were completely satisfied with the way God made us—then there wouldn’t even be a world’s standard of beauty. We’d all be completely happy with ourselves. There would be no such thing as ugly because we’d all realize that it doesn’t even exist. Not when we’re comparing ourselves to God’s standard of beauty.
“Do you think I am trying to make people accept me? No, God is the One I am trying to please. Am I trying to please people? If I still wanted to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
When we understand that we are not called to please people, it will be the most freeing realization ever. Just think of how relieved you will be when you no longer have to strive for perfection! In order to do this, you must see yourself the way that God made you. You must want to please Him only, and remind yourself of what He thinks about you. Not what the world might think about you. And always focus on the strengths God has given you rather than trying to fix your flaws.
Of course, it’s not a bad thing to care about your appearance. But only for the sake of looking clean and keeping the body God has given you healthy. The only time this becomes a problem is when we obsess with taking care of our appearance. Don’t work out and eat healthy just so you can try to be what the world considers to be thin. Do it because you enjoy the benefits and want to be healthy. Stop trying to lose weight just so you can be skinnier than your friend, fit into a pair of skinny jeans, or not have to be embarrassed when you look at pictures of yourself. Never try to change your appearance for the approval of men. To make this less tempting, don’t even weigh yourself. People obsess over weighing themselves and I personally find it ridiculous. There’s more that goes into that number than just fat.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less.”
So be yourself. Be natural. Who cares if you take a horrible picture of yourself? Laugh about it! You don't have to look perfect. Unless, of course, you’re trying to impress others. But why do that when you have complete approval from God, when he tells you that you're valuable, that you're worth it, that nothing can compare to you? Why try to win small-minded people's approval when the Creator of the Universe thinks you're a masterpiece? If their name is not God, then their opinion should not count.
What I think is beautiful is when someone becomes completely confident in who God made them to be. Not because they’re finally skinny. But because they see themselves the way God sees them and doesn’t care what others might think. You, too, will come across as beautiful to others when you are proud to be in your own skin. True beauty is not wearing a size zero or looking perfect or having a shining personality. True beauty comes from within—from knowing who you are in Christ. When you realize this, the pressure to be perfect won’t affect you, because you’ll understand that there is nothing you can do to make yourself more perfect than you already are.
God is perfect. God lives in you and created you. Therefore you are perfect as well.
I'm sure we have all felt that cold, dark feeling of loneliness at least one point in our lives. It's the feeling that you can get in a quiet room by yourself, or even in a crowd full of people. It's the feeling that can come along from being different than others
, from feeling as if you have no one.
There has been many times in my life when I have felt this way. Since I am more of an introvert, I'd rather have a few close friends than several friends. I'd rather stay at home and write rather than hang out with my friends all weekend. But because of this, and because of the fact that I am different from others my age, there has been several times when I have felt as if I have no one. When I have felt completely alone.
photo credit: Mean Girls (2004)
One of the hardest things about being a teenager is the pressure to fit in. To pretend to be someone you’re not. I came to this realization when I reached sixth grade, watching all of my former friends separate into cliques and obsess over makeup, boys, and drama. They became someone they weren't and only because it seemed like the thing to do since they were no longer considered a little kid anymore.
It was also at this time when I came to the realization that I wasn't like the rest of them. After a while, I started to not feel right about this. I mean, shouldn't I have been like the rest of the girls? There had to have been something wrong with me.
By Tessa Emily Hall
I can hardly believe it’s almost time for fall and school has already started back. Even though I am a little disappointed at how quickly summer went by once again, I’m starting to get really excited about my favorite season that will be here next month. Each season that God gives us is a gift. Not only seasons that weather brings such as fall or spring, but also the seasons of change that God brings to us in our lives.
The end of summer is always bittersweet for me. I start getting really excited for fall, but at the same time I wish that summer didn’t have to end. Isn’t that how it often is in life too? We sometimes act as if change is a bad thing. We like just staying put where we are in life. Why? Because we’re used to it. It’s familiar. It’s safe, and we feel like if there is a change—a switch of seasons—then we’ll miss the season that we’re currently in too much.