What I’ve Learned About Faithfulness in Romantic Relationships from Popular Music

How many popular songs have you heard that talk about avoiding faithfulness in a relationship?

The ones that come to my mind primarily are “Leavin” by Jesse McCartney and “The Call” by the Backstreet Boys. In “Leavin,” Jesse encourages a girl tell her man that she’s “leavin, never to come back again.” The plea is primarily based on his ability to please her better sexually. In “The Call,” the man is making a call to his woman at home about some vague place he’s going. What he doesn’t say is that he’s going to be with an unnamed woman.

Faithfulness in romantic relationships is a foreign concept to half of America these days. True faithfulness is the reason that marriages end in death of one of the spouses. I’ve seen true faithfulness in my parents’ marriage, in the marriages of many others.

I must admit, I often wonder how in the world this happens. How do we get to the place where we can repel those temptations from people other than our spouses? What must we learn?

Surprise of surprises, I’ve learned some pointers from popular music. Here’s three lessons I’ve picked up from three different songs. Two are popular tracks from this past year, and the other is a little harder to come by but definitely worth a listen.

1.Don’t deny the temptations. Recognizing them is the first step to beating them.

Song: “Honey, I’m Good.” by Andy Grammer 

This song, Grammer’s most popular record, revolves around him being in a bar and seeing women around him who are tempting him. He acknowledges that they are good-looking, but he’s got someone much better at home.

“It’s been a long night here, and a long night there, and these long long legs are d*** near everywhere. Hold up now, you look good, I will not lie, but if you ask where I’m staying tonight, I gotta be like oh baby, no baby, you got me all wrong baby, my baby’s already got all of my love.”

Grammer acknowledges the attractiveness of the woman he’s speaking to. He’s not trying to deny it or ignore it. He even says that “better men than me have failed, drinking from that unholy grail,” that people have slipped in this area. He’s also aware of his own weakness, that if he stays he “might not leave alone.”

He uses these reasons to say that he’s gotta get the heck out of there. Grammer told the Miami Herald this about the inspiration behind the song:

Well, you know I’m married now. So when I go out on tour, well, there are always hot girls around. The song’s about staying honest and being like, “Yes, you are smoking hot, but I’m good. I got a lady at home who is incredible. It’s worth staying truthful.”

As with any temptation to sin, recognizing that they exist is the first step. If you recognize that there is a chance you will slip up, you’re more likely to set the safeguards in place to avoid falling to the temptation.

2. Just because you want to do something doesn’t mean you should.

Song: “Wanna” by Christon Gray feat. JGivens

The first verse of this track focuses on Gray spending time in a club or restaurant or bar and seeing a beautiful woman. He shares the thought process he goes through in this time.

“I feel like it don’t matter anymore, getting used to the way the world turns. But I must say it’s spinnin’ really fast when I look at her. I just. If I was just a few years younger, girl I could be your boy wonder, you could be my prima donna, when I’m away from my wife and my daughter.”

He talks about how the wedding ring on his finger feels so heavy, and it would be so easy to slip it off. The chorus repeats, “Shouldn’t but I wanna, shouldn’t but I wanna.”

Just because we want to do something doesn’t meant we should do it. The word “should” can be a dangerous word because it could lead us to legalism or doing things we don’t necessarily need to do. But within marriage, you should not cheat. You say in your vows, “‘Till death do us part.” That doesn’t mean, “‘Till there’s someone else who looks better. ‘Till there’s a time where she doesn’t fulfill me. ‘Till there’s a moment when he doesn’t love me as he should.” There’s nothing wrong with saying “should” here.

There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it.

3. Your spouse is your cheerleader, and she should be cherished as such.

Song: “Cheerleader” by Omi

 

“All these other girls are tempting but I’m empty when you’re gone. And they say, ‘Do you need me? Do you think I’m pretty? Do I make you feel like cheating?’ And I’m like, ‘No, not really.’ Cause, oh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader, she’s always right there when I need her.”

If you’ve chosen to settle down with someone for the rest of your life, hopefully you’ve seen something in that person that is worth giving the rest of your life to. What I’ve learned that I need to remember is that my future spouse is the best I’ll ever have, and because of that no one else is worth it. She’s my cheerleader. She’s the one who will support me until I die.

And this is the best reason to not cheat. If you’ve married well, you’ve married someone who will give everything they’ve got to the marriage. Will they be perfect at it? No. But they’re worth not cheating.

The song continues: “She gives me love and affection. Baby, did I mention you’re the only girl for me? No, I don’t need a next one. Mama loves you too, she thinks I made the right selection. Now all that’s left to do is just for me to pop the question.”

The best part about marriage is that you choose the person to spend the rest of your life with. Things will not be perfect, will never be perfect. But the point of marriage isn’t to have a perfect situation. It’s to have a partner to wander through the rest of your life with, together, seeking after the best.


If you’re a Christian, you’re challenged to love and cherish your spouse. They’re your No. 1 priority. You’re called to sacrifice for and serve them. This isn’t an optional thing. This is the real deal. It’s a real deal I’m stepping into pretty soon, and I’m so excited. I can’t think of cheating on my soon-to-be-wife.

But I can’t assume that I’m immune. As Andy Grammer said, “Better men than me have failed.” I’ve got to keep these things in mind so that I can stay true to my lady love.

Advertisements

What Christmastime Has Taught Me About Love and Marriage

One word that is associated very much with Christmas is “give.”

It’s all over the place. We give gifts to one another. We give time towards hanging out with family. God gives Jesus to us for the salvation of our sins.

It’s all indicative of sacrifice, showing giving up something for the better of someone else. We give our money to stores so we can give gifts to others. God gives up His Son so we can find eternal life one day.

One thing that being engaged during this season has taught me is that, within marriage, I need to act like it’s Christmas all year round.

Ephesians 5:25 says: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” That simple idea of a husband loving his wife like Christ loved the church, giving of Himself for her, is what marriage is supposed to look like in a nutshell. There’s a continual attitude of sacrifice and love, echoing the love that God showed for us in Christ on the cross.

And Christmas is a great time to reflect on those things. We can think about the gifts we give to our spouse/finacé(e)/significant other as a reflection of the gift God gives to us. We can think about going with them to the in-laws/future in-laws not as a chore, but as a joyous occasion to celebrate the season and to celebrate the bond of family.

By the way, I love my future in-laws. It’s not a chore for me at all. Just wanted to clear that up.

Christmas is a season of giving. So let’s see how we can echo the giving spirit of Christmas within our own romantic relationships not just in December, but year-round.

The Bible Is Infallible. How We Understand It Is an Entirely Different Story.

I was listening to the Bad Christian Podcast yesterday on my drive back from my fiancée’s work Christmas party. The guest was Dave Bazan, formerly of Pedro the Lion. Bazan was formerly a Christian but left the faith several years ago.

He was talking about the Bible and how Christians view it and said something that struck me (podcast link here, 1:08:28 is the time when it’s said):

In certain forms of Christianity, you believe that you’re drawing from this infallible kind of document. But your relationship with that document is not infallible.

Now, you can write off what he said because you might think that he’s a non-believer and clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about because of that, but I think he hit on a very important point.

Yes, the Bible is infallible. There is nothing in it that is not truth. There may be some parables that may not have actually happened, but the lessons and the spiritual wisdom behind them are truth.

However, we have infallible minds. Our minds are weak and feeble when compared to the great wisdom of Scripture. Put it this way: if we dudes can’t understand the things that women do sometimes, there’s no way we can ever think we’ve got a grasp on life.

Particularly the Bible.

That’s right. We won’t ever have a total grasp or understanding of God’s Word as it was intended to be written.

What. No. That can’t be.

Since the Bible is of God and is spiritual wisdom much higher than earthly wisdom (as I wrote about yesterday), we will never fully get it. We accept it, and we believe it, but we will never fully get it. And we just might be wrong about what we believe it says.

There might be a verse like Psalm 37:4 – “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” OK cool. Face-value reading: Love God, and He’ll give you what you want. But if you put a little more thought into it, you might come to this reading: If you find your joy in God and the things of God, He’ll give you what you want. And what you want will be what He wants because you find your joy in Him.

In that first reading, you didn’t get the whole picture. In the second reading, you may have gone a little deeper. Heck, it may be your fifth or sixth thought before you come to that final conclusion.

But you still may be wrong.

In my mind at least, this begs the question: Why even try to understand it? If it’s not completely understandable by our brains, then why give the effort? If we’re going to fail, what’s the point?

We need to put time and effort into understanding the Bible because our spiritual lives, and therefore our whole lives, depend on it. We just need to be reading it with an open hand.

A lot of us come into reading anything with a bias of some kind, some kind of lens with which we examine a text. Prosperity gospel believers might read the Bible with the idea that God is looking to bless us with material things and health here on earth, so they’ll read the text looking for things to support that belief. People like me who think the prosperity gospel is a bunch of baloney will read the text looking for things to refute that. It’s just a simple psychological thing we do.

If our understanding of the Bible was able to be infallible, I don’t think there would be any disagreement on how we interpret it.

Now, since my mind is fallible, I could be completely wrong about this! I could be missing out on something that would prove me wrong. I do believe there is one correct reading of Scripture, I just believe that we’re never going to grasp all of it this side of heaven. We may get to the pearly gates and golden streets and be like, “Dang, I completely misread that.” This is where three things come into play.

We have to read Scripture with an open hand and open mind.

Since we may be wrong about how we read the Bible, we have to be open to being wrong. We’ve got to push that pride aside and be willing to be wrong and be corrected. After all, 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Correction and reproof (criticism) are what the Bible is for, in a way.

We need to trust God with what we believe now and what we don’t understand.

There are definitely things I thought a couple years ago that I disagree with now based on my reading of the Bible. But a little bit down the line, I may be reading something and think, “Man, I hadn’t even considered this before!” In this uncertainty, I’ve got to learn to trust God that what I believe now is right, but also trust that the things I don’t understand are still true. There are certain things in Scripture I think are pretty clear – salvation, Jesus’ life, so on and so forth. But there are other things that I can definitely grow in my understanding of.

We need to trust God that other people are on a journey with the Bible like we are.

Just because we read the Bible differently than we do doesn’t mean we’re smarter or better. Who knows, we may be wrong and the prosperity gospel people may be right! I don’t think that’s the case, but you never know for sure. I think this is part of loving others – trusting God that the people we disagree with will find their way and not beating them over the head with criticisms and such about their views.

This takes a lot of patience, a lot of trust and a lot of faith. But it’s faith worth having.

Even if we’re completely wrong about the Bible, one thing Scripture is clear on is that God loves His children no matter how sinful they are. God so loved the world that He gave Jesus, right? And 1 John 4 says God displays His love through the work of Christ on the cross, the substitutionary atonement of the Son of God.

You can take that to the bank.

The Gospel Flips Worldly Wisdom On Its Head. And The Result Is Amazing.

Wisdom is something most Christians find to be praiseworthy among men, and the Bible supports that.

We look at a man and say, “He is so wise, I’d learn from him all day.” I look at my fiancée and say, “Oh man, she’s so wise, I’d listen to her all day.” We desire more and more wisdom. And this is a great thing! Wisdom is prized over and over again in the book of Proverbs, from chapter 1 to chapter 31. Through some quick Internet research, the word “wisdom” is written between 46 and 54 times in Proverbs, depending on your translation.

That’s why I find a section of 1 Corinthians 1 to be a bit on the confusing side. Verses 18-25:

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

God will destroy the wisdom of the wise? God made foolish the wisdom of the world? The foolishness of God is wiser than men?

As I read this, it made sense to me: the cross, the Gospel, is foolishness to people who aren’t believers. But then this idea struck: knowing the Gospel, believing the Gospel and speaking the Gospel is much more important than any other wisdom out there.

The Gospel, as Romans 1:16 says, is the “power of God for salvation to all who believe.” It’s a pretty powerful message – Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, died, rose again, went back to heaven, all to earn the opportunity for us to be restored to a right relationship with God that humanity lost when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. That’s a message that brings more power than any wisdom of this earth, more powerful than any other spiritual wisdom out there.

This message is so powerful that it’s folly to those the world might consider wise. It doesn’t make sense in how the world sees wisdom in a number of ways. It promises a reward for no work whatsoever; simply accepting the reward is enough. It’s God lowering Himself, not man reaching up to something higher than himself.

That’s not how the world would choose it. It doesn’t make logical sense. But that’s one of the many beauties of the Gospel. Worldly wisdom goes out the window.

That doesn’t mean that worldly wisdom has no place in our lives. It’s crucial to be wise in a worldly sense sometimes. We must be wise in how we conduct business, raise a family, things that are not inherently spiritual, even though being a Christian means Jesus and the Bible penetrates everything we do.

But the Gospel > wisdom, each and every time.

The World Is Crying Out for Authenticity. Let’s Give It to Them.

I watched the first 40 minutes or so of the GOP debate last night and wasn’t surprised by anything. By the time you get to the fifth of these things, there’s not much new to be had.

But as I pondered the debate this morning, I was struck by the fact that I wasn’t surprised. Candidates took shots at each other, at Barack and Hillary, at ISIS, just about everything imaginable. It was like they were reading from a script every time they talked.

I understand that’s kind of what you want in a debate. You prep for weeks before, getting your answers straight and formulated so you don’t embarrass yourself on national television. I totally get it.

But what you’re left wondering with all those scripted answers is this: “What do they really think? Who are they really? What will they really do when they get in office?”

We perceive that they’re missing a certain amount of authenticity. We’re afraid we’re not seeing who they really are. That’s why Donald Trump is doing so well – he’s being himself, saying what he really thinks, not crafting an answer to fit some party line or politically-correct stance. As crazy as some of his thoughts may be, he’s the real deal.

And that authenticity – as his poll numbers show – is what people crave.

Let’s look at two of the most popular musicians of this era – Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber – as examples.

Swift is known for her very personal songwriting, with tracks that seem to match up perfectly with her many public relationships. These tracks hit people hard because they can relate. It’s not a stale retread of the typical break-up song. It’s a fresh perspective, and she never seems to fail. That’s why she has over 67.6 million Twitter followers and each of her five studio albums have sold at least four million copies in the United States. Many musicians have taken to that style of being personal and vulnerable on their records.

If you know me, you know I’m a huge Bieber fan. That fandom took a boost with the release of his most recent album, Purpose. His first few releases were typical, cheesy, stereotypical pop music standards. But with Purpose, he turned a corner, quickly striking platinum with first-week sales of 649,000. And it’s not shocking. Yes, the production is vastly improved, constantly playing on the EDM movement of the current music scene. But his lyricism has grown significantly. He comes across as the real thing instead of some pop puppet with a pretty face. He’s credited as a writer on each of the tracks, and songs like “Purpose” and “Life Is Worth Living” get down deep and dirty into life.

People in my generation especially are tired of the phonies and the fakes and the liars. We’re tired of people who don’t tell the whole truth, who just stick to the status quo, who don’t take any risks. That’s why we love musicians like Swift and Bieber, politicians like Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Authenticity is the character trait that my generation respects and values the most. It says that you’re OK with people knowing who you are, you’re OK with sharing yourself, the real you, with the world.

Oh Christians, we have an amazing opportunity.

We have an amazing opportunity to be ourselves and win hearts for the Gospel. Jesus was Himself. God was Himself. Paul was himself.

Paul is my favorite example. Romans 7:15-19.

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

Paul shows us exactly how we pursue displaying authenticity. He doesn’t necessarily have to give specifics of everything he does, but he’s honest about the fact that he’s fallen short and does things he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t do things he wants to do.

This has always made Paul the most relatable of all the biblical figures to me. He doesn’t hide the fact that, well, he sucks at following God. “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh,” he says. Not only is that theologically-correct, it also takes a serious amount of authenticity to just be straightforward with it.

The ability to be authentic with God is something that attracts me to following Christ. Paul could write and say things like that and knew that it wouldn’t shut him out of being loved and used by God. The grace of God opens us up to be truly authentic with Him, with ourselves and with each other. If the worst response to our authenticity is people not liking us, we’ve still got the love of God.

So Christians, let’s be authentic. Let’s be ourselves. Let’s be honest. Let’s not hide things that don’t need hiding. What you share is up to you, but let’s think about how we can be more authentic and more honest with people.

Who knows how much further the Gospel can go when we’re honest about how much we need it, how much we are lost without it?

God Isn’t the No. 1 Priority for Christians. Priority Is the Wrong Word.

Yes, I admit that title is a bit click-baity, but let me explain.

Back when I was in high school, we talked in youth group about priorities. What did we value in life more than anything else? What did we spend most of our time on?

I remember one time we did this exercise where we listed our priorities. I think I had my girlfriend at the time as No. 1, school as No. 2, food as No. 3 (some things never change) and God as No. 4. I was (sinfully) impressed with my own honesty as well as concerned.

Well, if I can be honest, I don’t know if that’s changed all that much. Of course I’d love to say He’s No. 1. But as I’ve thought about this language, this semantic, this rhetoric, there’s something missing and lacking, in my opinion, by discussing God and religion and relationship this way.

It’s most recently come to my life with my recent engagement. I told my fiancée the other day, “You’re my No. 1 priority.” I paused, thinking, “Wait, isn’t it supposed to be God/Jesus?”

Another thought then crossed my mind: “Isn’t God/Jesus supposed to be the basis for all my life?”

Isn’t it possible that the danger with listing things in priorities – and by no means is this a life-and-death danger, but just something curious and interesting – is that we can begin to compartmentalize our lives? We can say, “OK, God is No. 1. Then my schoolwork or job is No. 2. Then my friendships are No. 3.” Perhaps that’s the level of concern we should apply to those things. And it’s not absolutely terrible to think about life in that way.

But the compartmentalization can lead us to thinking that God doesn’t associate with our jobs, or our friendships don’t associate with our church life, or Jesus has nothing to do with how I eat. And that’s just not true.

In Colossians 1, Paul is writing about the preeminence of Christ. “He is the image of the invisible God,” v. 15 says, “the firstborn of all creation.” Verses 16-17 add this:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

The idea Paul deposits here is that Jesus is the beginning and the end, the basis for everything, the glue for everything. He’s the foundation, the rock. We talk about Jesus as the cornerstone of the Church (Ephesians 2:20). Everything was started through Him. Through Him, for Him. Everything, whether we see it or not, is tied into Jesus.

And the same goes for our lives. Compartmentalizing can become dangerous, especially when other people are involved.

It kinda depends on your life stage what your priorities are, what your attention goes to, but the idea that Jesus is the cornerstone of all your priorities helps keep in focus, I think, why you’re doing what you’re doing. If Jesus is the basis for your priorities instead of just another option on the list, you’re keeping in sight how important He really is and how He affects everything you do.

That doesn’t mean you don’t need to make time in your day specifically for Jesus like you do for your spouse or keeping yourself clean. It’s the springboard for everything else. It’s the foundation. It’s the fuel. You can’t give the proper attention you need to your other priorities without getting something from Jesus first.

Yes, this is semantics and perhaps a bit nit-picky, but semantics are important. Semantics deals with the meanings of words and phrases. And since words and phrases are an everyday part of our lives, in our relationships with others, our relationship with ourself and our relationship with God, they’re important to be aware of.

So what should our priorities be? Family, friends, our jobs, our health, our ministry. Whatever God has put in front of us, whatever sustains us and whatever we care about the most.

And Jesus gives us reason and purpose to faithfully pursue each and every one of those things.

We’re All Like iPhones. We Need Re-Charging Every Once in a While.

One of the marriage clichés I’ve heard a lot of in these last couple months is that marriage is not a 50-50 proposition, it’s 100-100.

You don’t give 50 percent of yourself and the other person gives the same amount. You both give everything you’ve got.

As I was talking about this idea with my fiancée, a thought occurred to us: it’s impossible to give 100 percent of yourself if you’re not 100 percent yourself.

How often is your cell phone battery at a fully-charged 100 percent? For some of us, it’s every morning when we wake up. We’ve been charging our phones over night, so when we get up in the morning it’s good to go. Some of us don’t charge our phones overnight, so we have to get to work, or get in our car so we can refuel it.

Using our phones suck the life out of them. In the same way, living life sucks the life out of us. It’s not a bad thing; it’s unavoidable. Every time we go to work, a percentage of us gets used. Every time we go exercise, a percentage of us gets used. Even when we go to church, a percentage of us gets used.

So we need to recharge, we need to refuel.

If we spend so much time working and not enough time recharging, we won’t be able to give everything we’ve got in whatever relationship we’re in, whether it’s with God or with man. That’s why rest is so important. That’s why we need to have times where we do things we enjoy that help us to rest and relax.

If you’re an introvert who needs time alone to recharge, do it! If you’re an extrovert who gets drained by alone time, get around people!

But just be aware: you need to be fully charged to give everything you’ve got. So plug in.

 

Zach’s 20 Favorite Songs from 2015

As we near the end of the year, I’d like to take a step back and reflect on some of my favorite things from this year. So let’s do it!

My 20 favorite songs released this year, in no particular order. Couldn’t have more than one song from the same artist, otherwise there’d be multiple Tori Kelly, Dave Barnes and, of course, Bieber.

I Was Made For Loving You – Tori Kelly feat. Ed Sheeran

What Do You Mean? – Justin Bieber

White – Tim Halperin (co-Favorite Music Video of the Year)

Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd

This Is Living – Hillsong Young & Free feat. Lecrae

More Like Love – Ben Rector

Where Are U Now – Jack U feat. Justin Bieber

Stitches – Shawn Mendes

Wrapped Up – Olly Murs feat. Travie McCoy

Growing Up (Sloane’s Song) – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Ed Sheeran

Drag Me Down – One Direction

Here We Go – Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors (co-Favorite Music Video of the Year)

Headlights – Dave Barnes

Everything Must Go – Brandon Heath

Centuries – Fall Out Boy

Who You Say I Am – Among the Thirsty

anniversary – Abandon Kansas

All He Says I Am – Aaron Gillespie

How Can It Be – Lauren Daigle

Fly – Derek Minor feat. Colton Dixon

There’s a Spotify playlist to this that you can listen to (minus “Growing Up (Sloane’s Song),”which is available for free right here). Enjoy!

The Most Important War We Fight Is Not of This World

There are lots of wars going on right now.

I made a mention of it in my post yesterday that there are over 50 armed conflicts ongoing right now in the world. Add that to any kind of “culture war” or athletic rivalry that some call “wars,” and the terminology of war is all around us.

However, by focusing so much on these wars, we may be missing out on the most important war we’ll ever fight – the war on sin in our own lives.

It’s very easy for me to get caught up in fighting the battles that are visible. And I think it’s that way with many believers. But by focusing so much on getting culture to agree with us or keep Christ in Christmas, we might be missing out on fighting against a much deadlier enemy, our sin nature.

Sin sucks. Sin is horrendous. Sin is deadly. Sin is the reason people miss out on eternity with God. Sin is the reason people wander far from God. Sin is the reason people reject Jesus. Sin is the reason Christians’ relationships with God and each other are strained sometimes. Sin is the reason we are not who we are called to be every single day.

That is the war we must fight, each and every day. And we must be on guard. Paul speaks clear truth in Ephesians 6:12 –

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Our war, our primary war, if not the only war worth fighting, is against the sinful desires of our own heart and the work of Satan to bring us down.

Now, this is not an indictment on any individual “culture war.” Some of those may be worth fighting. I’m not going to pass a judgement on those wars here, although I may have in the past.

I’m simply saying that, at each and every moment, we’re engaged in a battle with Satan. We’re engaged in a war with the enemy of our soul, the devil, who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

We must do everything within our power to strap up our armor and fight sin in our lives with every breath we have, every available method.

If it’s lust, pray to God for a redeemed heart. Then watch where you look, confess slip-ups to God and to others, and keep going.

If it’s pride, pray to God for a redeemed heart. Then remember the blessings you’ve been unfairly given as a child of God, confess slip-ups to God and to others, and keep going.

If it’s fear of man, pray to God for a redeemed heart. Then remember God’s approval is all you really need, confess slip-ups to God and to others, and keep going.

If it’s anger, pray to God for a redeemed heart. Then seek after peaceful solutions in difficult circumstances, confess slip-ups to God and to others, and keep going.

If it’s getting impatient with a waiter at the restaurant, pray to God for a redeemed heart. Then put yourself and their shoes and ask what you would want others to do for you, confess slip-ups to God and to others, and keep going.

It’s not always that simple, and there are a lot more steps that go into each of those scenarios. But that’s the basic pattern. Pray to God for healing, make conscious practical decisions and steps to fight the sin, confess when you fall short and don’t give up.

This isn’t a war where waving the white flag is an option.

True Peace and Strength in a World with Little of Either

I need to get my fiancée to write a blog. Hers would be a million times better than mine.

I was talking to her last night and she was sharing something she had read in a devotional book of hers. It was revolving around the idea that God is our strength and our peace, based on Psalm 29:11 –

May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!

Pretty simply verse. But it brought to my attention something about my own life and something about this world.

I live in a constant state without peace. A life dealing with depression and anxiety will do that to you. Anyone else like me will echo that sentiment. I also often feel like I have little strength to handle all the things thrown my way.

This world is without peace. How many wars are ongoing right now? Well, according to this Wikipedia list (you can debate the legitimacy, of course), there’s over 50. And we in the United States think we’re pretty strong, but we, like every other country in the world, have many weaknesses and flaws.

The strength and peace Psalm 29:11 refers to, I think, a strength and peace that is not found within ourselves. That’s the key.

We are on a constant search for strength, whether it be physical or mental. I can’t tell you how many CrossFit gyms I’ve seen pop up over the last few years. And people are reading and writing books left and right about working out your mind, being in the right mental state. Both physical and mental strength is good, don’t get me wrong. But if our strength isn’t based in the person and character of God, it will fail us over and over and over again.

We are on a constant search for peace. People meditate, sleep, do crazy things just to find personal peace, a fleeting feeling that always seems to escape us just as we’re about to attain it. The world is searching for peace, but seems to use the least peaceful means to try to achieve it. Both personal and international peace is good, don’t get me wrong. But if our peace isn’t based in the person and character of God, it will fail us over and over and over again.

Yes, true and lasting peace and true and lasting strength are linked because they’re both found in knowing, believing and trusting God. The moment I seek to find those kinds of peace and strength in things outside of God, particularly in myself, is the moment I take a step in the wrong direction.

Now, all this is very abstract. True, but abstract. What does this look like practically?

It starts with a mindset. How do you think about achieving peace in your life? Peace is a state of rest and contentment with the circumstances around you. True peace comes from understanding, I think, God is in control. Isaiah 46:9b-10 says,

for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

Knowing that God is in control of all circumstances, and that He is working all things together for your good if you are His (Romans 8:28), is the key to finding mental and emotional peace in your life. This may not affect circumstantial peace, but it is the beginning to finding peace in your own mind.

What about strength? I think it also starts in understanding God is in control. Knowing that God is in control gives you proper perspective on how to handle situations. It gives you a strength you can’t build in the gym. It handles change with confidence, it approaches difficulties with peace.

One of the most important things to remember here is that we won’t always be truly strong and truly at peace. As weak and anxious human beings, we’ll never get this totally down. Never.

That’s where the peace that we achieve through Christ’s death and resurrection confirms our place as God’s child, our eternity with Him and our salvation from sin.

That, my friends, is true peace. And thankfully, my fiancée has a grasp on that.