Convictions – What Are They and Why Do They Matter?

 

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Basically, convictions are your personally-held beliefs that guide the way you live. 

In the Bible, there are definite rights, ie. love God, love your neighbors, treat others the way you want to be treated.

And there are definite wrongs, ie. don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t be jealous of what other people have.

The Bible is 100% accurate and perfect in every way and is the ultimate guide to life. But it does not always spell out exactly what to do in every situation.

It’s like the U.S. Constitution. Everything in it is true and relevant, but it requires interpretation in cases not specifically covered in the law.

Sometimes church denominations will hold certain convictions that they expect their members to follow, like abstaining from alcohol or requiring women to wear dresses and have long hair.

But I truly believe that convictions are personal.

The ultimate purpose of convictions are to keep yourself in a place where you are best able to worship God.

Convictions can help you set boundaries to keep you from situations where you would be more likely to make wrong choices.

For example, let’s say Bob gambled for many years. He lost his wife and family because of his addiction and ended up deep in debt. Eventually, he gave his life to Jesus and decided he wanted to leave gambling behind him.

So Bob decided to quit going to casinos and playing card games all together. It’s not that he thinks Solitaire is a sin, but he knows that being around cards could trigger his former desire for gambling. His choice to stay away from cards is helping him focus on living for God, and not dwelling on his past.

Now, Bob doesn’t expect everyone to quit card games and he doesn’t judge anyone that plays them. He just personally chooses not to.

Growing up, my family had 2 major convictions: 1) we didn’t go to movies and 2) we didn’t go to restaurants that served alcohol.

The movie conviction actually used to be part of the Nazarene church’s member covenant. My grandma never went to movies growing up, nor did my mom, nor did my brother and I. It’s not that the movies themselves are inherently evil, but rather the fact that there was no control over what commercials would play and no way to skip over objectionable content.

We usually watch movies on Netflix or Prime, or get DVDs from the library. So while I’m not always current on the latest movies, I end up seeing them eventually. 🙂

I personally am apathetic on this issue. I don’t feel strongly about NOT going to movies, but I don’t really desire to go either. In all honesty, I’m not a movie person. Give me five billion episodes over a movie any day (unless it’s Marvel). Movies are long, expensive, and some theaters have bed bug issues (no thanks!). And, I want to respect my family’s convictions.

However, I do agree with my parents’ conviction about not going to restaurants that serve alcohol. This comes from a very personal place. My dad’s biological father was an abusive alcoholic. My dad and his nine brothers and sisters were placed in foster homes from a young age and there have been so many health and mental problems among my aunts and uncles that came from his drinking.

Alcohol is literally in my family’s blood and one drink could lead to a lifetime addiction. So my parents always felt strongly about staying away from it as much as possible. There are still several excellent restaurants that don’t sell alcohol and we’d prefer to go there than be exposed to something that destroyed my family.

But here’s the thing: not everyone has to agree.

Growing up, I always thought that we didn’t go to movies or restaurants that served alcohol because that was the “Christian” thing to do.

I always wondered how people at church and school could be Christians if they went to those restaurants and theaters. I didn’t understand what convictions were at all.

And then, I read Romans 14. I highly encourage that everyone reads this chapter. It completely changed the way I viewed convictions.

The Apostle Paul wrote Romans during a time of major change for the church. After Jesus died and rose again, salvation became possible for Jews and Gentiles. The Jews were still used to the law and their traditional customs. Gentiles didn’t have these same customs.

There became major debates as to what was necessary for faith and what didn’t really matter in the long run.

One huge issue was food. Under the Jewish law, there were many foods considered “unclean”. It was also common that meat was sacrificed to idols in those days.

So some believers only ate vegetables. They knew it was kosher and there was no idolatry connected to it. Others argued that God made all food and it was fine to eat whatever.

Paul basically tells the Romans to not condemn others for their beliefs. In verse 6 (NLT), Paul says, “…Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God.”

Paul goes on to say that we shouldn’t condemn other believers.

“Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.”
~ Romans 14: 12-13 (NLT)

Another important part of convictions is sometimes doing or avoiding certain things to help other believers. Let’s say you invite Bob (in the example above) over to your house to hang out one evening. Instead of playing Hearts, you could opt for Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit. You are 100% free to play Hearts any time, but choosing another game that night out of respect for Bob would help him stay true to his convictions.

Ultimately, here’s what Paul has to say about convictions:

“…Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.”
~ Romans 14:22b-23

What are your thoughts on convictions?

What convictions do you personally live by?

Thanks so much for reading,

RaeAnn

Why Your Testimony Matters

 

The purpose of a testimony is essentially to tell others how you made the decision to follow Jesus.

Chances are, if you’ve grown up in the church, you’ve heard these a lot.

Over the course of my 19 years, I’ve heard a fair share of testimonies.

I remember going to see Candace Cameron Bure at a women’s conference when I was ten. I was so impressed with her story and how her faith impacted her career. Hollywood and Christian morals don’t often align, so it’s been interesting to see how she’s staying true to God and making a difference in Hollywood at the same time.

In the back of my mind that day, I wanted to run away from home, “live”, and come back so I could have an incredible testimony too. I thought my testimony was too boring and insignificant.

Maybe you’ve felt that way too?

I was raised in a Christian home. I attended a Christian school from Pre-school through 8th grade. I was saved when I was four years old. I don’t even remember the exact date.

I’ve heard so many people in church talking about how their lives were so radically changed when they became a Christian.

I began to wonder if something was wrong with me. There was nothing radical about my faith. I don’t remember who I was before then.

One night in youth group, there was a lesson on testimonies. I initially rolled my eyes. It wouldn’t apply to me at all. Who would care about my boring testimony?

But the lesson basically explained that everyone’s testimony matters. Being a Christian is a lifelong process. It doesn’t stop when you ask Jesus into your heart. It’s a commitment to follow Jesus all the way. We’re all prone to sin and being “saved” doesn’t mean we’re perfect or exempt from temptations.

From a human perspective, we often try to rate sins. We may try to justify our actions by saying, “A little white lie isn’t so bad, but murder, well that’s just wrong!”

But that’s not the way God looks at sin. All sin separates us from God. All sin is wrong. No matter how harmful or innocent it seems to us, sin is sin.

As a four year old, I had sinned. I had fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). The wages of my sins were death, but through Jesus, I now had access to eternal life (Romans 6:23).

It can be easy to take salvation for granted sometimes, but think how incredible it truly is! Whether you were 4 or 94, the moment you chose to follow Jesus and accept forgiveness of sins, you were saved from eternal death. You now have hope of living with Jesus forever!

You were no longer defined by your mistakes, but by God’s grace.

Growing up, I was far from perfect. I would lie and manipulate to get my own way. I would hide the truth from my parents, wait a couple of years and then tell them. That way, the punishment wouldn’t be quite as bad.

I also back-talked quite a lot. I always felt compelled to give my two cents, even when it was obviously the wrong time to do so.

From the ages of 4 to 8, I probably asked Jesus into my heart at least 20 times. I wanted to make sure that Jesus would forgive me every time I sinned. I hated being in trouble, but I still loved lying and talking back. When it was less painful to lie than tell the truth, I usually did. On the outside, I was always a “good kid” at school, but very stubborn and strong-willed on the inside.

I guess you could say the perk to being saved from a young age is growing in Jesus as you grow in age. By seventh grade, I finally understood what a relationship with Jesus was all about. He wasn’t just someone we learned about in Bible class, but someone who genuinely wanted to know us personally. It wasn’t about how well I kept the rules. It was about how much I loved Him.

When my goal was to love Jesus, doing the right thing became easier. I wasn’t as much concerned with “getting in trouble” as I was with disappointing God.

Everyday is still a journey. I try to do what’s right, but inevitably mess up from time to time. That’s what makes following Jesus a lifelong process that is so worth it.

Every Christian has their own daily strengths and struggles. We can be encouraged to keep running the race (Hebrews 12:2) by hearing stories of what others have overcome with God’s help.

That’s why your testimony matters.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on testimonies.

How did you come to know Jesus? Have anyone else’s stories of salvation impacted your life?

Thanks for reading,

RaeAnn

If at First You Don’t Succeed… The Crippling Fear of Failure

“If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.”

I’m pretty sure everyone has heard this quote at one point or another. I remember seeing it on a poster in my 3rd grade classroom years ago.

Is it sound advice? Yes, I think so.

But in all honesty, I’ve never really lived by this motto, even since birth.

My mom told me the story about when I first started walking. I took a few wobbly steps while hanging onto the table.

But as soon as I let go, I fell.

I was maybe 6-8 months old at the time.

I quickly returned to crawling. It was effective enough and certainly less painful.

Somehow, I ended up learning to walk by the age of 13 months. But my response to failure as a baby has carried on for the last nineteen years.

Growing up, I was always tall. At age 2, I was 3 foot. By the end of Kindergarten, I was 51 inches tall. Maybe that accounts for some of my awkwardness and being so off-balance. Maybe not.

Here’s a confession and regret that I’ve carried throughout life: I can’t ride a bike.

I remember riding a bike with training wheels when I was younger. But I never rode a bike without them. I didn’t like the idea of getting hurt or falling. It just wasn’t worth it.

Today, I’ll ride an exercise bike, but that’s about it.

That fear of failure (and falling) has followed me through life.

I never went on the monkey bars until I was tall enough to reach them from the ground. I’ve never made it the whole way around a skating rink (I nearly wiped out, trying to let go of the rails so a 3-year-old could get around me!) And I’ve never made it to the top of a rock climbing wall, or past the first five steps, for that matter.

Fear of failure doesn’t stop there. It leaks its way into every facet of life.

Anything I struggle with, I quit. Anything that doesn’t come naturally, I quit.

That fashion show in 3rd grade. That computer project in 4th grade. That photography contest in 6th grade.

One try, and if it goes horribly, I’m done. I’ve packed my bags and vowed never to go down that same humiliating road again.

I’ve been told several times to not be a “quitter” and that “can’t” is not a word that should be in my dictionary.

Maybe you’ve struggled with this too?

I’ve given in to the fear of failure time and time again.

But one time, I had a breakthrough.

A few years back, I sent in a blog post to a popular Christian website. It was sent back to me with suggestions for improvements and a list of qualities they wanted to see in articles for their website.

At first, I started going into my cycle of “I quit”. My pride had been crushed.

But then, I began to realize that the feedback was 100% true. There was a lot of room for improvement, so I waited a while, prayed a while, and gave it another try.

Had I quit, I doubt you’d be reading this post today.

What made the difference?

I feel like God has given me talent for writing. (I admit I have absolutely none when it comes to riding bikes or skating!) This is what God’s calling me to do.

The rejected blog post reminded me of my dependency on God. When I tried to write a blog or ride a bike on my own strength, I failed. If God was in it and I gave my best, things went better.

That’s not to say that everything God calls us to do is going to be easy. But with God, all things are possible (Luke 1:37).

As Ephesians 3:20 (NLT) says,

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

When we humbly rely on God, we don’t have to be afraid of failing. That doesn’t mean we’ll never hit dead ends or have to try again, but rather that we never have to go it alone.

No matter what the outcome of our situation, God remains the same and our identity in Him remains the same.

What has fear of failure kept you from doing? What do you feel like God is calling you to do?

Summer is a great time to reflect on life and the desires that God has given us. Don’t let fear hold you back from living, like I have for so many years.

Nothing Can Separate Us from God’s Love – Romans 8:35-37 Devotional

The end of the semester is quickly approaching. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by everything that’s due over the next two weeks – studying for exams, finishing projects, preparing for presentations, etc.

But the good news is that we’re never alone. God goes with us, wherever we go. 

It’s hard leaving friends behind in the summer, especially for those who are graduating. But we can be sure that God will be at the mission field, at home, at a full-time job, or at summer classes with us.

Romans 8:35-37 (NLT) says, Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

Honestly, human love is very circumstantial. It’s easy to love those who love us and treat us well. It’s harder to love those who constantly let us down or ignore us. Sometimes we feel unloved by those closest to us.

But no matter what we’ve done in the past or what we will do is the future, God’s love for us is unchanging. Whether we have a six-figure salary or are struggling to make ends meet, God loves us. Whether we stay close to home or move to a foreign country, God loves us. Despite any mistakes we’ve made, God loves us.

My favorite part of this verse is the phrase “overwhelming victory is ours through Christ”. God not only loves us, but he also gives us victory. Victory over failures, victory over fear, victory over circumstances — overwhelming victory!

I hope that everyone has a great rest of the semester here at Cedarville and a fantastic summer break. I’m excited to see how God will work through each and every one of us this summer. And no matter where He leads, His love and overwhelming victory go with us!

I Could Never Count That High

Song Credits: “Count That High” by Jordan Feliz

Sometimes life gets crazy. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by upcoming exams and assignments. Honestly, when I’m feeling stressed by everything going on, I tend to put my relationship with God on the back-burner.

But the truth is that God never leaves or forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5). He also provides us with the strength we need to make it through the day and gives us so many blessings.

Have you ever had a time where you knew God was there? Maybe it was an impossible situation and he made a way out of it. Maybe you’ve witnessed a health miracle or a grade miracle.

I’m so grateful that God works in many ways, and the other week, I know he protected me.

I work mornings at McDonald’s as a prep person. Part of my job involves getting condiments and other ingredients ready for lunch. I do most of my work at a counter with two shelves above it.

One day, as I was pulling out the counter to sweep under it, the top shelf came crashing down. There were heavy boxes with receipt paper that came tumbling as well. It made the loudest bang and four or five coworkers came running over. Thankfully, that heavy shelf landed on the counter.

I was shocked by the whole experience, but extremely grateful. I know God was there. That shelf could have severely injured anyone underneath it. But thankfully it didn’t.

This experience helped me truly understand the lyrics of Jordan Feliz’s song “Count That High”.

‘Cause I, know You never left my side
I try to count the blessings
I, I could never count that high
And every time that I try to add it up
And I’m not even close
The more that I try, the more that it chokes me up
‘Cause I’m not even close

What blessings has God provided in your life? Please comment below and let me know.