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Thicker Skin: The Benefit of the Doubt

I’m currently in a season where I believe the Lord is molding me into having thicker skin. This is simply a part of growing up and maturing, not only as a Christian, but even just as an adult. I’ve learned that overly sensitive people have a pride issue that they are usually unaware of and they require so much validation and affirmation to the point where it pushes people away. For me personally, one way of developing thicker skin is simply giving people the benefit of the doubt. I am learning to choose to believe the best about people, despite their actions or inactions because this is the only way to remain at peace with others and not allow offense come into your heart. Because in actuality, I’ve found myself getting offended with people for a variety of reasons, but I realize that it’s solely based upon my perception of what they did or didn’t do. I’ll give you a couple of examples…

I was part of a men’s small group at my church for about a year and overall it proved to be somewhat of a hurtful experience. However, the good news is that I also learned from it. God will sometimes allow us to experience situations in order to grow us up and to remind of us of our need to keep our focus on Him. During my time with the group, I would often get left off of the email list when it came to group activities and overall, I just seemed to remain on the outside looking in… I would think I was making a connection with some of the fellas through conversations before, during and after group but would soon realize that the connection was only in that setting… However, some of their relationships amongst each other clearly extended outside of the group. Yes, rejection sucks (especially within the body of Christ), but I now realize that it is not always intentional and sometimes it can be more perceived versus being reality. Yes, it would have been nice to have connected with some of the guys on a deeper level, but friendships can’t be forced. Being in the same small group with someone doesn’t guarantee friendship, no matter how much you might try to show yourself friendly, like the Bible says. Hard lesson learned, but it has made me stronger. As a result, thicker skin is forming in my personhood. Now in retrospect, I don’t believe the rejection I experienced was necessarily intentional or malicious. The other men are genuine followers of Christ and just have different interests and have had different life experiences than I.

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As I said earlier, I’m in a difficult season of growth and maturity. Unfortunately, I lost my grandfather and father within months of each other. What shocked me during this whole experience was the number of people whom I’ve known for a long time who didn’t seem to show a whole lot of compassion or empathy. Some folks still to this day haven’t reached out to me or even asked me if I needed anything. As a result, I began questioning my relationships and was very hurt by my perception of their lack of compassion. However, Holy Spirit reminded me that there were those that prayed for me and my family, even though I was unaware. Also, through conversations with others, I also had to consider that people respond to situations differently simply because of the fact that they’re human. What’s best for me is to release the offense and move on. I can’t expect everyone to respond to situations the way that I would. I now realize that’s unfair. People are different and process life events in their own way, and so another layer of thicker skin is being added to me, as I choose to believe the best about folks, even in this situation. I must have peace because offense only keeps me internally conflicted and suspicious of others. Thick skin is a must in order to get promotion from God. Thick skin is a must in order to walk with Him even when you’re disliked and/or ignored. I must have thick skin if I’m ever going to truly be Christ-like. I must have thick skin if I’m going to love God’s people in a way that truly honors Him.

Colossians 3:12-14 12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. (NKJV)

Jesus Christ’s willingness to the cross as a sinless man was evidence of His thick skin. He had to rise far above human emotions as He was beat, marred, mocked and ultimately killed. But I also notice that he evangelizes one of the thieves on the cross, despite the horrific brutality that He had already suffered. That’s the ultimate example of having thick skin!

Lord help me to continue growing layers of thick skin that will help serve as armor on the battlefield so that I’m not unhealthily dependent on others. I will be the clay as you shape and mold me into who You desire me to be. Help me to love people even when that love isn’t returned and help me to keep my eyes fixed on You. Affirm me with Your love and hide me in the shadow of Your wing so that I am free from the opinions of others. Amen.

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“Yuck”

A few weeks ago I was walking into a Family Dollar Store (yes I go in there once in a blue moon) and I walked past a young lady who was talking on her cell phone. She was a couple inches taller than I and had long braids that went down to her hips. I didn’t get a close look at her but thought nothing of it. As I walked through the store, it appeared as though she was following me. When I stopped to look at something, she walked past me while still engaged in a phone conversation. That was when I got a closer look at her and realized that she was in fact a he

My immediate thought was “yuck,” and I even said it under my breath… I saw him again and noticed that he wasn’t cross-dressed per se, he was just extremely effeminate. Well as soon as I began to walk down the aisle, Holy Spirit instantly convicted me… Yuck? To a person and soul that Jesus Christ died for? To a person who is obviously very broken and whose sin just happens to be more visible? Yuck to someone for whom God has a plan for his life and someone who God loves just as much as me. I judged this young man without even knowing his story, his deepest hurts, his darkest secrets, his inner being that has obviously been severely wounded…

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Matthew 7:1-5 Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (NKJV)

I’ve always considered myself to be very compassionate towards others. I believe that a good part of my calling in this life is towards social justice. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love kids and that I hate seeing injustice. Something gets under my skin when I see people suffering wrongfully. However, this particular experience showed me that I still have some growing to do. Because to tell you the truth, seeing guys like him isn’t exactly out of the norm in Atlanta, GA. Spiritually speaking, there is a very strong principality of sexual sin that rests over this region and one would likely see guys like him quite often, whether it’s at the gas station, the grocery store, or any other retail store. Personally, I’ve found myself mouthing silent prayers for them when I’ve crossed their paths. But I guess this incident revealed that there is still some haughtiness and/or arrogance within me that needs to be purged out.

Leviticus 19:15-16 You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. (NKJV)

So as I drove away from the Family Dollar store, I began to ponder how many other people react to guys like him in the same way. I imagine that this young man gets judged all of the time. Sadly, too many of us who are followers of Christ Jesus react to people like him no different than the world. We should be the ones to show these individuals love and compassion. The love of Jesus Christ should flow forth from our words and actions towards everyone. After I walked into my house, I continued to think about him and how so many of believers would never be willing to be a light to him. Not to be too presumptuous, but I believe too many of us would even be afraid to be seen with someone like him. My lord… We have a LONG way to go in terms of truly emulating Jesus Christ. This young man represents a group of people who are ignored and maybe even feared by the Christian community. Have we forgotten that they are souls who need the same salvation that we were privileged to access? Father God loves these individuals too and desperately wants them reconciled back to Him. Father God wants to heal them and restore all that has been lost to them. We are the vessels that He yearns to use to show forth His love. What I should’ve said under my breath that day was “Be healed in Jesus’s name.”

Father I’m sorry for judging this young man. I pray that he will repent and be made whole, and that You will send the right vessels to minister to his soul. I pray that this young man’s heart will be healed and that his mind will be renewed. May he be a walking testimony to bring hope to others who are facing the same identity crisis. And Father God continue to change my heart that I may lose any pride that would prevent me from being a light to people like this young man. Amen.

Nathan Allen Copyright ©2014

 

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Christians Don’t Support Christian Movies

Over the years I have rolled my eyes time and time again at Christian cinema. I paid attention to the obvious budget constraints that tainted the overall quality of the final product and made my critiques, taking in the popular belief that Christian movies are LAME. They are usually characterized as “B” movies and are characterized as having lame story lines, bad acting and lacking overall in the other qualities that mainstream movies possess. They became and still are somewhat of a laughing stock amongst pop culture, and myself and many other believers have mocked and scoffed at these movies. Hardly any of them made it to the big screen and usually you would see them at your local Blockbuster for rent; at that time.

Since then, more Christian movies began to make it to the big screen and this select few had more money to back them. Obviously, “The Passion of the Christ” is the biggest Christian movie of all time in terms of the money it made and the media attention it received around the world. A few other notable movies have also hit the big screen since then and some even managed to grab one of the top spots during their first weeks of release.  Unfortunately, these movies have been few and far between. You can count of the number of them on one hand. However, Christian movies as a whole still don’t do well in the box office and typically go straight to DVD. They are usually found in Christian bookstores and make little profit, if any.

So what is the issue? Well, a friend and co-host of mine for an Internet radio show we do had an experience that answers this question no holds barred. He is the youth and young adult pastor at his church, and not too long ago, he tried to take his group to see the movie “Grace Unplugged.” The movie had been released just a week prior but when they got to the theatre, they were shocked to see that the movie had already been pulled due to lack of sales. Obviously for them to pull a movie after one week means that it did HORRENDOUSLY. He spoke with the manager of the theatre and the man told him the ugly, unadulterated truth: Christians don’t support Christian movies. From what my friend said, he wasn’t even sure if this man was a believer in Jesus Christ. So for this statement to possibly come from the outside is really, really sad… My co-host told this story during one of our radio broadcasts.

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On this same broadcast, we were interviewing a lady who operates a local inspirational magazine. This issue of Christian movies came up, and I was once again being critical and cynical of them during the show. However, this lady said something so simple, yet so true. She stated that Christians need to support these movies, especially the ones that make it to the big screen. If these movies can generate the money that these film companies need, Christian movies can begin to improve due to more money and resources. Doesn’t that make sense? After all, the most important factor in these movies is the MESSAGE, is it not? The execution may not be totally on par, but can we seek the message and choose ministry over mindless entertainment? If the body of Christ would choose to support more Christian movies instead of flocking to see everything else that the world sees, it would cause Hollywood to take notice. In other words, it sounds like we need to sacrifice in the area of entertainment so that there are better options available to us to enjoy wholesome, godly movies. God can use any medium to draw people into the Kingdom through His spirit. Just imagine for a second if Christian movie makers had more capital and also allowed God to strengthen their creativity. The result could be MAGNIFICENT! Imagine the ministry that could go forth in movie theatres across this nation! The possibilities would be endless if the body would commit to supporting these movies and died to more worldly entertainment! Anything is possible!

So recently, when I saw the trailer for “I’m in Love with a Church Girl,” I shook my head and rolled my eyes. (Yeah I know… sigh) It looked boring and predictable, and I was agitated at what I considered to be a lack of originality and creativity. However, this movie may be good and I will support it as soon as it hits Redbox and DVD. I’ve somewhat been a part of the problem and not the solution, so the buck stops here with me. We have to start somewhere. If we want things to change, we have to make our voices heard and that is through our support. We must also take personal inventory of the types of movies that we allow to flood our eye gates and ear gates. As disciples of Jesus Christ, there are obviously certain types of movies that we shouldn’t be watching, but the fruit speaks for itself. The fact is that too many self-professing Christians who will pass up Christian movies to be entertained by the world system. In fact, I believe that entertainment is an excellent tool of distraction that the enemy likes to use to keep the people of God focused on the things of this world instead of Him. If we are not careful, our beliefs and values can be tainted by television and the movies that we watch. The enemy’s tactics are often subtle, and this is a perfect example. Too much entertainment is one of the reasons why Christianity in this country is so weak and watered down that it’s not even funny. Let’s stop giving Babylon our money and start INVESTING in Kingdom movies. Yes, it is an investment that could pay the dividends of more quality, ministry-drenched, creative Christian movies in the future.

Nathan Allen Copyright ©2014

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2014 in Spirituality

 

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