Whatever is.. Popular Belief?

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Our world and culture are full of messages, especially in this social media, connected-at-all-times society. These messages tell us what to look like, who we should be, what we "need", what we should chase after, what our priorities should be, what identity means, etc. It's so in our faces that now, probably more than ever, it's crucial to cut the noise and get back to the truth.

One of my favorite parts of staffing the Summer Mission at Hampton Beach was Thursday nights. We staff and student ladies would have two hours together to study the Word, talk about specific topics on what our identity is as being made in God's image, and be led in experiential activities that helped further these spiritual truths.

My role during these nights involved taking video clips from pop culture and mass media for us to analyze - - messages that our minds are constantly taking in on a daily basis.

Our motivation for this was Philippians 4:8, where we're told what kind of things we should be thinking about.

Whatever is... Trendy? Relevant? Popular belief? What Hollywood says?

No. This is where cutting the noise comes in.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

How can we filter these messages the right way, instead of mindlessly allowing them to fill and shape our thoughts? How do we know what is true from what is a lie?

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Marian Jordan Ellis, founder of Redeemed Girl Ministries, talks about these very things in one of her blog posts, assuring us that we can recognize when something is fake by knowing the truth. Immersing ourselves in God's word allows for true freedom.

"Our thoughts must be based upon truth, or we will be in big trouble. The reason? Our thoughts lead to our emotions, and our emotions lead to our actions. And when we are in the wilderness (i.e. rejection, loss, despair, etc.), it doesn’t take much to send a girl’s emotional state of being into full-blown-melt-down. We have to be so careful to notentertain the lies of the enemy and allow him to dictate our emotions and our actions. Determine, especially in wilderness seasons, to stand in truth. ... The word truth means 'that which has fidelity (conformity) to the original.' Meaning? There is a standard. Given that the word itself implies there is a measurement of what is 'true,' then it only makes sense that truth is not relative.

Then what is truth? God’s word is truth. Jesus said in his prayer for you and me before his death on the cross, 'Sanctify them [purify, consecrate, separate them for Yourself, make them holy] by the Truth; Your Word is Truth.' (John 17:17 Amplified Bible) Jesus teaches us that the Bible, God’s very word is the truth. So what’s my point? If my thoughts about myself or about my God differ with what God has spoken, then I am believing a lie."

This particular evening involved the girls cutting out images from magazines that had specific messages that speak to our desires: what "the ultimate goal" is in life, or what our homes should look like, what our bodies should look like, how big the rock on our finger should be, or what types of men we'd like to receive said rocks from.

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It's important to note that there are a number of things in our culture that are lovely or praiseworthy because they provide ways to give God glory. For example, marriage is a great desire. We want a "happily ever after" because God designed us for relationship and community, but those good things can easily become the ultimate things, and suddenly we're putting our hope in what has become an idol.

The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise is one thing in our culture that speaks to that desire. Yes, we know it's "not realistic" and it's "just entertaining TV," but why do we like those things so much? We have to be honest and admit that it speaks to a desire in our souls, to be fully loved and known. Again, those desires aren't bad, but our culture and media have ways of taking something true, pure, lovely, and commendable and warping it just enough so we think it's real when it's just a mock of the real thing. (Typical move for the Father of Lies!)

Taking care of our bodies is another commendable desire. We're called to be good stewards of what we've been given, and we want to honor the bodies that God has given. But the media screams at us about what the "perfect body" should be, what is desirable and what isn't, and before we know it we're so wrapped up in what is considered beautiful and not so much about health or honoring our bodies.

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How do we combat the idols and lies? We immerse ourselves in the truth and remind ourselves of it.

This happened every week as we continued to look at clips from the media, like Beauty Advice from the Jenners & Kardashians, and this mushy, every-girl's-dream type proposal from a finale of The Bachelor (which resulted in a lot of strong, passionate feelings and great conversation!)

We took note of elements that were in fact true or lovely (marriage, two people seemingly committing their lives to each other, etc.) and the things that were lies or not in line with what we already know as true from Scripture (being fulfilled through another human being, idolizing relationships, having unrealistic expectations, etc.)

These lovely ladies will continue this practice through the remainder of Summer Mission. I'm missing being a part of these conversations with them, but I continue to trust that God is still working & guiding their conversation as they learn how to better filter out the sub-par, less-than-satisfying garbage that the culture throws at them, and replace it with the ultimate, never-failing truth of Scripture and who their Creator and Savior says they are.

Please join me in continuing to pray for these cherished young women as they dedicate their summers to allowing the Lord to form and mold them into the women who He has created them to be.

Praise God for His grace and His ability + desire to transform our hearts and minds, and His willingness to meet us in our brokenness and make us more like Jesus.

Jocelyn Hepler