How to Handle Peer Pressure

If we live boldly for Jesus, we’ll stand out like a green leaf full of life amidst leaves that have dried up and begun to wither.

What do you do when you want to fit in but know you were called to stand out?

Welcome to the world of peer pressure where people you want to impress want you to do something that you don’t feel right about. Many of us who perhaps went to public school know what this is like. Now, I attended private school from the 5th grade and on, but until the 4th grade, I went to public school like most kids do and experienced a bit of peer pressure early on.

It was the first grade, and I was in Mrs. Patton’s class—a wonderful teacher. She was young and sweet and had us do action songs for fun. During one particular song (when I was wearing a matching cardigan, tank top, and skirt set), the boy and girl who sat next to me kept motioning me to remove my cardigan, which would leave my arms exposed in the tank top I had on underneath. I did not quite understand modesty or separation at this time. All I knew was that I was raised not to reveal my shoulders in public.

I remember the boy looking back at me and smiling as he nodded when I reached up to my cardigan to begin to remove it. I was a bit confused, unsure of what he and the girl meant at first. I liked them. They were cool kids. They made me laugh. Still, I had a sense that I shouldn’t do what they asked.

Then, the boy said, “Do it,” as he clapped to the action song.

So, I did, and he and the girl nodded again and cheered me on before looking back at Mrs. Patton to see the next action in the song. I don’t remember how long I kept my cardigan off, but I know I had it on when I left school that day. I never told anyone. What I did seemed harmless, but something inside my first-grader mind knew that my mom would be disappointed if she knew.

That was the only example of giving into peer pressure that I have from my public school years, but it helped me understand as I got older how to handle and how not to handle peer pressure.

1. Fall in Love with Pleasing Jesus

If we are to resist peer pressure, then we must first fall in love with Jesus and living a life that is pleasing to Him.

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

1 John 2:15-17 (KJV)

When I first caved to peer pressure, I didn’t fully understand what I believed or why I believed it yet. As I got older, stayed in church, and developed a love for reading the Word, my love for dressing modestly to reflect His glory grew stronger. Eventually, I didn’t imagine what I might look like if I didn’t wear skirts or if I did wear makeup. Eventually, I didn’t groan and complain about having to find dresses with modest necklines. Eventually, I didn’t care about what others thought of the way I dressed because I fell in love with a lifestyle that was pleasing to my God.

2. Don’t Cave

I caved to peer pressure in the first grade, but it taught me a lesson not to do that again. I was lucky that I wasn’t pressured to do much worse when I was in public school, but many are not so lucky.

Some students may be pressured to smoke or do drugs. Some students may be pressured to go too far with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Some adults may even be pressured to do these things by coworkers or to go to a coworkers’ outing where they drink and party. Whatever you do, don’t cave in to others’ demands that make you uncomfortable and that you know are not pleasing in God’s eyes.

Paul wrote in Romans that we are to be a holy and acceptable living sacrifice to God:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Romans 12:1-2 (KJV)

It is only reasonable that we live for God in righteousness and resist the ways of the world. Sometimes, our flesh finds a way to confuse us, however.

I can remember times when I was a teenager and was around others who were listening to inappropriate music and talking about movies I wouldn’t dare share with my parents. I can remember feeling they shouldn’t be doing those things, but still I bopped my head to the music with them. I can remember thinking that I shouldn’t have been with them, but part of me wanted them to like me.

If you cave to peer pressure, then even if that thing that you end up doing doesn’t seem that harmless, it may invite spirits into your life that will linger with you longer than you’ll realize. And those spirits may influence you to do or say things in the future that will take you further from God.

Caving to peer pressure is dangerous for your spiritual survival.

3. Stand Strong and Love Others

Boldly embrace a lifestyle of separation from this world.

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”

2 Corinthians 6:17 (KJV)

The older I became, the more I loved being a born-again Apostolic who doesn’t look, dress, talk, or act like the world. By this time when peer pressure came knocking, I was able to keep from even opening the door and inviting it into my living room. However, as one lives a lifestyle of righteousness and separation, one should not become too prideful of that.

When friends or coworkers invite you to a bar to hangout, don’t respond by turning up your nose in a self-righteous attitude. That does not reflect the character of Christ, and it certainly does not make others want to go to church with you. As we stand strong in this faith, we must love others like Christ does.

Love those who invite you to those parties that you know you won’t go to. Decline politely, and if they ask why, take that moment to share your beliefs. Witness to the peers who pressure you out of love for them, not out of condemning them. They need to know that there is a better life than giving in to worldly lusts, and we are the ones who can show it to them by standing apart from this world.

After all, it is the love of Christ through us that compels people to live for God. We can resist peer pressure by becoming more like Jesus and hiding His Word in our hearts, and when we do, His love in us will draw others to Him.

Free Indeed: 3 Freedoms We Have in Christ

A Bible lies open under an American flag.

Freedom.

It’s something we Americans are so privileged to experience while living in this blessed country, and this coming Sunday, we’ll be celebrating America’s 245th birthday. As a proud American, I’m excited to celebrate my beautiful home country, but I’m also excited to share with you today and remind you what freedom means for us as children of God.

In Christ, we are free indeed, but what does it mean to be “free in Christ?”

There are many different explanations of this concept. Below are three particular freedoms we have as children of the Most High King that I wanted to remind you of this weekend.

1. Freedom from Sin

As the Timothy Reddick song says, “I’m free indeed, in Christ, I’m free indeed, no chains are holding me, it’s who I choose to be.”

In Christ, we have freedom from sin. This means that no matter what you’ve done, the sins of your past cannot hold you back once you’ve truly repented and given your life to Jesus.

Once the blood of the Lamb has covered you, you are no longer a slave to sin!

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

John 8:36 (KJV)

We are free from sin and have become the “servants of righteousness” and servants to God (see Romans 6:18 and Romans 6:22). Remember—there is no condemnation to those who are born again and believe in Christ (see Romans 8:1).

When Christ died for us and shed His blood at Calvary, He covered all our sins, and when we are baptized in Jesus’ Name, our sins are completely washed away. The chains of a sinful lifestyle that once kept us bound are broken, and we are free to move forward in righteousness and serve our King!

2. Freedom from the Result of Sin

Freedom in Christ also means that we no longer have to live in fear of the result of sin or of death. We no longer have to fear going to Hell over a sinful lifestyle because Jesus has given us a way out through complete surrender to Him, repentance, baptism, the infilling of the Holy Ghost, and a lifestyle of holiness, separation, and righteousness.

In Christ, we are free from what sin inevitably leads to. In Christ, we are free from fear.

Freedom in Christ allows us to completely put our trust in Him, knowing that He has covered us with His blood and paved the way for us to spend eternity with Him in glory.

3. Freedom from Ignorance

In Christ, we are also free from ignorance.

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

John 8:32 (KJV)

No, I don’t mean ignorance in general. (As you might be aware, because we’re still fleshly beings, there are many ways people can still be quite ignorant even while serving God!)

Through Christ, we have freedom from spiritual blindness. Paul wrote about this to the Corinthians.

“And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.”

2 Corinthians 3:13-16 (KJV)

Here, Paul spoke about the Jews’ inability to understand Jesus’ identity as God and to understand God’s divine plan. Jesus revealed Himself to Paul as the Lord when He spoke to Paul as Paul was on the road to Damascus, and Paul was able to understand Christ’s identity (see Acts 9:1-6). When people turn to Christ and seek after Him, He gives them the ability to understand who He is.

Freedom in Christ means that we have spiritual awareness of who He is, what He has done for us, and how His plan for us is that we live for Him so that we can someday be with our God forever.

“Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

2 Corinthians 3:17 (KJV)

Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. In His presence, we find liberty, peace, understanding, and everything we need. We are free from our past, free from the weight of our sins, free from bondage, free from death, free from fear, and free from spiritual blindness.

And not only are we free in Christ, but He has also given us the freedom to choose to serve Him or not. That makes our decision to live for Jesus so much more meaningful.

He didn’t make us live for Him. He died for us all but gave us the freedom to choose to live for Him, and so our choice to serve Him comes from a genuine desire to live for Him, from genuine love for Him, and from a heart of thanks and gratitude for who He is and for all He’s done for us.

We choose to be free when we choose to live for Jesus!

“No more shackles, no more chains, no more bondage, I am free!”

“Freedom” by Eddie James

I hope all of my readers in America have a wonderful weekend celebration as we celebrate the foundation of our great nation, and I hope all of you can take a moment to thank God especially for the freedoms we have because of all He’s done for us.

God bless you all, and God bless America!

Life in the Spirit: 3 Reminders From Romans 8

School and work are often drudgery.

Back-to-back tests and papers due. Piles of work that lead to overtime. New company policies that are confusing and make your work harder. It can make your life seem completely miserable at times.

As children of God, however, we have an avenue to living a purposeful and rewarding life even when our school and work responsibilities try to drain the life from us.

Today, we’ll look at three key reminders from Romans 8:1-18 of what it means to be alive in Christ.

1. Through Christ, we are free.

You might feel like a prisoner to the drudgery of life, clocking in and out of work in robotic fashion or dragging yourself to school every week, but we are not meant to feel like prisoners in this world.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!

In fact, Romans 8:1-3 explains that we are free from “the law of sin and death.” When we believe in and live for Jesus Christ, the sins of our past no longer have a hold on us. Without Christ, we are prisoners to sin, and eternal death is an inevitability. With Christ, no matter what mistakes we may have made or difficult circumstances we may have to endure, the consequences of sin and the ways of this world no longer have us bound.

The weight of this world and of the things that accompany life in this world do not have to keep us down or burdened because our God already defeated sin and death and has overcome the world (see John 16:33). “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” has made us free (see Romans 8:2), and so we can walk in the freedom we have through Christ each day no matter how stifling life may seem on earth.

2. We must continue to walk after the Spirit.

When group projects and research papers pile up, when the customers are rude and your boss keeps giving you more responsibilities, and when traffic is backed up after a really long day, we must continue to walk after the Spirit—yes, even when we are tempted with road rage. If you live in or near Springfield, Missouri, then you might understand the frustration that accompanies dealing with mindless drivers who pull out in front of you while you’re doing 60 and they’re doing 35 or who cruise in the fast lane and refuse to move over. Truth be told, many a Holy Ghost-filled Christian has almost lost their Holy Ghost when dealing with rush-hour traffic.

Walking after the Spirit means living a righteous lifestyle every day. Simple, right? Not when we feed our carnality more than the spirit, but when we pursue righteousness and a closer walk with Jesus on a daily basis, it becomes more natural to maintain a spiritual mindset.

Having life through Christ means forsaking our carnality.

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

Romans 8:5-6 (KJV)

If you follow your flesh, it will lead to death. If you follow after the Spirit, then it will lead to eternal life and the peace of God. We cannot expect the peace of God and His blessings if we follow our own lusts and desires. Verse 8 goes on to say that “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

Ouch.

Want to please God? Pursue Him. Pursue righteousness. Even when people annoy you and schoolwork overwhelms you and your job is miserable, pursue a lifestyle that reflects His Spirit within you.

3. As His children, we have a divine inheritance!

The more we walk after the Spirit, the more we realize another truth of what it means to have life through Christ.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”

Romans 8:14 (KJV)

Those who walk after the Spirit are called the children of God. Our salvation is not based on a “once saved, always saved” ideology. Walking after the Spirit means that we continue pursuing Him and practicing a righteous lifestyle every minute of every day. If we do so and are filled with His Spirit, then we have what verse 15 calls the “Spirit of adoption.” Being “adopted” by Christ not only means His Spirit dwells within us but that we have 1) a loving relationship with Him and 2) a divine inheritance.

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Romans 8:17-18 (KJV)

Being joint-heirs with Christ means that we join in suffering with Him and that we also get to experience the benefits of what we may have to endure on earth—eternal life with Him. No amount of suffering we may experience here can compare to the glory that awaits us in Heaven with our King.

As the old song says, “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ. One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrow will erase. So, bravely run the race till we see Christ.”

No matter what you’re facing, whether you’re going to school or working or both, encourage yourself with these truths.

Through our God, we have freedom, and our past mistakes cannot keep us bound. Through Him, we have everything we need to maintain a righteous lifestyle. Through Him, we have the promise of eternal life.

The weight of this world no longer has a hold on us. We are alive through Christ!

4 Books for Your Summer Reading List

Many schools have already ended the semester, graduates have thrown their caps into the air and received their diplomas, and summer is soon upon us. For some, that means more down time and summer vacation. You might take a trip to the beach with family, go on a road trip across the country, or simply take a stay-cation and do some much-needed yard work or catch up on your summer reading list. If the latter applies to you, then you might be in need of some ideas to fill up that reading list. In fact, no matter if your summer is busy or slowing down, no matter if you’re in high school, just graduated college, or are working all through summer, you can always add more books to your “to be read” list.

It always encourages me to see more young people wanting to read these days, and so I have compiled a short list of a few books that are perfect for adults and teenagers. Comprised of both fiction and nonfiction, below is a list of four books I’ve read and enjoyed that you can add to your summer reading list:

1. In His Steps by Charles M. Sheldon

A classic in Christian literature and the first Christian-based fiction novel I fell in love with, In His Steps is a story about ten people across two cities who explore their faith and its impact on their lives as revival begins to break out around them. Charles Sheldon was a pastor and writer in the late 19th century, and in this book, he wrote the phrase that has since become common in the Christian community: “What would Jesus do?”

There’s romance, drama, tragedy, and spiritual breakthroughs that testify of the blessings that pour into our lives when we surrender ourselves to living for Jesus. In His Steps is the first book that made me want to become a writer, and I highly recommend it to everyone. Luckily, it’s only $5 on Amazon! Check it out here!

2. While We’re Far Apart by Lynn Austin

In this 2010 historical fiction novel, you’ll read about life in New York City for a young woman caring for her friend’s children, the daughter of a soldier fighting in World War II, and an elderly Jewish man worrying about the fate of his son and daughter-in-law as Hitler’s troops invade Europe in search of Jews to capture and kill.

These three characters form familial bonds as the war rages on, and While We’re Far Apart teaches readers about enduring tests of faith, waiting on God, trusting in His Will, and even about Jewish culture!

This book is one of my favorites and gives great insight into the Jewish lifestyle and horrific experience of living through the Holocaust in Europe. It is a must-read for those who love history!

3. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

Of course, those familiar with Christian-based fiction have either read or heard of Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series, which follows several characters as they explore and defend the fantastical world of Narnia.

Lewis drew from many biblical themes in his series and made Narnia a kind of Christian allegory, making this a perfect series for younger readers. If you’re going to start reading Narnia, the best place to start is the beginning with its first book The Magician’s Nephew.

This first book in the Narnia series takes readers on the journey of young Digory as he and his friend Polly discover another mysterious world that is just beginning. The Magician’s Nephew presents the themes of adventure, bravery, and purpose from a child’s point of view, and you’ll get to see how Aslan created the world of Narnia. With its descriptions of worlds that are dying and worlds between worlds with small pools in an endless forest, this book is a fascinating read for those with a rich imagination.

4. A History of Christian Doctrine by David K. Bernard

For those with an interest in nonfiction, this is a great book to read this summer. This book is an abridged history of the church and of the various doctrines and denominations that have formed across time since the days of the Apostolic church in the New Testament.

Bro. Bernard, the general superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church International, shows readers how man’s ideas and doctrines began to influence churches. This in turn led to the creation of different denominations, such as Catholicism and Protestantism, throughout the Post-Apostolic Age, the Great Reformation, and the Pentecostal Movement of the 20th century.

A History of Christian Doctrine is an enlightening read and helped me better understand how different churches formed and beliefs originated across history. Check it out here if you want to add a study of the church and Christian doctrine to your summer reading list.

Whether you’re an avid reader or you read sparingly, I encourage you to check out at least one of these books this summer. If you do, tag me (@caitlinhale_bpr) in a photo of the book cover in your stories on Instagram and let me know your thoughts.

Happy summer reading!