Posted in Other Things

Take Off the Mask

[Note from Jack Flacco: Erica Hedtke Barreto attends Hoboken Grace in New Jersey and is this week’s contributing writer for Looking to God.]

My husband and I had an interesting conversation the other night when he came home from his men’s dinner group. He explained how the group’s discussion centered on sharing God’s message with others. The group consensus was that each of them was hesitant to talk about who God is, not only in their workplace, but also with the people who were not within their church circle. They admitted their fear of people’s judgement and the labels they would inherit, for instance “Jesus freak”. While we were sitting on the couch together talking about this, I knew I had to have this same conversation with you.

I remember how a few years ago I listened to a sermon telling us that we should be the same person in every moment of our lives. I did not understand this at first, but once I started paying attention, I could see that I would say and do different things at church than I would when hanging out with friends. I would be one Erica in my dinner group and another Erica at work. I would talk about my love for God to certain people, but then to others I would stay quiet. I could feel this conflict in my heart, and it bothered me that I could not be the real Jesus-loving me in every situation, even if I knew what it was that was holding me back. That it was the fear of others judging me for my faith. I was afraid of how people would look at me, treat me, and maybe go so far as to exclude me from activities all because they found out that I am more spiritual than I let on.

There is another side to the coin, though.

God calls us to be His stewards here on Earth. He does not say, “Talk about Me when you feel comfortable.” He does not say, “Praise My name only on Sunday morning surrounded by other Christians.” No, God calls us to be stewards every single day we are on this Earth. Look at what it says in the book of Mark:

“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15)

That is, to the whole creation. Not just some, not just when no one is around or paying attention to you, not just when you have an extra ten minutes to spare, not just when you feel like it, and not just to those like you, but to the whole creation.

If that sounds difficult to do, imagine what it was like for Jesus. He put himself in all kinds of uncomfortable situations with lepers, prostitutes, the high priest and the council, regardless of people not accepting Him and regardless of people hating Him; the latter of which ultimately led to His death on the cross. This is the type of surrender that verse is talking about. This is the kind of disciple God was looking for when He set out to create each one of us.

Therefore, why are we throwing ourselves under a cape, hiding our true identities? Is it to make others feel comfortable? If so, let us take off the mask of the image we are projecting, and live the real life God called us to live.

Posted in Other Things

Rise Up

[Note from Jack Flacco: I have known Erica Hedtke Barreto for several years now. Her love for Jesus and the bible is beyond measure. When I asked if she would like to submit one of her articles to me for publication, she jumped at the chance. Below is the result. Please join me today in welcoming Erica as a contributing writer for Looking to God.]

What do these three entities have in common: Voldemort, Beetlejuice and the devil? All are evil and all their names are not to be spoken aloud. However, just because we may choose not to say their names, does not mean all of them are fantasies.

Not saying “Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice” does not change the fact that in fictional reality, this utterance would cause him to appear. In the same way, ignoring the devil’s presence will not change the fact that in our reality he very much exists and very much interferes in our everyday life. By ignoring his presence, we end up giving him power. We are like a parent who looks the other way as the child steals the piece of candy off the shelf. Rather, what we should do is call him by name and catch him in the act. Otherwise, we let him win. He goes about his time thinking that he owns us and knows exactly how to mess with us. We let him wreak havoc on our days, on our confidence, and on our relationships.

We need to recognize that the devil is as real as God is. We need to be okay with saying his name. We need to remember that he is that evil, little monster whose job it is to play mind games and to manipulate us into thinking we are not good enough for anything. From that point on, you call him on it. Do not allow him to sneak into your thoughts; he does not deserve any power over you. Confess in that moment, “The Lord is my light and my salvation,” as it says in Psalms 27:1. And if you notice that he is using his number one warfare tactic—fear—then continue that verse by saying, “whom shall I fear?” We are children of the King and our God Himself told us that if we are His, then we have no reason to fear anything.

So listen up devil: we see you. We hear you. And we are not afraid to put you back in that rightful place our King has sent you!

Let us rise up in 2019 not to be afraid to speak our salvation aloud. Let us not be afraid to take down these evil enemies. Jesus already won the war. Now, with His help, it is up to us to win the battles.