Christians and Counterfeit Love

Christians and Counterfeit Love

On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts~ 1st Thessalonians 2:4

 When I was a teenager I had a close friend who had- what I thought at the time-was the coolest Mother in the known universe. She was verbally expressive when it came to professing love for her daughter and she listened to any and all teenage drama (no matter how absurd and trivial) sans judgment of any kind.

 There was precious little my friend was not permitted to do and occasionally her Mother would even help her evade the consequences of her actions. One time my friend and I skipped school and her Mom wrote both of us a note to excuse the absences with nothing more than a brief and relatively friendly lecture on the importance of going to school. If my friend’s grades were less than stellar (and they frequently were) her Mom signed the report card without so much as a negative word spoken concerning the issue.

 She turned a blind eye as her daughter became sexually active and willfully overlooked disrespect, negligence, underage drinking and even occasional drug use. When questioned about her parenting techniques my friends Mother would wax eloquent on the importance of truly loving and accepting her children in a tangible way.

 In retrospect I find this tale utterly appalling.

 And not just because I’ve raised a bunch of kids and have learned that decent parenting is about a whole heck of a lot more than accepting your children and making them feel good about themselves. This story horrifies me because I know the ultimate outcome of it all. My friend started using drugs and alcohol, never finished high school and had three children before her 21st birthday. As far as I know she never fully recovered from her choices and the bizarre leadership she received as a child.

 Sigh.

 I am convinced that my friend’s Mother wasn’t a bad person in the sense that she neglected, abused or was in some way indifferent towards her daughter. There was absolutely no malice in her actions. She simply confused loving someone with being likeable. She cared more about how her kid felt about her in the short-term than the long-term outcome of her daughter’s life.

 The most vexing aspect of this story is how often this sort of thing plays out in life. A husband or a wife will (in the name of love) ignore their spouse’s character deficiencies to the detriment of the entire family. A friend will stand by silently and watch as someone they claim to love ventures down an ethically questionable path never warning them of the destruction that lies ahead. A parent will bail an adult child out of problems of their own making and then wonder why the kid never seems to grow-up.

 Christians do the same thing sometimes.

 We overlook the sins of those we profess to love and soft-peddle the truth of God’s word—not because we don’t believe God or His word— but because deep down inside we really want people to like us more than we want to tell them the truth. We want to be the cool friend, the cool pastor or the cool co-worker and telling the truth about life and eternity is categorically uncool these days.

 Dietrich Bonheoffer famously said that cheap grace is characterized by the “preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.”

 Mr. Bonheoffer was correct in his assessment of cheap grace.

 Grace and love are inextricably linked. Grace cannot exist without love, because grace is simply an extension of love. This means that if love is counterfeit, then grace will be cheap. Counterfeit love has become appallingly common. At its root counterfeit love is deceptively selfish. The person showing counterfeit love typically wants to love like Jesus loved. But, deep down inside, they want to be liked by others more than they want what’s best for those same people. Which is the exact opposite of loving like Jesus loved.

 Authentic love never loses sight of the long game.

 A parent who truly loves their child will risk being loathed today to ensure the child becomes a decent human being in the future. A genuine friend will endure a little bit of anger in the here-and-now to save their friend from a lifetime of regret. A genuinely loving Christian will risk offending someone today if it will save that person from an eternity in hell.

 It’s time for a revival of the real deal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going Old School-

Going Old School-

So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover~ Matthew 26:19 NIV

 

I am a Protestant Evangelical.

 It’s not that I feel Protestants or Evangelicals or Protestant Evangelicals have the market cornered on truth. I don’t. Nor do I believe Christians who practice their faith differently than I do are immoral, evil or misled in some way.

 I do believe that there is only one way to God (Jesus). However, I also believe that there are many methods available to learn about and worship God. As long as the worship and learning is done in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24) I am generally pretty cool with it.

 It’s just that I (like most Christians) gravitate towards the familiar and comfortable and the Evangelical world is familiar and comfortable to me.

 I became a Christian in a Protestant Evangelical Church and over the years I have come to appreciate (for the most part, more on this later) the no-frills approach to Christianity that Protestant Evangelicalism offers.

 Back in the day I was the executive director of a Pregnancy Care Center in a small town. One of my responsibilities was to visit the Churches that supported our ministry at least once a year and update them on our progress. As a result I have attended just about every classification of Christian church imaginable. From Catholic to Baptist to Oneness Pentecostal, if a denomination worships Jesus and supports pro-life causes I have probably had the pleasure of worshipping there at least once.

It was during those years that discovered how much I love the minimalism of the Protestant experience. I like the fact that I don’t have to approach some Saint and have them forward my prayers to Jesus or confess my sins to a third party to get them forgiven.

 I love that Evangelicals love the Bible and hold it in such high regard. I also love that Protestant Evangelicals believe that all Christians are capable of reading, understanding and interpreting the Bible for themselves. I am a straightforward girl and I appreciate a straightforward approach to the faith.

 However.

 There is one day out of the year when I truly envy the formality, pageantry and ritual of the Catholic and Orthodox Christian traditions.

 Easter.

 I’m just going to go ahead and say it.

 Protestants are remarkably terrible at making the Easter season as spiritually meaningful as it deserves to be. Sadly, Evangelical Protestants take the terribleness to a whole new level.

 In most Protestant Evangelical churches the actual church service is memorable and distinctive. There’s a special sermon, thematic music and some churches even put on a passion play. That said, I have found that generally the season of Easter comes and goes with all the heralding of a drive-by shooting. The lack of spiritual preparation and lead-up to Easter inevitably causes Jesus to take a back seat to the bunnies, candy, egg hunts and ham.

 In an effort to end the madness, I decided to rip a page from my Catholic and Orthodox friends’ playbook and partake in the season of Lent.

 Contrary to popular opinion, Lent is not nor has it ever been a strictly Catholic or Eastern Orthodox thing. Nor was Lent intended to be a Christian weight-loss plan or a second-shot at abandoned New Years resolutions. Lent is one of the oldest customs of the Christian faith; and I for one believe it merits a comeback in Evangelical circles.

 The original intent of Lent was to set aside a time of spiritual preparation, self-examination and repentance prior to Easter Sunday. Traditionally, Lent involves forty days of fasting (a meal or a particular food), reading through at least one of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) and an increased level of prayer.

 Christians have been practicing Lent since as early as the beginning of the second century. Sadly, sometime around the 15th Century Lent became associated with Catholicism and the act of fasting. Protestants who wanted to dissociate themselves from Catholicism stopped doing it, and many Catholics lost touch with the point of Lent and as a result some of the significance of Easter season has been lost for all of us. 

 The official start of Lent has passed. That said, I am persuaded that God doesn’t get stuck on dates or numbers. He sees the heart and it’s not too late to prepare your heart for the most significant day on the Christian calendar. Choose something to fast from, dust off your Bible, do some in-depth spiritual self-examination and pick a few topics to pray about from now until the Wednesday before Easter.

 God just might do something really big and really meaningful in your life this Easter season.

 

Sex, Theology and Politics

Sex, Theology and Politics

 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires~ 2nd Peter 3:3 NIV

 I started blogging because, well, frankly I was naïve and weirdly overconfident in my ability to attract an audience. I figured if I took the time to write it, people would read it.

 My expectations were quickly brought down to earth.

 It didn’t take long to conclude that I had fooled myself into believing I am far cooler than I actually am. My world was briefly shattered when I discovered (much to my chagrin) that most people are not interested in the subjects I find fascinating. I now have irrefutable evidence that there are two subjects that the average person cares nothing about.

 History and theology.

 If I were foolish enough to write a blog on the history of theology I can give you the first and last names of the three (possibly four, five if you count my husband) people who would take the time to read said blog.

 Sigh.

 On the other hand, sex is typically a huge draw.

 I briefly considered putting the word sex in all of my blog titles just to get the clicks. However, I was told it would be misleading to write a blog on say, the pros and cons of the doctrine of determinism; and then trick people into reading it by leading them to believe it was actually about sex.

 I have also found that a rousing political blog typically attracts readers. I also learned that broadcasting my political opinions is the most efficient way to get un-friended by family members on Facebook.

 Today I have decided to throw caution to the wind and combine the topics of sex, politics and theology and see where all that takes us…

 This morning I ventured away from some of my preferred books of the Bible and read through the book of Jude. There I found a verse that got me thinking about how a faulty interpretation of theology can affect both sex and politics…

  For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord~ Jude 4 NIV

 On the surface this verse is fairly straightforward from a historic perspective. Teachers in the ancient church had introduced teachings regarding grace that were generating all sorts of moral chaos and even causing some believers to turn away from Jesus.

 Like I said, fairly straightforward.

 However, Jude was not writing entirely for the benefit of the 1st century Church. Any warning given in the New Testament was intended for all believers throughout the ages. Furthermore, with all the dubious notions concerning the subject of grace floating around today; it’s safe to assume that Jude’s warning was prophetic and more applicable today than at anytime in history.

 The word translated as license in English is a Greek word (exousia) that means authority. Jude seems to be indicating that some had/would come into the church and make themselves into the ultimate authority on what the grace of God is really all about. In the process they would/had pervert the subject and lead many away from truth about God and life.

 We live in a world where many (including some Christians) believe that things the Bible calls evil are good and the things the Bible says are good, are evil (Isaiah 5:20-21).

 This is the fault of the church itself.

 For years the church in America has taught that grace is a giant bucket of forgiveness believers can dip into anytime they please. Not just for unintentional sin but also for intentional sin as well. We have conveniently forgotten that in the Old Testament there was no provision in the law for intentional sin. We have also failed to teach that there are lists of sins in the New Testament that, if they are deliberate and ongoing, promise to defile and ultimately disqualify folks from the Kingdom of God (Mark 7:21-22, Romans 1:24-31, Galatians 5:19-21, Colossians 3:5-9, 1st Corinthians 6:9-10, 1st Timothy 1:9-10, Revelation 21:8).

 Christians are called to be the moral leaders of the world. Because believers have adopted a wobbly view of right and wrong- especially where sexuality and divorce are concerned- social chaos has followed. Now politicians are busy sanctioning sexual sin into the law of the land. The Church paved the way for the world to believe that there will never be any sort of consequences for anything, no matter how sinful.

 We need a restructuring of our thinking regarding the subject of grace. Christians are called to be holy people, not exploiters of God’s willingness to forgive. A return to holiness might just stimulate a much-needed sea change that affects every sphere of society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

The Key to Surviving Unwanted Changes

The Key to Surviving Unwanted Changes

 

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there~ Genesis 39:1 NIV

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when I believed with all of my heart that I was one of those atypical unicorn-like individuals who actually liked and even thrived on change.

 I know now that I must have aggravated the fire out of every poor chump unfortunate enough to have a conversation with me about the subject. I am sure there were folks who contemplated homicide, as I waxed eloquent on my love for change and ability to adapt to whatever came my way.

 Then along about five years ago I had an unpleasant reality check in the form of at least a dozen different changes I did not like, want or understand.

 Sigh.

 The good news is that I got to be a lot less annoying really quickly as I figured out that I (like all normal people) really only like change I have at least some control over. Change is wonderful when you’re discussing it in the abstract or contemplating something fun, like a move to a new city or a job promotion.

Change is just not nearly as thrilling when it is thrust upon you like an impromptu and ugly blind date; or when it comes in the shape of something awful and unwanted like a job loss, a car accident, a death in the family, a grim diagnosis or a divorce you didn’t want.

 However.

 As a Christian I have confidence that nothing enters our lives without God’s foreknowledge. I also believe that if we seek to live for God in the midst of circumstances we do not like or understand, good will eventually come out of even the ugliest of situations (Romans 8:28). Because I truly believe all that, I had to come to terms with the fact that God had a purpose for the changes disturbing my peaceful reality.

 I learned a few lessons during that period in my life; and not just to shut my pie-hole about circumstances I had yet to experience. I also learned that whether or not we barely survive the changes or thrive in the middle of it all depends on whether or not we understand and live-out these four truths…

 Unwelcome change brings losses that should be grieved-

 I am not intimating that the trauma of an unexpected pregnancy is somehow equal to the trauma of the death of loved one. However, both changes involve loss and all losses deserve at least a quick trip through the five stages of grief. Taking the time to feel the feelings that come with loss, rather than pretending those feelings don’t exist, will prevent emotional problems (such as depression) and spiritual problems (such as bitterness) in the future.

 Guard your heart against bitterness and hate-

 The greatest danger in unwelcome change is bitterness. We can easily become embittered towards the people who wronged us, didn’t see our value or who betrayed our trust in some way. We can also become bitter towards God for not working our circumstances out in a different way. Bitterness towards anyone is poison to our souls and must be dealt with decisively by grieving the loss, forgiving the jerks that hurt us and accepting the new normal.

 Embrace the opportunities change brings-

 When one door closes another opens. However, we can get so caught-up in what we are losing that we don’t see the opportunities that opening up right in front of us. If you are in the center of an unwelcome change, ask God to show you the doors He’s opening on your behalf. I guarantee you there are some.

 Unwanted changes are a time for reflection and self-improvement-

 I don’t believe God brought unwanted change into my life because I was doing anything wrong or sinful. However, in retrospect I was really bad at saying “no” and standing-up for myself. As a result I was going in a direction that others had chosen for me and I had little inclination to do the things I was actually called to do. That period in my life gave me the downtime I needed to self-analyze and eventually form more of a backbone. I also got to know God and myself a whole lot better. In the process of all that reflection I figured out who I really was, how to say “no” and what I was really good at.

 Joseph (Genesis 37-50) is the poster-child for surviving and prospering in the midst of unwelcome change. He was sold as a slave by his brothers, jailed for a crime he didn’t commit and forgotten by the person who had the power to rescue him and yet he never stopped learning, growing and serving God. As a result of his willingness to embrace the opportunities that came with unwelcome he literally changed his world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If You Can’t Say Something Smart…

If You Can’t Say Something Smart…

The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint~ Proverbs 17:27a NIV

 I am a staunch defender of free speech.

 Free speech is ultimately the underpinning of every other human freedom. No one really has the freedom to do much of anything if they cannot first discuss what they want to discuss freely and without fear of retaliation. Therefore, I will defend (to the death) the right of someone to say something I absolutely do not agree with.

 However,

 I have developed some definite preferences as to when, how and where others exercise their right to say what they want to say, especially if they are determined to say something moronic, crude or ignorant.

 I have grown particularly weary of creative uses of the F-bomb. I am not a fan of the current trend of augmenting the F-word with suffixes such as -tard, nugget, weasel, blossom, weed or -ity. Neither do I advocate the adding of prefixes to said word, especially other swear words.

 Seriously.

 I would prefer that we keep the use of any and all F-bombs to a minimum in public places. It’s not that I wish to stifle creativity or prevent folks from conceiving fresh methods of using old words. It’s just that I support the old-school notion that free speech doesn’t give anyone the right to be a foul-mouthed turd in front of someone else’s preschooler.

 There are other words I object to simply because I am sick to death of hearing them used incorrectly. I am not talking about the standard grammar-cop kind of stuff some folks get bent out of shape over. How one chooses to use words like their, there and they’re is entirely their business. However, I do reserve the right to silently mock anyone who uses those words incorrectly.

 My issue is with words that have been appropriated by people who have no idea what those words actually mean.

 Take for example the word “fascist”.

 Historically speaking a fascist is a socialist who aims to squash free speech, regulate the public and private behavior of citizens, and eliminate any religious expression that does not directly support the interests of the state. Fascists also believe the state ought to punish anyone who is unwilling to conform to standards set by the state.

 Declining to bake a cake for a gay wedding does not make one a fascist. Although it could be argued that a government that would penalize someone for not baking a cake for a gay wedding has clearly stepped over the line into a dangerous form of fascism.

 Nazi is another word driving me nuts these days.

 Nazi’s are for all intents and purposes just extraordinarily bigoted and brutal fascists. Contrary to popular belief, those who believe in rigorous immigration standards and border enforcement are not Nazi’s. They are just people who believe in borders and the rule of law. It is simply unacceptable to classify anyone as a Nazi unless they are advocating for or committing acts of genocide.

 People who don’t agree with your personal political views are not Nazis and fascists. They are just people who don’t agree with you. It is not fair-minded, wise or morally justifiable to demonize or disparage someone simply because they see the world differently than you do.

 That’s what Nazi’s and fascists do.

 Another peeve of mine is when folks overuse a perfectly good word. The word “offended” is a perfect example of a good word gone bad due to overuse. Not a day goes by that I don’t eavesdrop on some snowflake sniveling about how offended they are.

 As a Christian, the list of things I find distasteful these days is nearly endless. I am offended at least a dozen times on any given day. You know what happens when I am offended?

 Nothing.

 I don’t demonstrate or scream or demand a puppy to cuddle (even though I really like puppies), because I’m a grown-up and I figured out long ago that offended-ness is the price we pay to live in democracy where people have the freedom to make choices about what they do and believe.

 Words can be overused and abused; and when that happens those words lose their shock value. Words like Nazi, fascist, and even offended are words that ought to shock. When we use a word like fascist or Nazi to describe a person who disagrees with our pet political view we reduce it down to every other word. When that happens we may find ourselves unable to recognize an actual fascist when they knock down our door.  

 

 

 

We Should All Be a Little More Like Lady Gaga (Seriously)

We Should All Be a Little More Like Lady Gaga (Seriously)

Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions~ Proverbs 18:2 NIV

 Like most families in America we tuned into the Super bowl last Sunday night. We are not diehard football fans and unless the Seahawks are playing we rarely have all that much invested in who wins. This year we watched mostly for the camaraderie, the snacks, and the weirdly hedonistic pleasure we derive from critiquing the commercials.

 We had a houseful of junior high boys during the 2004 Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake “nipple gate” fiasco. As a result my husband and I are more than a bit skittish about exposing (no pun intended) our family and guests to the halftime entertainment provided by the NFL during the Super bowl.

 Our new “tradition” is to record any halftime performer who we believe might be questionable. After the game we consult Google to get the lowdown. Then if it turns out that it’s not all kinds of inappropriate, we watch it after the game.

 Life in the modern world is weird sometimes.

 We were particularly uneasy about this years show. Mostly, because the headliner was Lady Gaga and- well- Lady Gaga is Lady Gaga. She’s best known for controversy, meat dresses, near nudity and at least a zillion other dubious choices.

 Magnifying our concern was a statement she made during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine a few days prior to the Super bowl:

 “I believe in a passion for inclusion, I believe in the spirit of equality, and the spirit of this country is one of love and compassion and kindness so my performance will uphold those philosophies”

 Please understand. I do not typically assume the worst in people.

 However, her statement was so ambiguous that it left me completely clueless as to what she was attempting to communicate. Besides, I have been conditioned by the culture to believe that when people use words like “equality” and “inclusion” those words are almost always code for some sort of crude and gratuitous sexual display. On top of all that, Lady Gaga is a well-known liberal and most liberals totally lost their minds on November 8th, 2016 and have yet to come to their senses.

 The combination of above factors logically led me to assume that her statement to Rolling Stone was political in nature and that she intended to do something we wouldn’t be able to un-see.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

 Lady Gaga’s halftime show was a fun, patriotic and wonderfully sparkly performance lacking in even a smidgen of controversy.

 I was left feeling more than a bit shameful for jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst of another human being. As I was repenting of my ugly inclination to judge, it struck me that I need to rethink nearly everything I believe about life and the universe now that I have come to the conclusion that all of us should try and be a little bit more like Lady Gaga.

 Minus the meat dresses and nudity of course.

 I never thought I would live to hear myself say this but I am proud of the stand Lady Gaga took by choosing not to take a stand. She had the opportunity (and the platform) to jump to the political and rant endlessly about what she believes about all sorts of social and political issues. Instead she chose the path of unity, not by kowtowing (that would be dishonest), but by keeping a fun and light-hearted event (the Super Bowl) a fun and light-hearted event.

 Over the course of the last few years it has become nauseatingly trendy for individuals from every walk of life and both sides of the political aisle to turn EVERYTHING into a political statement. Americans are force-fed a steady stream of political commentary through bumper stickers, television commercials, award shows, music, movies and their Facebook feeds. Even many popular fiction authors have taken to proselytizing for their pet causes through the stories they tell.

 Yuck.

 I believe that everyone should speak-up for what they believe in. I also believe that every voice (well, most voices) should be heard. Healthy debate is a good thing. I also believe there is a time and a place for political discourse and even political disagreement. That said, football games are not the time or the place for political discourse or debate. Football games are a time for celebration, friends, food and unity and I for one am grateful that at least one Hollywood liberal finally figured that out.

 It’s about stinking time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please Stop Telling me To Breathe

Please Stop Telling me To Breathe

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord~ Isaiah 1:18a ESV

 Reader be warned.

I was feeling a bit snarky as I composed this post. The views expressed are undoubtedly a bit a petty. However, the opinions articulated also accurately depict how I feel and what I think. Since I take the time to write a weekly blog I feel (rightly or wrongly) that effort entitles me to occasionally express a snarky/petty opinion in writing from time-to-time.

 With that little disclaimer out of the way, read on.

 I am not a person who is typically quick to hop on a bandwagon or embrace a popular trend. I like to think this is because I am a thinker, blessed with classic good taste, and am securely grounded in what I like and believe.

 However, truth-be-told the real reason I reject the latest fashion trends is because I’m cheap and lazy and I figured out long ago that most trends die before the credit card charge is processed. I simply refuse to invest in anything until I am at least reasonably certain it’s going to stick around for longer than a single season.

 Unfortunately, my kids came along during the early years of the “self esteem” parenting movement. Therefore, they were among the first kids in the history of the world to receive lavish levels of praise for pooping and trophies for doing nothing more remarkable than simply existing. I have witnessed first hand the damage that trend has done to individual children as well as society at large. As a result I tend to roll my eyes at the “never say no, only no thank you” movement and other aspects of the “positive” or “enlightened” parenting bandwagon. Neither am I a proponent of the “helicopter” or “conscience” parenting movements that have gained popularity in recent years.  

 Trendiness in churches bothers me even more than trendiness in the fashion or parenting world. It’s not that I am opposed to new ideas. I am actually a big advocate of strategic change.

 Thoughtful adjustments to the way we do church and present the gospel are often the engine that fuels church growth and even revival. Sadly, a good number of current church trends are not particularly strategic or well thought out. They are just someone’s pet idea or phrase that gets circulated around the greater Christian community until it catches on and becomes a “thing”.

 Which brings me to my latest trend peeve.

 Drum roll please….

 Breathing.

 No. You did not read that wrong.

 Reminding Christians to breathe is now a real thing. There’s a song about it and everything. Hardly a week goes by when I don’t stumble across some syrupy meme on Facebook reminding me that ALL God really wants me to do is breathe.

 I doubt that.

 This emerging trend annoys me mostly because it presupposes that there is some sort of spiritual value to the act of breathing. There’s not. Nowhere in the New Testament (or the Old for that matter) are Christians told by God to “just breathe”. In Christianity breathing is not considered a valid spiritual discipline or exercise; it is simply a God-given involuntary function.

 God designed humans to breathe. We drop dead if we don’t.

 I understand the deeper issue behind the “just breathe” movement. Life is stressful. Circumstances often feel overwhelming. And I cannot find anyplace in the Bible were we are instructed to worry ourselves into an early grave or take on all the cares of the world.

 That being said, stress is a lot like the check-engine light in a car. The stress is not the problem; it’s simply a sign of a bigger problem and an indicator that God is calling us to do a prayerful evaluation of our situation. Rather than just breathing when the pressures of life feel overwhelming we need to take six steps:

 Stop long enough to evaluate the situation and seek counsel- Proverbs 12:15

Pray for wisdom- James 1:5

Decide how we can simplify our lives- Romans 14:19

Ask for help- Galatians 6:2

Repent of any people-pleasing that is creating more stress- Ephesians 5:10

Trust God to see us through a difficult season- Proverbs 3:5-6

 We are commanded in Scripture to Cast our anxieties on Him (Jesus), because He cares for us (1st Peter 5:7). There is a whole lot more to that command than simply breathing. God wants us to think through our situation, seek wise counsel, live to please God instead of people and trust Him to guide us through difficult seasons.

 

The Secret to Real and Lasting Change

The Secret to Real and Lasting Change

Your servant Joab did this to change the present situation ~ 2nd Samuel 14:20a NIV

 I am currently reading through the book of Exodus.

 I recently got to the point in the narrative where Pharaoh and God engage in what can only be described as an epic smackdown.

 Most of us know the story.

 God instructed Pharaoh (through Moses) to let the people he had been enslaving go free. For obvious economic and probably some not so obvious personal reasons Pharaoh, rejected God’s call. God responded to Pharaoh’s insolence by sending some unusually nasty disasters in an effort to convince the Pharaoh to comply.

 Pharaoh was not a man easily motivated to change.

 At one point Pharaoh’s own advisors reminded him that Egypt was pretty much ruined already. They begged him to do as the Hebrew God had asked before further disaster was brought on the land (Exodus 10:7).

 Rather than changing his behavior, Pharaoh doubled-down on his policy, fought God and rejected the change God wanted to bring into his life. Like all people who fight God, he eventually lost. The slaves were freed and Pharaoh found himself pushing up daisies due to his own idiotic and unrelenting stubbornness (Exodus 14).

 As I was reflecting on this story I have to confess that I found myself thinking some rather smug and judgmental thoughts regarding Pharaoh. I couldn’t help but wonder why a person would fight so hard against change when the benefits of doing something different were clearly obvious even to the most hard-headed of fools.

 Then I had one of those lighting-bolt moments.

 There is an issue that has been generating what can only be described as weird chaos in my life for three years. In recent weeks I have made some massive modifications to the way I am handling said issue. As a result there has been an almost miraculous turnaround in an incredibly short period of time. Sadly, the truth about what needed to be done was right in front of me the whole time. However, it took me 1095 days (give or take) to come to my senses and make the changes that now seem painfully obvious in retrospect.

 So much for having life all figured out.

 As I was reflecting on my own folly, it occurred to me that no rational person WANTS to stay stuck in a sinful pattern of behavior, counter-productive relationship, or bad situation. However, even many Christian people find themselves stuck in such situations.

 Three issues hold us back from the freedom that change brings.

 Fear of the future keeps many from making needed changes. Humans fear what they do not know and there is no way of knowing what life is going to look or feel like if we let go of a bad situation, negative pattern of behavior, harmful relationship or sinful coping technique.

 Secondly, at the heart of a refusal to change there is almost always an idol of some sort. An idol is anything we put before obedience to God and His commands.

 Drugs, alcohol, control, sex, power, relationships and money are just a few of our modern-day idols. Wanting to be loved, and fear of being rejected, is probably one of the most common (and least discussed) idols in the church. Fear of being disliked or rejected causes otherwise intelligent and even spiritual people to tolerate situations and participate in activities that are clearly sinful and stupid for much too long.

 And finally there’s pride. In order to make necessary changes we must first admit that we were going about things all wrong in the first place. Owning that fact sucks, it’s embarrassing, and it also offends our misguided sense of self.

So we hang on to our sin.

 Change can only occur when we humble ourselves and repent.

 Repentance is more than simply admitting we were wrong and moving on. In order for the change that comes as a result of repentance to be permanent we must come up with a prayerful strategy for the future.

 We must suck up our fear, swallow our pride and admit we got it wrong. Then we need to let go of any idol that is holding us back and work out a plan for handling the future. Finally, we need to pray like crazy so that we will have the power necessary to do what needs to be done.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Time to Move on Already

It’s Time to Move on Already

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior~ 1st Timothy 2:1-3 NIV

 Any longtime reader of mine knows that I was not exactly a huge Trump supporter. I was in fact so opposed to a Trump presidency that I composed several passionate blog posts throughout the primary season in a futile attempt to persuade folks to vote for anyone but Trump.

 Once Trump secured the nomination, it took me a long time to come to terms with the choice of my fellow conservatives. Over the course of the subsequent months I slogged my way through the five stages of grief and eventually came to a place of unenthusiastic acceptance of his candidacy and reluctantly cast my vote for Trump. Mostly because I felt there were no other truly viable options.

 Sigh.

I am not confessing all this in an effort to rehash the past or bash Trump (I’m so over all that). I am sharing because I want folks to know that I really do understand the feelings of those whose candidate lost the election.

 I get it. Losing sucks. No one likes it.

 That aside, even with my empathy for others firmly in place I have been more than a bit mystified by the reaction of some in the anti-Trump camp. One would think those people had never experienced any sort of disappointment before.

 Post election hysteria reached a fever pitch early on with the irate expressions of childishness, self-indulgent temper tantrums violent demonstrations and emotionally charged cry-ins immediately following the election. Progressive rage eventually morphed into whiney demands for a recount. When that hope was thwarted by reality. The left (apparently not easily motivated to introspection) moved on to blaming everyone and everything but Hilary Clinton, her lack of accomplishment, countless scandals and pitifully flaccid message.

 Hollywood liberals have kept the bellyaching alive with their absurd anti-Trump promos and ceaseless sermonizing regarding their hazy fears and the unsubstantiated perils of a Trump presidency. The media has done their level best to sow dissent by blaming fake news, generating fake news, and howling endlessly about Russian hackers and conspiracy theories.

 But, I digress.

 This blog post is not really about post election madness, progressive meltdowns or pretentious anxiety coming out of Hollywood. Neither is it about the media, their obvious bias against all things conservative, the Russians, or fake news.

 This blog post is about the individual responsibility we all have in preserving a free and democratic society and coming together as a country. It’s time for America to get a collective grip and start thinking rationally about all this.

 Progressives, who are depressed by the election results, need to understand that we (conservatives) feel your pain. Most conservative people were more than a little uneasy when Obama got elected the first time. Many were positively panicked when he won the second time around. However, we survived Obama and you will survive Trump.

 The beauty of the system our founding fathers crafted is that no one person or party gets to rule forever and there are enough checks and balances built into the system to keep even the worst leaders from becoming dictatorial overlords. It’s time to end the histrionics and give the guy a chance. If Trump fails, I guarantee that you will get your guy (or gal) in four years, and if he succeeds, you succeed.

 Either way it’s a win for your team.

Supporters of Trump would do well to remember that no one man is ever the answer to all of a nation’s problems. Unless of course that man happens to be Jesus and Trump is definitely not Jesus. That said, God has used far lesser men than Donald Trump to accomplish great things in this world.

 Our primary responsibility as believers is to pray for those in authority, even those we don’t like or agree with (Romans 13:7). Love him or hate him, each and every one of us ought to pray daily for Donald Trump. He clearly needs our prayers. He’s got a big job to do. A job that is so big, so complex, and so fraught with landmines that no human being could possibly do it effectively without the support, guidance and blessing of God.

 I have a postscript for my conservative friends.    

 I get that you’re happy. Our guy won and it feels really good, conservatives have sustained a lot of defeats over the course of the last eight years and it’s been a rough and depressing ride. Nevertheless, lets try to refrain from too much gloating; it’s boorish and it frightens the progressives.

 We clearly don’t need anymore of that.

 

 

Stupid Stuff Christians Do

Stupid Stuff Christians Do

Be very careful, then how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil~ Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV

 We all do stupid stuff sometimes. It’s simply a small piece of this thing we call “being human”.

 Some stupid stuff is essentially inconsequential in the grand scheme. Things like shopping at Costco the day before a holiday, ordering the triple cheeseburger meal, or forgetting to turn the heater down at night are all choices that will cause no serious harm to anyone but us.  

 Then there’s the big stuff.

 When I say ‘big’, I am talking about actions that are potentially life altering and destructive. Driving drunk, using drugs, having affairs, and committing armed robbery all fall neatly into the category of really stupid stuff that has the potential to hurt all kinds of people.

 Then there’s the stupid stuff Christians do.

 Most of the stupid stuff Christians do is not intended to harm anyone. We just do stuff without bothering to question the rightness, wrongness or wisdom of our actions.

 If we are lucky and circumstances merciful we are the only ones hurt by the stupid stuff we do. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as luck and circumstances are rarely merciful. When one Christian does a stupid thing it becomes harder for all Christians to share the gospel effectively, it also causes all Christian to appear ignorant, mean-spirited and/or hypocritical to the unsaved world.

 Any list of stupid stuff Christians should avoid needs to begin with…

 1. Speaking in anger- James 1:20

 I know there are times when things just need to be said and saying them when we are angry feels really good. However, I have learned the hard way that speaking our minds when angry rarely leads anywhere beneficial or productive.

 2. Refusing to take advice or accept correction- Proverbs 19:20, Proverbs 12:1.

 Imprudent people assume they already know everything about everything. Wise people receive criticism and evaluate it honestly, seek out divergent opinions and request guidance. Wise people don’t do everything others tell them to do (that would be stupid) but they are willing to hear others out.

 3. Tolerating sinful behavior from the people we love- Matthew 18:15, Luke 17:3, Galatians 6:1-2, Jude 22-24

 In a culture where the highest value is “judge not lest you be judged” confronting sin feels counter-intuitive and wrong. However, a well-timed, well-worded and loving confrontation might just be the only thing that saves a rebellious person from a lifetime of self-destruction and an eternity spent in hell.

 4. Allowing personal sin to take root in secret- Genesis 4:7

 If you do not wish to participate in a particular activity (with a few notable exceptions) in front of your Mother, Pastor, supervisor or a police officer, that activity likely has the power to destroy you. Stop it. Now.

 5. Playing with dangerous behaviors that may or may not be sinful- Ephesians 5:15

 Just because an activity is legal that does not make it a wise thing to do or to do excessively. We should think long and hard before we entangle ourselves in any behavior with that has the potential for self-destruction.  

 6. Isolation- Genesis 2:18

 A natural response to hurt for certain types of people is to isolate himself or herself from anyone who might possibly cause more pain (basically all of humanity). This form of self-protection feels noble and even wise but is a really terrible idea. Isolation inevitably breeds peculiar ideas and weird behaviors. Neither helps the cause of Christ.

 7. Choosing to have the wrong kinds of people in our lives- Proverbs 13:20, 1st Corinthians 15:33, 2nd Corinthians 6:14

 Sadly enough good people rarely affect bad people to the same degree that bad people affect good people. That’s why even grownups ought to choose their friends, spouses and associates wisely.

 8. Believing everything we hear or read- Proverbs 18:15, Matthew 10:16

 Christians are sometimes the most gullible people on earth and it really hurts Christianity. God calls His people to be wise, perceptive and discerning. If a news story (no matter how juicy) cannot be substantiated by more than one source, assume it’s false and do not post it on Facebook, mention it to your prayer group or write a blog about it. Please.

 9. Not listening to others- Acts 17:16-34

 I am shocked at the number of Christians I know who simply will not listen to anyone or even watch an interview with a person who does not share their opinion on EVERYTHING. It’s true that we need to be discerning about what and whom we allow to influence us. That said, if we never engage with people who think differently than we do we will never impact our world for Jesus.

 Most of this stuff is less about smart and stupid than making the decision to consistently seek God and do life His way. When we look to God and His word for guidance He directs our steps and we cannot help but become wise; and in the process of becoming wise we stop doing stupid stuff.