Breaking Free From Regret


Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death~ 2nd 7:10

 Regret is a tough topic.

 Mostly because there are so many different levels of regret. Some regrets are minor in the grand scheme of things. Missed opportunities to do good or an occasional overindulgence (AKA taco night at my house) are lamentable for entirely different reasons. However, none of those scenarios leads to the kind of grief that steals our joy and keeps us stuck in destructive emotional and spiritual patterns.

 Other regrets are tougher to reconcile because some regrets are by their very nature trickier to overcome. A missed opportunity to do good can typically be made-up at another time and the consequences of most indulgences can be remedied with a little extra exercise. Other choices are less easily overcome. We might deeply regret getting married and/or divorced, our chosen career path, the choice to have (or not have) children, or a great big sinful decision that simply cannot be undone.

 Whatever the cause, regret can quickly become psychologically and spiritually debilitating. This is especially true if we allow ourselves to get stuck in the quagmire of “what if” and “if only” thinking. When this happens, we spend an inordinate amount of time wondering what life would look like if only we had made another decision or wishing we had taken another route in life.

 “What if” and “if only” thinking is a pointless waste of energy because it keeps us stuck in the past and focuses our energy in an introspective, navel gaze-y kind of way that will never actually change anything. To the best of my (admittedly limited) knowledge even God cannot change the past. Consequently, there is nothing to be gained by wishing we could do something that even the Omnipotent Maker of the Universe cannot (or chooses not) do.

 That said.

 Dealing with regret is about more than simply “getting over it” or “moving on”. I am convinced that God wants us to do more than just “get over” stuff. He wants to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ and sometimes God uses our deepest and most profound regrets in life to shape us into the people He wants us to be (Romans 8:28).

 There are four things we need to do anytime we are struggling with regret.

 The first is…

 Own what you need to own-

 Wise people own their mistakes because they know they will never grow past anything they refuse to take responsibility for (Psalm 32:5). If you have regrets concerning your marriage or how your kids turned out, do enough soul searching to figure out your part in the mess and own it. Don’t blame God, your parents, your spouse, society, or the church for the choices you made. No one can change what they refuse to acknowledge. Taking ownership is the first step to solving problems and living at peace with the past.

 Change what you can change-

 Taking responsibility frees us up to see what can and cannot be changed in any given situation. Sometimes even small changes in how we deal with people or circumstances can dramatically affect the outcome of the situation or the health of the relationship. If you don’t know what to do, read some Christian books, seek the advice of someone who has their life together or spend some time with a Christian counselor or pastor. Whatever you do, don’t give-up.  

Make right what needs to be made right-

 This means seeking forgiveness (Psalm 38:18, Hebrews 8:12). Every sin is ultimately a sin against God, so go to Him first and ask him to forgive you (He will). Then talk to the people you have hurt or wronged. If you were a crummy parent, spouse or friend be honest about your shortcomings and don’t blame others for your failures (Psalm 37:37, Hebrews 12:14). Seeking forgiveness from the people we hurt may or may not change how they feel about us but it does create an environment where God can bless and heal us.    

 Trust in the resurrection power of Jesus to do what we cannot do-

 Sadly, there are times in life when situations or relationships are simply broken beyond our ability to fix them. Once we’ve done what we can do, we need to trust God to do the impossible. The Bible is clear; if you are a believer in Jesus then the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is living in you and working on your behalf (Romans 8:11). The resurrection power of Jesus is not only about salvation. Over time (if we let it) God’s power infiltrates our lives and that power allows Him to do the impossible and fix the things that broken beyond fixing.

 

 

 

 

Defending a Cause I Believe In

                                                                                                                                                     Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from God. Psalm 127:3 NIV

 I just finished reading an article that left me feeling rather melancholy.

 The article was originally published in Marie Claire magazine, and is entitled “Inside the Growing Movement of Women Who Wish They Never Had Kids”. The writer tells the stories of women from around the world who freely admit that they seriously regret having kids.

 I am a bit of a skeptic, so at first I was dubious. Surely, the author was overstating the extent of the issue to get clicks and sell magazines. However, some quick research revealed that this is indeed a real thing. I found dozens of articles on the subject and a plethora of chat rooms and support groups that serve as safe spaces for women who sincerely wish they never had kids.

 My first impulse was to judge.

 Not because they feel the way they feel. I learned long ago that feelings (unlike actions) are not something that can be easily controlled. And as someone who has had some pretty inappropriate thoughts and feelings concerning all sorts of things and people I would never judge anyone for feeling a particular way.

 That said, I struggle to withhold judgment when I see folks vomiting up their feelings all over cyberspace. Call me old-fashioned, but even in the age of compulsive over-sharing I still believe there are circumstances where it is thoroughly appropriate to shut our pie-holes and keep some feelings bottled-up nice and tight.

 Because defending a cause is a far more noble pursuit than judging others I’m going to drop the judgment and attempt to make a defense for the cause of Motherhood. I will not attempt to feed you some insipid or overly spiritualized line about how fulfilling and blissful every moment of motherhood is, that is simply not true. Like most things in life mothering does have its moments of blissful fulfillment, but it’s far from easy and blissful especially in the early years.

 As the Mother of four I know that while you’re in the middle of raising young children, parenting FEELS like a lot of hard work and frustration punctuated with moments of agonizing self-doubt. But as someone who has raised kids to adulthood I can also tell you that mothering is worth the effort for four reasons:

 Mothering impacts the future like nothing else-

 To my eternal shame my children know very little about their great-Grandmother. She died long before they were born and I doubt any of them could tell me her first name. They certainly don’t know what she did for a living or any details concerning her overall net worth. However, I see a lot of the attitudes she modeled including fair-mindedness, generosity, and the value of hard work living on in them. She sowed those ideals into me and I have done my level best to pass her legacy on to them. Most people a hundred years from now will not know or care about what you did for a living but they will know exactly what you valued in life because they will see those values living on in future generations.

 Mothering is the best discipleship opportunity you are ever going to get-

 Most Christians long to make a spiritual impact on the future. Sadly, few of us feel we are given much of an opportunity to affect spiritual change in others. Parenting gives us the better part of two decades to impart spiritual truth into the hearts of our kids. If we go the extra mile and live the truth we teach we will make a significant spiritual impact on the lives of the kids we raise and they in turn will make an impact on future generations.

 Mothering has the power to make us better people-

 Mothering reveals in living color every single one of our shortcomings and less-than-healthy coping mechanisms. When our weaknesses are exposed we have two options, we can ignore reality or we can become better people. There is nothing quite like having a couple of kids watching to give us the incentive needed to work at becoming better people.

 Parenting makes us dependent on God for wisdom and direction-

 Seriously, anyone who has parented for more than an hour knows that parenting is scary. Being scared causes a lot of people to look to God and we are all better people when we are looking to God for insight and assistance.

 For decades now women have been fed the lie that motherhood is a waste of our time, energy, and talents. That lie is fostered in blogs and magazine articles promoting a survivor approach to parenting, snarky memes belittling motherhood and cutesy signs inscribed with “charming” little adages like “Mommy needs vodka” and “don’t mind the mess the children are being a**holes”. With those attitudes so deeply rooted in our culture it’s not surprising that many women regret having kids. As Christian women it is incumbent on us to take the long view of things and remember that we are not called to live comfortable, stress-free lives today, rather we are called to live for future generations.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Wishlist for the Church In 2017

 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ~ Philippians 1:9-10 NIV

I have a rather sketchy relationship with New Year’s resolutions.

 I love the whole notion of New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, I tend to struggle with the follow-thru required to actually bring my dreams of self-betterment to fruition.

 It all starts out fairly well.

 Like most folks I typically I find myself feeling a bit pudgy and sluggish between Christmas and News Years. It’s the sad but predictable outcome of too many Christmas cookies and not enough time on the treadmill in the weeks leading up to the holidays. So logically my goals for the coming year begin with a strategy for weight loss and reaching a level of physical fitness I have never achieved before (a doubtful endeavor at my age and stage of life, but you can’t fault a woman for hoping).

 Next, because I like to consider myself a spiritually minded individual, I normally include a resolution to study and pray more. I also typically resolve to read at least a couple of books written by people who are smarter and more spiritual than I am. I also always include some sort of strategy to better myself in a tangible way (i.e. become a better wife, mother, writer, speaker, leader, friend etc.)

 To my credit, I tend to do better at the stuff that actually matters (spiritual discipline, self-improvement, prayer) than I do at weight loss and achieving physical fitness goals. The only time I can remember losing a significant amount of weight in the month of January was the year my daughter was born. She was born in January, so losing fifteen pounds wasn’t exactly an earth-shattering achievement

 My biggest grievance with New Years resolutions is that most years my resolve vanishes around the same time the Valentines candy shows up on store shelves. Therefore, this year I am taking a new approach. Rather than simply resolving to make some superficial changes in my life, I have decided to choose a few issues and make them a focus of prayer throughout the year.

 Some of the things I intend to pray about are personal; others are more global, most are both. Many of my prayers for this coming year will be focused on the church and what I hope God does in the lives of His people (me included) this coming year.

 Without question, my number one yearning for Christians is that we will do what needs to be done to make the main thing the main thing once again. From God’s perspective the main thing is for people who don’t know Jesus to come to know Jesus and repent of their sins (Acts 4:12, 1st Timothy 2:3-4, John 3:16).

 Sadly, evangelism ceased to be the main thing in most of our churches long ago. Making unsaved people feel loved, welcome and utterly un-judged has taken a backseat to getting those people saved and walking in truth (Matthew 28:19-20). I pray this is the year we do the soul searching and hard work necessary to make evangelism a priority in the life of the Church once again.

 My hope is that this is the year we will gain a deeper understanding of the complexity and depth of Christian love. Love is our highest calling as Christians (1st John 4:7, 1st Corinthians 13) no one with even a shallow acquaintance with Scripture would bother arguing against that point. However, Christian love is more complicated than simply being nice to sinful people.

 Jesus was the nicest, kindest person who ever lived. However, niceness did not prevent Him from informing sinners they would go to hell if they refused to repent of their sins (Matthew 4:17, Luke 13:2-3, John 8:11) and kindness didn’t stop Him from calling out hypocrisy and pretense when He encountered it (Matthew 23). I’m thinking it’s time for the pendulum to swing back and for the church to preach all aspects of the gospel consistently once again.

 My prayer is that followers of Jesus will do the hard things that need to be done so we can grow into the people God has called us to be and reach the people God has called us to reach. If we do that, 2017 will be the year we truly impact our lost and hurting world for Jesus Christ.

 Happy New Year! 

 

 

 

 

What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

Be strong and have strength of heart. Do not be afraid or shake with fear because of them. For the Lord your God is the One Who goes with you. He will be faithful to you. He will not leave you alone~ Deuteronomy 31:6-7 NLV

 I do not pretend to know everything there is to know about life.

 I freely admit that there is more I don’t know than there is that I do know. Moreover I am well aware that even after more decades on this planet than I like to talk about I probably still don’t know what I don’t know.

 Sigh.

 That said, there are some things I am convinced are true. The first is that God is a good God, and He always has our best interests at heart, even when our feelings or circumstances tell us something different. The second is that spiritual truth simply does not change or become untrue because the culture in which we live tells us otherwise. God’s opinions do not “evolve”. If something was true from a spiritual perspective two thousand years ago then it is still true today. Notwithstanding all the reports you have likely heard to the contrary.

 And lastly, I am persuaded that every human being who walks through life on this silly, sin-sick planet has or will experience the frustration and confusion that comes with not knowing what to do or how to respond to a particular situation or problem. Sadly, there are times in this life when education, wisdom or extensive personal experiences still leave us thoroughly ill equipped to handle the junk life throws at us.

 An unpleasant sense of defeat generally accompanies these times. The muddle is further compounded by the fact that the stuff that vexes us most in life is generally profoundly personal and often deeply painful. This ends up leaving even the best of us feeling bewildered, vulnerable and peeved with God.

 Which leads to doing a whole lot of nothing.

 I am convinced that the nuts and bolts story of how we got to this place in life matters a whole lot less than what we do with the circumstances we are faced with. Don’t get me wrong; there is value in self-examination. Self-examination and an honest assessment of our actions and reactions is the only thing that will keep us from replicating the same stupid mistakes over and over again.

 However, it’s what we do when we don’t know what to do that determines our character and ultimately it’s our character that determines our destiny (please pardon the trite platitude).

 Again, I do not know everything there is to know about this or any other subject. However, I do have more experience than I care to admit with not knowing what to do in a particular situation (don’t ask). So today I want to share a few tips for maneuvering through the morass of what to do when you don’t know what to do.

 First…

 Don’t get stuck in a muddle of misery and self-pity.

 Personal blows such as a job loss, relational rejection, business failure, or a divorce are horrendous, life-altering, episodes that really do warrant a legitimate grieving process. It’s crucial that we allow ourselves be sad or angry when we experience a big hurt or loss, it’s also crucial we don’t get stuck in feelings of sadness or self-pity. At some point we have to heal from the hurt, take risks again and find a new normal.  

 Do something good

 Anytime we make a big mistake or suffer through a hurtful situation it’s tempting to isolate ourselves and wait for good things to come our way. Sadly, good things rarely just happen. Good things typically transpire because we are doing good things for other people (Galatians 6:7). So turn off the electronic devices and and go interact with humanity. Volunteer in a soup kitchen, get to know a lonely neighbor, or help out at your church. It may not change your circumstances but it will make you feel better about life.

 Don’t blame God.

 Trust me, it’s not His fault.

 Forgive the jerks that hurt you

 Lack of forgiveness keeps us trapped in a never-ending cycle of bitterness that makes it almost impossible to see a way out of our current circumstances. The only way to break the cycle is to let go of resentments and forgive. It frees us up to see the future that God has prepared for us.

 There is one other thing I am staunchly persuaded is true. I am sure God never allows anything, no matter how painful or futile it may feel to us, into our life without a greater purpose. Sometimes when we don’t know what to do, God wants us to get to know Him better. When that task is accomplished, then He will show us what to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When God Calls You to Love a Jerk

To you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you~ Luke 6:27-28 NIV

 Pretty much every Christian I know (myself included) likes to pontificate endlessly on the topic of love.

 Why on earth wouldn’t we?

 In a world that is increasingly more hostile towards Christians and their faith, love is one of the few doctrines left that everyone likes discussing. Sin, judgment, obedience and hell are sensitive, uncomfortable, sticky-wicket kinds of issues that are all-but certain to offend pretty much everyone. However, no one can quarrel with the whole notion of loving people.

 That said, even a hasty analysis of the comments section of any news article or blog piece posted on the Internet clues us in to the fact that although most people love the idea of love, and we adore quoting scriptures concerning the importance of loving people, we struggle mightily with the implementation of loving people.

 The Christian standard of love is outrageously high and almost impossible to achieve, mostly because some people are jerks and God calls us to love them anyway. Scripture commands we love people who do not love us back and those who openly despise us. We are also instructed to love people who make fun of what we believe, insult our intelligence and tell lies about us (Romans 12:9-21).

 This is quite obviously easier said than done.

 There is no question that loving people (even nice people) is a concept that is far less painful to achieve in theory than in practice. That said, it’s easier to love a person when there is relationship in place or an emotional bond that has already been established.

 Showing love to a wayward child or a spouse with a less than pleasant disposition is somehow much easier than trying to muster up some emotional warmth or caring for a heartless, egomaniacal boss or an intellectually pretentious brother-in-law/college professor/auntie/co-worker. The one who cannot seem to stop themselves from insinuating that the only possible motivations anyone could possibly have for voting for a particular political party would be racism, homophobia or a criminal level of stupidity. It’s even harder to muster grace (let alone love) for the media personality who is constantly undermining decency and openly supporting actions and attitudes wholeheartedly contrary to God’s way of doing things.

 Sigh.    

 Thankfully, authentic Christian love is more about making a choice than manufacturing a feeling. We can choose to behave in a loving way towards people we don’t particularly like. In the process we might actually change hearts and minds in a way that hateful and nasty rhetoric or sidelong glances never will.

 Loving jerks needs to begin with some honest self-examination. Sometimes we are the innocent victims of jerks and other times we are the ones acting like a jerk. Even Christians are capable of less than Christian behavior from time-to-time, especially when someone is intentionally pushing our buttons. Any time we feel offended or hurt, it’s a good time to prayerfully evaluate our own actions and attitudes to see if we are doing anything that is contributing to the problem.

 Nothing about honest self-examination is pleasant or easy, however it is necessary if we want to grow and mature spiritually.

 Sigh.

 If after some soul-searching we discover we are indeed part of the problem, then we need to repent. Repentance is all about changing how we think about the person who has hurt us. Instead of focusing on the things we don’t like we need to look for positive qualities. We also need to cease any hurtful actions on our part such as gossip, ugly or passive-aggressive comments, and writing rude things about the person on the Internet. Genuine repentance always includes praying for the person who wronged us.

 Praying for the person who offended or wronged us really does make any repenting on our part that needs to be done easier and less painful, and prayer actually has the capacity to change the heart of the other person.

 Bonus.

 Then God calls us to the truly hard thing, blessing those who curse us and actually doing good to those who have wronged us. Doing good is about more than an absence of malice. It’s about thinking through to what Jesus would do to the person and then doing it.

 Love is an action.