Why We Cannot Do the Christian Life Solo

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing~ 1st Thessalonians 5:11 NIV

 When I was in the third grade I missed winning the classroom spelling bee by one word. I remember the stupid word as if it was yesterday.

 Banana.

 It was the n’s that messed me up. They still do. More often than not, I still spell banana with three n’s. For some reason banana with two n’s still feels a bit sad and inadequate to me.

 Although I did not win the third grade spelling bee that year, the taste of a near-victory ignited within in me a fiery-hot passion to dominate at the next year’s spelling bee. I vividly imagined the sweet victory I would bask in as I sauntered into my house sporting the snappy blue ribbon the teacher awarded to the winner. I believed with all my heart that if I could win the classroom spelling bee I would surely go on to win the school spelling bee and then the regionals, perhaps even nationals. I would be the spelling-bee champion of the entire universe.

 Every human being on earth would bow to my spelling prowess.

 Unfortunately, I lacked commitment to the one component essential to any sort of academic success, studying. My intentions were noble, but I was kind of lazy and had yet to make the connection between short-term sacrifice (studying) and long-term payoff (spelling bee champion of the universe).

 Since then I have learned that there is more often than not a connection between commitment to one thing and success at something that feels completely unrelated. This is particularly true of spiritual growth.

 If you have been a Christian for longer than fifteen minutes you have likely heard the tried and true formula for Christian growth and maturity.

 Bible reading + prayer + church attendance = Mature believer in Jesus

 Bible reading, prayer and church attendance have long been thought to be the holy grail of Christian growth, and with good reason, all three are vital to spiritual growth. However, I am convinced it takes more than just those three things to grow into the people God has called us to be.

 We need people.

 Sadly, most of us have all but forgotten the fact that spiritual maturity is a complicated process that takes place most successfully in the company of other believers. Bible reading, prayer and church attendance absent of close relationships with other Christians can easily devolve into reading without understanding, prayer without power and the awful sensation of being utterly alone in a gathering of people.

 That is a recipe for hopelessness.

 Spiritual growth happens when we are exposed to people who have successfully walked through the junk we are currently walking through. This takes place most effectively in small groups or classes where we really get to know people, where we have our ideas about the Bible and life challenged by people who know more than we do and who have experienced things we have not. We grow when we learn to love people, and we cannot truly love people we do not know.

 Some things simply cannot be accomplished alone. It is almost impossible to encourage ones self without sounding like a crazy person. But without encouragement there is a very real danger our hearts will become hard towards God (Hebrews 3:13). We will never become wise without the ongoing influence of wise people in our lives (Proverbs 13:20) and it is only in the company of others that our faulty thinking is exposed and rough edges made smooth.

 Nothing worth having occurs without some sort of sacrifice, and relationships are no different. Building relationships with other Christians might mean giving up a night of television or having your kid cut back on sports so you can make time for a small group. Building relationships might mean dragging your weary butt out of bed an hour earlier on Sunday mornings so you can attend an adult Sunday school class. It might mean volunteering to lead a small group in your church or inviting a group of people over for dinner so you can get to know them better.

 Building relationships is time consuming and tricky but the payoff we receive is well worth the effort it takes. Because God has designed the universe in such a way that it is only within the context of Christian friendship where we find the support and encouragement we need to grow into the people God has called us to be (Acts 2:44-46).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who’s to Blame for the Blame Game?

 

I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want~ Romans 7:18-19 NASB

 I have concluded that our society has lost all connection to reason and common sense. Following is a small sampling of the evidence:

Any parent who has had a child who has been bullied will tell you that school counselors always tell the kid being bullied that they should feel compassion towards the one bullying them because the bully “has had a tough life”. A psychology professor at the University of Queensland made headlines with good news for cheaters. He asserts it is evolution and genetics, rather than morality or ethics that is ultimately responsible for a wandering eye.

 Last year ISIS recorded the brutal decapitations of twenty-one Coptic Christians. Secretary of State John Kerry cited lack of jobs and educational opportunities as the cause of the savagery. TLC has a show that follows the life of a teenage boy who wants to be, and is in the process of becoming, a girl. His parents blame fate for imprisoning their boy in the wrong body and say they support their son’s decision to pursue life as a female because they want their child to be “who ‘she’ really is” (what?).

 There’s more.

 It’s guns not the criminals who kill people blamed for gun violence. Schools and teachers- rather than parents and their children—are blamed for the poor academic performance of students. Fatty food and sugary soft drinks are often cited as the cause of health issues. Nobody blames the folks who eat the food and drink the sodas for the obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

 Video games, movies, television and rap music are routinely blamed for the degenerate conduct of millions of young people. No one ever talks about the parents who fork over their hard-earned cash so their kids can indulge themselves in sketchy entertainment choices or the kids who willingly and wantonly fill their minds with garbage.

 Every Christian with even a shred of rational thought left in their head ought to be concerned about how we got to this place as a society. This is a big deal. The tendency to blame is changing our society and the thinking has infiltrated Christian circles. We blame liberals for introducing worldly and heretical philosophies into the church. We blame the culture for normalizing abnormal sexual behaviors but little is said about the Christians who CHOOSE to believe the lies and embrace the behaviors.

 I am persuaded that our inclination to blame things rather than people is more of a spiritual issue than a societal one. At the root of this problem lies ignorance concerning the reality of human nature. Most churches have all but given-up on teaching the Christian doctrine that explains why people do the stuff they do. For those of you who are thinking about tuning me out (I know you’re out there) because I dropped the dreaded D-word (doctrine) hear me out. This is thought-provoking stuff.

 I promise.

 Years ago pastors and teachers in Evangelical churches became weary with teaching their congregations that human beings are inherently bad or born sinful, even though the teaching is found in many passages of Scripture, including: Psalm 51:5, Isaiah 64:6-7, Romans 5:12-14 and 1st Timothy 1:15-16. Understandably the teaching that people are born with a sinful nature made some folks feel bad and some Christian teachers concluded that making folks feel bad about themselves and their choices was keeping the church from reaching its full potential. So they dropped the doctrine of original sin like an ugly prom date and promptly moved on to cheerier topics.

 For decades many have accepted the deception that human beings are perfect little snowflakes. Buying into that deception means we also have to believe that any bad behavior on the part of our fellow humans or ourselves has to be the fault of outside forces rather than the fault of the person doing the sinning. So we blame mental illness, bad parenting, evolution, fate, food, the devil, coworkers, hormones, genetics or our spouse for our bad behavior. Nobody wants to face the unpleasant reality that we, rather than outside forces are usually the problem.

 It’s time for reformation of personal responsibility.

 The most successful societal reformations have all started with God’s people. It’s time for pastors to get back to the teaching of doctrine, including the doctrine of original sin, but it’s also time for individual Christians to become more aware of our own propensity to blame rather than take responsibility. Then we need to be an example and own up to our own issues.

 Change begins with us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God and the Election

Work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare~ Jeremiah 29:7 NLT

 Life is filled with disappointments.

 For most of us, our acquaintance with disappointment begins fairly early usually around the same time we discover the truth about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Hopefully, as we mature, the issues that cause us disappointment evolve at least a little. Nevertheless disappointment tends to remain an issue for most of us.

 This reality has been validated by the outcome of the 2016 election.

 As of this week, the fix is clearly in. We know with absolute certainty that barring a federal indictment or a third party miracle candidate either Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump will serve as leader of the free world come January 20th, 2017.

 This was not the outcome I wanted or I prayed for. I have made a gloomy sort of peace with the fact that this election will be a choice between the lesser of two evils and I have to choose one or I am in effect choosing the other, and I have chosen my candidate.

 However, I don’t have to like it.

 In my opinion neither is fit for public office. I have never in all my life seen two candidates who are both so terrible in their own unique way. For me, having to choose between the two is almost like being forced to choose which incurable venereal disease I want to have. Both have a consistent track record of flip-flopping, personal corruption, shady deals and less-than-stellar judgment calls.

 Sigh.

 My initial inclination was to purchase a tract of land in a remote section of Wyoming and begin hoarding dehydrated food and drinking water. Eventually I calmed down and began a journey through the five stages of grief. I probably spent more time in denial and anger than is healthy before landing on acceptance, with acceptance came the acknowledgement that God is still firmly in control.

 Then I started thinking.

 I started thinking about God’s purpose in all this and how Christians (including myself) ought to respond to the chaos that has erupted in recent years. After some thought and a lot of prayer I concluded that there are at least three things Christians can do right now to prepare for the future and be light in the increasingly strange times we live in.

 First:

 Pray- Matthew 7:7, 1st Timothy 2:1-3, Matthew 18:18-19

 Pray that spiritual leaders will be discerning and sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Pray for truth to take root in our world. Pray for wisdom. Pray for world leaders. Pray for the next President. Pray for people to get saved. Pray our political leaders will become the people we desperately need them to be. Just pray.

 Speak boldly- Acts 4:31

 For too long most of us have equated spiritual boldness with rudeness or disrespect for the values of others. Since no rational human wants to be an impertinent jerk, Christians have become timid and even fearful when it comes to proclaiming truth. It’s time to find some balance and start speaking the truth about sin, life, death, heaven and hell. We should choose our words wisely when we speak (Colossians 4:6). That being said, we need to speak up. Our world is literally perishing due to a lack of spiritual knowledge.

 Get grounded in the word- Psalm 119:105, John 8:32

 We live in an age of deception. We are constantly bombarded with the message that right is wrong and wrong is right. Even some who know better have departed from the truth and begun to assert that all spiritual paths lead to the same place and some prominent teachers and preachers have begun to claim that the God of the Bible goes by many names. None of this is true. Not coincidently, these radical shifts in thinking have taken place as corporate Bible studies are being dropped in many churches. The truth found in the Bible is the only antidote to the deception out there. We should study it.

 God has reminded me over and over again these past weeks that my hope is not in the political process. My hope is in God who calls each one of us to fully face the challenges of our world with hearts full faith.

 The fact that God has ultimate control over the political process is in a sense all the hope we need in this world. We know that no matter what happens in the coming weeks and months, we can rest easy knowing that God, not the next president is ultimately in control of all things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the Key to Keeping Disappointment from Getting the Better of us?

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit~ Romans 15:13 NIV

 I will not lie.

It’s been a chaotic couple of weeks around our house. We have been in the final throes of the moving process and experienced all the standard drama associated with moving ones worldly belongings across four states and over sixteen hundred miles.

Everything, and I mean everything, has taken longer and cost more than it was supposed to. The electric company called last week to let us know that our first bill was sent back (they were unamused). A few phone calls later we discovered that ALL our mail is being returned to sender and a trip to the post office has yet to remedy the situation. No one is happy with us right now.

Sigh.

 Our new neighborhood is a place where folks take lawn care seriously and we have not figured out how to make the sprinkler system work. As a result our lawn is turning an ominous shade of brown and the neighbors have begun casting side eye at us. The dogs are weirdly confused by the recent changes and cannot figure out on a consistent basis where they are supposed to “do their business”.

 Sadly, all that pales in comparison to the drama we have experienced with one of our girls. This typically sweet child has been what can only be described as a mammoth pain in the backside for weeks now. We have been losing our minds trying to find an explanation for her behavior.

 A very long and what we thought was an encouraging conversation resulted in no discernible change whatsoever in her behavior. We then attempted some coaching, when that failed we moved on to gentle correction. We took a break from coaching and correction to pray for wisdom. We finally landed on punishing the bad behavior with increasing intensity. Nothing worked and I mean nothing. We wondered if the disobedience was perhaps due to homesickness or missing her old school or perhaps even a weird side-effect of getting less sunshine.

 After a number of increasingly more intense discussions it was revealed that at the root of the angsty misbehavior was something much more basic…

 Disappointment.

 I am not sure what our girl was hoping for, and neither does she. But it turns out, living in Washington is a lot like living in Arizona only with more rain and fewer swimming pools. She finally admitted she was expecting things to somehow be different, more exciting, less humdrum. At one point in the conversation she did admit that at the very least she was hoping a change in location would result in different expectations for her behavior. After that rather revealing and honest conversation I’m pleased to report that life in Price household has finally returned to something that more closely resembles normal.

 My immediate reaction was relief the crisis was over; relief was followed quickly by amusement. My amusement faded when I realized that even many grown-ups (including this one) have been guilty of the same sort of wishful hoping at one time or another.

 Most of us have irrationally hoped that making an outward alteration in education level, tax bracket, marital status, zip code or even appearance would somehow alter more than just our education level, marital status, zip code or tax bracket. We believe deep down inside that getting married will fix our relationship problems, moving will transform us into a more interesting person or that getting a degree will give us the sense of belonging or prestige we have always longed for. When we wake-up the day after making the big change as the same person we’ve always been, reality results in…

 Disappointment.

 Disappointment is unavoidable in a fallen world. Few things in life work out exactly as we hoped or even planned they would. If disappointment is not handled properly it will likely morph into anger towards God (Hebrews 12:15, James 3:13-15). If anger is allowed to fester it will eventually grow into a cancer that always results in either a nasty case of depression or a grown-up version of acting out. Adults act-out (sin) because deep down inside we feel that our disappointment has earned us the right to take pleasure where we can find it.

Acting-out is an ugly thing that never ends well for anyone, regardless of age (Ephesians 4:26).

 For Christians the key to coping with the inevitable disappointments of life begins and ends with a humble willingness to surrender our dreams and desires to God (Psalm 57:1, Romans 12:2, 1st Peter 5:6, James 4:10). This is rarely easy because to fallen creatures surrender tends to feel like giving up or giving i. Surrender, even surrender to God feels like we are accepting something lesser. It’s not. It’s simply admitting there is a God who knows more than we do (Galatians 2:20). It’s knowing deep in our knower there is a God who loves us more than we can imagine (John 3:16). For believers in Jesus surrender and trusting God with the tough stuff of life is a doorway to becoming who we are called to be. It’s the key to real and lasting contentment in this life.

Letting go isn’t giving up. It’s the first step to embracing the dreams and plans God has for us (Ephesians 3:14-21).

Are Christians Flawless?

Behind the wheel of a motor vehicle is the one place on Earth where I tend to forget all about Jesus and being a Christ follower. It’s fair to say that a Christian song playing just the right thing at just the right moment has averted more than a few occurrences of road rage and perhaps even saved some lives in our greater metropolitan area.

When You’re Ready For It to be Over Already

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength~ Isaiah 40:29-31a

For the most part my son was a sweet and obedient little boy. However, there was one area he struggled throughout his childhood. Alex was (and is now) a kid who routinely spoke his mind, irrespective of the appropriateness of the situation.

 When Alex was six my husband took him to a local home improvement store where he saw a man dressed as a woman for the first time. Alex stared at the man for just a second or two, gave a slight nod, as if he had made his mind up about something significant and loudly declared that if men were going to wear dresses they ought to at least shave their legs. Alex charmed everyone within earshot with his thoroughly naïve but straightforward appraisal of the situation, except of course, the man wearing the dress.

 My son’s inclination to boldly speak his mind was not limited to the questionable wardrobe choices of others. Nor did it start when he was six. It started in early toddlerhood. To my utter horror, He would routinely ask total strangers the most personal questions imaginable. He also made a regular habit of informing the parents of other children when he felt their kids were misbehaving. He was notorious for correcting or contradicting any opinion he believed to be based on misinformation.

Regardless of the age or person giving the opinion.

 As awkward, embarrassing and downright irritating all that was, nothing matched the level of humiliation I felt when my son would decide was ready to leave a gathering or a play date. Once he made-up his mind that he had enough fun for the day, he would approach me (he never once did this privately) and announce loudly that he was “done” and “ready for it to be over”. Once my initial inclination to hide under the furniture passed, I was typically overwhelmed with a very un-motherly yearning to murder my own offspring. For nearly a year of his childhood most of our outings ended with a lengthy lecture on the importance of not actually saying everything we think or feel.

 Alex’s desire to be done with any situation he wasn’t enjoying anymore was maddening. However, I do understand his feelings. Sometimes even grown-ups are done with a situation or trial long before God has decided it’s time for us to move on.

Lately, I have found myself saying some things to God that sound remarkably like the things my toddler used to say to me.

 It is not as if the trial we’ve experienced has been the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone. We have a great deal to be thankful for. We have a steady income, our kids are healthy, none of them are currently using drugs or openly rebelling against God, we have a roof over our heads and food on the table. My husband and I are healthy and our marriage is solid. In other words all the stuff that really matters in this life is still okay in our world.

 All that said, having a house that has sat on a stagnant market for the better part of a year has been hard. Our lives are currently on hold. The youngest is struggling emotionally. Living apart has been tough (to say the least) and our checking account needs CPR. However none of those issues compare to the spiritual bewilderment we have experienced as we waited for God to act on our behalf.

 There have been many times over the course of the last eight months when I have felt as if we were being tested (and failing badly). I now know I was wrong, at least about the testing part. We have been reading the situation all-wrong. It’s not a test.

 It’s an opportunity.

 Like any trial the last eight months has been an opportunity to learn to love and trust God even when life is a lot less than easy and the answers are hard to find. It’s been an opportunity to trust and to proclaim the goodness of God even when He has felt far away. It’s been opportunity to show the world what faith really looks like (Hebrews 11:1).

 I know this likely won’t be last time I will be given an opportunity that feels like a test. I am hoping and praying that the next time an opportunity disguised, as a misfortune comes around I will have the wisdom to recognize it for what it is sooner.

Why is Forgiveness so Darn Hard?

I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept~ Genesis 50:17

 They have become ubiquitous on social media.

Photos of a man or woman standing at sunset, back to the camera arms spread wide in an expression of complete and glorious freedom. Or sometimes the photo is of a young woman dressed in white strolling serenely down a long tree-lined path, suggesting a future filled with joy and endless possibilities.

 The quotes accompanying these images are sometimes spiritually questionable. Others are far too syrupy and sentimental for my taste. However, the vast majority of quotes on the subject are thought provoking and more than a little convicting…

 We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies~ Martin Luther King Jr.

 The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong~ Gandhi

 Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness~ Corrie Ten Boom

 Over the course of the last few years I have had the “opportunity” to work through two unrelated and dissimilar situations, both requiring me to forgive some massive and very personal hurts. I concluded after working through those situations that none of the quotes I have seen tell the complete story of forgiveness. Sappy sentimentalities and inspiring quips extolling the virtues and benefits of forgiveness inevitably miss a core truth that should never be overlooked when discussing the subject of forgiveness:

 Forgiveness is hard.

 Really hard. Sometimes forgiving hurts almost as much as the offense that necessitated the forgiving. If the offense was particularly personal or the person who did the hurting was someone we trusted. The act of forgiving that person can hurt to the point of physical agony. Forgiveness is tough because involves a release of the right to seek revenge on someone who doubtless has earned some sort of retaliation. The letting go of what is logically a right can feel overwhelmingly unjust.

 Forgiveness is a foundational (albeit sometimes unpopular) doctrine of the Christian faith. God forgives without hesitation, and He clearly expects His people to forgive in the same spirit. Forgiving is so important to God that it’s a prerequisite for obtaining His forgiveness (Matthew 6:15).

 God does not expect His people to do such a hard thing because He’s mean. He just knows enough about people to know that when we refuse to forgive, unforgiveness transforms us in a profoundly ugly way. We eventually become incapable of focusing on anything but our wounds and resentment. The relentless emphasis on the negative causes our patience to shrivel and our irritation with everyone to increase. Over time we inevitably twist into a hostile, unsympathetic and nasty version of ourselves. 

Sigh.

 Regrettably, knowing all this does not make forgiving any easier.

 It is considerably more difficult (if not impossible) to forgive without God’s assistance and power. Some offenses are simply too great to forgive on our own; we acquire the help we need to forgive through persistent and sometimes prolonged prayer. Prayer keeps us connected to God, prevents bitterness from taking root in our hearts and empowers us to forgive the unforgivable. We pray until our feelings towards the person who did the hurting change.

 Prayer also prevents people from blaming God for situations He had nothing to do with. Oftentimes, when Christians have suffered a serious offense they struggle as much with anger towards God, for allowing the hurt to happen as they do with the person who hurt them. It’s important to understand that God is not a puppet master who controls the choices of people, even His people.

 Sometimes people hurt others because they are egotistical, callous or even evil. Most of the time people hurt others because they are stupid, insensitive or lack awareness of how their actions affect others. Either way, it’s profoundly unjust to hold God accountable for the actions of free people.

 Forgiving would be easier if people were capable of simply forgetting offenses. We cannot do that. However, over time, with God’s assistance, we can reach a point where we are no longer held prisoner by the anger we feel towards those who have betrayed us. Forgiveness is freedom that will empower us to live a happy, useful and God-honoring life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fragile and Sometimes Fleeting Power of Influence

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

 Unless you have spent the last week on another planet, you have likely heard that Josh Duggar reality television star and former spokesman for the Family Research Council has confessed to something that is best defined as serial infidelity.

 Mr. Duggar was forced to own up to his actions when a security breach revealed he was a longtime member of the website Ashley Madison. Ashley Madison is a business created for the singular and skeezy purpose of facilitating adulterous affairs. The hacker is believed by many to be a bitter spouse whose assumed domestic tranquility was shattered by Ashley Madison. I was reminded as this little narrative unfolded that God is still in the business of seeing to it that folks reap what they sow.

 My initial response to the scandal was sorrow. I was heartbroken to learn that yet another high-profile Christian leader was caught living a life of almost absurd duplicity. Adultery is a terrible sin. Signing up for membership with a website that exists for the purpose of helping people commit adultery is the most inexcusable form of premeditated sin there is. Josh Duggar compounded his many sins by falsely presenting himself to the world as a paragon of Christian virtue and an authority on traditional family values while sleeping with strangers.

 This is a tragic situation. I do not know, nor am I fit to judge the state of Josh Duggar’s heart or the condition of his soul. I refuse to go there.

 What I do know is that that Josh Duggar was blessed with an abundance of the most valuable gift any Christian can be given: influence. He squandered his influence in a series of astonishingly bad choices that has wrecked devastation in some obvious and not so obvious ways.  

 There are countless victims caught in this foul mess. My heart goes out to his wife. That poor woman is caught in the unenviable position of having no really great choices at this point. Whatever she chooses to do will be tough and painful. It will also be judged as incorrect by a whole lot of people who have never walked in her shoes.

 Then there are his Mom and Dad. Whatever missteps they may have made as parents, no one really deserves the level of parental humiliation they are experiencing. The folks at Family Research Council have their own set of issues thanks to Josh Duggar. They gave a kid a job and now they are left to dig themselves out of what can only be described as a public relations nightmare.

 Then there are the not-so-innocent victims in this mess. It is difficult to muster compassion for the women Josh Duggar had sex with. Nonetheless, they are human beings made in the image of God with eternal souls. It is unlikely any of those women will repent and turn to Jesus after one of God’s spokespersons behaved in such a hypocritical and ungentlemanly fashion.

 Perhaps the most hapless victim in this whole ugly mess is the average Christian who is just doing his or her level best to serve God, bless others and live a righteous life. Being salt and light in this world just got a whole lot harder for these folks. All thanks to the actions of one person.

 The Bible depicts Christians as a body (1st Corinthians 12:27). This means that essentially Christians of all types are a single unit made up of many parts (people). Because Christians are, for all intents and purposes, a single entity, when one Christian sins it makes all Christians look bad. Christians look really bad right now.

 Sadly, Josh Duggar is not the first believer in recent years to fail morally. He is one of many on a long list of Christians whose behavior has reflected badly on Jesus and other Christians. I do not know what specifics led to Josh Duggar’s downfall. His upbringing, easy access to pornography, the declining culture and lack of personal accountability have all been mentioned as possible contributors.

 I suspect the real issue is twofold. First, he got into the in the routine of concentrating most of his spiritual attention on outward appearances and behaviors rather than inward thoughts and attitudes (Matthew 23:25). It is also possible that Josh Duggar bought into the popular but erroneous notion that because God forgives sin, sin is without actual consequences for a Christian.

 Few are blessed with the kind of opportunities to impact the world that Josh Duggar was given. However, every Christian has spiritual influence over someone. We can lose that influence in the span of one bad choice when we forget that one consequence of sin is loss of positive influence. If we want to keep our influence, we have to be willing to give us much attention to inner thoughts and attitudes as we do to outward appearances, and have the guts to tell ourselves “no” sometimes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Season of Fresh Starts and New Beginnings

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead~ 1st Peter 1:3

 I am not a heathen. Really, I’m not.

 I am a Christian and I genuinely love Jesus. I am far from perfect and I gave up long ago pretending that I have life all figured out. That said, I do take the practice of my faith seriously. I read the Bible. I believe the Bible and I do my level best to do what the Bible tells me to do. I am involved in my local church and I pray. I do all this consistently and for the most part cheerfully.

 Nevertheless, I have a confession to make.

 In spite of all my noble intentions and best efforts, I am horrible with Easter.

 It’s really very sad. Most years the most holy and significant day on the Christian calendar passes me by without me giving it the thought and consideration that the season clearly deserves. I am not proud of this but it is what it is.  

 It’s not that I don’t celebrate the holiday. The celebration is actually a big part of the problem. Our church has all sorts of outreach and activity going on around Easter, and I do want to be involved in all of the goings-on. Then there’s the effort I go through to make the day special for my family.

 We don’t do the Easter bunny thing, but I do make baskets for each of my kids (including the graduate student) and we have a special meal that usually includes a cross shaped cake or some other edible object lesson. None of the Easter activity is wrong and much of it is actually beneficial but it does take time and mental energy that detracts from spiritual reflection.

 I determined that this year would be different.

 And for the most part things have been better this year. I have worked to be more intentional about setting aside time just to think about and meditate on the significance of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The mediation has included some Bible reading and one morning last week I ran across this gem in the book of Ephesians.

 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms~ Ephesians 1:18-20

 At first, the writer in me was simply struck by the beauty of his words. The Apostle Paul certainly knew how to construct a sentence. His writing style never fails to blow my mind. But his words do a whole lot more than paint an appealing picture in our minds. They impart a powerful truth: the very same power that raised Jesus to life is readily available to those who put their faith in Jesus.

 As I considered this verse it occurred to me that few of us actually see the mighty strength of Jesus resurrection power in our day-to-day lives. Many convert to Christianity only to walk away when they find themselves disheartened by the lack of power they have to change and become the people God promises they can be.

 There are at least two explanations for the lack of power many of us experience as Christians. The first has to do with the will. Many simply don’t have the spine to deal with the one issue that everybody has to deal with if they want to see God work powerfully in their lives.

 That issue is sin.

 Hebrews describes sin as a thing that entangles. Sin, if left unchecked in the life of a believer, wraps itself around us, stunting our growth and progress as Christians (Hebrews 12:1). Jesus was so adamant about believers dealing with their sin in a decisive fashion that he used some intense though hyperbolic language to advocate doing whatever necessary to deal assertively with any and every sin (Matthew 5:29).

 Lack of faith will also hold believers back from seeing God’s power work in their lives. Faith is double-sided. Genuine faith does not simply believe that God exists. Saving faith also believes that God will do the things He promises He will do in His word. Sin and faith are closely linked; many have no problem imagining God’s existence but they can’t quite buy into the notion that God actually hates sin. Believing in God is not enough to see His power in our lives. We must also believe that He means what He says.

 Easter is the season of new beginnings and fresh starts. God is always willing to give us one if we are willing. Get yours today by reaching out in faith to the God who loved you enough to die for you.