Five Ways We Made the Facts Feel Sad this Week

 

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free~ John 8:32 NIV

 It was a tough week to be a fact.

 During an interview with Anderson Cooper, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said something that implied she might be a-wee-bit intolerant towards certain facts:

 “I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.”

 Later in the week Kirstjen Nielsen (Secretary of Homeland Security), presented some statistics (a fancy word for facts) concerning the number of migrants, drug smugglers and gang members crossing the Southern border in a given year, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi interrupted Ms. Nielson’s presentation to say:

  “I reject your facts”

 Hmm.  That’s all I have to say about that.

 Dems were not the only ones coldshouldering the facts this week. During an interview with Mike Wallace, Whitehouse Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders stated that accuracy regarding the number of terrorists captured at the Southern border did not matter so long as the overall numbers of terrorists captured in the country were accurately reported.  

 Sigh.

 If I were a fact I would be a bit miffed.

 As I considered the flagrant fact-shunning, I found myself thinking some rather scornful thoughts regarding worldly people and their lack of logic.  Then I had a weird and fairly awkward epiphany. I realized that Christians do the same kinds of things with a different set of facts. We sometimes disdain, disregard and disrespect facts or truths simply because we do not like them. Following are five things Christians say when we just don’t like certain facts.    

 I think that God just wants me to be happy –

 Folks typically whip this weary line out when they really, really, really, want to do something that the Bible explicitly prohibits (adultery, bitterness, homosexuality, divorce without biblical grounds, premarital sex, etc.). Like it or not, it is a fact that God forbids certain behaviors (Galatians 5:19-21, 1stCorinthians 6:9-10, Ephesians 5:3-6, Revelation 22:12-16). That said, I do not believe God forbids things because He is indifferent to the feelings of people. God is not an uncaring monster who gets a kick out of seeing people living out their lives in abject misery. Truth-be-told God just cares more about our eternal wellbeing and holiness than our momentary happiness.  God sees the bigger picture and potential consequences we are incapable of seeing in our fallen, finite state. He knows what making a specific choice (like committing adultery or becoming bitter) will do to our souls, our families and our ability to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. God loves people and He knows that we are all just stupid enough to forgo our future health and spiritual wellbeing on the altar of pleasure and expediency. God loves people too much to simply let us be led by something as stupid (and subject to change) as feelings.  

 My God wouldn’t do that-

 People typically say this in response to being told that God judges sinners who refuse to repent of their sin. They might say “my God doesn’t judge” or “my God loves everyone”. The biggest and most basic problem with this particular line of reasoning is that it is firmly grounded in willful ignorance. There is only one God and He does love everyone. However, God makes it clear in His word that He will judge anyone who refuses to repent (John 5:28-29, 1stTimothy 2:5, Job 21:22, Revelation 6:9-11, Revelation 20:12-13).

 That’s not my conviction-

 Conviction is a firmly held belief concerning whether or not something is right or wrong. Christians should feel conviction (a sense of guilt) anytime they knowingly violate God’s standards. In recent years some have concluded that if they don’t feel conviction (guilt) over something then it’s not a sin. Their lack of guilt or conviction makes the thing okay. But, here’s the thing, one does not have to feel conviction or guilt about something for it to be wrong (Romans 1:28-32, Jeremiah 8:12). There are people in thisworld who do not feel an ounce of conviction about doing really terriblethings (murder, bigotry, infidelity, blasphemy, theft). Their lack of conviction does not make a sin any less sinful.  The Bible clearly states that the only time our feelings should dictate whether or not something is right or wrong is when the issue is not clearly a sin (grey area). If we feel guilty doing something (even if that thing is not clearly violating Scripture) then God does not want us to do that thing (1stCorinthians 8)

 I haven’t experienced that so I can’t say if it’s right or wrong-

 There are actually people who sincerely believe that one must experience something in order to judge whether or not something is sinful. This simply does not pass the logic test. If you carry this line of thinking out to its reasonable conclusion it means one cannot know if it’s wrong to kill someone until they have actually committed murder. Please. That’s just stupid.

 I reject that reality-

 Reality is a fact. Facts cannot be debated or rejected (sorry, Nancy). Reality is what it is. Only crazy people reject reality and they are crazy precisely because they choose to reject reality.  People who do not wish to be labeled as crazy should not reject reality.

  Please be courteous to the facts this week folks. Last week was a rough one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Church Peeve

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart~ Jeremiah 29:13 NIV

 I love the church.

 I believe with every fiber of my being that the local church is God’s chosen instrument for proclaiming truth to the world, training believers for works of service and transforming heathens and moral reprobates into faithful Jesus followers. For that reason, I am convinced that every Christian ought to regularly attend a local church and contribute their time, energy, and treasure into making that church a great place to worship, learn and grow.

 That said, I also have a whole host of weird pet peeves when it comes to church and how we do church at this time in history. Basically, I have an aversion to anything weird, gimmicky or shallow. Those things include (but are not limited to) fog machines, unfriendly congregations, worship songs that remind me to breathe, Pastors that dress like homeless people and a lack of relevant teaching or opportunities to learn.

 These peeves (and many others) have been well documented in some of my previous blog posts. I just sort of assumed (until recently) that I had discovered and explored every single one of my many peeves related to church and had nothing left to write about on the subject. I was wrong.

 I have discovered a new one.

 Everywhere I turn these days I am being told that I should speak the name of Jesus over my problems and worries. If I am afraid, I should speak the name of Jesus. If I have cancer, I should speak the name of Jesus. If I need money I should speak the name of Jesus. If I have a drug or alcohol addiction, I should speak the name of Jesus. This advice is usually followed up with the instruction to “just walk in it”.

 Whatever the heck that means.

 My concerns with this trend might appear to be a bit silly and trivial on the surface, but unlike some of my other peeves this one really isn’t all that petty. This one actually has some potentially serious practical and theological ramifications.

 Christians should understand that nowhere in the Bible are we told to speak the name of Jesus over anything. We are told to believe in the name of Jesus (1 John 3:23). We are told to openly profess the name of Jesus (Hebrews 13:15). We are also told to baptize people into the name of Jesus (Acts 10:48, Acts 19:5) and we are commanded to speak the name of Jesus as we teach the truth about God and call people to repentance (Matthew 28:16-20). Not once are we told to speak the name of Jesus over our problems, anxieties or doubts.

 Speaking a word (any word) over something in an effort to change it, is a practice that has more in common with witchcraft than it does with Christianity. I am NOT suggesting that someone who tells you to speak the name of Jesus over your problems is a witch or is active in witchcraft. I am saying that simply speaking the word ‘Jesus’ over a problem, worry or concern will not solve it and might even distract you from doing the things God wants you to do in order to solve your problems.

 I promise you that God does not want you to speak the name of Jesus over your bratty two-year-old, job loss, addiction, crumbling marriage or serious medical condition. That’s just not how God works. Instead, God wants you to do these three things:

 Understand that tests and trials are simply a part of this life-

 We live in a fallen world, and sadly bad things happen in our fallen world (1st Thessalonians 3:2-4, 1st Peter 1:6). People get hurt and sick, they lose their jobs, and sometimes they turn to drugs or alcohol to deal with negative feelings and traumatic experiences. Other times people are evil and cruel and the innocent get hurt or exploited. On the positive side of all of that, God will use those trials to make you a better, wiser more compassionate person if you ask Him to (James 1:2, James 1:12, 2nd Corinthians 1:3-6).

 Seek God on a deeper level-

 More than anything God wants you to work at getting to know Him better in the midst of your trial. He wants you to become a student of the Word and someone who runs to Him in prayer with all your fears, sinful inclinations, insecurities and problems. Doing that will give you a supernatural source of strength, knowledge and wisdom that will empower you to deal with whatever trial has come into your life, in a way that pleases God and benefits you.

 Become increasingly more obedient to God-

 We solve our problems in this life by first identifying areas of sin in our lives, repenting of those sins and then doing more and more of what God instructs us to do in His word. Romans 12:1-21, 2nd Peter 1:5-8, Colossians 3:1-26 and Ephesians chapters 4-6 give believers abundant instruction on the behaviors Christians should be embracing and eliminating in their lives. However, eliminating sinful behavior is not enough. We also have to ask God to help us (sometimes repeatedly) change our hearts, hate sin and see life the way He sees it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me, Myself and I Do

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God~ 2nd Timothy 3:2-4 NIV

 I was recently struck by a painful reality. The nature of the times we live in is such that the instant I dare to think I have finally seen it all, something new (and unimaginably bizarre) comes along and reminds me all over again that the human race never stops inventing crazy crap to do.

 My latest epiphany came in the form of a strange new movement: sologamy. Otherwise known as the act of marrying oneself.

 Seriously, it’s a thing.

 There is a website (imarriedme.com) that sells kits for those folks (kits start at $50.00 and go as high as $230.00) interested in making the ultimate commitment to self-love. The individual making the promise to love him or her self till they breathe their last breath procures the kit and clothing befitting the occasion (some purchase wedding dresses or rent tuxedos). Guests are invited to observe as the person recites their vows while gazing into a handheld mirror. The service can be completed with or without a pastor or Justice of the Peace officiating. The vows are followed by a reception where the attending guests celebrate the happy individual and their promise to satisfy their own best interests above all others.

I am not making this up.

 Then, I suppose, (I have no actual data on this) the newly committed solagamist goes off on a solo honeymoon trip to memorialize their newly minted commitment and to get to know them-selves better.

 Sigh.  

 I struggled a little bit with where exactly to go with this post. On the one hand, the whole concept of marrying oneself is just a silly, frivolous and rather sad trend. It’s easy to argue that solagamy is really not significant enough to bother getting worked up over. It really is tempting to dismiss solagamy as just another weird example of 21st century self-indulgence run amok.

 Nevertheless, the trend of solagamy (and it is rapidly becoming a trend) says some significant and scary things about where we are at and where we are going as a culture.

 I find this peculiar trend troubling for a number of different reasons and on a number of different levels.

 The decadence of a ceremony that celebrates commitment to self-love leaves me with a skeezy, almost dirty, feeling. The uninhibited hedonism is disturbing. Then there’s the sad reality that marriage has been dumbed-down to a place where many in our culture sincerely believe that a wedding is just a big fancy party we throw for our own pleasure and an occasion to show-off our event planning skills. All that being said, mostly I just feel a soul-wrenching sadness that so many in our society have become so lonely and isolated that solo weddings are actually becoming an industry.

 Sigh.

 Sadly, it’s not just the world of romance and weddings that has been affected by our collective love affair with self. Instilling self-esteem (another term for self-love) in their children is now the number one concern of today’s parents, beating out almost every other parenting concern including teaching their kids right from wrong and ensuring that their children are educated well enough to enter the work force. It’s not just parents who are concerned with self-esteem. According to forbes.com, Americans spend a whopping eleven billion dollars on self-help and self-esteem books every year. We are encouraged in obvious-and not so obvious- ways to find ourselves, love ourselves and do right by number one, because if we don’t no one else will.

 All this self-adoration is a far cry from the biblical mandate to “lose yourself” (Luke 17:33) and the biblical call to put the interests of others above our own (Philippians 2:3, Romans 13:8). Self-worship (and that is what this is) is as different from “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18, Mark 12:30-33) as cats are from kangaroos. The biblical mandate presupposes that we already think enough of our selves and care enough for ourselves to set a reasonable standard for how we ought treat others. The self-esteem movement assumes that we need to focus more attention on ourselves before we even begin to think about anyone else’s needs or wants.

 As Christians we may or may not be able to change the trajectory of our self-focused culture (2nd Timothy 3:2). However, we can model healthy self-care (a biblical concept) and show people that it is possible to be happy, fulfilled and cared for without having a romantic relationship with ones self.

Should Christians and Non-Christians be Friends?

 Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character~ 1st Corinthians 15:33 NIV

 I subscribe to a number of Christian leadership blogs, podcasts and websites. Most of the stuff I subscribe to is pretty good. A few are hit or miss and one or two are just kind of meh. The best ones consistently tackle issues I have never thought very deeply about, challenge my biases, and help me think more imaginatively about problem solving. The not-so-great ones tend to hit on the same dozen or so issues over and over again and never really give any answers, just raise a lot questions.

 Over the course of the last couple of years, I have noted a clear trend regarding the subject matter of many of the blogs I subscribe to. All of them have been encouraging Christians to be bolder in their pursuit of authentic and meaningful friendships with sinners (their word, not mine). A few have openly scolded other Christians for not having and pursuing more intimate friendships with non-Christians. Every article I’ve read on the subject holds Jesus up as the example we ought to follow when it comes to pursuing friendships with “sinners”.

For the record, I believe with all my heart Christians ought to pursue friendships with non-Christian people (more on that later). However, I am convinced this teaching trend has become dangerously unbalanced because it presumes without offering cautions.

 I will begin with the presumptions.

 The most common presumption is that Jesus spent most or all of His time just chilling with sinners. To hear many pastors and teachers tell it, Jesus spent every moment of His life on earth at the local bars, crack houses and brothels hugging and high-fiving the local riff-raff.  

 He didn’t.

 A careful reading of the gospels reveals that Jesus did indeed attend events and parties where “sinners” were present (a very big deal in His world). We also know that Jesus was kind and welcoming to everyone (including sinners) and He definitely wasn’t shy about interacting with sinners or building meaningful relationships with very messed-up people (Luke 19:1-9, John 4). However, that was one part of His over-all ministry. Jesus spent most of His time with the twelve disciples and others (Luke 8:1-3, Luke 10:1) who were interested in following Jesus and learning to live a holy life.

 The second assumption many make is that the culture Jesus ministered in was exactly like the culture we live in.

Its’ simply not true.

Jesus lived in and ministered to a predominately Jewish culture where even the most messed-up “sinners” understood exactly what the Bible had to say about sin (John 4, Luke 9:1-9). This meant that the pre-evangelistic work of helping folks recognize the reality that they are sinners in need of redemption was done long before they came into contact with Jesus. We live in a post-Christian/atheistic culture where few people know or care about what the Bible has to say about much of anything. Even fewer feel guilt or remorse over their behavior. This difference is subtle and may seem trivial. However, it’s a difference that dramatically affects the dynamics of interacting with non-Christians. At the very least it makes spiritually productive conversations more difficult, and relationships trickier to navigate.

 And finally:

Some are assuming we are all a heck of lot more like Jesus than we actually are. Jesus was the perfect, sinless Son of God on a mission to save the world from the bondage and consequences of sin.

We are not Jesus.

 Even in our redeemed state we are still people who possess a sin nature (1st John 1:8). We are people who have been saved by the kindness and mercy of  a seriously benevolent God and nothing else (Ephesians 2:9). We are also people who have been commanded by a holy God to live a life of purity, holiness and righteousness (1st Corinthians 1:2, Ephesians 5:3, 1st Thessalonians 4:7, 1st Peter 1:14-16, Hebrews 12:14). Our calling to holiness is sometimes made more difficult by our choice of friendships (Proverbs 13:20, Psalm 1, 1st Corinthians 15:33).

 All that being said, I still really believe Christians ought to be intentional about seeking out friendships with non-Christian people. People have to be led to Jesus and the only way that will happen in this culture will be through cultivating relationships. However, we need to initiate relationships with non-Christian people wisely and prayerfully, keeping two truths firmly in mind.

 First, the Bible warns us repeatedly concerning the dangers of spending an inappropriate amount of time around those who may tempt us to sin (Jude 22, 2nd Corinthians 6:14-15, 1st John 2:15-16). Secondly, we need to remember that we will NEVER lead anyone to Jesus if we make a habit out of sinning with them.

 

Go Ahead and Feel Guilty- It Might Be Good for You


Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin~ Psalm 32:5

The other morning I happened upon a Psychology Today article on the topic of guilt. Closer analysis revealed pretty quickly that the article wasn’t really about guilt per se. Rather, the article was about how destructive and futile the writer (a psychotherapist with an alphabet soup of degrees behind his name) believes the whole notion of guilt is to the average human.

 The writer went to great lengths to convince the reader (in this case me) that guilt is nothing more than a societal and religious construct (a concept invented by society and religion to motivate people to do what “society” wants them to do). In the writer’s estimation, guilt serves no positive or healthy purpose for individuals and tends to keep people stuck in self-defeating patterns of behavior

 When I finished reading the article I was convinced of little but the likelihood that the writer is simply a well meaning, highly educated, and extremely articulate nut-job. However, his views did get me thinking more deeply about the subject of guilt. More specifically, it got me thinking about whether or not guilt is a good or a bad thing.

 The answer is “yes”.

 But, before we go there, I want to define the meaning of the word guilt for the purposes of this post. According to the word wizards at Dictionary.com, guilt is a feeling of responsibility or remorse for an offense, crime, wrong and etc., whether real or imagined.

 Okay.

 Call me old-fashioned, nutty or whatever you wish to call me. But, I have a tough time accepting the view that a feeling of remorse or responsibility after committing a crime or offense is a bad thing. The exception of course would be if the person were feeling guilt-ridden over a fictitious or imagined offense. That situation is a bit trickier to navigate. The nitty-gritties of dealing with imagined guilt are without a doubt way above my pay-grade and outside of the scope of this blog.

 That said.

 I am convinced that guilt is neither good nor bad. Guilt is like the check engine light on a car. It’s simply an indicator there’s something going on that ought to be explored more thoroughly. A persistent sense of guilt warrants some self-examination to see if we need to change course or apologize for something we’ve said or done.

 Admittedly, there are folks whose check engine light goes off for no good reason. Those types of people feel guilty over situations they had absolutely no control over. There are also those who feel guilty when someone sins against them, some even feel guilty over the sins others people have committed (like their parents, kids or spouse).

 Feeling guilty when we’ve done nothing wrong or sinful is false guilt. False guilt is one kind of guilt that really is a pointless waste of time. Wallowing around in false guilt can feel good and even self-righteous at times. However, it can keep us from seeing clearly the things we really did do wrong and are in need of repentance.

 Feeling guilty or regretful when we do sin or commit an offense is a good and healthy thing to feel (Psalm 51, Isaiah 66:2). Guilt drives spiritually and emotionally healthy people to contrition. Contrition motivates people to repentance (change) and changing bad people into better people is what God is all about. However, guilt can quickly morph into a bad thing if we stay stuck and let the guilt fester into condemnation.

 Contrary, to popular belief condemnation is not the same thing as guilt. Condemnation is guilt’s ugly cousin, it breeds hopelessness and self-loathing by telling us that there is no way we can ever be good enough and that there is nothing we can ever do to be forgiven or become better. Condemnation, not guilt, is what keeps people stuck in unhealthy patterns of behavior.

 The Bible is clear that there is no condemnation (although there might be guilt when we sin) for Christians (Romans 8:1). In a society where people tend to either wallow in false guilt or deny there is any such thing as guilt, Christians need to model a healthy understanding of the issue. Christians should be quick to confess sin, eager to repent and ready to tell others about the freedom we have from condemnation in Christ.

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

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.

 I reject most parenting trends because, 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 trends. 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.

 For the record, 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.

 

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.