God’s Got This

 

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze~ Isaiah 43: 1-2

As a rule I am not much of a worrier. Nor am I super laid-back. I am definitely not someone who has conquered worry through spiritual efforts. Rather, my inclination to avoid excessive worry is strictly practical. I have learned the hard way that worry wastes time, squanders energy and has the power to change precisely nothing. I am an outcome-oriented person cursed with a bit of a lazy streak. Consequently, I typically avoid any activity that does not ordinarily result in some sort of payoff. Worry does not achieve any sort of tangible outcome. As a result, I typically don’t worry about all that much.

 Until recently.

 Over the last few weeks I have found myself worrying about all sorts of strange issues at the oddest times of the day and night. From a strictly commonsense perspective, some of these worries actually make sense.

 When we put our house up for sale almost five months ago, the market was solid and houses in our area were selling at a steady pace. Within what felt like minutes of putting OUR house on the market, it dried up. Only a handful of properties have sold in our area since August. My husband and I have been living apart for months and the arrangement is expensive.

I worry the house will never sell.

 My husband has been subsisting on microwaved popcorn and cold cereal for months now. I worry he will develop scurvy or beriberi or some other rare nutritional deficiency. My handyman skills are rudimentary (to say the least) and so all the chores my husband normally does are not getting done or they’re not getting done poorly. I worry the house will fall down on us while we are sleeping. Our eleven–year-old has began to revert back to some old behaviors recently. I worry about how all this is affecting her. I worry about moving in the middle of winter, I worry we won’t move until spring or summer or that we will never move. God has provided through this whole stupid mess but that hasn’t stopped me from worrying my head off about money.

 And those are just the worries that actually make some level of sense. The really weird stuff hits me hardest around three in the morning. That’s when I worry about how the dogs will adjust to the move, global politics, scary viruses becoming airborne, fiber and if we are getting enough of it and whether or not I remembered to shut the garage door. Once I exhaust those worries I move on to questioning every choice I’ve ever made and then I wonder if painting the entire house a different color will make it sell faster.

 The other day I came across some much-needed encouragement from an unexpected source. The seventh and eighth chapters of Daniel recount some rather peculiar dreams that foretell some unsettling future events. The implications of the dreams are at best a bit creepy and the content is so strange that it has kept scholars and theologians debating the deeper meaning of the text for centuries.

 It was not the content I found helpful. It was the context. Daniel recorded his dreams at a point in history that was both personally and politically chaotic. He was a slave who had served as an adviser to one king (Nebuchadnezzar) for all of his adult life. Nebuchadnezzar was not a great guy. He was a brutal narcissist with a capricious streak. That said, he was also a capable leader, teachable and had over time he had developed a healthy fear of Daniel’s God. Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson Belshazzar had proven himself to be an even more erratic and cruel leader than his granddad without the leadership abilities, teachable spirit or fear of God.

 I believe God gave Daniel a peek into a future he would never live to see, in the midst of what had to have been of the scariest times of his life, to remind him and, by extension, all of us. That God has this. Whatever it is, God has it. God has our future tightly in His grasp. Nothing surprises Him. He has whatever is keeping you up at night too. Whether it’s a house that won’t sell or a health problem or a job loss, or a kid that has gone off the rails, or something even worse.

 God’s got it and He has you too.

Hearing God

You said, ‘Behold, the Lord our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man, yet he lives~ Deuteronomy 5:24 NASB

 Most conversations about hearing the voice of God go in one of two directions. Some confidently claim that they hear from God all the time about every minute detail of their life. God speaks to them audibly on every topic imaginable, from the serious to the mundane.

 These lucky people do not weigh the pros or cons of any decision. They don’t agonize over which job they ought to take or whom they should marry. They don’t even worry about where they should go for dinner. They have all the answers because God tells them exactly what to do all the time.

 On the opposite end of the spectrum are the people who awkwardly confess that they have never heard God speak. They read their Bibles and pray on a regular basis but they admit that they have never actually heard from God. These folks typically feel like second-class citizens when compared to the first group. In their most honest and raw moments they wonder if God really loves them or if they are even Christians.

 I believe that God speaks to all of His people at least some of the time. I also believe that there are situations when we don’t hear God’s voice because we have preconceived notions about how we think God will speak. Those biases can interfere with our ability to hear what God is saying. We want (and sometimes even demand) an audible voice when He is intent on using another, more subtle approach to speak into our lives. Following are the most common methods God uses when He has something to say.

 The Bible- Psalm 119:105, 2nd Timothy 3:16

 Contrary to what you might have heard, the Bible is still God’s preferred means of communication with people. God will never tell anyone to do anything that directly contradicts biblical teaching. If you want to hear God speak to you, begin there.

 People- 1st Samuel 25, Acts 17:16-33, 2nd Samuel 12, Judges 1:8-9

 When God wanted David to understand that his craving for vengeance would lead to his destruction, God chose to speak those words through the quiet wisdom of a young woman named Abigail. When God wanted to proclaim the reality of His existence to the people of Athens, He used the words of Paul to communicate that truth. God still uses men and women to communicate truth to one another. For that reason, it is critical that we prayerfully evaluate the encouraging as well as the not-so-encouraging words of our friends, family members, pastors and even the people we don’t really care for. Sometimes when people speak it’s not them speaking, but God speaking through them. We will do well to listen.

 Strong impressions and still small voices- 1st Kings 19: 11-18, Acts 15:28-29, Acts 16:6

 In my experience, God seldom says, “Do this” or “don’t do that.” But he does speak to His people through impressions or a strong sense that we should or should not do something. The only time we should ignore those impressions is when the activity or course of action we are considering violates clear biblical instruction or principles.

 Circumstances- Exodus 2:5-8, Acts 8:1-8

 Little in life is more frustrating than feeling we are being forced into a course of action by circumstances outside of our control. Thankfully these situations are not always the tragedies they seem to be at the time. Sometimes seemingly adverse circumstances are really the just the hand of God guiding us towards His will for our lives.

 I honestly do not know if God talks to some folks more than others. It’s certainly possible; God deals with people as individuals and He is free to do whatever He pleases. I do know that God is good and that He never leaves us alone. I also know that if we need direction He will give it to us, but that direction may not come in the form we are expecting. It is our spiritual responsibility to keep our hearts and spirits open to God’s will in whatever way He chooses to reveal it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Root of All Misery

 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will~ Romans 12:2

 Those of us in the Western world are blessed to live in what could be called the very best of times. Despite all the political and social turmoil, it is without question a fantastic time to be alive.

 Human ingenuity has allowed all sorts of regular people to live at a level of comfort and ease that was formerly unknown, even to the wealthiest and most privileged in earlier times. The magnificent wonders of coffee, central air, disposable diapers, hot showers, automobiles, smartphones, and pizza delivery never fail to blow my mind and remind me exactly how fortunate I was to have been born in the 20th century rather than the 18th or even the 19th.

 The marvels of our era make it possible for almost anyone to satisfy nearly any craving or whim with very little effort. And yet, inexplicably we are perhaps one of the unhappiest cultures in the history of humanity. Untold millions are hooked on things that people in other times would have viewed as extraordinarily strange—activities like shopping, social media, online pornography and Candy Crush Saga.

 Millions are dependent on mind-altering substances both legal and illicit. Some are so lonesome and socially isolated that they are willing to pay strangers good money just to hear them talk. Divorce rates have been soaring for decades and nearly two-thirds of adults say they are unhappy with their lives. Loneliness, discontent and addiction are not exactly the hallmarks of a happy, well-adjusted society.

 Some have observed the conundrum of blessing and misery and concluded that the problem lies entirely with the blessings. This crowd chooses to go the monastic route and shed the stuff. I do not take issue with this logic. No rational believer would quarrel with the notion of casting off a materialistic mindset. Jesus was painfully straightforward regarding his view of materialism when he admonished two brothers arguing over money with this warning:

 Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions~ Luke 12:15

 Nothing good has ever come out of unrestrained materialism. However, I do not believe that materialism is the source of our misery. The stockpiling of material possessions is more of a symptom of the problem than the actual problem.

 The problem is focus.

 The blessings of our age come with a tendency to focus all of our attention on ourselves. The dark side of cozy houses, career opportunities, universal human rights, central air and pizza delivery is that these things can easily cause us to think that we deserve more of the same. Getting our needs met, having our preferences filled, and seeing our rights recognized can easily become the driving force in our lives. When these things become the driving force in our lives we become wholly self-focused, and self-focused people are miserable.

 Jesus assures us in Matthew 10:39 that if we voluntarily give up our life, (i.e. our rights, convenience, comfort, preferences) for His sake we will find authentic peace and lasting joy. Conversely demanding more life, (as in more rights, convenience, comfort, preferences) leads to self-focus and self-focus is the root of misery.

 The solution to our conundrum is two-fold. First we must train ourselves to recognize the conveniences and comforts of our time for the mind-blowing blessings from God that they really are. The proper response to hot showers, universal human rights, electric blankets and pizza delivery is awe and gratitude to our great God for allowing us to experience these profound blessings.

 However, gratitude alone is not enough. We also need to get outside of ourselves. We accomplish that by using what we’ve been blessed with to serve God and people. Serving breaks the bondage of self-focus and materialism and enables us to see life, people and our own selves from God’s perspective.

 Serving accomplishes yet another even more significant purpose. It molds us into the image of Christ. Jesus was the ultimate servant and the standard for all things good. When we serve like Jesus served, our love and good deeds draw the unbelieving world to faith in our God. Our world becomes a much better place with a little less of us and whole lot more of God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 One issue every blogger I know struggles with is transparency, or how much personal information to share with their readers. Everyone agrees that some personal sharing is clearly a healthy thing. Sharing allows readers to really know the writer and reminds both the reader the writer that life is a journey that none of us have completely figured out.

 Conversely, everyone ought to avoid the temptation to turn their page into a personal confessional. Assaulting an unsuspecting stranger with awkward private information borders on emotional abuse. Knowing personal details about a person you have “met” only in cyberspace can leave a reader feeling stunned and uncertain about what do with the information given. It’s a little like seeing your Grandmother in her underwear. No matter how innocent the circumstances, it can be difficult to shake the sense that you have somehow done something terribly wrong.

 I struggled mightily to balance all this as I debated where to go with today’s post. My angst has been complicated by my (undeniably prideful) desire to look like I have it all together even when I quite clearly don’t have a clue. The truth is that I am currently in a place where nearly everything in life feels ambiguous and I have more questions than answers about more issues than I care to discuss. Even after doing all the Christianly things I know to do (Bible reading, fasting, prayer, etc.) I still have no tangible answers.

 All that to say that I am not approaching today’s topic as an expert who has everything all figured out. Rather as one who is on a journey of discovery. I am learning that finding peace in the midst of the chaos of not knowing what to do next, by:

 Admitting I don’t know-

 There is something incredibly freeing about admitting to God and everyone else that I don’t know what to do next. Owning my cluelessness has allowed me to be open to possibilities that I would normally never consider. And I am beginning to suspect that God likes it when we come to a place where we have no other option than to trust in Him, rather than our own understanding and worldly wisdom (Proverbs 3:5-6).

 Taking time everyday to be still-

 Not knowing what to do about a valid problem is a nerve-wracking situation. When our nerves are wracked, the inclination is to run headlong into activity. Busy is not a bad thing, but frenzied, chaotic activity just leads to anxiety and a decreased capacity to problem solve. The answer is to get alone with God every day, fill your mind with promises from Scripture and meditate on God’s goodness (Psalm 46:10). It feels counterintuitive to be still when life is uncertain. But stillness recharges our batteries and empowers us to deal with the stuff we don’t understand and increases our ability to see our problems from God’s perspective.  

 Tackling the obvious-

 Not knowing what to do about a particular situation does not mean we should sit back and do nothing about everything. Make a plan and then prayerfully tackle the obvious stuff that you can do something about. If you are concerned about future job security or finances cut back on spending and polish up your resume, or take on a second job. If it’s your kids or your marriage that have you flummoxed, read a book or take a class and improve your skills. Choosing to be proactive will not provide magic solutions for every problem, but it will help you stay positive and it may prevent new problems from cropping up.

 Keep on keeping on-

 1st Corinthians 13:12 tells us that every Christian will experience times when direction is unclear. It’s just another one of the trials Christians are promised in 1st Thessalonians 3:3. The good news is that these periods of uncertainty can become the very thing that makes us stronger, wiser, and better able to minister to others. The key to becoming better, not bitter, in the face of a trial is to cling tenaciously to the belief that God is good and that He has your best interests at heart. Especially when circumstances are saying something entirely different.

 I have not enjoyed this period of my life. I’m a bit of a control freak and I like at least looking like I have all the answers. But even I have to admit that this period of my life has been instructive. Through it all I am slowly learning that faith is not about having all the answers. Faith is a journey of discovering, learning to trust and understand the one who does.

 

 

Finding Purpose

 

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose~ Romans 8:28 NASB

 

This week I learned that the word purpose is one of the most loaded words in the English language. It came to light following a conversation with one of our kids. The exchange started innocently enough when I vetoed chocolate cake after dinner. I defended my use of veto power by patiently explaining that candy and cookies at church, followed by ice cream at lunch and peanut butter cups for an afternoon snack, was more than enough nutritionally deficient “food” for any one person in a single day.

 The child was clearly not persuaded by my insight so I launched into a discourse concerning the long-term health risks of consuming excessive sugar. I was on a roll so I went on to expound (rather eloquently I thought) on the hazards of developing bad habits early in life and the differences between an empty calorie and a healthy calorie. I was feeling pretty smug about my communication skills until I noted the blank expression in her eyes and realized that I was not having the impact I had hoped for.

 The death spiral of doubt came the next morning while I was reading a devotional of all things. The author warned against allowing anything to pull you away from the purpose that God has for your life. Rather than being encouraged to persevere in my God given purpose I was suddenly filled with uncertainty and doubt.

 My mind immediately traveled back to the conversation I’d had the night before with my child. It got me thinking about purpose and whether or not I somehow missed mine.

I cannot explain why that particular situation struck me with what can only be described as an existential crisis of confidence. It could be that recent changes in my life have rocked my confidence. Some would say it was the devil. It’s also possible that I am simply an over-privileged first-world Christian with too much time on my hands to ponder such things.

 Once I got my emotions in check I did a search of the Scriptures looking for some wisdom. I think I was hoping to find an example of a man or woman seeking their purpose. To my surprise, I could not find a single example. I concluded that there are only three possible explanations for this:

 We are the first generation of humans to be concerned with our purpose.  

Prior generations had the subject of purpose all figured out and did not feel the need to ask.

They understood some truths we have forgotten.

 The first two possibilities are highly unlikely. People are people. The fundamentals of what make us human do not change. And people everywhere, in every time, and in every place have cared a great deal about living lives that are both meaningful and significant. We are not the first generation to ponder our purpose in life. Nor will we be the last.

 I do believe that the men and women of the past may have understood a significant truth that I briefly forgot in the midst of my angst the other day. They understood that God’s purpose for each individual is less about doing and more about being.

 Like most folks, I tend to think of purpose in terms of things that I do. For most people, finding purpose tends to all about getting a degree, doing a job, making money, starting a ministry, raising a family. While it’s true that God wants people to be industrious and hardworking (2nd Thessalonians 3:10). I’m discovering that God is far more concerned with whom we are becoming rather than what we are achieving. If a man or woman is in the process of becoming holy, righteous, and fully submitted to God, the details of the doing tend take care of themselves.

 According to Scripture, people fulfill their purpose in the mundane things of life as much, if not more so, than in the things we see as big. God cares little about our net worth, how many degrees we have earned, the awards and honors that adorn our office walls, or even how many people we preach to every week. However, He is keenly interested in how we use our money, do our jobs, use our words, raise our families, treat our spouses, who we gossiped about and how forgiving we are.

 We find our purpose in this life when we take whatever it is we are doing, no matter how mundane and seemingly insignificant and commit to doing it in a way that reflects the goodness and glory of God to the world around us.

 

 

 

      

 

 

Being the Season

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us~ 2nd Corinthians 5:20a

 This last weekend boredom, a rare kid-free afternoon, a beautiful sunny day, and a case of cabin fever conspired to make me break a self-imposed rule that has served me well for years. I left my house (a.k.a. fortress of sanity) and headed out to the local mall on black Friday.

 Because I wasn’t really there to shop, I was free to engage in some intense people watching.

 The shoppers seemed to be divided into two distinct groups: those who were stimulated and exhilarated by the crowds, and those who were not. The first group wore big smiles, had an abundance of energy and were clearly very happy to be there. However, most of the shoppers looked weary, more than a little frantic and painfully over-stimulated.

 One woman who was clearly a member of the second group caught my attention. Initially it was her festive Christmas sweater, cute boots and jingle bell necklace that I noticed. Ultimately, it was the bitter rant she directed at a harassed-looking salesgirl that seized my attention. The woman went from weary to enraged when the salesgirl politely declined to honor a coupon that had expired. 

I will not bore you with all the details of the long drawn-out moral debate I had with myself as I struggled to decide whether or not to use this poor woman as an example in a blog post. I do not know her, nor do I know how she typically conducts herself.

 It is possible that she is normally a really pleasant person who just happened to be having a really bad day. It is also possible that she was dealing with some personal issues that contributed to her crankiness. Heaven knows there have been some singular moments of bad behavior in my own life that I do not wish to have judged by the general public.

 All that being said, my decision to share this story had more to do with something she said rather than with what she did. Six words uttered by a grumpy stranger, on the foulest shopping day of the year got me thinking about how I view the celebration of an entire season …

 “I’m just trying to celebrate Christmas!”

 You need to understand up-front that nobody on earth loves Christmas more than I do. My husband and kids are convinced that I should be named the official poster child for Christmas celebrations. I love the lights and decorations (the tackier, the better), the music (the louder, the better), the food (the richer, the better), the movies (the cornier, the better), the traditions, the parties (the more the better) but most of all I love the giving and yes, the receiving of presents.

However, even I have to admit that the humble Christ-child and His much-needed message of reconciliation and peace can and usually does get lost in the midst of the celebration and merriment.

 I am not, nor would I ever be rash enough to call for an end to the celebration of Christmas. It’s just too much fun. And I believe with all my heart that the God we serve is the author of fun, celebration and merriment. Old Testament law called for and even commanded the joyful celebration of frequent Holy days.

 However, the irritable woman in the mall got me thinking. Maybe Christmas is a thing I should endeavor to be rather than a thing I celebrate and enjoy for one month out of the year.

 So this year as we celebrate the holiday and relish the fun and feasting that has become such a big part of the commemoration of our Savior’s birth, I do not want to do more this year. Like most Christians in our culture I already do way too much at Christmas time.

 My goal this Christmas is to be more.

More than anything else I want to be the promise of hope that Jesus offers. I want to be the peace that Jesus embodied as I interact with my weary neighbors and the harried salesclerks and the cranky shoppers. My goal this Christmas is to make a much greater effort to model the love and grace that Jesus came to show us.

 

 

The Little Girl

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live~ Deuteronomy 30:19

 Recently Pope Francis shed his image as the hip, happening Pope when he came out with a bold, rabble-rousing declaration condemning recreational drug legalization. Pope Francis could not have been more unequivocal in his condemnation of drug legalization. His message stated in part…

 “The problem of drug use is not solved with more drugs.”

 He went on to clarify…

 “Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise. To think that harm can be reduced by permitting drug addicts to use narcotics in no way resolves the problem.”

 The blogosphere went wild with disapproval over the Pope’s archaic notions. The haters were out in full force, overjoyed to have an occasion to bash the Pope, organized religion, and anyone ridiculous enough to believe in God. There were some weary attempts at defending the use of marijuana made by pointing out that alcohol is legal and widely used (I, for one fail to see how one is connected to the other).

 Then there were the gloomy souls who seemed sincerely baffled that a Christian leader who appears to be as left-leaning and cool as Pope Francis could be opposed to recreational drug use. But by far the most common sentiment asserted by those who hope to legalize drugs was the tired line that has rapidly become the rallying cry of a civilization that is rotting from within:

 “People should be able to do whatever they want with their own bodies!”

 As I read page after page of comments extolling the virtues of personal sovereignty and unlimited freedom, I couldn’t help but think of the little girl who lives upstairs in the room that used to be my office.

 She’s a precious little thing.

 She has long, dark blonde hair, wonderfully expressive hazel eyes, and a mischievous smile. She adores animals and is currently campaigning hard for a hamster that she intends to name Sir Edward Fluff Ball. She loves to swim in our pool and likes craft projects. Her favorite color changes almost daily.

 She is the daughter of a relative, the offspring of two people who sincerely believed that they had the right to do whatever they wanted with their own bodies. A few years ago her Mother died from choices she made with her own body. 

 Moving in with us was tough on her in the beginning, but she is becoming a bit more comfortable in our home all the time. Although they are much older, she enjoys hanging out with our kids. She and my husband share a love of the silly and absurd that is bringing them together. She and I have connected over decorating her room and a mutual love of stories. Her growing bond with our family does not keep her from crying sometimes because she misses her Mom and yearns to live with her Dad.

 She is a bright and imaginative girl.

She reads above grade level and performs well in school. Unfortunately, she struggles more than most kids her age with impulse-control issues, remembering things and telling time. On nights when sleep evades me I worry that her problems are more than childish immaturity. My gut tells me her issues may very well be the outcome of choices her Mother made with her own body while she was pregnant.

 Her story is far from unique.

There are millions of little girls and boys just like her. Children who are the human fallout of arrogant and foolish choices their parents have made with their own bodies. Children who are plagued by nightmares, children who struggle to connect with their peers, children who long for an ordinary life with their biological parents.

Children who cry themselves to sleep at night.

 The vast majority of those children do not have the advantages she has. Most are not as naturally bright as she is. Nor do they have extended families that are able and willing to pick up the slack for parents who are busy making choices that prevent them from parenting their children properly.

 Those children are fated to become cogs in the wheel of an apathetic, overburdened public system. A system that lacks the human element necessary to help children mature to adulthood in a healthy way.

A system we all pay for.

 Sadly, societies reap what they sow as surely as individuals do. I fear the harvest we will reap in the coming years with these kids, as we loudly and arrogantly demand the right to do whatever we want with our own bodies.

 In an ideal world, we would not need laws to govern what individuals can and can’t do with their own bodies. In an ideal world, people would make unselfish, rational choices with their bodies. In an ideal world all people would agree that an individual’s right to make choices should end at the place where those choices begin to negatively affect others. In an ideal world, there would not be any children like the little girl who lives upstairs in the room that used to be my office.

Love is Not Enough

Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside~ Exodus 9:20

 

It’s been a depressing week. Nothing truly awful occurred; just a whole bunch of petty little first-world problems that conspired together to wreck my week. I’ve been sick, my husband has been out of town, and we’ve had car problems, problems with the dog, scheduling issues with our kids, and on top of everything else it’s September and it still feels like July in Tucson.

 My blue mood intensified on Tuesday while I was searching the Internet for an article. I could remember what the article was about, but not the title or who wrote the stupid thing. As a result, I spent the better part of an hour undertaking the modern equivalent of searching for a needle in a haystack. I never did find what I was looking for, but I did come across a rather bitter tirade written by a former Christian turned irate atheist. Among other things, his diatribe contained a list of prominent Christian leaders who have failed morally in the last decade. The length of the list was appalling.

 But it got me thinking.  

Why do Christian leaders fail?

 They shouldn’t. If there is any type of leader on earth who should be able to hold it together it’s a Christian leader. And yet the last three decades have given the world some really outstanding examples of leadership failure within the Christian community. Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, Doug Phillips, Bob Coy, Ted Haggard, and Tony Alamo are just a few of the more notorious examples of Christian failure the world has witnessed in recent years.  

 This is an issue all Christians should think about for a couple of reasons. First:

All Christians are leaders.

 Parents lead children, managers and business owners lead employees, employees and students lead their peers, and teachers lead students. If you are a believer in Jesus and you aren’t leading someone in some way, you are doing something terribly wrong. There is no leader on earth who is immune to temptation. We need to understand why leaders fail so we can avoid moral failure in our own lives and preserve our influence in the world.

 Christian leadership failure hurts everyone.

 Failure damages the person who fails; they lose their incomes, influence, reputations, and sometimes even their families. Moral failure devastates followers, shatters trust and tests faith. Moral failure makes it challenging for all Christians to spread the gospel. It is difficult to convince those on the periphery of the faith that Jesus has the power to change and empower people when Church leadership can’t uphold some very basic principles of the faith. Tragically, moral failure hurts unbelievers most of all, giving them a handy excuse to never ponder the claims of Christ, ensuring that they will spend eternity without Him.  

 Popular theories of why moral failure occurs are many and varied, but a list of contributing factors usually includes:

 Lack of accountability

Isolation of the leader

Stress

Pride

Too few boundaries

Too many temptations

Fatigue and depression

 All of these issues can and do contribute to leadership failure. However, I believe there is typically a lot more to it. One thing is clear, for most Christians moral failure is rarely about a lack of love for Jesus. I cannot speak for every Christian leader who has fallen. But I can tell you that every Christian I have ever known who has failed morally has loved God deeply and passionately.

 Lack of love is rarely the problem. Lack of fear is.

Love (even love for God) is a soft squishy emotion that is easy to push aside when other emotions like greed and lust are riding high. Fear on the other hand is much harder to ignore or push aside. For that reason, fear of God has become a central part of our belief system. If it doesn’t, we will undoubtedly fall victim to the first appealing temptation that comes along during a moment of stress or weakness.

 Fear of God has gotten a bad rap in the last few years. The expression conjures up images of harried-looking believers biting their nails and cowering in corners. It’s really a deceptive image of fearing the Lord. Fearing God is not about being afraid. Fear of the Lord simply means that we really believe that God will bring the consequences He has promised in His word to those who violate His commands.

 A fear of the Lord must be cultivated in a person’s life. Fear of God begins with remembering that not all of God’s promises are pleasant and that God really does discipline those whom He loves most.