Wednesday, August 16, 2017

When the Wind Blows

We get a lot of wind in our coastal town. More than once we’ve had to run down the street to retrieve our can and lid on windy mornings after garbage pickup. Hoodies help keep us out the rain, but won’t stay on when the wind blows. And umbrellas turn inside out. I’ve also learned if I don’t go out soon enough when I hear the sound of outdoor furniture scooting across the deck, I’ll have to fight the rosebushes to get them back. Even in beautiful summer weather, a breeze kicks up almost every afternoon. 

That’s why it wasn’t much of a surprise to see the road crew met their match when they repainted lines down the middle of nearby streets. The wind must have been blowing when they sprayed, because I noticed every dotted line was surrounded by a fuzzy yellow mist. 

Humorous to the observer. Annoying if you’re the crew worker trying to keep your paint from flying in all directions. 

Disastrous when winds of confusion blow you off course spiritually.

Paul compared the ever-changing culture of this world to three things that continually fluctuate. Babies, who change their minds on a whim. Waves of the sea, that toss to and fro. Wind, that can blow even the largest vessel off course. You never know when the wind might change direction; the same is true with the values of our society.

What was once absolute is now fuzzy. You can’t quite make out the lines anymore between truth and what is culturally acceptable. Sex outside of marriage, the use of substances to “feel good” or medicate away your problems, lying to “protect” others, and stealing off the Internet (because everybody does it) are just a few practices people no longer consider outside the lines. 
When we go where the winds our society take us, it makes it hard to stay on the road God has laid out, or even remember where it lies. What the world paints is unfocused, difficult to read; always changing. How can we know the truth for sure on any given topic?

God has given us everything we need to know to live a life pleasing to Him in His Word. We don’t get to pick and choose though. Unlike our world, God doesn’t change His mind. His 10 Commandments are still applicable for every person, or, as Jesus boiled them down to 2 commands—love God with everything you’ve got, and love other people as much as you love yourself. If we do that, it rules out any participation in idol worship, cursing, lying, stealing, cheating, coveting and all the others.

How do we guard against our tendency to go with the flow? It’s hard to do; pressure to conform, worldly ideals, and rationalization sneak in subtly. We hardly even realize we’ve gone off road, until we end in the ditch, or over a cliff. 

I think the way to begin is to press the pause button and ask two questions when we’re watching TV (and commercials!), movies, the news, talking with others, listening to music, or reading.

1    1. How does this compare to the truth in God’s written word?   
2    2. How does God want me to respond? Should I turn it off, do some research, ask forgiveness, speak up for truth?

If we want to make a difference in our culture for Christ, we have to stay vigilant, and not assume everything being “taught” us is true. “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). 

Where is the wind taking you? Where do you want to go?

#windsofteaching #trueorfalse #Eph4:14 #culturalnorms #politicallycorrect

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Parenting is Permanent

courtesy of Sela Photography

Our son-in-law quoted his friend, Brandon, a while ago and I’ve been thinking how profound his outlook is. Brandon told him, “When I go to the grocery store, I parent. If I get a little shopping done while I’m there, that’s even better. When I go to a friend’s house, I parent. If I’m able to have a relaxed conversation while I’m there, that’s terrific. When I drive from one place to another, I parent. If it’s a pleasant drive without any catastrophes, I count my blessings.” 

You get the point, no matter where you go, parenting is the most important job you can be doing. You may not get to do everything you want along the way, but you’re training up human beings who you hope will make you proud. You pray they’ll choose to love God and others, show mercy and compassion, stand up for what is right, and make a difference in this world. 

And, I if you haven’t realized this already, parenting never ends.

True, your kids won’t be dependent on you forever. At least you hope not. But no matter how old they get, they’ll always need you. You’ll always want to stay connected. It’s supposed to work that way when you do it right.

My parents are still parenting me, and I’m a grandma of six. Although their teaching is indirect, I still learn from them. They continue to inspire me with their wisdom and experience, and it’s a huge boost knowing they pray for me every day. 

Too often we get in a hurry to move on to the absence-makes-your-heart-grow-fonder stage of parenting. I know I did. We forget how little time we have to nurture and teach before they’re on their own. When you’re sleep deprived, and never get to say a complete sentence without interruption; when you can’t walk across the room without being ensnared by a gauntlet of toys; when your house and car are never quiet or clean—it seems like an eternity before your life will be your own again. 

Then suddenly, they’re off—working, in college, getting married, having babies of their own. And you miss the sound of running feet, giggles and snuggles. And you realize your life will never be the same. 

It’s even better when they’re grown. Your children seek you out, not because they need something, but just to talk or hang out a while. That’s when you’ll be glad you invested the time at the grocery store, when visiting friends, in the car, and everywhere you went—to parent. On purpose—with love, focus, and commitment.

So if you’re a young parent, and you’re frazzled by the constant questions, and energy, and disciplining over and over, let me encourage you. You’ll have other opportunities to shop unhindered, visit uninterrupted, and drive without any passengers, to destinations of your choice. But you’ll never have these years back when they’re young, needing your constant presence.

Savor it. Take breaks when you can, and breathe snatches of freedom deeply. Then head back into the fray of their neediness, glad to be doing the job that never ends. Because the rewards are worth it. 

#parentingisforever #thebestjobever #encouragementforfrazzledparents #theygrowupfast #youngparents

Friday, July 7, 2017

Is There a Difference Between Judging and Accountability? Part 2

In part one, I talked about the difference between judging and accountability. Today, my goal is to paint a picture of how accountability is supposed to work. It’s God’s plan for His people to work interdependently to make each individual stronger.

Accountability is wonderful and painful. I have two girlfriends I’m accountable to, as well as my Mom and two sisters, and of course my husband. Why all this accountability?

The number one reason is we need someone outside ourselves who can give us a more objective view. We tend to either be too hard or too easy on ourselves. When we’re beating ourselves up, we need someone to give us a hug and encouraging word. When I got discouraged in my dieting efforts and felt deprived, I devoured a bunch of forbidden desserts. My husband didn’t scold me (like I was doing to myself), but encouraged me to get back on track.

On the other hand, when we rationalize our behavior and give excuses for why our sin is okay with God (when we convince ourselves we have extenuating circumstances and somehow get a free pass), our accountability partners can set us straight. That’s what Nathan did for King David (see 2 Samuel 12:1-13). He used a word picture he knew would touch King David’s heart and break through his defenses. We all need someone who loves us enough to tell us the hard stuff and keep us soft and repentant before God.

And now, for the meat. Here’s what the Bible says about accountability in the Body of Christ—the Church:

Examine yourself first:
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips… Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Col. 3:5-8, 16

Be humble, love deeply, and lift up:
Paul’s teaching in Gal. 6:1-2: Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

From Jesus’ half-brother: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective…My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:16, 19-20

From the writer of Hebrews in Heb. 3:12-13: See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Heb. 10:24-25

Speak to them privately at first:
Jesus’ said:  “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matt. 18:15-17

Jesus’ words in Luke 17:3: “So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.”

Don’t hang out with unrepentant “believers”:
Paul’s instructions in 1 Cor. 5:9-12: I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?

Things to Think About
There is a fine line between judging and accountability. Have you accused others of judging you who warned you of the consequences of your choices? Regardless of whether they hurt your feelings, or how the words were spoken, your job is to ask God if you need to change. 

Have you overstepped your role and begun to judge others, or spoken harsh words? 

Are you accountable to other believers, or do you live your spiritual life in secret? Who knows how you’re really doing and encourages you to stay on track? Are you approachable and submissive? If not, you will be held accountable, but by the time you’re standing before the judgment throne it will be too late to change. Now is the time to walk with others who seek God in this faith journey.

#Christiansarejudgmental #donotjudge #whatisaccountability #judgingandaccountability #beingaccountable #whatdidJesussayaboutjudging

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Is There a Difference Between Judging and Accountability? Part 1

I’ve heard it said Christians are judgmental. People don’t want to go to church because they think others are examining everything they do and condemning their choices. And sometimes they’re right. Some who call themselves Christians feel it’s their job to pick others apart. 

I am saddened by those picketing street corners and even churches and Christian concerts, with signs declaring others are going to hell for the specific sins they choose to list. Their hateful speeches yelled through a bullhorn add to the image many have of Christianity.

All of us are guilty of sin and destined for hell—if it weren’t for Christ’s sacrifice for us. But Jesus himself said it’s not our job to judge others. Only Jesus Christ has authority to judge the thoughts, attitudes, and deeds of men and women (John 5:22-30). And He will do that at the end of the age—when all are gathered and stand before His throne. 

He said: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:1-5 and Luke 6:37-42).

So why then do preachers preach, and teachers teach, and Christians caution others of the consequences of sin? When we do it right, the purpose is not to judge, but to warn. Ezekiel chapters 3 and 33 make it clear God wants us to warn others so they don’t go to hell. A warning is by definition:

1. To inform someone in advance of an impending or possible danger, problem, or other unpleasant situation.
2. To give someone forceful or cautionary advice about their actions or conduct.

It’s our job to tell unbelievers who God is and the Good News that He loves them and wants to rescue them from sin; but also about the impending judgment of all. This news should be delivered with hope, with gentleness and respect, making sure we are living what we proclaim (1 Pet. 3:15-16).

On the other hand, we also have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters who claim to walk in the Way. It’s called accountability. 

How is accountability different from judging? I’m glad you asked.

Judgment pronounces a verdict—either a reward or punishment for the actions of another. It is the finger of authority pointing to one under law. In this case: God’s perfect law that can only be satisfied by the perfect sacrifice—Jesus Christ. And Christ is the only Judge.

Accountability involves a relationship. It’s putting an arm around the shoulder of an equal. Anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ has agreed to do life His way; to love and obey Him. And we, as believers, are called to keep each other accountable—not with a pointing finger, but out of concern for the other’s welfare, their witness, and the detrimental effects of sin in the Church.

If we don’t address sinful behavior for fear of being “judgmental,” we are acting in disobedience to God. Sin will go unchecked and spread. Unbelievers will see no difference between the behaviors and attitudes of those who claim to be Christians, and the world, and feel no need to be saved.

Words such as rebuke, exhort, and admonish are key throughout the New Testament—but so are submission, obedience, and confession. Accountability is a two-way street. The Body of Christ is a family—encouraging, nurturing, reproving, and warning when one of us is flirting with danger.

The question to ask before speaking (or responding to rebuke) is—what is the fruit of this behavior, attitude, thought pattern? Where will it lead? What do I need to do?

Check back later this week for part two of this post. I’ll address the why’s and how’s—why God calls us to be accountable, and how to go about it in healthy ways. 

#Christiansarejudgmental #donotjudge #whatisaccountability #judgingandaccountability #beingaccountable #whatdidJesussayaboutjudging

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Walk of the Free

Free people walk differently than captives do. Free people hold their heads up, backs straight, and look into the eyes of others as equals. Prisoners, defeated by addictions, painful circumstances, illness, political oppression, or walls and bars, have a different gait. There is no eye contact. Heads down and slumping posture reveal hopelessness and chains weighing them down. Often invisible ones.
Those who walk in Christ have freedom no matter where they are. No one can take away the relationship we have with Jesus. It is deep within our heart where no man, jail, evil, or disappointment can reach. 

God followers through all of history have understood this—even in hunger, persecution, captivity, and defeat. I like the vivid word picture in the Message version:

I’ll stride freely through wide open spaces
as I look for your truth and your wisdom.
Psa. 119:45

Freedom is spacious. Room enough to move and breathe. God gives us that room. He gives us freedom from guilt and shame, freedom to be ourselves, freedom to love without an agenda; freedom to grow, learn, succeed, rejoice, and dance. Plus so much more!

Funny enough, the more we obey His commands, the more room we have. My friend Roy equates that with how we act as parents. When our kids are disobedient and disrespectful they’re going to lose freedoms. But when they’re obedient and cheerful, we generously give them more freedom. They can be trusted with it.

I can’t help but wonder: are we carrying ourselves like free people? Or do we needlessly slump under a load of care? I know all too often I pick up those old shackles and put them on, from the prison cell where Christ set me free.

Freedom can be lost if we don’t appreciate what we have. Jesus said it this way:

‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…’

 ‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’” (John 8:31-36).

Are you striding through life with confidence, free in Jesus? If not, seek Him and ask Him to release you from what holds you captive. 

Hold to Jesus’ teaching.

Have you gone back to your prison cell because of old habits, temptations, shame, or a desire to “earn” His approval by punishing yourself? He’s already unlocked the door. Come out into the open and celebrate your freedom!

Know the truth, and refuse to be enslaved again to sin once He has set you free.

Walk with your head held high and experience the spaciousness of God’s great love for you. Rejoice in the spiritual freedom of having your sins forgiven. And if you live in America, rejoice in a land where we can worship freely, share our testimony and the Bible with others, vote, move about freely, and work, learn, grow, and create! 

Happy 4th of July!

#fourthofJuly #freedom #confidenceinChrist #walkingtall #nomorechains