3/21/15

War Weary

Early in 2014, Bill Kristol wrote in The Weekly Standard, "Are Americans today war-weary? Sure
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been frustrating and tiring. Are Americans today unusually war-weary? No. They were wearier after the much larger and even more frustrating conflicts in Korea
and Vietnam." (1)

And that was before the escalation of terrorism by ISIS and others who are plaguing the world with The Washington Post that, despite a decade of weariness, "Americans appear ready to go to war againin fact, they are even more ready than their lawmakers in Washington." (2)
a stepped-up vision of jihad. Aaron Blake recently noted in

Washington is, perhaps, afraid to "own the results" (Blake's words) of declaring another war, even though it is clear the world is inching closer as Islamic terrorists claim more and more innocent victims.

All of this talk about becoming "war weary" hit me in the spiritual gut this week. Maybe you, like me, are struggling with the enemy's attacks. I felt the battle on at least two key fronts: gluttony and prayerlessness.

Frustrated by recent "failures" in skirmishes with my flesh, I sat, depressed, in a rocker on the back patio. I'd allowed busyness to supplant time with the Lord. I'd chosen way too many sweets over healthy food, even though God's Spirit nudged me to do otherwise.

Spiritual inertia set in as I thought, "It's just too hard. The battles are too heavy." I was somewhat unwilling to enter the battle again.
 
And then the Lord brought the Apostle Paul's words to mind:

"Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart" (Galatians 6:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:13).

The Lord unpacked this verse for me as I meditated on Paul's words.

First, I needed to remember God's grace, and this powerful truth: When God sees me, He sees His perfect, righteous Son. I am righteous in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

But there was more. On the one hand (the growth side of well-doing), I'm not to grow weary of growing to be more like Jesus. I am to manifest my salvation by sowing to the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23; 6:8) and cooperating with God in the process of sanctification (becoming set apart and holy to the Lord in every area of life).

On the other hand (the battle side of well-doing), I'm to stand up and resist the devil (James 4:7b) and not let sin reign in my life (Romans 6:6-18).

According to 2 Timothy 4:7, one of the Christian's goals is to "finish the course" God has laid out for each of us. God wants us to finish well in His strengthconfident in Him.

Yes, we all get tired, but we must not let our weariness lead to laziness or running from the battle. We must not lose heart, but rather, learn to rest in the Lord in the midst of our battles. He promises rest for the weary (Jeremiah 31:25; Matthew 11:28), and we can learn to encourage (instill courage in) each other for the battle too (see Isaiah 50:4).

The truth is, the Lordour Commander—will catch our enemy, Satan, in his own evil strategies; and the rule of our flesh is already defeated in Christ. But we must count that as true and stand in God's strength (John 16:33). The battle is indeed the Lord's, and He will be victorious Colossians 2:15).

We may think we have engaged in the battle for character and holiness, but most in America have not yet begun to stand against the sin within. The writer of Hebrews said, "In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood" (12:4).

We'll likely see many more Christian martyrs in the Middle East in the days to come. Lately, I've asked myself this question: If terrorists came to our shore, would I be willing to stand for Christ, even if it meant my death? I believe I would.

But if I'm honest, why, then, do I not struggle more against Satan and the sins that seek to take me captive and destroy my testimony? It's one thing to die for Christ, another to faithfully live for Him.
When I'm the most war weary in my spiritual battles, that's exactly when I need to renew my resolve. 
That's when I need to focus on Christ, the "author and finisher" of my faith who "endured the cross" for me (Hebrews 12:2). And that's when I need to stop trusting in the arm of flesh (Jeremiah 17:5).

My commitment to the battle must be moment-by-moment, because the pull of the culture and the tug of my flesh are real and persistent; and the devil isn't backing down. I can't afford to become war weary. The cost is too high.

Are YOU war weary? 

If you are, confess it as laziness, fearor whatever your reason is for standing downand join me in the battle. Re-enlist. 

"Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might" (Ephesians 6:10). Rely on His grace. And take up the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-17) "that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm."

(1) William Kristol, "War-Weariness As an Excuse," 3-24-14, The Weekly Standard, http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/war-weariness-excuse_784895.html 
(2) Aaron Blake, "Americans Aren't Very 'War-Weary' Anymore. But Washington Still Is," 2-19-15, The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2015/02/19/the-american-people-arent-very-war-weary-anymore-but-washington-still-is/



2/21/15

Still 'Wonder'-ing

In 2014, I focused on the word "wonder." It was a year of spiritual growth as I considered:

  • Wonder and Awe - where is it?
  • What Is Wonder?
  • Wonder - What's Fear Got to Do with It?
  • Wonder and our Worship
  • Wonder and our Worth
  • Wonder and our Wisdom
  • Wonder and Our Walk
  • Wonder and Our Work
  • Wonder and Our Words
  • Wonder and Our Wealth
  • Wonder and Our Witness
  • Our Position in our "Wonder"-ful Lord
  • and at Christmas, The Wonder of the Incarnation
To close out this series, rather than write more posts, I just want to touch on a few other thoughts, because I'm still "wonder"-ing.

1. Wonder and Our Wishes

Wonder over God and His character should affect our wishes, our desires. I saw this so clearly in recent days with the Valentine's Day release of the movie 50 Shades of Grey.

The spiritual callousness of Christians - especially women - regarding this movie (and the book it originates from) is astounding. I've been asked, "How can Christian women excuse such filth, such a degrading portrayal of love?" I truly believe it's because we've lost our wonder over God's holiness.

If we truly understood the holiness of God, wouldn't we be eager to obey the mandate to "be holy, for I am holy"? (1 Peter 1:16)

Our wishes, our desires, are colored by what holds our attention and grabs our heart.
 What has grabbed your heart today? Oh that it might be the holiness of our awesome God.

2. Wonder and Our Watchfulness

Perhaps we are not holy because we forget this isn't all there is. We are made for eternity (2 Corinthians 5:1). Will will give an account of our lives (Romans 14:12).

Jesus and Paul admonished us to be alert and watchful (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6; Romans 13:12-14Mark 13:33-37). If we truly believe Jesus is going to return, we will want to be Kingdom ready! Because we love Him, we "love His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Our wondrous Lord will reward those who fear Him and "wait" for Him (Isaiah 64:4). We are to watch for His coming, but also to watch with Him ... to have our hearts and thoughts focused on Him and the Word.

Does your wonder over the Lord cause you to long for His coming?

3. Wonder Reclaimed

There is a revival in Islam these days. People focus on the 99 names or qualities of Allah and tell stories of their love for and allegiance to their "wondrous" god who is "worthy of praise."

Yet far too many Christians see God as their "good Buddy" in the sky, or a grandfatherly force that doesn't much affect their lives. They do not have an accurate picture of the Lord of Heaven, and it affects their worldview. They may have a "Christian worldview," but without a proper, biblical view of and relationship with God the Father, His Son Jesus and the Spirit of God, it's just theory. 

We must reclaim the wonder of the King and His Kingdom.

My prayer is Psalm 119:18 - "Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law."

May we, in searching the scriptures, see the God who gave them to us, and find our wonder over and love for Him deepened and refreshed.


Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.



1/22/15

It's Not Stained-Glass Faith

As I looked at all the stained glass panels in Sainte-Chapelle, the beautiful medieval Gothic chapel in the center of Paris, France, I was struck by the beauty. My husband and I sat for a long time, quiet and meditating on the Lord.

But then it was time to leave. The chapel wasn't a place to live.

As I walked out into the busy Paris street, I thought, "Christianity isn't stained glass faith; it's following Christ in holiness and love." 

It's living out His character in the thick of difficulties. It's following Him into the way of suffering.
It's celebrating His cross, His victory, and honoring Him each day as He transforms my life and service.

Acts 2:1-6 reminds us of the power that was unleashed when God's people experienced the Holy Spirit in their hearts for the first time.

It is this transforming power that the church needs today.

I need it. Without God's power, "holiness" is simply human effort and that's not true holiness at all.

I've spent most of this month focusing on holiness. I'll likely go on for the rest of this year to focus on this attribute of God and His desire to see it manifested in my life.

I don't know if I'll write about it all year. But I'll ask God to help me live it out.

Stained glass is beautiful. But a life that reflects Christ? That's amazing.


This post is part of the New Start '15 campaign initiated by Kathy Howard and Julie Titus Sanders in January 2015 as a one-month effort to call God's people to live in holiness. 
For more information, consult these links:

1/19/15

The Lost Discipline of Repentance


Holiness takes a back seat when we stubbornly protect our pet sins. 


As Christ-followers, we need to “own up” to our sins and repent so we can move forward in confidence, power and purity. We need hearts disciplined by true repentance.

There’s a lot of confusion about repentance today. People don’t like that word. But there’s a New
Testament passage that pictures repentance without using the word.

James 4:1-10 opens with a call to submit to God, which is necessary because so many desires battle within us for control. It’s a battle with serious consequences. 

James says friendship with the world—a heart that embraces worldly attitudes and actions—is akin to “enmity” against God! But God gives us grace for our struggles, and He blesses those who are willing to humble themselves and submit to His Word, will and ways.  

It’s impossible to be holy—in the practical sense—and proud at the same time.

Although this is not a repentance “formula,” some key action words in this passage are part of the daily discipline of biblical submission and repentance.

1. SUBMIT to God (v. 7).
Sinful attitudes and actions begin with rebellion against God, though we may not recognize it as such. Pride tells us we know better than God, we are sufficient in ourselves (and many other lies). We might picture submission as our lives bowed before the Creator and Lord, pliable in His hands.

2. RESIST the Devil (v. 7).
We go the opposite direction from wickedness. We shun it. We run from it!

This is the “turning” of repentance, an active, deliberate choice. 

To repent is to see God’s holiness and His holy standard, recognize our sins—acts of commission as well as things we’ve left undone in disobedience—and to turn away from them. 

3. COME NEAR to God (v. 8).
We need to draw near so God’s Spirit can expose our hearts . . . the secret things, the sins we commit in ignorance. The sins we rationalize. 

Just as in an honest, loving marriage, a spouse can help us recognize and confront our blind spots, the Spirit of God desires to help us in our weakness. 

The Spirit's exposure of our deepest sins is an act of love, because He desires to make us more like Jesus. Verse 8 gives us the promise, when we draw near to the Lord, He will draw near to us.

4. WASH your hands . . . PURIFY your hearts (v. 8).
“Washing hands,” spiritually, is recognizing and dealing with the daily sins that pollute everything in our lives. Although we are positionally clean before God in the sense of Him seeing us “in Christ,” the daily pollution of sin that comes from our flesh, rubbing shoulders with the world, and our enemy, Satan, will continue to affect us until we are home in heaven. 

But it’s not just about the works of our hands—what we do. All sin begins in the heart, and our hearts are “deceitfully wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). We are sinners at heart—sinners saved by God’s grace—who need to focus on holiness each day. There is no room for double-mindedness if we desire to be holy.

5. GRIEVE over sin (v. 9).
Repentance does not take sin lightly. It realizes all sin, at the core, is hard set against God. Whether our grieving over sin is quiet sorrow in the soul or accompanied by many tears—verse 9 suggests there may even be mourning and wailing!—it must be sincere. 

But this is not penance. Grieving over sin is simply understanding sin is still present with us, acknowledging how it is affects us and our relationship with God and others, sorrowing over its continuing presence and impact, and longing for the day when we will be set free from its presence and influence forever.

6. HUMBLE YOURSELVES before the Lord (v 10).
And we come back to where we started. With Humility. Submission. 

When we are truly humble before God, we understand we are nothing without Him. We understand what Jesus meant when He said, “… without Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We cannot be holy without God’s intervention. The Lord and His Word are our only sources of power and provision in dealing with sinful desires and habits. 

When we repent and believe, saying "Yes!" to the Gospel, we become a child of God. It's a total change in perspective meant to change our desires and lifestyle. We have a new Love . . . and new loves (like holiness).

“You have to love something and be passionate for it to be disciplined.” 

Golf legend Jack Nicolas was referring, in a television interview, to the need for self-discipline in the game of golf. But when I heard those words, I thought, “Yes, I have to love holiness and be passionate for it if I ever hope to discipline my life toward holiness.”
The discipline of repentance recognizes the presence of specific sins that keep tripping us up, and our great need for Jesus' grace every day. 
Repentance is not about regrets, more will-power or drowning in guilt. It's not about achieving perfect behavior—a promise to never sin again this side of heaven. It’s definitely not a plea for acceptance.

We are already accepted in the Beloved. We thank God for forgiveness that continually and freely flows to us because of our position in Him. But there’s no denying the continuing presence of sin. 

Repentance allows us to grieve over our sin (because we dishonor God in His holiness), and confess and turn from it to walk in fellowship with the Lord. We ask God to cleanse us afresh as David did in Psalm 51:  
"wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions. . . ."

Humility and repentance are two of the things that return to a revived heart . . . and a revived church. Perhaps we need a prayer to help us restore this lost discipline. These words from an old hymn are my prayer today. 

Dear Father God . . . 

     "Throw light into the darkened cells 
     Where passion reigns within; 
     Quicken my conscience till it feels
     The loathsomeness of sin.
     Search all my thoughts, the secret springs, 
     The motives that control,
     The chambers where polluted things 
     Hold empire o'er the soul." 

Is there a hidden place where “polluted things” control you? Ask God for a fresh commitment to the discipline of daily repentance. 

This post is part of the New Start 15 focus on Holiness in 2015.  

1/2/15

Rediscover Holiness


Have you ever been overcome by thoughts of the holiness of God? As I listened to the choir sing “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty,” I wept in the pew.  I was simply overwhelmed by the perfect holiness of God; and I knew—except for my position in Christ—I am oh so unholy.

A song I remember singing as a young girl was “Take Time to Be Holy.” Do you remember?

    Take time to be holy, The world rushes on;
    Spend much time in secret With Jesus alone.
    By looking to Jesus, Like Him thou shalt be;  
    Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.

I'm not surprised many hymns and songs in the Christian world emphasize God’s holiness; but today, how many songs call us to personal holiness before Him?

Many years ago, people in America clearly understood the difference between “holy” and “unholy” in everyday living. The Anglican minister J.I. Packer wrote, “There was a time when all Christians laid great emphasis on the reality of God’s call to holiness and spoke with deep insight about His enabling of us for it.” (1)  

In fact, the Puritans, he said, insisted that ALL life and relationships—marriage, parenting, friendships, career, stewardship, etc.—must become "holiness to the Lord." But that’s not always true today. There is a "lost world of authentic Christian holiness," Packer said in Rediscovering Holiness.

Packer, along with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Andrew Murray and Jerry Bridges, inspired me in 2014 to examine my own heart. I read their books about holiness and asked the Spirit of God to be my teacher. Over time, I “rediscovered” what God means in these two words: “Be holy.” It was so much more than I'd imagined.

The more I read about the beauty and power of holiness in the Christian life, the more I longed for it. Like others in the church, I can put up a good front . . . but God always sees my heart.

Last October, I attended the True Woman conference sponsored by Revive Our Hearts. God used the speakers and His Word to open my heart even more. Before I went, I thought I was doing pretty good, but one night I wept in repentance, broken over my unholy state. I saw the pride, the comparisons, the jealousy, the selfishness. I looked good in public, but in my heart I was a mess.

And God wasn't done. Returning home, I couldn’t get enough of reading about holiness and sanctification in Christ. God gave me a growing hunger for biblical holiness, not the half-hearted holiness that makes Him sick.


Christians can be deep in ministry and still spiritually shallow. The pursuit of holiness is meant to be daily, not sporadic. Busyness, distractions—even with good things—and lapses into sin are just a few of the many things robbing us of the beauty and joy of holiness. 

I discovered holiness has many dimensions. 
  • We are separated unto (or set apart for) God so we can faithfully and powerfully serve Him.
  • We are consecrated (devoted) to the Lord and called to live with higher motives.
  • We can cooperate with God as He makes us over in holiness (as He sanctifies us).
  • We will sense a growing fear of displeasing Him.
  • We desire to show respect for God’s holiness through our own holy behavior.
  • We will rejoice in holiness, finding it is not a drudgery. It's a blessing!
  • We discover holiness isn't as much about rules and lists as it is a heart eager to obey God.
  • We hunger to do God’s will and take God’s moral law as our rule and guide for holiness.
  • We pursue purity of heart and holy behavior in every aspect of life—marriage, friendships, finances, work/ministry, physical passions, etc.
  • We learn to love what God loves and hate what He hates.
  • We pray for holiness, knowing it can only come from God.
  • We reject all impurity—shunning and departing from every known sin and ungodly habit.
  • We practice repentance as a daily exercise for growth in holiness.
  • We focus on Jesus as our model of holiness, striving to be like Him.
It touches on every part of our walk with God!

Packer explains (2): 
 "A holy person’s motivating aim, passion, desire, longing, aspiration, goal and drive is to please God, both by what one does and what one avoids doing."
It is a response of deep heart gratitude for the grace God has given, and holiness is not just for the people in the pew. It’s for everyone in "full-time Christian ministry" too. The great Scottish revival preacher, Robert Murray McCheyne, once declared: “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.” 
 
It is God’s will that we become holy people (1Thessalonians 4:3). In fact, holiness is the goal of our salvation (Titus 2:11-14), and God gave His Word to train us in righteousness (2 Timothy3:16-17). 

Yes, the “world rushes on,” as the song says . . . but if we are wise, we will "take time to be holy." 

Do you want to go on a great adventure with God and find out for yourself what the Bible means when it says, “Be holy"?
Believing God calls us to a fresh discovery of the meaning and practice of holiness, I’m excited to be part of a month-long journey into holiness called New Start 15. The entire month of January, beginning January 5, a group of bloggers will explore different aspects of this topic—the Benefits of Holiness, Hearing God's Call to Holiness, and Practical Holiness in Daily Life. Please join me in this adventure!

To sign on, go to: http://www.kathyhoward.org/want-new-start-2015.
"Like" the New Start 15 Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/NewStart15)


(1)  J.I. Packer, Rediscovering Holiness (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2009), p. 12.
(2) Packer, ibid., p. 21
Graphic adapted: Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.