7/29/09

Nine Ways to Live

I love the letter "D." I’m not a preacher, but if I were, I’d love to preach a sermon with lots of D-words to illustrate the various ways that Christians live. There are many negative approaches to life (perspectives, lifestyles, thought patterns) that are dangerous to our spiritual health and our effectiveness for God, but also some biblical ones that I believe God wants us to embrace.

We may be Dogmatic, and by that, I mean prejudiced and intolerant, rigid and perhaps judgmental. I think of the disciples when they wanted to send the children away, or the prejudice against the Samaritan woman (Mark 10:14; John 4:5-42). Living by biblical convictions is crucial, but dogmatism for the sake of dogmatism can be foolish. We may be Deceptive, hiding (in pride) who we are and what we do, like Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), instead of living authentic, transparent lives to the glory of God. We may be Distracted by the things of this world or own selfish desires, and end up being unfruitful for the Kingdom of God (2 Timothy 2:3-4; Colossians 3:2). Martha comes to mind—she loved Jesus, but lost her focus (Luke 10:40-42). We may be Driven by inner and external motivators—the tyranny of the urgent—until we are worn out and ready to collapse. Again, I think of Martha ... and my own busyness! We may be Defiled, polluted by the culture, and refusing to acknowledge sin when God calls for purity (2 Timothy 2:22; James 1:27; I Peter 2:9).


On the other hand, by God’s grace we can be Devoted to Him and the Word, to biblical priorities and convictions, to the mandate to reach our world for Christ (Romans 12:2). We can be Disciplined and orderly, making wise choices in our inner life and pursuing excellence in our everyday experience (Proverbs 25:28; 1 Corinthians 9:27). We can be
Decisive, bringing every thought captive to Christ and making choices that align with His heart and Word (2 Corinthians 10:5). And we can be Determined, persevering in our faith-filled, obedient walk with God—finishing well with courage (1 Corinthians 9:24-26).

I’m sure there are many other D’s, both on the negative and positive sides, and scriptures to accompany them. It’s all about our choices. As my friend Pam Farrel says, "We make our choices, and our choices make us."

Which "D" word do you think is the hardest to overcome? Which positive "D" best describes your walk with God?

Two helpful posts related to Purpose: "Staying Alive" and "Mindless Activity".

7/22/09

The Modesty Mandate Is for Moms, Too!

Why is it that Christian moms work so hard to be godly examples to their daughters—until it comes to clothing choices? Not all Christian moms, of course, but an appalling number of them. A Christian mom I know says she wants her daughters to be decent and winsome, modest and ladylike—but that’s not the image she portrays for herself. She often wears clothing that would be better suited to a bedroom rendezvous with her husband, revealing far more than she should in public.

What is this double standard for modesty in our homes? Being fashionable is one thing, but some of the same moms who make clear-cut rules of modesty for their daughters live as if there are no rules for their own wardrobes! They’ve adopted the world’s self-serving philosophy: “If you’ve got it, flaunt it”—which is so opposite to biblical truth (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22; 1 Peter 1:15). A few weeks ago, I watched as a woman who regularly attends my church (not a visitor) walked from the front of the church to the back, before the service. Her slinky, low-cut blouse caused men to look away, pew after pew, as she walked the aisle. If she only knew (and cared) what mental battles her immodesty caused in men and boys, she would perhaps turn around and walk the aisle the other way, kneeling at the altar in repentance.

I don’t mean to sound harsh. My heart grieves. Part of shepherding and nurturing our children and teens is to teach by our godly example of modesty, not by the whims of Hollywood or the fashion industry. The modesty mandate is clear, and not an option for the believer (1 Timothy 2:9; 1 Peter 3:3-4). It is related to a woman’s godliness and yielded heart. Christians are called to live in light, not any shade of darkness. We are to please the Lord (Ephesians 5:8-10). Yes, we are under grace; but Moms, let’s not abuse that liberty, causing others to stumble through immodest dress. Ask God whether your clothing is too tight, too low, too short, too revealing, or too suggestive—and remember that God will never lead you in ways that contradict His Word.

Have you seen this problem growing in your church? What does your church do to help combat immodest dress? I'd like to know.

A related post: “A Modesty Meddler.”

7/15/09

A New Spin on "Whatever!"

Among the many definitions for the word "whatever," the one that you’re most likely to hear from a teenager is the "whatever" defined as "I don’t care." I said this often as a teen in moments of rebellion, especially when I wanted to end a conversation. When I didn’t want to hear another word of my parents’ counsel or warnings, I’d roll my eyes and say the word sarcastically. Outwardly, I appeared to give in, but inwardly, I was ticked off and rebellious. I wasn’t fooling anyone.

I have a "Whatever!" clock in my bathroom. Every morning I grin when I see it, with all the numbers jumbled at the bottom of the clock face. But I also use this clock to remind myself to submit to my Lord’s plans for that day. Instead of an "I don’t care what happens," I’ve learned to come to God with joyful anticipation, saying, "Whatever you want, Lord, that’s what I want, too!" We’re half-way into the year, and I’m still saying, "His will, not mine, in 2009!"

For most of my early life, I ignored the will of God as if it were optional. It was not until I joined a revival team, Life Action Ministries, and sat under the ministry of Del Fehsenfeld, Jr., that I realized my life was not my own (I Corinthians 6:19-20). My Maker is my Master, and He expects me to act in that truth. My choices must align with His. Though God gives me great creative latitude in the choices I make—as long as they are based in biblical truth and convictions—my heart’s desire is to seek Him and His ways (Psalm 27:8; Proverbs 2:4-5; Isaiah 55:6-7).

My "whatever" is now the directive of I Corinthians 10:31: "Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." Sola Dei Gloria.

Dear reader, what is your greatest struggle with submission to the will of God? What characteristic of God or promise in the Word of God encourages you to yield to His control?

For additional insight, see: "Letting God Choose" and "Lessons from a Car Show."

7/8/09

Two Obstacles to God-Honoring Prayer

Back in January, Columnist Andree Seu’s insight into prayer ("Impossible Requests," World magazine, 1-30-09) made me examine how I pray, and the exercise changed my requests. Seu wrote, "I bet I know why we don’t ask bigger things of God. It’s because we’re afraid He won’t do them, and then we will be ashamed. It isn’t modesty; it’s unbelief." Pow! Whack! Did you feel that, too?

In my case, that’s the problem half of the time. I shroud my unbelief in false humility. But in actuality, I’m dishonoring my Lord. Paul says we are to pray keeping in mind that God is "able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20). I dishonor God with my puny, faithless prayers. I need to get serious about Jesus’ words (Matthew 7:8; Mark 10:27; James 4:2) and ask in "big" faith. Wimpy prayers, wrapped in fears and doubts, do not honor Him (Matthew 6:30; 9:28-29; 14:31).


The rest of my prayers are of the "I’m weary in praying because I haven’t seen the answer yet" variety. I’m not only faithless and fearful, I’m impatient. I have to remember that the One I seek in prayer is my Maker and the Sovereign Lord—His will and timing are best. That does not mean I should back off in praying with courage and tenacity. Like the patient, persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8), I must keep knocking and not "lose heart." Jesus appreciates bold, expectant prayers. That doesn’t mean I have to make long prayers to attempt to motivate God. Jesus actually warned against long, useless repetitions (Matthew 6:7). The widow spoke only five words! It’s not a matter of trying to persuade God to hear us, because He already knows and hears. Rather, the widow prevailed because of her perseverance with God, an evidence of her faith.


Seu’s advice is simple: "We honor [God] by taking Him at His Word, rather than mind-screwing a thousand reasons why the prayer cannot possibly be answered ... Once one has crossed that Rubicon of faith, one notices an upsurge of new prayer requests from the heart." Our prayers must be faith-filled and fervent! When we stack man’s impossibilities against God’s promises and power, it’s no contest.

How about you? Do you face any obstacles to prayer? What works for you in overcoming those obstacles?

Related posts: "Prayer: Standing Against the Enemy"

7/1/09

America's Four-Step Return to Devotion

John Adams, America’s second President, wrote a letter to his wife Abigail (a God-fearing woman) on July 3rd, 1776.

"The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America," he wrote. "It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more."


President Adams was off by a couple of days. Americans have gathered to celebrate America’s independence on July 4th, the date the Declaration of Independence was approved in a closed session of Congress—though most of the delegates didn’t sign the Declaration until August 2nd. In a strange coincidence, Adams died on July 4th, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the United States.


As I look at his letter to Abigail, I’m struck by the two-fold commemoration John Adams espoused—a day of devotion to God; a day of celebration. We’re pretty good at the celebration part, but where is our devotion? How do we even show devotion to the mighty God who delivered America and founded it in biblical truth? As I study the culture, and see how far we’ve drifted from the vision of the Founding Fathers, I believe the way we return to devotion to God is still the four-step path laid out in 2 Chronicles 7:14: (1) God’s people must turn from pride; (2) God’s people must pray; (3) God’s people must seek Him; and (4) God’s people must repent of their wicked ways (thoughts, attitudes, actions).


We have been delivered, but we cannot live in devotion to God until we come before Him with clean hands. He desires to hear, forgive, and heal our land, but if we turn from Him instead of our sins, we may continue to live in a free land, but our lives will continue in bondage.

Pride is a big issue, but what else do you think is standing in the way of a great spiritual revival in America?

Related post: "Why I Know Revival Can Come".