Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Why God Needs Our Money (Part 2)

It’s not comfortable to delve into scriptures about money, but the Lord is gracious and his word will change and equip us if we will open our hearts to his truths. Do we want to experience the fullness of God? Then we must give. Let’s continue our exploration of God’s word to discover additional reasons for giving.

4.     We’re supposed to help others in need.

This is an obvious reason to many people, but do we consciously go without to help others? Are we willing to sacrifice luxuries, wants, or what we perceive as needs? It’s important to first mention that God’s word never condones the abuse of generosity, especially if the abuser claims to be a Christ-follower. We find in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 that Paul addressed the issue of idleness and commanded, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” The noteworthy aspect of this rule is the distinction that an unwillingness to work is different than an inability to work. Therefore, we have every right as stewards of God’s provisions to insure that benefactors of our generosity are truly in need. The Lord certainly does not expect us to give haphazardly toward a need or cause that has proven to be untrustworthy.

However, it’s not biblical to put on blinders either. Proverbs 28:27 says, “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.” Deliberately ignoring the needs around us inhibits us from being a glorious, shining light for Christ. We must rely on the Holy Spirit to help us discern the difference between honest needs and illegitimate requests. The fear of an abuse of generosity shouldn’t make us hold so tightly to our money that we are unwilling to share. We can trust God to lead us toward where he would have us contribute.

We see a remarkable example of sacrifice for the benefits of others in Acts 4:32-35. The verses recall that, “All the believers were of one heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions were their own, but they shared everything they had.” The believers were so in tune with God’s grace toward them that it motivated them to action, and the result was the absence of needs! Some of them even sold property to provide for their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. What a picture of love and humility! God is exemplified when his people choose sacrifice over selfishness. While this passage deals with giving among God’s people, it sets an amazing charge of generosity than can also be extended to unbelievers. Galatians 6:10 says, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” While there is certainly a precedent to care for fellow believers, we cannot get so caught up in ourselves that we fail to help others in our midst. The command to help the brethren is sure, yet the guidance to extend our generosity to the world cannot be forgotten. It can certainly be emotionally and spiritually overwhelming to evaluate our ability to provide for others, but the Lord is faithful in revealing his desires if we will only ask. We very often are the solution.

5.     It’s our responsibility to financially support ministers of the gospel.

Recently I discovered that some believers actually think ministers shouldn’t be paid for doing the Lord’s work. I was disgusted (to say the least) because scripture is significantly clear that we are to physically support the ministers who have dedicated their lives to spiritual leadership. 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 reminds us that the servants within the temple received portions of the offerings, so “those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” Can church leaders serve God without accepting pay? Certainly if it is what the Lord has asked of them. But we rob ourselves of joy through obedience when we refuse to contribute towards the provision of ministers.

Paul explains in Philippians 4:16-19 that his motivation wasn’t to receive gifts, but to see fellow believers have rewards, “credited to [their] account.” And the same is true for any God-fearing church leader. Genuine ministers of the faith have an understanding that God supplies their needs, and our own needs will also be met “according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” when we accept our responsibility to support those who serve. This is not an excuse for ministerial excess but an encouragement toward pleasing God.

Numbers 18 gives the amazing account of the Lord’s provision for the Levites who were responsible for making sacrifices and taking care of the tabernacle. Their inheritance wasn’t in the land like the other tribes of Israel but in the first fruits and offerings provided by the people. Verse 12 announces God’s desire for the Levites to receive “the finest olive oil and the finest new wine and grain,” and further clarifies in verse 14 that “everything in Israel that is devoted to the Lord,” was part of their inheritance. It’s also noteworthy to add that this command was given to benefit all the servants of the tabernacle and not just the priests! In today’s world that means each church, as much as it is able, should not only bless lead ministers with gifts of sacrifice but other dedicated and uniquely called servants as well.

6.     Changing the world requires money.
A typical week’s worth of groceries for our family of five averages $200. I do a lot to cut costs each week including searching for coupons, submitting online rebates, and choosing off-brands. However, the total at the register still bothers me. Money is necessary for today’s world, but it just never seems like I’m getting the best trade for each dollar. Yet when I consider the investment – providing for the needs of my family – it becomes clear that any amount is worth it. The cost becomes worth it when I change my perspective.
The same is true when it comes to supporting efforts across the world to reach others for Christ. Why is it easy to spend $25 on a meal but hard to give $25 away? Because of perspective. The plain fact of the matter is the world isn’t going to change for the better without our money. And it sure feels easier to spend money when we get something in return (such as food or possessions). However, sin expertly blinds us to the reality that we get so many more benefits, including eternal rewards, when we use money as a tool to bless the world.

Jesus explained in Matthew 25:31-46 that a divide that will one day occur. This “Sheep and Goats” passage tells us the difference between the righteous (sheep) who have an inheritance in God’s kingdom and the unrighteous (goats) who will face flaming, eternal punishment. The sheep are world-changers whose faith leads them to action and caring for the needy. The goats are obviously unbelievers because their lack of faith keeps them from helping others. The direct distinction is that the righteous extend generosity on God’s behalf and the unrighteous withhold generosity for their own comfort. So, which do we choose: Faith or comfort? Are we living like sheep or goats?

The preeminent world-changer of all time never even had a home. He left his family, chose twelve misfits to mentor, and willingly endured everything life handed him while knowing he would die. He gave up his rights to make demands and live comfortably in order to carry out God’s will for his life. He gave all for everyone, and he tells us to love like he loves (John 13:34-35). So if we truly want our lives to identify with Christ – not just as flickering flashlights for the gospel but as heat lamps that draw others to him – then we must live like him.

We must live like him.

We have the power to change the world, and that power is held in our wallets. The God of heaven asks us to trust him and loosen our grip on what we think we control. The Holy Lamb beckons us to choose the spreading of his gospel over the accumulation of possessions and wealth. The Spirit pleads for us to finally start living. Let’s make a new commitment today, friends, to entrust not only our money but everything we have to the eternal God who will forever be praised.

Amen, and glory to you forever, Lord! To you we give eternal praise.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Why God Needs Our Money (Part 1)

Giving money is hard. Really hard. We are daily submersed into a world of excess and face the challenge of protecting our wallets from degradation. But is giving toward God’s purposes on the forefront of our minds? Scripture has a lot to say about using our money to glorify him.

Before moving forward we need to ask the Lord to take the burdens of guilt and anxiety from our shoulders. No one leads a life of perfect giving, but the remarkable thing is God will use our lives to reach others if we will simply trust his plan. Matthew 6:26 says, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Let’s grasp this promise of God’s provision by believing and living his word.

1. God needs our money so others will know Christ.

Colossians 3:1 says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” We know by evaluating Jesus’ life that his entire purpose was to bring people into a right relationship with God, as proved by his death on the cross. His heart was motivated by eternity and not by earthly conditions. When we become believers we identify with Jesus’ purpose. So, when our hearts are truly convinced of leading others to him, our money will not be excluded from our sacrifices. Do we desire for others to receive salvation and escape eternal separation from God? Then we will be willing to share our money.

Treasures on earth mean nothing in comparison to eternal treasures. The desire to use money on earthly things directly competes with God’s desire to save the lost. Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” When we lack the zeal for others to know Christ then it’s certainly time to start making sacrifices for the sake of the gospel. Where our money goes, our hearts will go. I have personally experienced this phenomenon, and it brings more joy and pleasure than any possession ever could. The Lord will take care of us, friends.

Later in the book of Matthew we find Jesus speaking about the end times. Matthew 24:12-14 says, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” It doesn’t take much looking in today’s world to see “the love of most [growing] cold,” but Jesus told us our obedience in sharing the gospel across the entire earth will result in deliverance and his second coming. What an investment! When we use our money to equip those who serve around the world as ministers of Jesus Christ then we are a vital part of God’s plan to fully redeem mankind from sin and restore us to him. What an amazing privilege to join our finances with other believers to give testimony of the Lord.

When we become members of a local body of believers it is our responsibility to provide the means for the church to reach the lost. This means we will not be takers but givers for the gospel. When we enjoy the perks of being God’s elect but fail to return our affections then we are literally keeping others from knowing Christ. And that should scare us all.

2. Giving money teaches us to trust God.

If we want to see where we put our trust then all we have to do is look at our bank accounts, so failing to dedicate money to God shows that we don’t trust him. In Malachi 3 the Israelites were robbing God by withholding their tithes and offerings, so he put a curse on them. Malachi 3:10 says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse , that there may be food in my house. Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be enough room to store it.” Our Lord is waiting to bless those who choose obedience. Whereas we may think our deficiencies are from God, scripture tells us they are more often a result of our own disobedience. If we will simply test him and give what he asks then he promises to open the floodgates of blessings!

It’s important to understand that tithes and offerings are different. We find from the Old Testament that the word “tithe” literally means a tenth of something, such as a tenth of a crop, possession, or monetary amount (see Deuteronomy 14:22). It wasn’t necessarily defined as a monetary gift, but the tithe was always given from the proceeds of one’s labor. Some try to argue that tithing was only an Old Testament command, but we know that Jesus came as the superior sacrifice when compared to the law. Therefore, in view of his superiority, shouldn’t we at least give ten percent according to scripture’s example? Absolutely. The Israelites’ tithes took care of the tabernacle and the Levites who served as ministers and caretakers. Similarly, our tithes are meant to support the ministries of our churches.

Offerings are a result of a “heart’s prompting” in addition to the tithe. We find in Exodus 25:1-2 that the Lord told Moses to request an offering from the Israelites to provide for the furnishings of the tabernacle. It was an extra gift given through deliberate, amplified sacrifice. Offerings look like a variety of things in today’s church, from sponsoring needy children in other countries to personally supporting missionaries. While offerings are viewed more as voluntary, scripture is still clear that believers are to participate when the Spirit prompts us to act.

No one is exempt from giving. The recollection of the widow’s offering in Mark 12:41-44 shows us that God expects everyone, regardless of financial status, to give. The widow graciously gave all she had and showed us that God honors our sacrifice the most when we give from our scarcity. The important thing is to start by giving something. Psalm 4:5 says, “Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord,” so that means we can’t experience full trust in Christ if we don’t start prioritizing our finances to first and foremost glorify him. When we chose to trust God with our money our hearts will be transformed.

3. Choosing to routinely give teaches us discipline and maturity.

I am daily reminded by my children that I must consistently provide discipline or they will quickly return to disobedience, and our relationships with the Lord are no different. Discipline takes a long time to breed maturity, so it’s important to acknowledge that an arbitrary giving relationship with the Lord will not establish true spiritual maturity.

Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:18-19 that generosity and sharing with others leads to “a firm foundation for the coming age, so that [we] may take hold of the life that is truly life.” And Titus 3:14 tells us that “doing what is good” will provide for needs and lead to a productive life. Therefore, we simply cannot expect to fully mature as believers when we withhold our money from God, whether temporarily or permanently.

The humanistic idea that we can flourish as believers by giving everything except money to God is a lie straight from Satan. The love of money makes us want to hide it and keep it secure, while the love of God makes us more generous. Proverbs 11:24 says, “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” Gaining maturity means accepting God’s word as truth instead of reasoning through our own faulty intellect that we don’t have enough money to give. Throughout scripture the Lord promises rewards to those who completely submit under his authority. Proverbs 3:10 tells us “[our] barns will be filled to overflowing, and [our] vats will brim over with new wine” when we chose to first honor God with our money. Furthermore, verses 11-14 say we should “not despise the Lord’s discipline…Blessed are those who find wisdom…for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.” These verses announce the direct correlation between obedience through finances, God’s love through discipline, and rewards gained through wisdom. Nothing on earth compares with being in a right relationship with Christ. But would we rather have a few extra dollars? Scripture tell us to repent of such evil, immature thinking and allow our hearts to be changed by God. Yes, it takes time, but our Lord is willing to help us if we will call out his name.

Dear ones, we are never alone in this struggle. While daily, routine actions certainly strengthen our convictions, the temptation to withhold money from God will always be present. Yet when we fully lean on the Lord without exception he will graciously give us victory over temptation and equip us to give.

“Why God Needs Our Money” (Part 2) coming soon!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Mission Trips: A True Life Change

As my husband and I once again prepare for a mission trip in a couple of months, I wanted to share how stretching my faith in this way has put revival in my heart for the things of Christ. I’ve heard many Christians say, “Well, I’ve always wanted to go on a mission trip, I just can’t because (insert excuse).” Friend, had I known the powerful way God would move my heart by going on a mission trip, I would have done it much sooner! If you’ve ever felt called to go on a mission trip, or even wondered what it would be like, please investigate the possibilities. I hope you find encouragement in my testimony.

Three years ago I had reached a point of staleness in my relationship to Christ. The mundane was driving me insane, and the Lord gave me a longing to do something new to reach others for him. It just so happened our church was going on a mission trip for the first time, and I knew with confidence that God was calling me to go. Even though the trip would cost significantly less than the other mission trips, we didn’t know where the money would come from. And we had a newborn son on top of that! We could only rely on God’s faithfulness to provide the finances, spiritual preparation, and an open schedule for loving grandparents to care for our son.

And God did provide! Soon we were off on our spiritual adventure, daring to step outside our comfort zone to share the gospel. We faced travel sickness, a stolen bag (with all my clothes and toiletries for the week), and sleepless nights. We experienced sore muscles, a lack of electricity, and torrential rains that inhibited our work. We camped on a Costa Rican mountain for four nights. But God gave us the strength to heal from sickness, recover from sore muscles, and work through the rain. He gave us the fortitude to deal with a loss of possessions and a lack of electricity. The Spirit was more alive in my heart than he had ever been, so I wondered: How many of my “blessings” have distracted me from following Christ? The answer: All of them! My comfort, fortune (when compared to the rest of the world), and relative ease of fulfilling selfish desires had neutered my faith. And a mission trip was a good realignment of my spiritual motives because I was slapped in the face with my constant need for Christ to sustain me.

I’m not saying a person should go on a mission trip for personal benefits. Rather, I’m saying God will do amazing, wonderful things in your own spiritual journey of becoming more like Christ when you make sacrifices for the sake of the gospel. It will change your life.

And I won’t lie to you – it was hard. Really hard. The idea of camping in the Costa Rican wilderness for four nights did not sound the least appealing, but God had different plans. He wanted to show me a world that still needed him, and a people who needed his witnesses to pour love into their lives. He wanted to show me that his plans are so far beyond me, my family, my community, and my country. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).” I had to spend a week in a foreign place to gain a better perspective of my mission.

God won’t call everyone to go to a foreign country on a mission trip, but he does call us to fulfill our unique part in his plan. Some believers are called to only minister in their local communities, while others minister exclusively in foreign nations. However, many believers (like me) are called to minister in both ways. If you feel the Lord leading you to go on a mission trip, here are some tips based from my experiences.

1.      Pray, pray, pray! There is nothing you can do to better prepare than pray. And don’t forget that your spiritual preparedness is much more important than your physical preparedness. Prayer gives you validation of your calling and the confidence to step forward in faith. You simply cannot neglect prayer!

2.      Get your mind in the game. Mental preparation is second to spiritual preparation. Ever heard the phrase, “Your body can’t go where your mind hasn’t been”? Imagine what it will be like to be less comfortable. Take your mind to places of discomfort and let the Lord lead you ahead of time to the appropriate, biblical responses (a great way to battle frustrations is by memorizing scripture). I’ve seen it happen: letting humanness spill out when faced with challenges will negatively affect how others view your relationship to Christ, even when you’re only around other believers.

3.      Consider recruiting a trip buddy. Having other believers on the trip with me (especially my husband) was a huge encouragement when things were tough. Ask around your closest family and friends to see if anyone else feels called to go on a mission trip and then hold each other accountable for going. Just like Paul found comfort in having traveling companions, you too will find extra strength in a friend or family member’s presence.

4.      Keep valuable goods on you at all times. I had made up my mind early on that the only way someone would get my passport and money was if they kidnapped me. And, boy was I glad the Lord gave me that conviction because those items were just about the only possessions the thieves didn’t get when they stole my bag! Keep hard to replace items close and don’t take irreplaceable items (e.g. wedding rings).

5.      Don’t bring your “American attitude” with you. Foreigners typically view Americans as pushy, entitled, and loud, so being genuinely grateful and sacrificial will go a long way when reaching others for the gospel. Your trip can’t, and won’t, be about personal preferences. Also, do your research and learn about the culture you will be visiting so you can better understand and engage with others as you minister.

6.      Evaluate your health. It’s definitely more important to be spiritually and mentally healthy, but you can’t overlook physical health. If you have a condition requiring heaps of medications or you’re carrying around a lot of extra pounds (like my first trip because I hadn’t lost all my pregnancy weight), then you need to seriously prepare for the extra toll, and hassle, that health challenges will bring. You also need to consider whether or not your condition(s) could hinder the trip’s mission in any way. Seek the Lord’s guidance.

7.      Choose your location and trip wisely. Don’t just sign up for the first mission trip you find by searching Google – ask other mission trippers where they have gone and ask for their advice. I was lucky a trip opened up through my church with our supported independent missionaries, so we had good contact before the trip. If your church isn’t participating in any mission trips, then consider reaching out to other churches to see if they allow non-members to attend their trips. You could even contact a Christian travel agent to find out if they have experience coordinating mission trips. If you’re confident of God’s calling then don’t stop searching until he opens up the right door of opportunity.

8.      Purchase traveler’s insurance. This is a must when traveling to a foreign country. In the case of a hospital visit, traveler’s insurance offers some financial protection. Other countries have their own way of dealing with hospital fees, which could include upfront payment before services are rendered. So, if you need emergency surgery, but don’t have the necessary resources, your very life could be endangered. It’s a good peace-of-mind to have traveler’s insurance!

Going on a mission trip always has an element of anxiety attached, but when I remember the gain – reaching others for the sake of Christ – the Lord starts to whittle away at anxiety and carves out the purest form of grace that I can then extend to others. It’s a beautiful experience and an addicting joy to know the Lord uses a sinful person like me to fulfill his purposes.

 If you are thinking about going on a mission trip, I would love to hear from you so I can pray for you. It’s no little task to commit to a gospel-spreading trip, but I’ve been there and want to cheer you on! Even considering such a venture is admirable, so take courage in the convictions God has placed in your heart. Seek him, and you’ll discover life as you have never known it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

True Motives

*A guest post by Deby Pittsinger*

Can we look inside our hearts to see if we are seeking God? Or do we just seek benefits from God, stomping our feet like spoiled children and demanding that God give us what we deserve?

Sometimes outward appearances seem to show our willingness to follow God, be we really only call upon him in times of trouble. Can our hearts and souls bless God for simply giving us breath? Or do our hearts say, “Where are my blessings?” We are in a time where everyone declares, "I deserve this, I deserve that,” but we really don’t deserve anything. We should be thankful to be alive; to feel the warmth of the sun, to smell the sweetness of the flowers, to see the light of the stars, to love and be loved, to have deep joy and comfort, to be given our next breath.
What makes us happy? It isn’t money or possessions or another person, it isn’t the duty of someone else to give, give, give to prove that they love us or are on our side. It boils down to a single relationship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, doesn’t it? We are not entitled to any benefits – just knowing that God exists doesn’t make us eligible to profit from his grace.
By our fruits it will be evident if we are a true follower of the Lord.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Practical Ways to Teach Toddlers Biblical Truths

 Did you know a child’s basic moral foundation is set by age five[1]? Furthermore, the first three years of life are the most critical for shaping the brain’s learning structure[2].While science most often uses this information to support educational and social development it is also true of spiritual development. Additionally, even if your child hasn’t learned to communicate yet, he is learning at a rapid rate and makes a captive audience. So, introducing bible truths during the early years helps prepare children for future application of God’s word.
When we had children, my Christian brain, teacher brain, musician brain, and mommy brain all got together and started spitting out some ways to teach my young children about God. And I was amazed what came out. Some was natural and some was learned, but now I know all of it was a gift from the Spirit. I am so thankful God is using me to teach my children about him, and I want to share what has worked!

1.      Sing a “Thank You” song (to the tune of, “Head and shoulders, knees and toes”).
Scriptural basis: Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” Psalm 8:2

Songs have a way of reaching into the deepest parts of our being and solidifying biblical truths. Use this song while playing or saying prayers.

Thank you, God, for loving me
Loving me, loving me
Thank you, God, for loving me
Thank you, God

Additional verse ideas
Thank you, God, for Je-sus…
Thank you, God, for saving us…
Thank you, God, for family…
Thank you, God, for everything…

2.      Quote scripture.
Scriptural basis: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11

Simple verses like, “Love the Lord your God (Matthew 22:38),” “Love your neighbor (Matthew 22:39),” and “Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)” are great for encouraging good behavior and correcting bad behavior. Another option is to say, “Jesus says, ‘Love one another,’” to emphasize that Jesus expects obedience (not just mom and dad). And before you know it your child will be quoting the verses too!

3.      Find an appropriate bible story book.
Scriptural basis: “Train a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Story time needs to consist of at least one bible story. There are several good books out there I recommend. First, The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers his Name works great for ages three to five (find it here at Amazon) because it explains how Jesus fits into each bible story. For babies to two-year-olds, we love the Read and Share Toddler Bible (here it is) because the stories are simpler, shorter, and there are even coordinating activities. Another idea is to let your child touch the bible as you read, thus giving him ownership of God’s word.

4.      Give God credit for beauty and blessings.
Scriptural basis: When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4

The next time you go outside, look to the sky and say something like, “Wow! Look at the beautiful sky God created. You’re awesome, God!” And when blessings come, tell your child that God gives us good things because he loves us and takes care of our needs. For example, when God blessed us with the perfect family car a few months ago, we consistently reminded our boys that it was from him. Soon our oldest son started saying, “Thank you, God, for our van!” It was awesome to hear our child give credit to God.

5.      Reliably attend church.
Scriptural basis: And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 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.” Hebrews 10:24-25

No matter what you do at home, your entire family needs the support and fellowship of other Christians. And don’t just send your kids to church – go with them. Make it a priority to worship together. Kids are experts on identifying hypocrites so don’t “preach” to them without following through in obedience in your own faith. The routine expectation of going to church is a necessity for your child’s growth in their understanding of Christ.

There you go, folks! If you have other ideas that have worked for your family feel free to share them in the comments.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Josh Duggar's Sin: Heed Your Warning

This week it was reported that the oldest son in the reality show "19 Kids and Counting," Josh Duggar, had admitted to fondling minor girls when he was 15. According to CNN, Josh admitted his guilt to his parents and the authorities and then took the necessary steps toward healing and forgiveness (through counseling). But, as you can expect, the media is taking this story and running with it.

As they should.

Some people blame the media for fueling the fire in this story and discrediting the Duggar family. Others blame the "outdated" family upbringing that "limited" Josh's knowledge of sex and thus led him to act out in such a vile way. However, both views are entirely missing the point by not focusing on the deepest cause.

Sin is the issue here, folks. Sin.

It is a nasty defiler of everything good, everything holy. It is a destroyer of families, relationships, and reputations. It lies, steals, and cheats us out of experiencing real life by settling for cheap substitutions. It tells us to "do what feels right" and leaves us feeling worse than we did before. It corrupts the message of Christ by making us apathetic to not only our own sin but also to the sins of others. It discredits the truth by leaving room for faulty, human opinion.

I am not saying Josh Duggar is to be excused - he is completely responsible for his sin. No temptation to sin overtakes us unless we give it the power to do so (1 Corinthians 10:13). Furthermore, sin is rooted in our own selfish, evil desires and we are not tempted by God (James 1:13-15). Every bit of Josh's actions were on him, so there are consequences. Even though he asked for forgiveness from his victims and of the Lord, there are still repercussions. We can't expect unbelievers to welcome Mr. Duggar back with open arms after this revelation.

The Christian community is acting as if Mr. Duggar is being bullied by the press, and I disagree. While I agree the press' intentions in bringing this story to light is probably not entirely wholesome, I am more concerned that Christians expect a lost world to accept our sermon of mercy and forgiveness when we don't wholeheartedly extend the same mercy and forgiveness to the world. There is major hypocrisy happening, and the message of Christ continues to be blemished. So, instead of blasting one another, let's heed these warnings:

1. There are always victims to our sin. Sin picks out a receiver and lets the arrows fly. Most of the time we victimize ourselves, but we can also hurt others. Mr. Duggar's sin is a prime example of literally victimizing others. Also, Judas Iscariot's sin of betraying Jesus led to Jesus' death (John 18:1-3). Don't be deceived into thinking your sin won't (or isn't) hurting anyone.

2. We are forgiven from sin, but there are still consequences. It would be a mistake to think you won't have to face the aftermath of your sin. Yes, Christ's blood covers our sins and presents us righteous before a holy God, but there will always be loss involved with sin. Loss of freedom, loss of status, and even loss of reward to name a few. Even Adam and Eve lost their home and faced God-ordained struggles because of their sin (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:6-7 & 23). Some consequences are faced in this life, and the rest will be accounted for in eternity. That being said, Mr. Duggar is experiencing some consequences, and, unfortunately, so is his family (which leads us to the next warning).

3. Our sin affects others. In 1 Chronicles 21, we find King David telling his commander, Joab, to take a census of the troops, and it is very apparent that David's request was one of pride and arrogance because it was encouraged by Satan (verses 1-3). David soon realized his guilt, but the Lord sent a plague that killed 70,000 men! The king's actions left families without fathers, husbands, and sons. Even though David repented, others were affected. Similarly, Mr. Duggar's entire family and legacy is now affected. Our sins, friends, go so much beyond ourselves.

4. None of us are immune to sin. I hope no one misunderstands my quite frank evaluation of Mr. Duggar's sin: I am not saying he shouldn't be forgiven or allowed to move on from the horrendous event that happened in his teen years. Rather, I'm saying we should all take notice and take note. We can't allow sin to reign in our lives (Romans 6:12). It creeps in, makes us question everything we know to be true, and enters the ill-defended doors to our hearts. So, we need to be active in reading the word, memorizing it, and apply it to our lives so we can defend ourselves against Satan's whims. Don't be "devoured (1 Peter 5:8)!"

5. It takes a long time to earn a reputation back. Even after full repentance, forgiveness, and deliberate acts to make things right, it takes time to repair one's testimony in Christ. And, I would argue, sometimes it can never be fully repaired (at least not on earth anyway). Take the apostle Paul, formerly Saul, for example: After being one of the most influential proponents of Christian persecution in his day, he encountered Christ on the road to Damascus and became a believer (Acts 9:1-19). Immediately he started preaching, but his reputation made the crowds question his authority (verses 20-21). However, people started to trust him when they witnessed the power of God in Paul's life (verse 22). While Paul certainly wasn't a believer when he acted heinously, he was still held to his reputation for at least a certain amount of time. And the same is true of us. Keep in mind that your Christian testimony is at stake when you flirt with sin.

6. Pray for other Christians and help them conquer their sin. I have no doubt Mr. Duggar's parents prayed for him throughout his childhood and even more so once his sin was admitted, but they didn't just abandon him, or the victims, when the sin was discovered: they did what they could to help the healing process begin. James 5:19-20 says, "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." We all make lousy decisions, and some have bigger implications and earthly consequences than others, but our communal goal should be to help one another conquer sin. Through prayer, reliance on God's strength, and one another, sin can be eliminated.

7. Be thankful to God for conquered sin. While only the Lord knows if someone has truly won victory over a specific sin, we can be thankful for the times he's helped us in the past. When we doubt our ability to throw sin to the curb, that's when Christ shines brightest and his power is revealed (2 Corinthians 12:9). While Mr. Duggar may not be thankful for the resurfacing of his sin, he can still be thankful for no longer being enslaved by it. And the same is true for us.

People are watching us. Deal with sin, friends, so the message of Christ can be preached without hindrance.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Reason

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. - Galatians 1:6-10

A conviction has been on my heart for quite some time. I have prayed, diligently seeking God's guidance and will for the action I should take. Welcome to Journey to Victory, my first step in teaching, equipping, encouraging, and admonishing fellow Christians. (Yes, you read that last one right - admonishing.) Because the world isn't the problem; ineffective Christianity is the problem. We have neglected our first love.

The majority of American Christians are failing. Miserably.

We've conditioned ourselves to comfort and good feelings, not daring to remind ourselves that God cares more about our holiness than our happiness. We've filled our lives with tasks that have nothing to do with Him, yet we want His blessings. We cry out to God to save our country, yet we cower in the corner to the culture's pressures and whims. We need to better repent and equip ourselves so we can be the bold force for holiness this world so desperately needs.

I love you, friends, so I'm going to say it: It's time to stop acting like children and pick up the cross.

And I'm not talking about the unique "crosses" we each carry every day - I'm talking about THE cross where a perfect Savior died. If we won't at least carry His cross, then nothing else matters.

1 John 2:15-17
15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father[d] is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

Journey to Victory will speak truth when it is hard to hear. It will bring error in our Christian thinking to light and help us apply our faith in gospel-spreading ways. It is dedicated to equip and challenge believers. It will ruffle feathers. Any journey to victory takes perseverance, sweat, tears, and strength, and our Journey to Victory in Christ certainly isn't any different.

I welcome your prayers, requests, and comments. Also, I want guest posts from you! How has God gifted you? How can you equip other believers? Write about it, and send it my way. Just be sure you're living the life you're preaching, because the world has seen enough hypocrisy from Christians. The world needs to see Jesus.