Are you still concerned about Paris or Syria?


We are one day shy of the three week mark past the attacks on Paris.  The resulting conversation about Syrian [and all] refugees lasted nearly a week.  For three whole days we were concerned about our veterans, our homeless and children in foster care – because they are, after all, more important that foreigners who need help.

But already the facebook profile pictures are back to normal – no more French flags are seen…veterans, orphans and the homeless have been as quickly forgotten as the refugees who are running for their lives.  All because we have the attention span of toddlers.

When was the last time something truly grabbed your attention?  Is there anything in your life that drives you?  By which you are convicted?

If you call yourself a Christian, Jesus must be that.  If you read and study the teachings of Jesus, you come to realize that He demands our lives.  You cannot consider Jesus simply a “good teacher” or someone from whom we can learn some things.  He was either a complete lunatic or someone to whom we must devote our lives.  He claimed to be God.  He claimed to offer us eternal life.  He demands full devotion.  We cannot fall in between complete denial or complete devotion.

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him:  I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.  That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.”

– C. S. Lewis

We float from thought to thought, from meme to meme, and even in or workplace we need breaks to maintain the highest production level and ingenuity.  But Jesus intends to transform us from the core.  Before we begin the Christian walk, Scripture describes us as dead in our trespasses (Eph 2.1).  We are wicked and incapable of doing anything righteous or glorifying to God (Rom 3.10).  But when we give our lives to Jesus, He takes out that heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh (Ez 11.19), and He causes us to become a new creation (2 Cor 5.17).

When you go from being single to being married, everything in your life changes.  Well, it should change.  When you go from being not a parent to a parent, every decision you make is altered.  Your entire identity changes, and your entire lifestyle and decision making is forever changed.

So it must be when we become a new creature in Christ.  When Jesus gives us a heart of flesh, when the Holy Spirit abides within us, we can no longer make a decision without the influence of God.  If we can go about our days and never give God a second thought, then we should be greatly concerned about our Spiritual well being.  You must breathe to be alive.  In the same manner, you must interact with God on a Spiritual level to be alive Spiritually.

Jesus is not a fad.  The Gospel is not a news story that comes and goes in a week.  Salvation is not a life event that happens and from which we move on like graduation.  Christianity is our identity, and a relationship which must be nurtured.  Let us discipline our minds and hearts today.  Let us recognize the life changes that can and should come with submitting to Jesus as Lord in our lives.  Let us fight to maintain a mindset that is focused on eternity, and not float from crisis to crisis, from good thought to good thought, but let us meditate on God and abide in Him today.


God wants what is best for His children.


Are you a Christian?  Have you confessed your sins and repented of them, and asked God’s forgiveness by the power of the blood of Jesus Christ?  If you have been saved, then you can rest confidently that God wants what is best for you.  God wants what is best for you even more than you want what is best for you.  The thing that we must learn – sometimes painfully – is that often times we do not know what is best for us.  Thankfully, God does.

Scripture teaches us the primary desire of God for our lives, His will for our lives:

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification…”

– 1 Thess 4.3

Sanctification is a big, theological and heady word which is not typically on the forefront of our minds when we consider our life choices and decision making.  Sanctification is the ongoing process of salvation by which we are being made more like Jesus and less like the world.  It is getting to know God more fully, and in response putting to death the deeds of the flesh.  It is becoming Heaven-minded and not worldly minded.  It is our Spiritual maturation process.  So, in short, it is God’s will that we mature and grow Spiritually.  Paul explains what sanctification looks like for the Church at Thessalonica and for us, at least in part:

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.”

– 1 Thess 4.3-7

The Thessalonians needed instruction and discipline in their sexuality and relationship with one another.  Throughout Scripture we see more exhaustive lists of the sins and deeds that God hates, i.e. Gal 5.19-20.  But Paul summarizes His teaching simply, “God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification”.  This is God’s will for us.  And if we have begun the walk of the Christian life, if we have recognized and begun to confess our sins, then we also should be growing in our hatred for and conviction of sin and desiring to become more like Christ.  Our will should also be our sanctification.

That is the best for us.

We also can claim the promise of Scripture that if we have begun that walk with the Lord, He will complete it in us:

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

– Phil 1.6

When we come to God for salvation through Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit takes up residence within our lives and begins the process of Sanctification from within.  We then get to practice dying to the flesh and letting Him live through us.  He is at work within us, and He will complete the work of sanctification.

“…for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

– Phil 2.13

So if we know that Scripture teaches us clearly that God’s will is for our sanctification, for us to become more like Jesus, and that He promises to complete that work in our lives, we can know fully that all things will work out for our best:

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

– Rom 8.28

Our best, however, is rarely what we desire in our hearts.  Consider the things you long for, work for, and pray for.  Do you desire a nice house?  A new car?  Nice clothes?  Fancy food?  Do you desire to have a consistent life that is not interrupted?  A schedule that makes sense and allows for the right amount of sleep, exercise and socializing?  Do you pray for good health?  For people around you to live forever?  For your children to be perfectly behaved?  Do you pray for those things that are making you uncomfortable to be taken away?

These things are not bad in and of themselves.  Jesus, in fact, promises rest and peace to those who come to Him (Matt 11.28-29).  He desires to give us peace and rest.  But have you ever reflected on a season of peace and rest and said, “I grew so much during that time”, or “My faith is at a place it has never been before”.  No, you have not.  And do you know why?  Because God knows that our faith only grows and is refined through testing – through the fire.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

– James 1.2-4

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.  And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

– Rom 5.1-5

We grow in sanctification, we mature, and we develop perseverance, character and hope through suffering and trials.  It is after a season of tremendous difficulty and suffering that believers look back and are amazed at the faithfulness of God and the development of their faith.  Faith is not developed by comfortable lives, it is developed by relying on God through the storm.

Think about it this way:  If sanctification is becoming more like Jesus, should we not expect to live the kind of life that Jesus did?  Jesus had no house, no earthly possessions and treasures.  He lived a life fully devoted to God, and He suffered hatred, persecution and death on a cross because of it.  Jesus Himself said,

“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”

– John 15.20

Non believers hated and persecuted Jesus.  If we are becoming more like Jesus, non believers will hate and persecute us as well.  We also know that Jesus, in His greatest hour of suffering, asked God to take away the suffering, but God did not:

“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

– Luke 22.42

Have you ever been in the midst of suffering and begged God to take it from you?  And He chose not to?  What was the result?  Did you ultimately grow and mature in your faith?  Or did you become embittered and resent God for the trial?  If you are a servant of Jesus, you can expect great suffering.  And you can expect that God will bring about your sanctification – your best – through it.

For four years I lived a life that many thought was one that required great faith.  I loved the opportunity to serve, and relished every moment of it.  It was indeed a life the required much sacrifice and conviction, but because of the desires God had placed in my heart it required minimal faith in the sense of perseverance through trial and testing.  Then God rocked my world and completely changed my life’s trajectory.  I then was forced to live a life that few would consider a life that requires much faith, but for me – because of those convictions and desires I have – it requires a daily submission and new step of faith.  And I can honestly look back on the last three years and see immensely more faith, trust and hope developed than in the four years before.

God is testing my faith.  And I am thankful that I can see growth through it.  I am also thankful that I know it means He is working in me, for my best, and for my sanctification.

We naturally want what is easiest and what feels the best.  But God has promised to develop faith and Spiritual maturity in His children.  And the way He does that is by testing and refining our faith through the fire of tribulation and suffering.  He wants what is best for you more than you want it for yourself, and He knows what is best for you – much more clearly than you know.  Are you in a season of peace and comfort right now?  Or is your faith being refined?  Can you look back over your life and see those seasons of testing and purification?  Or have you lived a relatively comfortable life that required little faith?  Trust God.  Know that He tested Jesus and even asked Jesus to surrender His desires and will.  Know that we, as Jesus’ servants, are not greater than our master and that we will be hated, persecuted, and tested by God.  And if you have not, then I would go back to the foundation and see if you have surrendered your life to God and asked for salvation.

He will work the best out for you.  And it will be through discipline and testing.  Trust Him through it, and you will be amazed at how you grow.

Are you spoiled?


Americans have taken a funny position culturally and personally lately whereby we equate love with blanket acceptance and affirmation.  “Unconditional love” is our battlecry and we consider reproof to be unloving.  It used to be common sense at least to discipline children, but the erroneous belief that we are born morally good has led many parents to believe conversation and logic alone will lead children to make the right decisions.  And our culture is reaping the consequences.

“He who withholds his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”

– Prov 13.24

Discipline is a sign of love.  

While this is observed easily and clearly in child rearing and the debate over spanking, I want to focus more intentionally on the place of discipline in a mature believer’s walk.

How far along are you on the path to maturity, Spiritually?  We joke about adolescence and normal growth patterns, that teenagers know everything and disdain their parents’ and their advice.  But then, somewhere around 20 years of age, most children begin to realize that their parents did indeed know what they were talking about, and are quite enjoyable to be around.  We say, in academia, that the more you learn, the more you realize that you do not know.  Maturity often times, when it has its true fruit, results in humility and self awareness.

Using that framework, consider your spiritual maturity and walk with the Lord.  Are you a toddler, holding onto your father’s hand for every step?  Are you a grade school child soaking up everything you can find with zeal and vigor?  Are you an adolescent who thinks that you know everything and need no one to teach you?  Or are you an adult, realizing how small of a grasp you have on your heart and sin, continually growing, continually clinging to God for strength and enjoying being with Him?

The author of Hebrews promises that God will discipline His children.  If you have never been disciplined by the Lord, then chances are high that you do not know Him.

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
and He scourges every son whom He receives.”

– Heb 12.5-6

Just like we will discipline a child differently at different ages, God will discipline us differently at different points in maturity.  You do not spank an eighteen year-old, and you do not ground a one year-old.  You reason with an adult child, and you instruct a toddler.  There may be times that God has to take away your “toy” if you are selfish with it, or misbehave with it, but in general, God knows that a mature believer knows His heart and His will (because He has written it on the believer’s heart – Jer 31.33, Heb 8.10), and will recall Scriptures to mind in order to draw him back to repentance.

Consider your Spiritual maturity.  Are you still learning to walk?  Fighting the elementary battles of belief and obedience?  Are you still drinking Spiritual milk?

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.”

– Heb 5.12-13

Or have you grown in maturity through drinking the milk of the Scripture and discipline, and now enjoy the meat – the word of righteousness?  Do you throw tantrums when God does not give you what you want?  Or do you trust His sovereignty and wisdom over your life and ask Him what He does have for you when thing do not turn out how you expected or hoped?  Do you submit and confess your sins when you are convicted in your heart and spirit, or do you make excuses and point fingers?

God knows everything.

“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”

– Heb 4.13

And it His will that all believers grow in holiness – Christ-likeness – sanctification.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.

– 1 Thess 4.3-7

And in order to help us grow, God writes His law on our hearts,

“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

– Jer 31.33

And He will discipline us in order to bring about maturity.

“For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
and He scourges every son whom He receives.”

– Heb 5.6

So let’s slow down today.  Let’s check our hearts and how we receive His discipline.  Let’s humble ourselves and submit to the rules and standards that God has set, because He is God and we are not.  We do not get to define sin, righteousness, or how things should work.  He does.  He will not allow us to grow up to be spoiled believers.

The Fear of Flying.


Have you heard the news?  Planes have been falling out of the sky lately.  Malaysian Airlines lost a plane, Air Asia also lost a plane in the South Pacific, and most recently Germanwings had a pilot intentionally down an airbus in the Alps.  This, of course, has reignited for many a deep-seated fear of flying.

I have never been a very fearful person; I was always the child who was willing to try.  I climbed trees, straightlined down mountains on skis, taught myself how to do all sorts of flips off the diving board, and rode horses as fast as they could go; I enjoyed going fast.  As an adult, I ride a motorcycle, and travel wherever the road (or air) will take me; I just enjoy experiencing life.  In 2008 I moved to SE Asia.  Shortly before I arrived, there was an airline called Adam Air who lost two jets within a year.  Consequently they went out of business, but air travel was not the most certain thing in my host country.  Shortly after moving there, a few more planes went down, one even crashed in the city where I was living and killed 27 people on board.  I only lived a few miles from the airport and could often hear planes flying overhead.  The entire first year that I was in country I went to language school so that I could function in the country, and part of our discipline was reading the newspaper.  One day the local newspaper listed every plane and helicopter that had crashed in the past year in this country alone.  It nearly filled the whole first page.

Suddenly, one day, fear gripped my heart.  It was a new experience for me, as I used to love flying.  Heights never bothered me, and the excitement of going somewhere had me always ready to board the plane.  But here I was, as far away from home as I could physically be, terrified of air travel.  As I finished up language school, I began preparing for my job which required me to fly at least two, and up to six times a month.  I began scheming with my partner how we could drive instead of fly.  This was impossible, of course, in a country where there are no highways!  I had a slew of meetings where I had to travel to other countries back to back, and the simple act of driving to the airport would all but send me into a panic attack.

A well meaning Christian counselor prescribed me Xanax and a more potent medication to help.  I tried the meds, but they would make me fall asleep until the plane started moving, and as soon as we pulled onto the runway for takeoff, I was awake and as terrified as ever.  For one meeting I flew with a good friend and coworker who had three children at the time, and she joked as we boarded the plane that “God would not down a plane with such cute babies aboard”.  There was a slight comfort in flying with friends, but those 3 hours were still torture.

I started my job, and my partner and I decided that we would drive (a two day drive, instead of a 2 hour flight) for our first trip.  The day before the trip, plans changed and he decided that flying was the only option, so I chose to stay home.  At this point I realized there was a serious problem:  I was incapable of doing my job.

At the time I was working on my Master’s degree from Southern Seminary, and as part of the degree program I was required to take two counseling classes.  I signed up for my first one, and in the intro lecture the professor said we were each required to have a “Personal Sanctification Project”.  “Pick one thing in your life that you would like to change”, he said.  I knew exactly what I wanted to change.  I did not consider it sin, but I knew that I needed to conquer this fear in order to do anything – even if it was just to get home!

The personal sanctification project was an issue that we would bring to the Lord.  We were required to journal about the issue, anything the Lord was saying to us, any verses that He was pointing out to us, and how we were progressing with it throughout the semester.  The premise of the course was the assumption that any issue that was not a chemical or physical imbalance was truly a discipleship issue.  Two weeks into the course he addressed the “sin of fear”.  The second of the three lectures he actually focused on the fear of flying.

Now, in my mind, my fear was justified.  I am not an illogical person.  I like to think, reason, use my logic and make informed decisions.  The risk of flying in this particular country was higher than most, and planes crashed regularly.  I could have argued my logic to anyone, and many people shared my fear.  No one approached me and said, “Alison, your fear is a sin”.  But if they would have, I am confident that I would have defended myself adamantly.  But God had prepared my heart and readied me to hear this exhortation from a professor on a videotaped lecture.  Jesus commands us not to fear.

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

– Matt 6.34

He simply asked the question, “What are you afraid of?”  He than began to reveal the fact that fearing death is, at its root, a lack of faith.  “Do you truly believe that when you die, you will enter into eternity with Jesus?”  he asked.  Conviction hit me hard.  I had not stopped in my anxiety and terror to consider that if we crashed and I died, I would get to go to my eternal home.  Yes!  He was right!  The logic began to set in, but it did not alleviate the fear.

At the time I was reading through the book of Hebrews in my quiet times, and as I began the very first chapter, verse three stood out to me:

“And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.”

Jesus is upholding everything that exists in the world by His word.  He is continually speaking you and me into existence.  He is speaking the airplanes into existence!  If He were to stop speaking, we would cease to exist.  Poof!  We would be gone.

So there I was, left with a promise that God is sovereign, He is in control, and He is literally speaking me and the airplane into existence.  I was also left with a command to not fear, and the reality that letting fear take root in my heart was sin, it was disobeying Jesus and it was a lack of faith.  I began to pray that verse to God.  “God, I know you are speaking me into existence and that you are in control.  I am going to get on the next airplane and trust your plan.”

I did not have to wait very long to follow through.  The next week we headed off to the airport.  I did not sleep the night before.  My stomach was upset the whole morning.  I sat terrified in the waiting room.  And I got on the airplane.  I prayed, “God, I know you are speaking me and this airplane into existence.  If we crash, I am coming home to you.”  I prayed that over and over for the entire two hour flight.  I was terrified.  But I got through the plane ride.  For the next six or seven flights I prayed that prayer without a breath in between.  I was on a flight that landed so hard that the oxygen masks fell from the ceiling.  I was on another flight that flew through the heart of a storm, but upon reaching our destination the airport had no electricity and therefore no runway lights (it was at nighttime), so we turned around and went back to our departure city.

I obeyed in fear.

But then, one day, just as suddenly as the fear gripped my heart, it was gone.  I was in the same country, had the same job, flew the same airlines, and suddenly God relieved me of the fear.  God gave me the faith to truly believe that if I did die, it was to my benefit, and the spirit of fear was overcome.

Fear is a type of temptation.  It can be a healthy reaction.  If an oncoming car swerves into your lane in traffic, adrenaline starts pumping and you react quickly.  If you are riding passenger when a car swerves into your lane, your fight or flight reaction kicks in, you might yell, you might gasp, you might grab the handle of your door.  This is a God-given response to danger.  But if you give in to the temptation to allow fear to reign or govern your feelings or actions, you have given in to sin.

“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.  Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”

– James 1.14-15

When you experience fear, because you will experience fear, turn immediately to God in prayer.  Examine your faith.  Ask yourself what it is that you are truly fearing.  Claim promises of Scripture.  “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor 5.8).  “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory” (Phil 4.19).  “All things work together for good for those that love God” (Rom 8.28).

God is in control.
He is speaking you, and your vice into existence.
Ask Him to give you victory.
He will direct you out of sin, and into faith.

Already-Not Yet.

There is a doctrine pertaining to salvation, life, redemption and glory regarding the tension in which we live after initial repentance and before eternity called the “Already-Not Yet” phenomenon.  It simply means that many of the promises which have been given are received in part.  In regards to salvation, there are three phases and perspectives in which we need to look at it:


  • By grace you have been saved.  (Eph 2.5)
  • For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  (Eph 2.8-9)
  • For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?  (Rom 8.24)


  • You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.  (Mark 13.13)
  • But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.  (Matt 24.13)
  • If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.  (1 Cor 3.15)


  • For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  (1 Cor 1.18)
  • For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? (2 Cor 2.15-16)

There are theological terms that define the three:  Past – Justification, Future – Glorification, and Ongoing – Sanctification.  Justification is the moment that we are declared righteous before God because of the obedience and righteousness of Christ.  All of our sins (past and future) were forgiven at that moment.  Glorification is the moment when we will shed our earthly bodies, our bodies of sin, and be made whole and pure on the New Earth.  Sanctification is the ongoing process that gets us from Justification to Glorification – it is the process of the Christian life, where God is making us more holy day by day.

Paul tells us in a few different places that once God has begun that process, he will not stop it.  If you have been justified, you will be glorified:

“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

– Rom 8.29-30

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

– Phil 1.6

Now, that sounds great and all, but what about when Christians sin?  We are still in our flesh, our human nature is at war with the Holy Spirit living within us (Gal 5.17).

When we confess our sins at the moment of salvation, the punishment that each sin merits is decisively placed on Jesus Christ.  The debt has been paid.  The punishment is completed.  That is why Paul says in Romans 8.1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”  We are not condemned.  There is no further judgment for our sin.  However, God is intensely concerned about our holiness and He does discipline us.

“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?”

– Heb 12.7

And thus we come to the passage that has grabbed my heart this morning:

But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation.
My God will hear me.

Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy.
Though I fall I will rise;
Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.

I will bear the indignation of the Lord
Because I have sinned against Him,
Until He pleads my case and executes justice for me.
He will bring me out to the light,
And I will see His righteousness.

– Micah 7.7-9

We, as believers, who sin, will bear the indignation of the Lord on occasion as discipline.  At times we will dwell in darkness, by the hand of God, in response to sinful choices.  But even though I dwell in the darkness, the Lord is a light for me!  He will bring us out into the light, we will see His righteousness, He will plead our case and execute justice for us!  Yes, I have sinned, even as a Christian.  Even as one who has been justified, and we all will continue to fail until the day that we enter into His presence for eternity.  But He is our light, and Christ is our righteousness.  It is not on my righteousness that I stand, but Christ’s!

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

– 1 John 2.1

Therefore, let us strive for holiness.  Let us seek to love God by honoring and obeying Him.  But let us not lose heart when we stumble.  Because we have an advocate who will present Himself as atonement for that sin before the judge.  But let us also not forget that God does not always treat us gently.  He disciplines us both in response to sin and for the sake of growth sometimes apart from sin, but it is all for our good and our ultimate salvation.  Take comfort in His rod.  If you are straying from Him and His ways, and are in a season of discipline, take comfort that He would discipline you.  And listen to the Spirit calling you home!  If there is no rod, let us check our repentance and see if the course of salvation has truly begun.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

– Ps 23.4

A True Friend

I saw this post on my facebook feed yesterday and my heart just broke for the egotism and immaturity expressed therein:

“A true friend doesn’t care when you’re broke, being a bitch, what you weigh, if your house is a mess, what you drive, about your past, or if your family is filled with crazy people.  They love you for who you are.”

Yes, a true friend accepts you, and they will not be found or won based on how nice of a car you drive.  Blanket acceptance and tolerance is what we preach and value in the United States today:  you do you, I’ll do me, we’ll live in perfect harmony…as long as you don’t tell me I am wrong or offend me in anything that I do, and as long as you function within the laws of the land.  Well, the important laws anyway.

Oh Christian, this is a lie from Hell.  Accountability is one of the greatest gifts that God has given us.  “A friend loves at all times” (Prov 17.17), but love is not blanket acceptance, irregardless of sin.  Love is pushing one another on to holiness and good deeds (Heb 10.24).  Love is helping one another to know and honor God better every day, not to settle into sinful tendencies and enable one another to backslide.

I have a good friend whom I have known for 6 years now.  She is not an accountability partner, but she is a friend.  A true friend.  I was going through a struggle about a year ago, in which I had been grievously sinned against.  A third party became innocently (and possibly unknowingly) involved and my emotional reaction towards the third party was terrible.  This friend, in whom I was confiding, called me out in love.  She said, “Alison, you need to check your heart” and straight up denied some of the statements that I had made in my frustration and hurt.  She caught it at the very moment it entered my heart and came out of my mouth, and because she stopped me in my tracks so quickly, truthfully and kindly, the sin of bitterness had no opportunity to take root in my heart.  Solomon advises in Ecc 8.11 that it is best to address sin at the moment of conception: the longer it is left unchecked, the easier it is to get rooted in someone’s heart and mind:

“Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.”

A true friend does care how you are acting, about your past, about habits and tendencies that easily entangle you – and helps you to navigate victory over these things through the power of the Holy Spirit.  A bad friend is one who enables you to “just be you” and let your sinful side reign.  We have seen enough Intervention shows, and had enough exposure to rehab stories that we know the difference between an enabler and a coach or sponsor.  When we want to continue to live in our sin, we consider enablers friends.  But it is no secret that those who truly love and those with whom we bond the most are our sponsors.

God disciplines those whom he loves (Heb 12.5-6).  And he gives us families to discipline and train us as we are growing:

“A fool rejects his father’s discipline, but he who regards reproof is sensible.”

– Prov 15.5

He gives us community to push us on to holiness and good deeds.  The Bible calls the person who does not listen to sound advice or to someone who would hold him accountable a fool.  A fool!  And he who neglects discipline despises himself.

“A scoffer does not love one who reproves him, he will not go to the wise.”

– Prov 15.12

“He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.  He who neglects discipline despises himself, but He who listens to reproof acquires understanding.  The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes humility.”

– Prov 15.31-33

Let’s not buy the lies.  God wants you to be happy and friends do love at all times.  But true friends love through the trials to see success on the other side.  They help conquer sin, they help fight temptation, they help care for temporal issues.  Be a friend.

He who neglects discipline despises himself.

“A fool rejects his father’s discipline, but he who regards reproof is sensible.”

– Prov 15.5

“A scoffer does not love one who reproves him, he will not go to the wise.”

– Prov 15.12

“He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.  He who neglects discipline despises himself, but He who listens to reproof acquires understanding.  The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes humility.”

– Prov 15.31-33

The book of Proverbs is one of the most gut-wrenching books of the OT to apply to life.  For me, anyways.  The conviction that flows forth from each verse reminds me of God’s holiness and goodness and my constant need for grace and mercies that help me attempt to apply these statutes for my life through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Hebrews makes the admonition to “not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines and He scourges every son whom He receives.” (Heb 12.5-6)  Who likes to be rebuked?  Who likes to hear that he is wrong?  Who likes to receive criticism?  Proverbs says that the wise man does.  That he heeds rebuke, discipline and reproof and applies it to his life.  And not only that, but the mark of belonging to the Lord is to be disciplined by the Lord.  Let us press on to be humble, receive and apply reproof, for only then can come honor.