How Michigan Has Destroyed My Theology

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Moving to Michigan has totally destroyed my theology…but it needed to be done.  Having to pick up and move my life away from all that I knew and loved made me an emotional wreck. At any given point I would have done anything to be free of the soul crushing pain I experienced to have to give up my job, my family, my friends and my home.  But through the whole process I was looking for a way to get what I wanted.  I wanted to be able to go back.  I wanted to be able to erase everything that everyone said and did that brought us here and I wanted to go on living my life exactly the same way that I was.  But God had something better and that involved tearing down my theology…to rebuild it again in the way that He knew was true and right. Although I could say that I knew God and his ways…I wasn’t living in a way that proved that. God broke apart my life so that he could remove these wrong beliefs about life and about Him.

1. I acted as if man could thwart the plans of God. If asked I would have affirmed with certainty that God is always in control and that God’s plans could never be changed by the actions of man or any other force.  But in action, I was living as if one sin against me or one wrong decision would erase me from the good plan God had set, and send me on the path of darkness and defeat…away from Him.  When we left Ohio, I had a long list of “what ifs” that when followed to completion all seemed better than what was actually happening.  I was living as if God had been thrown a curve ball that he just could not hit and I was having to make do with what was left after choices were made and positions were filled and everyone else moved on.  Faced square on with the pain of all of this I had to make a choice…would I live in the misery of what could have been…or would I move on knowing that God knew exactly what he was doing all along even in the midst of mistakes and broken promises?

2. I acted as if Plan B was an option. In focusing so strongly upon what went “wrong” and what could have gone “right” I found myself living as if God’s Plan A had been thrown off course and I was then stuck with Plan B.  But if my theology was how it should have been, I would have seen that there was never any Plan B.  God’s plan remains as it always was from the beginning of time… all the days ordained for me were written in [His] book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).  He is sovereign. But His plans aren’t just the way they are because He is in control and He can do whatever He wants (although that is true as well)…His plans are the way they are because He wants what is good for us and what will bring the most glory to Him.

3. But I acted as if God did not always have my good and His glory in mind.  My theology had become so rough around the edges that I was living as if having to do something I didn’t want to, meant that God was no longer looking out for my good.  It was absurd for me to be living that way because I knew that particular concept not even to be true in parenting.  I make my kids clean the living room because I want them to learn responsibility.  I punish my kids when they disobey because it is good for them to learn the submission that will later be reflected in their relationship with God.  I am not doing these things because I want to cause them pain…I am doing it because I know it is best for them.  I am doing it for their good. God doesn’t send me through an awful experience just to watch me suffer.  He does have my good in mind, even if it hurts…and ultimately His glory is seen through His sovereign actions.

In order for me to know God better and to form a better knowledge of Him, He saw best that I be removed from the situation I was in.  He saw that I needed to be broken and torn apart to be formed into a vessel He could use.  Most of all, He saw that my theology was wrong…so He used moving to Michigan to destroy it so He could build it again as it should be.

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New Years Resolutions: Part 1

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This is a re-post of my New Year’s article from last year.  I just wanted to share in case anyone missed it the first time around.

How many years in a row have you NOT lost weight?   How many unhealthy habits have you still NOT removed from your life? How many goals have you set for yourself and NOT reached? How many times have you planned on starting the year differently and you didn’t? I have always been a big advocate for New Years resolutions.  I love having a time of the year when I know I can look forward to doing an overhaul and change everything that has annoyed me about the year before.  But the problem is that I always set huge and exciting goals only to get burned out by January 2nd.  So how does a person go about making true and lasting changes in their life?

1. Set obtainable and tangible goals. This seems to be everyone’s major downfall.  So many people want to “lose 50 pounds” or “make more money” or “find a better job” or “spend more time praying”.  Not only may these be out of reach, but they are vague and unhelpful.  Instead make goals that are clear and within reason…”eat healthier by adding 5 fruits and vegetables a day” or “pray everyday at 7am before leaving for work” or “apply to get my masters degree online so that I can look for a better job”.

2. Set goals to be met at a later time. Who says that all goals need to be met within the same time frame? January 1st is simply the date set to start a new calendar year.  Businesses run on a fiscal calendar, school systems run on an academic calendar and that works for those systems because they take into account the rise and fall of expenditures, weather, moods, the amount of time needed to accomplish certain tasks and simply the way people function in accordance to those effects.  It is an admirable and healthful goal to want to start running outside, but to start at the beginning of January when you have never pounded the pavement before is unreasonable and sets you up for failure.  Instead, set a time everyday for indoor activity/exercise and stick to it….take a class at the gym, start walking the mall, play that new Kinect or Wii game with your kids, dust off your treadmill, or pop in a work out DVD…and then when Spring rolls around you will be ready to start jogging right along with those other crazy people.

3. Stagger your goals and take them a day at a time. If you have a decent sized list of accomplishments you would like to achieve for the year, as I often do, choose one and get started, with the plans to start another at an established later date.  For example, I would like to write a novel, learn to play the piano and establish a blog this year.  I have made a list of everything I would like to accomplish for the year in order of importance.  I have started my blog because it was at the top of my list and now in a few months after  I have established my routine of writing every day, I will pick up another goal.  I also try to add the goals to my daily to-do list (and if you don’t already have a daily to-do list, I strongly suggest you start that). So before the day is over, I have to check off “Post a Blog Entry” and in the months to come I will have to check off “Post a Blog Entry” and “Practice Piano”.  So by the time the year is over, I have worked all my goals into my routine without having to make three drastic changes all at one time.

**So as not to overwhelm you with my musings about my past epic failures…and hopefully future accomplished goals, I will finish this post in part 2 of this series.  I hope you stick around to see the next three steps.

Running the Race of Sanctification

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On the road of sanctification, as we strive to be more like Jesus, we often take the easy route hoping to find a short cut to the finish.  Holiness is such a prized reward many try to plan their own course to change and end up back at the start.   But truthfully many people don’t even realize that they are taking short cuts…they simply have filled their mind full of misconceptions about sanctification that they are lost somewhere along the way and need direction to find their way back.  Whether shortcuts are intentional or not we need to break these misconceptions so that we don’t end up going in the wrong direction.

“Let go and let God”….You have seen it on bumper stickers, you’ve been told it by a well-meaning Christian friend or you may have even said it yourself.  What was originally meant as a Christian form of “Don’t worry, be happy” has now led people to the common misconception that we are not at all responsible for making changes in our lives.  I once confronted a Christian friend at school about his failing grades and his poor study habits and his response was, “well, if God wanted me to make better grades, I would.”  And that is how many people view sanctification…as if there is basically nothing they can do about it but sit back and possibly send  up a half-hearted prayer or two and then see what happens.  Even praying is only half of it.  We are given many imperatives in the Bible about how we should go about making changes in our lives.  For example in Ephesians 4:22-24 we are given the responsibility of putting off our old self and putting on the new self. The verses do not say “Sit back and let God get rid of your old self” or “Pray about putting on your new self”…we are told to do it. (also see 2 Corinthians 7:1, 1 Timothy 4:7 and 1 Timothy 6:11)

On the other hand, many perfectionists (such as myself) live in a way that says “I have to do it all. I am completely and fully responsible for how sanctified I am and if I work my butt off I will eventually be holy”.   This misconception completely leaves out the work of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:13 tells us “for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” So, though we are told to be responsible for putting off sin, it is not solely our duty but also involves the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Taking complete responsibility for sanctification also leaves a door wide open for pride to creep in.  In Ephesians 2 we are told we were not given our salvation by works because that would cause us to boast in ourselves…it is the same with sanctification, if we can claim our growth as our own doing then we become prideful and arrogant about how great we are and leave out the boasting we should be doing in God and His grace.

And lastly, many approach sanctification with the misconception that it should be easy. Then when it is very difficult, they walk away feeling discouraged and they miss the opportunity for growth.  The Bible presents the Christian life as a race…the one who is diligent, the one who perseveres, the one who stumbles but gets back up, the one who practices and gets better will win the prize.  Sanctification is not a straight shot to the finish line…it is a jagged mess of ups and downs, twists and turns, hurdles and pits that ultimately bring you closer to being like Jesus.   Recently I had a friend come to me frustrated with the lack of progress she was making.  She made a list of all the things she was doing to seek holiness with the help of the Holy Spirit, she told me all the things God had done in her and I even chimed in with how much growth I had seen in her life. “But I want to be better. I don’t want to struggle anymore”, she said.  But that’s just it, as long as we are on earth we will (and should) fight for sanctification.  It is a race, a very difficult one, and if we truly want to win we will run with all we have and we will not give up when it gets hard.