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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Resolutions, Fresh Starts and Renewed Commitments for 2015


Do you make New Year’s resolutions? 

If I make any, I tend to make resolutions such as that I will not eat any brussels sprouts and limit my consumption of coconut in.  Or maybe that I won’t accept any positions to be CEO of any multinational corporations.  These are the kind of resolutions I know I will be able to keep.  

New Year’s resolutions are all about making changes for the better, about getting life out of a rut and onto a new plain, about becoming a more responsible person or taking on the tasks you have always put off.  It is a time many people use to reflect on their lives and consider whether life is going where they want it to go, time to make a fresh start.

Of all the holidays we celebrate, in many ways, New Year’s is possibly the one that fits best after a divorce (as long as you stay away from the New Year’s parties where couples are giving one another that midnight kiss for luck).  

After a divorce, life is all about making fresh starts, about choosing to take on the things that you have never done but wish you had.  About assessing where you are in your life and where you want your life to go in the years to come.  

Sometimes individuals who have ended up divorced go back to school to get that degree they never completed.  Sometimes they rearrange the furniture and redecorate their homes.  Sometimes they restart projects and hobbies they had long since forgotten.  Sometimes they use the time to build the kind of home that reflects the priorities they have always believed were important, but were unable to live by in their marriage.  

After a divorce, some individuals use this time to start a new and deeper relationship with God, and to examine whether or not they are living their lives in accordance with God’s will and plan, as best as they are able to understand it.  

As you approach New Year’s, and especially if you are divorced and now having to start so many things in life all over again, I would encourage you to consider combining the post divorce decisions with your New Year’s resolutions and ask yourself what the priorities of your life truly are, and what you want them to be.  I encourage you to find ways to build wisely, or maybe for some of us “more wisely,” so that this opportunity for a fresh start in life that has been thrust into your life won’t be wasted.  

You have a few days left to prepare those resolutions, so get started!  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Where Does Your Path Lead?


I was reading my daily devotional the other day, and the scripture passage was one of many in which the appearance or action of God resulted in great fear and wonder by the individuals in the story.  What really struck me was the incredible difference between the reaction of biblical individuals like the ones in the story I read, and the kind of attitude I perceive in people who claim to be believers now.  

What I often see now is a rather lackadaisical approach to righteous living, as if it doesn’t really matter.  It is as if modern day American Christians have decided that the Christian faith is about what you believe, and not about how you live.  But such an understanding is opposed to the clear teachings of scripture.

Perhaps this attitude has arisen in reaction to people who act “holier than thou,” earning the church the reputation of hypocrites over the last half century.  

Perhaps it is that our churches have so focused on the grace of God and forgiveness through Christ.  

Whatever the reason, the result is that it would appear many Christians answer yes to Paul’s question in Romans 6:1  “Should we continue to sin that grace may abound?”  They fail to read on to verse two that begins, “by no means!” 

What do I mean?  Well, for instance, the ubiquitous OMG, spouted from the mouths of even Christians with no sense of fear or reverence for the God whose name is being invoked.  Many, and maybe you are one, think that even raising this issue is picayunish and ridiculous.  But when God’s name is to be hallowed, such usage simply is out of line.  In one youth group we used to work with, we had a policy that whenever anyone said, “Oh my God,” we required them to finish the prayer!  It served to remind them of the meaning of the words they had used.

But that is only one small instance.  There are far too many Christians whose behavior cannot be distinguished from the actions of non-believers, in terms not only of language, but even topics of discussion, use of alcohol, sexual practices, handling of finances, and attitudes about almost everything.  One example that bothered me was when I heard a famous Christian teacher claim she believed God has blessed her, and so she has no problem living an extravagant lifestyle, including her $500 suits.  This lies in contrast to the scripture’s teachings, such as having our hearts set on our treasure in heaven, not on earth. Whatever happened to being light and salt for the world? 

In the New Testament, the scripture says that the kinds of things non-Christians do shouldn’t even be mentioned among Christians and our speech is never to include immorality or impurity or coarse jesting, for example.  That though we once were children of darkness, we now are to walk as children of light.   Every deed we do and every word we utter demonstrates to the world the truth or untruth of what we say we believe.

This distinction also applies to the world of marriage and divorce.  We are to take our marriage vows as a sacred covenant, and do everything we can to uphold them as such.  We simply are not to be turning to divorce for the kinds of trivial reasons that often occur.  We are to see divorce truly as a last resort that God has allowed only because of the fallen state of the world and our sinful condition.  Even then, the way a Christian goes through a divorce ought to be clearly distinct from the behavior of non-believers, most visible, perhaps, in the realm of honesty about finances and the honoring of one’s obligations in terms of visitation or child support.

Now I will grant that in our quest for righteous living, it is important to avoid the traps of legalism, salvation by works and of self-righteousness.  But avoiding those traps does not relieve us of the responsibility to pursue the holiness that God requires and the recognition that we, too, will give account for our careless words and thoughtless deeds.  

The call of Christianity is not merely to believe the appropriate list of doctrines.  

The call of Christianity is to follow Christ in a life transformed that reflects the very holiness of God.  

The sin in our lives should break our hearts and be wrestled against, not treated lightly as if nobody cares.  God does care, for our words and our actions reflect on the reputation of God. 

Whatever your station in life, I want to encourage you to consider how well the way you live your life reflects the Christ you say you believe in.  

If you are in a position of teaching others, does your teaching appropriately challenge those who hear you to pursue godliness and not excuse sinful behavior in their lives?  

Do your words honor God, or embarrass him?  

Do your actions draw others closer to Christ, or cast stumbling blocks that hinder them?  

Do you live life with a healthy fear of God?  

Would you change anything about your life if Jesus were standing right beside you?  

If what you believe as a Christian does not impact how you behave, then either you don’t truly believe, or you have never learned enough to even understand what it means to believe in Christ.  In either case, that is a dangerous place to live.

For those of us who are believers in Christ, our very lives are the witness that convinces others of the truths we believe and the reality of our faith.  I want to encourage you today to do your best to make sure that in all you undertake, God will be glorified because of YOU. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advice for the Holidays


If you are a person who grew up attending church, there is a good chance you will have heard of the passage called, “The Golden Rule.”  And even if you didn’t, I suspect the paraphrased words will probably still be familiar to you:  

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  

The actual references are found in Luke 6:31 and Matthew 7:12.  The Jewish rabbi Hillel said something very similar when asked to summarize the law, he instructed his disciples to not do to others the things they did not want done to them.  

Holidays are times when individuals caught in divorce or its aftermath could be well served to keep this little rule in mind.  Sometimes you hear individuals twist the passage into something like, “Do unto others BEFORE they can do unto you,” or. “Do unto others as THEY HAVE DONE unto you.”  

Sadly, these reflect the behavior many of us choose to use toward those we don’t get along with, including our ex-spouses.  

Far too often, ex-spouses choose to make plans for holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even the birthdays of children, in ways that are in opposition to the Golden Rule, rather than in accordance with it.  Individuals sometimes refuse to cooperate to make it possible for their children to be with the other parent during holidays - disregarding any court ordered plans or prior verbal agreements they made with their ex-spouses.  

Other times, individuals choose to use the holidays as a way to demonstrate one upmanship by intentionally outdoing or overdoing in the gifts and attention they lavish on their children.  Some find ways to subtly undermine the plans and opportunities of their exes.   

Time and time again I have listened to stories regarding this topic.  It is all very sad.

If you have been on the receiving end of such actions by a vindictive or insensitive ex, then you know how painful and difficult such an experience can be.  

The temptation often is to respond in kind, and to find ways to pay back the ex for such shabby treatment by doing something that will create the same hardship for the ex to make that person know what it feels like.  

Others choose to pre-empt their ex-spouses by arranging holiday plans in a way that will be self-serving so that the plans are already locked down with the children and with no consideration of the other parent.  The result is that when the other parent starts to make plans, the planning process is quickly frustrated by the inflexibility of the ex.

But the Golden Rule is to treat others…even our exes…the way you want to be treated by them.  

Not the same way they treat you.  

Not before they treat you.  

Not even treating them by keeping to the letter of the court ordered arrangement.  


The idea is to treat them the way you WANT them to treat you. 

Whether they treat you that way or not is irrelevant. 

Do you want respect?  Treat your ex with respect, even if he/she ridicules you for it. 

Do you want some consideration?  Find ways to be considerate of your ex this holiday season, even if he/she takes extreme advantage of your kindness.  

Do you want plenty of time with your children?  Make sure your ex has plenty of time with them, even if he/she robs you of yours.  


Because this principle has nothing to do with how your ex behaves.  

Instead, it is about what kind of person you are, and what kind of person God wants you to become.  Your ex may never notice or appreciate all the little kindnesses and considerations you send his/her way.  It is most likely that your ex will not. 

But you are not really doing these things for them anyway.  You do them so that YOU can become a better person.  

You do them to please God.  

God notices every single time.  

God will honor you for your choice to live by this principle…even if your ex does not.

Isn't God’s approval what really matters anyway?

So make your celebration plans, taking into consideration how your choices affect others, and letting go of past hurts and resentments.  

Celebrate the upcoming holidays in ways that will make your Heavenly Father proud!