When Godly Leaders Fall

When Godly Leaders Fall

Christians around the world have been grieving the news of sexual misconduct by yet another highly respected Christian speaker and writer. Although he has now passed away some may feel he escaped punishment for his double -life. I am sure he fell on his knees in shame when he met our Savior face to face. My goal in my writing is not to dissect individual lives of fallen leaders but to examine how sin has repercussions that are far reaching. Pastors and church leaders are human too but we tend to put them on a holy pedestal and expect them to have somehow obtained a kind of spiritually impenetrable shield around them. In reality, they need our prayers more than anyone because when they fall from grace many are affected. Shock, a sense of betrayal, anger and a loss of trust in them or the institution they lead are some responses.

King David was a simple shepherd boy turned great warrior because God blessed, protected and made King. In his personal life David was a failure as a husband and father. By the time he was 30 he had seven wives and later added more wives and concubines (at least ten) to his harem. He turned a blind eye when his daughter was raped by a half brother, Amnon. Her brother Absalom took justice into his own hands, killed him and fled. Later Absalom rebelled against David’s authority as king and defiled his fathers concubines. David did nothing to make restitution or reconciliation with his children which almost split the Kingdom. His family was a mess.

Many of us are familiar with the story of Bathsheba. David was home when he should have been fighting with his men. Viewing his kingdom from a rooftop he spied a beautiful woman bathing. Instead of averting his eyes he sent for her and slept with her. Finding out she was pregnant he tried to get her faithful husband to sleep with her as a cover up. When that didn’t work he put Uriah in the midst of battle to die. The prophet Nathan confronted David with his great sin but despite his repentance the baby died. There are consequences to sin.

How many people were affected by this great sin? His trusted guards knew what he did, he was not with his men fighting, he betrayed his wives, had an innocent man killed – Uriah’s family suffered loss – the new baby died and his children had more division. The whole kingdom suffered. Wow – not such a great guy after all.

Why is he called “a man after God’s own heart”? Because David never forgot where he came from and had a deep desire to obey God. He loved God’s Law and had absolute faith in God’s power and protection. No matter what the circumstance were he was always grateful even when on the run from Saul. David pours out his heart in the book of Psalms for us and we can identify with his raw emotion. He truly repented of his sin and accepted the consequences. He was called a man after God’s own heart , not because he was perfect, but because he knew where to turn when he messed up.

That is why we love David. We love his stories of great bravery in fighting the giant Goliath. Do we have “Goliath’s” in our lives and need to depend on God’s deliverance? We admire his ability to soothe Saul with his harp and his great friendship with Jonathon. Are we looking towards God for peace of mind? We learn a great lesson from his sin with Bathsheba….God sees everything and there is no hiding from Him. We live in a broken world with the same flaws, fears and failures as then and there are many life lessons in his story. We love the Psalms that were recorded for us: songs of gratefulness, wonder and praise; prayer for help and courage; psalms of brokenness and repentance. David’s great sin did not diminish God’s love for him or keep God from fulfilling His promises. David’s sin did not take away all the great things he had accomplished either.

So when we hear of a godly man’s (woman’s) fall we should pray for all those affected especially the people working for their ministry. Their sin damages their personal character but not necessarily their message. We need to realize that we all fall short of God’s glory and need to be surrounded by godly people to lift us up. Will your daily prayer be to live a life for God’s glory and be called a man/woman after God’s own heart?

Where is the Love?

Where is the Love?

Music in its many forms is an international language of its own accord that can span many years but “Pop” music reflects the current issues of today. That might be why we get nostalgic when we hear a popular song from our teen or young adult years. Most of our “love songs” are happy or funny – except maybe Country music because it often portrays the lonely broken heart. And everyday most of our news is full of anger, conflict and fear I began thinking, where is the love?

In a song by the Black-Eyed Peas , “Where is the Love?” speaks loudly to our current world situation of anger, self-centeredness, prejudice and racism. Printed here is only a small part, read the whole thing when you get a chance.

What’s wrong with the world, mama
People livin’ like they ain’t got no mamas
I think the whole world’s addicted to the drama
Only attracted to things that’ll bring you trauma……

People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurt and you hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach?
Or would you turn the other cheek?

Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love (Love)

There is such depth to these lyrics in stating the brokenness of the family, lack of boundaries, hatred and loss of control. Sin can twist and break every good thing and it’s not supposed to be this way. When God finished creating the world He said, “It is good”. But doubt in God’s goodness, mistrusting His word and disobedience began the downward spiral.

Facts about God’s love: God IS love. Perfect love casts out fear. God forgives and removes our sin as far as the east is to the west. He loves us with a never ending love. He gave His only Son to lay down his life for us so we can have eternal life with him. God promises to never leave us and offers us hope and a future. We can love because He first loved us— Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (I John 4)

Our whole world would be a better place if we followed some guidelines from the Apostle Paul about practicing true love.

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The Bible is a very practical book and tells us how we can make this work in real life. We don’t need to be so puffed up with pride or self- centeredness that our noses get bent out of shape at the slightest inconvenience or difficulty. Ask your self ; what’s my attitude when waiting in line or driving in traffic? If someone else is rude or hurtful we don’t have to retaliate or get the last word. Jesus said , “Turn the other cheek”. How we respond is a choice. Protect each others feelings because words can hurt! Try to hope for the best and give people a second chance – God has forgiven us over and over! We can be an agent of change and model God’s love starting in our homes.

Think of your fellow man
Lend him a helping hand
Put a little love in your heart

You see it’s getting late
Oh, please don’t hesitate
Put a little love in your heart

And the world will be a better place

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Four Verses for Difficult Times

Four Verses for Difficult Times

I always bristle when I hear Scripture taken out of context, twisted around and made to fit the speakers’ agenda.  Recently one of our top politicians did just that to maybe make her words sound righteous: “Let us think on these things”. If we actually look at the whole passage we will find deep truth for everyday living.

No one would deny that we are living in very difficult times and that is exactly why the Bible is vital today. When the Apostle Paul was writing his letters, Caesar Augustus was conquering the world. Caesar and his armies took what they wanted, persecuted Christians and advanced his Empire all the way to Spain with much collateral damage left behind. Paul was no stranger to political upheaval, mob mentality, religious persecution, fear, poverty or health issues. In his letter to a beloved church, St. Paul gives us a key to living for Christ in a difficult world in Philippians chapter 4: 6-9.

Remember, the Lord is coming soon.6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

The opposite of worry is trust. Trusting our heavenly Father for every need means that when we pray we expect Him to answer. He is the Prince of Peace and promised to never leave us comfortless. Therefore we can rest our hearts and minds in His everlasting arms knowing He loves us and is in control of the situation.

8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

How we think determines how we will act and what we believe determines our values. Truth does not depend on experience or comprehension. Truth is an absolute and doesn’t change with our opinion or feelings. God’s Word is truth. However, we are still challenged to seek the whole truth and not settle for subtle lies and misinformation. We also need to do a self check on what we are fixing our thoughts on.

It is easy to pick out someone else’s faults but Jesus told us to take the “log” out of our own eyes first. We can change the atmosphere around us by looking for the good, the beautiful, the honorable.  Paul was so confident in his walk with the Lord he told us to follow his example. We can do that by reading God’s word, praying, trusting and practicing thankfulness.

Christians should be the calmest people on earth because we know the Lord is in control and He holds the future in His hands.

Build Resilience in 2021

Build Resilience in 2021

There isn’t one civilized person on this planet that isn’t glad to see the end of 2020. From political unrest, natural disasters and a world wide pandemic, life is not going to be back to “normal” anytime soon enough. Although we have great hope in beating this virus with vaccines, we are still struggling. So how should we respond in 2021? We need to build resilience.

Resilience is the ability to cope with adversity and to use challenges to forge strength and prosperity. Having resilience does not mean that you don’t struggle, make mistakes, or need to ask for help. Resilient people keep plugging along even when the situation becomes ugly or exhausting.

There are many characters in the Bible who developed resilience through tough challenges. A favorite of mine is Joseph found in Genesis 37-47. If you have never read the whole story – please do ! Joseph was the youngest and favorite son of Jacob the Patriarch of Israel. From a young age God spoke to him in dreams which made his brothers even more jealous. The angry brothers sold Joseph into slavery and told their Dad he was dead. Joseph was bought as a household slave in Egypt and did well until the Masters’ wife lied about an assault putting him into prison. Joseph kept the faith and his dreams got him out of jail and placed him serving the Pharaoh himself. A life of extreme ups and downs yet Joseph never stopped believing and trusting in God because he understood that God has a purpose even in our suffering.

God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. 8 So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor over Egypt. Gen 45:7-8 (NLT)

“A helpful way to exercise spiritual resilience is by cultivating gratitude and counting your blessings. Be thankful for what you do have rather than focusing on what you are missing. Build optimism and be positive. Accept the past and focus on the future.” American Psychological Assoc.

How we respond to our circumstances or developing good coping skills will help us maintain balance. We need to take care of our bodies and avoid negative outlets. Masking our pain with alcohol, drugs and even food is tempting but it’s like putting a bandaid on a deep wound. Find resources to manage stress, not avoid it. Don’t dwell on the news and Facebook but instead find uplifting music, scripture and supportive friends. We can be proactive in finding purpose by making goals, problem solving and helping others. We need to keep things in perspective and be realistic about change. Not all change is bad. Finally, resilience should give us a hopeful outlook because we have learned from our past. Resilient people have a survivor mentality.

Our situations may vary widely but the answer is the same – call on God, the Almighty Creator, Our Sustainer, Redeemer, Healer and Friend.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 20 He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. 21  Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! 22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy! Psalms 107:19-22 (ESV)

 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Gal 6:9-10 (ESV)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (resilience) 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (ESV)

Christmas Catastrophe

As we look forward to celebrating Christmas and saying goodbye to 2020 it is okay to acknowledge that 2020 has been a disaster in many ways – the media has bombarded us with earthquakes, fire, floods, pandemic and political unrest. But remember the narrative of our Saviors’ birth happened under Roman occupation, forced to travel miles for a census and not being able to find a proper Inn, Mary gave birth in a stable. That seems pretty awful to me but it was part of God’s plan.

It seems an appropriate time to share one of our stories. It was early Christmas morning when my husband awoke to the smell of smoke.  The alarms hadn’t gone off yet. Thankfully it was not a fire but our furnace had “puffed back” and oily black soot was infiltrating the house. Paul shut off the heat, opened the bulkhead door and later at a decent hour called our oil company.

The children were up and opening their presents with great joy when “Dennis” arrived tool box in hand. They were wearing their footsie pajamas and had blackened little noses and toes but barely paid attention as the stranger entered the house. They didn’t notice the chill in the air or soot on their toys. I asked them to stop playing and wave good bye as we thanked him profusely and apologized for ruining his Christmas morning. While I was greatly dismayed thinking about the clean up that would come afterwards, the children were focused on their gifts. 

What takes away our attention from God’s gift? There was great joy at Jesus’ birth despite the difficult and humble beginning. If you remember, Joseph and Mary didn’t plan any of their circumstances! Maybe it will be good for us that our celebrations will be “different” this year. Missing family members, downsized celebrations and maybe a quieter day will give us time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Luke 2:8-14

Christmas Day will come – whether there is a pandemic or your furnace has trouble. Most of our problems are temporary and can be cleaned, fixed or healed. Christmas is the day for remembering that God came down to earth to make His home with mankind and later to lay down His life for us. Knowing Jesus brings peace to our hearts, hope for the future and true joy. Make sure your focus is on His best gift today.

 For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Blessed Nativity and The Broken Camel

Blessed Nativity and The Broken Camel

The National LaSalette Shrine in nearby Attleboro (MA) celebrates Christmas by lighting every tree on the property and proclaiming Jesus’ birth in story and song. Thousands come every year to worship and or enjoy the lights and myriad of displays. One of the buildings houses a collection of nativity sets, large and small, from all over the world.  Many of these are quite different from our American scenes.

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.   Luke 2:15-16

For many years I collected Precious Moments figurines including the Nativity scene which are made from porcelain. I always told my children that they could look but not touch. Invariably I would find the sheep had wandered away from the stable or baby Jesus had acquired a ball to play with. “Somehow” a camel broke its neck one year. I was quite upset at the time but couldn’t get too angry – it was an accident. We carefully glued the pieces and today I can hardly see the crack. In high school my son added a Spiderman quietly hanging over the manger. And so, this porcelain “no touch” nativity set became precious as our family enjoyed the sweet figurines and cherished the story of our Saviors birth every year.

The whole point of having a Creche and all the pieces is to recreate and retell the story found in Luke 2 and Matthew 2. The real birth of Jesus was far from a perfect setting just like the broken camel. Forced to travel for a Roman census, no room with family or at an Inn , Mary gave birth in a barn. The hard reality is that Jesus was born during Roman occupation where Jews were barely tolerated and King Herod of the Jews wanted to kill him. Dirty shepherds were the first to visit the newborn. This is not a comfy cozy narrative like we envision today. God came into a broken world as a baby so we would approach Him without fear. He knows that life can be hard and promises to be with us and give us peace.

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.7 His government and its peace will never end. Isaiah 9:6-7 (NLT)

I set my figurines up after Thanksgiving thru New Years to remind us that the season is not about Santa bringing us gifts but That Jesus came to offer us the best gift of all. The love of God goes beyond barriers to offer us undeserved forgiveness for sin and peace that passes all understanding. All we need to do is come to Him in faith.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. Romans 10:9-10