Is It God’s Goodness that Leads to Repentance?

by Cameron Buettel Friday, July 12, 2019

In the lead-up to the Truth Matters conference in October, we will be focusing our attention on the sufficiency, authority, and clarity of Scripture. Of our previous blog series, none better embodies that emphasis than Frequently Abused Verses. The following entry from that series originally appeared on September 30, 2015. -ed.

We live in an age that demands short bursts of rapid-fire information. The day is fast approaching—perhaps it’s already here—when the number of Twitter followers will hold the preeminent place on a pastor’s resume. Sermon lengths are going the way of our shrinking attention spans. Modern pastors are tempted to replace exegesis and exposition with sound bite sermons and slogan theology.

But Bible verses are not slogans or sound bites. They are eternal truths that find their meaning within the overall story God is telling. Uprooting a verse, or even a biblical phrase, from its native habitat can lead to all kinds of mayhem. That is especially the case when, independent of their proper context, verses are enlisted as the supporting cast for someone’s opinion or agenda. Romans 2:4 is one verse that is regularly misused that way—carelessly sprinkled into sermons, interviews, and social media.

For example, in January 2013, Rick Warren explained to his legions of Facebook followers how the verse factored in his evangelistic methods:

In that particular case, Warren was quoting Romans 2:4 (actually only about half of it) as justification for downplaying sin and soft-peddling the threat of judgment. But is that what Romans 2:4 is really all about? Was Paul telling his Roman readers to jettison the parts of gospel preaching that lack curb appeal?

Joel Osteen is even more explicit in his use of Romans 2:4 to defend his feel-good messages:

Listen, don’t dangle people over the fires of hell. . . . Listen, that doesn’t draw people to God. They know what kind of life they live. They know how bad they’ve lived. What you’ve got to do is talk about the goodness of God. Listen, it’s the goodness of God that brings people to repentance. [1]

Joel Osteen may think that people know they are sinners and that we therefore don’t need to warn them or preach about it, but does Romans 2:4 really back up his point?

Moreover, is his point biblical at all? Just as prisons are full of convicts who will proclaim their innocence, Scripture is clear that sinners reject the guilt of their sin. As Solomon explained, “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 21:2). And even those who do acknowledge their sin have little grasp of the depth of their wretchedness, or the eternal cost of their transgressions.

In fact, it’s ironic that Osteen and Warren would use Romans 2:4 to excuse themselves from discussing sin and the need for repentance, since that verse is plucked from Scripture’s most profound discourse on man’s depravity.

Romans 1–3 is undeniable proof that Paul began his exposition of the gospel by first addressing the universality of sin and the justness of God’s wrath against sin. John MacArthur points this out:

The biblical order in any gospel presentation is always first the warning of danger and then the way of escape, first the judgment on sin and then the means of pardon, first the message of condemnation and then the offer of forgiveness, first the bad news of guilt and then the good news of grace. The whole message and purpose of the loving, redeeming grace of God offering eternal life through Jesus Christ rests upon the reality of man’s universal guilt of abandoning God and thereby being under His sentence of eternal condemnation and death. Consistent with that approach, the main body of Romans begins with 1:18, a clear affirmation of God’s wrath “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” [2]

It is actually our guilt and the justness of God’s wrath that provide the all-important context for Romans 2:4:

And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. (Romans 2:2-5)

Now you can see why Romans 2:4 is so frequently divorced from its context, and why it’s usually paraphrased instead of quoted. In the full context of Paul’s writing we see clearly what he means by God’s goodness—it is “the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience.” And Romans 2:2-3 explains how God demonstrates that tolerance and patience—by withholding the wrath we deserve. God’s goodness is the reality that we have not yet experienced His judgment. MacArthur adds:

Forbearance [tolerance] comes from anochē, which means “to hold back,” as of judgment. It was sometimes used to designate a truce, which involves cessation of hostilities between warring parties. God’s forbearance with mankind is a kind of temporary divine truce He has graciously proclaimed. Patience translates makrothumia, which was sometimes used of a powerful ruler who voluntarily withheld vengeance on an enemy or punishment of a criminal. Until the inevitable moment of judgment, God’s kindness and forbearance and patience are extended to all mankind. [3]

It is impossible to preach the goodness of God without talking about sin and judgment because its very meaning is bound up in those terms. When we see our sinfulness and rebellion against God, and when we see our hypocrisy in condemning others for committing the same wrath-deserving sins, then we can also marvel at God’s goodness in patiently and tolerantly withholding the wrath that we deserve.

That is what leads us to repentance. And it is entirely consistent with what Paul taught elsewhere in Scripture:

I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)


Imitate These Things Not Those


Not everything in church culture is good for us. How can we tell the difference between authentic discipleship and unholy peer pressure?

Katie had a solid Christian pedigree. She’d grown up in the church, committed her life to Jesus at youth camp, attended a Christian college, and married Jeff, her college sweetheart, immediately after graduation. At the church they’d begun attending, the couple served as Sunday school teachers. Katie also made time in her busy schedule to volunteer with a ministry serving the homeless in their new community. Yet after nearly three years at their church, Katie told me she wondered if she’d ever fit in. “I’m still treated as an outsider by the other women, and it’s not because I’m a relative newcomer. It’s because I work full-time outside the home.” She explained that almost all the other women her age in the congregation were stay-at-home moms who homeschooled their children, and a few older women focused most of their attention on nurturing this group. Besides meeting during the day for Bible studies on how to be better wives and mothers, they often arranged informal play dates and field trips. Katie’s work schedule meant she and her young son couldn’t join them. But it wasn’t the lack of invitations from the other women that troubled her.

After nearly three years at their church, Katie told me she wondered if she’d ever fit in.

“When we first came to the church, Jeff and I knew that my job put me in the minority among the stay-at-home moms, but the pastor assured us it shouldn’t matter, as we were all seeking Jesus together. We appreciated his emphasis on discipleship. As the years have passed, however, I’m noticing that most of the women seem to be copying each other in terms of lifestyle, convictions, and calling. It feels more like a clique than a church,” Katie said sadly. She and Jeff were considering leaving the congregation.

Scripture portrays discipleship as the way in which a mature believer lives out faith in the everyday and ongoing companionship of a younger student. This maturity references age, experience, and faithfulness. It’s a description of the ongoing process of spiritual growth, not the arrival at some state of spiritual perfection (Deut. 6:4-9). The late Dallas Willard called this whole-life learning model apprenticeship, a word that is helpful in translating an ancient concept into our modern context.

Like my friend Katie, I’ve found that sometimes a Christianized form of peer pressure takes the place of true apprenticeship. If your church culture implies that all real believers end up looking, acting, voting, or talking the same, pay close attention. It’s possible you’re seeing peer pressure at work. And though it’s simply a more sophisticated version of what you may have experienced in middle school, the social push to conform to a group’s standards can be just as powerful. Some examples:

  • We tell new believers (or inquirers) that they need to learn to “act like a Christian” in order to fit in at church.
  • We subtly (or not so subtly) discourage young believers from pursuing careers in academia or the arts because those vocational paths are “too secular.”
  • We shun or shame people who, on a theological non-essential—such as politics—may not share the prevailing opinion of our congregation.

The challenge for the more mature in an apprenticeship relationship is to remember that learning happens in different ways at different stages of our spiritual development. There is a time and a season in our spiritual life for imitation. Just as young children parrot sounds and words as they’re learning to communicate for themselves, we learn how to walk with Jesus by patterning our lives after those who’ve gone before us. Imitation serves an instructional purpose.

Peer pressure has “fear of missing out” at its root, and not fitting into the group is viewed as a cardinal sin. If you sense everyone around you competing in an unspoken contest to conform to the group’s standards, it’s a pretty safe bet you’re noticing the effects of peer pressure. The imitation of godly women and men, on the other hand, teaches us essential patterns and practices while honoring individual calling and giftedness.

First-century rabbis would assess a potential apprentice via a long period of living and learning together: They would look for someone who had the capacity and desire to mold himself to be like his teacher. Author Doug Greenwold explained, “Throughout the Gospels, the phrase ‘follow me’ is a Jewish idiom used by the rabbis to mean, ‘Come and be with me as my disciple, and submit to my authoritative teaching.’” Jesus’ words “follow Me” mean far more than “join my team.” They are words that tell us He believes we will seek to pattern every aspect of our life after His.

However, His goal isn’t that we remain perpetual infants, repeating basic lessons over and over again as though we’re in an endlessly looping game of Simon Says. Instead, wanting us to move toward maturity, He empowers us to then apprentice others who will delight in imitating Him as we’re learning to do (Matt. 28:18-20). The writer of Hebrews expressed frustration with his readers’ seemingly plateaued spiritual growth: “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” (Heb. 5:12).

We see this pattern in action in Paul’s counsel to the church at Corinth. He urges the young church to imitate him while learning to navigate their lives as immature followers of Jesus: “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). However, in the personal greetings he uses to conclude the first letter to the Corinthians—those words we tend to zip past because they seem like personal bits of housekeeping—we see how Paul celebrates the diversity of gifts and ministries among those who’ve been mature leaders among those believers.

He asks the Christians in Corinth to treat his protégé Timothy with respect, because though a different person than Paul, the younger man was carrying on a similar, complementary ministry to the apostle’s (1 Corinthians 16:10-11). Without denigrating Apollos, Paul noted that this co-laborer in Christ didn’t initially want to visit the church but then reconsidered—a recognition that Apollos was his own man, with his own mind and faith (1 Corinthians 16:12). Paul then offers a shout-out to Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus. Their ministry to him came in the form of practical financial assistance (1 Corinthians 16:15-18). Finally, he mentions mature church leaders Priscilla and Aquila, who led a congregation in their home, apprenticing young believers in the faith (1 Corinthians 16:19Acts 18:24-26).

The pattern of follow-the-leader was formalized in the early decades of the church. The Didache, a document that dates from perhaps as early as A.D. 100, is an example of an early catechism—a set of questions and answers new believers had to learn or memorize as part of their membership process in the local congregation. The Didache and eventually other forms of catechesis were Discipleship 101 for the early church, focusing on both the essential teachings of Jesus and the baseline practices of corporate confession, communion, and the authority structure God has ordained for life together. Young Christians learned to follow Jesus by following their leaders.

However, imitation should never result in uniformity. Musician Steve Taylor’s 1983 satirical song entitled “I Want to Be a Clone” named the fear driving Christian peer pressure: “They told me that I’d fall away / unless I followed what they say.” Aping the beliefs and behaviors of the influencers in their church may seem to promise a sort of spiritual insurance policy that will seal their salvation—or at least their place in the group. But a life shaped by a healthy fear of God will produce very different fruit than one shaped by fear of being excluded by the in-crowd. Fear of God offers us freedom. Fear of others enslaves.

A better “discipleship program” will not fix this problem, because it runs as deep in each one of us as our fear of being abandoned or left behind. That unexposed, un-discipled fear leaves us vulnerable to peer pressure whether we’re a young Christian or a seasoned leader. As my friend Katie and her husband assessed their experience at the church, they asked God first to reveal their own fears of being left out or forgotten, and then to confirm that they were being obedient in the ways their family was serving Him through work, parenting, and lifestyle decisions.

Jeff and Katie were asking good questions. Those questions led to them seeking the prayer and counsel of other mature believers—their pastor, a friend at church, and other friends in their social network, including my husband and me. The process clarified for them their own calling at this stage of their lives. It also helped them to better recognize the unhealthy peer-dependent dynamics among many of the young families at church. Instead of feeling excluded or judged by them, Katie told me she found new compassion for them. They decided to stay and brought their concerns to the pastor, who told them he was noticing the same issues as they were.

J. Oswald Sanders said, “No living thing comes to maturity instantaneously. In the attainment of intellectual maturity, there is no alternative to the student painfully working through the prescribed courses. Nor is it any different in the spiritual life. Growth toward spiritual maturity will of necessity involve moral effort, discipline, renunciation, and perseverance in pursuit of the goal. There are no shortcuts.”

Christian peer pressure is a counterproductive shortcut. And recognizing it for what it is becomes a powerful step in an apprentice’s journey toward maturity.

Illustrations by Jack Richardson

Cultivating an appetite for the things of God

It’s 5:30 p.m. on a Tuesday. And in one home among millions, a family with small children is arriving together after everything their weekday routine has taken them through: work, school, daycare, errands, play dates, traffic jams. The pots and pans simmer on the stove, giving off the aromas of belonging. But after a long day apart, this family reunion isn’t exactly a Norman Rockwell painting. One parent walks through the door straight into a barrage of tears and arguing, while the other, battle-worn and glad to no longer be the only adult, offers a weary greeting of “Hello, will you sort this out?” before retreating to the kitchen. The warning of Lego and TV sanctions brings momentary calm. The table is laid, and as the family gathers around it, the calm dissolves into a chorus of lament. “Look at this green stuff. Is that an onion?!” To the kids, the various—and as yet untasted—ingredients cannot possibly add up to the delicious aroma. Because, clearly, they are not macaroni with a side of cupcakes.

How often have I thought, I really should spend some time with the Scriptures, then turned the TV on instead?

Double, double toil and trouble. Burner lit and stove pot bubble. This is the witching hour in America.

For those who aren’t familiar with the phrase, the “witching hour” was repurposed by parenting bloggers who took its original meaning—the hour round about midnight, when people figured witches went out and did their witchery—and applied it to the hour before dinner when increasing fatigue meets growing hunger and everyone in the house turns half feral. That the trouble spills into dinner is an especially cruel twist. So much good can happen at the table, and it’s a real loss to sit down grumpy. It’s a time to talk, to log the face-to-face hours that knit people together. It’s also a time to eat. Our bodies get hungry, and food is a delightful act of grace that meets this need in an especially miraculous way. But try explaining to a hangry toddler the heavenly foretaste offered even in a dish that contains onions.

Of course, the devilish mixture of fatigue and hunger isn’t just a suppertime thing. I can speak from experience of a “witching hour” of the soul. A time when spiritual fatigue and a kind of hunger lead us to feel angry with our heavenly Father. The prophet Amos reminds us of this: “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11 NIV). I’ve felt that famine, and yet how often have I thought, I really should spend some time with the Scriptures, then turned the TV on instead? Like a kid recoiling at his supper and pining for junk food.

Funny enough, being a father and wrangling with my kids over the dinner table has opened my eyes to the fact that I am so much like a child before our Father in heaven. I’ve often caught myself crying out to God about some deferred desire or another, and in a flash I catch a glimpse of myself, exactly like my own sons crying out to me when they want exactly not what I’m offering them. Oh boy, are those glimpses ever humbling. But then I think about the times when my family has sat down and, with little interruption or disturbance, enjoyed our time seated together over a wholesome, delicious meal. Over the years, I’ve had moments like that with the Bible, too.

Wrangling with my kids over the dinner table has opened my eyes to the fact that I am so much like a child before our Father in heaven.

Not long ago, my church worked through the Gospel of John for a few weeks. The pastor was preaching on the passage where the Lord washes the disciples’ feet. In those words describing Jesus—God with us—stooped over filthy, stinking feet, with a towel around His waist and a basin of water, I felt anew that He has been here. Both in the literal sense that Jesus walked the earth, but also in the spiritual sense that He has been present in my own struggles, no less real than the man scrubbing Peter’s feet. Even scrubbing Judas’s. I drove to church that morning feeling the pang of the famine Amos prophesied. I returned home full because, by some supernatural means I may never fully understand, it’s possible to literally encounter Jesus in the Scriptures.

It’s here, in my wanting to want the Word, that the food wars with my kids actually give me a generous serving of hope.

For my wife and me, food is an especially valuable bit of culture that we really want to pass along to our boys. We love the range of cuisine available around our neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. We gravitate towards the international—and the spicier the better. Korean bibimbap loaded with vegetables and beef, sticky rice crisping against the sides of the hot stone bowl, all topped with the perfect sunny-side-up egg. A rich Indian chili dish, fiery enough to make you sweat, served over buttery basmati rice with a perfectly charred naan. In addition to the Asian influence, a meat place down the road is largely supplied with hogs the owner raises himself (he’s also married to the woman who runs the bakery on the next block). And that place serves a charcuterie of cured meats and cheeses that will steal your heart. Even the head cheese.

Food brings my wife and me together over and over in a kind of communion, and we imagine a shared love of adventurous food knitting us to our boys. But each time they reject what we offer, it feels like a little knife in the heart. Out of desperation, I’ve found myself haranguing my kids with some very familiar parental logic from my own childhood: “Look here, mister. There are starving children in the world who would be thankful to have anything, much less a meal this good.”

Kids are an amazing, confounding mixture—of tooth-grinding defiance, yes, but also of keen-eyed mimicry that just melts your heart. Try to make them do something, and it’s a war. But let them catch you doing something and enjoying it, and they’ll be tucked right up next to you like a shadow. No different from anybody else, they simply want to be happy. Joy and enjoyment are contagious: If you look happy, chances are they’ll give whatever you’re doing a try.

In fact, I realize that’s what I need, too: people who have a genuine love for the feast of the Word. It gives me hope just to know they exist—believers who have steeped themselves in the Scriptures and who talk about the Gospels, the Epistles, the Psalms the way I talk about restaurants. Even those thorny patches in the Old Testament, like Job or the story of Tamar. I want to be infected by others’ infectious joy over the banquet the Father spreads before us. At this stage in my life—raising young kids, DIY renovating a house, working and going to school—this hasn’t been easy. It takes effort just to find these blessed kinds of people, much less spend time with them. Yet the busier and more stressful life gets, the more I am convinced how necessary it is to chase after relationships with those who love Jesus and seek Him where He can be readily found. And so I pray for such friendships.

Aside from godly friends, I have found one other helpful practice to grow my appetite. Ironically, it has involved consuming less of the Word. There’s a lot in there, and it’s easy to get scattered and overwhelmed, so sometimes it helps to start small enough to stay consistent. That’s why I’ve spent most of the last year or so meditating on the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes. Having this regular meal has helped Scripture seem familiar again. It has whetted my appetite to go further, which I count as no small blessing.

As for the food wars in my house, glimmers of hope have begun to shine through. After years of watching my wife and me dig into the spiciest meals we can manage (sort of a competitive suffering), one son has taken to putting milder hot sauces on his own food. He has even, once or twice, tried some of the stronger stuff with a full glass of water close at hand. I think he’ll come around. And just the other morning he asked me to cook him an egg like mine (over easy)—and actually ate it. He hasn’t asked for another yet, but what a blessed breakfast that was.

Photograph by Yasu + Junko

Overcoming Mom Guilt

Mom Guilt

Have you ever struggled with mom guilt? The feeling of not feeling good enough as a mother, or trying your best but still losing your temper can be discouraging. Don’t worry momma, I have been there too. Maybe you are the mom that works a lot and have mom guilt from not being able to pick up your kids in the car pick up line. I felt prompted to write this to help other moms who have struggled with mom guilt and how to experience freedom.

Guilt, condemnation, and shame are not from God. All of our situations are different. We have to do the best we can, pray for the fruits of the spirit, and ask the Holy Spirit to help us parent them. It is healthy to feel convicted to strive to work towards progress, but it is not healthy to wallow in guilt and condemnation. If we make a mistake, we can come to God and ask for forgiveness. He is just to forgive and has already extended us grace.


God has given me grace, therefore I should extend myself grace. Sometimes, I am stressed out and I lose my patience. Other times, I may be tired and then I don’t cook, so I allow my son to eat something unhealthy. I try my best, but sometimes I fail. You may mess up some days, but what matters is you are trying. 

I don’t know about you, but I have gotten so upset at my son. My 9-year-old has such great leadership qualities wanting to do everything on his own and is not afraid to share his opinion and disagree. I love that he is strong-willed. The difficult part of having a strong-willed child is sometimes he will lose his temper and talk back. He might even slam his door and walk away from me.

A few years ago, I ran into an interesting image on the internet. Have you ever seen the image of a parent calling their child all kinds of names such as brat and stupid, etc? It showed the words coming from the yelling parent and the words floating around the child’s brain. I thought to myself how I never wanted to do that to my child and have been conscious about what I say since I saw that image. However, I became that mom by accident one day.

I Made a Mom Mistake

My son had a friend over and he was having a lot of fun. However, several times he talked back to me. I warned him and gave him several chances. A couple of times, I had him go to his room for a few minutes to think about what he said (the version of time out for 9-year-olds). I was sooo upset with him inside.

In as calm tone as possible for being angry, I said, “You are not a brat, but you are acting like one (conscious of that internet image in my head).” He was saddened and said, “Mommy don’t call me a brat.” I told him that I did not. I made sure to say what a good boy he always is, how I didn’t say he was a brat, but he was acting like one. To a 9-year-old, I called him a brat. I hurt his feelings, and let anger get the best of me. I became that mom on the picture that I always kept in my head to not become.

For the rest of the day, I had mom guilt. Sure, he was misbehaving and needed correction, but I was beating myself up all afternoon for not handling it the right way.

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7


That night my husband and I tucked him into bed as usual and I stayed behind to talk to our son one on one. I apologized to him that I wasn’t trying to call him a brat. We talked about how he was not behaving. I edified him with all the good qualities about him.  Praying replacing lies with the truth is a great thing to do. I prayed for God to forgive me for saying he was acting like a brat, and replaced it with the truth of what a good kid he was and I listed them off. He then prayed for forgiveness for being disrespectful, and prayed for me to still love him. I made sure to tell him that I love him always even when he misbehaves and we all make mistakes.

It was a beautiful moment. I could’ve walked around feeling guilty all week, but instead I extended myself grace and made sure to use this moment as a teaching moment and spend time with him in prayer.

Maybe you are the mom that loses your patience more often than the other mom next to you. You might be the mom that works a lot and cannot take and pick your child up from school. That’s okay, Momma. We must change our perspective and focus trying to make progress, even if it small. One day we will look back and see how much we’ve grown as mothers. This can apply in all areas of our lives.

I recognize that I am a better mom than I was 3 years ago, and I celebrate that progress. Being the best example of what a godly woman is like is what I strive to do for my son, so when he one day seeks to find a wife, he finds a good one.

Seek the Holy Spirit

Friends, we may fail and make mistakes. We can seek the Holy Spirit for guidance, and be strong enough to admit when we were wrong and apologize. Teach your children that we are all imperfect, but we have a perfect God. No more beating yourself up, okay? God LOVES you! He sees you are trying your best. He is there to help us parent and give us patience and the wisdom to guide them.


Original here

VIDEO Surviving the Death of a Loved One

By: Redeemed on Purpose

Surviving the Death of a Loved One

I am sorry for the loss of your loved one. Losing someone is a pain completely unimaginable. Surviving the death of a loved one can even seem impossible. My hope is that as you continue reading, you will see a light at the end of this dark tunnel and that light is Jesus. That may not be something you want to hear, but I can tell you first hand that it is the best thing to hear.

Several years ago on June 10th, my first husband died after having a motorcycle accident. Our marriage had just been restored 1 year prior from a 9 month separation. Life was perfect as I knew it. I was now left alone to raise our little boy. I didn’t know how I was going to manage paying all of the bills and taking care of our son, maintaining our house and yard, and working full-time.

Bitterness with God could’ve set in but instead I pressed into Him. I also witnessed how different members of the family grieved, how some had peace who sought comfort in the Lord, and others no hope who tried to do it on their own. I would like to help you walk through this healing journey. It is possible to live a happy life again.

  1. Why can’t God end all of the pain and suffering in this world?

The answer is… He can, and He will. Jesus did not create this world to have pain and suffering. In the Garden of Eden, there was no death or suffering. Since the fall, pain and evil has been allowed into this world by mankind. The good news is Jesus is coming back to restore everything. He loves us and does not want to see us suffering.

There have been times when I was grieving that I would wish Jesus would come back right now, so all of the suffering in the world could end. The Holy Spirit convicted me quickly. If Jesus comes back now, there is no hope left for those who do not believe in Him to go to heaven. The more time we have here, the more time we have to minister and help save as many souls as possible. He is graceful and will come back at the perfect time.

Apologist Ravi Zacharias answers tough questions about God and Christianity. For more on this question, please watch this video of Ravi Zacharias. You can also view it at the end of this post.  

2. How do I find peace while I am suffering the loss of a family member?

It is possible to find peace in the pain. I would spend my nights crying in pain from not having my husband, but I would cling onto God. In the flesh, I would try to stay up all night cleaning to wear myself out and be tired, but that didn’t help me. I would play worship music as I tried to sleep and just cry, and cry, and cry again to Jesus. There was a supernatural comfort that would come over me. Many nights I would have TBN playing on the TV. When I would wake up in the middle of the night, I would hear a word from God that would settle my spirit. As I worshipped Him in tears, I could literally feel His love and peace upon me.

3. What can I do now?

surviving the death of a loved oneI recommend gathering with a group of believers who can love and support you. Having a church family to encourage you, uplift you, and give you a shoulder to cry on is healing in itself. You can also join a support group such a GriefShare.

Do not hold in your feelings. Focus on God’s promises. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LordAs the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV

Your family member would want you to continue living life to the fullest, not to survive but to thrive, to love others, to truly know the love of Jesus.

Fast forward years later, God absolutely provided for me. I became a Registered Nurse with all of my tuition paid for. God used family, friends, and even random people to bless my son and I. My relationship with God and faith grew even deeper. I am now married to the most amazing man that I have always dreamed of, and my son has the dad he had always prayed for. My life is better than I could have even imagined or planned. God is so faithful. 

Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

My husband’s books are also great resources to help you see God in all of your trials, and that there is purpose in the pain. Please comment below with any other encouraging tips for someone else who is also walking through this journey.

Purpose In Him

#purpose #christ

What inspires you to hop out of bed each day?

Life can get pretty boring when we get stuck doing things which are of little interest to us. It gets even worse when we imitate and live the lives of others.

As Christians, we are called to live purposeful lives designed Only by God. As “His workmanship”, we live not by our own merits but by His and for Him. As a result, we should constantly ask ourselves if our daily choices reflect the fact that we are His workmanship.

Jeremiah 1:5
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew[a] you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

These are God’s words to Jeremiah, and they apply to us as well.
God reminds us that we are no strangers to Him, we’ve been chosen and consecrated and just like Jeremiah, God has appointed us “prophet to the nations” and for greater works.

Unfortunately, many of us are led astray because we do not depend on His words declared upon our lives. We seek to understand our purpose in life from wrong sources.

Hosea 4:6
“my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge…”

We are therefore called to seek wisdom and knowledge from the Word of God. Depending on it and nothing else. From His Word, we gain a better understanding of our true purpose in life and His plans for our future. We are being reminded in

James 1:5, that,
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Ask in Prayer, meditate regularly on His word and constantly declare His words over your life.

Be reminded that, He is working for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Do have a Blissful weekend. You are Loved!

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Why Do Some Pastors Sabotage Their Own Ministries?

And how can they avoid the allure of the self-destruct button?

Why Do Some Pastors Sabotage Their Own Ministries?

Can we be brutally honest with one another for a moment? Can I ask you, pastor to pastor, the question that no one dares to ask.

How often do you want to quit?

How often do you fantasize about doing something else, something that refuses to weigh so heavily on your soul, something that offers more money? Or less? Something that doesn’t cost your family so much of their time, energy, and privacy? Something that helps you feel “normal” when you talk to fellow parents at your child’s school or their weekly sporting event? Do you ever wonder if there might be another way to make a living that doesn’t cost so much?

I do.

I do on those Monday mornings when the post-sermon blues hit me so hard I could stay in bed for days. When people judge my children, second-guess my motives, and criticize my teaching. When I spend another sleepless night on the couch, in the silence and stillness of my house, wondering if there might be anything else in the world someone like me could do, but when the thing I know how to do best is pastor the souls of broken men and women.

These haunting questions are the unspoken underbelly of the pastoral calling. They are asked by those torn in two by the burden of their calling and the desire for escape, those who have invested too much time and money building a platform they can’t afford to lose, and those who wake up some morning to discover that all the years of preaching truths they never experienced themselves bored a deep cynicism into their souls.

This kind of pressure pushes some pastors toward the light, draws them closer to Christ, and grows them into greater spiritual maturity. Yet it casts others into the darkest of corners, sends them running away from Jesus, and tempts them to give in to temptations that have haunted them for years. While many pastors handle the burden of ministry with grace for decades, why do some crash and burn in only a few years?

Many people believe the reason is quite simple: the sinful human heart. This is true, of course, but also vague enough to be of little value for those seeking a specific prescription. Others suggest pride or a culture of celebrity that elevates pastors above the law. Still others talk about pastors’ isolation, their lack of confession, their diminished willingness to engage in self-reflection. Or as my wife suggested, some pastors have gotten so used to faking it that this becomes the norm in every sphere of life. Undoubtedly these all play a role in pastoral failure.

But I want to suggest another option: Some pastors sabotage their ministries on purpose.

Hitting the Self-Destruct Button

I often read that pastors never decide one morning to become addicted to pills, to bed down with someone other than their spouse, to endlessly click through pornographic websites, or to drink until life becomes a dull blur. And while it’s true that these decisions probably aren’t spur of the moment, we deceive ourselves if we pretend pastors never willingly and intentionally decide to fail. Some do.

As Carey Nieuwhof reflects, failure is sometimes the quickest escape.

When I first started out in ministry, I met with a pastor who had just had to resign because of an affair. He was 20 years my senior, and we met for lunch.

I asked him why he had an affair, and he told me in part it was because he couldn’t handle the pressure of ministry anymore but couldn’t find an easy way to get out. The affair forced him out.

Years later I would discover the pain of burnout personally. … I was so burnt out an escape from my life looked appealing. By the grace of God, I knew enough to keep my head in the game even though my heart had stopped working. As a result, during my darkest months, I kept saying to myself “whatever you do, don’t do anything rash—don’t cheat on your wife, don’t quit your job and don’t buy a sports car.”

In its simplest terms, self-sabotage, or self-defeating behavior, includes any behavior that undermines a person’s own goals. Psychologist Ellen Hendrickson suggests that, among other reasons, many people self-sabotage because it gives them a feeling of control over their situation. She notes, “It feels better to control your own failure. At least when you’re steering the ship, going down in flames feels more like a well-maintained burn.”

Others may sabotage themselves due to insecurity. Many pastors feel like imposters, and it may feel easier to fail morally than face the potential of being fired for inadequacy. “How does this manifest?” asks Hendrickson. “Feeling like a fraud easily leads you towards procrastination and diversion—if you’re faced with a task that makes you feel like a phony, it’s a lot more tempting to … realize there’s no time like the present to immediately start a DIY spice rack project.”

And then there are those who pursue self-sabotage as a way to return to a sense of equilibrium. To one degree or another, every pastor feels the gnawing sense of their own hypocrisy. We are called to preach, week after week, about a vision of Christianity that we may not fully experience, a love from God we sometimes don’t feel, prayer we don’t practice, parenting and marriage advice we forget to employ in our own homes, forgiveness we struggle to give, an identity in Christ in which we struggle to stay rooted. Amid that tension, pastors may look for a way to balance others’ external expectations with their internal reality. The higher the pedestal, the stronger the pull back down.

For this reason, it doesn’t surprise me anymore to see those in some of the largest and most influential ministries in America jumping toward the ground. Sin is the norm and sainthood our elusive goal, so it can be a bizarrely cathartic act for some to give in to their temptations in order to feel “normal” once again. I have watched this principle play itself out among colleagues who have confessed to retreating to their office immediately after the sermon to look at porn, swallow a pill, or drain a bottle of liquor.

I do not believe pastors misunderstand the ramifications of these sort of actions. Certainly, many have successfully hidden their sins for years, but the truth usually finds its way to the surface. And when it does come into the light of day, pastors can’t speak about biblical ignorance or moral ambiguity. Indeed, perhaps the greatest irony of pastoral failure is the amount of teaching, preaching, and writing pastors have often dedicated to decrying the very sins that lead to their fall. Pastors are uniquely positioned to understand the gravity of their immoral decision. This is precisely why their moral failures are more shocking, and why it is difficult to deny that, at least in some cases, pastoral failure is an intentional push of the eject button.

Even while I use the word intentional, it is important to remember that the motives for our self-defeating behavior may be hidden from us in the moment. As with many poor decisions we make, our motives may be limited to hindsight. Such is the case for Darrin Patrick, who underwent three years of restoration since his firing from The Journey church in 2016. After years of counseling, reflection, prayer, and repentance, Patrick came to understand his own act of ministerial self-sabotage was driven by a deep need to be rescued and rebuked:

In my own story, this self-sabotaging was a cry for help. It was me throwing the white flag up and saying, “I need help.” I was saying, “I want to be known, I want to be accepted despite my flaws, I want people to know I have struggles, I want people to know how hard it is and how much I have sacrificed.”

Perhaps most important for Patrick during his season of restoration was the counsel he received from CrossPoint Ministry founder Richard Plass, who shared with Patrick, “You have been crying out for help since you were a little boy; you’ve been wanting somebody to come and be your dad, be your older brother. You’re acting out in order to be rebuked.”

Stepping Back from the Ledge

I shared these reflections recently with some pastoral colleagues who resonated with many aspects of the self-sabotage temptation. When I asked them how they had managed to avoid this fate, a few themes repeatedly rose to the surface of these conversations.

1. Avoid Isolation

Several pastors mentioned that their primary driver of frustration, disillusionment, and sometimes despair is the inherently dehumanizing nature of ministry. In too many churches, the pastor is a role, not a person. Pastors fulfill certain duties—they pray, they preach, they visit, they counsel—but many don’t feel seen as individuals. When someone or something makes a lonely pastor feel “human” again, that pastor may struggle not to run straight into its arms. And the temptation grows even stronger when giving in to it might provide an easy out from a ministry that otherwise feels unavailable. This is the temptation Henri Nouwen was guarding against when he wrote about the need for constant community in the life of a pastor:

When spirituality becomes spiritualization, life in the body becomes carnality. When ministers and priests live their ministry mostly in their heads and relate to the Gospel as a set of valuable ideas to be announced, the body quickly takes revenge by screaming loudly for affection and intimacy. Christian leaders are called to live the Incarnation, that is, to live in the body, not only in their own bodies but also in the corporate body of the community, and to discover there the presence of the Holy Spirit.

2. Watch for Patterns

Second, my colleagues suggested that pastors on the verge of self-sabotage begin to notice the moments in which temptations strike hardest and keep track of when their particular struggle rears its ugly head. Is every spiritual success, every instance of high praise, met with a plunge into the depths of darkness? Pastors on the verge of collapse should ask those who love and know them best if they recognize a pattern in their bouts of depression, anger, despair, or defeats with temptation. If these pastors are seeking a sense of stability to help balance their external persona with their internal reality, they should talk to older pastors about their feelings of inadequacy, their guilt of hypocrisy, and their desire to leap off the pedestal. More ministry “success” will only aggravate the problem.

3. Grieve Your Losses

Finally, and maybe most importantly, my colleagues recommended that pastors learn to grieve. Pastors everywhere, regardless of ministry context, size, or denomination, will sometimes experience a sense of personal loss, betrayal, and anger toward congregants—people who criticized their ministry, tried to get them fired, or consumed their time with petty gripes about music, sermon topics, or the youth ministry. People they poured their life into, yet they still left the church for another one down the street with better coffee in the foyer. People who tried to split the congregation over a trivial issue or personally attacked their spouse or kids. People who hurt them.

Pastors need a way to take these wounds seriously and address them in healthy ways that don’t include passive attacks from the pulpit. They should make time for regular, extended Sabbath rest and quarterly appointments with a trusted counselor who can help them process their pain.

Finally, let me say this: It’s okay to quit. You are not your church. You are not your ministry. You are not the sole bearer of the kingdom in your corner of the world. And stepping away from a role in full-time ministry is not equivalent in any way to stepping away from God. In fact, for some of you, stepping away from full-time ministry may be a step toward God. Every time a pastor escapes ministry through self-sabotage, an entire community is devastated and the global reputation of the church is harmed. Some pastors need to resign rather than escape. Yes, the church needs pastors, but it also needs to stop getting hit by shrapnel when they crash.


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