Why Living a Victorious Christian Life is not the Goal

In my last post I raised the question of why a loving God would leave us in our sin. If you read it you know I gave a few reasons before concluding that “getting better” is about becoming more dependent on Jesus’ perfect life for me than me actually becoming more perfect and sin-free.

Continuing with that thought I want to first say: You cannot achieve the victorious life here on Earth so stop beating yourself up when you fail! In fact, stop making living victorious your mission!

Many Christians believe this is the goal because much of our teaching and preaching focuses on working harder and getting better. The action is placed on us and our eyes directed to self instead of beholding Him – the only One who was perfect for us!

Here is what I mean. We are told to be like Christ, to be holy as He was holy, to love like He loved, to bear much fruit and on and on. Yes, these are commands and what we are called to. But the point we need to see is how we can’t.

That is why we need a Savior! He was holy and pefect for me. He was always patient, always kind, always had self-control, love and joy. He was never anxious or consumed by fear. He who knew no sin was made sin for me because I will continue to struggle and fail to do what I am called to.

These truths about Christ is what must be proclaimed. We need to hear about His righteousness for us. Not more law adding to the burden and guilt heaped upon us.

Being captivated by who He is for us is what leads to deeper worship. And when our hearts are moved in praise we have a greater desire to obey Him out of love, not duty.  Even so, it is His work in us. He changes hearts.  So, we can’t take any credit for our self-control or successes in living the Christian life well.

When we don’t succeed and think we are backsliding, typically what happens is we think we must work harder in that area. But what does that even mean and how do we do that?

It’s not that we need to work harder, it’s we need turn our eyes once again to our Savior who accepts and loves us deeply even in our sin. In fact, seeing the depth of our sin magnifies how great His love is! 

Does this mean we don’t try not to sin?

No, but when we do sin (which we all do) we don’t have to hide and cover it up. We can go boldly to His throne of grace and acknowledge again our need, knowing He does not reject us or demand we pay penance to measure up. Instead, He draws near!

If this is enough for Jesus, why is there no room for sin and struggle in the church? 

It goes back again to the emphasize of what is taught – law or grace?

So by God’s grace may we see Him as the One who was Victorious for us.  May we hear that truth consistently preached. And may we be a part of a body of believers where grace reigns and we are safe to be deeply loved broken sinners together.

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Why Would a Loving God Leave Us in Our Sin?

With Barbara Duguid

With Barbara at Redeemer Presbyterian in Waco, Texas.

Hearing author Barbara Duguid unpack powerful gospel implications for struggling sinners with such forthrightness and humility at the Extravagant Grace conference was a true blessing.  I felt the same way reading her book of the same name last spring, which is the reason I am recommending it as a MUST READ to everyone.  In fact the book ministered so deeply to my pastor/husband that the application of the gospel truths contained in it ‘hemmed’ him in at a time when he felt ‘wilderness’ all around.

Great clarity was actually given to this ‘wilderness’ type period as Barbara guided us through these mind-boggling questions:

  • If God is sovereign why does He allow us to experience such times of deep darkness and wilderness?
  • If God hates sin why does He allow it and other bad things to happen?
  • If God is loving, why doesn’t He stop us from struggling with sin and giving in to temptation?

Tough stuff.  How freeing though to grasp God’s goodness and grace even in the midst of sin and suffering. To see God hates sin and is not the cause of it, but He does allow it for a good purpose. 

What Can Possibly Be The Advantages of Remaining in Our Sin?    (Let’s look at some of these answers and deal with the wilderness another day.)

1.  The more I sin and do the things I do not want, the more I see how powerless I am to combat it. My only hope is the intervening work of the Holy Spirit to make me strong where I am weak. In my weakness then, Christ is strong for me.

Practically speaking – whatever your recurring sin or struggle is, Jesus was perfect in that area for you! If you struggle with food, Jesus ate perfectly for you. If you struggle with anger, Jesus was perfect by not getting angry for you. If you struggle with patience, Jesus was patient perfectly for you. If you have a hard time loving difficult people, Jesus loved all people perfectly for you.

Jesus was EVERYTHING you are not and EVERYTHING you need. May this cause me to boast in the cross of Jesus and not my own performance.

2.  The more I struggle with sin and see I cannot conquer it, the more I am dependent on Jesus. The more I will go to Him in prayer. The more I will ask for self-control, strength, help and protection. The more I will see my need and His deliverance. Apart from my ongoing sin, I may not see my great need of Him.

Practically speaking – now when you experience a moment of not giving in to temptation or responding the way you normally would by blowing up in anger or demanding perfection from someone else, you will see God at work and go to Him in thanksgiving. You will praise His name more because you will see how He granted you grace – even if it was just for that moment. If the next time you go back to your normal sinful ways, it doesn’t mean He’s left you. He is still there, transforming you – not by making your perfect, but making you dependent!

You can’t out-sin His grace!

3.  The more I struggle with sin, the more compassion I have on others in their sin. While their sin may not be my sin, I know what it’s like to try hard and still fail. Maybe now I will have more grace to give.

Practically speaking – How often are you shocked by someone’s sin and wonder how they could do that?  Perhaps you even think they must not be a Christian or they wouldn’t being doing whatever it is.  But why should sin surprise you? You know your own heart – your own on-going struggles – right?  When I get that, I will better identify with others, showing more compassion in my love and response to sinners.

Interesting side note- throughout the Bible we see how Jesus reached out in love to the sinners and held His rebuke for the Pharisees.

This just barely skims the surface of the treasure trove of His love and grace for us in our sinful state. There is no way I can fully expound on the topic or even share all I heard at the conference in just a short blog post. But I want you to know what Barbara also told us – that it is okay to be conflicted over this. It’s our tendency to think we must be “getting better” so to realize getting better actually means depending more on Him and less on yourself may be new to you. But it’s the grace we need to hear preached and be overwhelmed by.  So, I hope you will wrestle with God’s goodness even in our sin and see this truth as freeing.

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The Beauty in Aging

Today is one of those “big” birthdays for a dear friend. She is 30. Another close friend turns 40 this month. A couple just hit 50.  My grandparents each at 90. And my daughter now 16. All significant birthdays. All occassions for celebration, but also reflection, anticipation and sometimes trepidation.

As I’ve visited with a few of these ladies and others, plus thought about my own experience in moving from one decade to the next, I think its interesting to consider why we either become excited or depressed about a new age.

One of the obvious drawbacks is AGING – the physical ailments, limitations, changes and eventually death. But I think with our culture so obsessed with being forever young we forget all the wonderful blessings that come with aging and instead of embracing who we are, we are constantly coming up with new ways to cover up.

Here is some of what the Bible says:

“Gray hair is a crown of glory;
it is gained in a righteous life.” Proverbs 16:31

“Wisdom is with the aged,
and understanding in length of days.” Job 12:12

“They (the righteous) still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green…” Psalm 92:14

“So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

“Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
and the glory of children is their fathers.” Proverbs 17:6

“Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated.” Deut. 34:7

How beautiful to view aging this way! To esteem wisdom that is gained only through the accumulation of life’s events, trials and tribulations. To consider our days lived for the Lord with great purpose and to still find significance in them. To think though we become physically weaker we are still full of life and bearing fruit. To see our grey and wrinkles as “crowns of glory.”

This is the perspective I hope to hang on to – beauty growing with age, wisdom in weathering the storms.

It actually explains why I would not turn back time to an earlier age. Because even though I am not truly seasoned in life, I still see so much more clearly now things I didn’t a decade ago.  Idols, really, that used to consume or drive me. Fears and worries that occupied too much space in my head. By no means have I graduated from that nor will I until glory, but again how beautiful to think how 10 more years of growth and time will continue changing me.

So to my friends being celebrated this month- Behold the glory of the Lord and let His radiance shine in and through you day by day, year by year.

The Magazine in My Mailbox

I like to read my mail over lunch, just as I like the newspaper with breakfast. But if either arrives past mealtime I typically just throw it on the table to look at or discard later.

This was the case yesterday with the mail, but as I set the stack of catalogs and ValPak coupons on the table something else caught my eye and I froze.IMG_6085

Why was Maxim magazine being delivered to my house?                                                And why did the label have my 13-year-old son’s name on it?

I quickly opened my laptop and entered the subscription number and our zipcode to discover a year’s subscription, started in August with no charge.

No charge? On one hand that eased my mind, on the other it scared me to death. I mean, businessess are in business to make money so the only reason a product would be given away for free is a marketing ploy to pull in new customers.

This meant my son should not be unequivocally accused of ordering this subscription. But the fact savvy marketers have access to so much information to know we have a teenage son in the house is disturbing.

How brilliant to target him at this susceptible age of raging hormones to become addicted now!                                                                                                                How bold to think they have the right to send their unsolicited product!

Even though I immediately canceled this ‘complimentary’ subscription, the sad reality is my son will still see sexually-charged photographs and pornography. It is everywhere and hard to escape.

Scary fact is revenues for the pornography industry at its peak were greater than the combined worth of top technology companies: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink! The latest statistics show revenues have dramatically shrunk. But don’t get excited – the only reason for this is simply all the FREE porn accessible now online.

You can find all sorts of other frightening statistics on various websites. CovenantEyes is where I learned “35% of teen boys say they have viewed porn videos ‘too many times to count'” and that “more than 7 out of 10 teens hide their online behavior from their parents in some way.”

So, parents:

  • Does this mean we cast all blame on the industry?
  • Does this mean we think regulating cell phone and computer usage will keep it out?
  • Does this mean if we’ve warned our kids (it is not just boys viewing porn) about it we’ve done all we can?

No! We can come up with the most rigid of rules and talk about how bad it is and all the negative implications (which are many) until we are blue in the face and still not stop the desire going on in our kids’ hearts. It is only by God’s intervening grace their hearts can be turned from pornographic and sexual temptations.

So what then should we do?

Besides prayer, we must parent to their hearts and not just lay down “law.”  We need to identify with them in their struggles. Help them to see there is no shame in the temptation because God wired us to be exactly as we are, which includes males’ response to sight.

But in our temptations we are weak and that is why we need a Savior. He is the only One who was tempted and without sin.  My child needs to hear that.  My child needs to know I am for him and understand the struggle – even though it’s not my own struggle I know what it is like to struggle. I know what it’s like to be tempted and to give in to sin. And I know that if not by grace I would always give in to sin.

With that foundation my hope and prayer is my child will be more likely to come to me and not hide. That he can come confidently knowing I am not going to condemn him for his struggle, but instead can pray for and with him.

You may think that sounds idealistic, but my take on the reason our children hide their struggles and sin is the same reason we hide our own: we fear being judged and condemned.

Jesus Himself calls us to Come Boldly to His throne of grace. He offers unlimited forgiveness and grace and clothes us in His righteousness. He came not for those who think they are without sin, but for those of us who know we need a Savior. That is the truth I want my son to feast his eyes on!

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Osteen’s happiness god not God

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Chances are you’ve seen the Victoria Osteen video clip with Bill Cosby’s cut in response. Her assertion that God’s greatest joy comes when we are happy is causing quite a stir. Such unbiblical claims have led to her being called a heretic, false prophet and like the wolf in sheep’s clothing Jesus himself warned against.

Honestly, it’s about time. In fact, I hope this serves as a wake up call for both believers and our society at large to realize what we often blindly accept as “Christian” teachings simply because it’s delivered in a church, taught or written by a well-known pastor/author with a mega-following.

Why is it we’ve deemed whatever attracts the masses, proves popular and makes us feel good to be good? Is that litmus test or is it God’s Word?

“O foolish Galations! Who has bewitched you?…” Gal. 3:1

The gospel of Christ is not about our happiness!

We sure live though as if happiness is our right and calling, falsly believing our obedience, good deeds and morality should merit God’s blessing. So in the backlash against Osteen (again deservedly so) can we be honest to see how we often live as if we beleive just what she said?

Just consider what happens when you aren’t happy – what does it cause you to do? To feel? To believe?

  • That you deserve better.
  • That life is not fair.
  • That God is not good.
  • That others are to blame.
  • That you need to do whatever it takes to get happy.

Even when whatever you need to do to be happy is contrary to God’s word, you justify it’s okay because God wants you to be happy!

How easily we fall for Satan’s lies.

Just as the crafty serpent whispered to Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” we question God’s goodness and truth, determining we know better.  And before you know it we have sized-down the God of the Bible to be who we want Him to be, making ourselves to be our own functional god.

The irony is we will never find true happiness outside of God. The grass will always be greener somewhere else. We will never be totally satisfied or completely filled. We will always be striving, searching, seeking for more… Apart from Him.

Does He promise happiness?

No, He promises MORE! He promises more because our biggest problem is not whether we are happy or not. Our biggest problem is our sin.

God, therefore, in His great love for us meets our greatest need in the perfect person and work of a Savior. God left His own Son to hang on a cross to pay the price of all the sins of His people. We have been set free of the punishment of death we deserve because He took it on Himself. There is no condemnation, only grace. We can come into His presence boldly with no prerequisite or requirement to have it all together. He was perfect for us.

Now even when life gets hard and we experience the weight of suffering and sin, we can find rest in Him. So though happiness may not always be found this He does promise:

  • He will not leave or forsake you.
  • He is near.
  • He understands because He experienced all that we do.
  • He is your rock.
  • He is your strength.
  • He is your comfort.
  • He is your peace.
  • He makes you whole.
  • He is your All in All.

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Because Time Won’t Stand Still

Whew – alot has been happening at the House of Hatton this week. On top of the new routines and busyness the beginning of school brings there are a few other things that have filled our time.

First and foremost, our daughter is finally turning sixteen!!! I say finally because she is so young in her grade it has felt like a long-time coming as she’s watched and waited while all her friends have gotten their licenses. Last year on her birthday I posted 365 Days For My Girl and its hard to believe that time is now!IMG_6036

Mostly I am so excited because I definitely need her to drive herself to all her activities. Many days this summer I requested off from work or switched shifts simply because she had appointments to make and a job and activities to get to. So even if she never runs an errand for me (which she will) or takes her brothers to any of their practices (which she will) I will be a little less bound by time :).

On the flip side – Stop The Clock! Seriously, only two more years and she is gone! I want all the time I can get with her and will miss our car convos. I can’t tell you how often I have been teary in recent weeks thinking about friends whose children have recently gone to college and knowing this is just around the corner for us, too.

But somewhere in the midst of mothering, when kids are younger and it’s physically exhausting, it’s tempting to long for the next stage – for things to be easier and have more “me-time.” In the process though we neglect to be fully present and purposeful in pouring into their hearts and giving our undivided time. I, too, have some regrets in this regard and now that it seems so much clearer just want more time!

Speaking of time, another exciting recent occurrence is directly related to capitalizing on time with our pre-teen and teenagers. In fact, it is the #1 reason we have finally taken the plunge and are putting in a pool! 

Yes, it sounds delightful to sit out by the pool in my own backyard with a magazine.  And for my boys to get home from a hot sweaty football practice and cool off by jumping in.  But more than anything we want kids and our friends to gather at our home.

This is happening!

This is happening!

Whether you’ve thought of it like this or not, a pool provides the opportunity for ministry. A time to hang out with our kids and their friends in an atmosphere conducive to conversations. Likewise, my husband has loved doing “fireside chats” with our daughter and her friends gathered on the back porch around the chimenea, now we will have one more reason to host, seizing the time.

And for the last news of the week – I just received my personal trainer certification!  My most recent idea for re-inventing my “career” – as I tend to do every few years :). This path is being taken primarily to keep my flexible schedule so that I am able to write.

My book release is still a year a way, but I have other Bible studies, book ideas, blogs and grants to write. So in order to keep doing that which I love without a paycheck (yet), I decided to pursue another passion/hobby which is health & wellness. The beauty in this (if I do in fact get hired) is stepping out of my isolating little home office where I write to spend time with people – helping them set and achieve goals, making new friends and again, in a way – ministry.

If you think about it – all of life is ministry. Ministry is not just confined to the church, separate from the rest of life. Nor is it just for pastors – it is for all of us. It means joining in the “dance” as written in my last post Love Does and living your life for the good of others. Investing in more than yourself. 

Because time doesn’t stand still and much of what we are distracted by, consumed with and worried about is fleeting, Lord please help me to invest my time in the eternal: Your Word and Your people!

 

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Love Does

We were wired for relationships. Intended to revolve our lives around one another. To bear the burdens and be the “body of Christ” to one another. In living out this others-focused calling we refect the image of God as seen in the Trinity in what New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian pastor Tim Keller calls the “divine dance.”

“The life of the Trinity is characterized not by self-centeredness but by mutually self-giving love. When we delight and serve someone else, we enter into a dynamic orbit around him or her, we center on the interests and desires of the other. That creates a dance… Each of the divine persons centers upon the others. None demands that the others revolve around him. Each voluntarily circles the other two, pouring love, delight, and adoration into them… ”   (Keller in his book Reason for Marriage)

When we stop dancing we become static and self-absorbed. No longer circling around others but spiraling down the demanding path of “Love Me” instead of what author Bob Goff calls “Love Does.”

thLove Does was one of my favorite books I read this summer. The premise of Love Does is the reality of Jesus’ love for us propelling us outside of ourselves and leading us to enter the “dance” of serving and loving others.  As is written in 1 John 4:19-21:

“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

Wow – our love of God is seen, not by what we say we believe, but by how we love others. If this is true we must ask ourselves:

  • Do our actions speak louder than words?
  • Do we “dance” around others or do we stay a “wallflower” because we don’t know what to do or say to someone who is in pain?
  • Do we circle around others’ needs or is our own circle confining us to not see who outside of it may be hurting and in need of a friend?
  • Do we pass off the people in our direct path to the professionals (pastors & counselors) thinking they can better handle the problems?

What I hope we all see and Bob Goff shows through the stories in his book is that action is better than no action.

We may not know exactly what to say or do. We may have limited resources and time. We may be inconvienced or forced to make sacrifices. And we may get a little messy in dealing with the suffering or sin of others. But the point is: Do Something! Love Does!

Our action – or inaction – does speak louder than words. Love goes where others will not. Love dances when others have stopped. Love gives graces when others judge or ignore.

Ultimately, Love reached down from the cross. Love set us free of our sins and covered us in righteousness. Love so amazing that when we get it we don’t have to know just what to say or do, but we know the One to point to. The only One who can fill us completely. The One who did for us what we can’t do for ourselves because of His deep, deep love for you.27a72912329e5a5abc8c11898b0f37b4

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