It’s Saturday. Start something

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…and so is a plan without goals. Both are necessary ingredients.

Basic steps to making change:

  1. Determine what needs to be changed (and how badly you want it changed–this is a great place for prayer!).
  2. Develop a plan of action.
  3. Set reasonable, measureable goals.
  4. Count the cost (what do you have to add/subtract in your like and is it worth it?).
  5. Tell somebody. Make yourself accountable for encouragement.
  6. Implement the plan.

Today is a great day to get started!

Is there something you would add to these steps? Let me know.

Check out, “Watching Our Words” by Jacob C. Price

jacobblogMy son, Jacob, has written a new blog post entitled, “Watching Our Words,” where he explores the affect of words on our relationships and, as a part of a larger series he’s working on, “Becoming a Young Gentleman in the 21st Century”.

I had the privilege of being interviewed by him for this segment (his first interview), so I hope you will take a few minutes and listen to that at the bottom of his post.

I appreciate you supporting him in this as he hones both his writing and his life skills.  Let us know if you have any feedback or encouragement along the way.

God’s Gift of People

supportI was studying in 2 Timothy 4 this morning where in verse 9, Paul tells Timothy to “do your best to come to me soon.”  Clearly, as Paul goes on in that passage, some things have not gone well. He has been abandoned by everyone, even having one guy, Alexander the Coppersmith,  doing him “great harm.”  I don’t know if he is speaking of harm ministerially or personally, but having gone through similar circumstances, I can tell you that it’s likely both.  It’s hard to be harmed ministerially without feeling it personally and visa-versa.

What Paul says demonstrates something very important: even though Paul says a few verses later that God’s presence and deliverance was all he ultimately needed, he greatly desired the personal touch of someone who would support and encourage him.  That being his dear son in the faith, Timothy.

During my first shoulder surgery two years ago, I felt very alone.  It was a really difficult time in my life when Karen couldn’t get off work and I was at the hospital going through surgery completely alone.  I remember how difficult that was for me.  I desired for there to be someone to “come to me soon.”

This time was very different.  Karen was able to get off work and I had so many people calling and posting messages of support, telling me that they were praying for me right then or had just prayed for me (which gives comfort even more than a simple “I will pray for you”.  Not that that’s in any way bad and much appreciated, but we know how often we say that and then unintentionally forget to actually pray).

At the end of the day, like Paul recognized, God’s presence and provision is all that we really need.  However, so much of His provision is channeled through human beings.  I don’t ever want to forget that.  I want to make every effort to be fully present in the lives of those around me that I’ve been privileged to have in my life.

What about you?  Can you remember a time in your life where you felt abandoned and alone or where you felt so blessed to be surrounded by those who cared and delivered God’s provision to you?   What was that like and what did you learn from that experience?  If you’d be willing to share your wisdom, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.

When It’s Good to be in a Gang

Paul tells Timothy that if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, “he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:20-21)

This is a concept I’ve been dealing with a lot lately in messages at The Gathering, though it’s a concept I’ve not mastered.  I certainly struggle, not so much with the concept or idea of “cleansing oneself”, as much as the practice of it.  The concept basically addresses the outworking of sanctification (the process by which the Holy Spirit begins making changes and also empowers us, through discipline, to bring about changes, as well).  Whereas salvation/transformation is solely the work of the Holy Spirit, sanctification is a divine partnership, in which I have responsibility.  Admittedly, it would be much easier if God just DID IT all, Himself, but that’s not the way He’s chosen.  Instead, He has equipped me to do battle within myself and those deep-seeded sins that “so easily entangle” (Hebrews 12:1).

Because of the work Christ has already done in my life to change my position before the Father to that of Holy and blameless, I have the power to say no to conditional sin that, before, I could not.  Before, sin had me chained…I was under it’s power, fulfilling all the things that my flesh dictated to me (Ephesians 2:1-3).  Now, the Word tells me I’m no longer a slave to sin and that the only reason I am under any authority of sin is that I, willingly, place myself under it’s control, wrapping myself again with the chains that once held me, choosing the sin from which I’ve been freed.  In short, I sin now because I want to, not because I have to (Galatians 5:1).  That’s what is troubling.  I want to sin. Man, I hate even saying that, because I really don’t and, yet, if sin ever dominates my life, according to Scripture, it’s because I let it.

I think this is why Paul encouraged his young son in the faith to “Fight the good fight of faith.” (1 Timothy 6:12a)  It is most certainly a fight, but it’s a fight that involves retreating…running away from an enemy.  Sounds crazy when talking about standing firm and fighting, but being an overcomer, in this case, involves running away from enemies we cannot beat if we remain in their presence.  Samson was the strongest man in the neighborhood, but the only way he could have beaten the Philistines was by running away from that which tempted his heart…the great temptation of Delilah.  He was defeated, not by the brute force of an army, but by remaining under the influence of a single individual who offered him all that he wanted…momentary pleasure.

Wow, that’s it right there.  Momentary pleasure.  Even though it doesn’t last, it still has the ability to train wreck our spiritual lives.  This is why Paul kept encouraging Timothy to run away from it.  Don’t try to stay and fight because, eventually, you’ll let your guard down and the fight is over.  Clean knock-out.  As a matter of fact, right after Paul encourages Timothy to cleanse himself, he tells him how:

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant[e] must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2: 22-26)

In this passage, there is both a “run away from” and a “run towards”.  Both words used, “flee” and “pursue”, communicate both an urgency and an exertion of effort.  One involved running away from as hard and fast as you can while the other involves chasing after something as to catch it.  In other words, we should never be standing still!  The question is where should the most emphasis be placed, on fleeing or pursuing?  Which one do I focus on more?  The great news is that they are in opposite directions, but only sort of.  Here’s what I mean: I can flee from unrighteousness, but that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily pursuing godly righteousness.  It might mean that I’m simply pursuing self-righteousness.  I might still be trying to overcome sin under my own power and that will just lead to a pride that is nothing more than unrighteousness in disguise.  So, in truth, I’ve never actually run away from anything!

The key, then, to dealing honestly with sin, is to chase after godly righteousness “along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”  In other words, I will never actually overcome sin in my life using a “Lone Ranger” approach because I’ll just drift towards self-righteousness and never even notice.  It’s actually a great weapon of the Enemy, “the Father of Lies”.  However, if I am in a community of humble people who are honestly seeking these same things, we can ” gang up” on sin, keeping each other in check, moving towards true godliness together, pointing out that slow drift away from our godly pursuits.

This is why “Gospel friendships” are so important, where we are deliberately speaking into each others lives; where almost every conversation contains some level of Gospel conversation, encouraging and challenging each other and simply “checking up”.  It doesn’t happen by accident and takes a great deal of cultivation.  If, though, I want to overcome sin in my life, sin that my flesh really wants to give in to because I like the momentary pleasure it offers, I have to pursue such relationships with everything I have, knowing that it’s worth the effort.

On My Parent’s 60th Wedding Anniversary

MomAndDad

60 years ago today, Martha Gartee and Charles Price stood side-by-side and exchanged wedding vows.  They promised to love and to cherish each other for rich or for poor, in sickness and in health until death parts them.  Sadly, those words are still popular in weddings today, but not so much in marriage.  For my parents, though, it meant something on that day.  It meant that whatever lay ahead, no matter how tough it may get, they would work through it together.  That was their goal and that’s exactly what they have done.

On this day, sixty years ago, no one could have known how much those vows would be tested just a short 16 months later as they were forced to say goodbye to a baby they never got a chance to really know.  At just 6 weeks old, these still newlyweds, living alone hundreds of miles from home serving in the military, had to deal with a tragedy no parent of any age should ever have to deal with.  Yet, barely into their twenties, they did…and they did it together.

Where many marriages fall apart during such deep tragedy, this one got stronger.  By God’s grace, they came to understand the need to press in closer to each other where too many couples drift apart.  No, life would never be the same.  In many ways, the loss of 1955 defined them, determining how they would deal with each other and the three other children they would later come to have.  Through it all, though, they never lost the love they have had for each other and the commitment to stick it out…for better or for worse.

In all of this, my parent’s marriage has taught me many things and has demonstrated what marriage can look like.  It’s not perfect, as no marriage is.  They have their moments of disagreement and, thankfully, they allowed us to witness that which also gave us the opportunity to see what it means to confess wrongs and ask for and receive forgiveness…bedrock for a successful marriage.   Though imperfect, my parent’s marriage is solid and that is saying a lot in a world where marriage is not only optional among young adults who choose more often to live together with no real commitment, and where divorce is as common as indigestion, but where the very definition of marriage is being fundamentally transformed into anything conceivable under the sun.

My parents have taught me what it means to suffer deeply but to come out on the other side strong.  No one ever knows what will come their way in life, yet it is possible to not only get through it together, but through God-given strength and persistence, we can even grow stronger and closer as a result.  Through that strength, I have seen what it means to be one with your spouse.  Mom and Dad have always shown a unified front with us kids.  If you failed to get permission from one of them, there was no use in going to the other in hopes of getting a more favorable answer.  The first question was always, “What did your mother say?”  or “What did daddy say?”.  If they ever disagreed with each other on the answer given by the other one, I didn’t know about it.  There was always a singular voice.  I’ve come to appreciate just how important that is in raising children; in providing them a solid foundation knowing that mom and dad are always going to stand together…even if, at the moment, you really didn’t want them to!

My parents have also taught me what it means to keep a promise.  They have demonstrated that marriage is hard work, but it is not impossible.  Because of the example that my parents set and because of the grace of God, my wife and I determined before we said “I do” that divorce was not an option.  Seeing my parents keep that commitment has given us a living example that, though it sometimes seems impossible to fulfill (and at times we didn’t really want to fulfill as the mountains appeared insurmountable), we have forged ahead and continued working at this gift God has given us…and experienced the blessings that come through the struggle now twenty years later!

So today, on this 60th anniversary of the day my parents said “I do” and have chosen to say it every day since, I say “thank you“.  Thank you for loving your kids through it all without condition, for setting an example worthy of following and for never quitting on the commitment you made to each other all those years ago.  Happy anniversary!

I love you.

No Room For Compromise

I had the opportunity to hang out yesterday with a couple of young adults whom I have great affection for and was able to hear from them what some of the general attitudes are regarding right and wrong and was is considered acceptable among their age-group. I wasn’t the least bit shocked, but still deeply troubled.

NoCompromiseI am convinced all over again of the need for disciples of Jesus to be rock solid on our commitment to Truth. I believe that if we compromise at all, we have compromised completely and the stakes are so high. I’m not talking about things that are left to the individual conscience (Romans 14, which, of course calls for limiting ourselves in certain circumstances even if our conscience doesn’t convict us!), but rather those things that are very clearly universally wrong for all people at all times.  Keep reading, I’m not calling for protests, militant take-overs, boycotts, or “take our Country back” rallies.

I’m neither a legalist nor a pharisee. I do not believe that being morally upright will get anyone to heaven. I believe that it is the work of the Spirit of God working in an individual to reveal the Son of God who provides salvation through grace alone apart from works of the Law. I believe that this justifying work brings a change in us that causes us to want to live a righteous life (not have to), because it is Christ’s righteous life in us.  Further, I do not believe that everything that has been called sin by the pharisees among us is necessarily sin. What I do believe, though, is that Scripture is very clear on what IS sin…on those things I am unwilling to compromise.

On that last point I should be clear: being unwilling to compromise on what is and is not sin is not to say that I am perfectly delivered from all that falls within that category. What I must never do is to change the category of that thing that I struggle with from sin to mere “preference” simply because I like it. I must still call it a sin.  Changing my mind on it doesn’t change God’s.  If I know that Scripture is clear and I take an “oh, well” attitude, I’M STILL RESPONSIBLE FOR IT because God is the judge, not me.  What is DEMANDED of me for forgiveness is to recognize it for what it is and repent of it (which involves turning away from it).

What I must also do is to unconditionally and authentically love those who are completely engulfed in sin without judgment or pride.  I must also never make the mistake of believing that loving them enough not to judge is the same thing as being unwilling to confront them regarding that sin.  Sin kills.  If sin kills and I am unwilling to address that with someone I love, the last thing I am really doing is loving them.  Confrontation peppered with grace is incredibly loving and strong…and difficult.  But important.

We are all victims of the same cancer called sin.  None of us can live perfect lives this side of heaven, but what we can do is live lives that are pleasing to God through acknowledging and repenting of those things that have offended His holiness and caused separation between us. Then forgiveness, healing and restoration comes.

With that at stake, there is no room for compromise.

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