Holy hardships . . . and more

July 6th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized

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My understanding of “holiness” began growing up in a conservative Methodist church with an active “temperance” program. Holiness simply meant no smoking or drinking. When I attended a Wesleyan college as a theology major, I learned the “doctrine” of holiness, which left me confused as to where I was in the process: “initial, progressive, or entire”?! I also learned I was actually rather “liberal” because I grew up watching TV, going to movies, and playing outside on Sunday afternoon.

As a Wesleyan minister, I toed the doctrinal line and obeyed the official rules, without having a clear understanding of how holiness actually “worked.” Then I came across an amazing, baffling and confusing Scripture: Hebrews 5:8:

      So even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.

What?! The very Son of God learned to be more like, well, the Son of God by the things He suffered. Was Jesus, as Isaiah writes, “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (53:3) because He obeyed His Father? Or did He obey His Father because he was “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering”? That’s whole other article.

Here’s one thing I do know. The only way I have personally become more like the Lord I love is through hardship and heartaches. I have learned absolutely nothing from success, but I have learned much from suffering. That’s the message of Romans 8:29—although we much prefer the previous verse:

      And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

And what is that purpose? The very next verse spells it out:

      . . . to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.

God takes “all things” that cause hardships and heartaches and uses them to produce in us “the likeness of his Son.” (God does not cause these “things,” but He does redeem them for good.)

Often, we try to make living a holy life complicated by trying to explain it, turn it into three-point sermons, or divide it up into “initial, progressive and entire sanctification” so we may obtain this “second work of grace.”

I’ve become convinced that a) being conformed to the likeness to Christ is the essence of holiness and b) that holiness comes through allowing God’s Spirit to shape us into that likeness through hardships and heartaches.

And I’ve also become convinced the “good” God promises is holiness. Good is not happiness, pleasure, prosperity, a “God loves you and has a wonderful Porsche for your life” healthy and wealthy kind of good. The Greek word Paul chooses for good, agathos, can be translated “of a good nature, useful, helpful, excellent, upright, distinguished, or honorable.”

Second Corinthians 4:8-11 reinforces this concept:

      We are hardpressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our mortal body (my emphasis).

God the Spirit takes all that hard-pressing, perplexity, persecution and striking down and empowers us “so that the life of Jesus may be revealed” in our lives. And that, in my simple little mind, is holiness.

Copyright © 2013 James N. Watkins

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From Squeezing Good Out of Bad. Obviously, I’d love for you to buy a copy for yourself and all your friends. But if you’re currently unemployed, email me for a free ebook.


polygamy

A case for polygamy?!
Soon after the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal, a Mormon polygamist has applied for a license to marry a second wife. According to The Associated Press, Nathan Collier, 46, and his partners, Victoria and Christine, applied for the marriage license in Billings, Montana. (You may know them them from the reality TV show “Sister Wives.”) Collier legally married Victoria in 2000, but his “spiritual” marriage to Christine is not legally recognized. I saw this coming nearly 15 years ago while writing my newspaper column. [Continue reading]


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Cure for write-arrhea
Several super-star bloggers are calling it quits! Andrew Sullivan, who pioneered journalism blogging, is quitting. Heather Armstrong, the original “mommy blogger,” is quitting. Amy Becker, a popular blogger is also quitting, but not before she wrote a fascinating post, Why Bloggers Are Calling It Quits.

Becker notes her reasons for unplugging her popular blog:

      I yearn to slow down. Instead of creating post after post, I want to focus on writing that allows me more time and thought. Blogging itself—its immediacy, its informality, its conversational tone—is fleeting. There’s always an occasion for another update, another issue to comment on.

I totally get it!

I’ve been online since 1997. In 2005, this blog hosted 1 million visitors. I did it by posting every single day. I found myself on the hamster wheel, furiously searching the Internet and rummaging through all the trivia moth-balled in the back of my mind for the next blog post. I can’t imagine the number of hours I’ve dedicated to regular postings! It was draining: mentally, emotionally, and—although I didn’t sense at the time— relationally and spiritually.

In recent years, I cut back to only three original posts on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. And at the beginning of this year, I cut back to one original post on Mondays, a guest post on Wednesdays, and a round up on my Facebook cartoons and comments on Friday.

Finally, in June, I gave myself permission to cut back to be one post each Monday—and most of those have been re-runs. (And I’m discovering most of my visitors are digging around in my archives filled with hundreds of articles rather than viewing the current post.)

Remarkably, even though I have had a busy month with conferences, I have made amazing progress on my latest contracted book. I didn’t realize how much time I had spent creating fluff and fleeting comments for my website. Plus, I’ve been more present with my wife and family. Most of all, I’ve enjoyed having what’s left of my brain back. (In addition, I recently resigned from teaching at Taylor University and from serving as communications pastor at my church, so I’m sure that has also freed up more than a few brain cells.)

I’m done with write-arrhea—writing crap just because of a self-imposed obligation. So, while you can still count on a hope and humor post every Monday, I’ll be posting new content only when I must write and not writing stuff I have to post simply because it’s Monday. I’m through with striving for thousands of page views, high Google rankings and top 5 percent Alexa scores. (It will be interesting to see how this change does—or doesn’t—affect my “numbers.”)

So, unless I just have to comment on breaking news or some monumental event, I’ll see you next Monday with something new—or more likely, a “best of” post.

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

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