With every season

Seasons change and we’re not always ready for it. But the fact that they change is inevitable. Daughters become little girls overnight. The journey from the hospital room to your little boy’s one year birthday party seems like a flash. People come and go in our lives. Loss happens in an instant. Relationships change and evolve. Pandemics can sweep the world. It’s best to not fight change but to expect it. The only constant in life is the One Who originated life. He is who we cling to in the hard seasons of change. He is who we cling to in the celebrations of life.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭13:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Let Jesus be your constant in the ever changing seasons of life. Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Molding Miracles

It is an incredible thing to witness a life-transformed. To walk with someone so long that you see them become essentially a different person. It’s also amazing to be the one who’s life is redeemed. In general, it’s an absolute miracle that any of us bring God glory with our lives. Especially given the nature of the human heart.

I used to have a real problem when people would tell me that people are bad by nature. It seemed unfair. Aren’t people just corrupted by their surroundings? When it came down to it, I just didn’t like being told that I had a sin problem that needed to be fixed. I doubt anyone likes being told they are broken in any way. The truth hurts. It’s one reason some people took up issue with Jesus. He confronted people directly with their sin problem.

For out of the heart come evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  Matthew 15:19 NIV

If our hearts are so full of horrible things, how do we have any hope whatsoever? How could a heart like this ever love God or bring Him glory? That’s the point of redemption…of the new creation…of Jesus. Humanity corrupted itself and day after day we add to the problem. We have no one else to blame but ourselves and none of us can ever hope to fix ourselves. The overabundance of self-help books (Christian and secular alike) out there would try to convince you otherwise. The only hope we have is surrendering ourselves to a force that can sometimes be difficult to grasp.

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.  Psalm 37:3-6 NIV

Truth is, our desires are all out of wack. Besides those to love and protect and take care of those close to us. But even that can become unhealthy to the point where we value them above God. For the most part, we are the center of our desires. We want health over holiness, comfort over conviction, wealth over wisdom, and prosperity over progress. The things of God are a long shot from our deepest desires. Psalm 37 says the only way to change that is to make the Lord our delight. Not our safety and well-being. Not our career goals. Not retirement or a certain standard of living. Not recognition or personal goals. Nothing and no one can take the place of our greatest delight.

Here’s a convicting question that I heard someone ask a long time ago: would you be willing to give your life if the entire world could be saved? If the answer is anything other than yes, then God is not our greatest delight. The fact is, Jesus demonstrated God’s heart by doing that very thing. He surrendered His life, knowingly and willingly. For Jesus, the endgame is the redemption of a fallen world. For His followers, it should be no different.

My heart will never change until I make Him my number one desire. When that happens, the wickedness stated in Matthew 15 is replaced with a clean, wholesome, loving heart that wants to know God and make Him known more than anything. I’m not there yet, but in the famous words of the apostle Paul, I press forward. How about you?

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭3:12-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Memory or Life?

Life-is-made-up-of-choices

What use are bible verses if they don’t become practical in our lives? We can memorize, share, read, or even preach them, but if they fail to become reality through use, they have benefited us not. Advice unheated may as well have fallen on deaf ears. Principles unpracticed will not build character. The Bible is alive. It’s full of weapons against depression, addiction, pride, and every destructive thing that would harm the individual and humanity as a whole. Knowing that does little. Living that changes everything.

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires

Hebrews 4:12 (NLT)

Knowing the word of God is the obvious first step in living out the word of God. My four year old daughter has seven bible verses memorized. It’s incredible. But if she doesn’t allow those to impact her life as she grows, then they will be like anything else she learns in life. It is easy to gain knowledge but much more difficult to allow that knowledge to forge a lifestyle.

I’ve preached messages on the peace of God and joy in difficult times. But I will be the first to admit, that I still have a hard time being a peace and joyful at all times. Our kids have been sick on and off for over six months. We’ve seen E. Coli, Walking Pneumonia, Hand Foot and Mouth Disease, Colds, and more. It’s been really really hard. At times, my wife and I have felt desperate. We have had to choose peace and joy through it all. Sometimes each day. Some days, I have completely failed. It wasn’t because the peace of God wasn’t extended to me, it’s because I didn’t choose to rest in that peace.

For all of us, the difference between a life change and more head knowledge is a simple choice. Even if we don’t trust God, He is still every bit trustworthy. We don’t benefit from the rest and hope that comes from that trust because we don’t choose to. We can choose to love, choose kindness, choose selflessness, choose joy, and choose faith. That’s the beauty of freewill. The Holy Spirit won’t ever force us to change, only if we choose to. When we do choose to change and grow, there are no limits to what the Holy Spirit can do in and through us.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…

2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV)

Which Mirror are you using?

lionmirror4None of us can truly change by beholding ourselves, but only by beholding the glory of God.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV)

Maybe the reason some of us aren’t seeing results in our lives is because we’re spending too much time looking at ourselves and not enough time looking at Jesus. Eternal change only has one source. We’ll never be who we’re meant to be, until we look at the one we’re meant to be like. The most important reflection we can gaze into is not the one in the mirror above our sink, its the one jumping off the pages on of God’s word.

Let’s follow the leader (Jesus), doing what He does, and leave the rest to His Spirit.

The Imitation Golden Rule

_imgWhen I was a kid, I used to collect rocks. I absolutely loved them! It’s amazing that I never became a geologist. Now I’m passing that love on to my children. In all of my rock collecting as a child, I accumulated quite the assortment. Of all of the rocks I sorted through, only one disappointed me. I can remember distinctly as a child combing through a quarry and finding a sparkling golden nugget. I ran up to my parents thinking that I had struck it big. Come to find out, it was a little something called ‘fools gold’. I didn’t get it. Fools gold? I felt kind of dumb and let down all at the same time. When it comes to the so called ‘golden rule’, many people kind of treat it the same way. Jesus provided the real deal, but so many of us are wheeling and dealing the imitation goods and are so surprised when it doesn’t get the same return.

So in everything,do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 7:12 (NIV) [my emphasis]

It’s interesting that so many people, Christian and non-Christian alike, know this phrase as the golden rule. But I’m not so convinced that all of them know the meaning of it. A few years back, one of my students quoted it in class. I asked him if he could tell me who said that. His response was typical. He said, “I thought it was just a principle we are taught as kids.” I gently informed him that these were words spoken by Jesus Christ. Since it was a public classroom, mentioning His name changed the entire atmosphere.

Ironically, when the boy used the phrase, it was in a sarcastic and hurtful tone towards another. So I asked him if he enjoys being talked to like he had just spoken to his classmate. Of course he rolled his eyes and muttered under his breath, “well, all people talk like that.” My teacher ears kicked in and I called him out on it. I said, “first of all, not all people talk like that. Second, just because we know a lot of people who are rude, doesn’t mean we want to be treated that way. Third, if we don’t want to be treated that way, then we shouldn’t treat others that way.” He then slumped into a reflective state and class continued on. He wasn’t mean to another student the rest of the semester. He was actually one of the kindest among his classmates.

This was a classic example of how people misuse this verse. They use it when it’s convenient to prove a point, but not when it forces them to change their ways. Here are what I believe are the two most common misinterpretations of the verse:

1-“…in everything, treat others how you’ve been treated.”

I think this IS society’s golden rule. At least this is how I’ve seen it play out most of my life. It’s also how I’ve been guilty of not applying it like Jesus intended. People with this mindset may start off with good intentions, but if wronged, it will cause a hardness in their heart that callouses over and determines how they relate with others. If loved, they love. If served, they serve.

2-“…in everything, demand that others treat you how you want to be treated.”

Self entitlement is extremely common. People are out to ‘get theirs’ in life. They apply that to relationships, careers, and the like. If others treat them well, it may or may not have any bearing on how they choose to treat others. It’s a ‘me-centered’ universe and their end game is to be treated how they think they deserve and they’ll treat others according to their convenience and mood.

When I read Matthew seven not long ago, it was like a dagger to the heart. I had this image in my mind like I was watching myself interact with others; like it was a movie. You see, it’s a lot easier to critique the actions and words you see and hear from others. But for some reason, the same standards don’t always get applied inwardly. I had a highlight (or low-light) reel run through my mind of several instances of how I mistreated others. They were subtle, but they made me feel ashamed. They made me feel like a hypocrite.

Then I feel like the Lord persuaded me to view situations differently. A thought came to mind. What if I entered every conversation, and took every action, from the perspective of ‘what if this was said or done to me’? That can be the filter but it doesn’t stop there. I believe the words of Jesus are proactive. What I mean is, we should go out of our way to try and change the culture of speech and action. We should enter every conversation with the aim of speaking life, encouragement, truth, gentleness, and hope. That’s what we all want to hear right? We should also try to serve and love all because we all want that from others. So I leave you with the two questions that I’ve been wrestling with ever since my last encounter with Matthew seven.

1-Are you saying the things you want to hear?

2-Are you doing the things you’d like to be done to you?

Imagine how the world around us would change if we did our part to live out the ‘golden rule’.

Peace in Christ my brothers and sisters!