Embrace the Change You Will Become

butterfly changeEvery one – from the bouncing elementary school student to the confused and newly-divorced thirty-something to the 102-year-old in our town who still lives in her own home – has a concept or perception of themselves. It’s a complex mixture of the past we’ve already experienced, the present we’re in and the future that we will live. As we move across those times of our lives, we live our story.

            We are obviously carry the same identity across the course of our own story. Everybody also knows that, over time, we change- physically, intellectually, emotionally, relationally, politically, socially, spiritually, and in our tastes and personality..

            But how much? How much will you change?

            A recent NY Times article “You Won’t Be the Person You Expect to Be” revealed new research asserting that across your whole life, you will change a lot more than you think you will. In a huge study of 19,000 people, from age 18-68, published in the journal Science, psychologists discovered that all people maintain what they call the “end of history illusion”. That is, we remember our pasts with a mixture of hazy nostalgia and bemusement. But it never seems to occur to us that in another decade or so, we will look back on our present selves with precisely the same feelings. Or as Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University wryly noted, “At every age we think we’re having the last laugh, and at every age, we’re wrong.”

            Another way to say this is that we always tend to gild our past, blissfully thinking that we have “reached the peak of our personal evolution”, while greatly underestimating or downplaying the potential changes ahead for us. We seem more comfortable recalling what we used to be than “imagining how much we would change in the future.”

            Why? Researchers present two possible explanations for this. First, we have a  tendency to “overestimate our present wonderfulness” (if I’m doing OK, why do I need to change?}. Second, a lot of mental energy is required because imagining or “predicting the future requires more work than simply recalling the past.” (Dealing with today is hard enough, so why press into the future?)

            Dr. Dan McAdams from Northwestern has a sobering summary: “The end-of-history effect may represent a failure in personal imagination”. Warm memories of our past, when coupled with satisfaction (or even unreflective toleration) over our present, dulls our imagination for the potential of our future.

            Now this study was not done from a Christian perspective, but the truths here have application for our lives as disciples and for our churches. After all, Christians  and churches are not exactly known to be comfortable with change.  

            What the psychologist calls a “failure in personal imagination”, we could easily call a lack of faith. It is limiting yourself to what you already hold and know.

            Lack of faith imagination for an individual disciple results in being dully satisfied to slog through a “Christian” life with the same rhythms, activities, words, practices, struggles and involvements year upon year upon year. You like your faith the way it is, but can’t really be described as transformation, because

                  “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come!….we all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord are being  transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2 Cor. 5:17, 3:18)                                                                                                         

          Lack of faith imagination for a church family results in a warm fuzzy view of the past, a white-knuckle grip on the comfort of the way things are (or we wish they still  were), and a reluctance to do the hard work of imagining the future. It’s fear on steroids. We’re terrified by, and terrified to, change. But, the Lord of the church pleads,

                      “See, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs forth, do you not perceive  it?” (Is.43:19)

           We may not like it or be uncomfortable with it, but as the study shows, change will happen. Change comes – more than we think, often deeper and broader in our experience than we expect. Change – social, technological, relational, the ways we think or learn or communicate, in virtually everything that shapes our lives – comes.

        Yes, there are some truths that withstand the inevitable rush of change. The gospel, Jesus (Heb.13:8), and all that is in the Word of God. (Is.40:8) are among the few things that never change. Everything else we encounter in life is likely to change.

         What do we do? We can either fight the change that comes or embrace it.

         Fight the change that will come, and every day may become a succession of battles – dominated by fear, anger, and a creeping weariness of heart, soul, mind and body.

         Embrace the change that will come (not as an act of compromise or surrender, but as an opportunity for exploration) – and every day may become an adventure, dominated by joy, optimism, and a growing sense of confidence in the sustaining proimises of Jesus.

          You and I are going to change, along with the world that we’re in. Change will shape who we are and how we live out the faith and mission of Jesus.

          So, if you’re a Jesus – follower, consider this:

                        To remain boldly faithful to your call

                        across the years of your life journey,

               you simply must embrace the change you will become.

 

Do you embrace or resist change? What helps you process and deal with it?

         

 

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Are You a Slave Who Works or a Child Who Plays?

         les mis 2There has been quite a bit of chatter recently about the film adaptation of the staged Broadway musical of Les Miserables, Victor Hugo’s sprawling novel of revolutionary politics and love in 19th century France.  It is a wonderful story full of loyalty and betrayal, intrigue and chivalry, love and loss, scandal and virtue.

            But mostly, it’s a story of the redemption of one life. An embittered convict and thief named Jean Valjean is shown mercy by a kind priest, who insists that his act of grace has bought Valjean’s soul for God. Indeed, that one act brands Valjean with an unwavering sense of right, and an unshakeable commitment to mercy towards others—especially the vulnerable.

            The conflict in Les Miserables arises from constant interplay between the unbending, ever-pursuing, bent-to-punish law of police detective Javert and the unrelenting, ever-freeing, willing-to-sacrifice grace of Valjean. Like a pebble tossed in a still lake, wherever Valjean goes, grace and mercy follow, overflowing and transforming the lives of all who encounter him – even when they don’t always recognize it.

            Now it’s possible for Christians to push the law & grace story-line too far, and turn Les Miserables into an explicit gospel morality tale, like a Billy Graham film–which it is not. But there are echoes of the true gospel that we can hear and see and feel in Hugo’s grand tale.

            One of the most poignant scenes is not in the musical or the film, but plays a key part in the novel.  Valjean has promised the dying waif Fantine that he will retrieve her eight-year-old daughter Cosette from the shady innkeeper Thenardier with whom she has been staying, and make provision for her future.  Valjean goes, and when he arrives, he first encounters Cosette fetching a pail of water from a stream in the woods in the dark of winter, wearing only a threadbare cotton dress. It is obvious that her “care” has degenerated into little more than slave labor for the innkeeper and his family.

            He silently took hold of the bucket’s handle and said, “My child, that’s very heavy for you, what you’re carrying there.”

            Cosette raised her head and answered, “Yes, it is, monsieur.”

            “Give it to me,” the man continued. “I’ll carry it for you.”

            Cosette let go of the bucket. The man walked along with her….

            The man walked very fast. Cosette followed him without difficulty. She was no longer tired. From time to time, she looked up at this man with a sort of calm and inexpressible confidence. She had never been taught to turn to Providence and pray. However, she felt in her heart something resembling hope and joy, which rose toward heaven…

            The man spoke, “is there a servant  at Madame Thenardier’s….are you alone?”

            “Yes, monsieur.” After a pause, Cosette raised her voice, “I mean, there are two little girls….Madame Thenardier’s daughters.”

            ‘What do they do?”

            ‘Oh, they have beautiful dolls….they play, they have fun.”

            “All day long?”

            “Yes, monsieur”

            “And you?”

            “Me? I work.”

            “All day long?”

            The child raised her large eyes, whose tears could not be seen in the darkness, and answered softly, “Yes, monsieur.”

            When they drew near to the Thenardier’s inn, Cosette took the bucket back, for fear of being beaten if she were not carrying it. In the light of the fire of the common room, Valjean looked more closely at Cosette.

            “…Everything about this child, her walk, her attitude, the sound of her voice, the pauses between one word and another, her look, her silences, her slightest gesture, expressed and portrayed a single idea: fear. Fear was spread all over her; she was, so to speak, covered with it…”

            The Thenardier’s little girls came in, chattering and playing. Cosette looked up from time to time, but mostly kept her head down, working on knitting some stockings for the other girls. Without leaving his chair, Valjean, who was a stranger to everyone else, smiled and asked “Madame, why not let her play?” When the innkeeper’s wife stalled, he asked how much the stockings were worth, and offered her five times as much – which she greedily took.

            Then he turned towards Cosette, “Now your work belongs to me. Play, my child.”  The innkeeper’s wife said, “You see, monsieur, I am very willing for the child to play. I am not opposed to it; it is good for once, because you are generous.  But you see, she’s poor. She has to work.”

            Since Cosette did not have a doll herself, she began to play with something that she had fashioned into a doll.  But when the innkeeper’s daughters became distracted by a kitten and the adults were in conversation, she quietly grabbed one of their older d dolls and held it close. When the girls noticed, the innkeepers and their daughters yelled that she had dared touch the doll with her “dirty…awful…beggar’s hands”. And Cosette wept.

            In this moment, Valjean “walked straight to the street door, opened it and went out….The door opened again, and the man reappeared, holding the fabulous doll… which had been the admiration of all the youngsters in the village since morning; he stood it up before Cosette, saying, “here you are; this is for you.”

             Cosette was so stunned that she went and knelt in a corner of the room. The innkeepers and their daughters “were so many statues. Even the drinkers stopped. A solemn silence descended over the whole bar-room.”  In time, Cosette was coaxed to come and take the doll to herself.

            It was an odd moment when Cosette’s rags met and pressed against the ribbons and fresh pink muslin of the doll.  Not long after this, Cosette left hand in hand with Valjean. From that moment, he was her father and she was his child.

 

            Here is the question: in your relationship with God, do you see yourself as a poor slave who must work or a loved child invited to play? 

            Your answer makes all the difference in the life you live. 

            Your answer will tell you whether you’re enduring a religion of a frowning God, or enjoying a relationship with your heavenly Father.

            Your answer will tell you whether or not you have encountered the gospel of Jesus.

 

            You see, our sin – the choice to live life apart from God, pursuing a world where self rules for self’s pleasure- makes us slaves.  Jesus said, “anyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” (Jn.8:34) We are bound to it and by it.  Once aware of our sin, we sense our distance from God. We feel the lash of guilt on our souls when we blow it yet again and the weight of His disapproving gaze.

            Feeling our poverty of soul, we turn to work. It’s all we know to do. We work to make things better with God, to turn His disappointment, to deflect His anger, to keep Him happy. We do our best for God, pursuing our religious duty by busying ourselves with church or trying to make what we think He would like of our home or work or school. We carry about a leaden bucketful of good intentions, spiritual thoughts, religious impulses and moral actions that we want to dump before Him at the end of every day.

            We work harder, better, and longer, frantically doing more for God, all while hoping maybe He’ll toss a scrap of blessing our way.

            And deep down, we know it’s still not enough. So we live covered in fear. Fear that God remains disappointed, that we will miss it — again, that everybody will figure out we’re a fraud, that the bar of performance will keep rising, that we’ll miss blessing – or even heaven.

            We live with tired souls –worn-out, burnt-over, bedraggled and often seething with anger.

            So, so many people who claim to know God and who are active in evangelical churches live their days like this.  Their entire faith is built on “do more, do better”,  a sick waltz of guilt, fear and weariness.

            It’s slavery.

            But it’s not Christianity.

 

            Jesus comes into the dark night of our religious slave labor, when we are burdened by our sins, overcome by our inability to perform or to carry the expectations we feel one step further.

          “My child, that’s very heavy for you, what you’re carrying there…Give it to me. I’ll carry it for you.”  

            Actually, what He said was, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt.11:28)

 

            Jesus comes to us, and He notices that our religious slave work seems futile and meaningless and joyless and lifeless. He pays an exorbitant price to free us.

                         “Now your work belongs to me…”

            Actually on the cross, and with His blood, Jesus paid more than we ever dreamed our pitiful souls could warrant. “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

            In one instant, Jesus brought more and gave better than all our religious and moral labors could ever produce. “When the goodness and lovingkindness of our God appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit, which He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” (Titus 3:4-5)

            Jesus took the work we feel we need to do, because he intended to fully do the work we most desperately need. Among his last words from that cross were these: “It is finished”  (Jn.19:30)

 

            Jesus comes to us, and His heart is that we have His resources for life — now and forever. That fear might be banished, and that His joy and delight might be our life.        

                               ”…Play, my child…”  

            Actually, what Jesus said was, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you…these things I have spoken that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:9.11)

            And it is all a gift. “here you are; this is for you”

             Or to put it another way: “God, being rich in mercy, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ –by grace you have been saved—and raised us up together with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages, he might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. ” (Eph.2:5-9)

 

            It is indeed an odd moment when the rags of our orphaned and sinful souls are touched  by the radiant beauty of the Savior’s nail-scarred hands.  But remember, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (Jn.8:36)

                                                            In Christ, you are

            no longer a weary and worthless slave,

                        but a rested and dearly loved child;

            no longer tolerated by a taskmaster,

                        but delighted in by a Redeemer;

            mo longer working for approval from a demanding God,

                        but gladly playing under the grace-full gaze of your heavenly Father.

 

            “Play, my child”

                         This is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

            If you are that child…

                        play.

                       

              

                       

 

 

  

(Quotes from Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo, translated by L. Fahnestock & N. MacAfee; Signet Classics, New York, 1987; pp. 395-409)

Your Disciple Life Profile: A Tool to Chart Your Path as a Disciple in 2013

We’re just a couple of weeks into the new year. How are those resolutions coming? Especially the ones about becoming a stronger Christian in 2013?

             Jesus calls those who are His to live a life shaped by their relationship with Him.  He intended to  “make disciples” (Matt.28:19), who respond gladly to His call: “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me….for whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”  (Lk 9:23, Mk.8:35)  

            This life is a daily quest, made up of specific, Christ-shaped attitudes, choices and actions. It is the interplay of the Bible,relationships, life-shaping circumstances, serving others and more. With each passing year that we “behold the glory of the Lord”, the hope is that we will be “transformed into the same image”, being ever more “conformed to the image of God’s Son (Christ)” (2 Cor. 3:18, Rom.8:29).  

            A Christ-like disciple life does not just happen. It is an intentional pursuit requiring reflection, regular course adjustments (repentance), with thoughts and behavior ordered by God’s Word and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

            The profile below, developed for use in our church, is intended to help you reflect and gain a clear sense of where you currently stand in your relationship with Jesus. It also provides a way to prayerfully chart a path for growth. What do you hope to see change or grow in your life with Christ by this time next year—and how do you intend to pursue it?

            How can you use this profile?

1.    Block out some time where you can be alone with the Lord for at least a couple of hours. Bring your Bible, perhaps a journal and this profile.

2.    Prayerfully, slowly engage the questions & read the Scriptures with each.  Ask the Holy Spirit to use the Word to reveal the truth of your heart & life before Him—which may be encouraging or deeply convicting. Assign a value to your response from 1 (least true of me) to 5 (most true)

3.     Identify at least one specific aspect in each section of your Personal Disciple Profile that needs some attention. Ask the Lord to show you practical steps to take to grow in that area as a disciple.

4.    Share the results with a Christian friend or two. Covenant to pray for one another as you take the next steps in your life with Jesus this year.

SECTION 1      

A disciple of Jesus isGOSPEL-CENTERED has been saved & is being shaped by the fullness of the good news of Jesus Christ.

“Jesus came, proclaiming the gospel of God, saying ‘the time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel’….I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes….I have been crucified with Christ. It is no long I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live, I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.  (Mark 1:14-15, Rom. 1:16, Gal.2:20)

Therefore…

+ I am daily aware of and joyfully grateful for God’s gospel purposes in the cross & resurrection of Christ.  (Lk.19:10, 1 Cor. 15:1-11, Eph.1:3-2:10 ) 

                     1 ========2========3========4========5

+ I interpret my moments –good and bad–by the fact of my Savior’s unfailing love for me. (Jn. 15:13, Rom. 5:8 & 8:31-39:, 1 Jn.4:16)

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+ When I sin or fail, I am more likely to run to Jesus, delighting in grace rather than avoiding Him to wallow in guilt.  (Jn. 8:1-11, Rom. 7:15-8:3)

                     1========2========3========4========5

+ Gospel truths are shaping my life & thinking about my identity, circumstances, decision-making, troubles & relationships.  (Jn. 8:31-32, Phil.4:8)

                      1========2========3========4========5

+ My relationship with Jesus is vibrant, intimate and life-shaping. (Matt.13:44-46, Jn.15:1-11, Phil. 3:7-9)

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+ I am learning to recognize gospel truths of Jesus revealed in the entire Bible.  (Lk. 24:44; 1 Pet 1:23-2:2)

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+ I am more satisfied with the presence and promises of Jesus than anything else on earth. (Jn. 4:14, 6:51; Ps. 73:23-28)

                     1========2========3=======4========5

SECTION 2

A disciple of Jesus…. GLORIFIES GOD, living all of life as a worshipper of God.

 “Jesus said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given me’….Thus says the Lord, He who created you…He who formed you…: ‘Fear not, I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine….everyone who is called by My name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made”.     (Matt. 28:18, Is.43:7)

Therefore…

+ I live aware that the purpose of my life is to display God’s glory in all things thru Jesus’ supremacy.  (Gen. 1:27; Rom. 12:1, Col.1:15-19)  

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+ My heart delights in (& my emotions are stirred over) God’s glory as the most important reality in the universe. (John 17: 1-4; Ps. 63, Rev.4:11)

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+ I battle my tendencies to make life about me & my replacement agendas, rather than about God & His pleasure.  (Matt.16:13-23, Jer.2:12-13)

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+ I am faithful to gather each Lord’s Day & fully engage in participating in worship with God’s people with my local church. (Lk. 4:16, Heb.10:23-24)

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+ I maintain a consistent daily time of personal worship—including reading/meditating on the Bible & prayer. (Mark 1:35-38, Ps. 1, 2 Tim. 3:16-17)

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+ In all of my life— family & relationships, school, work, spending, hobbies, entertainment – I act to bring honor to Jesus. (Matt. 22:37,. 1 Cor.10:31)

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+ I pray boldly, asking God to move in me & our church in ways that can only be explained by Him. (Jn.15:23-24, Lk. 18:1-8, Acts 4:31)

                        1========2========3========4========5

SECTION 3

A disciple of Jesus… GROWS TOGETHER with Christ’s faith-family as an apprentice, learning how to be and do life like Jesus.

“Jesus said, ‘teach them to observe all that I have commanded you’…Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me…we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”    (Matt. 28:20, John 15:4, Eph.4:15-16)

Therefore…

+ I intentionally order my life to follow Jesus & be transformed like Him in thought, character & action. (Lk.9:23, Rom. 12:2, 2 Cor. 3:18, 1 Jn.2:6)

                         1========2========3========4========5 

+ I recognize & follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit –both positive & negative- each day. (Jn.14:26, 16:7-15, Rom. 8:9-16, 1 Thess. 5:19)

                           1========2========3========4========5 

+ I am pursuing a holy life, guarding my heart against sin, grieving and repenting when necessary. (Prov. 4:23, Ps. 51, 1 Peter 1:13-21, 1 Jn 3:4-9).

                          1========2========3========4========5 

+ There is a deep consistency between what I say I believe and how I behave in all places & times, both publicly & privately. (Matt.7:21-27,James 1:22-25)

                           1========2========3========4========5 

+ I have Christian friends who know where I stand on the items above, regularly pray, encourage and challenge me in my walk with Jesus –as I do with them. (Mk.3:14, Jn.13:14, 1 Thess 5:14, 2 Tim.2:2).

                           1========2========3========4========5

+ I am fully engaged with the life & mission of HBC AND am actively involved with a Sunday School small group. (Acts 2:41-47, Eph.2:11ff)

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+ I consistently express the Christian’s “one anothers”: love, honor, encourage, forgive, serve, spur on, tell truth, be patient, pray, bear burdens, rejoice, speak grace-full words.  (Lk. 22:24-27, Jn. 13:34-35, Eph.4, Rom. 12:9ff)

                           1========2========3========4========5

SECTION 4

A disciple of Jesus…SERVES THE WORLD as a missionary, spreading Jesus’ love and gospel to all people from neighborhoods to the nations.

  “As the Father sent me, I am sending you….Go, and make disciples of all peoples….Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (Jn. 20:21, Matt.28:19, 2 Cor.5:18,20)

Therefore…

+ I embrace my responsibility to represent Christ & steadily communicate His gospel to those in my sphere of influence. (Lk.24:47-48, 2 Cor.2:14-16, 5:18)

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+ I befriend, serve and verbally share the gospel with far-from-God persons. (Jn.4:1-42, 1 Peter 3:15)

                         1========2========3========4========5 

+ I know my neighbors’ names & their spiritual life/ relationship to Jesus. (Jn.1:35-42, Col.4:5)

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+ I am personally involved with injustice & broken people in my world. (Matt.25:31-46, James 1:27-2:8) 

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+ I have a ministry, place, people or cause where I am weekly investing my life (time, resources, gifts, abilities) in service for Jesus’ sake. (Matt. 9:36-37, 1 Cor.12:4-7,11)

                           1========2========3========4========5

+ I order my finances by God’s plan, giving first & faithfully (moving towards a tithe) through my church’s  ministry budget., and growing in generoisty with other needs I encounter  (Mk.12:17, 41-44; 2 Cor.9:7-12)

                            1========2========3========4========5 

+ I am willing to do whatever it takes –change, sacrifice, etc- to reach unreached peoples at home and among the nations with Jesus’ gospel.  (Matt.10, Mk. 8:34-38, 1 Cor.9:19-28) 

                                 1========2========3========4========5

 NOW WHAT?    

+REFLECT: In prayer, ask the Lord to press home at least one of the lower (3 or below) marked areas in each area of the Disciple’s Profile on which He wants you to focus in 2013. Then, jot down at least 2 possible, practical, measurable ways you can begin to pursue growth in that area. Remember, it takes at least a month of consistency for a new pattern of thinking, behavior or character to take hold in a life

            Then, choose one of the strongest statements you marked in each area. Ask the Lord to show you how that might become even stronger in you and be more leveraged for His Kingdom purposes.

            + SHARE what you’ve discovered with a couple of Christian brothers (men) or sisters (ladies) who will pray with you, encourage you, and lovingly hold you accountable for pursuing what the Lord has shown you.

                      Christian growth is inescapably relational, so this is a crucial step in Christ-shaped life transformation. Hopefully, it will be someone who will also be transparent about their journey with you, so you walk forward together.

            +PRAY for yourself and others in your faith family to live as faithfully growing disciples. This sort of growth requires the wisdom of the Father, the life of the Son and the power of the Spirit. Jesus said, “Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me, and I in Him, He it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. “ (Jn.15:4-5)

 

 

Let me know if this is helpful to you, or ways you think this profile could be improved.

What Would You Do Today if the World Ended Tomorrow?

storm 3For the past couple of years, there have been stories and conversations about the so-called Mayan prophecy that some catastrophic event would occur and the world would end on Dec. 21, 2012.

            That’s tomorrow.

            And while there are “doomsday preppers” who have been stockpiling their underground bunkers and at least one lady in New Mexico who plans to spend the day on a mountain chanting to her crystal skull, most folks don’t buy it. There are a lot of jokes about not needing to pay the bills or clean the house, but nobody seriously believes the world is coming to an end tomorrow.

            But what if it were?

            The truth is, nobody knows. Jesus repeatedly said, “no one knows the day or the hour” when the God who created the world and raised the curtain on the grand drama of human history, will darken the stage and close that curtain.  

            It could easily be tomorrow.

            If you knew that to be undeniably true, what would you do today?

            Jesus said that the normal human reaction to such news would the same as our current reaction to the Mayan prophecy. “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark,  and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away…” (Matt.24:37-39) They wouldn’t even consider the possibility that the world they knew might come to an end.  It was (and is) a foolish way to live.

            So…if the world were ending tomorrow, what would you do today?

            Seriously.

            What would you be compelled to do if you knew there were only 24 hours left to live on this planet?

            Would you….

                       …make sure some special people heard you say “I love you”?

                        …enjoy your favorite meal?

                        ….chase fear by singing for joy or weeping in prayer?

                        …revel for a time in some certain beauty?

                        …soak your anxious heart in God’s promises?

                        …gather near with the people most precious to you?

                        …express gratitude or say “thank you” to someone?

                        …reconcile a ruptured relationship?

                        …work or play?

                        …scramble about or simply stop and engage the moment?

                        …share the good news of Jesus (the only truth that will insure a soul continues long after the world has crumbled to nothing) with   someone you’re pretty sure is not ready to face God?

                        …or _______________________?

 

    Now…since you really don’t know whether tomorrow will come on earth,

what’s keeping you from doing those things today?

 

            This day is all we ever have. 

            There are no guarantees of another day here.

            So, live what you always meant to live right now.

            “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the best use of these days…make the most of every opportunity….redeem the time, because these are desperate, evil days” (Eph. 5:15-16)

            I’d love to know…what would you do? Share it in the comments.

             

Dead Children, the Deep Sadness & Humanity

newtownNot again.

We gasp when the news comes,

            punched in the gut with the sheer

                        senseless

                        madness of it..

We moan instinctively,

                        horrified

                        terrified.

            But mostly because words simply fail us.

 

What word can we possibly find

                        in any dictionary, of any language

                        for the slaughter of the innocents

                        in an elementary school in Connecticut?

 

Reporters, who traffic in words,

                        stuttered,

                                    wept openly

                                                and fought to steady their voices.

One managed to say “It is an unimaginable horror that is beyond description”.

 

            When police arrived after the shooting occurred, the surviving children were led out of Sandy Hook School.  They were told to keep their eyes closed and hold hands as they were guided out of the school and to the firehouse. They were placed in one room and showed movies.

            Parents were contacted through emergency channels and told to come to the firehouse.  One by one over the course of a few hours, children were brought in to their parents. Welcomed with joyful embraces, tears and kisses, they then headed home with their parents. 

            The crowd of parents drew smaller. Finally, a moment came when the officials came in and said, “There will be no more reunions today.”             

            One person said the wails of anguish at that moment pierced the soul.

            Unimaginable horror.

            Devastating.

            Evil.

                       

            The world gets smaller in moments like this.  

             Our hearts break and ache with the Connecticut parents.

                                    To paraphrase the poet,

                                                ‘No [one] is an island

                                                Entire of itself….

                                                Each [child’s] death diminishes me,

                                                For I am involved in mankind.’

                                     To quote the President,

                                     ‘These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods;

                                                These children are our children.’

           

            In other words, we’re connected to the dead and surviving:

                        not primarily as Americans,

                        but as human beings..

            And it is as human beings that this hurts.

                        Tears flow.

                        Hearts ache.

                        Fears rise.

                        Grief weighs.

                        Anger boils

                        Questions are whispered – or screamed-

                                    at government,

                                                at policies

                                                            at lobbyists

                                                                        ….and at God.

                       

            We want answers.

            We want it fixed.

            We want to grab control.

            We want to press meaning.

            We want to make sure this never happens again.

            And….

                        so far…

                                    ,,,nothing.

 

            In the scramble to understand or repair,

                        we simply must not look away

                                    or

                        lean away from the ache.

            We need to feel this horror in deep, painful ways.

            Why? Because it has happened so often –

                                    Columbine

                                    Paducah

                                    Jonesboro

                                    Wedgwood Baptist in Ft.Worth

                                    Amish schoolhouse

                                    Virginia Tech

                                    Ft. Hood

                                    Phoenix

                                    Oak Creek

                                    Aurora

                                    Clackamas

                                    and now Newtown /Sandy Hook

            that I fear we are in danger of growing numb

                        to the fact that a man walked into a school with a gun            

                                    and murdered 5-year olds and school teachers.

            These are not statistics,

                              nor pawns for policies

                                                but precious, God-created persons

                                                               who died sudden &  brutal deaths.

 

            No, we must to feel this pain deeply, because to the degree that we lose the sense of the value of even one precious life,

                              our society is morally confused,

                                                                 calloused,

                                                                  diminished,

                                                                   lost.

 

            We must feel this pain deeply

                  because it’s part of facing the reality of our common brokenness

            This is not normal.

            This is not the way things are supposed to be..

            Our wordless groaning joins “the whole creation that has been groaning right up to the present time…we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.” (Rom.8:22-23).

            Our groaning is a cry of pain

                                        a longing for change

                                       a prayer of hope.

 

            We must feel this pain deeply

                        so we realize that the ultimate solution is beyond us

                                                                                             our smarts,

                                                                                              our policies,

                                                                                              our controls

                                                                               our increased vigilance

                                                                                and our determination.

            Such evil and violence arise from mangled hearts and twisted minds.

                        We simply can’t get that deep.  

                        Only Jesus can.

                        Jesus, the One whose coming we mark in this season:

                                                Prince of Peace,

                                                Healer of broken hearts,

                                                Liberator of captive minds,

                                                Rescuer of wandering souls,

                                                Lover of the children,

                           and Restorer of this sad, tarnished and broken world.

 

            So, mourn the loss and feel the grief.

            Weep the tears and scream your lament.

            Run to Jesus and stay there.

               It’s the only way to be fully human in the midst of stark inhumanity.