Monday, June 30, 2014

“IF YOU REALLY BELIEVED IT”

Fixed Point Foundation recently surveyed active members of atheist student groups in order to discover what led them to their unbelief.  The survey revealed, “… these students were, above all else, idealists who longed for authenticity, and having failed to find it in their churches, they settled for a nonbelief that, while less grand in its promises, felt more genuine and attainable.” 

Michael, one of the participants in the study summed it up well:  “Christianity is something that if you really believed it, it would change your life and you would want to change the lives of others.  I haven’t seen too much of that.”

The Apostle Paul gives us instructions:  Give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Rom. 12:1-2 NLT).

As far as our responsibility goes, the gateway to change is through our minds.   For as he thinks within himself, so he is (Prov. 23:7 NAS).  Certainly the Holy Spirit in His power transforms us from the inside out, but our part is to feed our minds God’s truth, and God’s Spirit utilizes His Word within us to transform our lives.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14-16).

If you really believe it, how’s your transformation going?  Can others tell?

Monday, June 23, 2014

COMMUNICATING YOU CARE

We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. 1 Thess. 2:8 (HCSB)

How far are you willing to go to communicate God’s grace and truth to others?
Gordon McDonald writes that people communicate along a range of five levels:

1. Clich├ęs:  “Hi, how are ya?”
2. Facts/reports:  “We had 125 show up.”
3. Opinions/judgments:  “We just didn’t get the message across.”
4. Emotions/feelings:  “I’m heart-broken over this.”
5. Loving/truthful conversation:  “I can really tell you’re learning and growing.”

Each level calls for increasing courage, trust, and commitment.  A casual relationship will accommodate the first two levels.  But only a carefully developed relationship over time can cultivate the fourth and fifth levels.  Few people reach (or care to reach) the fifth level – not enough time, not enough curiosity, not enough courage.  Yet if you’re going to make more devoted followers of Jesus, if you're going to make an impact on others' lives for eternity, levels four and five are necessary.  We must care that much.  People’s eternities are on the line.

Monday, June 16, 2014

DISTRACTION

Screwtape, a senior devil trains his apprentice, Wormwood, in the art of demonic manipulation.  In C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape recounts the time when his patient – the man he is assigned to tempt – was moments away from a colossal spiritual breakthrough.  Seeing twenty years of demonic work beginning to totter, the senior demon suggested to the man that it was time for lunch.  Within moments, the patient was halfway across the street in search of the nearest pub, and the threat of a real spiritual breakthrough had passed.

One of the Devil’s greatest tools is “distraction.”  The Devil gets just as much satisfaction from luring us into meaningless distraction as he does from our disobedience to God.  Those minor distractions – constant tweeting, nonstop text messages, ongoing calendar reminders, unending anxiety-laced news – take us away from the stillness needed to seek God.

God’s Word is clear about living a balanced life:  let your life flow from a heart centered in God’s peaceLet the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, (Col. 3:15).   Does the peace of Christ rule in your heart?  Jesus said in John 14:1, 27, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me … I leave you peace; my peace I give you.  I do not give it to you as the world does.  So don’t let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”

There is nothing more countercultural than living a deliberate life infused with margin.  Choose to be deliberate, not distracted, and let your life flow from a heart centered in the peace of Christ.

Monday, June 9, 2014

GETTING THE WIN

After defeating Jericho City in a spectacular way, Joshua’s army moved on to take Ai, a small crossroads town.  They thought it would be an easy win.  But when the battle was over it was Joshua and his people who ran for their lives.  Why the unexpected defeat?  It was because of Achan and his secret.  He had baggage.  He had stolen items hidden under the floor of his tent.  Consequently his relationships, an entire community in this case, were held hostage to the secret in his life. 

The dark side, unresolved wounds, internal pain, hidden guilt and anger and fear, secret sins – all have a mysterious power to neutralize a strong army, a team, a community, a family, a relationship.  What’s hidden under the floor of your tent, unless confessed and revealed and surrendered will undermine the good, the wholesome, the faith, and the health of your relationships. 

The answer is found in confronting our inner selves, owning our faults and sin, admitting our need for God’s intervention, and revealing our wounds and weaknesses to our brothers and sisters in Christ.  James says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).  The confessed and cleansed heart is the pathway to healthy, powerful, and effective relationships which win for our good and God’s glory.