The best thing you can do for others is to follow Jesus.
One of the most difficult things in the Christina life is to see people you love make poor decisions. What is even more difficult is to see them walk away from their faith. If you are anything like me you want to do something about it—preferably in the form of a nice long lecture. You might reason to yourself saying, “they must not know what they are doing, or otherwise they would not leave their faith. It’s my job to correct them.”
One of the greatest temptations we have is to control other people. The older I get the clearer it is that I am not the reason why people come to God. I am not the reason people keep their faith in God. I am not the one holding all this stuff together. And if I step back and think about it, I don’t want that responsibility anyway.
Regardless of the decisions of others, I am first and foremost a child of God. I am called to be his disciple.
In the book of John we see Jesus calling Peter. Peter, as only Peter does, asks Jesus about John. He says, “Lord what about this man?” Jesus replies, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me.”
“You follow me.” What a clear and simple calling we all have. Peter is only doing what we all do. We worry about others. We worry that situations aren’t fair. We worry that others aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing. We worry that our loved ones might miss out on an amazing life or are in danger of hell. All along Jesus is telling us the same thing he tells Peter, “You follow me.”
Jesus wants all of us. The more we follow him, the more like him we become. Isn’t it to reason that if we are more like Jesus, everyone around us will surly be blessed? Does that not include those to whom we are most concerned?
We are called to follow. That means we are giving everyone the gift of a life that is becoming like Jesus every day. What is more powerful than that?Read More
Tabata. Tabata? When I first heard the word I must admit I had visions of spicy rice dishes and war crying men with spears run through my mind. Taba-what? Curious, I did some research and discovered Tabata is the latest and greatest in the world of exercise, a method of exerting oneself to the limit in short bursts of energy followed by minimal rest, all meant to increase your heart rate and your strength.
I was first introduced to the word this past year when my sister-in-law became a certified Tabata instructor. MacKensie, one of the most tenacious and motivated women I know, takes her exercise seriously. Having trained and competed in various fitness competitions and a regular at the gym, she packs some serious power into her petite frame. So when some family members encouraged me to join her class I was a bit concerned. Ok, I was terrified. Hadn’t I seen Kensie pushing a tractor tire on Facebook?
I knew that it would be good for me. Active and physically fit for most of my life, the past seven years of child bearing and raising had unfortunately resulted in a sedentary lifestyle that had not been kind to my body. I lacked the energy and strength I once had. I knew the benefits of being active. But after being sedentary for so long taking an intense exercise class seemed a bit overwhelming. Maybe I should ease my way in, slowly, like entering a pool of cold water…
Nope. Time to take the plunge. So, in November I signed up for her class. I bought a water bottle and dusted off my running shoes. I dug through my closet and found a tee shirt without a hole in it. Ah yes, I even wore yoga pants. I was ready, so I thought. I could not have imagined what awaited me when I first stepped foot in the elementary school gym my sister-in-law had rented for her purposes. There, spread out in stations, were the means of exercise torture: arm bands, medicine balls, thick nautical rope, chin up bars, kettle weights, an agility ladder. I was immediately transported back to my years as a collegiate athlete when my coaches pounded us with whistles and drills three times a day.
I gulped. What had I agreed to? But after a six minute warm up that left me breathless I soon found my stride. Joined by men and women of various ages and abilities, I was encouraged and stretched to try new things and push my physical and mental limits. My body did things I didn’t know it could do and by the end I had to admit I was having a blast trying to conquer each station. But most importantly, I found myself getting excited about being fit again.
Not unlike my journey to good physical health, there have been times in my life where I have found myself at a spiritual standstill, living a sedentary existence, not having the energy to dig deeper into my faith. Times when I knew a bigger commitment was necessary to grow in my understanding of God and who He wanted me to be. Times when I was hesitant to take a leap of faith and really allow God to search and grow me, terrified of what He may find if I truly let Him in. Yet every time I have acted on His prompting, whether it was a renewed commitment to get into His word, join a group Bible study, attend a faith conference, increase my giving, welcome accountability or invest in a new relationship, the result has always been a revival of my love, respect and adoration for my Lord. My spiritual muscle was also strengthened, better able to meet life’s storms and uncertainties with peace, joy and discernment.
As we begin this new year with the usual plans and schedules, it is my challenge to us to seek where God would have us grow in our walk with Him. Is there something new He has been prompting you to do so your faith can grow? If so I encourage you to take the plunge. Tabata!Read More
We often discuss the great and mysterious love of God. He loves us so much that he sent his Son to die for us: his perfect Son for imperfect us. That concept alone is difficult to grasp, and millions of sermons—rightly so—have focused on this. But it’s even greater and more impressive than that.
This past Sunday we discussed the mystery of the gospel in terms of the gentiles (anyone who was not the elect i.e. Israel). Through the gospel, the gentiles (who previously had no hope) are now co-heirs, one body and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus with Israel (Eph 3:6).
What this tells me is that God is not only concerned with reconciling us to Himself, but also with reconciling the world to His chosen people. Think on that for a moment. This means that our salvation does not only bring us into a vibrant relationship with God but additionally brings us into a vibrant relationship with everyone who calls Christ Lord. That means if our salvation is true, we are fundamentally looking out for each other’s good.
Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “we are saved by faith alone, but not a faith that is alone.” A faith that is alone is not a faith.Read More
The Christmas décor is back in the Rubbermaid containers. The Christmas CD’s are put away for another year. The poinsettias are dropping their leaves. We are already two weeks into the New Year. Before this special parenthesis of time becomes another faded memory, maybe there are decisions you and I need to make. If we don’t, our deepest dreams may be put on “hold” again for another year. Plans that need to be put into effect may be in danger of just being “packed away” like they were last year and the year before.
At this “sacred” time of year take some time for yourself. Sit quietly with your own thoughts. Read through one of your favorite passages of Scripture. Let God bring new ideas to your mind – or bring back your dreams.
Paul challenges us to “make the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:16). There are many applications for this challenge but I believe one of those “opportunities” is this unique time of year.
Make the most of this opportunity before it slip slides away.
|One thing that New Year’s Day teaches me is that I’m not very good at making resolutions. Actually, I’m good at making resolutions, just poor at keeping them for any period of time. The usual fair for my resolutions include anything from lowering my weight and TV consumption to more Bible/prayer time. All these things would be good for me to be sure.
As I have set up and ultimately failed the majority of my resolutions, I have noticed that I’m an all or nothing guy. If I can’t fulfill my resolutions perfectly I quickly give up on them; thus, Februarys of my past are filled with tombstones of long dead, but well intended resolutions.
Resolutions are attractive for a very good reason. They give you power. There is a part of your life that you have lost the ability to control. Otherwise you would not make the resolution at all. A resolution is a bid for you to take back what you may have lost or never have had.
In the book of Matthew we see Jesus talking to John’s disciples about fasting. He tells them that his own disciples do not fast because “people [do not] pour new wine into old wineskins.” The new wine is Jesus and the old wineskins are his disciples. Jesus is simply saying that doing new things doesn’t make you new. You must first be made new by Jesus. And anything after that brings you new life.
See the follower of Jesus knows that true/real newness comes only from the work of Jesus Christ. That is our foundation and our source of life. We are not made new from our work/resolutions (which are temporal) but by the righteousness of Jesus Christ (which is eternal).
Resolutions aren’t bad, but we must know that any true newnessonly comes from the one who has the power to make us new: Jesus Christ.
This past Sunday, Pastor Mark gave a great illustration of Immanuel Church. He said, “It’s the exact opposite of the NFL.” Mark’s reasoning is simple: the NFL is mostly preparation. Teams and coaches spend the majority of their time and energy training for a game that only takes place in a period of hours every week. Immanuel Church, on the other hand, takes a few hours to prepare for the entire week.
Granted, Sunday church isn’t the only way we prepare ourselves for ministry outside our church walls. I can’t help think that we have much less preparation time than we actually need. This is especially true when we think of how important our various ministries and responsibilities are outside the church walls.
What I find to be incredible is how Jesus prepared his disciples. In Mark 3, Jesus appoints his disciples to be with him so “that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” Notice that this is the beginning of Mark and not the end. So Jesus has his disciples doing active ministry before they had extensive and comprehensive training. Had I been Jesus, I would have given the disciples authority when I knew they could handle the authority and not mess things up. But one thing I’m absolutely sure of is that I’m not Jesus, and his ways are infinitely better than mine. He gives his disciples authority not because they were ready but because that’s how they grow.
I believe that God does the same for us. There is not a graduation day were we get our official Christian diploma. We are already Christians who do work. We still have a long way to go, but we are doing his work all-along-the-way. Doing ministry is preparing, and preparing is doing ministry.
What has God put on your heart for ministry?Read More