Monday, September 20, 2010

Change Is Part Of Life

Some people say things like "I don't like change" or "If its not broke don't fix it." I understand their thinking, change can be difficult and at times very painful. Despite it being difficult, I am learning to say "Bring on the change Lord." And as I do, I begin to wonder what the Lord has planned next for me.

You see life is ever moving and ever changing. I would even go as far as to say that, to live as Christ is to be in the state of constant change.

Being a believer of Jesus Christ is all about change. We are to be renewed daily. Transforming into the image of Christ takes the daily renewed effort to change. Everyday we should ask the question "What will you change in me today Lord?"

We have to be prepared for things to change, because without change, there would be no forward movement. As the old saying goes, when your not moving forward, you are falling back. If we are not changing, moving forward to the next place God has for us, we instead are falling back. Usually, that falling back takes the form of old ways or new sin.

Although change is unavoidable, it is not always pain free. Sometimes we are faced with decisions that we know we must make to move forward in our walk with Christ. At the same time we know the change will cause us to grieve the loss of what has been. Sometimes we must sacrifice of our comfort and our personal feelings in order to be obedient to the will of God.

This has been the case recently for Dave and I. My heart has been heavy with the thought of leaving behind many that we love so dearly. You see, we recently made the decision to leave our home church. It has not come without many gut wrenching discussions and prayerful nights. At the conclusion, the answer has always been the same, "It's time to go."

We have not made this decision in haste. It has been a long process with many discussions spanning a two year period. Through our times talking over the last two years, we have come to the understanding that I have a calling on my life for ministry. It is a calling to write bible studies and teach the word of God. Eventually, God willing, I hope to be a speaker and help reach and teach many with God's word.

Our leaving is not a bad reflection on the church. Actually, it is instead a testimony to it. We have been feed and grown at this church to the point that now it is time to go forth and proclaim the word of God to others. We are grateful to have had the time with so many people that truly love God.

As I read a book by Beth Moore recently, what she said spoke to me. I'm paraphrasing, but here is what her words said to me. Anytime we move away from those we love there is a loss that occurs. In that loss there is a sort of death that takes place. When we experience a death, we grieve the loss. There is no way around it.

The disciples experienced the same loss when Jesus was taken from the cross and laid in the tomb. Then again when they arrived at the tomb and saw that His body was gone. They could have stayed in the tomb believing that all was lost or instead they could go and see the risen Lord.

Here is the hope for each of us. Jesus didn't stay in the tomb. Instead, he was resurrected. The disciples didn't stay forever in the empty tomb. No, they went to the meeting place and gather together where they experienced the resurrected Christ.

So when we experience a death of any type we have a choice. We can stay in the tomb looking for the body or we can go down the road to find the resurrected Christ. There is a resurrection waiting for each of us. It is the next place that God is waiting to take us too.

Dave and I are going down the road again. Although I grieve for what we leave behind, at the same time I am looking forward to the resurrection that awaits us.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Transforming Into The Character of Jesus

This morning as I was preparing for my bible study on how to have transformed speech, I stumbled on, or maybe I should say, I was showed by God some truth I'd like to share.

So often we say we want to be like Jesus. We want to be formed into his likeness as the bible tells us we are to strive for. Well. I know that I say this often. Maybe I am not alone on this quest and you want this also. But how do we get there?

I have high and lofty ideas of doing great things in the Kingdom of God. I'll save a hundred souls for Jesus. Maybe I'll feed thousands of starving children or create a huge mission that shelters a whole community. OR I'll write a best seller that comforts millions and a bible study that teaches the multitude about the ways of Christ. I will...... I will.....

In reality, I will DO nothing. It is he that is in me that will do the good works. The good works he planned for me to do even before I was born.

I believe the mistake I make, along with many others, is believing that "doing" is the answer to becoming closer to the image of Jesus. I so often think that I can show everyone who Jesus is by the big things I could do if He would only let me.

Doing is not the answer. Instead, the answer is in "being" like him. Everyday. In every encounter with another person. In all circumstances. Transforming our reactions, behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs to respond the way Christ would in all circumstances. Our character is to be in the process of being molded to reflect Jesus' character.

John 1:14 says - The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus, like the Father has two very important attributes that we would go a long way if we paid high attention to acquiring them. Those two attributes are grace and truth.

John tells us that Jesus, the One and Only, was (and still is) full of grace and truth. It is foundational to who Jesus is. As well, it should be foundational to who we are. If we are to be a true image bearer of Jesus Christ it is critical that our foundation reflect the characteristics of the original.

Being full of grace and truth........ How do we put these attributes at the foundation of who we are?

You can't be "filled" with the truth if you aren't "in" the truth. In other words, we have to fill ourselves with the "truth" of God which is in His word. It needs to be filling us up, changing our behaviors, making us into different creatures. Renewing us daily, changing our thoughts from evil to good. Making our thoughts and behaviors reflect Him. That is what comes from saturating ourselves in the word of God.

We can not reflect what we do not know. If we are not reading, studying and learning the word of God it can not be in us and fill us with truth. Therefore, truth will not be our foundation and we will not live it out in our daily lives. Instead, our human nature will seep out of us and inspire us to sin.

Truth. It's foundational. It teaches us to care with honest and transparent hearts. It shows others who we are. It shows our flawed true self that can not redeem or save itself. The truth that without Jesus, we are sinful at the core.

Sinful and self serving. That is "our" truth, self serving and flawed. But.... given a new life and truth by Jesus who lives within us. And if we want that to shine through, we must make His truth become a foundational part of who we are.

And then..... we live in His grace. Also as a foundation to who we are.

Grace, unmerited love and favor on the part of God. We didn't deserve it. We can't earn it. It is given freely because of His goodness. It is all about how good He is even when we don't deserve it.

Living in grace is a different calling then being saved by grace. We are saved by grace ONCE. Jesus died one time for all. You and I, we accepted his grace once and were given the free gift of salvation.

Living in grace is much different. It's daily, hourly, sometimes even minute by minute. "God of all grace" is one of God's names (1 Peter 5:10). He is the source and giver of all grace. His grace paid our debt and gave us salvation. It lavishes blessing on us and promises unimaginable favor. Favor that we have the privilege of living in and extending to others.

We can not extend our own grace, we instead must extend the grace we have been given by God. The favor God has shown towards us enables us to show the same to others. Instead of keeping track when others fail and hurt us. Or paying them back with the same, we can extend unmerited favor just as God does.

Each time we encounter a trial of an interpersonal nature we have the opportunity to either react as Jesus would or as Satan would. We can either repay evil with good or evil with evil. It is our choice in that moment. Will we walk the path of grace or the path of retribution?

Jesus was "full of grace", allowing a sinner like me to come into His completely holy kingdom. If I want to be transformed into the character of Jesus I have to look on others with the eyes that look back at myself. I have to see my own sin and failure when others fail and hurt me. I have to see their sin, knowing that I too do such things. I too speak things I should not and hurt others. I too say and do things that inflict pain or cause others to be injured. I am no better, I am only a sinner. A sinner under the grace given by God. A grace given to me so I can turn and pass it on to another.

Truth and grace.... a foundation made up of love and humility. It is the foundation I want. The foundation I believe we all need to live our lives out of.