Monday, October 27, 2014

2 Easy Steps to Change Your Life


Life-Change made simple requires two steps.

1) Get rid of the bad stuff in your life.
2) Replace it with good stuff.

This seems ridiculously simple, but often the simplest things in life are the hardest to believe. However, this formula doesn’t originate with me, it was Paul’s idea about 2000 years ago.
Read and contemplate Colossians 3:12-17.

The part of Colossians 3 which you read was part two of our formula above. These were the things you are to bring into your life to facilitate spiritual Life-Change.

Consider this.

Paul says (v15) to let the peace of God reign in our hearts. Can you do that? If you can relax and be at peace, knowing that God is in control, you’ll have a much easier time loving those around you.
Those who have peace can love others because they aren’t worried about taking care of themselves. As a result, they are able to “above all, put on love”.
Paul’s point is that if you are a loving person; your heart will be compassionate, you will be a kind and humble person, your life will be characterized by meekness and patience, and you will have no problem bearing with and forgiving those around you.
Of course, all this is made possible if you are letting the “word of Christ dwell in you richly.” If you are spending time (particularly with other believers) getting into the Word of God, and letting the Word of God get into you; it will not be long until you begin to notice the Life-Change taking place in your own life.
Ultimately, Life-Change happens (check out verse 17) when you are willing to attack every thing in life as if you are doing it specifically for Jesus!

Today:

If you have time, go back and read the entire chapter of Colossians 3. Think through the “bad stuff” you need to get rid of and what “good stuff” you will replace it with.

Friday, October 24, 2014

How to Avoid Feeding the Stomach But Losing the Soul


Read and Contemplate 1 Peter 2:11-12.

In our efforts to be "in the world", we face a constant temptation to become indistinguishable from the world.
One must be careful that in pursuit of being relevance, the true distinctness of faith is not lost. Because an externally-focused life requires loving the people in the world (particularly those who are "hard to love") it can be easy to get so caught up in social causes that the gospel is lost.
It is right, appropriate, and incumbent on the church to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, and comfort the oppressed. However, it would be better for those people to enter the kingdom hungry, naked, and captive than for them to be full, clothed, and free but miss the kingdom.
The other side of this coin is that Christians can sometimes, in an effort to bring change to the world, become so politically entrenched that the lines between God's kingdom and the political parties become impossible to see (this happens on all sides!).
We must take great care as we seek to enact the mission of Jesus, that it not lose the Gospel of Jesus!

A template for externally-focused living is found in 1 Peter 2:11,

“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

Externally-Focused Christians:

  • Understand their identity -- Aliens and Strangers Understand their identity
  • Embrace their location -- in the world Embrace their location
  • Live Appropriately -- abstain from sinful desires Live Appropriately
  • For the sake of the Kingdom -- they may...glorify God on the day he visits us.
Instead of separating ourselves, by abstaining from the world, we need to cautiously abstain from sin, not the world. That is the heart of externally-focused living.

Today: Focus your energy on serving someone you don’t know. Imagine what Jesus would do for that person, then do it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

What Does the Bible Say About That?

What if, in church, we made it our habit to begin our answer to every question we’re asked with:

“Here’s what the Bible says about that…”

I don’t mean that this should be done in a smug or snarky way, but in a way that makes it clear that we (particularly in the church) should approach every issue (particularly those pertaining to the church) by STARTING with the Bible’s teaching on that topic.

Of course, some will read this and say, “But the Bible doesn’t speak to ever issue!”

To which I will respond, “The Bible may not answer every question you can ask, but it most certainly addresses any topic topic which may come up!”



This approach to question-answering, problem-solving, strategic-planning, etc. may at first sound better than a visit to Pablo’s Tacos on dollar-taco-Tuesday; but after a little reflection, some may not be too happy with this approach. Consider some of the ramification:

1) Our own personal opinions will be subjugated to a higher authority. 
2) Our past experiences may not be enough to validate a path of action. 
3) Some really “good” ideas will not be acted upon. 
4) Some really “bad” ideas will be carried out. 
5) The person who knows the Bible best (and I don’t mean the person who is most opinionated about the Bible or the person who beats a few particular Bible passages to death, but rather the person who best understands the larger message of the Bible while being able to interpret the smaller and more specific portions) will be the person who speaks most authoritatively when questions are being answered. 
6) I will not be able to just state my opinion without taking the time to hear what the Bible says about that issue.

By the way, I’d just suggest as an aside here, that number five might be a RADICAL shift in the way business is done in most churches in America.

How would this play in reality?


Q: I’d like to talk to you about the music the teenagers are listening to.
A: Here’s what the Bible says about that. We’re to worship God with a variety of instrumentation and musical styles that reflect the wide diversity of his character and His church. Check out Psalms and Revelation for examples.

Q: I think every one of our small groups should go through this Beth Moore study.
A: Here’s what the Bible says about that. We’re to encourage one another and teach one another and bear with one another and love another and be devoted to one another. So we let each group figure out how they can best carry out those and other one another commands on their own.

Q: I’m tired of the legalistic old people in our church.
A: Here’s what the Bible says about that. We’re to honor and respect those who are older than us. We’re also to learn from them. Maybe we need to find better ways to show honor to them rather than just criticize them for legalism.

Q: I’m tired of the rebellious young people in our church.
A: Here’s what the Bible says about that. We’re to find ways to impact those who are younger than us. We need to not just teach them, but significantly invest in their lives so that they can grow up in the faith. Maybe we need to find better ways to build into them rather than just criticize them for being rebellious.

Consider also, if this way of doing things became standard operating procedure in a church.

1) People would center their discussions around Scripture. 
2) Most of the discussions about church would be about what the Bible says instead of about what people think or what “works” 
3) People would go to great efforts to become more Biblically literate, just so they’d have more ability to discuss questions that arise. 
4) Pastors and teachers would speak to and lead captive audiences. 
5) People might begin their questions/suggestions/criticisms by saying, “What do you think the Bible says about…” (and then they might pause to listen to the response!)

So, yeah… now that I’ve hashed all this out, I’m not sure any of us are ready for a church that looks like that! Maybe I should rethink my initial thought.

What if we made it our habit as pastors to begin our answer to every question we’re asked with:

“What does the Bible says about that?”

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sometimes You Just Need To End Things!

Life is a series of endings... And new beginnings.

The new beginnings are always great, but we often miss out on great beginnings because endings are often painful. Too often we choose to continue something we know should end, simply because we are afraid the ending might be too difficult. As a result, we often miss out on what could have been a fabulous beginning.

STOP! You don't need to keep doing that
For some people, endings are never an option. Rather than choosing to stop something that is no longer healthy, they will work themselves into exhaustion trying to solve an impossible problem.

Sometimes the truth is uncomfortable, and for that reason people are often unwilling to face it. Almost always, this type of avoidance leads to an even more uncomfortable situation or truth.

Richard Nixon learned this lesson the hard way. When the watergate scandal first broke, he could have stepped in, apologized, and ended the wrong behavior. This would have been painful. He would have needed to swallow his pride, admit wrong-doing, and indict some of his clothes friends and trusted advisors. That pain was something he was unwilling to face, so he chose continued deception over a healthy ending. Eventually, he lost everything because he wasn't willing to lose a few things.

I know this runs contrary to most "wisdom" we hear or think. But according to Necessary Endings (by Henry Cloud), "sometimes the best thing a leader or anyone else can do is give up hope in what they are currently trying." Hope often is the only thing that keeps us going... Sometimes, that is a big problem. Your hope can keep you walking a path that may have been right at some time, but is not right now, and will never be right again. It might be your hope that is keeping you from getting back on the right path.

Pruning is a process we all understand to be necessary for healthy growth. Usually it is a term reserved for gardening and nature, but occasionally Christians use it to refer to the trials God uses to grow us. Almost never, though, do we speak of pruning our own lives. Why not?

Life is full of dead-ends. Recognize them, and move on.
You don't need to succumb to the misery of going nowhere. Life's dead ends don't have to cripple you. You aren't consigned to fixing every problem you ever encounter for the rest of your life. You can choose to create your own healthy endings, to cut away the once good things that are now weighing you down. You can proactively prepare yourself for a NEW BEGINNING by making space with a necessary ending.

Of course, some will abuse this concept. We shouldn't always end things musts because they are hard. We should never break the covenants we have made with God or others simply because we have a hankering for something different. But consider this post an encouragement to look at your life. What are the the things that could end, that you could do without. How can you clean up your world to make room for some new beginnings which today are still beyond your comprehension?

Endings don't have to be bad. Sometimes, they are the best thing that could ever happen!