Tag Archives: Christ

21. my discipleship group and the power of prayer

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2.42

I love my discipleship/accountability group and I could not imagine going weeks (or years as I had been before) without those strong relationships; relationships where we can disagree, hash it out and know that it we will still be okay moving forward. I’m okay with them confronting me about my stuff even when I may or may not want to hear it at the time; even when I don’t realize it’s there.

And it’s because of Jesus’ use of those relationships that he’s forming me into the woman God intended me to be and for that, I am eternally grateful.

I met Rick first, back in the fall of 2005, while I was away at college. I had just started my sophomore year and, having fallen in love with the local church I attended, I wanted to find a way to get more involved. I had been involved in a campus ministry but didn’t feel connected or part of a community; not the way I did when I was at that church.

That September, I received a postcard in the mail about a new college ministry that would be starting up at my church. They were looking for singers, musicians and others interested in being on the leadership time and after “chewing on it” for a few days, I emailed Rick and got my foot in the door. We met that November during one of the bands’ first meetings.

I met Holly shortly after and although our friendship at the time didn’t have the depth then as it does now, I’ve enjoyed going into those deeper waters with her, knowing that Jesus will keep us afloat the further we drift out as long as we remain in him.

It’s been nine amaznig years since and Rick has become more than just my pastor. He’s one of my best friends and a pretty stand-up guy (minus all the teasing I get). It’s been an immense blessing to watch God work through him in the lives of those his touches as well as knowing that I can get a solid, truth-filled answer or opinion if I weret o seek one out.

The same goes for Holly and I met her shortly after. She’s intense and in my face when it comes to most things and while there are moments when I want to kick her out of my apartment or walk away, I love her. It amazes me how a person can frustrate and move you at the same time. Only out of the love and grace of Jesus Christ is that possible.

In this last year, we made the decision to start meeting at least once every three weeks to discuss more deeply what God’s been doing in each of our lives, seeking out truth together, and being the iron that sharpens another (Proverbs 27.17).

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12.2

We’ve devoted ourselves to one another to learn from Jesus’ teaching and from those of his God-inspired followers (Paul, Peter, John, etc.). We’ve devoted ourselves to fellowship and community with one another and just last night, we talked about what that should and will look like in our church. We sometimes enjoy food or coffee together, partaking in the elements of communion with the rest of the body and we always pray for one another, sending sporadic notes of encouragement throughout the week/month.

Combining this with my relationship with Jesus, I’m being transformed from the inside out. I’ve seen the evidence of this my life, which is now, so much fuller.

I am so grateful for those who have chosen to partner with me and God in helping me become the woman he created me to be…especially when they have to call me on my junk when it shows.

Accountability goes a long way, as does love, truth spoken in love and a large dose of grace when it comes to these relationships.

Rick and Holly – I’m so incredibly thankful for you and I pray that God also enriches your lives with blessings, not earned by these actions, but because you are his children, my brother and sister, too.

20. intellect

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” – Jesus, Luke 10.27

Intelligence

The way God created us.

You

Me

Smart

Thought-processing

A beautiful mind

Out of everything God created, human beings have the ability to be creative with our thinking, tointellect form thoughts, string them together and form complete sentences…most of the time, anyway.

I’ve always loved learning, reading, writing (case in point), and letting my creative giftings run wild. It’s never been something I could force so when the moment strikes, I have to get those words, thoughts, lyrics, etc. out.

But, our minds can also be a dangerous place if we don’t learn how to control our wayward thoughts with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is –his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12.2

To keep Satan from gaining a foothold in your life, you must develop a sound mind that is completely controlled and directed by the Holy Spirit. Your mind must be renewed. When you make the choice to follow Jesus, the old is gone and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5.17). This doesn’t happen overnight. This isn’t a one-time event where you give your life to Jesus and BOOM, everything is fixed. Believe me, God and I are still in the processes of renewing my habits and ways of thinking and I honestly want to get to a point where living out His life through me is second nature.

We must conform our thinking on purpose, on a daily basis and sometimes, moment by moment. We do this by diving into God’s Word on a regular basis. We do this by meditating on Scripture. We do this through prayer. And all of that may look different for you than it does for me. Everyone relates to God differently.

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 1 Peter 1.13-14

You mind holds a tremendous creative ability. That’s why God gave us an imagination – the Creator of all gives his creation the ability to create, to add faith to the things we imagine and the ability to see them come to life. Once you’ve made up your mind when it comes to something you want to do, a dream you want to come true or a goal you want to meet, you map out a way to attain that and you do it.

If you can control your mind, you can control the choices you make, which pile up like snowflakes…either revealing the beauty or the ugliness underneath (again, depending on those choices) when it all finally melts away. You can choose right now to end up with a different ending than what your past would dictate. That’s the beauty of being able to decide; to make that choice.

In making the choice to immerse yourself in the Word, you set yourself up for success – not by the world’s definition, but based on God’s terms and you’ll be okay with his timing. He’ll bless you with wisdom, discernment, insight and the ability to accomplish anything through him.

The mind is a beautiful thing when under God’s control and for that, I am thankful.

Set your mind on him and he will bless you beyond what you can imagine or come up with on your own.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3.1-3

19. my home

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24.15bhome2

Whom do you serve?

Who has the leadership role in your life?

You?

Or God?

I struggled a bit this morning as I contemplated what (or how, rather) I would write about when it comes to thinking about the roof over my head.

You see, I’ve been blessed with a good-sized apartment in downtown Minneapolis, not to mention at a great price with some pretty decent amenities. My commute to work is just ten blocks, so I hike; it’s easier and free…not to mention, better for my health, overall. I also have an amazing view. For that, and so much more, I am thankful.

Those things pale in comparison to who I share my home with…or rather Who.

Jesus has taken his rightful role of leadership in my life (most days…I do fail occasionally) and through that, I am also blessed in opening my home to others.

I was blessed with the gift of hospitality.

I love hosting and planning and having people over…more Martha than Mary, I’ll admit, but Jesus and I are working on it. I also lack the space to hold bigger gatherings.

Someday

But, if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24.15

No matter who sets foot in my home, they know where I stand when it comes to my faith and who I follow. And in spite of the bad rap Christians get these days, my hope and prayer is that all who enter will feel the love and acceptance of Christ through me rather than feelings of judgment and condemnation.  I know not where their hearts are, but I do know that they are loved, just as I am loved.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus Christ. Romans 8.1

So I’ll ask again.

Whom do you serve?

Who leads your life?

Seek Him first, always.

home

a place to start

Starting anything seems to be the hardest part for us.

How often have you thought that you needed to begin a diet and exercise program but this week doesn’t seem like the right time to begin? Or you found that if you started on Monday, come Tuesday you had already fallen off the wagon? (I’ll let you in on a secret: Start on a Saturday…you’re welcome.)

Most of us know at least three things that, if we did them, would immensely improve our lives. Maybe one of those things would be to do a better job at managing our money, or spend more time with our family, or decide once and for all that we’re going to change careers, go back to school, or start a business.

Not having enough information is rarely the problem. We just never get started.

I’ve struggled with this too, in the fact that I have multiple dreams and goals I would love to see met in my life. I have all the facts. I know what to do. I just get hung up on all of the “buts” that tie into each idea.

Allow me to elaborate on that one word for a moment. 

I’ve had many opportunities to talk with friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances about their life goals; they willingly and readily share the processes they need to go through get there or the ideas they had on how to get there but…

There’s always a “but.”

I stumbled on several articles just this past week on the power this one word has on all of us. An interesting power, actually. Whenever the word “but” is used, people tend not to remember anything that was said before it.

For example, your boss asks you to join him in his office late on a Friday afternoon. The conversation begins like this: “We have really appreciated your work for our company these last several years, but…

or

“You did an excellent job heading up the project for such and such, but…”

Or maybe, a young man receives a text message from a girl he’s been seeing and it reads: “I have really enjoyed dating you these last three months, but…

See what happens there?

Hearing that one word removes everything before it from our memory and we tend to focus on everything that comes after it.

Isn’t that strange?

Unfortunately, we tend to do the same when it comes to Jesus and the free gift of grace He offers. Sin possesses the same kind of power that one word. Sin is the negation, the “no” that attempts to blot out the truth Jesus Christ offers.

Sure, Jesus loves me, but I’m a sinner.
The Bible says all are saved by faith in Jesus Christ but I’ve done too much.
I know Jesus can do much through me, but I need to fix me before He can do anything.

But…

We forget everything else that comes before that one word.

We forget the price He paid.

We forget that He covered everything with His blood.

No sin is so far removed that it hasn’t been covered.

In The Gospel of Yes, Mike Glenn writes, “The memory of past sin and the realization of current sin loom large, blocking out our view of the work Christ is doing in our lives today. Sin has a way of making us forget the goodness of God. Sin denies the presence and power of God in us and our world.”

Satan uses our awareness to twist the truth of grace; to blind us. He uses our sin to trick us into believing it has more power than it really does. Sin devalues us as people and causes us to see others and all creation as lacking worth. It belies the good work Christ does in us and in the world.

Jesus gave His life for you; sin has no power. Death has no sting.

We all have a past. We have things in our lives that cause shame or grief (tools used by Satan to keep us down). We forget the promise of forgiveness and the second chance(s) that Christ offers.  We have a hard time believing that a second chance could still apply after all that we’ve done.

I struggle with my past and my sins just as much as the next person. Satan uses those things to blind me; to trick me into believing that it has more power than it really does.  He has a thing about keeping me down.

But how does one overcome that “but” in their life?

First, we must let go of the lie; the one that we aren’t worth it; that the second chance does not apply.

Second, we must confess and repent and not the way many have preached/taught since the birth of the church. We don’t simply show up to confession, list off our sins and go on our merry way. Grace does not work that way.

It’s about the combination of confession and repentance. True confession and repentance cannot exist without the other. There is a vast difference between the two and yet, they play a very important part in the process of forgiveness. We are very familiar with the term forgiveness. How many times have we been told to simply confess our sin(s)? There is a certain emphasis on God’s forgiveness as a free gift, and in emphasizing it, we unknowingly cheapen it. We hop, skip and jump right over repentance…which includes confession and so much more. It goes beyond simply confessing sin to a definite change in how a person approaches life.

Grace extended/Forgiveness is not a do-whatever-I-want-and-get-away-with-it ticket.

Grace is God’s unmerited favor. We did nothing on our own to deserve it and, yet, He freely offers it. We are saved by grace, not by works (Romans 11.6). We cannot save ourselves. Only God can and He did. Through His Son, Jesus.

He paid it all. No part of that debt has been left for any one of us to pay by working hard and cleaning up our own lives. We cannot do that on our own. Jesus opened the door. We only have to walk through it. And yet…we struggle with accepting the truth that this gift, the gift of salvation, is free. Who would give away something like that? So we think we have to earn it.

Here’s a nugget of truth that makes my heart and soul smile: The mess you are in, the mess I am in, is why He came.

Jesus isn’t unaware of the brokenness of this world or the circumstances of your life. He knows better than anyone that we cannot fix it ourselves.

He came. He gave.

Everything

Himself

His life

All He wants in return is you…

Me…

Us…

We must allow Him, through that repentance, to change our minds. After confessing sin, a person turns from his or her previous lifestyle and commits to following Jesus. This isn’t easy. It’s something that happens daily; a moment-by-moment decision we must make on a constant basis.

It’s about living out the following:

Then He said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost and destroyed? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when He returns in His glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.” Luke 9.23-26 NLT

or from The Message:

Then he told them that they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat – I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels.”

Our minds are transformed when we allow Him a place to start.

Things are not perfect and they won’t be in this fallen, beautiful world we live in until the day of His return. All God is looking for is a place to begin.

A place to start

Jesus Himself took challenges and difficulties in stride. They gave no reason for Him to change course.

When He had been preaching to the five thousand men and their families, Jesus worked with what he had to feed them: two fish and five loaves of bread. He started there.

And when He met the Samaritan woman at the well, He did the same. In Jesus day, men did not speak to women in public – not even their wives – and they definitely didn’t speak with Samaritan women. Jesus did. He came to her in her need. He started there. He opened her eyes to God and His truth: That her being a Samaritan did not lessen God’s love for her. He told her about her life; He didn’t tell her to first get her life straightened out and then come back. He said, in effect, “This is who you are…This is what is going on right now in your life… And this is a good enough place to start.”

“Starting seems to be the hardest part for us…there is always a cost associated with changing your life.”

All Jesus really wants is a place to start.

True change isn’t about you or me trying harder or working on a new plan. It’s not about reading the next best-selling self-help book out there. Until you allow Him to change your mind and your heart, anything you do or attempt to do will be filtered through a mind formed by the ways of the world. Mike Glenn writes, “The Kingdom of God has come near in Christ, so we have to change our minds about love, truth, reality, eternity, Jesus, God, wealth, success, strength, weakness, hope, joy and love. In other words, everything!”

What does that look like in our lives?

Jesus says that we are to love God with our hearts, minds, and souls. To love God is to think in an entirely new way. We think of Jesus in a new way. We see and understand God in a new way as Jesus reveals the Father to us through His Spirit. We transform our minds by spending time in the Word, in prayer and surrounding ourselves with others who believe and want the same things. We grow and are transformed in that; through community, through the body of believers, through His family.

Rather than being buried under our mistakes, failures, griefs and regrets and living in a place where we no longer recognize ourselves when we look in the mirror, we let Him in.

The gift of life that God offers through His Son, Jesus, changes that. When we let Him in; when we let Him take the driver’s seat, the Spirit changes our true identity in Christ. We leave behind everything that is false and start walking toward the truth of Christ and who He created us to be.

But to allow Him the room to change your life, you must allow Him the space to change the way you think. You stop fighting the current of God’s grace and start flowing with it. Once the mind is transformed, the heart soon follows. To be truly transformed, to truly live a new life, our salvation has to be about our entire person, including our minds. This allows us to truly love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength…and it gives us the ability to love others as we love ourselves. The love we have for ourselves is transformed into the way God loves us…He is our identity.

We no longer condemn ourselves or others.

The truth of the gospel is that Jesus came to offer life; more of life to all of us, no matter what happened before; no matter the choices we made before we met Him. We have been purchased with an immeasurable price. Knowing that should change the way we live.

Peace is more than the absence of conflict and joy is more than not being sad.

We all have a past, but we are not defined by it.

The image of God defines us and the price the Christ paid confirms our worth.

We all have a past and even though you and I have found life in Christ (oh, how I hope you have), no one starts at zero. Our past is part of our story; part of our present and it, along with the choices we make right now, affect our future. We cannot separate it as it serves as our redemption story. The truth of that gives other a testimony of the gospel at work in your life. Jesus is simply asking you to let Him start somewhere. Embrace the truth of Whose you are and to Whom you belong.

Shared Post: 21 Things That Don’t Define You

Shared from here.

Eddie Becker sheds light on where our identity lies…in Christ alone.

——————–

Examining the many identities we take on and the only one that truly matters.

m I loved? Am I respected? Am I important?

These are questions that saunter quietly through our mind each morning as we look in the mirror. Questions that focus in on our identity: who we say we are, who we think we are and who the world perceives us to be.

You are identified by:

Your occupation. This is one of the biggest ways we identify ourselves to other people. When we meet someone, the first question we ask is “what do you do?” Be it teacher, lawyer or ditch digger, where we spend at least 40 hours of our week is a big factor in our identity.

When we meet someone, the first question we ask is “what do you do?”

Your family relationship. Are you a mom or dad? Son or daughter? Brother or sister? Many times our identity is tied directly to our family. For example, no matter what she does, Lisa Marie will always be Elvis’ daughter.

Your friends. Do you have a group of friends you’ve been with for years? Or maybe you wish you had just one friend to be close to and confide in. We’re known by those we hang out with and spend our free time with.

Your vices. These are the things we try our hardest to hide from those around us and the outside world. Ironically, these are often the things that consume us the most. Alcohol, gambling, porn, junk food, etc.

Your politics. Few things divide us in the workplace, in social circles and, sadly, in church like political affiliation. Good thing Jesus and the disciples didn’t have a (R) or (D) beside their names in the New Testament anywhere.

Your view on social issues. Like politics, these can also sharply divide us. Contrasting views on issues like abortion, poverty, affirmative action and gay rights can drive deep wedges between people, yet we use them as sole identifiers too many times, not seeing people for anything other than their stance on an issue.

Your race. This is one identifier we cannot change. Yet still keeps our love and concern for our fellow man only (pun intended) skin deep. If you are Black, White, Latino, Asian or a different race, you are that way from birth until death.

Your marital status. Are you married or single? Divorced? Widowed? We are identified by our decision to spend our lives with someone or not. And our identity as married people is linked to our spouse.

Your age. Young or old, this identifier is another one we cannot change. Strangely enough, too many teenage girls dress like they’re 25, and many 50-year-old women use various methods to look 32. Your age is an identifier as to your world experience, fair or not.

Your religion. Protestant? Catholic? Buddhist? Muslim? Jewish? Our religion identifies us in terms of who we will serve and worship. Certainly, the labels of various religions stoke the fires of prejudice and hatred too many times.

Your hobbies and interests. You identify yourself with these because you enjoy doing them. Did you spend the weekend on your photography? Or did you run some insane marathon where someone was throwing paint or mud or some combo of the two on you at the finish line?

Your ability/disability. Another unchangeable trait, our ability to do certain things is important and valuable to the world around us. The disabled around us, however, are too often treated as second-class citizens, identified solely for what they cannot do.

Your geographical location. Are you a Yankee or Southerner? Perhaps from a different country, speaking a different language? We get identified by the area we live or were raised in.

Your intellect and education. Do you have more degrees than a thermometer? Or did you struggle in school, dropping out early on? This means of identification often shows society how useful we are.

Your gender. Male or female, often we are labeled by various stereotypes as to what our gender is supposed to say and do.

Your sexuality. Your sexual preference, sexual “accomplishments” or sexual “failures” can play a large role in how others perceive you and how you perceive yourself.

Your physical appearance. Do you look like a real life Ken or Barbie doll? Do others envy you? Or are you plain, kind of chubby with a bit of acne on your face, feeling rejected by others?

Your health. Are you more fit than the crazy guy from Insanity? Or do you fit in with many Americans, obese and tipping the scales of diabetes? Or perhaps there’s a health issue you can’t control, that, unfortunately, others can’t seem to look past?

Your emotions. This identifier seems to force us to wear masks. We may be happy in our interactions with people, but deep down we’re wrapped up in deep anger, depression and regret.

Your potential. Like the five-star stud recruit out of high school committing to play ball at a big university, we all have a certain amount of potential. You have the tools and the smarts. Can you put it all together? Potential is scary, because if untapped it can lead to severe regret.

Your economic status. Does any identifier prove our success today more than money? Do you have a six-figure income with a house three times the size you need? Or are you struggling to even have a place to live at all?

These are 21 major categories we use to define ourselves and that others use to tell us our worth. But, last but not least, the only identifier that really matters: Your identity in Christ.

“In Christ” gives us the opportunity … to see people for who they truly are.

We read in Ephesians chapter 1 that Christ “chose us in Him before the creation of the world” (1:4) and that we were “included in Christ when you heard the message of truth … when you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal” (1:13). Once we have believed in Christ, our old labels from the world fall meaningless.

Our identity starts initially not in Christ, but being “dead in our sins” (Ephesians 2:1). We were all “by nature deserving of wrath” (2:3). Yet through God’s grace, we have been made alive with Christ. “Now in Christ Jesus you have been brought near … ” (2:13). “In Christ” grants us freedom, freedom from chains of being identified for anything less than being a child of God. “In Christ” gives us the opportunity to understand the identity of those around us, to see beyond the skin colors and the dollar signs, to see people for who they truly are. “In Christ” means all can come, leaving behind their sins, and join together to be identified once and for all as children of God.

Day 25: Keeping Christ

As I prepared for the holidays, I noticed something different this year. Retail stores always try to stock their stores with things they think will sell well. This year, they did something different. In years past, one could always find an aisle devoted to Nativity scenes, angels and things of that nature, including wrapping paper with words like Peace, Noel, et on them. Instead the shelves are stocked with color coordinated ornaments, colorful trees and LED lights. Wrapping paper has Santa and Frosty frolicking in the snow. What happened? Why are we taking Christ out of Christmas? Are we forgetting what Christmas is all about?

Christmas is not about the latest gaming system or the largest flat-screen TV ever made. Christmas is not about competing with your neighbor for the biggest and brightest light show on the block. It’s not even about colored trees, LED lights and coordinating ornaments. Christmas is about that baby in a manger. Christmas is not about the decorations, the food or the gifts. Christmas is about Christ, the ultimate gift of God’s love for all mankind.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17) (NIV)

Isaiah foretold about this baby long before He entered the world.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV)

It’s easy to forget that as we rush around during the holidays. Our schedules get so busy with holiday functions, church fellowships, office parties and school performances. There’s much to be done: shopping, cooking, baking, decorating, etc. Yet, no matter how busy the season gets, take time each and every day to stop, pray and meditate on God’s Word and the real reason for the season. Keep Christ in Christmas and may you keep Him all year long.