We have a saying in our church that is more than a saying; it’s one of our Core Convictions. We believe Growing People Change.
As a follower of Jesus, I should be in a constant and consistent pursuit of growth! That means I should be changing. You, as a professing follower of Jesus, should be changing. Growing and changing more and more into the likeness of Jesus.
Paul gives us this very instruction in his letter to the church in Rome.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:2
Paul understood the pull of conformity to the toxic culture. He knew the evil. He walked it before his encounter with Jesus, which brought radical transformation to his life. Paul understood not only the struggle, but also the freedom that comes through transformation in Christ!
The problem is, we often live as if the constant change and growth we are called to is true of God’s character and attributes. If we can change, God must also. We live and think as if He is lacking in areas just like us. You might step back like me and go, that’s not what I believe.
But what do my actions say? What do my interactions with others say? What does my life say?
Does my life show I’m living in awe of a God who is constant in character and attribute?
Does my life reflect my knowledge that He is the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end? That He is totally sovereign, all knowing, all powerful, perfectly just, and eternally gracious. God never changes, He even declares it Himself!
“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.Malachi 3:6
Even though His people continually turned their backs on Him, God continued to remain constant in who He is. He continued to love, discipline, and call them back to Himself.
Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!Psalm 33:8
The Psalmist knew who God is. And because of this convicting knowledge he lived in awe of Him. But he also understood this expectation wasn’t meant for him alone, it was meant for the entire world. From the animals to the stars; you, me, and everything created is called to live in awe of the constant glory and holiness of God.
The question we each have to answer is whether our life lives up to that call.
Do I live in awe of a constant, never changing God?
To be honest, Christmas isn’t my most favorite holiday. Easter is. But the reality I am reminded of each Christmas is that Easter has no meaning, no true significance, if Christmas never happened.
If Jesus never left His throne in Heaven, born of a virgin, took on flesh as fully God and fully man, He would not have faced the false accusations, the beatings and spitting, the crucifixion.
It’s because of Christmas that as a follower of Jesus I can celebrate Easter.
This year as you gather with family and friends, watch the kids open presents, remember what we are really celebrating at Christmas.
Jesus, leaving heaven. Jesus, taking on flesh like you and me. Jesus, His birth. God’s gift of grace to a hurting, broken world in need of redemption.
Make sure you take time today to reflect on the gift we received, and celebrate how that gift changed eternity.
The story of Abraham in Genesis 12 hit me differently today. While finishing my preparations for Life Group tonight I was reading the story of God calling Abraham to leave everything he had known to go somewhere he didn’t know. Talk about a blind faith, Abraham was 75 years old and had what would have been considered a pretty comfy life. He had a lot of possessions and was established, and here God is telling him it’s time to pack it all up and start walking with no indication of where or what was ahead of him!
And he does.
Abraham packs up all his belongings, gets his wife, his nephew Lot, servants, livestock, all of it. And this is the part that struck me. No one hesitated to go with Abraham. Abraham’s faith in God inspired others around him to step forward in faith with him.
That’s powerful. They had no idea what was in store, just like Abraham. Yet they were willing to leave behind their comfort and trust that God had something better in store. It’s interesting to me how Abrahams faith lead him to be obedient to God’s call in his life. And out of that obedience came blessing not only for Abraham, but for his family for generations to come.
Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.Genesis 12:7
Abraham’s obedience opened the door of God’s blessing in the present and the future. His faith in God’s provision inspired those with him to take steps of their own in faith. Abraham’s obedience to the Lord not only brought blessing to him and his family, but that of others like his nephew Lot.
The reality is we all have people around us whose lives we make an impact in. Some even look to us specifically for guidance, counsel, trusting we will help guide them in the right direction. Have you ever though about the impact your obedience to God has on the lives of those around you?
There are people you may not even know who seeing your steps of faith in obedience to God, will be inspired to take steps of their own. I’m sure it could have been easy for Lot to step back and allow doubts and questions about the situation at hand keep him from moving out of his comfort zone. But I can’t help think there was something about Abraham’s faith that inspired Lot. Abraham’s confidence in God’s provision inspired Lot to step forward himself.
But what if Abraham had been disobedient to God’s call? What if instead of stepping forward in faith, he hesitated and just stayed in his father’s house?
We often think if we mess up, it just effects us. But that’s just a lie we tell ourselves to lessen the blow. Truth is, disobedience in our personal lives can have lasting effects on those around us and beyond. If Abraham had stayed home, he wouldn’t have experienced Genesis 12:7. The blessing of the Promise Land would not have been experienced because comfortability in the moment would have been more important.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss out on the blessing God has for me. But to receive that blessing, I have to first walk in obedience. I have to but my faith to work, get out of my comfort zone, and trust God will provide even when I can’t see or don’t understand. My obedience may also just be the catalyst God uses for someone else stepping out of their comfort zone, putting their faith into action for the first time.
That’s pretty cool to think about if you ask me!
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6
It’s not a promise, but a principal to practice. This unsuspected picture shines a light for me on the impact our practices in life have on our kids. Good or bad, they notice and imitate. My 2 year old daughter sat at my feet, took my hand, and bowed her little head while we prayed in our Life Group.
I didn’t have to sit her down and explain what prayer was or how we do it. She is learning by observation and experience. It’s the same way she knows what a Bible is from other books, and that Jesus is in the Bible.
As parents, we lay a foundation for our kids through what we say and do. If foul language is commonplace in my personal life, I can’t be surprised when my kids think it’s acceptable for them to use it. If I prioritize my social life over my faith, I shouldn’t be surprised when my kids put youth group and church on the back-burner in their personal life. What I demonstrate with my own life will eventually surface in the lives of my kids as they grow up.
The question as a parent is not will what I say and do take hold in their life.
The question as a parent I have to constantly evaluate is, what do I want to take hold in their life.
I want my kids to understand the importance of a well-grounded faith, and obedience to God’s calling. I want them to have a devotional life that is genuine, born out of a love for Jesus, not just to check boxes. I want my daughters to know and believe that God loves them and has a purpose for their life. I want my son to know God has called him to be a leader in a dark world. I want my kids to lean and press into Jesus when they struggle because they know He is faithful. I want Jesus to be the first one they turn to when they celebrate and mourn.
I want them to have a love for Jesus that is deeper than my own.
But I can’t expect something I don’t model and live out in my own life. It starts with me practicing my own faith in a practical way that they can see. But it’s also holding them accountable to grow in their own faith as they grow older. Encouraging them to pray, to read Scripture and journal about how and what God is speaking to them through a passage. Teaching them songs when they are little that emphasize who Jesus is and what He has and can do.
To train someone you first have to be doing whatever it is you are training them in. That means I can’t be an un-present dad, who is more concerned with myself then the needs and wellbeing of my kids. I have to lead by example.
Training up my children starts with me.
I have learned that in life, facing storms isn’t a one-and-done experience. While each one my look different, they are an experience we all face time and time again. What really sets us apart is how we view, and respond to, the storms we each face.
As a follower of Jesus I have a hope firmly planted in the faithfulness, sovereignty and power of God. My faith convicts and reminds me that what I am facing, regardless of how trying it might be, did not escape the knowledge of my God. He has already established victory in my life.
King David often described God as a rock, a fortress that stood firm in the chaos and darkness of life’s storms. He uses this language in reflection of how God delivered him from his enemies, chiefly King Saul at the time.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.Psalm 18:2
David’s way of describing God has always brought to mind a lighthouse. A structure that stands firm in the throes of harsh storms, provides shelter and guidance when everything seems dark and uncertain. A lighthouse can take the brunt of the storm because it was designed to do so.
The Bell Rock lighthouse in its design illustrates this well. It’s base was designed with interlocking stone blocks that when pressed from any side by the crashing waves, caused the locking joints to strengthen and secure themselves even more than before. As each new storm blows against the Bell Rock lighthouse, it becomes stronger and more secure.
With each crash of a wave in the storms of life, we have an opportunity to see Gods strength. We have an opportunity to trust in His faithfulness, sovereignty, and power. But it will always be a perspective we must choose to have and hold onto in the midst of the storm. When the waves of fear and worry come crashing in, lean into God’s strength and trust those waves will break upon Him.
Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.James 1:15
It’s interesting to me how sin works. From how it begins to its devastating outcome in our life. Yet, we continue to fall victim to it over, and over, and over again. Scripture is very clear where sin in our life begins; it’s rooted within the desires of ourself.
When we entertain the desires within us, we open the door for temptation to parade through uninhibited. And when we choose to give into that desire, conception takes place within our hearts and minds, resulting in the birth or action we take, sin.
The picture James paints here is rather graphic. It’s the idea of a pregnancy, which brings joy and pleasure. The anticipation of something great. A sad picture of what sin is. In the moment it might be pleasurable and exciting. We might even be convinced that the outcome is worth while, that we will be happy in the end.
Just like that pregnancy. Waiting for the birth.
But instead, sin is like a stillborn baby. What was once anticipation and excitement, even pleasure in the moment is now heartbreak. It’s devastation that ripples out in our life.
Sin often leaves us in a state of numbness and disconnect; I call it the void.
A place of loneliness, feeling like God’s presence has left and now I’m stuck and numb. Not sure what to do, because after all what I did didn’t bring me the result I was anticipating.
The void is an easy place to find yourself, and an easy place to get stuck in. As a flower of Jesus I’m going to have moments where I fail and give into temptation. Following Jesus does not prevent me from sinning. It also doesn’t grant me a license to sin. What following Jesus does is provide a means of grace and forgiveness when I sin.
That grace, made possible by Jesus dying in my place on a cross and my acceptance of it in faith, provides the avenue for me to escape the void. As a follower of Jesus I am not alone when I fail to obey, and sin.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.Psalm 34:18
Words written by a guy who sinned a lot in his life. Yet, had one of the most profound relationships with God. The words for you and I today as followers of Jesus are just as true as they were for King David. When I mess up I’m not alone, even when I feel like it.
Satan does a great job convincing us of lies. He did it in the garden with Eve, giving a half truth to convince her of a lie. Her and Adam’s response after they sinned is much like we find ourselves in the void. They ran and hid from God, knowing what they had done was sin. They felt alone, ashamed, numb. How could God still love them, care about them after what they did.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”Genesis 3:8-9
While we think in the aftermath of our sin God has deserted us, the reality is what we see with Adam and Eve. We ran from God. We turned away and ran. Finding ourself in the void isn’t because God left. We did. And just like with Adam and Eve, God is calling us. Not because He doesn’t know where we are, but to remind us of where He is.
Are yo stuck in the void of your sin? Do you feel lost, lonely, numb, like God has walked away?
God never turned His back on you. He’s been there the whole time, calling you back to Himself.
The question is, will you get up and go back to Him. Will you repent and humble yourself before Him. Being stuck in the void is your choice.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.1 Corinthians 10:13
The world we live in is filled with opportunities to surrender our integrity. No matter what age, demographic, culture you come from, or upbringing, the reality of temptation is something every person faces. And with every instance of temptation knocking at our door comes the challenge to wrestle with it mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Paul was no stranger to temptation. Neither were the people he ministered to, who were part of the churches he wrote his letters to. That’s why he reminds us that we are not in this struggle alone. More than that, there is no temptation you or I could face that someone hasn’t faced before. I don’t know about you, but I find comfort in that. What I face doesn’t catch God by surprise, and I’m not the only one who has wrestled with it either.
Paul makes an interesting statement next that I think requires us to explore more. There is often times the thought, whether it be conscious or not, that God orchestrates temptation in our life. That when we face temptation it’s because God brought it into our life. The problem is that this thinking contradicts Scripture and God’s very nature. As a Holy God, He cannot commit or cause sin. To do so would be contradictory to who He is. James emphasized this point in his letter when he wrote the following.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.James 1:13-14
Temptation is rooted within ourselves, not God. It is the effect of our own desires, rooted in our flesh. God does not tempt, but rather tests us.
That’s an important distinction to understand. Paul is however indicating that God allows us to be tempted. Allowing something to happen is very different from being the cause, and this is the distinction Paul makes. But even with God allowing temptation to take place, Paul makes it clear that He will never allow it to be stronger than my ability to not give in.
Now, this is an interesting point. It’s common for us as people to find excuses for giving into temptation. And the excuse is always rooted in a lack of escape. Paul however makes it very clear that God always provides a way out. The ability to turn away from the temptation is always there, and thus failure to do so is not because we couldn’t.
We fail to turn from temptation because we choose to give in.
When I give into the temptations I face it’s simply because I decided to give in. The reality and truth is that God never allows me to face a challenge I can’t overcome, He always provides a means of escape and endurance. When I fail in my integrity and allow my character to be jeopardized by giving into temptation, I have no one but myself to blame.
But this reality brings to light another truth. My independence will always lead to giving into the temptations I face! If I continue to try and survive on my own, apart from God, I will fail every time. Paul wasn’t saying I have the strength to escape temptation. The fact that God provides the way means the ability to do so rests in Him alone.
God’s strength is the means in which I am able to walk away when I want to look at that site.
God’s strength is the means in which I am able to walk away when I want to steal that item.
God’s strength is the means in which I am able to walk away when I want to tell that lie.
God’s strength is the means in which I can keep my integrity and character intact.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.2 Corinthians 12:9
Maybe that’s why Paul said these words too. He understood that it was literally in the moments he didn’t have the strength to maintain his integrity that God’s grace and power shined through most. Paul recognized his weakness, and understood where his true strength came from.
Not himself, but God.
What’s your response to temptation when you face it? Do you have a tendency to blame God, especially when you give in? Paul’s words present a challenge to how we view temptation, and calls us to not only see it differently but to act accordingly.
What will you do?
I’ve listened to this song before I don’t know how many times. But today it hits different. It literally makes my spirit ache, in a good way. Maybe it’s my focus lately on God’s Grace.
This series I’ve been preaching about God’s Grace has opened my eyes to a fresh perspective on how good He really is. I’ve been refreshed in my understanding of who I was apart from Jesus, and that it was because of God’s Grace that Jesus took my place on the cross.
Talk about love! God wanted me restored you Him so much He made a way only Jesus could fulfill. There is nothing that can beat that. Nothing that can replace it.
Grace, getting what I don’t deserve because of love.
It cultivates in me gratitude. Thankfulness that I was worth it. I was worth dying for.
I encourage you to carve out some time and worship through this song. Listen to the lyrics, sing them to King Jesus in gratitude for what He did for you. Leave it all at His cross…
“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?””
Mark 4:35-41 ESV
When I’ve read this passage in the past, I’ve always been struck by Jesus’ response to the situation and the Disciples. His calm and power were put on full display. But as I read this today, it was the response of the Disciples after Jesus that struck me.
Scripture says “they were filled with great fear”.
I find it interesting that while they feared for their lives in light of the storm on the sea, Jesus’ display of calm and power resulted in a much deeper fear.
Here they saw evidenced with their own eyes someone exerting real power and authority over nature. Forces that had taken so many lives before them, now ceased at the utterance of three words.
The Disciples’ reality shifted. No longer was their concern and reverence for the forces of nature surrounding them, but for the Son of God.
I think it begs the question of us, what do we fear most? What captivates our reverence most? Is it the circumstances we face, or our Savior?
When the storms in my life seem out of control, there is One person who can bring restoration. On the boat He used three words, “Peace! Be still!”
My prayer is in those moments I would have a greater fear and reverence for my Creator, and not be consumed by fear of the circumstance.
What it means to follow Jesus can become a lengthy answer. Trying to hit all the different ways and attributes that could signify someone follows Jesus can be a task in and of itself.
There is one thing though, that is blatantly clear. Something that Jesus modeled with His own life consistently.
Service of others was central to Who Jesus was. Serving others was central to His mission of redemption. Service was such an integral part of Who He is and What He is about, it led Him to the cross.
When was the last time serving someone cost you?
Is serving others a part of who you are? Do you meet the opportunity to serve others with frustration or grace?
No matter what Jesus was facing in the moment, He met opportunities to serve others with grace. When He could have turned them away, He drew them near. He taught them, fed them, challenged them.
Let’s serve like Jesus.