Category Archives: transformation

Starting over

This means that anlightstock_1665_small_user_3963721yone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! -2 Cor. 5:17 (NLT)

What does it mean to start over? Every year, around this time, millions of people resolve to change certain aspects of their lives. Some succeed, many fail. Most resolutions fall short because there was no commitment to real life change. Goals without real resolve don’t produce movement or real transformation.

I’ve never been big on New Years resolutions. It’s always seemed to me that if I really wanted to change something about my life, I shouldn’t wait until a certain time of year to do it. The time is now! I get why people do it, though. The start of a new year on the calendar signifies a new beginning, a chance to start over. That’s a great time to make some choices towards a better life. There’s a much better chance to start over, though.

God’s Word says that when we place our trust in Jesus, He forgives us, cleanses us from our sins, adopts us into His family, and gives us a new identity. We get a chance to not only begin a new year, but begin a whole new life. The slate is not just wiped clean, the slate is gone completely. Our identity is not what it once was. Our identity is now in Christ. I’ll dig deeper into that idea as we go on. It’s important.

Starting over is a choice. I became a new person when I was saved, but only after I made a decision to embrace my new identity did I see revolutionary growth in my life. Maybe that’s you right now. Maybe you’re like me. You crossed the line of faith, and you’re forgiven, but you’re not seeing some of the expectations you had coming true for you. For me, that brought a lot of confusion and made me question my conversion. I hope that this one-year journey we’re going to take together puts to rest any doubts you have about your salvation.

Decide today to start over with the new life you’ve been given. Even if you’ve been saved for years, it’s not too late. Take the first step in the journey of discipleship and do as the disciples did when Jesus bid them, “Follow me.” This new life is from Him, for Him, and about Him. It’s a wild ride, and it’s all worth it.

Give your best, first

Malachi 3:10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

Giving is not always included in material about spiritual disciplines for Christian life, but it is important not to neglect this discipline.  Nowhere else in Scripture does God tell His people to test Him.  When we are told to give as a test of the Lord’s goodness, we can believe that He will live up to His promises.

Take note:  giving is not about money.  The Sovereign Creator of the universe does not need your dollars and cents.  He wants your devotion, your obedience, your love.  He wants your life to be about Him and that means not holding on to earthly things.  He wants to be first in your life.  By giving the first of your finances, the first of your time, the best of your affections, you are showing God that He is first in your life.  And that doesn’t just have to be the “tithe”.

Tithing is not about the numbers.  Some bicker about how much one is to tithe (10% of gross income vs 10% of net income, etc).  Ideally, we would all give much more than just 10% of our income.  It’s not about the numbers, it’s about the heart (2 Corinthians 9:7, Mark 12:41-44).  There is no set number on how much to give, but there certainly is a command to give (Malachi 3, Numbers 18).

The principle to remember in this discipline is that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6).  We must give God our best, first.

Peace with God

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What do you think of when you think of justification through Christ? Do you think of how your sins have been forgiven? They have (Colossians 1:14). Do you think of how you are now lead by Jesus who is your Lord? You are (John 10:27). Do you think of how you’ve now put off your old self and put on an entirely new self? You have (Colossians 3:9). You’re a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). One thing many of us fail to think about, however, is that we have peace with God through Jesus. Oh, I’m not talking about how we’re a little more settled and a little less high strung now. Those things are true too. But, we were once the enemies of God (James 4:4) and now we are at peace with Him.

This word, “peace”, it carries with it so many thoughts, so many feelings, so much nuance. We use it in so many contexts to mean so many things. But this word, this εἰρήνην in the original language, it does not simply mean that we have an absence of anxiety. It means we have an absence of war. Jesus ushered in the treaty when He died on that cross and rose again. He allowed us to walk up to the table with God and sign the agreement, if we so choose, to be at peace. To be God’s ally. It’s then that we find rest and “peace” with all those other connotations.

As followers of Christ, we’ve now been adopted into the very family of God (John 1:12). We’re no longer strangers who battle against our Creator, but children who can communicate with our daddy. We’re not enemy combatants, constantly worried about fighting the adversary that can’t be defeated. Now, we’re on God’s side and He’s on ours. It’s because of Jesus. Because He justified us with His blood, we are given this opportunity. Because of Him, we can lay down our arms and cross over to the other side. And there we find peace.

Be a good friend

lightstock_160956_medium_user_3963721Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

 

 

 

 

 

Having the right friends can be a great benefit in life. They can challenge you mentally, support you emotionally, strengthen you spiritually, and otherwise just be there for you when you need them. It’s also important, though, to be a good friend as well.

We’re blessed through the friendship of others, but we’re sanctified by our friendship to them. Being on the giving end isn’t always the easy part of a relationship, but it’s the godly part. By showing interest in other people, we become more humble by thinking of ourselves less. By being a good listener we grow in wisdom. And by forgiving, we learn more about grace and the amazing gift God has given us in Christ.

We’ve all been given a unique opportunity to share Christ with others through our relationships with them. I can think of several friends I’ve had in my lifetime where I received little to nothing from them, but gave all I had. Those times could be tough, I’ll be honest. I did end up ending most of those friendships out of necessity, but I can’t say I didn’t benefit from those times I spent giving of myself, even when I knew I wouldn’t get anything in return. I didn’t know it back then, but I was learning to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. May I continue to grow spiritually through my relationships, and may you also.

Choose your friends wisely

IS4078RF-00005075-001Proverbs 12:26 One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor,
but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

 

When you think about keeping yourself healthy, you might not think about your friendships as part of the mix, but the Bible warns us about who we choose as friends and the effects of choosing poorly.

There are certain kinds of people that we should never surround ourselves with, and then there are kinds of people that we should absolutely spend time with. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love everyone and care for all people, but the closest of friends should be chosen wisely. Will they build you up and strengthen your faith, or will they make it harder for you to live the life God has called you to?

I’ve had times in my life when I hung out with very negative people, with very immoral people, or with very unbelieving people, and as much as I wanted to be a positive influence in their lives, they made it incredibly difficult for me to grow spiritually. By distancing myself from those friends, while still maintaining contact, I was able to get around people with whom I could have a mutually encouraging relationship.

Love all people, seek out others to care for, but choose your close friends with discernment. They’ll affect your own health.

Fix your mind on God

lightstock_152996_medium_user_3963721Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

The saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out.” This is as true of the heart as it is of the mind. If we fill up our lives with the wrong stuff, there’s no more room for the right stuff.

This past week, as I was teaching the elementary school aged kids in church, I spoke on this topic. I talked about Romans 12:2 and being transformed by the renewal of your mind and how that meant that you need to spend time with God daily by reading what He has said in His Word. We talked about how we can have peace in times of fear or comfort in times of worry if we have our minds set on the Lord. Sensing that the kids were getting it, but needed a bit more, I gave an analogy.

If we were to only feed our bodies once a week, we’d be incredibly weak and may even starve. That would be nonsense, yet we do it spiritually by not spending time in the Word more than once or twice a week. How could we expect to know God’s will or to have peace when we haven’t been with the one who leads and comforts? It’s ludicrous.

The truth is, to be truly healthy mentally, we’ve got to have the right thoughts. In order to have the right thoughts, we’ve got to put the right things into our mind. We’ve got to feed our minds with the Scriptures, our spiritual food. That’s how we stay fixed on God.

Can I challenge you, if you’re not already reading the Bible daily to start with a Bible reading plan? There are some great ones available online.

You’re weak, God’s strong

IS4078RF-00009656-001Isaiah 40:29-31 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

One thing I find very sad about the state of the American church culture is that many Christians don’t feel like they can be real about their struggles. Because of the facade we think we have to put on for other church people, we don’t let them in on our little secret that we’re weak and it’s only because of God’s strength that we make it.

It does a disservice to everyone when we think we have to be strong on our own. I remember thinking as a kid that all of the Christians I saw at church had it all together. I really never knew that anyone had doubts about their faith, or worried about their finances, or had marriage issues. I just thought that I was supposed to have it made if I was a Christian. I know better now.

It’s not only okay to be reliant on God for His strength, it’s what He wants from us. He even allows us at times to be in circumstances that only He can get us out of. Why? So He can display His strength. Being dependent on God is right and good. He’s our Father who wants to take care of us and He is able to do so.

Sometimes we have to put down the Hercules act and admit that we’re not superhuman. To be physically healthy we need rest and we need to know our limitations. We need to trust in God enough to take care of things that we pause from working and let Him handle it. Believe it or not, this also leads to spiritual growth also.

How are you doing at this? Do you think you have to handle everything or do you rely on God and rest in Him?

Your body is a temple

F1ONRF-00003778-0011 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

You and I have work to do. We’ve each been given a calling to fulfill, a mission to accomplish, and that requires our physical bodies. It’s our job, then, to maintain the vessel God will use.

One of my only hobbies is running obstacle course races. They range from about 3 miles to somewhere near 12 miles and there are any number of various obstacles to tackle along the way. Sometimes a course is fairly easy, other times I come home barely able to walk for two days. People always ask me why I put myself through that. My answer is twofold.

First, having a physical goal ahead of me motivates me to stay in shape, to get ready for the event. That’s about the only thing that gets me exercising sometimes. Secondly, I like to sign up for these challenges because they’re uncomfortable and outside the norm. I want to push myself physically to do things that I’m not sure I can actually do. I end up praying a whole lot while I’m running the course because I need all the help I can get. It reminds me that I’m dependent on my Creator to do anything. I believe that brings Him glory.

Now, let me wrap all this physical stuff in with the spiritual aspect we’ve talked about. I have a calling to love God more than anything else, giving my body as a living sacrifice. In order to carry out His purpose for me, which includes loving other people, serving them, and all other sorts of things that require a physical body, I’ve got to keep my body operational to the best of my ability.

My body is not my own. Your body is not your own. We’ve been bought with a price and now we’re to bring the Lord glory through our bodies. We can’t neglect the physical in exchange for the spiritual. They need each other.

How are you taking care of your temple? What do you need to do to improve?

Love Jesus more than anything

Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Someone once asked Jesus what God’s greatest command was (Mark 12:28). He answered that it was to love God with everything we have, more than we love anything else. That’s a difficult thing for most of us. We love a lot of things.

Think about some things that you love. You love your family. You may have a pet that you love. Maybe there is a hobby you can’t get enough of. Or there could even be things like your career or the success you’ve achieved that have become objects of your love. God is saying to love Him more than you love anything else. Anything at all.

There was another person in the Bible that asked Jesus what He had to do to get into heaven (Matthew 19:16). Jesus answered Him that he had to give up all of the things that he loved more than he loved Jesus. The very rich man had a ton of stuff he had acquired. The man couldn’t part with his possessions because he had begun to identify himself by them, so he didn’t give up anything and he went away from Jesus very sad. What that man needed to realize was that Jesus is better than anything that he loved in his life. What you and I need to realize is that anything we could give up for Jesus is worth it.

We should love Jesus so much that we want what He wants. We should want to be like Him and want to do what He did. When we make Him most important in our lives, we’re starting to really live for God. When He’s our treasure, and we love Him above all, we can be transformed.

7 habits to improve your spiritual health

John 13:15-16 If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever

Have you ever found yourself stuck in life? Maybe you had this great plan, but after time passed, you just never seemed to get to where you were headed. It could be that’s even true of your spiritual life. You’ve gone to church, tried to be a better person, and just seem to be spinning your wheels. I’ve been there.

It’s tough to be in a situation like that, when you feel like you’re doing all that you can to improve but not seeing any results. It’s infuriating, in fact. Part of the problem with our failed efforts is that we’re trying to make change on our own. It’s not possible apart from the help of the Holy Spirit.

There are seven key habits that are taught in order to improve spiritual health. These habits are not just more effort to transform ourselves; they’re daily choices we make to align what we want with what God wants. I’m going to go deeper into each of these habits over the next few days, but today I’ll just list them for you to ponder.

The 7 habits to improve our spiritual health are:

  1. Love Jesus more than anything else. (Mark 12:30)
  2. Meet with God daily. (Proverbs 8:34)
  3. Study and do the Word of God. (Psalm 1:1-3)
  4. Love other people. (Mark 12:31)
  5. Give the best to God. (James 1:17)
  6. Serve others unselfishly. (Mark 10:45)
  7. Share the Good News about Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:2)