New Humanity — January 22, 2014 (Wednesday)

Today’s Verses:

Ephesians 2:14-15

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

Today’s Questions:

What does this passage say Jesus’ purpose was?

To ___________ in himself one _______ __________________.

To _________________ both of them to ________ through the cross.

In what, other than Jesus, do you most often seek peace?

What does it look like for Jesus to be your peace in your walking-around life?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, thank you for the Prince of Peace, the peacemaker, the peace-bringer. I feel your peace deeply from time to time, catching glimpses here and there. But, Lord, I want to live every moment in that peace. I am so often on edge and irritated by the insignificant. I can be plagued by anxiety and driven by fear. Help me, Father, to live out the reality of Jesus Christ at the center of my being and my relationships so my soul is settled and my love is without restraint. Continue molding me into a peacemaker. And, oh, I pray for earthly peace. This world is ravaged by war, Lord, we need your peace in our physical world. I long for your return and speed your coming by practicing peacemaking.

Go A Little Deeper:

Read Jesus’ words in John 14:25-27 to know the peace he gives.

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New Self — January 19, 2014 (Sunday)

Today’s Verses:

Ephesians 4:20-24

You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Today’s Questions:

What are the three things Paul instructs the believer to do in this passage?

Put _____ your _______ self.

Be made ______ in the attitude of your __________.

Put ______ the _________ self.

What is meant by “deceitful desires” based on the transformation you have seen in your own life?

In this season of your life, what are you doing to put off your old self, be made new in the attitude of your mind, and put on the new self?

Today’s Prayer:

Father in heaven, I am so grateful for the opportunity to be made new. As I look back on my old self, I cringe at what I thought would satisfy and fulfill me. I was so deceived for so long. Thank you for continuing to pursue me and place people around me who showed me who you are. You know my heart and know I can still easily slide back into my old self and am still deceived at times. I am seduced away from you. Forgive me these lapses and don’t stop whispering your love, encouraging my growth, and satisfying my longing.

Go A Little Deeper:

Review Philippians 4:8 for the kinds of thoughts that renew the mind.

Life This Week

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This is a short work week for most people in the United States because of Thanksgiving. But it can be a tough week because for every perfect, turkey-laden table out there, there is a person sitting alone at home overcome with loneliness and sadness. For every smiling, happy family, there is a family in tatters, ready to fall apart because of old hurt, long-held grudges, and un-grace. There are three things I’m focusing on this week:

I’m trying to live out Ephesians 4:2. This is one of those verses that is easy to agree with and seemingly impossible to live. “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” I want this to be true of me – that I would be humble and gentle with the people I see this week, including my family and friends. I want to be patient and make allowance for the faults of those around me; and I want to be met with patience and gentleness, and allowance for my own faults.

I’m inviting someone. I have been alone on Thanksgiving and I have looked around at my friends and wondered why no one invited me when they knew I would be alone. Inviting someone to your family meal changes the dynamics, and it may make other people uncomfortable, but the potential for demonstrating Christ’s love through an invite like that is sky-high. To be welcomed and loved, even for a short time, can change a life. It’s not a matter of feeling sorry for someone, it’s a matter of feeling love for them. I’m doing some inviting.

I’m thanking God on my knees with a list. This has been quite a year. As I think back over my year, I can’t do anything but fall on my knees in thanks, awe, and humility. This week, I’m going to be intentional about kneeling and listing out in thanks all the incredible blessings God has poured out on my life this year.

What does your week look like?

Is there someone you can invite?

Life This Week

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I always forget. That I am loved. Even though my hands sweat when I’m nervous, and I’m not sure I have the most stylish shoes as fall begins, I am loved. But I forget.  Even though I stop being able to pay attention after about an hour, and I can’t throw a great meal together at the last minute, I am loved.  But I forget.  I don’t really get why I forget so often and so easily. I’m always comparing myself and making these silent judgments about myself and others. How do I rate, rank, hold up? All the while forgetting that I’m loved already, even though, in spite of, because of.

Not too long ago, I was in a work meeting about something I have now forgotten. One of my friends and members of our team was talking about something I have now forgotten. And, then, suddenly, something happened that I will never forget. I saw her as Jesus sees her. It came and went in a millisecond. But I am sure of it. I looked at her and tears formed in my eyes. The words that came to mind were “If she only knew.” Oh, if she only knew. All of her fears, her insecurities, her measurements of success would vanish. If she only knew how loved, how deeply, enduringly, unendingly loved she is. If she only knew.

I’m praying that I would know. I am praying that I “may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that [I] may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:17-19)

I’m reminding myself. This weekend, I heard a talk by Jeff Manion from Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids. He said that when he journals his prayers, he ends by writing, “This is your beloved son, Jeff.” And he signs that way not to remind God, but to remind himself. Today, at the end of my prayer that I wrote in my journal, I signed at the bottom, “This is your beloved daughter, Kellye.”

I’m reminding someone else. I know I’m not the only one who forgets. So, I’m reminding someone else that she is loved. That he is loved.

What does your week look like?

Have you forgotten that you are loved?

There Are Some Things I Don’t…

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(photo source)

I have been writing this series of blog posts responding to fears that a friend of mine raised about becoming a Christian.  I am grouping the next three together because they are related:

  • I don’t know enough.

  • I don’t want to give up stuff I love.

  • I don’t really think I need it.

This is such an interesting group of fears, and maybe “fears” isn’t exactly the right word.  I struggled with each of these as I considered Christianity and so now when I respond to someone who raises them, I try to do it in a way that, looking back, did or would have helped me.

I don’t know enough. The Bible is the key to this one, but it is intimidating if we don’t know where to start.  If you start in Genesis, you’ll lose interest and comprehension quickly.  A suggestion that helped me most was to read the books of Luke and Ephesians first.  Luke gives an understandable and accessible description of Jesus while he was on earth.  Ephesians explains the significance of Jesus and what belief in him means and looks like.   I also found “The Case for Christ,” by Lee Strobel and “The Jesus I Never Knew” and “What’s So Amazing About Grace,” by Philip Yancey helpful.  There are only so many books to read, though.  And we will never know everything or have the answer to every question.  There is a passage in Psalm 34 that says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”  (Psalm 34:8)  At some point, you just have to try it and see.

I don’t want to give up stuff I love.  Somehow following Jesus, or being a Christian, has become associated with rules that impinge on our freedom.  The thought that comes to mind immediately upon hearing the term “Christian” probably starts something like, “If you’re a Christian, you’re not allowed to…”  This is so ironic because when Jesus lived on earth, and during the years of the early church, Jesus was criticized for being a violator of the law, not someone under which the world would be restricted.  The only things I have given up since I’ve become a follower of Christ are those things that hurt me and left me feeling empty and those things I idolized, putting my trust in, all the while knowing they would not last.  I have never felt so whole, at peace, or purpose driven.

I don’t really think I need it.  I used to look at my life, I think mostly subconsciously, compare myself to other people, and conclude: “I’m a good person overall.  I’ve made some missteps here and there, but nothing that bad.”  And so the notion that I needed to be saved seemed a little dramatic and unnecessary.  I could always identify someone who had done far worse things and the idea of them needing help seemed much more plausible.  But then I realized I had been drawing the wrong comparison.  The correct comparison is between me and God, not me and other people.  If I assume that God is holy in every way, not just like the best person I’ve ever known, but far, far better, indeed, perfect, I could see that I was not “pretty good” at all.  Far from it.  (Romans 3:23)  And if the goal was to be perfect and holy, I knew I had blown it very early on.  If the deep longing in me was a longing to be with God, all the evidence suggested to me that I could not bridge the gap my wrongdoing had created between God and me.  When I speak to friends now about this gap, I try to help shift the comparisons they make so they are no longer viewing their life in comparison to another person’s life but instead are comparing their life to the standard of a perfect and holy God.

What do you tell people who feel like they don’t know enough yet about what it means to be a Christian?

What have you given up since becoming a follower of Jesus?  What have you gained?

Life This Week

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For some reason, last night I was thinking about how God could have created us all to be adults right away, and skipped over the whole growing up thing.  I must have been feeling philosophical because then I thought about why he created us to be small and then grow big; to start with no words and then to acquire one syllable at a time; to be carried and then to carry others.  Why require things to be added, like water, food, sun, experience, and wisdom, over time, instead of putting it all in there at once?  Of course, I have no idea why other than that there is clearly something to this process of growing from small to big.  This is true of my faith.  It has grown over a period of years, from imperceptible to bigger.  And, it is a team effort – God does his part and I do mine.  Here’s what I’m doing this week to water my faith:

I’m reading Scripture This is like the sun.  Without it every day, my faith will shrivel and die.  There are days when it does not resonate, does not feel alive, and feels like a task to read.  There are days when it cuts like a knife, leaps off the page, and draws me in for hours.  But whatever I’m feeling, I read it.  Not reading it would be like being in the house all day with my daughter and ignoring her when she spoke to me.  I read Tyndale’s The One-Year Bible (which includes passages from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Gospels each day) (download it here) and a five to seven verse section in another book.  Right now, I’m reading the book of Ephesians.

I’m writing prayers I do this because when God answers a prayer, my faith grows.  (What about when a prayer isn’t answered?  Honestly, I cry.  I praise him.  I keep praying.)

I’m reading about other people’s faith I read blogs in which other people talk about their faith.  This week’s blog reading: The Actual Pastor, A Holy Experience, and Ragamuffin Ramblings.

I’m taking some love risks.  I don’t know what this will look like but when I have the opportunity this week, I’m going to share with someone that they are beloved by God.

I’m reviewing my day.  When I get into bed at the end of each day, I am going to run through the day and thank God for every blessing, difficulty, and opportunity to love he brought my way.

What does your week look like?

What Scripture are you reading? Blogs? Books?