Evidence

30 07 2012

You don’t have to be a crime buff to know what evidence is. Evidence is proof that someone has been there, that movement has occurred, that things are different, and that moment has been redefined. Evidence is the trail of clues that point to the truth that something has happened that gives tomorrow a different flavor than today.

“When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” – Acts 11:23

At the request of the church in Jerusalem, Barnabas travels to Antioch. He arrives in the city and sees the evidence of the grace of God written large upon the hearts of the Christians there. So powerful was grace’s trail through their lives that Barnabas’ heart filled with joy.

What does that kind of evidence look like? Can others see evidence of God’s grace spread thick across my life?

Crime shows have trained us to expect the most microscopic clues to reveal the truth. But God doesn’t want the evidence of His presence in our lives to be hidden, small, or unobservable. He longs for His grace to be written so large across our lives that others can tell in an instant that Jesus walks in our words, actions, motives, choices, and relationships.

My Jesus Resolution today is to examine the evidence of His grace in my life. Evidence demands a verdict. It requires those who see it to make a determination about its source, cause, and consequence. I am God’s evidence. Every day, my life should testify to the stunning grace of the cross, the unequaled power of the resurrection, and the intimate pursuit of a Savior who longs to draw me close to His heart. Is the evidence of His gracious presence visible enough to help someone reach a verdict for Jesus?





Flexible Ears

27 07 2012

Little boys are the greatest. Sitting at dinner the other night, this little guy engaged in the conversation around him while investigating all the things that boys need to pay attention to – counting the number of times someone said a specific word, noticing the way hair grows from another’s body parts, and exploring the way his ears fold around his head.

“I love having flexible ears,” he said with delight.

In the middle of a giggle, I saw the profound wisdom in his words. We all need flexible ears – ears that are ready, willing, open, and expecting to hear to the voice of God.

Flexible ears help our spirits be responsive.

Flexible ears showcase hearts that are ready to be shaped.

Flexible ears help our eyes to be open.

Flexible ears encourage us to extend our hands to the needy.

Flexible ears fix our attention and ignite our anticipation of His presence.

Flexible ears help us slow down and settle into sacred stillness.

My Jesus Resolution today is to have flexible ears. Too often, I get set in my own ways, thinking I already know the answers, have already absorbed the wisdom, or am above this particular lesson. Flexible ears encourage me to listen anew every time God’s Word is opened. His voice has the power to reach deep inside me and touch the core of who I am. When my ears are flexible, it gives Him greater access to my heart.





Wallpaper

25 07 2012

The wallpaper had to go. Outdated and showing the signs of being the backboard for any number of boys’ balls, it was time for the baseball-inspired wallpaper to rest in peace.

I gathered my tools, climbed the ladder, and began the process of “off with the old, and in with the new.” As I started, my creativity took flight as I imagined fresh paint, warm colors, and beautiful charm taking shape in the space.

That lasted about six minutes.

The wallpaper didn’t want to come down. The old adhesive proved more durable than I imagined. I peeled, scraped, scored, and sprayed in an effort to expose this section of the wall to something more desirable, but it resisted transformation. I finally succeeded in getting a corner loose and, with some sense of satisfaction, yanked the piece of stubborn paper from the wall. Progress, I thought. But there, under the baseballs, was another layer of wallpaper. Spaceships, this time.

Standing on the ladder, peeling away layers of glue, I saw a picture of my soul. Transformation always sounds appealing in the beginning. But looking like Jesus  always involves the hard reality of stripping away the old in order to make way for the new. But my sin is stickier than I realize. It is more durable, more tenacious, and more comfortable than I would like to admit. And just when I think that maybe I am making progress, another layer of selfishness, coat of pride, or sign of shame peeks out from underneath.

My Jesus Resolution today is to watch my Savior and redouble my surrender. His blood is the perfect antidote for sin’s sticky residue. His power can pull away the guilt that clings to my soul. He is not discouraged by the layers of old, worn-out, stained, and tacky that too often seems to define who I am. He wants me to look like Jesus. He can see the beauty and potential of what lies deep inside, and He delights every time I open my heart, inviting His transformation to unfold in me.





The First Stone

23 07 2012

Another horrible act of violence fills this morning’s headlines. Families ripped apart, lives destroyed, anguish magnified, and hearts shattered. Sin is splattered across the news like paint thrown carelessly against a wall. It drips and oozes and spreads its stain across our souls.

I shake my head, dazed by the power of evil all around us. My tears fall for the victims. My heart hurts for the community whose sense of safety has been splintered. And my thoughts begin extracting vengeance. “He deserves…” “No punishment is…” “He needs to see…”

“And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’” – John 8:7

Like the crowd surrounding Jesus and the woman caught in adultery, I have a stone in my hand. I am anxious for wrongs to be recognized, scores to be settled, and blame to be fixed. Jesus asks me to ask myself a question. What do I deserve?

The accounting of my sins is brutal. The list is long, heavy, and suffocating. I deserve death. God gives me grace instead.

I am not excusing evil, minimizing its impact, or suggesting that justice be set aside. But when I look in the mirror and look at the world, I want to see with the eyes of Jesus. Jesus saw a violent soul, an adulterer’s soul, a liar’s soul, a gossip’s soul, a thief’s soul, a selfish soul, a prideful soul, my soul, and what He saw filled Him with compassion and moved Him to the cross. He saw what I deserved and loved. He watched my weaknesses and wept. He caught me in the act and went to be crucified. He didn’t stand on the outside and point fingers. He walked in the middle and extended grace.

My Jesus Resolution today is to set my stone down. People have hurt me. My heart has been wounded and wrecked by the thoughtless words and deliberate actions of others. Today I have a choice. I can hold tightly to my stone, letting its hardness shape my heart, dictate my path, and strangle my emotions. Or I can lay the stone at Jesus’ feet, confident He will do exactly the right thing, and walk through my day stunned by grace.





The Impossible

20 07 2012

“The Christian life begins as a community that is gathered at the place of impossibility, the tomb.” – Eugene Peterson

The impossible is the beginning. We stand at an empty tomb staring at the unimaginable. Jesus is alive. There is no explanation, no rationalization, no quirk of science that can walk around the truth that God has come down and done the impossible.

And that is just the start.

The impossible is God’s specialty. He takes what is dead and makes it pulse with life. He reshapes what is broken, mends what is torn, fixes shattered dreams, and infuses hope into despair. He takes shame, washes it clean, and replaces it with holiness. He casts away our sin-soaked natures, giving us new starts and fresh beginnings. Darkness becomes light. Foreigner becomes family. Runaway becomes redeemed.

As a Christian, you are a living, breathing miracle. Look at the impossibles that God has already worked in you. Sin gone. Grace covered. Death conquered. Life abundant. Name changed. Identity redefined. Eyes opened. Transformation underway. Story rewritten. Happy ending.

And that is just the start.

What “impossible” are you facing today? When we stand at the empty tomb, impossible is redefined. Relationships can be healed. Bad habits can be conquered. Debts can be paid. Guilt can be transformed. Sin can be destroyed. Joy is within reach. Peace is available right now.

My Jesus Resolution today is to write Matthew 19:26 in bold letters across my heart. “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” The answer isn’t in my ability, my cleverness, my strength, or my hard work. The answer to my impossible is in God’s possibles. The solution isn’t in I am, but in He is. And when my impossible looks overwhelming, I will go back to the tomb, look deep inside, smile at its emptiness, and remember that with God impossible is just a place to start.





Drippy

18 07 2012

It’s drippy outside. We have had a week of wet weather. Rain is falling from clouds darkly squished together in the sky. The grass is green. The humidity is clogging the air, and no one is complaining.

A year ago, we were in the midst of a devastating drought. The air crackled with dry electricity as the ground broke open, plants died, and the landscape looked burnt and brown. Scarred trunks still stand as markers of the millions of trees that were ravaged by the earth’s thirst.

The drought seared a reality in our minds that changes the way that we look at the rain today. Faces grin when rain hits the roof. People are thankful for umbrellas. No one minds getting their shoes wet. Rain is a blessing. Even those who don’t know God are counting the drops with gratitude.

In the Bible, rain is a picture of God’s movement, presence, and power among His people. Ground soaked with rain mirrored hearts saturated in surrender and obedience. Drought reminded the people that they could not walk outside of His presence. They needed the Lord as much as the earth needs rain.

My Jesus Resolution today is to talk about the rain. In Matthew 5:45, Jesus tells us that the Father “sends rain on the just and the unjust.” Each time it gets drippy, I get the opportunity to point someone to the One who makes the rain. It rains on the just and the unjust, but the just know who to thank. We are meant to live lives so drippy with His presence and love that others can see us praising Him for even the simplest blessings.





Braces

16 07 2012

He is in pain. I took my son to the orthodontist this morning. They tightened his braces, inserted a stronger wire, and pulled his teeth into an ever-straighter line. Right now, the benefits of stronger, healthier teeth are not in the forefront of his mind. His mouth hurts.

Sitting in the orthodontist’s office provided me with an opportunity to see God at work – in me. I have a crooked, twisted, jagged soul. Sin bends my heart in ways that are not healthy. Left to its own wisdom, my heart leans away from God. The cross is the tool God uses to straighten me out.

The problem is that it is uncomfortable in the moment. I want to be whole. I long for health and His well-being to permeate every part of who I am. The path to that wholeness requires some discomfort. He has to go in and apply pressure, loosen sin’s grip on my heart, redirect my motives, reshape my attitudes, and align my soul with His purpose.

Transformation is never easy. Learning is a process that requires time, commitment, endurance, and patience. If I want to be different tomorrow, I have to be willing to change today.

My Jesus Resolution today is to learn the lesson from the orthodontist. Like my son, I have to keep my eye on the goal. He is willing to endure the pain of the moment in order to have a healthy smile down the road. I have to carry that same perspective. I want to look like Jesus. I want His character to shape my character and His nature to become second-nature to me. In order to do that, I have to be willing to let go of some comfort in the moment in order to conform to His image.





The Power of Grace

13 07 2012

“By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.”

                                                                      – 1 Corinthians 15:10

Paul was a man entirely defined by grace. We look at his commitment, fervor, resolve, and accomplishments, and often place the apostle on a pedestal. Paul would tell us that the only One who should be lifted up is Jesus. Grace made all the difference. It soaked into every part of who Paul was, and transformed his life.

The same grace that changed Paul is yours today. It is just as powerful, just as transforming, and just as overwhelming for average, ordinary you and me as it was for apostles two thousand years ago.

The challenge of grace is to allow it access into the deep places of our hearts. I tend to want to limit where grace can go. Grace is not a bully. It will not push its way in without a welcome. Inviting grace in means being vulnerable, acknowledging my deep need, and being open to the changes God wants to make deep within my soul.

Grace has an impact that can be felt in every corner of my life.  It transforms my eyes as I begin to see my family, my work, my neighbors, my struggles, and even myself differently. Grace changes my thoughts and ideas as I begin to seek God’s purpose and pursue His wisdom. It alters my hands and feet as it impacts the way that I move in the world. Grace flows through my words as I talk about the way Jesus is working in my life. Grace affects my hearing as I listen for His still, small voice.

My Jesus Resolution today is to count the ways that grace touches my day. I want to open the door every time Jesus knocks in order to let grace in. I want to stand in wonder at the lengths He is willing to go to make me new and make me His own. No matter the details of our stories, we all have the same beginning – by the grace of God I am what I am.





Opportunities

11 07 2012

It is an awkward moment. In John 9:1-7, Jesus is walking with His disciples and passes by a man who has been blind from birth. The disciples treat the man like he is deaf as well as blind. “Who sinned, Rabbi? This man or his parents?” In their question, I catch my own reflection.

How many times do I walk in their shoes? When faced with a problem, when struggling with an obstacle, my first response is the same as theirs. I seek to fix blame. I want to know whose fault it is. I want to draw a line in the sand so that I can minimize my own responsibility, relieve my own guilt, or separate myself from the mess. When someone else is to blame, I can stand on the sidelines.

Jesus offers us another way to look at the moment. Instead of pointing a finger, Jesus wants us to look to God. Within this heartache is a place for the One willing to heal our brokenness. Within this difficulty is room for His power. Within this impossible situation is a door for His immeasurably more. Where I see barriers, Jesus sees room for God’s big purpose.

The blind man has probably heard it all before. He expects nothing more than perhaps a coin from the encounter. The man hopes for a little loose change to get through the day. Jesus offers him a change that will transform his life. A little mud, a trip to the pool, and life can be lived in wide-eyed wonder.

My Jesus Resolution today is look for God opportunities. Instead of looking at my troubles and seeing a dead end, I am going to look for the hand of God. God is in the business of breaking through barriers, knocking down walls, and opening doors. Instead of wasting my time fixing blame, I am going to anticipate the ways God is waiting to work.





Astonishing

9 07 2012

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” – Acts 4:13

The question surprised me. Are you astonishing? If you are like me, you smile a little and quickly shake your head ‘no’.  Average – yes, amazing – no.

Here is the problem – average isn’t one of our options. You were meant to be astonishing. Your life in Christ is meant to capture the attention of others and pull it to Jesus. Amazing is supposed to be our norm. Why do we settle for blend in, fade away, and neutral?

The vibrant colors of God’s glory are the palette that He is using to paint the image of Jesus on your soul. The rich boldness of His grace embeds a startling Christ-infused aroma in your character. The intensity of His presence moves us from average to astonishing. If God is amazing, shouldn’t the people who live in His Spirit, walk by His power, and wear His name be something more than ordinary?

We push away the idea of being something other than average because we fear it means we are seeking the spotlight or glorying in our own pride. Being a Christian means something very different. Peter and John were astonishing because others could see they had been with Jesus. God wants us to be amazing in the same way.

My Jesus Resolution today is to surrender to the truth that God makes me astonishing. I am not ordinary, run-of-the-mill, average, or mediocre. I walk with Jesus. The Holy Spirit dwells within me. God’s presence, love, grace, and wisdom surround me and fill my spirit. This isn’t about me. I am meant to stand out, be amazing, and astonish others in order to draw their eyes to Jesus. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16