Be Brave

28 09 2012

I overheard the conversation and smiled. A young woman was thanking an older woman for helping her step out and serve. “I was so nervous. I didn’t think I could do it. You helped me find the courage to try something outside of my comfort zone. Thank you!”

Hugging the young woman, the older woman encouraged her and thanked her for being an example. When the moment was over, she turned to me and said, “The only real barrier to being a servant is having the courage to try.”

She is so right.

It is hard to stretch beyond the familiar. We get nervous about walking in new places. We are afraid that we will make a mistake, mess it all up, or fall on our faces. And maybe we will. But being a servant isn’t about being perfect, having all the right answers, or never failing. It is about following Jesus. It is about taking a step of faith, opening a door of surrender, and allowing God to define the moment.

When we take a deep breath and are courageous about walking where Jesus walks, God can and will do amazing things.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be brave. God is calling me to step outside of my comfort zone and look like Jesus. It may mean making a phone call, sending a card, teaching a class, meeting a friend, speaking up, or saying ‘yes.’ I may get it right. I may not. But in trying, there is transformation.





Playing With Fire

26 09 2012

You would think I would learn. Temptation doesn’t come with a big neon sign announcing that sin is just around the corner. It sneaks in, catching us when we are vulnerable and wounding without warning.

I watch other people flirt with temptation and can see exactly where it is going to lead. I want to shout that destruction is in front them. I shake my head at how blind they seem to the chasm of darkness that is only steps away. When I try to warn them, they nod their heads, but somehow think that their story will turn out differently.

But I am the same way. I think that I can play with fire and not get burned. I convince myself that I can dabble in darkness and it won’t cast a shadow over my soul. Temptation strikes, and I let my desires, my desperation, or my defining sense of entitlement set my path. And I end up getting scorched.

Proverbs 6:27 says, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?”

Playing with fire always has consequences. When I try to carry even a little bit of evil next to my heart, it will sear its mark into my being. I will never be an exception to this rule, no matter what justifications or rationalizations I come up with. I can’t outsmart sin.

My Jesus Resolution today is to fight fire with fire. Temptation promises that I can control the fires of sin. Use it. Make it your own. No one will know. You can handle it. The truth of God’s Word reveals temptations’ lies. My only hope is found within the character of God Himself. “For our God is a consuming fire.” – Hebrews 12:29. The light of His presence can push back the darkness. The fire of His holiness can consume my impurity. The radiance of His glory can transform my heart. Holy fire provides my best defense when the flicker of sin tempts me to play with fire.





The Shadow

24 09 2012

He is two-years-old and as cute as a button. Dark, curly hair top curious eyes and a giant smile. His head barely reaches the top of the pew, but he loves going to church, and on this night, he preached a sermon.

My son was leading singing. He is young, and this is new ground for him. He is learning what it means to be a leader. The Sunday night crowd was encouraging as he stood amidst the pews and led songs that pointed them toward Jesus. But it was what was happening in the background that caught my attention.

Just a few feet away from my son, this little boy had planted himself in his shadow. I just happened to be at the right angle to catch the moment. As my son directed the song, this little guy lifted his arm and began copying his movements. He made big, sweeping arcs as he mimicked the way my son was singing. When my son straightened his shoulders, so did the little boy. When he put his arm down, so did his little shadow.

The little boy didn’t say a word, but he taught me a powerful lesson. People are watching the way I look like Jesus. Our words, actions, steps, and attitudes become concrete markers of what it means to live the Christian life. Every move I make has a ripple effect. It touches someone else. If they stand in my shadow and do what I do, will they be imitating Jesus?

My Jesus Resolution today is to write 1 Corinthians 11:1 on my heart and in my actions – “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” My neighbors are watching as I come and go today. Will they see Jesus in my movements? My family is touched by my priorities. Do they point them to Christ? My friends listen to more than my words. Do they hear the Lord? We all have a shadow. I want mine to be shaped like a cross.





Peace

21 09 2012

Today is the International Day of Peace. It is a day meant to remind the world of the terrible cost of war and the commitment to peace that must be made by each citizen of the planet.

The reality of our world is that there is only one way to peace. It will not come through human diplomacy, cease fires, good will, or resolutions. Jesus is the only way to peace.

This is not a politically correct statement. We live in a world that wants tolerance and compromise to be our anthems. It promotes the idea that peace will only flow from a “live and let live” mindset. There is a place, of course, for respect and open-mindedness. We need to honor the free will God placed inside each man and see each person as special and unique. But peace will never be the result of our efforts or attitudes. It will never flow from learning to be comfortable with darkness. Peace will only come to the world when it embraces Jesus.

Christianity holds up one standard and revolves around one truth. The cross frames the greatest move ever made toward peace. It is the instrument upon which Jesus brought reconciliation between us and God. That is the war that must be our focus. As long as people are fighting God, they will continue to fight each other.

The move toward peace must be a move toward Christ. The good news is that peace doesn’t depend on Washington or the United Nations. It is a movement that can begin in our hearts and homes. The spread of peace across the globe is directly related to the spread of Christ in people’s lives. Jesus already paid the terrible cost for the war of our souls. The task He gives to you and me is to be peace ambassadors, carrying the good news of peace to the people still fighting and dying in darkness.

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20

My Jesus Resolution today is to be an ambassador of peace. I am thankful for the peace Jesus has brought to my life. I wouldn’t want to face a day without the reality of His peace guarding my heart and mind. Today I commit to sharing that peace with others. Peace isn’t an international dream. It is God’s dream, and He is willing to share it with you and me.





The Bad Guy

19 09 2012

We were sitting together in church. The sermon was in full swing, and my little friend was working hard on a Bible activity sheet designed for kids his age. Pencil in hand, he searched the pictures looking for Jesus. Each one illustrated a different scene from the hours surrounding Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, and his job was to find Jesus among the faces in the picture.

He carefully searched each frame, looking at the faces and examining the action. Easily finding Jesus, he leaned over and asked me who the other men in the picture were. I explained that they were soldiers who arrested Jesus. He looked at me with deep concern. Why did they arrest Jesus? A harder question. How do you explain hardheartedness and rejection of grace to a five year old? “They didn’t like what He was teaching about God.” I told him. “So they’re bad guys,” he declared.

The next picture brought a similar set of questions. Who were the people standing together in a mob shouting around Jesus? “Those were the people who shouted, ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’” I said. “Why would they do that?” he asked. “They didn’t like what He was teaching about God either.” I told him. “So they’re bad guys too.”

On it went through the pictures of the friends that ran away, the priests that handed Jesus to Pilate, the soldiers nailing Jesus to a cross, and a crowd mocking Him as He hung dying. My little friend’s tender heart could barely take the rejection, shame, and scorn being poured on Jesus. With each picture, he looked at the faces and said, “So they’re bad guys too.” With each frame, my heart got a little heavier because every time I nodded yes, I caught my own reflection in the mirror. I’m a bad guy too.

My Jesus Resolution today is to remember that the crucifixion is personal. He died for me. My sin demanded His blood. My selfishness required His sacrifice. The cross isn’t about sin in general. It is about my sin, and a Savior’s great love. The forgiveness that flows from the cross is personal too. His grace meets my guilt at its darkest place and washes me clean. It is changing me from ‘bad guy’ into the image of this amazing Savior.





Living in Two Places

17 09 2012

My little friend and I were eating breakfast. Muffins, yogurt, and juice were spread out on the table as we sat together, talking and getting ready for the day. Between mouthfuls of muffin, he excitedly told me about the book he checked out from the library at school. It was a book about the animals that live in Africa. Lions, tigers, giraffes, and monkeys joined us at the table as he described them to me.

Grinning from the adventure playing out in his mind, he asked me about the animals that live in our neighborhood. I laughed and told them that elephants didn’t live in our backyards here in Houston. He paused in mid-giggle, as a deep thought filled his eyes. He was absolutely puzzled by this news. “I thought we lived in Texas,” he said. “We live in both,” I told him. “We live in Houston, Texas.”

His question taught me a lesson. Sometimes I forget that we live in two places. Our hearts have two addresses. This world is the residence of our bodies, but there is another kingdom that is the residence of our souls. We have dual citizenship. We belong in two worlds – an earthly reality and a heavenly kingdom. We have a physical home here and a room with the Father being built for us there. Here there is crime, war, politics, and disease. There the King reigns, wiping away every tear, abolishing pain, having vanquished the enemy, and defeated death.

My Jesus Resolution today is to change the way I answer the address question. Philippians 3:20 says, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” I am called to live an abundant, holy, cross-shaped life in this world, while never forgetting that I have another home. My allegiance must first belong to God, as I pledge to live my life in His grace and under His authority. Breakfast today has me rethinking how to answer the question about where I live. The next time someone asks, I am going to be brave and say, “I live in Houston, Texas and the Kingdom of God.”





The Election

14 09 2012

We are in the middle of an election season. Political ads, campaign promises, and partisan dialogue fill the airwaves. As we walk through these last weeks before the election, here is a list of ten things you can do as you get ready to vote.

1. Pray. Pray for our country, our government, the candidates, and the voters. 1 Timothy 2:1-2.

2. Accept the challenge to be content no matter how the election goes. Philippians 4:11

3. Examine your priorities as you prepare to vote. Matthew 6:33

4. Determine to be thankful in all things. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

5. Confess your sins, not those of your opponents. 2 Chronicles 7:14

6. Remember what is really important. 1 Timothy 6:17

7. Love your enemies. Pray for your candidate. Pray harder for the other one. Matthew 5:44

8. Make sure that every word you speak is encouraging. Colossians 4:6

9. Have the same attitude as Jesus – even in the voting booth. Philippians 2:5

10. Always remember that God sits on the throne. Isaiah 14:26-27

My Jesus Resolution today is to walk with God through the election process. God wants me to walk into the voting booth with my eyes on Him and my trust grounded firmly in His promises and purpose. He wants me to walk out of the voting booth understanding that He is in control. He promises to work in the challenges of my citizenship here even as He reminds me that this world is not my home. As I think, pray, decide, and determine who will receive my vote, I resolve to let God direct my attitudes, align my priorities, define my perspective, and control my actions. Ultimately, the most important thing is not who is in the White House. The most important thing is – did I look like Jesus through the process?