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.


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?


12 09 2012

Disappointment is difficult. When our dreams crash, the door is slammed in our face, or the path takes an unexpected turn, waves of disappointment and discouragement have the power to knock us off our feet and leave bruises on our hearts.

She called me in tears. She had been working toward this day for months. She had poured her heart into learning and rising to the new challenges before her. She had set her goal, preparing herself for settling into a new routine of service and compassion.

Unexpectedly, the plan took a twist. The door she was counting on swinging open stayed firmly closed. She turned around in bewilderment, staring at another door that was now ajar. She didn’t want to go through it. It wasn’t where she wanted to go. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to work out. After months of praying and preparing, disappointment left heartache in its wake.

She struggled to make sense of this new reality. Disappointment gave way to discouragement. She doubted her talents, and her ability to adjust and accept the new situation. Her confidence took a hit as she compared her door to the doors that others had seen open. Frustration erupted as she questioned the path that led her to this unexpected, unwanted place.

I wish I could tell you that I was able to give her some grand advice or make sense of the twists and turns that now lay before her. Instead, she taught me how to look like Jesus when your heart is hurting. Humbled, I read what she wrote only a few hours later. “Faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse. Your plans are greater than my dreams.”

My Jesus Resolution today is to meet disappointment with faith. In every moment of disappointment, we have a choice. We can trust or we can complain. We can look for His hand or stare at the closed door. We can remember God’s faithfulness or rehearse our frustration. We can demand our own way or walk in His way. We can sit down, letting disappointment stop us in our tracks or we can stand up, wipe away the tears, reach out for His hand, and take a step of faith.

Dusty Faith

10 09 2012

I am not a big fan of dusting. Dusting is one of those required chores that is necessary, but brings no joy. Sometimes I put it off, and the evidence of my procrastination builds up in unexpected places.

In our family room, we have a metal piece that says “Faith” in large letters. It sits there as a reminder of who we are and where to turn as we live in the everyday routine of life. Cloth in hand, I pulled it down from the shelf where it sits in order to dust it off. I was surprised by how much dust had accumulated since the last time I had tackled this particular chore.

Dusty faith. The significance of the layer of grime on the letters that spelled out faith struck me hard. I don’t want to have dusty faith. Too often, faith becomes something that sits on a shelf to be looked at from a distance, but never used or enjoyed. We keep it in our pockets, carrying it around like a good luck charm or a membership card. Faith isn’t something we can pick up and set down when it is convenient. Faith is a way of living, a way of looking at ourselves and the world, and a power that fuels the way we walk through our days and face our fears.

Faith is like a muscle. It has to be exercised daily to help it grow and keep it strong. When faith is unused, it atrophies. It gets dusty.

My Jesus Resolution today is to exercise my faith. I am going to nourish it with His Word, let it breathe in the fresh air of His presence, expose it to the wonder of worship, and strengthen it in service to others. I am going to remember that faith isn’t one part of who I am. Faith expresses the whole of who I am in Jesus. It testifies to how God is moving in my life, making me new, filling me with grace, and transforming me into the image of His Son. I am not going to put my faith up on a shelf, only pulling it down in emergencies or when I need a little bit of comfort. If my faith gets dusty, I want it to be because I have been working, loving, following, forgiving, and living like Jesus.

The Blitz

7 09 2012

It started seventy-two years ago. On September 7, 1940, Nazi Germany began a bombing campaign meant to cripple the resources and melt the resolve of the United Kingdom. It was called The Blitz, which in German means ‘lightning’. For fifty-seven straight nights, waves of German bombers flew into England, dropping terror and destroying over one million homes in London alone. More than forty-thousand people died as Hitler attempted to bully England into concessions and fear.

England refused to stumble before the evil pushing so hard against its national soul. The people of the United Kingdom dug in, preparing to withstand the onslaught. Children were sent from the cities into the countryside in order to take them out of the bomb’s path. Shortages caused the people to come together to survive. And the cities went dark. Complete blackouts were required in order to prevent giving German bombers a clear target.

Imagine the preparations that took place just before nightfall. Windows were covered. Every crack was examined. Lights were doused. Supplies were gathered. Places of refuge were sought. They knew the blitz was coming. Their best defense was found in their resolve to never, ever give up.

Sometimes it feels like we are in the middle of a blitz. The enemy unleashes a lightning attack on our souls. We feel pounded, pressured, prodded, and pummeled by unrelenting waves of terror. His aim is to puncture our hope, drain our joy, and rock our peace. Wearying nights of fear give way to dawns filled with taking inventory of the debris and destruction. Is it possible to hold on through one more blitz?

My Jesus Resolution today is to resolve to never, ever give up. The enemy is strong and unrelenting, but Jesus is stronger and more faithful. He calls us to take shelter in His love, find our peace in His presence, and rely on His promises. He sees the attack. He collects your tears. He understands your fears. He gives us words of hope and encouragement to write on our hearts, in our homes, at our offices, and within our relationships. Words to whisper to our loved ones and shout at the enemy. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33