Wednesday, August 25, 2010

You Don't Get to Choose

I also posted this on theSHIFT Insider (HERE).

The last few weeks at theSHIFT we’ve been in a series called Back to the Basics. The series is focused on the most basic and important command that Jesus gives (that being Luke 10:27 - Love the Lord your God and Love your neighbor). Steven Frausto (BLOG) is leading the series and will write a series reCAP blog, so I don't want to take away from that by going too deep into it, but I wanted to address one specific thing that we talked about this past Sunday.

The topic was “Loving Each Other Through the Holy Spirit.” We got into a lot of great discussion about what that means and what it looks like to worship in spirit and in truth, but one of the most poignant moments of the discussion (for me) revolved around 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 in the context of loving other. It says:

"For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again."

While studying for this lesson the word that hit me was “compels.” I was pretty sure I knew what it meant, but looked it up anyway. It means “to force to a course of action.” Then I started thinking, “So Christ's love forces us to do stuff.” So I looked up “force,” which means, “power to influence, affect, or control.”

When we accept and have Christ's love it powerfully influences us to a course of action...that being to love and serve others. It doesn't just force you into an action, but actually changes who you are at your very core. It no longer becomes a matter of what you should do, but what you ought to do. It becomes who YOU are, or rather who CHRIST is in you. If Christ lives in you, you have no choice in the matter, you WILL be a new person. Romans 5:17 says,

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

That transformation can only come from Christ in you and only when you choose to submit to Him. So with all that said I can get to the real point...Christ replaces you. He destroys who YOU were and replaces it with who He is.

One of those ways of submitting to Christ is through prayer. There is a TON that can be said about prayer and I'm not gonna even scratch the surface of it. But since we're talking about loving others, prayer is a huge part of that. Prayer is one of the ways that we can lay aside our desires and seek those of God.

I’m going to confess something and it may make people gasp in disbelief, but understand this…I’m a flawed and fallen man (just like everyone else), constantly in need of God’s grace and mercy and through my daily seeking of Christ He makes me the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21) and causes me to look more like Him. So here it is…I don’t always like everyone. There are some people; they have even been in theSHIFT, that I’ve thought, “Man I do not like that person. I wish they would leave.” With that said I know that’s not ok and I seek God to change that in me daily.

BUT…EVERY time I’ve felt like that (and some took longer than others), because I love Christ and I desire to love His people, I didn’t just let those feelings settle. Instead, I would seek God on it, ask Him to reveal the deeper issue, pray that God would lead me through it, sought wise counsel from those in authority over me and those close to me, and then I would go to that person. But I would go to them in love, not to attack them. Here’s what I found…through all that God didn’t change the other person, He changed me. He changed my heart for the person, exposed my short comings as they related to that particular person and changed the way I saw that person. Every time I sought God (with the right motives and truly seeking His heart) I changed, not the other person

Here’s the bottom line: Some of those people are still doing the same junk that annoyed me before, but that’s not for me to be concerned with and really it doesn’t bother me anymore. My concern is that there are things that God still needs to change in my heart. Because I love God and I desire His heart, I submit myself to Him and allow Him to replace me. In submitting to Christ and seeking His character, the Holy Spirit changes you and you start seeing people as God sees them: as the object of His affection and love. If you submit to Christ and accept His love, you will be compelled to love others the same way He loves you…you WON’T have a choice.

Glad I don’t get to choose,

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Way It Was

Being in the military something I hear often is, “At my last base we...” or “The way we used to do it was...” The impression is that the way we used to do things is always better than the way we are doing them or are leading toward doing them. That way of thinking never made sense to me. As if the type writer was a better, more effective method of doing paperwork than the computer. Or propeller planes were more effective than the amazement of technology that we call jets.

What I've realized in the last few years is that those type of comments are not exclusive to military life. It seems that it is a prevalent way of thinking in most areas of our culture, ministry being no exception. The more I hear that stuff lately the more I wonder if the Apostles longed for “the way it was”. Specifically, when they were years into their ministry, facing persecution and imminent death, did they long for the days of old? The days that they physically walked with Jesus or the days of the early church when 3,000 people were added to the church in one day. I think they probably did. I have to believe that at the moment Stephen was facing death from stoning, while Peter was being crucified, as they were getting ready to throw James from the temple roof or the years Paul spent chained in prison, one if not all, longed for the “good old days.” Who wouldn't miss lounging with Jesus as opposed to stoning? But here's the thing...even though what they were facing was, well...death, they NEVER recanted on their faith. Their service to Jesus, their calling from Christ to advance His kingdom trumped EVERYTHING else. And it's because He changed them. Peter was no longer the same guy that blatantly denied Christ, Paul was no longer a murder and persecutor of Christians. They were different men all together.

That's the point of what Jesus does in us. We are to die to our old selves and be made new in Christ. In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul tells them, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 In Romans 12:2 he says, “Don’t copy [conform to] the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” We are NOT meant to stay the same, He means to transform our hearts, our minds, our whole self. He did not come so we would remain the same selfish, self seeking, hurtful and hurting people that we were before Him.

He came to save us, to love us and to reconcile us into the arms of His (and our) Father. 2 Corinthians 3:8 says he came, “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” He came to change us into people that look like Him and reflect His glory. If we stay the same, we don't reflect Him. Jesus' love and everything else about Him says revolutionary, not relevant. He didn't come to relate to us, but to introduce a radical change in us that allowed us to relate to Him.

Bottom line is this...Christ came with the intention of changing us. That change is meant to draw us to a place that we desire to love people, advance His saving grace and see others changed by Him. We are NOT meant to hang out (that's a club) and we are not meant to focus on “the way it was.” We are meant to be so impacted by the love of Christ that we are transformed (made into something entirely different) for His sake. If your relationship with Christ is based on what was and not focused on what He's doing now, then you're not advancing His kingdom. No one that has ever sat on the side lines, ever scored a point. The aggressive player is the one that helps to advance the team. After all, “from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it.” Matthew 11:12.

His kingdom is being attacked everyday, are you just gonna keep “sitting this one out”?

Seeking His Transforming Power,

Update: My Son The Teacher

This is actually the first time I've done an update on a previous post, but I thought this was worth sharing.  I probably should have wrote this last month when I realized it, but I was pouring through some old blogs, came across "My Son the Teacher" and felt I needed to follow up to share the amazing things our God does.

Back on April 9, 2010 I wrote a post titled "My Son the Teacher" (HERE).  In that post I talked about a kid in my sons 5th grade class that was so desperate for friends he brought money and was willing to pay other kids to be his friend.  This boy was often reluctant to answer invitations to play with what the other kids were playing and instead often chose to walk the playground by himself.  My son didn't take the money and concluded that he would just walk with this kid until he was ready to accept him as a friend.

Now, understand that both my sons are amazing young men, but Andrew has this heart for people that can only be given by God.  He also hands out church invite cards by the dozens because he wants to see his friends in church. So after a couple weeks of just "walking" with this boy, Andrew gave him an invite card.  Soon this boy and his family began attending Element Church (probably some time in the beginning of May) and Andrew was STOKED (really that's an understatement, but he was super pumped about it).

After a few weeks of attending Element, Andrew told me that his friend accepted Christ in Elevate (our children's ministry - lead by Pastor Derek, Blog HERE).  Again...super stoked!  So as if that weren't enough, I had the opportunity (I think during Element's Stripped Series - Sermon HERE) to witness the father of Andrew's friend answer the invitation to surrender his life to Christ.  SO STOKED!!!

So here's the bottom line...two kids, one that just wanted some one to walk with him and one that was willing to, changed an entire family.  That's God.