More of Him, more of me

I know the usual expression is “more of Him, less of me” . . but this blog is going to be about “more of Him, more of me.”

More and Less directions.  Opposite traffic sign.

What do I mean by that?

Just this: the more of Him there is, the more of the actual me, the good me, the new me there is.

When we are saved in Christ, we become new creations (see 2 Corinthians 5:17).

The Bible talks about our work as believers being comparable to gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-15).  The more we follow God’s will, the more we build on our lives with desirable, lasting qualities that are like gold, silver, and jewels.  So the more we know God, the more beautiful our lives become.

When we say, “more of Him, less of me”, what I think we usually mean is “more of Him, less of my sin nature”.  This is true, too.  The more we know Christ, the less we will build with worthless materials that will be burned up in the fire of judgment.  But knowing Christ–following after Him–doesn’t mean I become less and less of a “person”.  Rather, I become more and more who I was intended to be.

Following Christ doesn’t mean giving up my identity.  Rather, it means finding my true identity in Him.  In giving up my dead old “life” for Him, I receive His alive, new Life (see Mark 8:35).

I love the analogy of building in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.  I had Legos as a kid, and I think of building something with Legos.  The more I submit my life to be restructured into building blocks for His Kingdom, the more of the eternal I become.  The more I do things my own way and hold onto my old ways of sinning, the less of the eternal I am.

It’s incredible the contrast in what people build with Legos.  A building can be as tiny as two blocks placed together, or as massive as the imagination allows.  In the same way, we can build for God’s Kingdom as much as our spirit yields to His.  What we find when we obey Him is that we become more and more of who we were meant to be . . not less and less.

In the book The Velveteen Rabbit, in probably the most famous passage, the Skin Horse describes what it is like to become real.  The Velveteen Rabbit thinks the process sounds terrible: his fur will be worn off, his whiskers will fall out, his stuffing will become limp–things such as this.  But what he discovers is that, only when he becomes real (when he is truly loved by the boy who owns him) does he experience the outlandish joy of becoming a real rabbit.

We don’t have to be afraid of losing our value as we open our arms to God’s love in our lives and as we yield to His will for us.  Rather, we are discovering our value in Him!!!  And we are building on an everlasting, unimaginably wonderful Kingdom.  In the process, we ourselves become real–new creations full of eternal Life.

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (Jesus, quoted in John 10:10b, NASB)

Advertisements
Published in: on August 4, 2014 at 11:36 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Does what I do make a difference?

It’s something I’ve been pondering for several months now.  Does what I do make a difference?

Lately I’ve really been struggling to write.  I’ve been fighting a big bout of discouragement.  It seems that I can strive to be a popular writer, a cool writer, or a powerful writer, but the question lingers still: Does what I do make a difference?

It seems like, so much of the time, what I write is possibly read (or skimmed), possibly encouraging, possibly thought-provoking–and then it’s time for the reader to check email . . or get a second cup of coffee . . or go to that work meeting.  Does what I do make a difference?

How can I write in a way that causes people to want to give their lives to Christ?  How do I write in a way that evokes a life change that’s real and radical in my Christian friends?  How do I write in a way that such a change happens within myself?

Does what I do make a difference?

I’ve felt stumped with writer’s block . . tired . . unmotivated . . and just like the busywork of life is more demanding and more promising.

God forgive me.

I’ve been so blind.

In the parable of the sower, Jesus talks about such a problem a farmer has.  He works hard throwing out all of this seed by hand, but so much of it is unsuccessful.  So much of it yields no crop.  What with birds and thorns and rocks, most of the seed is a huge disappointment.  That’s the way it’s going to be in this life.

Most people who read this (if people do actually read this), are going to think, “Hmm, interesting,” or “Well, that was boring,” or “Huh”, or “You don’t say” . . and that will be the end of it.  They won’t change their lives.  But I should have realized that would happen.

Many people who read the Bible have the same reaction.  My writing is dust, but the Bible is God’s eternal Word.  And yet many people, when they read it, carelessly let the truth slip between their fingers.  They have no reaction to catch it, but rather simply to observe it (or argue against it).

But let’s make it more personal. How many times do Christians–do I myself–read God’s Word and I don’t even begin to let it steep before I’m off to the busywork of life?  It’s like percolating coffee in the morning, going to the trouble of pouring it in a cup, and then leaving it on the counter and never touching it again.

God warns us in the parable of the sower that much of our work in this life will seem fruitless.  Much of the time, when we try to bring people to Christ, or bring Christians to a deeper understanding of Him, in the eyes of the world we totally and utterly fail.  Nothing grows.

Yet we still sprinkle seeds everywhere.

Why?

Surely it must be love.

Surely the farmer throws seed on rocky soil, thorny soil, and on the path not because he is incompetent, but because he chooses to give all the soil a chance.  Surely he allows himself to experience the disappointment of a failed crop again and again, simply to give every possible piece of land the chance to thrive and grow.

The wise and perfect Farmer, Jesus Christ, knows just what kind of soil we are in our hearts.  And He still throws out the seed to all.  We, on the other hand, have no true idea what kind of soil is in the heart of another, yet we are reluctant or even unwilling to scatter seeds if the outcome looks unpredictable to us or the chance of success is unlikely.

We are called to scatter seed–not to grow it.  We can do no such thing as growing.  Only God can do that.

But we can act like our Master in Heaven, Jesus Christ, when we give everyone the opportunity to hear God’s Word and respond.  What they do with it is a choice God has left up to them.  Their choice, however, has no bearing on our responsibility to first get the Word to them.

I love the way the movie Courageous ends.  To paraphrase in a way befitting this blog, some may read this and not care.  Some may read this and agree, and they’ll forget what they read as soon as the next interruption comes.

But a few may read this and seek Christ.  And even if it’s just the possibility of one, that’s a chance I’m willing to take.

I’m ready to scatter seed again.

“A farmer went out to sow his seed . .” (Luke 8:5a, NIV)

 

Published in: on July 26, 2014 at 6:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Chinese Acrobats

One year for my birthday, Mom took me to see the Chinese Acrobats in Branson.  What these athletes do is truly extraordinary.  They are moving pieces of art.  Their balance, strength, and ability to conform their bodies showcase the years of training and ongoing practice needed to do the impossible.

The Chinese Acrobats remind me of our training as followers of Christ.  Sometimes we feel like God is being too hard on us, or allowing too many challenges to come our way.  We don’t realize that He is training us for our spectacular debut as His new creation.  Every struggle, every time of testing is the exact practice needed to enable us to do the impossible.

As we are made more and more into the image of Christ, our old habits and hangups grow weary of the training and slip off like old skin, and our new nature is showcased for the world to see.

Training the body helps a little, but godly living helps in every way. Godly living has the promise of life now and in the world to come. (1 Timothy 4:8, GW)

As Christians, why do we do what we do?

Are we trying to earn God’s favor . .

. . or are we giving God permission to do whatever He wants with our lives?

“Earning God’s favor” sounds good–in theory.  In reality, it is one more death knell in the coffin of so-called “self-righteousness”.

Martha had an unoriginal idea.  She would please God by doing something.  For her, it was cooking a Martha Stuart banquet “for Jesus”.  The problem was, she was so wrapped up in folding the napkins and testing the hors d’oeuvres, she missed out on what Jesus was teaching.  Oops.

It sounded good: honor Jesus with a dinner.  The problem was, Jesus wasn’t looking for a fancy dinner.  He was looking for an open heart.

Martha missed out because she was responding to a demand she had made up in her own mind, and only imagined that it came from God.

What a mistake, but there’s no room for finger-pointing at Martha.  See, I have the very same deception in my heart.  Earning God’s favor looks so good to our hearts, like a recipe in a magazine with one of those full-page photos advertising just how delectable it will be to make.  But earning God’s favor always comes out so disappointing for us, a complete disaster and nothing like the promised result.  In short, we are duped time and time again by the lie that we can somehow please God in and of ourselves.

Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:8, NIV)

The Bible makes it clear: our earning God’s favor = impossible.

Suppose that pleasing God on our own ability would be like earning a 10.0 on every single Olympic gymnastic routine.  Hard to do?  Actually, very easy compared to the problem we really have.  Because we are utterly tangled up in sin, we would be like an athlete totally bound up from head to toe trying to dance across the balance beam, perform a powerful floor routine, volley triumphantly over the vault, and flip gracefully across the bars.

I know this reality in my heart: I can’t please God in and of myself.  But there is still a part of me that acts like a bound athlete, fumbling towards the gymnastic equipment, eager to make a total fool of myself in front of an audience.  (It’s at times like this that I damage my reputation before other Christians and before the world.  I’m identified as a follower of Christ, yet I’m attempting my own show without Him.)

Martha didn’t fare much better than I do.  In the middle of her dazzling preparations for lunch, God Himself gently rebuked her.

“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41b-42, NLT)

We know we don’t want to be like Martha.  We don’t want to try to earn God’s approval in our lives.  We want to give Him permission to do whatever He wants in our lives.

But how do we know when we’re striking out on our own to earn a perfect score . . and when we’re genuinely open to God’s leading?  Although the contrast between these two is night and day, I think it can be very difficult to tell which one we really are doing.  Observers can’t always tell.  We and God might be the only ones who know where our heart’s at and, many times, God is the only One who knows–we don’t even know ourselves!

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
 (Jeremiah 17:9)

Here are a few suggestions that might help as you look at your life and ask, Why am I really doing what I do?

  • Ask God to reveal to you when you are trying to earn His approval.
  • Ask God to take away motivations that don’t honor Him, and to give you a right heart before Him.
  • Ask God to give you clarity.  Then ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”  Are you doing what you need to be doing, but with the wrong focus?  Do you need to abandon a project altogether?
  • Ask God for forgiveness when you try to be ‘an Olympic gymnast tied with ropes’.  Remember that God delights in you because of your relationship with Christ, not because of what you offer Him.

We’re not told what Martha chose that day.  She might have gone back to polishing the silverware and frosting the cake.  Or, she might have given it all up, left the pots on the stove bubbling and the tiramisu in the refrigerator, and gone to sit at the feet of Jesus, too.

Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. (Ephesians 3:12, NLT)

Genius Recommendations

I remember when I first found out that itunes had a Genius Recommendations program that could read your music library and figure out what songs you were likely to enjoy (and buy) that weren’t yet in your library. Sometimes the genius worked for me and more times it didn’t, because it was based on the assumption a person would like more songs from that same singer/band or similar singers/bands.

When the novelty wore off, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to my Genius Recommendations. That is, until one day, oh, I guess a few months or so after I committed my life to Christ.

You know that feeling where you’ve looked at something dozens of times and haven’t really paid attention and then you’re suddenly like, Oh, no! ?

That happened to me.

I looked at my recommendations, and my immediate thought was, Why would itunes be suggesting such awful music to me? Clearly, this Genius Recommendations thing was all-wrong.

Or was it?

The Genius Recommendations has a handy little explanation of what it’s recommending. It says, “You have/bought music by _________” and therefore advertises another song or cd it finds similar.

There–posted very clearly–by every song I would never see myself buying, was the evidence that this music fit into my library: a song or album I had in my music library that was similar!

I remember thinking, Oh, I have got to fix this.

I started using my Genius Recommendations, well,differently than itunes had in mind. Every time an offensive song recommendation popped up, I got to see what in my library reminded the genius of that song and then I could go and delete it.

I didn’t always do it right away. It was hard to give up songs that I had seen as “somewhat acceptable” for so long.

Over time, my existing library got smaller and smaller, but I started buying new songs to match my new commitment to Christ. For a while there, it was very startling to go onto my Genius Recommendations and see a recommendation for some yucky song matching some old music still stuck in my library right alongside a recommendation for a worship song!

Genius Recommendations changed how I saw music.

I wonder what would happen if there was a program that took all of our behaviors in a day and recommended future actions like:

You coveted today. May we recommend: stealing.

You watched TV all day. You may also like: wasting your life.

You held a grudge today. Other people with grudges also liked: murder.

But I already have genius recommendations for my life. I have a Book that tells me where my behavior will get me on every single page, and the one behavior I need most:

To believe in Jesus Christ.

You gave your life to Christ today.  May we recommend: living like you belong to Him, starting right now.

 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. (Ephesians 4:21-24, NLT)

Published in: on April 19, 2014 at 3:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Do we only hang out with Christians?

Do we only hang out with Christians?  Do all our friends look, believe, or act like us?

abwarten

What sort of person are you the least likely to witness to?  Who makes you really uncomfortable?  We all have those people.

They may have a different:

  • religion
  • political party
  • personality type
  • lifestyle
  • past or present, or both

Now let’s take an even deeper look.

They might be:

  • judgmental
  • hypocrites
  • bigots
  • loud and obnoxious
  • barely even there
  • very young
  • very old

They might:

  • smell bad
  • wear ten-thousand dollar suits

Whoever they are, wherever they are, one tie unites them: they need us to tell them about Christ and live in such a way that our faith is believable.

How much of your day is spent with non-Christians?

How much of your day that is spent with Christians is focused on energizing up for the time spent with non-Christians?

Christ says in Matthew 28:18-20 (NASB):

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Promised Land . . Promised ONE

I’ve had a Veggie Tales song stuck in my head the last couple days.  It’s from Josh and the Big Wall, based on the story of Joshua and the Israelites’ entrance into the Promised Land.

The song starts with their laments that they’ve been wandering around in the wilderness for 40 years because of their disobedience and disbelief in God:

We didn’t have a lot of fun in the desert
We didn’t have a lot of fun in the sand
But saddle up your cow and fall behind us now
Because we’re goin’ to the Promised Land!

And the song continues with a list of all the treats the veggie Israelites are dreaming of feasting on once they get to the land the Bible describes as “flowing with milk and honey” (see Exodus 33:3):

And in the Promised Land, it’s gonna be so grand
We’ll have our fill from the grill as much as we can stand
It’ll be so great with waffles on my plate
‘Cause we’re goin’ to the Promised Land

The song, in VeggieTale style, gushes with food the Israelites wouldn’t have even known about, of course.  But the concept hits to the core of where the Israelites’ hearts were:

Ready for the Promised Land.

For the Israelites, the Promised Land was probably little different than Chuck E. Cheese is to a 6-year-old today.  Full of the promises of delight beyond what the imagination can hold.  A feast of joy.  And that is where most Israelites held their loyaltyas the song points out:

The dining was lousy with Moses
But we’ll be feasting with Josh in command
I’d like a taco, please, and some pintos and cheese
Because we’re goin’ to the Promised Land

They wanted the Promised Land, and they wanted it now.

Now there was nothing wrong with longing for the Promised Land.  In Hebrews, the author talks about how God rewards those who believe in His promises (see Hebrews 11).  In fact, Hebrews 11:6 says,

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

There’s nothing wrong with looking forward to the reward of Heaven.

But the VeggieTale song strikes right at the heart of the Israelites’ problem:

For years, I’ve eat nothing but manna
A dish that is filling but bland
But now we’re on our way, I’ll have a cheese souffle
Because we’re goin’ to the Promised Land

Jesus describes Himself as the bread from Heaven (see John 6:32-35).  He is the true Manna.  The Israelites’ missed the important of the bread of Heaven because they had their hearts set on “cheese souffles” so to speak.  They lost the true meaning of what God was doing:

He was providing for them in a way that had never been done through the miracle of manna.

Later, when the manna ended, I suspect many of them longed for the bread to pour down from Heaven again.  In fact, in John 6, this is exactly what the people want (this or more).

The Israelites focused on the Promised Land and forgot the Promised One.

hands

They had been given a relationship with GOD as a gift, but their hearts were all about the milk and honey.  They saw the things God could give them and they missed that God had given them the greatest gift of all in Himself[1].

Without a true relationship with God, or without an awe of this relationship, the desert times will be awfully slow.

Time and time again, the Israelites failed testing because they were in it for the milk and honey, not the communion with God.

Time and time again, they worshiped idols, grumbled and complained about what they didn’t have yet, and did the opposite of what God commanded because their hearts were set on the “pintos and cheese” stuff of life rather than the Living I AM.

They were hit with plagues again and again.

It is so serious to forfeit your relationship with YAHWEH for the gratification of a fleeting pleasure.  Any gift put above God is radically insulting in comparison to the gift of God Himself.

Even though God intends to give His people all good gifts (see Romans 8:32), the best Gift, the Gift that changes everything, the one Gift from which you should not be able to bear being parted, the one Gift worth giving up every other gift in the world to have is Jesus Christ.

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

The manna that the Israelites’ tossed aside for bird meat and the hopes of milk & honey was a picture of how we, so often and so dangerously, casually toss aside our relationship with Christ for something ‘easy to get’ or for dreams we hope will come about.

The relationship with Christ is here and now.  Heaven is off in the future.  None of us who believe in Jesus know how long that will be.  It could be ten minutes or one hundred years away.

But the relationship with Christ begins the very instant we believe.

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again.” (John 6:35, NLT)

 ______________________________________________________

[1] I highly recommend Max Lucado’s children DVD, Hermie & Friends: A Fruitcake Christmas, which helped shape this blog

Credit for the song “Promised Land” to Josh and the Big Wall, Veggie Tales.

Published in: on April 16, 2014 at 8:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Planted

How happy is the man

who does not follow the advice of the wicked

or take the path of sinners

or join a group of mockers!

Instead, his delight is in the LORD’s instruction,

and he meditates on it day and night.

He is like a tree planted beside streams of water

that bears its fruit in season,

and whose leaf does not wither.

Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3, HCSB)

Lord, plant me.

Young plant in old hands against green background

Plant me deep in the soil of your grace.

Plant me beside streams of Living Water.

Plant me that I would bear fruit when the time comes.

That what I do would not wither away and crumble in the north wind.

How happy to be planted by the Lord.

To be willing to be dug up, carried away from the advice of the wicked.

Torn out of the path of sinners.

Uprooted from the group of weedy mockers.

Plant me deep within the delight of Your instruction.

Day and night, let me live in Your garden and reflect on Your beauty.

Grow my roots into the deep down delight of the wisdom You keep hidden for those who love You.

Grow my stem further and further up towards Your Son.

Let me branch out in never-ending worship of You.

And may Your Kingdom’s work nest in my branches.

Lord, plant me.

How happy is the man

who does not follow the advice of the wicked

or take the path of sinners

or join a group of mockers!

Instead, his delight is in the LORD’s instruction,

and he meditates on it day and night.

He is like a tree planted beside streams of water

that bears its fruit in season,

and whose leaf does not wither.

Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3, HCSB)

Published in: on April 16, 2014 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

The Joy of Fellowship

But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7, NLT)

Reading this today, I realized something:

If –> then.

But if we are living in the light . . then we have fellowship with each other.

Women Bow And Pray

The support of other believers in our lives isn’t nice; it’s necessary. Not necessary for salvation, but necessary for us to grow as God intends for us to grow. (Certainly, there are rare circumstances where a believer is isolated, like a prison camp. But most of us have the incredible opportunity to spend time with other believers.)

Do you spend time with other believers? If not, here are a few ways to get started:

  • Find a church home.
  • Join a small group.
  • Invite friends from church or your small group over for dinner, out to eat, or to an event.
  • Start conversations with strangers when you’re in the grocery store, in the dentist office, on an airplane, or anywhere else you have the chance to meet new people. If they’re already believers, encourage them in their faith. They might just encourage you in yours! (Of course, if someone isn’t a believer, you have an opportunity to be God’s light to them and bring them closer to loving Him.)

Challenge

  • Do you visit believers who are home-bound?
  • Do you visit believers in the hospital?
  • Do you visit believers in nursing homes?
  • Do you invite believers who have become isolated to come back to fellowship?
  • Do you pray and fast for the persecuted church across the world?

But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7, NLT)

Published in: on April 3, 2014 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

The Benefits of Peacemaking

Blessed are those who make peace. They will be called God’s children. (Matthew 5:9, GW)

Some people are so busy holding a grudge, gossip, and contention that they have no room to pack anything else into their lives.

Car very full of suitcases and bags before leaving for vacationIn fact, if we’re honest, that’s most of us at one time or another.

Imagine you could suddenly move to a paradise getaway only two days drive by car.  You should pack your van full of stuff to take with you because, once you’re there, there’s no going back.  What would you pack?

Resentment?  Arguments?  Complaining?

Or would you pack love, gentleness, and thankfulness?

If you believe in Christ, you’re on your way to Paradise.  But what will you bring with you to show Him?  Will you bring jealousy?  Rage?  Spite?  Would you be proud if you opened your trunk and bitterness, contempt, and malice spilled out?

This life is the one chance we get to pack for the Kingdom. (If you don’t know Him, you’ve got a packed van heading nowhere.  But that can totally change the moment you open your heart and mind to Him.)

What do you want to pack?

Blessed are those who make peace. They will be called God’s children. (Matthew 5:9, GW)

Published in: on March 26, 2014 at 3:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: