Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Keeping All the Rules But Missing the Point of Them

Are you so focused on keeping all the rules that you're missing the point of them?

Luke 18:18-30 records a conversation Jesus had with a rich ruler about getting into the Kingdom the God. We easily see the connection to putting trust in our worldly wealth as being the problem. Jesus tells him to sell at he had and give to the poor, which causes the ruler to go away sad because he had great wealth.

We know the importance of where we're storing up our treasure, because it reflects on where our heart is. In our culture it's easy to focus on our money and possessions because so many see it as the most important thing. But Jesus calls us to see treasure elsewhere.

As I was reflecting on this conversation Jesus had with this ruler, I was struck by something else this time. Jesus' first answer to the man was about keeping God's commandments. The ruler's response struck me: "All these I have kept since I was a boy." (Luke 18:21). This ruler lived a good life, a moral life, but something was still missing. He still didn't have the full picture.

It's after this that Jesus talks about selling all he has and giving to the poor. When He said this Jesus was revealing the ruler's heart. This ruler was focused on keeping all the rules, or doing the right thing. And, in doing so, he had missed the point of them.

That brings me to the question I started this post with: Are you so focused on keeping all the rules that you're missing the point of them?

It can be easy to get caught up in doing all the right things, in living according to the rules, but when it comes to anything with a cost we're not willing to go there. Outwardly we're in, but when it comes to our hearts we're not there. We've gotten focused on the checklist and we've missed the point.

Where have you gotten so focused on keeping the rules and missed the relationship and the heart that's the most important?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Light that Draws People

"We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it."                  -Madeleine L'Engle

I've been thinking a lot lately about how we share the gospel in the culture we live in. A culture with massive and ever growing divisions among various groups of people. The dividing lines we draw seem to be becoming more and more pronounced.

So much of what we hear today is about discrediting "the other side." About telling people they're wrong and we're right. Most people seem to just want to prove themselves right, at everyone else's expense.

And that has an influence on how we share the gospel with people. If we get caught up in the anger and the drawing of lines and trying to prove we're right with everyone else, then our gospel message is compromised. It will affect our ability to be heard - really heard, rather than just being more noise.

That's where I think the quote I opened this post with is so important. Our light shining in the darkness of this world is the way forward. It doesn't mean we don't talk about our faith. In many ways, I believe it means we clearly speak the gospel message, but we also have to do so in a way that makes people want what we have. Our speaking and our living have to come from a place of love, because that's what will attract people to the source of the light we have.

"We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it."                  -Madeleine L'Engle

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What is Transformation?

What is transformation?
How do we find it or create it?
Is it completely God's job? Or do we have a part to play in it?

These are some of the questions that have been running through my head for a while. I seem to keep coming back to them.

In many ways they're foundational to how we live as Christians. We talk about transformation - about our need for it, about how we are or are supposed to be transformed to be more and more like Christ. But, what so we actually mean by it? And how does it happen?

I looked up the word transformation recently and was struck by part of the definition for it: "change in form, appearance, nature, or character." That seemed to be what we're talking about when we talk about transformation.

It's about our character becoming more and more Christ-like.

So, if that's what we're talking about, then what is needed for that to happen?

Because my brain works best in the world of math, as I've thought about this, it had been a math formula that has summed up my thoughts. I'll share more thoughts and explain what I mean by it, but I'll start by sharing the "formula":

Belonging + Identity = Transformation

So, what do I mean by belonging and identity?

Belonging is the safe place we need. A place where we're accepted exactly where we are and as we are. The place where we're loved and cared about. This is vital if we're going to come to a place of change.

Identity is about understanding the truth of who we are in Christ. It's about learning who we are in God's eyes. A firm, unchanging, stable identity.

It's when we have both of these - belonging and identity - that transformation can happen. And the order of them in important. It has to start with belonging. Once we feel like we belong - once we feel safe and loved as we are right now - we are able to start hearing the truth about our identity. As our understanding of our true identity in Christ grows in our safe place of belonging, we're transformed.

So, if we go back to the questions I opened this post with:

Transformation comes from having a safe place to understand and learn more fully our true identity in Christ. We need both a safe place to belong and to hear the truth of our identity in Christ to be transformed.

Transformation is God's job. We can't and don't have the responsibility to create it. Our part is to be available to God to use. He often chooses to use the people around us in this. So, our role is to be willing to be used by God and to be listening to what He is saying to us about who we are in Him.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Giving Up Worry?

Do you struggle with worry?

I think I'm pretty safe to say we could all answer yes to that question - at least sometimes. How much we worry or what we worry about might be different for all of us, but we likely all worry at times.

Luke 12:22-34 records Jesus' teaching on worry. I'm going to pull some truths and words of Jesus out of this passage, but what I'm saying might be clearer if you read the passage before you go on. Either click on the link above or look it up yourself.

Twelve verses that we love to quote or reference when it comes to the topic of worry. Jesus reminding us of why we don't have to worry and how much God cares for us. Words we know are true, but are hard to live out more often than not.

In many ways, it seems only natural to worry. About what we need; about how we'll be able to afford what we need; about what might be happening next; about what has happened. The big problem with worry is that it's often about things we can't control anyways; so it really does us no good.

In Luke 12:25 Jesus asks questions that point out the foolishness of worry:
"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?"
Jesus is pretty clear in these words about the foolishness and futility of worry.

If Jesus left us at that point, we would still have a problem. We would know we shouldn't worry, but we wouldn't know what we should do instead. Since it's really difficult to just stop doing something and not replace it with something else. That just makes it harder.

Thankfully, Jesus doesn't stop there. He gives us the antidote to worrying just a few verses later in Luke 12:31:
"But seek His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well."
In these words, Jesus is explaining the shift in our perspective and thinking that is required if we're going to be able to let go of worry in our lives. We need to be looking to God and His Kingdom - seeking His ways on earth.

When that is our focus, we'll be able to let go of the worries we have. As long as our focus is on this earth and our needs and wants and all the unknowns, we'll be stuck in our worry. When we shift our focus to God and His kingdom, our worries are greatly reduced, or even disappear altogether.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Who Do You Avoid Helping?

How often do you go out of your way to avoid helping someone?

Who are the people you will go to great lengths to avoid helping?

Luke 10:25-37 records Jesus' parable of The Good Samaritan. It's another one of Jesus' well-known parables. A reminder of the kind of person we should be. Often preached on with a call to be like the good Samaritan.

As I was reading it recently, I was challenged by a hard question. It's easy to move right to the actions of the good Samaritan when we read this. Those are easier words to read. They encourage us in what we should do.

But, I when I slowed down and read about the actions of the priest and the Levite in the story, I was challenged by something else. The priest and the Levite were both good Jewish men. They were religious leaders in Israel. Nowhere in His telling of this parable does Jesus say there was anything out of place religiously in these men.

The priest and the Levite went out of their way to avoid helping their fellow Jew who had been beaten and robbed. Verses 31 & 32 of Luke 10 tells us that they both passed by the man on the other side of the road from him. They made a choice to avoid the man and avoid helping him.

It made me wonder about my own life. How often do I go out of my way to avoid helping people? Who are the people I go out of my way to avoid helping?

In other words, how often is my response to someone in need of help to do what the priest and the Levite did? How often do I cross to the "other side of the road" to distance myself from someone in need and avoid helping them?

These aren't easy questions to wrestle with. They've challenged me to look at some things in my life it would be easier to pretend aren't there. But, it's also been very necessary, if I'm going to live the life Jesus has called His followers to live.

So maybe, along with being encouraged to respond the way the good Samaritan did, we also need to reflect on some other questions:

How often do I go out of my way to avoid helping someone?

Who are the people I go to great lengths to avoid helping?

What changes do I need to make here?

I think that last question is vitally important. If we stop at the first two it just get depressing. The last question is about the changes we can make, and how we can move forward.