A Good Inconvenience

This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. John 15:12-13 (MSG)

What do you think that means? “Put your life on the line for your friends.”

Does it mean take a minute away from what you are doing to do something for someone else? Does it mean to take time? To stop, to linger, to be present?

In our fast paced society with a to-do list longer than we can possibly accomplish, we regularly push through what needs to get done never touching anyone in a meaningful way. And, when we do think we need to help, we schedule it in. God forbid we just stop, in the middle of the chaos and touch.

As I write these words, I know I am a huge offender in this department. My schedule gets really full. I do schedule time to see people not because I feel like I have to but because I want to. I truly want to spend time and catch up.

But there are times in the middle of the circus where God says “Call.” And I think “When am I going to do that?” The answer should be now. Always now. If I stop and call and listen, truly listen without focusing on my agenda or my schedule that is when the Holy Spirit moves. That is when the bonding happens and not only have I loved on someone, I too have been filled with love.

This text in other versions says “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” We read that and think we have to physically die to fulfill it, like Jesus did. But Jesus also laid down his life every single day. He stopped to talk to people. He listened and interacted. He was present.

Maybe, just maybe laying down our life simply means to be inconvenienced so we can love. Taking myself out of the center and someone else in is exactly what Jesus did. We should die like that…..often.

A Minute In It - Fruit and Love

A minute in God’s Word will change your life. Take a moment to read the text below and then answer the questions at the bottom of the post.

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other. John 15:1-17 (NIV)

What does it mean to abide in Jesus?
What can you do if you are not abiding in Jesus?
What is the fruit that Jesus wants you to grow?
What does love have to do with it?

The Real Potter

The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.

Then the Lord gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand. Jeremiah 18:1-6 (NLT)

Imagine it. The potter is sitting at the potter’s wheel. He is working with a hunk of clay. As the clay is forming, the potter realizes that it’s not going to look like it should so he says “You worthless piece of clay. How could you turn out like that? What is wrong with you? You are good for nothing.” Then, he beats it senseless so he can start over.

This is how I sometimes feel we think of God. We see him as watching us from above waiting to pounce on us the moment we make a mistake or don’t do something we should. We feel that he is criticizing us and hurting us. But that is not what happens at the potter’s wheel.

Instead, the potter says “Oh my. It looks like your edges could be a little better-rounded. You could definitely be more beautiful with just a touch here and there. That inside glory is not yet seen. Just a little more molding, a little more shaping and you will be as stunning as ever. I can help you with that.”

God, as the potter of our lives, wants nothing more than the best for us. He wants us to shine from within. He wants us to reflect Jesus in all His glory. And so he shapes and molds us. He grows us through the good, the bad and the ugly so we can be all he designed us to be. He does this with the same love the potter feels when he creates a thing of beauty….only more intensely. He has given his all for us. He sacrificed everything so we can be transformed by his love.

God is our potter. We are the clay. And I praise him each day that in his hands we can be transformed into a unique, one-of-a-kind work of art.

Like A Child

…to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. Ephesians 1:10 (ESV)

This past weekend I went to church with my grandkids. One of them is under a year old. As we sat in his class, he noticed another baby, younger than he was. She was sitting in a stroller. He crawled over, pulled himself up at the foot of the stroller and with great curiosity gazed at her. As he stared at her, his eyes lit up with a smile and you could tell he was trying to engage her.

As I read the text above, I wondered what it would look like if the world were unified in Christ. What if we didn’t have divisions because of our race, our sex, our political party? What if we were not divided by how much money we made or where we lived or the jobs we had? And as Christians, what if we were not divided by our theology or our denominations?

What if we saw everyone the way Jesus does? We are all his children. We are all loved. We are all accepted and welcomed. When I watched my grandson engage the other child, the text popped into my head “you must become like little children.”

Maybe this is a good way to start the week; seeing all people as God’s children. Can we look at each other with genuine curiosity and openness? Can we embrace others just because like us, they are a child of God?

Today, I am going to let a little child lead me and I am going to try to love like Jesus does.

Listening In The Middle Of The Noise

15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Galatians 1:15-17 (NIV)

This week, this passage really spoke to me. I have a big decision to make. Huge. And I know, the only One I need to hear from is God.

So often, we have decisions to make in our lives. Some are big, some are small. My human tendency is to go ask my family and friends. Sure, I pray about them but it’s not the same as what Paul is saying here. He is saying that instead of going to share what God was telling him, he went the opposite direction. He went to be alone with God.

God speaks to us all the time but I think especially when it’s quiet and we are alone with him. We need to be intentional about calming the noise that distracts our hearing and focus on what God could be telling us. Maybe part of this is getting into the habit if blocking out the distractions ourselves so that we are always praying in the midst of the chaos and tuning our ears to the still small voice.

I believe this is a discipline that we, as Christians, in this very chaotic, noisy world need to develop. While we are in the middle of a conversation with someone, pray about what God wants us to say. When the calendar is full and there doesn’t seem to be time to breathe, pray about God’s plan for our day. When crazy hits the fan and you need wisdom, pray.

But as you are praying, listen. Don’t just send the prayer up and proceed on your own. Turn your hearing toward the voice that is speaking to it. Focus on what you know to be true and Christ driven in your thoughts.

We need to stop thinking Jesus isn’t talking to us. We need to stop thinking we can’t hear him. If God can speak through death to call Christ to life, he can get through to our dulled brains. By the way, once you hear, you have to obey. Maybe that’s why we don’t really want to listen….because we don’t really want to do what God is saying in the first place. Just a thought…..

A Minute In It - Different But One

A minute in God’s Word will change your life. Take a moment to read the text below and then answer the questions at the bottom of the post.

1-3 In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.

4-6 You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.

7-13 But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. Ephesians 4:1-13 (MSG)

What stands out to you in this text?
At what speed does Paul say we should respond to God’s calling?
When God calls us, does that calling ever involve not loving each other?
How should we love each other?
Do we all need to look and act the same?
Why or why not?

Getting Dressed

14 Stand, therefore,
with truth like a belt around your waist,
righteousness like armor on your chest,
15 and your feet sandaled with readiness
for the gospel of peace.
16 In every situation take the shield of faith,
and with it you will be able to extinguish
all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
17 Take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit,
which is God’s word.
18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. Ephesians 6:14-18 (HCSB)

I always read these verses and thought “That’s nice.” Today, I began to wonder “How does this apply to my life?” What does it look like to wear the full armor of God? Let’s take it apart.

Belt of Truth: Wear this, always being truthful, standing firm for what is right so you don’t get caught with your bottoms falling off, exposed for something that you did that was wrong. In our world there is a prominent thought that it’s OK to do something wrong as long as you have a good reason. That is not what God says.

Righteousness like Armor: Knowing that you are covered by Jesus righteousness, wear it like an armor over your heart. Cover yourself when the attacks come and you feel unworthy. You are worthy because of Jesus. Use his gift of grace to stand strong and face your day.

Sandals of Peace: Your feet should be ready to go on God’s call. When someone is in need, don’t hesitate thinking you are not ready. You are ready! Your response should be immediate.

Shield of Faith: Faith - the barrier to attack like a shield all around you. As the attacks come, we lift our faith in Jesus and fend off the arrows that so easily pierce our hearts and mind with lies that cripple us. With our faith we fight and remember we are loved. We counter lies with the truth about who God is.

Helmet of Salvation: What’s your covering? When you wake up every day, what do you cover yourself with so you know you are saved? Is it your good deeds? Is it because you are nice to people or because you didn’t throw someone under the bus? If it is, then with the next strong wind your floppy hat will fly away and you will not be covered appropriately. But, if instead you are covered by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, your helmet is secure. You are ready for the daily battle we call life.

Sword of the Spirit - The Word of God: I imagine I am facing the day and the battle has started. Stress here, failed plans there, hurtful words of a colleague, negative thoughts that invade my mind. I stand up with my Bible (which is on my phone) and I start thrusting it here and there to conquer the enemy. Funny thing is I can’t thrust it if I don’t read it. If I don’t know what God is telling me, I can’t wield the weapon.

How did you get dressed this morning? Get dressed with God and then….pray. Prayer is the secret weapon.

What Are Your Questions?

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:54-60 (ESV)

Every time I read this story, I am sad. Here was Stephen, following God’s plan, trying to share Jesus with everyone and he was stoned. The people were so angry at his words, they took his life. Not to mention the hypocrisy of murdering someone, which was against God’s law.

But then, I have to realize that this event began the persecution of the early church. Because of that persecution, the Christians scattered. Prior to, they were gathered together at the same place. When they dispersed, they took with them their love of Jesus and that was shared with new people. The movement began.

Sometimes we look at the things that happen in our lives and we ask questions. Why is this happening? What is God doing? Why would he allow that?

Is it possible we are asking the wrong questions.

Maybe there are better questions to ask. What is God going to do with this? Where is he leading? Am I following or resisting? How can I glorify his name even in the midst of this? Am I excited to see what he will do?

We choose what questions we ask. We choose our response to different situations. Really, either we put ourselves at the center of it or we put God there. Who sits in the center of your questions today?