March 22, 2010

Are You Being Changed?

We wrapped our 4-week series on Titus yesterday. As I've been reflecting on the major themes we've discussed, one thing keeps coming back to the surface more than any other. In Titus 2:14, Paul declares that Christ "gave his life to free us...." And then in 3:5 he reminds Titus that Christ "washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit". As the church, we spend lots of time (and energy and money) asking people "Have you been saved?". Not that this isn't an important question - with eternal life being a bit significant - but perhaps there should be exhorted a little more often to ask ourselves, "Am I being CHANGED?".

Take a look at more BIBLICAL reasons I believe this is the case:

"And how can we be sure that we belong to Him? By obeying His commandments." 1 John 2:3-6

"...those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life is begun!" 2 Corinthians 5:14-17

"...let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." Romans 12:1-2

As Christ-followers it's not just a question of "Were you changed?" but "Are you being changed?" The transformational life that Christ desires for you is not some "one-time, Wham-O, Ka-Pow-ee! and it's done" sort of thing. When we come to Christ - when we trust in Him to save us and free us - when we believe that His atoning work on the Cross paid it ALL - our standing with God is forever changed. But our condition is in constant need of being transformed. Constant!

I know, we desperately want people to know Christ, and we want to rescue people from eternal separation from God. So does He! But this doesn't change what Christ asks or requires of us to come to Him. And He is not willing to compromise or bend those standards to make it easier for you, me, or anyone else. Period.

So, are you being changed?

March 11, 2010

No More Substitutes!

There are a few key things I am praying over right now - in my life and for my church. Some of them are things that I have my hand on - I have some tangible control over and will ultimately make the determination whether or not to "pull the trigger" (using a term that I hate but have no better replacement for). These are usually not the circumstances and trials and decisions where you are stretched to drastically (some would say "recklessly") trust that the Lord is going to lead or provide. It's when you have no control - when you can't physically insert your finger and push "GO" - that your faith is stretched to a new place. This is where we're changed.

Speaking of change, maybe this is why in many of these waiting periods - times where we sense and feel and know that change is looming, hovering over us like a cloud over Seattle - we finally stop waiting - and ultimately stop praying - and just decide to push "GO". [But wait. I thought you were talking about the times when you "can't physically insert your finger and push 'GO'?"] I am. This is the irony of our lives.

So often the Lord desires to give us something so much better than we would ever actually choose for ourselves. But the better thing - the thing we NEED - is different. It's unknown. It's [deep breath, and....exhale] CHANGE! And we like this 6-letter metamorphosis about as much as we enjoy grape jelly and hot sauce on our slice of rare liver. Yummy! Change gives us a rash. Actually, thinking about change gives us a rash that then spreads into infectious hives. Change - that we didn't ask for or weren't prepared for - brings out our defenses. It causes us to create "lists". Trust me, I know. I have some LONG lists! When we say we trust God (but secretly trust ourselves more) we make lists. We stop saying words like "trust" and "pray" and "hope" and we substitute them with words like "think" and "evaluate" and "realistically expect". You know what? I'm sick of "realistically expecting"! It's a pathetic substitute to "clinging to the faith that the Lord is going to provide and work and lead in a way that I have no capacity to begin to dream up". No more substitutes. Substitutes for God's best suck! 

[And often God's best = CHANGE]

So I'm praying over these things - and praying and praying - and trusting that the Lord is going to give answers that I don't have and provide in ways that I cannot see. I'm trusting and praying and hoping and dreaming that He is going to answer these prayers, and in doing so - like it or not - He's going to change me. And I'm pretty sure - if I thought about it long enough - I probably need to be changed! What about you?

March 3, 2010

Picking Dandelions (Sarah Cunningham)

I will always have the staggered memories of my conversion - you know, that moment as I sat in the pew 14 rows back in Oakwood Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN, and suddenly came to the conclusion that hell was not an option I was willing to consider or negotiate. At 7 years old my faith journey began. And then, at age 18, it began again. You might call it a "reconversion". And even if you wouldn't, Sarah Cunningham would! 

In her brand new book, Picking Dandelions, Sarah gives you a window into her life as a pastor's daughter, an over-analyzing over-thinking journeyman on a quest for humility and simplicity, and a missionary with a realization that if you're going to "grow where you've been planted", sometimes you've got to pull some weeds!

With repeated echoes of Paul in Romans 7, this fantastic memoir is an honest confession of a Christ-follower who is convinced that settling for anything other than the "more to this life" Jesus promised is unthinkable and unacceptable. But with that determination comes some seriously painful introspection and - at times - some hard work!  There's a reason we're told to "work out our faith...." For many of us, this isn't a one-time point in history that our relatives remember better than we do. It's a journey! And no journey - at least worth taking - is ever easy.

Sarah shares her journey with fresh honesty and humility. And while I found myself vicariously (and in some ways painfully) walking along with her words, I was laughing until it hurt. The good kind of hurt, where your face is sore!

I needed this book! I needed to laugh that hard at something...while no one else in the room knew what the heck was so funny! I needed to know that someone else was constantly failing - and yet still determined - to be the whole person that God had designed them to be. In the midst of one more bout of purging myself of all the "junk" that I convince myself I need to make my life a little bit better, I read Sarah's honest confession: "I never meant, for instance, to buy the idea that my identity is tied to my possessions. But while I was cleaning, I found it under my bed and on my shelves." We need to know that someone else is wrestling with this "old self" that continues to hide in the trenches as we walk the road of life, waiting to leap out and attack us when we're strolling along on auto-pilot. We need someone to subtly and calmly yell at us: WAKE UP! 

If you've ever struggled with the confusion between your faith and your religion; if you've even thought for a moment that you just can't seem to get it right as a Christ-follower; or if you simply need someone to breathe that last word of encouragement into your life that says, "God is NOT finished with you" need to pick up Picking Dandelions. And prepare yourself. You won't be able to put it down!

For more on Sarah Cunningham, to read her blog, or to get your copy of Picking Dandelions, pay her a visit: