Waiting for an Invitation

A Christian is one who follows Jesus as his Lord.  Instead of serving our own desires and conforming to what our surroundings tell us to be and do, we have found the freedom and life found in Jesus alone! How wonderful it is to follow our Master, for he is loving and His burden is light.  I never realized what a load I had been carrying until I came to Jesus and found strength and rest.  But what about the many people around us who have not yet learned of Christ and the hope and strength He offers?  Sure, we know God has told us to share the truth with them, but what if they think we’re weird?  Surely if they want to know what faith in Jesus is, they’ll just ask?  No.

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A Needed Invitation

Though you may not believe it at first, there are many people all around you who want to know spiritual truth.  They would gladly converse with you on the subject and even come to your church with you to see what it’s all about.  But guess what, they’re not going to tell you that!  And you can’t identify them by just looking.

What Do the Numbers Say?

According to a Scott McConnell of LifeWay Research “…many would respond to an invitation from a friend or acquaintance (41 percent), their children (25 percent) or an adult family member (25 percent).”  (Read these stats in detail here.)  The difficult part for many Christians about asking a friend or acquaintance to church is this:  what if they say no???  Allow me to let you in on a little secret.  Most will say no.  Gasp!  😀

Collecting No’s

The stats are going to vary greatly for any specific person and set of circumstances, so for simplicity let’s just assume that 20% of friends you invite via personal invitation will actually attend church with you.  Of those who attend, some will never return, some will return a few times, and some will be radically changed and become followers of Christ.  How many people will say no to your invitation in order for you to find one person who will hear the Holy Spirit’s voice and turn from sin to faith in Jesus?  Ten?  Sixty?  Two thousand?

Does it matter?  Is it worth it to bring one lost soul to the feet of your loving Savior, so that he may taste the love and salvation of Jesus as you have?  Can you imagine yourself standing before your Lord at the end of your life saying, “Jesus, I would have told people about you, but I just didn’t want to hear anyone tell me no.  It felt awkward.”

Ambassadors

We Christians need to trust God that He has people out there He is going to save.  He has put us where we are in our lives in order that we would take His Word to these people, to be the means by which they hear the gospel.  Christ died for sinners, and anyone who will place their faith in Him will be washed clean and declared righteous.

Go Get More of Both

Instead of viewing negatively an answer of, “no,” to our invitation to come and see Jesus, we should view it as a victory—that’s one more person in the denominator.  For every 100 friends you ask, some percent of them are just waiting to be asked, to come and hear, and to find rest and peace for their souls.  It is God’s plan that they will be saved.  And it is God’s plan that a Christian would share the good news with them.  Will you be that Christian?  Or will God use someone obedient?  Embrace the no’s, they are part of the process.  The more invitations, the more no’s, and naturally, the more yeses.  Let’s be the church we are called to be: let us come together for equipping and encouragement to take the gospel out to the very ends of the earth.  Lord Jesus, lead us on, show us how, and may your will be done.

A Beautiful Bride

A beautiful bride walks down the aisle, radiant in beauty and wearing a magnificent white dress.  Her family and friends look on in delight and hopeful admiration—this is the day when she will be joined in marriage to the love of her life.  The couple stands before the pastor with stars in their eyes and vow exclusive devotion to each other above all others, and commit, “till death do us part.”  Fast-forward nine months and we’ll often find an altogether different scene.  This same woman shouts at the top of her lungs, “You’re always leaving your stuff all over the house!  Do I need to give you a map to the laundry basket?”  Her husband, the one who stood at the altar confessing his undying devotion, shouts back as he slams the door in her face, “screw you, I’m going to the bar!”  What has happened?  Why do couples go from starry-eyed lovers to enemies, and how can we create thriving marriages that last?

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The Right Atmosphere

Look around you.  Of the ten people you spend the most time around, how many are couples with strong and healthy marriages?  We make small choices each day, such as who we spend time around, without realizing how these choices significantly affect our outlook, worldview, and habits.  If the people around you typically belittle and mock their spouses, this will begin to seem to you to be normal and acceptable behavior.  Over time, speaking negatively about your spouse will start to program your brain to think less of your spouse.  Conversely, spend time around couples who speak well of each other, and you’ll start speaking more positive, and begin thinking more highly of your spouse.  When you recognize how wonderful your spouse really is, you’ll appreciate what they do more, and you’ll naturally give them more praise and affection.

What we’re really talking about here is creating the right atmosphere.  When godly people spend time around each other and living out the Lord’s way day by day, it creates this incredible atmosphere that lifts each and every person.  We strengthen and challenge each other to reach greater heights, and we make excellence the norm.  It’s a beautiful and constant growth process, and it’s how those wise and loving couples who’ve been married for 50 years became what they are.  Brick by brick, step by step, getting around other winners and creating an atmosphere for everyone to build a thriving marriage.

Making the Time

In addition to getting around credible leaders, it’s important that we make time to enjoy our spouse.  With work, kids, the house, friends, and getting involved in the community, it’s really easy to let activities and commitments take over your calendar.  While these things are all good things, if they cause us to neglect our spouse, we’ve traded the great for the good.

A wise friend taught me the following great habit: once a day, once a week, once a month.  Once a day, kiss your spouse.  And I don’t mean just a peck—it had better last more than 20 seconds.  Once a week, spend time together talking (while looking directly at each other and not doing anything else).  And when your done talking do something fun just the two of you.  Go for ice cream, play a game, have a cup of coffee and recount fun stories.  Once a month do a real, extended date.  Dinner and a movie, or take her to a show she’ll like.  Or maybe have a picnic at the park.  Be creative, be romantic, and make it fun!

The Third Cord

The final piece is by far the most important.  Think of your marriage as a rope.  You are one piece of string, and your spouse is another piece of string.  The point of marriage is that the two become one.  But if you have only two cords to twist together, it will unfurl in the tough times.  Only when a third cord is in the marriage can the cords be braided and the marriage have the full strength needed to stand firm.  That third cord is Jesus, and the main purpose of marriage is to serve and honor Him.  A marriage that is entered into for some reason other than Christ is ultimately done for self.  If I marry my spouse because I want her to make me happy, I will have a big problem when she ceases to make me happy.  If she’s no longer pleasing me and giving me what I want, the marriage has no reason to go on.  I’ll simply want to file a divorce and go out and find someone else who will fulfill my needs.

If, on the other hand, I enter into marriage for the purpose of worshiping and honoring Christ, my commitment is not based upon my spouse’s performance.  I will love her and remain faithful to her for the sake of Christ.  Even when she fails to love and respect me well, I will continue loving and serving her anyway, for this is my charge from my Lord.  My life belongs to Jesus and I serve Him because that is my purpose.  God, help me to live out this high calling you have given me, each day and every day for You.

A Life Well Lived

Mildred Timmerman, a beloved mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother said goodbye to this mortal world earlier this week, and is now in the presence of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We who knew her were blessed for the time we shared with her here, and she left an indelible impression on so many who had the privilege of spending time with this wonderful lady.  What did she have that caused her to live the way she did?  From what source did she draw for her seemingly infinite patience, love, and wisdom?

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She Lit Up the Room

Grandma Millie was a person who instantly lit up a room simply by walking into it.  Her face was ever-smiling and her disposition ever-encouraging.  At the same time, she was a woman who stood for something.  I can remember times when grandma would catch word that I my grades were falling in one class or another, and she would react in such a way as to indicate she knew I was capable of better.  She knew it was wrong of me to misuse my gifts, but she didn’t seek to motivate me through guilt or nagging.  She simply exuded wordlessly:  “Chris, you were created by God for a purpose.  He has given you a great many blessings, and you ought to be developing and using them in serving Him.”

When I did well, grandma was lavish with praise.  She appreciated the important things in life—time with family, the love we show to each other and importance of nurturing unity.  She would always brush away the peripheral and unimportant matters that brought conflict, and without being forceful, her words carried weight.

A Living Demonstration of Real Love

The more I think of the person grandma Millie was, the more I appreciate her and the more I realize how incredible a model of godliness she really was.  I can think of no better way to express it than by quoting her Lord, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:16).  Millie truly lived this way—she loved people, really loved them well, and brightened their lives when she was around them.  At the same time, she stood for truth and devoted her life to her Lord and Savior.  She would build relationships, deep and meaningful relationships with people around her, and in those moments when our ears were open to her advice, she would speak the truth into our lives.

Millie’s Source

Oh that we each would learn from this godly woman’s example and follow her path.  She was loving and good because she followed One who is the source of all love and goodness.  She wasn’t perfect, and she is righteous not because of her own morality but because her sin has been washed clean.  Christ died for sinners, among whom Millie was one; when He died on the cross He willingly took the punishment she deserved.  Jesus was without sin, and his suffering atoned for all those who place their faith in Him.  His resurrection on the third day demonstrates his dominion over death, and it is in His power that we rest and know that death has not overcome Mildred Timmerman.  Through her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Grandma Millie is righteous and without spot or blemish.  Her mortal hindrances are now no more, and she stands in the presence of the Lord Jesus right now, in this very moment!  We await with joy the day that we too will leave this mortal body of death and join Millie in the throne room of Jesus, to worship Him forever beside her!  Will you be there too?

Turn and Follow

Jesus calls any who will come to draw near to Him in faith and find cleansing.  Give up on living your own way and for yourself—do as Millie has done and turn from your own path, turn to His path.  He will take you as you are and give you a new nature, a nature like His, and you, like Millie, will begin to grow more like Him each day.  The Savior is calling, come to Him today!

Being an Iron Sharpener

Are you a blessing to those around you?  Should you be?  If so, what does it take to effectively speak into their lives, encouraging them and helping them to live a thriving life?

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Those Who Have Helped You

God has designed us for community—we grow through our interactions with others, as iron sharpens iron.  Who are some of the people who have been most positively influential in your life?  Are you glad they took time to sharpen you and help you grow?

You Are a Valuable Resource

Perhaps we know that we should be building up others and helping them to grow in wisdom and truth, but we find it challenging to speak into their life effectively.  Or sometimes, we may think, “who am I to think I can help them?”  It is only when we recognize that we don’t have all the answers that we can be used by God to work His purposes in the lives of those around us.

Two Keys Make Up the Bridge

Think of a bridge over a wide river.  One bank represents the thriving life we are all called to live.  The other bank represents a person God has placed in our life.  We desire that our friend has the thriving life that he wants, the life that’s effective for the Lord’s Kingdom and our community.  In order to bridge the space between, we will need two keys.

Knowing the What

The first key is knowledge and wisdom of what a thriving life looks like.  Those wise men who have mentored us are a good resource for this knowledge, and of course the principle source of all wisdom is the Holy Scriptures.  As we read and study God’s Word, we learn what He is like and over time we see a clearer and clearer picture of what a Christ-life really looks like.

Knowing the Who

The other key is personal.  We must know the person we’re speaking to.  It’s fine to share general knowledge—in fact, what you’re reading now is this very thing: generalized knowledge shared publically.  But to really build up others around us and be effective in being the iron sharpening iron, we must have relationships.  And not just realationships on the surface, but real and deep relationships.  How easy it is to let our interactions with others remain shallow and casual, but this is not the thriving life we’re called to.  Instead, we must choose to take an interest in people, really value them for who they are, and listen to them.

Start Now

Tomorrow, ask God whom he would have you reach out to.  Go to that person and ask them about their favorite topic:  themselves!  Start with something like, “so how long have you worked here?”  “Oh, really?  Well how did you come to work here?”  Listen to what they share, and ask them follow-up questions.  You will be surprised how quickly they will go into detail about who they are and what drives them.  Don’t fake interest, really be interested and keep asking them to explain more.  In so doing, you will have discovered the second key—cultivating authentic relationships.

Be a Blessing

With these two keys, we can all become more effective iron-sharpeners, ready to be used by our Heavenly Father to affect His purposes. We will be more of a blessing to those around us, and as we all grow in this path, we help each other to live more of a thriving life!

The Root of Anger

Anger, disappointment, resentment, hurt:  these are emotions we’d prefer to avoid.  If we could choose, we’d rather live happy, content, and fulfilled, wouldn’t we?  What if there was a way to significantly reduce the amount of time we spend angry or hurt?  If we understand the root cause of these negative emotions and the negative situations they lead us into, we can find victory and spend more of our time cultivating excellent relationships and enjoying the time we have.

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Our Many Gifts

We enjoy so many incredible blessings in our everyday life.  Just think about the comfortable bed you slept in last night, the delicious dinner you ate, and the people around you that truly and deeply love you.  We could spend all day listing all the great things in our lives—things given to us by the Maker of all things.

We desire good things—and there’s nothing wrong with that.  In fact, it is good to enjoy and appreciate all the wonderful blessings we have every day.  But there is a good way and a bad way to hold these blessings.  One will give us great fulfillment and thankful hearts, while the other will produce the harmful emotions listed above.

With Open Hands?

The difference is this:  do you hold your gifts with open hands or closed fists?  You see, when our desires are met, we have a choice.  We either recognize that the blessing that we received is a gift of God, or we start to close our hands around it and begin thinking we own it.  As we neglect to thank God for a particular blessing, we slowly close our grip around it, wishing to keep it within our possession.

The Enemy works gradually, taking some new blessing and day by day inducing us to feel more and more that we earned it, we deserve it, and we need it.  Once we view that blessing as something we need, we will react in anger when it is threatened.

Thankful to Expectation to Need

Consider the simple act of a man writing a love poem to his wife every week.  When he first begins this act of love and appreciation, his wife may be delighted!  She feels loved and cherished, and expresses her thanks to him.  But over time, as the notes continue to come week after week, this blessing may turn into an expectation in her mind.  She begins to think she deserves these notes, and her husband owes them to her.  If he misses one week, she will feel emotions of disappointment, resentment, or even anger.

But this is all rooted in a choice—if the woman in the story above simply appreciated the love notes as a blessing, she will each week feel the emotions of thankfulness, happiness, and love when her husband gives the poem.  If one week the husband should fail to present a poem, she will miss it, but that’s all.  She only feels anger, hurt, and resentment when the gift is expected and assumed.  Put another way, she will feel anger and disappointment when her need for her weekly poem isn’t met.

What’s Yours?

Perhaps this seems silly to you, that a woman should come to need an expect a poem from her husband every week.  But what about you and me?  Are there not blessings in our life that we one didn’t have, now have, and now expect we shall always have?  God has bestowed amazing gifts upon you and me—do we hold them with an open hand?

The Example of Open Hands

Job is was one of the richest men in the world in his day—not only in material wealth, but also with many children, as well as the love and respect of his neighbors.  In one day, it was all taken from him, and yet his response was this:  “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21).

Are there things you expect from those around you?  Do you need and demand that your coworkers speak well of you, such that when they disparage you you become angry?   Do you expect your mentors to have perfect understanding in everything they teach and council you?  Do you expect you spouse to always be there to meet your needs and do the things you want them to do?

What Perspective Will You Choose?

Let’s make the decision today to stop letting anger have root in our hearts.  If we will recognize that the blessings we enjoy each day are gifts—gifts that are not promised to be there tomorrow—we will increase our reliance upon the Lord, our appreciation of His grace, and the moments of life that bear the hallmark of peaceful contentedness.

Does Intelligence Always Win?

Intelligence is highly valued in our culture—call someone intelligent and he will be delighted!  Are there more important things though?  Is a man well loved who is intelligent yet rude?  Or, does someone who is very intelligent necessarily have right understanding?  Could it be that a man of lower intelligence may actually beat out one of higher intelligence when it comes to living a thriving life?  How could this happen?

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Two men at work

Consider the following story.  I hired John, a very intelligent man I know, to take care of a few things at my home. One day I instruct him to work on a retaining wall in my yard and pick up an important package arriving by train from Chicago.  Our agreement states that he will be paid based upon how much of the wall he finishes and he will receive a fixed amount for retrieving the package.

On another day, I hire Bruce, a man of low intelligence yet a man of practical experience and common sense.  I offer the same terms to him that I agreed to with John.

The two men, given their differing intelligence, come at the task very differently.  John has a mind like a steel trap, and has the train schedules memorized.  He knows the Chicago train arrives at the station every day at 4:30.  He also knows that the route to the train station becomes congested during that time, and accounts for this, calculating that he must leave the house by 3:50 to make it on time.  This gives him the maximum time to work on the wall.  He has also studied engineering and foundation design, so he knows the latest methods for efficient and sturdy retaining wall construction.

Bruce, on the other hand, does not possess all this intelligence and knowledge.  He knows the basics to build a retaining wall, as his father had taught him years ago.  He doesn’t know the train schedules or the route to get to the station.  So, his first action is to call the station and ask the representative when the train arrives.  The representative informs him that a derailment yesterday has thrown off the usual schedule, and the Chicago train will be arriving an hour later than usual.  In addition, the main freeway into the station is currently under construction, so the rep informs Bruce of an alternate route.

You can guess how this story ends:  our intelligent man John spends a little over an hour sitting in traffic, arriving just too late to get the package, which is instead sent via courier.  When it’s all said and done, John spent more time in the car than Bruce, so despite his more efficient process, he didn’t accomplish more of the wall than Bruce did.  On top of that, he missed picking up the package, so when his invoice is totaled, he actually made less than Bruce.

What’s the Cause?

Now how did this happen?  John was smarter than Bruce, had more knowledge, and had worked out an ideal plan to maximize his efficiency.  How did he come in behind Bruce?

John simply did something that a great many people—people of high intelligence and people of low intelligence—do every day.  He did not test his assumptions.  It’s not that his plan was bad, in fact, his plan was probably better than Bruce’s.  But it was based on something false.  It was based on the train arriving at a time other than the true time, and it was based on the route to the station being open as usual.  Both of these falsehoods are rooted in John’s own mind.  He thought he knew, and so he didn’t take the time to check whether or not his beliefs were true.  Ample evidence and resources existed for him to test his beliefs and assumptions, yet he failed to use them because he wrongly believed he didn’t need them.

Could This Really Happen?

Perhaps it seems unrealistic that such a smart man as John would so foolishly neglect to check such an important component before making his plan.  Surely a smart person would know better, right?

Sadly, there are a great many people, people we meet and talk with every day, who are neglecting something far more important than a train schedule.  There are a great many important topics to be studied in this world, and many intelligent people study them each day, but none are more important than questions like these: How did I come to exist?  Who made me, and for what purpose?  And this one who made me, what is He like?

It Happens Every Day

As with the train schedule in our story, much evidence exists, and many reliable resources are available to answer life’s most important questions.  The Holy Bible reveals many things to us about what God is like and what He has done.  The historical accuracy and reliability of the Bible are facts clearly demonstrable through the archaeological records and the science of textual criticism.  The evidence is available for any and all who will take the time to investigate it.  But what do most people do?  Do they take an honest look at the Bible and the evidence that it is a document of divine origin?

Most people choose to reject the Bible as their foundation, not because they have looked at the evidence and do not find it compelling, but rather because they have never examined it at all.  Like the intelligent man in our story, many people think they know the train schedule, so they just assume the ideas in their mind are right.

The Right Foundation

The sad reality is that if we build our lives on the assumptions in our minds, we will have a grand structure sitting on a foundation of sand.  When time reveals the truth of God’s Word and Christ’s promises, many will regret their failure to seek and find the truth.  What about you?  Are your beliefs about God rooted in reliable foundations or untested assumptions?  How much time have you spent investigating the claims that the Bible is God’s Word, reliable and written for you?

The answers and the evidence are out there, and great resources like www.equip.org will help you sort out the truth.  The question is, will you seek the truth or will you live tomorrow as you lived today—confident in your belief that the train arrives at 4:30?  John’s consequence for being too late was simply losing a little money; realizing Christ is Lord too late will cost you your soul.

Success in Reaching Your Goals

Can you believe 2014 is here already?!  I hope you had a great year, and I further hope that you’re looking to make the coming year even better!  One good thing that many people do is to use the new year as a time to set goals to improve themselves—this IS a good thing, IF we take these resolutions seriously and succeed.  Unfortunately, in many cases, our lofty goals are left unfinished and our resolutions are abandoned before a full month has even passed.  How can you separate yourself from the masses and actually achieve your plans for growth in 2014?

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If you have the desire to live healthier, improve your finances, grow in your spiritual walk, or any other goal for living a more rewarding and successful life, take advantage of your desire by applying the most significant key to success in fitness or any other area of life:  adopting new habits.

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

Take a simple example of a short-lived new year’s goal of losing weight.  One’s natural inclination after a whole December (or whole 2013) of overeating and inactivity is to overcorrect.  We think that to even out big meals over the last several weeks, we should break our year-long fast of jogging by running 5 miles.  We take the high enthusiasm to get fit and convert it into a short burst of high activity.  But we tend to neglect a few important steps.

The Big Challenge:  Change

First, we fail to recognize that adopting a new routine involves one of the most difficult things there is:  changing one’s habits.  One big mistake at this point is that we try to accomplish this feat alone.  Accountability is absolutely essential to get into and stay with the routine of working out regularly, week after week.  Find a friend who has success in the area you’re pursuing growth in.  Decide how often and for what duration you will connect for accountability and encouragement, and specifically what goals you will pursue.

Write it Down

This leads right into the second necessary step for getting and staying fit:  setting goals and writing them down.   Make sure your goals are  specific, measurable, that they have a due date.  For example, if your goal is to get in better shape, the following goal serves as a good example.

I will improve my one-mile run time to below 7:00 minutes and lose 10 pounds by February 15.

To accomplish this, I will exercise for 20 minutes, three times per week using the ThriveFit program.  I will write down my workout results every day, and email a weekly report every Sunday evening to my fitness mentor to seek his feedback.

Instant Feedback

Notice how this is a specific plan with set dates and times and clear markers to shoot at.  The reason this is such an important step is that it gives you a standard to measure yourself against for immediate feedback should you start to falter.  Without this plan, you’ll tend to let your habits slip little by little as the days go by, until you are left back where you started, and with a vague sense of dissatisfaction with yourself.  With clear goals and a specific schedule to reach them, you’ll know immediately when you’re getting off course.  In addition to that, the goal or dream that you’ve identified will help motivate you on the days when you don’t feel like doing the work.

Let Us Help!

Remember, changing habits is hard, and our aim is to create good long-term habits for a better life.  Don’t kill yourself on the first day such that you can’t move tomorrow.  Keep your focus on identifying and executing effective and sustainable habits.

Our ThriveMart store has a wide array of great products to support you in a healthy and successful life.  Just comment on our facebook page or send us a message and we’ll help you identify the right products for you.  And as always, be sure to check back with us each week for motivation and encouragement along the way—we’re here to help you thrive!

Respond or react?

What do you do when you negative things come your way?  When a friend disagrees with you and puts you down, do you lash out?  When your brother cancels your poker game at the last minute for the third time in a row, do you yell at him for being so irresponsible and unreliable?  What about when a coworker belittles your ideas and makes you feel small?  Do you react by gossiping about her behind her back?

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Your Choice

When people are unkind to us, we have two choices.  We can respond or we can react.  Reacting means doing what we naturally feel and allowing our emotions to choose our words.  In contrast, when we choose to respond to a negative situation, we use our mind and heart to overrule our emotions.

Is It Even About Me?

Often, when we are wronged, we incorrectly take the negative actions of another personally.  People are sometimes rude and inconsiderate, but many times this has nothing to do with you.  First off, if they are habitually rude, that has everything to do with them, and little to do with you.  In other instances, a person may not be habitually negative, but something negative has just happened in their life and they let their disappointment get the best of them.  In a few instances people are truly mean to you because they want to be.  But even in these cases, the right road is to respond, not react.

Forgive First

Each one of us has shortcomings, and as such we are bound to rub each other the wrong way.  When someone hurts you, can get mad and let your feelings boil over into harsh words against the wrongdoer.  Or you can choose to forgive them.  You can forgive, assuming they meant no offense; you can forgive assuming they let their emotions get the best of them, and you can even forgive in cases where it’s clear they were intentionally malicious.  You need not wait for their apology—forgive anyway.  If an apology comes, great!  If not, no big deal.

Create an Opportunity

If you will make the choice to live this way, and act with your will, mind, and heart rather than your emotions, your reward will be peace unknown to the masses who fail to respond and allow themselves to react.  Not only that, but those around you will notice your unusual behavior. They may even ask you why  you live so differently.  Can you think of a better opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ?

True Spirituality

What does it mean to be spiritual?  Does a person with a strong spiritual life simply keep all the rules?  And what’s the point of living in true spirituality anyway, when it seems like all you get for your sacrifices is some undefined goody-goody feeling?  Today we’ll explore these questions and more, and learn what the world’s greatest teacher had to say on the subject.

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Actions Speaking Louder

Many of us have had less than positive experiences growing up around Christian people.  Even within the church, it’s all too common to see people talk about all kinds of good things, but then when we see how they live, the disparity is enormous.  What good is it to talk about the right things one ought to do, and then go out and live completely the opposite?  Seeing people living this way can make us jettison the whole idea of Christianity:  who wants to follow a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites?!!

Not Based in Duty or Behavior

Jesus’ picture of spirituality, as contrasted with the heresy described in the previous paragraph, has nothing to do with activity.  Rather, true spirituality is walking in a loving relationship with our Father God.  You see, while we were sinners, alienated from our Creator because of our sin, God sent his son Jesus to come, live a perfect life, and die the death we deserved.  When we respond to this truth and turn from our sin and to Christ as Lord, God grants us new life. Just as God saw our sin placed on Christ at the cross, He now sees Christ’s perfection in us.  No longer are we estranged from our Creator – we are His sons and daughters!

Living in Response to What He Has Done

True spirituality, then, is living in response to this truth, to this great gift of salvation we have received.  When we understand what Christ has done for us, we respond in the only way possible—by loving Him, loving what He loves, and desiring His will.  How do we know what He loved?  In the Scriptures we hear from God who He is, what He has done, and how He desires we live.  Christ taught us that the first commandment is to love God above all else.  The second commandment is to love our neighbors. On these two commandments hang all the teachings of the Law, and if you think about it, sole direction one needs to live as a blessing to those around him.  Though living this way is not easy, and even as followers of Christ we often fall short and sin, this is the way to true spirituality and eternal life:  accept the gift of salvation Christ offers, and devote your life to following Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  He is gentle and humble of heart, and will lead you, protect you, and invite you into His heavenly kingdom.

The Heart of a Fan

Do you know any, or would you perhaps consider yourself to be, a football fan?  How do you know that this person is a fan?  Do you have to search hard for clues in order to determine that they love the game?  Do they keep a checklist of duties, such as buying tickets to games, talking about football for a prescribed number of minutes per day, or reading football blogs and magazines?

Husker Fans

What Drives Action?

If a person doesn’t do these works out of duty or off of a checklist, what does cause them to spend their time in such ways?  It is this:  they simply love the game.  Perhaps it is the thrill of victory when all seems lost, or maybe the sounds of a roaring crowds and clashing helmets.  But whatever the origin of their love of football, that is the driving force behind their actions and activities.  Their cubicle walls are plastered with team memorabilia and they talk of their favorite team at every opportunity precicely because this sport is their passion.

The Long-Term Investment

Now, what does all this have to do with living a thriving life?  We just described devotion to a fun and enjoyable activity, but consider this: what is the ultimate end of this pursuit?  One hundred years from now, all the players we idolize now will be dead and gone.  All of the games will have been forgotten, save perhaps an entry in a museum.  While all this distraction occupies our time, the One who made the earth, grass, and sky under which the game is played stands by ignored and forgotten.  Oh, perhaps every now and again we’ll toss a “good work” his way, maybe out of guilt, duty, or in order to check it off our list, but like Cain’s sacrifice, our Lord does not find these things pleasing. But imagine if we were to commit ourselves to Jesus the way so many commit themselves to football!  What if we loved Him the way fanatics love the game?

An Overflow of the Heart, Not a Checklist

You see, God does not want a checklist of works from us.  Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, and died a gruesome death in order to pay the penalty that our sin created for us.  He is the one who has done the good work, not us.  Our responsibility is only to accept the gift of grace he freely offers, turn from our sin and turn to Jesus.  In so doing, God will confer upon us new life, and a new self capable of loving Him every bit as much as the most committed fan loves football.  It is from this place that our good works will naturally flow, just as a true fan naturally buys tickets, watches games, and talks about his team.  Will you decide today to turn from your own way and follow Jesus?  Commit your whole heart to Him, and watch as he transforms every area of your being from death into life.