Archive for March, 2011
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (1Peter 1:13-15).
The development of the mind is a vital part of the Christian experience. If ultimate Truth is to be found, known, and proven in the life of Christ then philosophical integrity requires that all knowledge comes from Him and all knowledge leads to Him. This conviction provides a basis for curiosity, creativity, and an energy toward learning; a framework for pondering all knowledge.
Only Christianity offers an arena for the complexity and open-mindedness required for true learning. Secularism is bound and limited by human capacity. Christianity’s pursuit of Truth is boundless under the sovereignty of God who, himself, is creative, mysterious, and longs to be discovered.
Think about it.
“For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:15).
Doing right by our faith isn’t the occasional performance of a few religious acts–going to church on Sunday, attending Bible Study, praying when a reason to do so presents itself, or conjuring up a “spiritualized” vocabulary when you run into your pastor. This compartmentalized approach to the Christian faith is a far cry from the desires of the One who has redeemed us. His rightful jurisdiction over us lays claim on every segment and moment of our lives. The One who has given us all things demands all things. He wants nothing from us, but us.
Today, do it up right.
“But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’” (Luke 18:13).
…and he received the mercy for which he so desperately longed. I pray that we never take for granted or lose our desperate longing for grace. Each day you and I encounter individuals whose lives are crippled by overwhelming guilt for wrongs past committed. They stand outside the church looking in like a starving person gazing through the window of a bakery. They are troubled by a sense of unworthiness. They look at the church and imagine it to be a place for people who have their act together.
Perhaps we are at fault. Our failure to be honest and transparent; covering up our struggles with religious performance and jargon gives the impression that we are not a product of grace. Whatever else we communicate in the witness and testimony of our life it must be that we are not only sinners saved by grace, but a people who starve for the experience of God’s grace on a daily basis.
Today, show the world how hungry you are.
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
It is the intention of our heavenly Father for us to live in companionship. Isolation is not the norm…”It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). I have a close friend of nearly 30 years with whom I speak several times a day. I long assumed that everyone had such a friend as this but have come to realize that such is not the case and that there are many living in a kind of stark loneliness.
Friendship doesn’t just happen. It is a proactive endeavor. The best way of finding a friend, one who will be a true companion in life, is by being a friend. Embrace each day with the intention of being a friend.
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).
Spiritually, relationally, professionally…I’ve never done anything of worthwhile significance that I didn’t seek wide counsel. Before becoming a Christian, I sought the counsel of those I considered to be the embodiment of life in Christ. Their input gave me the courage to “take the plunge.” The same held true when contemplating the call to vocational ministry.
When speaking to students about dating relationships, a key indicator of a healthy relationship is one that is open to the scrutiny and investigation of friends and family who are mature Christians. Only unhealthy relationships are veiled, secretive, and cause us to become upset when examined and questioned by others.
Professionally, the wide counsel of trusted Christian friends, who may better recognize our strengths and weaknesses, can be an invaluable resource when opportunities are set before us.
When facing big decisions, don’t be afraid to ask.
“Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:13-17).
Certain vocations require a certain type of clothing. For instance, firemen wear a helmet to protect their head from falling debris, a large coat lined with nomex or some other flame resistant material. A hospital physician will wear a full-length laboratory coat not only that they might be readily identified but, from a functional standpoint, it offers the pockets necessary to carry the various instruments needed to perform a basic examination. These specific dress requirements are supplied by their employers.
The call of Christ upon our lives is a vocation call requiring a certain type of clothing–the full of armor of God. While the One who employs us in his purposes supplies it, we must put it on. And, yet, this putting on of the full armor of God is not a mechanical action, but it is a metaphor for our dependence upon God and the life of prayer.
Forget the designer labels. Dressing up is praying up.
“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).
While some will pray sometimes, with some prayers, with some regularity for some people, a more comprehensive approach to this key of spiritual warfare is praying all the time, with all kind of prayer, with all perseverance, for all the saints.
A prayerful mind thinks about all these things.
“The mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so” (Romans 8:6-7).
To achieve any measure of success in reaching the goals that we or others place before us requires a certain mindset. This is no less true in the life of faith. The things that God desires to see accomplished in our lives do not just happen naturally. It requires an intentional mindset determined to respond in obedience to the teaching of God’s Word and the bidding of His indwelling Spirit.
The mind plays a significant role in our spiritual growth. In Romans 12, Paul issues the imperative, “Do not be conformed this world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind. In Philippians 4, after offering a list of virtuous qualities, Paul writes, “dwell on these things.” As the Wisdom writer states, “For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”
Living it cannot be accomplished apart from thinking it. It’s all about mindset.
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
On the practice field of any sport requiring a ball to be kicked, passed, thrown, or batted, you often will hear the cry, “Head’s up!” It’s a warning that the ball is somewhere in the air, in close enough proximity, that you are in danger of being hit.
Sometimes we need a “heads up” call in the life of faith. A “heads up” to see beyond our present circumstances. A “heads up” that we might give consideration to the higher thoughts and ways of God and avoid the risk of missing what He is sending our way.
Paradoxically, in the spiritual realm, a “heads up” to our Father’s thoughts and ways is best achieved through a bowed head and an attitude of prayer.
Heads up! Let’s pray.
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
The opposite of waiting is reacting. We react out of fear, anger, disappointment, hurt, impatience…the very worst of reasons to respond. The consequences of hasty reactions is rarely good and often times makes worse the the circumstances that brought the initial reaction. These negative emotions cloud our thoughts and judgements. By waiting, we rise above the circumstances. By waiting, we discover the faithfulness of God and best reflect his Divine nature.
Today, things might not go as planned. Before you react, Wait! Wait! Wait! You might be surprised at how you can rise above the circumstances.