Alan Fadling asks an important question all of us need to answer: “Is who I appear to be on the outside in harmony with who I am on the inside?” Integrity — where our outward appearances and inner being are in harmony — is something we can and should be praying about. Let’s slow down long enough to pray like the Psalmist, asking God to search our hearts and examine our ways.
Follow Jesus. Take up your cross. Lose your life. These words are often heard in our gatherings. We learn the importance of following Jesus, laying aside our agendas, and dying to self as we worship. But these words must not be left at the church building when we scatter. Remember, we have the best opportunities to live as disciples in our everyday routines. Eyes on Jesus!
Slowly read these words: “…God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” and “’…Neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’” That’s John 3:17 and 8:11. As followers of Jesus, we embody love and forgiveness, not condemnation. Let’s not be known by what we oppose, but by who we follow.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).
“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation…” (1 Peter 2:2).
“But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14).
A life of following Jesus is a life of constant growth and change. This growth presents a number of challenges. For example, I need to be aware of my spiritual diet and exercise if I am going to grow. If I am not going to eat, I am not going to grow. If I am not going to exercise, I am not going to grow stronger.
A willingness to change also provides some substantial challenges. These changes become more difficult as we grow older and become settled into our routines. These changes can be almost impossible when we establish our preferences. These changes are often hindered or stopped by our comfort zones.
We get so comfortable with our diet of milk that we find it hard to add solid foods of any kind to our diet, much less meat. We get so comfortable with our likes, dislikes, and preferences that we find it difficult to see how anyone could not accept our comfort zone as the way it ought to be.
Since moving to St. Louis I have found a radio station that I really like. Just about every time I get into the car I listen to this station. The station plays music I like. The station plays music I know. The station plays music with which I can sing along. The station plays music with familiar beats. The station plays music with pleasing chords. The station plays music that I have been listening to and enjoying for 25 years. I love the comfortable, familiar sound of the music they play.
So this morning, while driving to my office, I changed the station. I changed the radio to a station that plays music that is unfamiliar to me. The station plays music I have never heard before. The station plays music with a beat that makes it hard for me to groove. The station plays music with which I cannot sing along not just because I don’t know the words, but also because I can’t even understand the words.
So why did I change the station? I did it as a spiritual discipline. I did it realizing that if I can’t change the music I listen to, I am never going to be able to make other changes I need to make. If I am so locked into my comfort zone with my music, I just may be locked into my comfort zone in other areas, notably at church. If I am captive to the comfort provided by the music of the past, I might miss opportunities to learn and stretch and grow.
I changed the station. I hope this simple change will enable me to change and grow in other areas of much greater importance.
Time is slipping!
I am not a poet, but the above words were what I put on paper when I was compelled to write poetry for an English Comp class 34 years ago. My “poetry” flowed out of my life. The words rang true. I was a full-time student who was trying to work two or three part-time jobs, keep my grades up, and have a social life.
Through the years I have remembered these words.
Truth is, they still ring true. They always have.
I have the same 24 hours in my day now that I had back then and that I have had through the years. And they never seem to be enough. I always seem to have more to do when the day ends. But through the years I have learned God is in control– I am not. I have learned that the world will go on even if my to-do list was abandoned before completion. I have learned that list will be there waiting when I awake. I have learned that sleep is often an expression of faith in God.
I don’t want to go back in time. I don’t want to skip ahead in time.
I just want to bend time. I want to bend time like Beckham — bend it just enough to get around the obstacles and into the goal.
“…Make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 3:5).
“Show me, O LORD, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Each man’s life is but a breath.
Thank You for every moment.
Forgive me when I fail to trust You.
I offer this day to You.
In Jesus’ name,
“We assume that if something can be done at all, it can be done quickly and efficiently. Our attention spans have been conditioned by thirty second commercials….There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”
— Eugene Peterson in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
“The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked–the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.'”
–C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity