Resolving Conflict

As we gather together this week to celebrate Thanksgiving, we begin the Holiday season that provides significant time with family and friends. For many, however, the extra time with family or friends is not a time of celebration, but of significant stress because of unresolved conflict — maybe even many years of it.

thanksgiving-fail

The easy thing, the normal thing to do when we’re involved in a conflict is to blame the other person (write them off) and walk away (either emotionally or physically or both). For me personally, nothing wears me out or weighs me down more than unresolved conflict.

How do we resolve conflict when personal disagreements arise?carnage1jpg-f75362bb0d786a9c-2

 

What we need when sharp disagreements arise and when differences have caused serious pain is for God’s Spirit to HEAL our relationships. How? 

Humble yourself before the Lord to recognize different viewpoints.

Often when we “agree to disagree”, what we mean is, “well, I’m right and you’re wrong, and you’re too stubborn to see it.” It’s easier to be objective when you don’t have a personal emotional stake in a situation or conflict, so sometimes we need someone else with some emotional or relational distance to help us see and hear what we can’t on our own.

Humble yourselves (not defend yourselves) before the Lord, and He will exalt you….don’t criticize one another” (James 4:10-11) Humility is able to say and believe, “It’s not wrong, it’s just different” It also says, “Hey, that hurts…”

Engage in conversation before jumping to conclusions.

Emotions can move us to action, but as they intensify, reasoning diminishes.  If we slow down, calm down, are able to listen, and be controlled by the Holy Spirit (rather than our emotions) we can begin to see the issue from the other side. And if we’re honest, we’ll have to admit that the conflict is really a matter of personal perspective (viewpoint) rather than who’s right and who’s wrong. If the other person has valid viewpoints, what is it that I don’t see or understand? Sometimes the picture is not as black or white as we want to see it. What we personally observe or intelligently perceive isn’t enough. We have to listen to God’s Word and His Spirit, then listen to others.

“My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.” (James 1:19–20)

Recently, I was feeling unfairly criticized by a friend. I felt like they were being somewhat condescending in our conversations, and I was hurt, upset. God’s Spirit prodded me to talk to this person. So, I asked, “How are we doing? I’ve noticed…. And felt… Is there something I’ve said or done?” They were shocked and surprised. It led to a good conversation and resolved a conflict that I was feeling.

Ask for forgiveness for what you are personally responsible.

You are 100% responsible for your attitudes, words, and actions.  Most of us give lousy confessions… if we confess at all. Most of us are pretty sorry at saying, “I’m sorry.” When we do something wrong or hurt someone personally, our typical responses are to conceal it, deny it, excuse it or blame it on others. (Gen. 3:12-13). Here is some relational wisdom and key components of asking forgiveness from Ken Sande:

7 A’s of Asking Forgiveness:

  1. Address everyone involved. (All those whom you affected)
  2. Avoid if, but, and maybe, (Don’t try to excuse your wrongs)
  3. Admit specifically, (Both attitudes and actions)
  4. Acknowledge the hurt, (Express sorrow for hurting someone)
  5. Accept the consequences, (Such as broken trust, restitution, etc)
  6. Alter your behavior, (Change your attitudes and actions)
  7. Ask for forgiveness. (Say the words, “I’m sorry, will you please forgive me?”)

Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity.” (Col. 3:12–14)

Perhaps the greatest, most notable difference between a believer in Christ and an unbeliever is the ability to seek and extend forgiveness. It’s when we forgive, as Christ has forgiven, that we are most like Him.

Look for ways to compromise more than seeking to be proven right.

When the conflict persists, care enough to work it out. Don’t run from it, gossip about it, rally support for your viewpoint, or stuff it. Don’t quit your job, your church, or your marriage because of disagreements. In Christ-like love, look for common ground and creative solutions. DeeDee: “When given the choice between being right and being kind, always choose kindness.”

St. Augustine prayed, “O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.” Truly loving others and forgiving others requires the power of Christ who loves and forgives us even while we were still sinning against Him.

How do we resolve conflict when personal disagreements arise? HEAL: Humble yourself, Engage in conversation, Ask for forgiveness, Look for compromise.

Conflict between friends and, especially, family is inevitable. Unresolved conflict is a choice.

As you prepare to celebrate the Holiday season maybe the best gift you could give to loved ones is initiating some healing in your relationships because reconciliation is the best celebration.

People are celebrating Thanksgiving day

We don’t know how or when, but we find evidence that Paul and Barnabas and John Mark (Acts 15:36-40) were reconciled and celebrated their friendship and partnership in the Gospel.

  • (1 Corinthians 9:5–6) “Don’t we have the right to be accompanied by a Christian wife like the other apostles, the Lord’s brothers, and Cephas? Or do Barnabas and I alone have no right to refrain from working?
  • (Colossians 4:10–11) “Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, greets you, as does Mark, Barnabas’s cousin (concerning whom you have received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), and so does Jesus who is called Justus. These alone of the circumcision are my coworkers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.”
  • (Philemon 23–24) “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my coworkers.”
  • (2 Timothy 4:11) “Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you, for he is useful to me in the ministry.”

Resolving personal conflicts is a work of God’s Spirit controlling the spirit of a believer in Christ. We can talk about God’s grace, sing about His love, preach the Gospel, and share its message, but it’s in resolving conflict, sharp disputes that we prove its worth and work.

In the same way God personally reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, we have been commanded (biblically) to reconcile with each other. Only God can HEAL the wounds and reconcile relationships when sharp disagreements come up, be we can’t ignore our part in His healing work in our hearts and in our relationships.

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.
Happy Thanksgiving! And Merry Christmas!

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Magnificent

O LORD, our God, how incredible is Your character and reputation throughout the heavens and the Earth.

When I slow down enough to really think about who You truly are – I’m in awe. It’s amazing to consider all that You’ve done so easily and completely, and yet, You love humanity (me) as Your creation unconditionally. Even though we are sinful, selfish, people, You give us both dignity and responsibility.

“O LORD, our Lord, how magnificent is Your Name throughout the Earth.” Psalm 8:1

The Power of the Cross

Cross hammer“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

After sixteen centuries and more during which the cross has been a sacred symbol, it’s difficult to realize the unspeakable horror and loathing which the very mention or thought of the cross provoked during the tyranny of the Roman Empire. In the first century, the word for cross, σταυρός (latin crux), was unmentionable in polite Roman society.

When the early disciples talked about the crucified Christ, every listener from Jerusalem to Illyricum (Romans 15:19) knew that Jesus had suffered a particularly cruel and shameful death, which as a rule was reserved for the most hardened criminals, incorrigible slaves, and egregious rebels against the Roman state. Cicero (Pro Rabirio Perduellionis Reo 5.16) decries the crucifixion of a Roman citizen, exclaiming, “The very word ‘cross’ should be far removed not only from the person of a Roman citizen but from his thoughts, his eyes, and his ears.”

The story behind Jesus’ death on the cross discloses that He was rejected by the very people He came to save (Matthew 26:1-5), was deserted by His own friends (Matthew 26:47-4869-75), was strung up by the proper authorities (Matthew 27:22-26), and, apparently, was powerless to save His own skin (Matthew 27:38-44).

Following Christ’s resurrection, Peter served as faithful follower of the Lord proclaiming,

“You know the events that took place throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the Devil, because God was with Him. We ourselves are witnesses of everything He did in both the Judean country and in Jerusalem, yet they killed Him by hanging Him on a tree. God raised up this man on the third day and permitted Him to be seen.” Acts 10:37–40

the crossThe beginning of Christianity was cradled in what looks like disastrous defeat, and the unspeakable stigma of the cross exposed “Christians” to woeful contempt.  In fact, the word, “Christian” is found only three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28, 1 Peter 4:16) and when it is used, it’s a label formed by people who were not followers of Jesus to designate those who were. It’s a manufactured term with a derogatory slant, meant to be a dig.

Similar to Peter, Paul did not refer to Jesus’ death on the cross with embarrassment or skip over the awkward facts:

“I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written: Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed.” (Galatians 3:13)

The cross of Jesus was central to Paul’s preaching because the resurrection disclosed Christ’s suffering and death as the way of life for His believing followers in the world. Paul taught the early church that followers of the crucified Lord must also share the suffering of the cross:

“The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:16-17)
“My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.” (Philippians 3:10)

Cross of VictoryAs followers of Jesus today, we want to share in the celebration of the cross, we would just rather avoid it’s suffering and shame. The message of the cross, however, is about trusting God’s will in submission and sacrifice (Matthew 27:36-46) rather than fighting for control or positioning for comfort. The message of the cross is an antidote to our self-glorification and self-satisfaction. The message of the cross is hope for the tired and weary, rest for the rejected refugee, grace for the humbled, and mercy for the broken sinner.

The Gospel of Christ crucified transforms the cross as a symbol of Roman terror and political domination into a symbol of God’s love and power. The cross shows that the power of God’s love is greater than human love of power. The cross reveals the love of God at its best and the sin of man at its worst. Isaac Watts said it well, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” 

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.

Kingdom of Priests

telescopeSo often, especially in the US, our identity seems to get wrapped up in our possessions (homes, cars, finances, etc..) and our value is usually related to what we do (teacher, engineer, manager, etc..). But God has called us to find our worth and our purpose in our relationship with Him. He has set us apart as believers in His Son, Jesus, to magnify Him like a telescope (bring God closer) or a microscope (make Him larger) for others to see and trust Him.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

All the figures that Peter chose to describe the church originally referred to Israel. In contrast with the highly regulated, highly structured responsibilities and duties of the priests of the Israelites, however, the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ today has a direct access to God through the Savior. We are all priests; we can come near the presence of the Lord without an intermediary. Yet our privilege as believer-priests can only really be appreciated against the background of priests under the Old Covenant. When God gave the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai, He said that Israel would be a kingdom of priests (see Exodus 19:5-6) who would stand between God and the rest of humanity representing people before God. Within the tribes of Israel, though, God set apart Aaron and his descendants to serve Him as priests to Israel.

“The Lord told Aaron, “You will not have an inheritance in their land; there will be no portion among them for you. I am your portion and your inheritance among the Israelites.'” (Numbers 18:20)

microscopeReading this passage (Numbers 17-18) in my personal Bible reading this morning, I was reminded that God gave all the other tribes of Israel physical land as an inheritance to possess, rule, and manage, but to the tribe of Levi, God promised to provide for their physical needs through the offerings of His people. Most importantly, God said their personal identity and their real worth was to be found in Him: “I am your portion and your inheritance.” Likewise, as believer-priests today, our identity and our worth is not determined by what we possess or even by how we perform, but by our life is hidden in Jesus Christ. In order to discover our true identity, our real value, we have to look for it, but it’s there, revealed in Christ.

“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:10)

In Colossians 3:3, Paul, likewise, says, “For you have died,  and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God.” In fact, Jesus is your life (Colossians 3:4). God has provided all we need for acceptance with Him and godly living in Jesus.

“To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. “(Revelation 1:5-6)

Doubt and Faith

daysofdoubtThere are days that I have doubts…

There are days I question the goodness of God….

There are days I look around the world and wonder…

As a believer in God, a follower of Christ, and especially, as a pastor, I’m sure some think I’m not supposed to have any doubts. But the reality is that, at times, I do.

Why do we think that faithful followers of Jesus shouldn’t have doubts? We look at Peter and his faults and are encouraged that Jesus restored him and used him greatly. We admire Paul who was a persecutor (terrorist and murderer) of the church and celebrate how Jesus transformed him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). But when we consider Thomas, who doubted the physical Resurrection of Jesus until he saw Him and touched Him, we conclude that we’re not supposed to have doubts. But the reality is, we all have both believing and doubting inside us. And it’s during those days of doubting that we have a choice to make – to believe God’s Word or trust our feelings, observations, or circumstances.

Belief is only a necessity when we don’t know with certainty. Only when we have doubt is faith needed. Where there is complete knowledge, there is no need for faith. If I told you that I had a $20 bill in my pocket, would you believe me? Probably. If I showed it to you, would it still require faith? No. Seeing is not believing – seeing is knowing. When doubt is gone, so is faith.

“Faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) It’s the uncertainty of “what is not seen” (doubting) that causes us to exercise faith (believing) and grow in our faith (maturing).

what do I believe?So a crucial question to ask ourselves is, what do I really believe?  There are great beliefs, great creeds of the church, that, for centuries, people have devoted their life to studying. There are beliefs that people have defended with their lives, sacrificed over, and even died for. In Psalm 73, Asaph begins with a statement of faith, “God is indeed good to Israel, to the pure in heart.” He says that in spite of evidence to the contrary, God is good to those who are totally committed to Him. Like the psalmist, we all carry convictions about what we believe. We can talk about them in three ways:

  1. What I say I believe (publicly). These public convictions are the beliefs that I want other people to think I believe, even though I may not really believe them. For example, guys, if a certain someone asks you, “Does this dress make my hips look too large?” What you say you believe is, “No. I didn’t even know you had hips until you mentioned them.” We make such statements for “PR” purposes, regardless of whether or not we really believe them. We get frustrated with politicians for replacing truth with things that sound true, but the reality is that we all have an inner politician who puts in overtime and his main job is crafting and communicating public policies to help us look good and get what we want.
  2. What I think I believe (privately). These private convictions are the things that I sincerely think that I believe, but it turns out they may be fickle. When circumstances change, our private beliefs are revealed to be shallow. When our health, or jobs, or relationships change, what we feel causes us to behave, and believe, differently. When the going gets tough, we jump off the bandwagon for things we think we believe.
  3. What I really believe (personally). These are the convictions that really matter. Our personal beliefs are revealed by our daily actions – by what I actually do. I don’t have to wake up and say, “Today, I’m going to demonstrate my commitment to my belief in gravity.” My attitudes and actions are always the result of what I really believe. What I really believe is what I’m fully depending upon.

So we have three different kinds of beliefs, what I say I believe, what I think I believe, and what I really believe, and that’s were life happens. How do circumstances reveal what I really believe? In Psalm 73:2 Asaph wrote, “But as for me, my feet almost slipped; my steps nearly went astray.” Asaph publicly said he believed in God, but when he began to look around as his private circumstances changed, he began to have some serious doubts about God’s goodness and justice.

  1. Doubt begins with material envy. Asaph said, “For I envied the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Psalm 73:3). Later on he wrote, “Look at them—the wicked! They are always at ease, and they increase their wealth” (vs. 12). We see the rich getting richer. Cheaters winning. Liars are getting promoted. Everything seems to be going their way.
  2. Doubts surface with physical suffering. “They have an easy time until they die, and their bodies are well fed. They are not in trouble like others; they are not afflicted like most people.” (Psalm 73:4-5) When our wealth and then our health declines we begin to wonder, get discouraged, and doubt. Others who reject God altogether seem more care-free and don’t seem to have the same problems we have. They don’t have as much physical suffering as believers do. Their bodies are healthy and sleek (naturally—they can afford the best of everything). They escape many of the troubles and tragedies of decent people like ourselves. And even if trouble should hit them, they are heavily insured against every conceivable form of loss. Regarding the wicked, British preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, wrote in the 19th century, “They have a quiet death; gliding into eternity without a struggle”
  3. Doubts are sustained from the verbal mistreatment by others. “They mock, and they speak maliciously; they arrogantly threaten oppression. They set their mouths against heaven, and their tongues strut across the earth.” (Psalm 73:8-9) The wicked and the selfish boast proudly and act as if God doesn’t care how they live.
  4. Doubts are solidified from the personal afflictions we experience. Why do bad things happen to good people? Like the psalmist we question, “Did I purify my heart and wash my hands in innocence for nothing? For I am afflicted all day long and punished every morning.” (Psalm 73:13-14) Like Asaph we begin to wonder, “What good has it done me to live a decent, honest, respectable life?” The hours I’ve spent in prayer. The time spent in the Word. The time and money I’ve given to the Lord. The active testimony for Jesus, both public and private. All I’ve got for it has been a daily dose of suffering and punishment. Is this life of faith really worth the cost? In the face of doubts, we have a choice to make.

I believeWhy should I really believe? I believe God during days and nights of doubt because things in life are not always as they look or feel. “When I tried to understand all this, it seemed hopeless… until… I entered God’s sanctuary… then I understood their future destiny…” (Psalm 73:17-18). When we step back and get God’s perspective, then we realize the outcome of the deeds, the wickedness, the selfishness, and the faithlessness of those who reject Him. More importantly, when we step away from what’s going on and look up to God, we find He is good, He is loving, He is faithful.

Faith involves certain beliefs. Faith involves an attitude of hope and confidence. But at it’s root, faith is trusting a Person. Go back and read that again. Faith is trusting God and His Word. Only when we depend upon God and His Word can we understand life completely and know Him intimately.

Don’t miss how the psalmist repeatedly speaks directly to God with the pronouns “I” and “You” in the following verses:

When I became embittered and my innermost being was wounded, I was stupid and didn’t understand; I was an unthinking animal toward You. Yet I am always with YouYou hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me up in glory. Who do I have in heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You. (Psalm 73:21-25)

Asaph is dealing personally and directly with God. He was talking with God at the heart level. Why should we really believe in God? Consider the following:

Regardless of how we feel, God is faithful to us in our failures. Even when we have doubts, become bitter, or become totally consumed by envy of others, Jesus never leaves His followers. The Good Shepherd waits for us and often pursues us. We begin the Christian life by seeing God’s grace and love in spite of our sin. And as we try to live the Christian life, we sometimes have doubts – like the psalmist and like Thomas. When we come to our senses again, we realize in a fresh and deeper way His faithful love and forgiveness of our sin.

In spite of evidence to the contrary, God satisfies our deepest longings and supplies our greatest needs. When we’re struggling with life, the Lord wisely and tenderly lead us and blesses us. Sober reflection reminded the psalmist that God had not forgotten him but would one day provide the good things He presently withheld. God is faithful, even in times of doubt when I can’t see Him or feel Him. My heart may have doubts in the present, but God is the heartbeat of my future.

Why should we believe in God? Because He has rescued us from judgment and is our refuge from troubles. “As for me, God’s presence is my good. I have made the Lord God my refuge, so I can tell about all You do” (Psalm 73:28). We once were far from God. We once were unfaithful to Him. We once were headed for eternal punishment. But God in His mercy reached down to us with the love of His Son, Jesus, and rescued us from His judgment. Those who do not follow God faithfully will suffer eventually. However, when we depend upon Him by faith we’ll experience His blessing in the end, regardless of our present circumstances.

There are times when a decision to believe requires commitment when we don’t have complete certainty. For the most important decisions in life, this is almost always the case. When a young, naive couple vows to love and honor one another for the rest of their lives, they have no clue as to what challenges they will face. What matters is not certainty, but faithfulness. When certainty is not possible, faithfulness becomes a choice.

TrustingThis is true about the most important decisions of doubt and faith. Trusting God can lead us to deeper faith in Him and greater dependence upon Him. Contrary to how things often appear, God is indeed good to those who are pure in heart, those who are clinging to Him and His Word.

Fully devoted followers of God’s Son are not people who never doubt. We are disciples of Jesus who doubt and worship, doubt and serve, doubt and forgive, doubt and help each other with our doubts. We completely depend upon God and His Word while we wait for our doubting to – one day– turn into knowing.

Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ.

Happily Ever After…

Snow WhiteEvery fairy tale has the same formula. It begins with, “Once upon a time…” and ends with, “they lived happily ever after.” Ask almost any person what they want out of life, and they’ll most likely reply, “I just want to be happy.” As Americans, the pursuit of happiness is written into the U.S. Declaration of Independence. We view it as a right. We deserve to be happy. It’s essential to our way of life. But, while we’re free to pursue happiness, there’s no guarantee we’ll find it. The secret is knowing where to look.

Most people look for happiness in their circumstances (jobs, possessions, health, entertainment, sports) or in their relationships (boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse, children, or friends) only to discover that things and people change. So looking for happiness in them never satisfies our longings.

God’s Word, however, promises true happiness to all who follow what it says. The Bible, then, is either a fairy tale that we shouldn’t take seriously, or it speaks truth that tells us how to find lasting happiness (and why we won’t if we don’t). Psalm 1 shows us that to live happily ever after, we must depend totally on God and His Word.

1 How truly happy is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the pathway of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in obeying God’s commands, and he meditates on them day and night. 3 He is like a tree transplanted by irrigated water canals that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.  Psalm 1:1-3

God says there are two pathways of life open to us: one means happiness, blessedness, and fruitfulness, but the other means unhappiness, consequences, and worthlessness. Happiness is a choice, but to be happy, we must, by faith, depend on God and the commands of His Word rather than the counsel of the world, the advice of people we know, the experiences we’ve had, the circumstances we’re going through, or the emotions we feel.

Cinderella“Happy” or “Blessed,” in Hebrew (אַשְׁרֵי), is a plural of intensity. The word stems from a verb meaning to go on or advance. If you want to advance to the fullest measure of happiness, the psalmist explains we have two responsibilities that lead to one result that God produces. To the extent we fulfill our responsibilities, we can expect God to complete the result.

The first responsibility is our devotion to obeying God’s Word. “How truly happy is the person… whose delight is in obeying God’s commands.” What does it mean to delight in God’s Word? The word is used in the Old Testament (Gen. 34:19; Esther 2:14) of a man delighting in a woman. Oh, yeah! That’s what I’m talking about! Have you noticed that when a young man delights in a woman, he rearranges his priorities so that suddenly he has plenty of time to spend with her? And he doesn’t do it because he has to; he wants to! Nothing interferes with his time with the object of his delight! Do we delight in obeying God’s Word in that way? The Bible, after all, is God’s love letter to us. When we read the Bible, we’re reading the counsel of a loving, all-wise Heavenly Father as to how we should live. His commandments are given for us to delight in, not just knowing or studying them, but obeying them for our lasting happiness, our personal protection, our ultimate good. It should be no more of a duty to spend time in with God in His Word so that we can obey Him than it is for a young man to devote his time with the beautiful woman he adores. The way to true happiness is to delight in God’s Word.

The second responsibility is our meditation on God’s Word. “How truly happy is the person… who meditates on God’s commands day and night.” Meditation is to reading what digestion is to eating: chewing on it, letting it become part of you. We’re to meditate on God’s commands continually (“day and night”), which implies thinking about the Word well enough to impact our decisions all day long. Whatever shapes our thinking will eventually shape our lives. The only way for us to find happiness that lasts is to be continually meditating on, thinking about, and chewing on the Word of God and how it applies to how we think, what be believe, and how we behave within every relationship, every attitude, and every decision. As we delight in obeying and meditating upon God and His Word, we will find true happiness.

Transformed by God's WordThe result that God produces is our transformation for His glory and our good. The person who delights in obeying God’s Word and meditates on it is “like a tree planted by streams of water.” This is a tree that has been intentionally transplanted, deliberately cultivated, and is continuously nourished by a planned irrigation system so that its roots have a constant supply of water. With roots that are firmly established, this tree is able to withstand days of drought and the severest of storms. Its leaves do not wilt or fade so it’s fruitful to God and provides shade to others.

Through His transformation, God promises our ultimate happiness: “In whatever he does, he prospers.” This is not a guarantee of future financial worth, but a promise that the person fully depending on God’s Word is always useful and fruitful to the Lord. Prosperity is not by physical wealth, physical health, or popularity, but primarily by spiritual growth with God and capacity for life with people and in service. The point of the tree simile, then, is to give a picture of the lasting happiness we will find when we turn away from Godless thinking, believing, and living and look, instead, to a life with God through faith in Jesus based on His Word.

Only by depending on God and living by the unchanging truth of His Word will we live happily ever after. And that’s no fairy tale!

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.

 

Who are you?

Thank You, Texas Rangers!Who am I? I work at a church as a pastor, but that’s not who I am. I am a husband and a father, but who I am is not defined by my family roles and responsibilities. I’m a huge Texas Ranger’s fan, but my identity is not wrapped up with their success or their slumps. So who am I? Good question.

Who I am is not a function of what I do. Nor is my worth determined by how I measure up in my performance as a pastor, husband, father, or fan. Who I am is not based on anything I do or how well (or poorly) I do it.

So who are you?

  • Is your identity based on what you do? A teacher, a coach, a software engineer, a student, an athlete, a musician, doctor, etc…?
  • Is your identity based on how you perform? Grades, touchdowns, home runs, skateboard tricks, musical abilities, job skills, etc…?
  • Is your identity based on where you came from? Your family, ethnicity, country, school, neighborhood, etc…?
  • Is your identity based on what you own or have? Money, computers, iTouch, video games, home, clothes, cars, physical fitness, etc…?
  • Is your identity based on who you know or hang around? Skaters, athletes, brainiacs, musicians, engineers, teachers, clubs, church, etc…?

Who are you? The problem with determining your personal identity, worth, or value from any of these is that all of them are temporary and will eventually become meaningless and will ultimately leave you feeling worthless.

In_ChristYour true worth and your greatest value in life has everything to do with who you are in Christ Jesus. Listen to what Paul says, If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17  “In Christ” is a phrase Paul used repeatedly to talk about a believer’s spiritual, eternal, unchanging, and unconditional relationship to Christ.

If you have trusted Jesus, the Son of God, as the One who died in your place and rose from the dead to give you new life – you are a new creation. In Christ, you have really become a new person. Your identity – who you really are – is based on your relationship with Jesus and what He has done rather than what you do, how you do it, where you came from, what you have, and who you know. Who are you? A new creation, a new person who is free to be YOU.

In Christ, you have incredible worth! The old way of living by having to doing good works, trying be good, having to perform, measure up, fit in, or win approval is O-V-E-R. The new way, the best way of living is “in Christ” because in Him you are completely loved, totally accepted, and forever valued.

Barry ZitoBarry Zito, once known as one of the most dominating pitchers in Major League baseball, explained how God had used his injury to figure out who he really was in Christ. In 2002, playing for the Oakland A’s, he won 23 games and won the Cy Young Award as the league’s best pitcher. But in 2010 he was cut from the San Francisco Giants starting roster. The next season he was plagued by injuries and poor performances. His worth as a person was so wrapped up in who he was as a pitcher that how he felt about himself was either good or bad based on how he performed. Zito said. “Sometimes you have to go through difficulty and trials to really get broken down. I realized I’d been doing it alone.”

Zito tattooBy the end of 2012, Zito had returned to his peak performance, winning his last 14 starts and leading the Giants to a World Series title over the Detroit Tigers. Before the playoffs began, Zito got a tattoo of a golden calf on the inside of his right bicep. He said, “It signifies the idolatry and value that I was putting on earthly things and human recognition.” More than being a great MLB pitcher earning millions of dollars, Zito’s greatest value is who he is in Christ.

Who are you? What is it that makes you important? Is it what you do? How you perform? Where you came from? How much money you make? Who you hang around?  In Christ, you are priceless!