Posts Tagged ‘transformation’

Simply Church: Conversation

February 6, 2012 1 comment

This should go without saying, but I still think it needs to be said. Deliberate, open, and Jesus centered conversations are an absolutely necessary part of a church. I believe that these conversations among brothers and sisters, including Jesus and Dad, are central to life in Christ. Conversation is central to expanding the family, strengthening the love in the family, and helping the family look more like our older brother (who is the spitting image of our Father).

Dialogue about the Scriptures very often brings far more understanding than a Sunday morning monologue. Sunday morning monologues can be wonderful, informative, and encouraging, but it is through dialogue that we sort out what we really believe about something. More importantly, it is through discussion that we figure out how the Scriptures should affect the way we interact with the world. Community conversations concerning how to respond to Scriptures are frequently the beginning of actions that build, strengthen, and expand the family.

Open and prayerful discussions about our lives, struggles, confusions, frustrations, sins, and questions is one of the most powerful tools of transformation that the Spirit uses to make us like Dad. God uses Scripture to help us deal with these things, He uses His direct presence in our lives, and He uses his body, the church, to bring us direction and help in our times of need. God’s Spirit often works through conversation between believers to mend our hearts and transform us into His likeness.

Conversation is one of the most important ways to love each other toward YHWH. Encouraging, exhorting, admonishing, supporting, helping, confessing teaching, prophesying, preaching, healing, forgiving, mercy showing, praying, celebrating, and the like all happen in the context of a conversation and are all essential for believers to exercise. Having conversations surrounding these things is not something that should just be done because it’s beneficial for us and our siblings, but also because making the most of our conversations is an act of obedience.

Intimate discussions about big questions, personal struggles, how to interpret Scripture and what to do about that interpretation, and the wounds of our souls do not happen enough in community. There are very few people that make them happen. I barely make them happen. We have many opportunities and we seldom take full advantage of them. And usually, it is some form of fear that holds us back. Letting fear hold us back makes no sense for a child of God, for far more than fear holds us back, love drives us forward. Be driven by this love to actively engage your siblings in these conversations because we can’t be the body of Jesus without them.

How can you make more of your conversations? What would help you pursue others through conversation?


For My Stuck Friends: The World Is Watching

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:11-12

As we learned previously, we have been made into a holy priesthood of believers whose job it is to proclaim God’s goodness to the world. This wonderful and marvelous task of ours makes the way we live all the more important. Just as God is holy, we are to be holy. Just as Jesus is good, we are to be good. As God is worthy of all honor and glory, we are to live honorably. Our lives need to reflect the message that we are preaching, because the world is watching.

If we are grossly misrepresenting Jesus to those who do not yet know him, then how can we expect them to see him? We can’t. Out of love for those around us we need to abstain from the passions of the flesh. We have to live honorably among those that haven’t met the risen Messiah yet. The world doesn’t respond well to those who claim Jesus’ power and live under the power of sin. What good is one that saves from sin if those who claim to be saved still insist on being stuck in it? The world that doesn’t know Jesus would say not much good at all. And they would be right.

I’ve heard people say things about being a Christian like, “I’m not less sinful than anyone else, just forgiven.” Part of the point of that is that Christians should be humble and honest in their interactions with the ones that don’t know Jesus, and that point is well made. But part of it is just bologna. Forgiveness is only part of the message of Jesus. It’s only a small portion of what he offers. Other important parts are salvation from sin, entrance into his holy priesthood, and ransom payment that our captivity would cease. These parts involve true freedom from sin and real transformation of character. It is through this sort of goodness with which Jesus Messiah blesses us so that the world will “glorify God on the day of visitation.” The world isn’t going to glorify God because we’re forgiven and they’re not.

Now, as with all of my difficult words (which are more directed at myself than anyone), do not be discouraged! Don’t get down about your lack of transformation, but rather, embrace your forgiveness through the blood of Jesus. And thank God for it! Then, embrace your calling to be priests, letting the past suffice for doing what is of the world and living a life of meaning in all circumstances because you have been ransomed by his precious blood.* Do not let words exhorting transformation to drive you to shame, but rather to joy in forgiveness and to live in the breathtaking calling we have received. Be transformed because the world around you needs to be transformed too. When you live freed, they will want the freedom you have to offer through Messiah Jesus.

*It’s all wonderfully connected…

For My Stuck Friends: The Past Suffices

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

As of late, St. Peter has reminded me of a few lessons that I’d like to share. I want us to be reminded together by some of the insight our brother has for those on the verge of transformation. I hope these messages become a hopeful, encouraging, exhortative, freeing, and empowering for those of us who have been about to reach the crest of the hill for a long time, but can’t quite seem to get there. May these simple insights by a fellow struggler and fellow follower aid you as you journey toward transformation into the character of Christ.

Peter tells us: “live for the rest of time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” (1 Peter 4:2-3)

That’s the message I have for you. The time that has already gone by, that which is behind us, that time was enough time to engage in sinful behavior that those of the world want to engage in. That’s enough time living as ungodly sinners. You’ve had enough of sin. You’ve had your fill of these sorts of behaviors in the time past when that was what you did. You have drunk deeply enough of ungodly passions and devilish desires. The past suffices for that behavior. The sin of your past is adequate.

To those who have ears to hear, you already know this truth. You already know where your sin has gotten you. Your pastime of sin has given you enough experience of it. You know its adrenaline rush. You know its promises of fulfillment. You know its draw of independence. You know the pull of the wondrous unknown of completely shameless and self-centered living. And you know the letdown. And you know it empties rather than fills. And you know that sort of independent freedom is a form of brutal slavery. And you know that shameless self-centeredness leaves you in a very small world that you can only escape by feeling shame and focusing on the forgiveness of your Savior. The past is sufficient. The sin of your past is sufficient. The time in the past that you have spent living in the way of destruction and godlessness is enough time. The past is enough, and you don’t have to live in it any longer.

“Live for the rest of time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” This is the beautiful alternative. No longer stuck in this small world of twisted human desire, the world of our past, we can live in this ginormous beautiful world of the will of God. For those who have eyes to see, you can visualize an approximation of this illustrious kingdom and you see that this is the world you want to live in. This is the way you want to live in. This is the world you want to help create. This is the transformation of character you want, one that is fitting for this kingdom. And you want to be a man or woman exemplifying this sort of kingdom character from now until the end of time.

So back to our simple message. The sin of our past is enough. The way we used to live in is enough. And this way is not consistent with this new kingdom. You know this. The way of our past will keep us from reaching the summit of the hill on our journey toward transformation. I know you’ve had enough of sin’s empty, deceptive promises. You know you’ve had enough of that bullshit. Let the sin of the past suffice. Leave it where it belongs, back there in the past, that for the rest of time you might live for the will of God.

Words, Words, Words…

July 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Anyone know what play the phrase is from? Is it in Hamlet where he engages in a dramatic façade of insanity?

So, I heard someone mention a study that had fascinating implications to me. A few large caveats first: I don’t know who did the study, I neither trust nor distrust the person who mentioned the study, and I have not read the study itself to evaluate the results and implications. So, I don’t know that much, but the mention of the study’s results were enlightening and seemed explanatory of some of my behavior as an individual and the behavior of the groups I am in. Thus, I’m writing more about the concepts, and not depending on the study being well done or not.

This study examined people who talked about doing positive, productive, helpful things for others. It sounded like the groups examined were groups that specifically got together on a regular basis to discuss specific problems and their solutions. What the study found was that the more these groups got together to talk about the various issues of their topic of choice and what to do about it, and did not actually do anything about it, the less likely these groups were to ever do anything. According to my 3rd party information about the study, groups of people that discussed problems and solutions came out of their discussions with similar feelings of meaning, compassion, and accomplishment as the groups did who were taking practical steps to solve and alleviate the problems that they discussed.

Is this a real aspect of humanity? Do we actually come away from conversations about problems feeling emotions similar to what we would feel if we actually did something to fix the problem? I don’t know if that’s a human truth, but in my experience, it certainly seems to be true of myself and of the groups that I am in. We, myself being the first perpetrator, let our words and discussions become the end. But while I believe conversations and words are powerful, they are only powerful because of what they can do to change the world, but they exert no power if nothing is changed. They are just sounds that describe concepts. Useless.

I definitely feel better when I talk with people about issues in my life that I need to solve, and, after discussing them, I largely walk away truly feeling good about my problems and feeling as if they are solved already. There’s something in the mere conversation that gives me a sense of accomplishment, success, and completion. I feel like once the issue is adequately discussed with others, then the problem is solved.

I’m a part of groups of people that seem to do the same thing. We regularly talk about the people we dream to be, what we need to do to get there, and then at a later date we discuss the same thing again. Deja vu. Each time walking away as if something had been accomplished, feeling much better about our lives. The same applies for people with whom I talk about changing the world around us for the better. The discussion rarely leads to anything but more discussion at a later date. I have hope that these discussions aren’t useless yet.

I believe conversations can be some of the strongest impetuses for positive action in one’s internal and external existences. I really believe that people can speak into eachother’s lives in a way that promotes and aids in positive changes. Conversations can clarify things for people in a way that transforms their life. I think discussing problems of the world in a group is the first step to working together to solve those problems. But, as the person who talked about the study said, “only action has meaning.” Listen to these feeble words and let them be more than sounds or symbols on paper. Let your conversations about the things that are most important in life drive you to changing yourself and the world around you in a positive way. Talk. Act. Go. Do. Transform.

Some Different Thoughts On The Past: Maybe It’s Not The Problem

February 3, 2010 4 comments

This is provocative. It’s a little bit stronger language than I would typically use because I want it to be a little provocative. A lot of people I know at a lot of the churches I have been at have a strong focus on trying to find a reason for their current behavior, emotion, attitude, perspective, etc in some past event or past relationship. It’s been happening for a few years in a few different communities of believers. Somewhere around 80% of my Jesus loving friends seem to be convinced that the past is a key to spiritual growth. Most of that group would say it is an absolute necessity. It’s not really talked about, it’s merely assumed that one has to deal with their childhood in order to be like Jesus today.

I don’t discuss the topic much with people. I seem to talk with them a lot about their past and how they’ve been affected by it, but I don’t talk about the underlying presupposition that focusing on one’s past is necessary or even helpful for growing in likeness to Jesus. I just listen to them talk. I don’t mind it. I don’t even mind the idea that the past is so central to transformation. I just don’t actually believe it. And it confuses me, because I don’t think it’s a central theme of Scripture. I don’t even think a very strong case can be made for it in Scripture. And its frustrating when people insist that I need to deal with my daddy issues, ask about sexual abuse, and tell me I have some deep seated issues that I need to start looking at to figure out where they come from.

Being soaked in an environment like this and being a pragmatist, I’ve tried to do these things that involve looking back at my past. I’ve tried to humor friends and family by trying to humbly engage in something I didn’t actually have much respect for. It didn’t really do anything. I thought more about some of the influences that have contributed to some of my habitual sins and areas of difficulty in following Jesus. But seeing influences doesn’t change actions. I never thought that my past is why I am the way I am and have struggled with sins I have. My sinfulness is not the fault of things that have happened to me or things that I was missing in my life as a child. It’s mine!

Maybe the lives of some people really are simply products of their pasts. It was inevitable that they would sin in area A or struggle in area C or be impatient in area Z, but not for me. I am not as good as those people. I have had a choice at every point of sin in my life. And I have chosen wrong. I really am that bad. I have absolutely nothing to attribute my mistakes to but my own dirty heart and my own foolish decisions. That’s it. When I sin it is only because I am proud and selfish, even though I wish I could attribute it to something else. However, taking responsibility for our own actions is essential to understanding the immensity of God’s love.

I do believe that thinking about and discussing some of the more formative relationships of the past can help people feel like they have a more cogent view of themselves. Although that’s somewhat useful in gaining a self perspective that feels like it fits, which I think is important. I look at my past, and while I know it has shaped me, I also see myself as a different person than the one that experienced what I experienced, than the one that did what I did. If I truly become a new creation through Jesus, then I am not the same. If Jesus has truly freed me, then my past experiences and my past person has no necessary effect on me. If the presence of the Spirit of God in our lives truly is all Scripture says it is, then figuring out our childhood or discovering reasons for our habitual relational interactions isn’t really necessary. What is necessary is that we humble ourselves, crucifying ourselves with Christ so that we no longer live but the Messiah lives in us. True life is not about getting over what is behind, but Jesus in us now as we strain to humbly live for all there is in front of us… thoughts?

Life As It Is

December 1, 2008 2 comments

This is what we have to deal with.  When things are rough, the temptation is to look toward life as it could be or life as we want it to be.  The desire is to divert attention from or ignore life as it is.  But that doesn’t get us anywhere.  We cannot ignore how things are; we cannot live in our dream of the future.   We can only live in the now with what we have, regardless of how painful the now is or how little what we have is.

This can be scary.  The circumstances of life as it is can be overwhelming.  There might be difficulties that seem impossible to overcome that have significant negative consequences if we do not overcome. Handling life head on is a tremendous undertaking that forces us to take tremendous responsibility for our own lives. It’s so much easier to ignore our most glaring faults and accept them as just a part of who we are, unchangeable, or minor character flaws that are okay to be ignored. It’s easier to procrastinate the work of transforming our lives by taking responsibility for our thoughts and actions. Ignoring responsibility or placing it on someone else is more emotionally simple and stable.

Dealing with life as it is forces us to deal with us as we are. This is frightening. We can’t pretend we’re someone else when we hold ourselves accountable for what we’ve done. I know I want to live in a dream world, pretending I’m my ideal self when I’m far from it. I want to minimize my flaws, accentuate my strengths, and find somewhere external to place blame for my big character flaws. It is all too rare that I take a brutally honest look at all of my worst qualities. I want to pretend I am already the person I want to be instead of admitting I’m far from “the Word made flesh,” instead I know the word of God, but in the actual life I live, I look a lot more like just another person in the world. I know a secret about you. There’s a part of you that is afraid to vulnerably reveal who you are right now to God, yourself, and others.

We have to humble ourselves. We have to come clean and lift the veil hiding our dirty selves. It’s okay that we thought our lives would be further along by now. It’s okay that we don’t have the money we thought we would, the education we hoped to have, the community we want, or the transformation that we thought that would have been accomplished in us by now. It’s okay that I messed up. It’s okay that you screwed up along the way and are not where you want to be and are not where you should be. Just because you sabotaged your own hopes and dreams by sin, sloth, and selfishness, doesn’t mean that there is no hope now. There is tremendous hope now for all that will not pretend to be someone they’re not or pretend to be better than they are. Unless you open yourself to the potential pain of failed expectations by being honest about what your life is and who you are, your future has not hope. God transforms us from where we are at, not from where we think we are or should be. We have to bring our darkness into the light in order to change ourselves and our lives. It will do no good to bring only those aspects of ourselves that are already light into the light because transformation can only happen when we humbly lay ourselves as we truly are before God.

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