Here and Now

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3

I love to talk and write about spiritual growth. Many of my posts talk about how to grow in all areas of our lives. This passage of Scripture gives some great insight into how that happens. You see, the power to grow doesn’t come from us, it comes from God. Peter talks about having everything we need for life, but then adds and godliness. The second word is meant to qualify the first. It might have been easy for us to interpret this as eternal life, if the “and godliness” had not been added. I believe he is talking about this life, right now.

Godliness is a God-honoring life from the time I make a commitment to Christ until the time I die. Until we fully understand what Jesus did for us, we cannot fully live life with godliness. This provision is more than following commandments, applying principles and claiming promises in Scripture. God’s provision for a godly life now, is Christ himself. He gave himself, so that we could be like him.

In Galatians 2:20, Paul says “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” The key word I see is “in”. We have Christ in us, we have become the temple where God is. He actually lives within us now by His spirit. Because of that presence in us, we have everything we need to be the person we are supposed be and do the things that God is asking us to do.

If we are not fully aware of Christ’s presence in us, we tend to live blindly. Going about our daily lives, missing much of the life God has for us. We tend to avoid hard things, and are easily overwhelmed. But if we have a clear sense of who we are, it gives us the hope and courage we need to face any challenge or temptation. When was the last time you called on the name of Jesus in the face of temptation. You have everything you need to live a godly life right now.

None of us are perfect like Jesus was, but He has given everything we need to be like him. Peter goes on to say this: “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We have everything we need to be effective and productive for God’s kingdom.

Running in December

Some of you know that I have been running to get exercise. I have run in two 5k’s and am looking forward to running more in 2009. During this time of year it is difficult to get outside to run, so I have been running some on the treadmill. I am a fair weather runner. Yesterday was an unusually warm day, it was in the low 60’s here in Walnut Creek. I took advantage of the nice day and went for a run.

This was a different kind of run for me. About half way through my 2.5 mile run I started talking to God. I started talking about how I want to be different this coming year. How I want to be more like Jesus in all areas of my life. I named the roles that I have like husband, son, brother, employee, co-worker, friend, small group leader, pastor, and mentor.

We all play a variety of roles in our life. Each of those roles are important, but are not who we are. Those are the areas that we have influence with other people. I want to use that influence to Glorify God. I talked to God on that run about having a life of worship. To worship God in each of the roles that I have.

As I was running, I kept thinking that this run is the beginning of a long marathon. I asked God to help me keep running, not along the road, but in life. To run a marathon you must run patiently, and to struggle through some pain. It also takes some hard work and preparation to run a race. It is more than just jogging a few laps. The spiritual life is hard work, just like the physical life. If you want to be in great physical shape you must eat well and exercise well.

If you want to go deeper with God, you must eat well and exercise well. It takes more than just going to church. A life of worship includes things like; prayer, reading your Bible, forgiving people, giving grace, having healthy relationships, giving generously, volunteering your time, working with excellence, doing what you say, doing what is right, even when no one is looking, sharing your faith with others, living with purity & integrity. It is loving God with all your being and loving people deeply.

In 2009, I want to love God and love people, like never before. This is an adventure, a race through some rough terrain, with some rough people. It could get a little dirty and you may fall down, but the finish is worth the effort. Every time I go running, I will be reminded of the race we are all in. Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Hebrews 12:1-3 and 2 Timothy 4:7-8 for more on running the race. Start running!

The Identity Trap

I have been studying a book on “How People Change” by Tim Lane & Paul David Tripp. I have only gotten into the first chapter, but already am learning a bunch of good stuff.

When I meet with people, I am always trying to help them make changes in their life. I love to coach people and encourage people to grow. Most often people have lost focus and perspective in their lives. They have become blind in some areas of their life. They have bought into the schemes of busyness, money, happiness and performance. I’m too busy to spend time with God every day. I don’t make enough money. God wants me to be happy. I need to perform for people to like me. Those are just a few lies people believe.

In their book, Tripp & Lane talk about spiritual blindness. The first spiritual blindness is that of identity. “Many Christians do not have a Gospel perspective on who they are.”

This lack of Gospel identity shows up in two ways. First, many Christians underestimate the presence and power of indwelling sin. They don’t see how easily entrapped they are in this world of snares.” Read Galatians 6:1. They don’t grasp the comprehensive nature of the war that is raging within the heart of every believer (Read Romans Ch. 7:7-25). They’re not aware of how prone they are to run after God replacements. They fail to see that their greatest problems exist within them, not outside of them.”

Did you catch that? Read it again slowly. Your greatest problem is the daily struggle that goes on inside you. The struggle for your heart and mind. The stuff you think about and the stuff you believe. That is why the Bible says that the truth will set you free. Believing and thinking about what is true sets you free. Your true identity sets you free.

Here is the second way our false identity shows up.

“If who I am in Christ does not shape the way I think about myself and the things I face, then I will live out of some other identity. Often in our blindness, we take on our problems as identities. While divorce, depression, and single parenthood are significant human experiences, they are not identities. Our work is not our identity, though it is an important part of how God intends us to live. For too many of us, our sense of identity is more rooted in our performance than it is in God’s grace. It is wonderful to be successful at what God called you to do, but when you use your success to define who you are, you will always have a distorted perspective.”

So my question for you today is this, who are you? Do you view yourself through the lens of the Gospel or through the lens of this world? Have you underestimated the level of sin that lives in you and the daily battle you are in? Have your problems become your identity? Maybe your work or ministry has become your identity?

The best gift you will ever receive is your true identity as a child of God. Having that identity will change your perspective and change your life. Keep growing in your faith, character and leadership.

Merry Christmas.

Tribute to Grandpa

I grew up in a Christian home and have been blessed to have Christian parents and grandparents. On my mom’s side, both grandparents have passed away. On my dad’s side both grandparents are still living. David & Erma Stutzman have been married for 66 years. For most of those years David was a pastor, working a full time job, raising a family and pastoring a Conservative Mennonite Church. My grandpa was also an entrepreneur, as he started a Christian books store in Sugarcreek.

I appreciate the Christian heritage that has been passed down from one generation to the next. The more I see other families without that heritage, the more I appreciate where I came from. Christmas is always a special time for my family, as we don’t get to see each other as often as we like. For Christmas this year my Grandpa & Grandma sent a Christmas card to Vikki and I. In that card was a letter from Grandpa. He loves to write and to read, maybe that is where I get my love of writing and reading books. I also share that entrepreneural spirit and love of shepherding God’s people.

I wanted to share some of that letter in my Blog:

Jesus met them saying, All Hail. (Matthew 28:9) The angel had informed the woman that He is risen, come and see, they came and saw. With fear and great joy they ran to bring the disciples the wonderful news. That’s when Jesus met them. Imagine the thrill of meeting him and hearing His; “All Hail”. What a contrast to what they saw on Mt. Calvary. They fall down at His feet and worship Him. A most wonderful experience. I long for that, come and see, day when I can fall down at His feet and worship Him with thanksgiving. Just maybe hear, “all hail”.

The all hail is possible because in God’s eternity past, through His determinate counsel, He sent His son, not only to Bethlehem, but to Calvary. (Acts 2:23) God through His foreknowledge knew man’s need. He also knew there was only one way to redeem mankind. So God’s determinate action sent Jesus to Bethlehem, Calvary, the empty tomb, and seated at the Father’s right hand. That made complete redemption for mankind possible. That thrills me!

Another “All Hail Christmas Season” is upon us. The angel said to Mary “Hail”. (Luke 1:28) The year 2008 is slipping away. As we celebrate the season, let’s retain that all hail spirit. Its fullness date may be nearer than we think. That will be a thrilling moment.” (David Stutzman)

Grandpa then shares some things about how they are getting along and how thankful they are for family and friends that help them as they grow older. Their health is slipping, but their spirit is strong and their focus clear. Here are some more quotes from his letter that I treasure:

“God knows what He wants to accomplish in our lives and He knows what it takes to accomplish those goals. He never wastes any suffering. If we trust Him, He will bring some good out of all our varied experiences. That’s one of the blessings of following Jesus.”

“In 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, Paul says that afflictions work for us while we look to the eternal. So let’s hold lightly everything that is not eternal. Through our affliction times let’s retain that eternal focus and gain that exceeding and eternal weight of glory. All Hail, I’ll go for that!”

“We have done a lot of traveling in our days, but our traveling days are over. However, we have one more special trip planned. The date is uncertain, the one way ticket all arranged, the arrival is safely guaranteed, the destination, our eternal home. So until then, let’s keep our chins up, our knees down and our eyes focused on the eternal.” (David Stutzman)

Thanks Grandpa, that is the best Christmas present I will get this year. I love both of you.

Salt Shaker

I have been reading the book of Mark. This is the shortest of the four Gospels. Mark is writing to Roman Christians, trying to show them that Jesus was the Messiah. He talks a lot about what Jesus did and basically shares the important highlights of Jesus’ ministry.

At the end of Chapter 9, verse 50 really jumped out at me. I have been thinking about this one verse for several days now and thought I would write about it.

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” Jesus

Jesus was the best, at saying a lot in a few words. Many preachers today say a lot of words and but don’t say a whole lot.

Just before this quote from Jesus he was warning his disciples about temptation. He was telling them to get rid of anything that may cause you or even tempt you to sin. Even to the extreme of cutting off your hand or plucking out your eye. I guess He wanted us to get the point.

He concludes by talking about salt. Salt is good, because it adds flavor to food and it counteracts decay in food. But if salt gets stale and loses it saltiness it is of little value to add flavor or preserve food.

This is a great analogy for Christians. Christians are supposed to add flavor to the world around them. In other words, we are to influence the world for Jesus Christ. We also are here to prevent moral decay in the world, by living right lives and honoring God with all we do. By loving other people, even the unlovable ones.

So why do many Christians lose their saltiness? We drift, we get lukewarm, we lose our focus, we get judgemental, we get busy and distracted.

Imagine a salt shaker on your table. It holds the salt, but the salt can only get out if someone shakes it. The local church is the salt shaker, this is where the salt can come and rub up against each other and get salty. It is a place to be encouraged, challenged and refueled. It is a place to build community, serve, give and care for each other. Then the Holy Spirit does the shaking and gets the salt out into the world. The church with the strong hand of the Holy Spirit, shakes the salt out into the community.

The salt does no good, if it stays in the salt shaker. It needs to get out of the bottle and into the world. It is the same in the local church. Each person that calls themselves a Christian needs to get out into the world and be an influence. It means living righteous lives and loving God with everything we have seven days a week. It means loving other people as much as we love ourselves and God. It is having our actions match up with our words.

Jesus tells us to have salt in ourselves. How salty are you? Are people influenced in a positive way when they come into contact with you? Is your personal life decaying? Are your relationships decaying? What flavor are you adding to the relationships you have?

Got Salt?