Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Blessings

Thank you for reading Transformed Daily. I am spending my New Year’s Eve playing in a Battle of the Bands event with my two sons: Grant (age 9 on the drum set) and Jake (age 11 on the lead electric guitar). I will try to post a video at a later date and let you know how we placed. First place gets some professional studio time. That would be cool.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? – Isaiah 43:19a
Have a blessed new year as you live for Christ.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Just forget about it - maybe not...

Here is my latest small group curriculum that tackles the topic of when to forget and when to remember - something to think about as we finish one year and begin another.

Big Idea:
There is a time to remember and a time to forget; a time to focus on the past and a time to move into the future. God calls us to honor the past, but not to live like we did when we were separated from Christ.

Summary:
We live in a modern culture where little honor and respect is paid to the past. We tend to be looking around the next corner for the greener grass. We are very good at forgetting and not so good at remembering and cherishing what God has done throughout redemptive history and even in our own lives. From cover to cover, God’s Word strongly encourages us to “remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and even the judgments he pronounced.” We are told to “remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.” And, “remember the height from which we have fallen! Repent and do the things we did at first.” Remembering God’s deliverance and his mighty works is crucial. In fact, we are told to teach these things to our children and their children after them. But, there is also a time when forgetting is exactly what we are told to do. There is a time to move on. But, what does the Bible tell us we are supposed to forget, and when are we supposed to move on? We are told to “forget the former things (how we used to live) and do no dwell on the past.” Paul said that he “forgets what is behind him (stops living the way the used to live in his sin) and instead strains toward what is ahead (a life lived in Christ for eternity).” So, let’s remember God’s awesome works and deliverance, while forgetting and leaving our former way of living when we were separated from Christ.

Discussion Questions: (read the scripture & discuss)

Psalm 105:1-5

What does this Psalm tell us we should not forget? What are some practical and real things we can do that will help us remember these things? (look at the passage)

Deuteronomy 4:1-9
God is gracious to deliver us, but he also instructs us not to forget his commands and to teach them to our children. What commands of the Lord should we not forget and why?

Ephesians 2:11-22
Why should we remember the things in these passages? Remembering who we are in Christ is crucial. How does this truth change who you are and how you live?

Taking Action: Make a list of the things God has done in your life that you need to always remember and treasure. What are some former things and ways of living that you need to forget and no longer engage in? Update and review these two lists on a regular basis.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Identification Required

Identifying with Christ, with the cross, will change everything. It is an all-in proposition. A follower of Christ will leave everything behind to follow. A follower of Christ won’t live on both sides of the fence. A follower of Christ will give it all and not hold back anything.
“Do I want to be identified with his (Jesus’) death, to be killed right out to all interest in sin, in worldliness, in self – to be so identified with Jesus that I am spoilt for everything else but him.” - O. Chambers

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I’m talkin’ about freedom

Freedom in Christ has been distorted by many modern Christians to mean a freedom from the affects and responsibility of sin – period. Many people think that once they get their get-out-of-hell card along with the warm fuzzies, they are “saved” and can continue living for themselves and engaging in a life littered with sin without any eternal consequences. Sure, they don’t want to sin, but they errantly believe it just doesn’t really matter because they’re “saved”. But where is the freedom? Oh, that happens when they die - right?

I don’t necessarily blame people for this skewed view of conversion. Unfortunately, it is being fed to them by pastors who themselves either (1) really don’t understand, (2) think that this is what people want to hear and so they are tickling their ears with it, or (3) just need this to be true because of how their own lives are being lived out – void of the fruit found in Christ’s freedom.

So, what is this freedom in Christ that we experience when we follow him? It is not the freedom to disobey God, but rather the freedom and ability to finally obey him and live for him.
I will always obey your law, for ever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. – Psalm 119:44-45
Freedom is being able to live for God. It is freedom from continuing to sin, not freedom from having to obey God. It is being able to finally honor, obey, and glorify God with your life. This freedom is given by Christ because of his victory over sin on the cross. By his grace we can now say no to sin and yes to God’s precepts. We can live for the King instead of for ourselves. At one time, before our conversion, we did not have any freedom or power to say no to our flesh, but in Christ we have freedom and power to wholeheartedly and fully follow God.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. – Titus 2:11-14
This is true freedom – being able to walk in the light and remain in Christ. And the beautiful thing is that Christ himself brought this freedom. His grace is enough. When we truly take hold of Christ, we will experience this kind of freedom here and now and it will result in a life lived to the full and in an abundance of joy, peace, and glory to our Father.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. – John 10:10

Sunday, December 23, 2007

From birth to death - wow!

As I celebrate Christ’s birth, I almost immediately begin to also rejoice in his death and resurrection. It is all so amazing and beautiful. Jesus did the will of the Father in his birth, life, and death; and has ransomed the captive. Let's rejoice, be glad, and worship him with every fiber of our being.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Moonless Darkness

Christmas is a time of year that we celebrate the birth of our Savior - Jesus Christ. It is also a very good time to examine our lives, put the old self in the past, and ask God to fill us with his grace that we might sincerely live humbly and purely for him. I enjoyed this Christmas poem as it speaks to this mindset.

Moonless darkness stands between.
Past, O Past, no more be seen!
But the Bethlehem star may lead me
To the sight of Him who freed me
From the self that I have been.
Make me pure Lord: Thou art holy;
Make me meek, Lord: Thou wert lowly;
Now beginning and always:
Now begin, on Christmas Day. - Gerard M. Hopkins

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Ultimate Gift

Two Thousand years ago the ultimate Christmas gift was given to the world – Jesus Christ. What affect is this gift having on your life?

The ultimate gift, Jesus, wasn’t wrapped in brilliant colors and displayed prominently in a place of honor for all to see. Rather, he came wrapped in rags and was placed in a feeding trough. But, he was still the ultimate gift. The world just didn’t know it yet. Of course history had been telling of this ultimate gift since the beginning of time, but it had problems recognizing it because the gift just didn’t look like what everyone had imagined. So, most of the world never opened the gift. Instead they threw it out and destroyed it. What is the ultimate gift? It is the ultimate demonstration of humility; the ultimate expression of mercy; the ultimate manifestation of love. It is God coming in the flesh.

“His life is the highest and the holiest entering through the most humble of doors. Our Lord’s birth was an advent— the appearance of God in human form” – Oswald Chambers.
Have you recognized and received this ultimate gift? Is Jesus your Christmas treasure? Has he changed your life? Do you daily honor him with your life? Just like Christ came into this world, he must also come into your life. When he does you will truly become a new creation and the evidence of this new life is that you will completely yield yourself to his will. People will know you have received the ultimate gift because you will be different. You will love instead of hate, encourage instead of criticize, give instead of take, obey instead of continuing in sin. Are you in the habit of showing Jesus off to your family, your friends, and the whole world? When men look at you do they see the ultimate gift (the light of the world) in you?

Remember, it is one thing to be given a gift and yet another thing to accept it, open it, display it, use it, and enjoy it forever.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy Birthday Charles Wesley

Charles Wesley, a co-founder of the Methodist Church (with his older brother John), the writer of more than 5,000 hymns, a world-class theologian, a pillar of the church, and a dedicated follower of Christ was born December 18, 1707 - three hundred years ago. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

“Be like Mike” – if he is like Christ

I recently posted on the topic of being imitators and titled it, Should others imitate you? Well, I am still challenged and spurred on by this biblical concept of being an imitator of Christ and my spiritual leaders. This is so contrary to what the world promotes when it tells us to be unique, don’t follow, be a rebel, and do it your way. Since I am still challenged, I want to keep this in front of others. I want you to share with me in this challenge of imitating.

However, the world (or Gatorade in this case) also shows us the power of encouraging people to become imitators. Remember their “Be like Mike” commercials which started to air in the early 1990’s? Everyone wanted to be like Mike. As Christians we shouldn’t necessarily want to be like Mike unless of course he is a devoted follower of Christ who, like Paul in Thessalonica, is living a pure and blameless life for the glory of God. God understood our deep desire and need to be like someone well before Gatorade got on the bandwagon. Jesus demonstrated this when he imitated the Father; the disciples imitated Jesus; Paul imitated Jesus; Timothy imitated Paul; the Thessalonians imitated Paul and now we need to imitate the Lord and our spiritual leaders.

Being an imitator doesn’t, and shouldn’t, make you a clone. However, it will make you a disciple. You will have to lose your individuality, but definitely not your personality. You will have to die to self, but not compromise your unique God-given traits and qualities.

As Christians our anthem should not be “I did it my way”. Instead it should be “I did it God’s way”. When our lives are lived God’s way, then we will be able to boldly proclaim like the Apostle Paul, “I urge you to imitate me”. Now that is an exciting thought and definitely something to strive for.

Friday, December 14, 2007

GREAT EXPECTATIONS: What are you waiting for?

Here is my small group study for this week.

Big Idea:
Because God does things in his perfect timing, sometimes we are called to wait. But, what are you waiting for? What awesome expectation do you have? What is causing you to sit on the edge of your seat? Is your expectation limited to temporal, worldly, and momentary things like your next vacation, promotion at work, new car or are you waiting for God to show up and fulfill his purpose in your life?

Summary:
Waiting can sometimes be very difficult, but like they say, “patience is a virtue.” Sometimes it seems like God delights in saying, “Get ready, get set… wait.” Have you learned to wait on God without losing your faith or your mind? For instance, when your prayers aren’t immediately answered do you give up? When others grow bored, lose their hope, and turn to new pursuits do you continue to wait and expect God to deliver? God doesn't want you to live a life of diminished expectations and deferred dreams. He has great plans in store for you! But He wants you to learn how to maintain your expectation even as you walk through the long hallway that separates the promise from the fulfillment. Be assured that waiting time is not wasted time and it is not a passive activity. During this time of waiting, God is vibrantly at work in us developing patience, trust, and perseverance. During the process of waiting, he intensifies our hunger, our longing, our expectation, and our dependence on him. Our waiting should not be passive. We should be actively waiting, preparing, praying, fasting, and obeying while earnestly expecting the Lord to show up. Regardless of what emptiness or intense longing you may be experiencing in your personal life, Jesus Christ's coming satisfies our deepest needs. So, what are your great expectations? What are you longing for? What is the passion in your heart, which causes you to long for the Messiah?

Discussion Questions: (read the scripture & discuss)

Luke 2:21-38
What was Simeon waiting for? What was Anna waiting for? What were they doing while they waited? How were their expectations fulfilled? What are you expecting? Are they temporal or eternal things?

Titus 2:11-14
What does this passage indicate we should be experiencing and doing while we are waiting for the Messiah? Is this how you are waiting?

Isaiah 40:31
What promise is found in this passage? What does it look like to “wait (hope) on the Lord?”

Taking Action: (1) Make a list of the things you are waiting for. Compare this list to what Simeon and Anna were waiting for in Luke 2:21-38. (2) What are you doing while you are waiting? Re-read Titus 2:11-14 and incorporate these waiting attributes into your life.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What's age got to do with it?

I turned 40 yesterday. Why does my mind want to play that game of convincing myself that I am now old and somehow a different person just because my age changed from 39 to 40? I am the same person I was yesterday. It is really just another day that God has blessed me with. I have the same opportunity today as I did yesterday to love God and others; to serve him, obey him, and follow him; to be his disciple. I was not promised tomorrow 20 years ago and I am still not promised tomorrow today. So I press on with confidence, passion, and a not-so-youthful zeal remembering that this is the day the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it. Besides, I keep hearing that 40 is the new 30.

Thank you for enduring my little “pep talk”. I need to stop writing now and catch my breath.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Moved to Action

Faith, hope, and love is a common grouping found throughout the New Testament. Paul points out in his first letter to the Thessalonians that true faith, hope and love in Jesus Christ produce concrete results and changes in how we live our lives and what we do. Faith produces work for the kingdom. Sincere faith results in taking action to live for Christ and for his purposes.

Hope inspires endurance. Endurance is “the act, quality, or power of withstanding hardship or stress.” Another word for endurance is perseverance. Hope is not simply wishful thinking. Rather, it is going all the way as a follower of Christ because of a deep knowledge, conviction, and confidence in him and his return.

Finally, love for Jesus Christ prompts labor for the kingdom. Labor is much like work and is defined as “physical or mental exertion, especially when difficult or exhausting.” When we love Jesus we lay down our rights and strive with great effort to serve him - even when it gets uncomfortable and hurts.

We will be moved into obvious action when true faith, hope, and love are present in our lives.
We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. - 1 Thessalonians 1:3

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Should others imitate you?

Paul paints a beautiful picture in the first chapter of his first letter to the Thessalonians. He clearly demonstrates how the faith is passed on and replicated through the natural act of imitating each other. We see that the Thessalonians imitated Paul (who imitated Jesus) and the Lord, the people from Macedonia and Achaia then imitated the Thessalonians, and then it states that their faith became known everywhere. That is some serious reproduction.
You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. – 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8
Jesus modeled this with his disciples. He showed them how to live, they imitated him, and they went into the whole world and changed it. In fact, imitating our spiritual leaders is a vital aspect of discipleship. You’ve heard the saying, “do as I say, but not as I do.” Well, true discipleship says it this way, “do as I say and as I do.” How about this, Jesus demonstrated the importance of imitating when he said, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” He essentially is saying that he imitates the Father.

This concept of being imitators is very exciting, but it is also very challenging when we realize that we are called to be the ones that others imitate. That’s right, we need to be at a place in our lives as wholly devoted followers of Christ that we can actually invite others to imitate us. Because, like it or not, others will imitate you; especially if you are seen as a Christian leader or someone who has been following Christ for awhile.
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. – Hebrews 13:7
Paul urged the Corinthians to “imitate” him. He told the Ephesians to “imitate God”. He told the Galatians to “be like” him.

Can we tell others to imitate us? If we are imitating Jesus, then we should be comfortable making this bold statement; not out of pride, but humbly as followers of Christ who have been transformed by his grace.

Related Post: “Be like Mike” – if he is like Christ

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A SEASON OF CHANGE: The bitter with the sweet

Here is my most recent small group curriculum. While doing the will of God has eternal and temporal benefits, it can also be tough at times. This study begins by pointing out how both Mary and Jesus deal with this reality. It ends with the call to live by the Spirit and to deny (kill) the desires of our flesh.

Big Idea:
A life lived for Christ is filled with triumph, hope, joy, peace, and love. However, being a follower of Christ can also be a tough road to travel because we live in a broken world.

Summary:
Following Jesus doesn’t mean that life will be perfect and that everyone will like you - no more bitter, only sweet. Rather, Jesus said that some people will actually hate you because you live for him. Yes, things get better because of Christ, but things can also get more uncomfortable because of him. Take Mary for instance, Mary is a metaphor of the bittersweet reality of life, especially when you invite Jesus into your life. Mary’s life teaches us that obedience takes courage as we trust God and accept life’s sudden turns and unexpected demands. Her experience demonstrates that when we accept Christ, there is a sense in which both the bitter and the sweet are intensified. For Mary, when she said, “May it be to me as you have said,” it meant: (1) an untimely pregnancy, (2) a controversial pregnancy, and (3) giving life to and loving a child who will die. Likewise, Jesus responded to his calling to be the world’s sacrifice and accepted the bitter with the sweet when he stated, “not my will, but yours (Father God) be done. We must have the same deep conviction, attitude, and spirit of Mary and of Jesus. We must follow God and obey him in the good times and also when it gets uncomfortable and when it hurts. That’s our calling and the reward is great.

Discussion Questions: (read the scripture & discuss)

Luke 1:26-38

What was Mary’s response? Did Mary ask for all the details to be made known to her before saying yes to God? When God calls us, do we respond like Mary with a willing attitude even before having all of our questions answered?

Matthew 26:36-46
Did Jesus the man, his flesh, want to be beaten and die? Even so, how did he respond? Can you just say OK? Can you just say, “not my will, but yours be done?” If we want the Holy Spirit within us to win the fight, what are some strategies for strengthening the Spirit and weakening our flesh?

Philippians 4:6-9
What things does Paul recommend we do in order to follow God even when it gets tough and we want to worry? What promises do we see in these passages that can encourage us to follow when it hurts?

Taking Action: Take inventory of your life and honestly answer the question, “do I follow God’s will instead of my own in every area of my life?” Examine whether you respond to the calling of the Holy Spirit verses the desires of your flesh. Study Romans 8:8-17 and Galatians 5:22-26.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Know God; Know Peace

As we approach Christmas we begin to here the passage from Isaiah 9:6 quoted and sung quite often. Of course, this is a declaration of the coming messiah – Jesus Christ.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6
So Jesus is the Prince of Peace. What does that mean? Was his mission to bring peace to the world? Well, yes and no. Take a look at what Jesus has to say regarding this topic:
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - a man's enemies will be the members of his own household. – Matthew 10:34-36
Jesus doesn’t sound like he is living up to his title of the Prince of Peace. What is going on here? His statement recorded in John 14 provides some clarification.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27
So, what kind of peace is Jesus talking about and what kind of peace is he offering? It is evident that it is not social, political, or even relational peace. Rather, he is talking about a “peace that passes all understanding” that is experienced in ones inner being. A peace that comes as a result of being reconciled with God and that produces a clear conscience. You’ve seen the bumper stickers; “know God, know peace.”

This peace isn't based on circumstances. If you know God, then you know this kind of real peace that is found nowhere else in the universe.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Daily Double

Here are a couple of articles that I found interesting from two sites I frequent.

Jeff at Anti-Itch Meditation tackles the topic of authority in teaching: A question that has caused problems throughout Church History is—who has the authority to teach me? Maybe better phrased as, "Why should I listen to you?" Read More

Bob at In the Clearing writes On the Connection between the Therapeutic Gospel and Christless Christianity. "Therapeutic preaching forgoes all talk of sin, and addresses issues like worry, stress, depression, etc. But the real problem is not addressed, and so the real problem is not truly dealt with." Read More

Saturday, December 01, 2007

If you’re not salty, don’t call yourself salt

While contemplating Matthew 5:13-16 today I couldn’t help but think that there are Christians who have lost their saltiness and would actually do Christ and the church a favor by hiding their light under a bowl. What I mean is that when someone calls themselves a Christian they are telling the world that they represent Christ. The problem presents itself when the person is not wholly living for Christ, but instead is really living for themselves. Their life is evidenced by selfishness, ongoing sin, and a love for the things of this world. They have lost their saltiness or never truly were transformed into salt in the first place. By shining their light of selfishness that is presented as the light of Christ they are grossly misrepresenting Christ and his church. It would actually be better if they hid their light and, yes, stopped calling themselves Christians until they became “salty” and started sincerely acting like it.

However, a Christian that has given it all up for Christ and whose life is characterized by a repentant heart, godly love, a righteous lifestyle, and good deeds needs to boldly, passionately, but still humbly let the world see Christ in them. Of course, don’t flaunt it for your own honor, but just live it and God, your Father in heaven, will be glorified.

Here are the passages:
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”