Friday, October 23, 2009

#51 Accents

Romans 12:2 "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..."

I had the awesome privilege to have grown up in the South. Now before anyone gets upset, I know it is an awesome privilege to have grown up anywhere in this great country. But there is just something special about the South as it relates to speed of life. In the South things are viewed at a much slower pace than other places. Some often confuse the slower pace of life and speech in the South to equate to slower thinking, but if my travels have taught me anything it is that there are bright and intelligent people in all corners of this world. The inverse of that is true too, but we won't go there just now.

Being from the South has equipped me with a southern drawl. I say words like "ya'll" and "reckon" and I expect them to be understood by everyone. When we first arrived in Michigan people began to inform me that it was obvious that I was "not from around here". They would tell me, "You must be from the South somewhere." I love to tell people I am from North Carolina. It is almost like getting to go overseas somewhere and having people take notice of your accent. I used to be self-conscious about it, but now I use it as a conversation starter that I might have opportunities to share the gospel with people I meet. I find it fascinating that people from varying parts of the country have different accents. Language is an amazing thing

As Christians we too develop a certain accent so-to-speak. As we spend time with Christ we become more and more like Him. Hopefully, we will begin to speak as Jesus would speak in each situation of life. Hopefully, we will treat people the way that Christ would treat them. The longer we serve Him the more we should understand His will for our lives. But we must realize that each person may be in a different stage of their walk with the Lord. This will give us different spiritual accents. Does this mean that what one person thinks is sin may not be to another? Thankfully, it is the Bible that defines what constitutes sin and not me, and the Bible has standards that dictate the way the Christian is to live their life. Some areas of the Bible are strict principled issues with clear-cut lines of right and wrong, and there are other areas that contain a lot more grey area that many of us are comfortable with. There are certain areas that are growth areas and there areas that we must cease and desist immediately upon coming to Christ.

Ultimately, our goal is to be like Christ in all areas of our lives while we cast off worldliness and anything that seeks to separate us from Jesus. Why not make those steps today? Paul urges us to present ourselves as a living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable unto God while not being conformed to this world (Romans 12:1, 2). I fully believe that if we seek to be like Christ then the things of this world will pale in comparison, and we will be transformed as we behold the glory of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18). While we are all being changed, let us be careful to not poke fun at the spiritual accent of another. Instead, let us seek ways to always speak the truth in love and to not be so quick to judge a fellow believer.

Dear Father God,
I pray that You will teach us to be like Jesus. Teach us to let go of the world and to hold tightly to Christ. Please help our spiritual accent to more clearly reflect that of Christ's as we seek to be more like Him. Please help us to be patient with one another, and show us how to love as You love. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

Friday, October 16, 2009

#50 Absolute Zero?

1 John 3:5 NASB "You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin."

Having been raised in North Carolina (N.C.) gave me a background to not fully understand what cold weather is. Sure it gets cold in N.C. and I have had jobs that required me to work outside in 20 and 30 degree temperatures, but coming to Michigan was new experience for me and my family. We are now on our second year here in Michigan and facing a fast-approaching winter. I recall last year’s winter when one evening I was on my way home. I looked at my in-car thermometer and when I reached the stop sign in Coleman were I turn to head home my car showed it being -3˚ F. By the time I drove the 6 miles to my house the temperature had fallen to -8˚ F. I am not sure how it dropped another 5 degrees in less than 10 minutes but I was sure thankful to get home where it was nice and cozy.

Back in my high school years I took physics. I recall studying a concept called “absolute zero”. Absolute zero is the theoretical temperature where absolutely no heat exists within a given substance or system. I say theoretical because to date no one has been able to reach -273.15˚ C or 0 K by either natural or artificial means. Scientists have come very close but have fallen short so far. Why would anyone want to reach such a state? Studying our world within a zero-heat environment allows scientists to observe matter in a new way and perhaps discover new properties about the elements that make up our world. Absolute zero is said to be measured at 0 Kelvin. This measurement is named after Lord Kelvin of Britain who did pioneering work in thermodynamics; which is the branch of physics that deals with conversion of different forms of energy.

So why does a Christian need to be concerned with absolute zero? Because like all objects on this earth that contain heat in some capacity or another, we humans have sin in us in some capacity or another. Some of us have lots of sin either because we choose to live apart from God or because we are not aware that we are sinning against Him. Other have less sin because they have surrendered to the Lord and are striving to let Him lead in their lives. As we come to Christ we have to allow the Holy Spirit to mold and shape us into the image of Christ. This is, of course, the process of sanctification. When we accept Jesus as our Savior we are justified with God because our offense against God is wiped out by the blood of Jesus—can I get an Amen? But after we are justified we must work with the Holy Spirit to overcome ingrained sinfulness.

This is not an easy process but it is one in which the Christian must engage. As the Spirit of God works through us, sin is purged from our lives unless we reject the prompting of the Spirit. As we are purged of sin God replaces that sinful nature with one that more closely resembles that of Jesus. Eventually we should reach a state of absolute zero as it relates to our sin. This happens not because of us getting more and more holy on our own, but because of the indwelling of the Spirit of God. Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Today I would ask you to consider your temple. Is it defiled as you cling to the world or is your temple moving closer and closer to absolute zero? Do you eagerly accept correction when the Lord brings it or do you resist and struggle to cling to last vestiges of the world that will ultimately serve to separate you totally from your God? It is my prayer today that you will pause to examine your life and ask the Lord to show you where you need to make changes in your Christian walk. Ask of the Lord and He will cleanse sin from your life. Ask the Lord to move you closer to absolute sinlessness and He will have mercy on you and give you victory over sin.

Dear Father God,

We pause just now to thank You for Your goodness and mercy. Thank You for sending Jesus to give us victory over sin. Please give us the courage to examine our lives honestly and openly that we might not hide sin in our lives. Help us cling to Jesus that He might take away our sins. For we pray in His holy name, Amen.

Friday, October 2, 2009

#49 The Cool Side of the Pillow

Matthew 11:28 NASB "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

Sleep is something that we all need and often times it is something that eludes us. Maybe it is working too late to complete a project or perhaps we have troubled thoughts that make going to sleep difficult. Whatever the cause of missing sleep, there is no question that once we do get to bed and lie down to take sweet rest it can be an amazing feeling to simply cease striving through this life and let it all fade away into blissful rest. I am the type of person that cannot rest well if I am hot and sweaty. I like it cool when I sleep. I just rest better for some reason. There have been times when I sleep that I wake up feeling too hot and what I always do is flip my pillow. When the pillow is flipped over it brings the cool side up. Once I feel the cool side of the pillow I can then go back to sleep. Dreams seem sweeter on the cool side of the pillow. Life’s troubles seem to fade away as sleep takes me once again.

While resting on the cool side of the pillow is comforting and relaxing, eventually that side of the pillow acclimates to the temperature of the one lying on the pillow and that side of the pillow is then no longer cool. If our refuge from the troubles of this life can only slip away while we rest on the cool side of the pillow then our lives have no real foundation for dealing with stress and trouble. Much of the world does not even worry about seeking sleep to escape their troubles. Far too many turn to drugs, alcohol, immoral sexual behavior, gossiping, gambling, and any number of other destructive behaviors that take us further away from God: the only true source of comfort and help.

So what is the Christian to do? We must realize that when we come to Christ then our lives are not our own. The apostle Paul teaches us that we have been bought with a price (1 Cor 6:19-20). Jesus went to Calvary and purchased us with His blood. When we accept the sacrifice that He paid on our behalf then our well-being becomes His responsibility. Jesus taught us to seek the kingdom of God first in our lives (Matt. 6:33), and when we do all the other needs we have in life will be taken care of too. We, as Christ’s followers, must come to realize total dependence upon Him. He longs to help us in all aspects of our life. When we hurt, He hurts. When we cry, He cries with us. When we need rest, He stands ready to give us rest. In Christ, we have a refuge from the troubles of this life.

Friends, I want to challenge you today to take your cares of this life and drop them at the foot of the cross. Jesus desires that you leave the heavy lifting up to Him. Jesus desires that we allow Him to pave the way for us. We will all face challenges in this life, but when we live for Christ each moment can be like sleeping on the cool side of the pillow; blissfully peaceful and joyfully rewarding.

Dear Father God,

As we come to You just now we want to find rest from our troubled and weary lives. We want to learn how to trust Jesus to be our strength and our shield. We recognize that the rest we find in this life is temporal and will fade, but the rest that Jesus gives us will carry us through eternity. Give us the courage to surrender to Him just now that we may enjoy the rest He longs to give us. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.