Living for more.

He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

2 Corinthians 5:15

 

It amazes me how much destruction a child can bring into the world. The day my son was born a sledgehammer was taken to the life I had built for myself. Let me be candid, I loved my life and watching it shattered to pieces about killed me. Freedom, guilt-free laziness, and spending crazy amounts of time on pleasing myself were amazing! Right in front of me, my son took it all and destroyed it. With a smile on his face and an adorable giggle it was gone in an instant.

I wouldn’t trade back, but it would be false to say that I didn’t enjoy what I had before. Sometimes it feels like when we have something new we have to hate that which we had before. I just don’t think it is so black and white. I wish it were like that. It would make saying goodbye to your old self much easier.

It is like that with Christ too. Please, hear me out before you silence me as a heretic. Maybe not for everyone but, initially for some, it is difficult to go all in with following Christ. We are worried that we might be making a bad trade – and that is understandable. Up until the point of holding my son in my arms I wondered if I was making a bad trade. Then it happens; the truth surrounds us and overwhelms us. All of a sudden we realize that there is something better, something with more meaning, something with deeper purpose, something far bigger than ourselves… Our worth is no longer as valuable when compared with the worth of the one who died for us and was raised for us.

I still have days when I look back upon my old life in awe. I remember being very happy. Even though I can acknowledge that I was happy then – it was in ignorance. Now that I understand the immense joy and purpose I have found in relationship with my son, there is zero chance I ever trade back. The same is true with the relationship I have with Christ. The old is gone and the new has come – there is no going back now. You could never talk me into living for just myself ever again.

Think about: What is a practical difference between living for yourself and living for Christ?  What do you do, think, invest in now that you never would if you were back to living for yourself?

Pray: Lord, thank you for changing me. Thank you for purpose. Today as I plan my day, help me to remember who it is that I live for now. Help me understand the practical ways I can choose to live for you. Give me three things I can do today that build you up in my life and in the lives around me.

Using the right tools.

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

2 Peter 1:5-7

 

When I was twelve, my dad was my baseball coach. I specifically remember a game when we just weren’t able to get on base. They had a great pitcher, but it was more than that – we weren’t responding well to him. Instead of evaluating the pitch and choosing to swing or not – we all just started swinging. Their pitcher threw hard and fast, so I am sure that this was a knee-jerk reaction to feeling “bested” by him when that pitch was coming.

As I walked up to the plate my coach (my dad) walked down the third base line and said to me quietly: “Just take the first pitch, he isn’t throwing strikes, he is just throwing it hard.” I thought it an odd request at the time. I stepped in the batters box, lifted my bat up above my shoulder and readied myself for the pitch. His wind up was big with a lot of emotion, wild even. I felt the adrenaline level rise within me, as I feared my arms wouldn’t be able to react fast enough. I was anxious and it was causing me not to focus on the ball – I was focusing on him.

He whipped that ball-filled hand back and in that moment everything slowed down for me. My coach’s words sank deep and I relaxed a bit. This pitch I was just watching and this pitch couldn’t beat me. I didn’t have to prove anything on this pitch – but he did. That “wild” arm slung around and coming towards me was, likely, the fastest pitch I had ever faced in baseball up to this point. This time though, I waited patiently and I watched. Even though the pitcher’s wind-up and delivery emotionally charged me to respond, I exerted some self-control and didn’t. I watched the ball all the way past me and into the catcher’s mitt. “Ball” rang from the umpire’s voice.

I looked up at a pitcher who had been wearing us out for three innings and it was a look of shock on his face. I wasn’t shocked though; I watched the pitch. I watched the next one, then the next. Then the frustrated pitcher slowed down and started controlling his wind up and, with a slower delivery, tried to ensure a more perfect placement over the plate. Pitch number four would have been a strike if I hadn’t hit it to deep right field. My patience and self-control allowed me to be ready for the perfect pitch. Patience and self-control were the tools I needed to beat this pitcher. Not a faster swing. My coach knew this.

As Christians, we have all the tools we need if we choose to add them to our lives. Moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, patient endurance, godliness, brotherly affection and love for everyone. These are the tools we need to embrace the tension around us and do so in a way that shows obedience to God - and these are the tools God provides.

Think about: Where is one area of tension that I can “add” these tools in? What is a practical obedience that I am lacking right now, that when employed, will help me to follow Christ closer?

Pray: God, you are the best coach, you have all the experience, you know better than I do. Help me to lean into your “tools” today as I seek to obey you.

Why am I doing this?

Have you ever asked yourself, “why am I doing this?” You know that at some point in your life you decided to start doing something and now here you are running your normal routine and you pause and ask yourself, why? I think it is fair. I remember asking myself why while I was putting dishes away once. I was putting glasses back in the cabinet and I instantly had a thought: “I normally take a glass out and either fill it with water from the sink or I fill it with something from the refrigerator, so why are my glasses not in the cabinet between the refrigerator and the sink?”

1 Peter 1:2 does a great job of answering a “why” question. Why do we obey God’s Word? Why do we do the right thing, tell the truth and love people? Although with spiritual maturity growth I do this less, I find myself contemplating why I try to live up to God’s standard.

God the father knew you and chose you long ago, and his spirit has made you holy. As a result you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:2

There is great reason for the Christ follower to learn and obey God’s teaching. God chose you long ago and when you submitted to Jesus as Lord – the Holy Spirit began a long-term work on you to help craft your actions closer in line with how God loves. This is reason enough to take serious the teaching of Christ. This work isn’t to attain something; it is in response to something we have already received.

Think about: How does remembering that you were called out and pursued by God help shape your understanding of obedience? Is right now a good time for you to do a bit of inventory in your life and see where you are lining up with the teaching of Christ, and where you are not?

Pray: Lord, thank you for loving me through creation and salvation. You pursued me from my very beginning and even now when I don’t perform up to your standard. Help me to always remember the love you have for me and live out the appreciation I have for it. 

Gonna have to serve somebody...

Don’t you realize you become a slave to whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.

Romans 6:16

It would be wrong to say that Bob Dylan said it best, right? I mean – would that be considered blasphemy? Either way, we are going to serve something. We are going to obey someone. My dad always told me that I would understand when I got older. I hated it when he said that. Honestly, he still says it. However, I do understand it better now that I am older. I think that is what age, or maturity, does for you. The more time you spend testing and learning a truth, the more you understand how it impacts your life.

This truth doesn’t even have to be spiritualized for us to apply it to our relationship with God. This truth is spiritual in full – there isn’t a way to understand this truth that isn’t spiritual. For those of you with age, you 40-50 year old dudes or you “forever 29” year old ladies, I challenge you to look back on your life when you consider this. Don’t look forward yet, just look back for a minute. Who have you obeyed? Have you stuck with your own wisdom? Have you strictly obeyed the garbage of pop-culture? Have you turned around and just trust-fallen into the wisdom of God? Whatever it looks like, your past, consider that our data. Now, presently, how are you doing? Where did the data get us? How is life being a slave to whatever you are a slave to? Do you still like your master – is it a good one?

Let’s say you could back up 10-20 years. Would you, knowing where the data led you, choose to obey something different? You know your past and you know your present. You are also intelligent, so you know they ARE related. Who you choose to serve and what you choose to obey will absolutely shape your future.

 

Think about: Future. If your past master didn’t get you the results you hoped for, is it time to try a new one before you realize your future-present? Maybe, like me, your past looks like a blend of trying to serve both God, pop culture demands, self, who your mom wanted you to be. Maybe your results are a mixed bag that just leaves you saying: “I could have done better.” The good news is YOU CAN do better. What are you going to serve this week? I challenge you to look at how you spend your time and money this week and name the master that led you there. Well, it may be the devil, or it may be the Lord…

 

Prayer: Lord, looking at my past makes me want to be better. I know I can be better. I need to know whom I am serving, though. Please Lord – throughout the day today, help me to name my masters and help me realign with the one who leads me to righteous living.

Ought to do

Remember, it is sin to know the good you ought to do and then not do it.

James 4:17

You know that look in a child’s eye. A look of devilish independence when they realize they are actually capable of doing anything they want. In all honesty, it is something that is beautiful to see in your child’s eyes… for about 15 seconds. Although we don’t want to completely take away that independent spirit – we know we have to train our children to obey.  We want our kids to experience free will, but we also want them to understand “what they ought to be doing.”

God wants us to understand “what we ought to be doing”. Not just want he doesn’t want us to do – but what he wants us to do. I had a Youth Pastor tell me once: “Luke, if you spend your time doing what God called you to do – you won’t have any time to do what he told you NOT to do!” I added that to the list that also included my mother’s thoughts: “There is nothing going on after midnight that leads to good results.”

When I compile the wisdom of my youth pastor, my mom and the book of James – I start to realize that I should let the good I ought to be doing, consume my time.

Dream with me for a minute. What if we gave into it? What if we threw our hands up in the air and just say: “Alright God, I’ll do what I ought to do and see how this turns out.”

 

Think about: What are a few things I “ought to do” that I am not currently doing?

-       I ought to start my day with God (prayer, bible ready, sing that worship song…).

-       I ought to work hard at work, and play hard with my kids when I come home.

-       I ought to invite a friend to church this week.

-       I ought to SHOW I care more when I hear other’s bad news.

 

Pray: God, it is clear that you expect us to do what we ought to do – but honestly, I need a reminder of what that is. Please let your Holy Spirit show up in my life this week to remind me of what I ought to do. Not because it gets me favor with you – but because you have already shown me favor.

 

 

 

/LRamey/