Hello, y’all! In case you are just now tuning in with me on Wednesdays, I am offering a series that the Lord laid on my heart late in 2016. It is called Authentic: Being a Stand-Out Christian in a Shut-Up World. What does authentic Christianity really look like? I truly believe this is one of the most important series the Lord has ever given me the privilege to write.
Is an authentic Christian one who always has a smile on her face and never seems to be shaken by problems?
Is a real Christian one who is in church every Sunday and whose children never fight?
While any of those things might be true of an authentic believer, they are not the things that characterize authentic Christianity. Our Wednesday journeys will take us deep into the book of Romans, to the twelfth chapter to glimpse of ‘mug shot’ of a stand-out Christian.
Here are links to the first two posts in the series:
Authentic: Being A Stand-Out Christian in a Shut-Up World
Authentic: What Are You Willing to Sacrifice?
Last week we considered the idea that a true follower of Jesus is willing to offer everything they are to Him. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for you and me, and that means we must be willing to offer our entire self, our living-breathing-walking-around body, back to Him. Oh it sounds nice and churchy, but sister (or brother), it is about as easy as jumping to the moon when we try to do it in our own efforts. We may succeed for a time, but eventually we crawl off that altar of sacrifice and decide it is just too hard, unless we allow the Holy Spirit to do it through us. Offering ourselves to Jesus for Him to fill and use CAN be done, and when we do it we reap amazing rewards and benefits.
Once we have offered up our bodies on the altar, what then? Let’s take a look at Romans 12:2. I have to say that I am partial to the NIV rendering of this verse. Check it!
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
I shared with you last week how God harassed me with Romans 12:1 a few years ago. Well, verse two was also included. As I meditated on these verses in those days, it became very apparent to me that one thing was for sure….I had a choice in whether or not I CON-formed to what world wanted me to look like. Conforming to the world’s ways happens with little effort. Our human-ness does it naturally. Satan makes sure of that. What is tougher is making a choice to be TRANS-formed into the likeness of Christ. To be honest, there is only one way that will happen, and that is by allowing our minds to be renewed.
Renewing our minds is a bit like wallpaper. In 1996, Greg and I purchased our first home together. It was a lovely ranch in a northern suburb of Atlanta and we were tickled pink to get it. What we were not so tickled about was the wallpaper in the house. To use the word ‘hideous’ to describe the wallpaper would be kind. The master bedroom was floor to ceiling huge burgundy and green floral print…circa late 80s. It made me dizzy to walk into the room. If that were not painful enough, the kitchen and breakfast room had another pink/burgundy/green floral paper that extended from the chair-railing to the vaulted ceiling, about 20 feet high. Needless to say, job number 1 was to do something about that hot mess of wallpaper in those rooms.
The world plasters its wallpaper all over our minds through television, books, movies, music, and the influence of others. We take it in and soon our thoughts and actions are no different than the world. When we seek to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, we must tear off the world’s wallpaper and replace it with something new that will transform us. What we MUST replace it with is GOD’S WORD. Scripture is the only thing that will transform us into the likeness of Christ. Just as we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, we must also offer our minds up for transformation.
In those days when God was planting Romans 12:1-2 deeply in my heart, I would throw my arms wide open and tell Him that I was His…body, mind, and spirit. I would spend time each day in the Scriptures because I desired to be more like Jesus. I wanted to please Him and be obedient to Him. It did not happen overnight, and the offering of myself to Him is something I still do daily. So is the immersing of my mind in Scripture.
I want to challenge you, dear reader, to take these two verses very, very seriously. IF you are serious about looking like Jesus to a lost world, would you commit to praying these verses back to God with me? Let me offer a prayer for you to use.
Dear God, I thank you that you do not just save me and leave me as you found me. Your desire is for me to look more and more like Jesus. Today I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice. Take me, clean me up, and use me in any way you will. Lord, I do not want to conform one minute longer to the pattern of this world. Transform me and renew my mind with Your Word as I read it every day. I am yours. Change me, mold me, make me more like Jesus. In the mighty, transforming name of Jesus I ask these prayers. Amen.
If you would take my challenge and pray Romans 12:1-2 over your life and mind, would you let me know so I can be praying for you? Leave me a comment or email me at email@example.com.
Although I cannot sing very well, I do love the old hymns of our faith. I thought I would share a link to a CD that is playing on my iPod A LOT right now. It is Selah’s ‘Greatest Hymns’ CD and it contains so many of my favorites. Perhaps you would enjoy it, too?
Linking up today at Grace & Truth:
Last week in our Sharing Life series we began a look at suffering and how to prepare ourselves for it. We explored the fact that LIFE IS HARD, BUT GOD IS GOOD. Y’all, no one is exempt from suffering. It is simply part of the human experience in a world that is tragically and fatally broken because of sin. Today we finish by considering two more thoughts that lend courage and perseverance when we are in the heat of suffering.
Experiencing a heart attack, stroke, or cardiac bypass surgery is a life-altering event, physically and emotionally. I know this, not because of personal experience, but because I worked in cardiac rehab for a few years late in my career at Emory University.
When individuals walk through one of these events, they often come out on the other side feeling frightened, isolated, and unsure of how to move forward. One lady shared with me that she was terrified that even the simple act of walking up her stairs at home might cause another cardiac event. Fear crippled her so much that she was unable to make herself go up her stairs to the bathroom the day she was released from the hospital. She said, “I wet myself because I was too afraid to try the stairs.” After participating in a cardiac rehab program, she emerged confident in her physical abilities and ready to move forward.
These very feelings are the reason cardiac rehabilitation programs are such a blessing. Not only do cardiac patients receive coaching and monitoring for exercise, stress management, and diet, they receive something else that enables most to journey on. They are surrounded by others who have walked the same road; others who can come alongside of them and encourage them to keep moving forward. So often this camaraderie, this coming alongside of, reminds the patient that others have experienced what they are experiencing. They are not alone!
This is the second thought that I want to share about preparing ourselves for suffering seasons.
We Are Never Alone
While suffering may cause us to feel distraught and alone, the truth is that we are not. There are other people who have walked a similar road…maybe not the identical one, but a road similar enough to be able to show empathy and understanding. Our tendency in the middle of suffering seasons is to withdraw and hide, thinking that no one understands or cares. But, the truth is that there is always someone out there…a person with skin on, as well as Jesus….who will walk with us.
Paul, the apostle, knew the truth of this and shared it with the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians 1:3-9. He told the church of the utter despair that he and others felt in a suffering season…despair that caused them to be certain they would die. They did not die, and the lesson he taught the church as a result of his suffering season was that God allowed that season so he could come alongside others who suffer. I’ve linked to the passage because it is an absolute go-to passage for me in times of suffering. I hope you will read it.
We are never alone in our suffering seasons, friends, but we must not isolate ourselves. We must be willing run to Jesus with our hurts, and allow God to bring others alongside us for comfort.
There Will Be An End
The final thing we need to remember as we go through suffering is that there will be an end to it. That is why it is called a ‘season’. Seasons come and seasons go. In Isaiah 43:1-3a (ESV) the prophet told Israel:
1 Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. (emphasis mine)
Every person in Scripture experienced a suffering season. Even Jesus, especially Jesus. But, there was always an end. If God has allowed suffering in our lives, there is a reason…a purpose, and He will bring it to the desired end.
Are you in a season of suffering? I hope these two posts will provide comforting reminders of the love of God toward you. Reminders that
- God is good, even when life is hard
- You are never alone in suffering seasons
- Your suffering season will have an end
So, friends, I leave you with the wisdom of the writer of Hebrews. For those of us who are in a suffering season,
1 let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Here I offer you my Amazon Affiliate link to another of Dr. Charles Stanley’s wonderful books on suffering. This book is one that you will want for your library.
It all began in 2008. Somewhere…perhaps in a Bible study or a sermon…Romans 12:1-2 floated into my heart like an autumn leaf twirling to the ground. It was not an unfamiliar pair of verses, but neither were they sealed into my memory….yet.
Before long, these verses began popping up everywhere. In a sermon, in whatever Bible study I was doing, devotionals, on the radio…flitter, I fully expected to walk into a bathroom stall somewhere and find them scrawled on the wall. Seriously, it was comical how God was using repetition to force me to pay attention to these verses. The more I heard them, the more I realized that there was a message, a life message, in them for me.
In the eight years since, I have tucked these verses deeply into my heart and made them into an almost daily prayer for my life. I believe they are the key that opens the door to the authentic Christian life. Let’s start with verse 1.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (ESV)
As we think about authentic Christianity, about being a stand-out Christian in a world that tells us to shut-up, what possible help could this verse be? Sacrifice? Holy? It all sounds very antiquated, doesn’t it?
Paul is doing a little bit of what I like to call ‘guilt trippin’ his brethren. He is saying something like this: “Look at what God has done for you. How in the world could you not give your all for Him? It really is what you should do.”
One thing that is important for us to understand is the context in which Paul wrote Romans. In that day there was a prevalent philosophy that said that the soul or spirit was inherently good, while the body was inherently evil. Because the body was considered to be evil and would die eventually, it didn’t matter what you did with or to your body. Your soul/spirit was what mattered. For this reason, many people participated in immorality, believing that as long as their heart/spirit was right, they were good. There was a huge disconnect between the body and the spirit. Might sound a bit like today, huh?
So, back to how this verse impacted me. One day while I was exercising I was deeply impressed by the Holy Spirit to begin praying this verse back to God. So I did.
Lord, I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice. I am yours. Change me. Use me. Make me into whatever you desire.
Now, this is not a prayer to be prayed flippantly, because sacrifices in the Old Testament did not remain alive. So, what I was saying to God is take whatever does not please you and crucify it, kill it, so that all that remains is holy and acceptable to you.
Vance Havner once said that the problem with living sacrifices is that they tend to crawl off the altar. This required an intentional, deliberate act of my will. I had to be willing open the doors of my heart completely to the Holy Spirit, holding nothing back….NOTHING BACK! I had to be willing to allow Him to clean out impure thoughts and selfish desires. I had to be serious about crawling up on that altar and allowing my flesh to be crucified so Jesus could live through me. What Jesus has done in my heart since I began praying this prayer is stunning. He has given me an intense desire to be more and more like Him.
Authentic Christianity requires that we give God the ultimate sacrifice of self….body, mind, and spirit. The world needs to see Christ-followers who are walking out holy lives because they have offered their bodies as living sacrifices for the cause of Christ.
MEDITATION MOMENT: What would you need to do in order to make Romans 12:1 a reality in your life? What is hindering you from offering your body as a living sacrifice? I would love to pray for you in this regard. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you heard about Journibles? They are a series of beautiful books that offer space for you to write out that specific book of the Bible. I love my Romans Journible. I scribed the entire book of Romans in it. The Word comes alive even more when you write it out. Here is my Amazon affiliate link to the Romans Journible. Order your copy today and begin writing out the book of Romans.
Linking this week with:
I am married to my dentist. Several years ago, at a regular check-up, my dentist-husband looked at my x-rays and declared that one of my back teeth had a tiny crack in it. This news did not bring great rejoicing in my heart. I knew what it meant. The word crown became very real to me, and it was not the kind of crown that a queen would wear.
I scheduled an appointment with him for a few days later. On the appointed day, I came into the office, sat down in his chair, and submitted myself to the skillful hand of my husband. He took his drill and ground down the offending tooth to make space for a crown…a porcelain tooth that would be cemented onto the remains of my previous tooth. He measured, checked the color match, and created an impression of that area so the new crown would match and fit perfectly. Before I left the office, he fabricated a temporary crown and placed a bit of cement in the spot to hold the temporary crown in place until my permanent one was created by the dental lab.
My temporary crown looked like a real crown, and in fact, would serve several purposes: it was a place holder to keep the teeth on either side from moving; it protected the remains of the original tooth that was cracked; and it would allow me to chew on that side if I stayed away from hard or crunchy foods. But, the truth of the matter is that it was not the real thing and would never be the real thing. The key to a healthy, functioning tooth would be to go back to the dentist’s office in a couple of weeks and have the permanent porcelain crown placed in my mouth.
In the 2014 Religious Landscape Study performed by the Pew Research Center, the percentage of adults who describe themselves as ‘christian’ decreased dramatically from 78.4% in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. A Gallup poll published in late 2015 showed that 75% of Americans identified with a Christian religion. As I consider these statistics, I find it nearly impossible to square the fact that 70% of Americans identify as Christians, yet the recent presidential election was the most hateful and vitriolic in America’s history. Blistering, viscious words were hurled from voters of all stripes, including those who call themselves Christians. There is a huge disconnect, people!
A good and right question to ask ourselves is whether our talk and our walk match up. The apostle James said that the Christians of his day were using their mouths to bless and to curse people, much like the Christians of our day. James likely shook his finger at his contemporaries and said, “This should not be.”
I agree! It should not be, but if I examine my life and heart, I find that I am guilty of sometimes walking out a type of Christianity that looks nothing like the life of Jesus. And Lord, have mercy, our world does need to see authentic Christianity. Am I a Christian who stands out as a Christ follower in a world that seeks, more and more, to shut us up? When unbelievers view my life, do they see things that draw them to Jesus or push them away?
A good question to ask right here is this: how do I know what a real-deal, stand-out Christian should look like?
What should the authentic Christian say?
How should they live?
What actions should they engage in?
Over the next several Wednesdays we are going to delve into the profile of a true Christian, a stand-out Christian, and see if our lives measure up to the profile of a true believer in Jesus Christ. I hope you will join me.
MEDITATION MOMENT: Has there been a person or people in your life who lived out the definition of a true Christian? Would you share a bit about them in the comments?
Dr. Adrian Rogers wrote a marvelous little book about the things that every Christian should know. It is packed full of practical advice and plenty of Scripture to encourage your walk with Jesus. You may click on my Amazon affiliate link to check it out and purchase, should you feel led.
A few years ago I hopped on the OneWord365 bandwagon. I did not join lightly, however, but with great anticipation and much prayer. Beginning in early November I would seek the heart of the Lord about a word that might be my guiding word from Him for the upcoming year. I tried very hard not to suggest a word to Him, because I knew that He knew what the coming year would hold and I did not. Some years my Word came quickly, while others took more prayer and pondering to capture.
Here are my Words for the past few years:
2012 – Trust
2013 – Jesus
2014 – God gave me 2 words – Loss and Others
2015 – Renew
2016 – Rest
Each time, God gave me a word straight from His heart that would challenge and bless my heart. None, however, were more challenging and required more of me than my 2016 word ‘rest’. During the course of the year I have posted several times about what God has taught me through focusing on ‘rest’. I imagine those lessons are not complete just because the calendar will soon say ‘2017’.
May I recap a bit of what God taught me, just so I can have it all in one place for future reference?
- God knows best and He will not ask me to do anything for which He does not have purpose
- I can bend my knee to what God asks of me, or He can break my legs (figuratively, or maybe literally) to get me to where He desires me to be
- My unwillingness to cease my activity (mental, physical, blogging, etc) shouted with a megaphone that I did not trust God
- God knew I needed to learn to embrace physical rest for the good of my body and mind
- I am physically and emotionally stronger now because of my times of rest
- He was calling me not only to physical rest, but also to a blogging rest, which I desperately needed. Before I bent my knee to a blogging break, I was to the point of walking away from writing completely
- God is willing to renew my strength, but I must do it on His terms, not mine
- When I FINALLY ceased striving and embraced rest, He met me in such tender, beautiful ways that I would have, otherwise, missed
- As part of this year of rest, I have learned, and am still learning, to lean into Sabbath (One of the tools God gave me to help with this was Shelly Miller’s wonderful book, Rhythms of Rest. I’ve linked to it at the bottom of this post via my Amazon Affiliate link. I promise, it is money well spent.)
So, here we are, and I have been seeking hard after my word for 2017. I knew there was the possibility that there might be a continuation of the focus on rest for the upcoming year, and if that had been the case, I would have embraced it. I will not forget the lessons of ‘rest’ and will continue to carve out times and seasons of rest.
I believe, however, that the Lord has given me a new OneWord365 for 2017. As with each of my words, I walk into 2017 not knowing how the Lord will use it in my life, but trusting His sovereignty and wisdom. I am trying to not even speculate how this word will impact me, because God is a God of creativity and surprises.
My heart’s desire is to lean into my OneWord365 for 2017 and embrace the lessons God has for me in it. My OneWord 365 for 2017 is:
Friends, if God has given you a Word for 2017, I would love for you to share it. Leave me a comment sharing your OneWord365 for 2017. Thanks for stopping in.
I know I said that I was on a blogging sabbatical. However, my time away has been so blessed and has truly given me a renewed energy and desire for writing and ministry that I just feel the need to be here today. So, while I am not officially back to blogging, I am feeling led to offer just a few posts in this holy month of December.
One of the things that I have done while on sabbatical is to ponder and pray through my goals for 2017. Now, I will tell you that I have never been one to sit down at the end of the year and write down my goals for the upcoming year. To be honest, the past couple of years have had me in pure survival mode, and the only goals I had were simply getting through each day, week, and month. Again, being completely honest with you here, for the better part of 2016 I have not even been sure that I would continue to write or serve in any kind of ministry capacity. I was completely spent…poured out…weary. Through it all, God was trying to tell me something that I was refusing to listen to. REST! My OneWord 2016 that I ran from and resisted mightily. Turns out God knew best. I know, LIGHT BULB MOMENT!
So, back to my 2017 goals. I spent some time listing them and the exercise was a good one. It helped put into perspective what I believe the Lord is calling me to in the coming year. My goals represent many areas of my life…..ministry, marriage, social, work, and personal enjoyment. Large goals like planning and hosting a women’s prayer and listening retreat, as well as smaller goals like reading (at least) one book per month made my list.
One of the tools that I am using to set goals for 2017 is Grace Goals, by my friend, Arabah Joy. There are many tools out there, but Grace Goals is my favorite because it helps me set goals from a Christian perspective….with Jesus at the center of my life.
Because you are my friend, I want to share Grace Goals with you. I want you to be successful in 2017….in life, marriage, work, parenting, and so much more. I believe it is the tool you need to help you set God’s goals for your life.
Arabah Joy has compiled a PDF containing 5 mini-workshops that will take you through the process of:
Setting practical, godly goals
Developing a doable, personal plan for change
Learning why grace is the enablement you need
Recognizing and appropriating grace in your daily life
Arabah Joy is making Grace Goals 2017 available NOW for only $15. What’s not to like about that?
- Get Grace Goals 2017
- Begin setting godly goals
I would love for you to purchase Grace Goals because I believe it can help you in your goal setting for 2017 and beyond. It would be a blessing to me if you purchased through the links on this post because I am an affiliate for Arabah Joy’s product sales. What does that mean? It means that for every purchase that is made using my links, I will earn a small commission. This is one way I support a product that I believe in, and support my ministry financially.
Regardless of whether you purchase the product or not, can I hear from you about your goals for 2017? Share one (or more) of your 2017 goals in the comments section. Let’s support and encourage one another in our goal setting endeavors.