Tagged ‘Change‘

Intentionally Following Jesus

Last month I asked a lot of questions regarding how we think about church. You can read the full blog here. I continue to process these questions. I’m seeking God’s guidance in all of it. Here’s where my thoughts are currently.

Right now I am praying daily for God to give me opportunities to share Jesus with people who do not know him. God is always at work drawing people to himself through the work of the Holy Spirit. I want to look intentionally for those whom God is drawing into a personal relationship with himself. I want God to use me to reach them. I am also praying daily for God to give me opportunities to disciple those who already know him. I am intentionally looking for those one-on-one opportunities to help others grow in their relationship with God.

The key word in both scenarios is “intentionally.” This idea is new to me, and it fills me with a sense of anticipation as I begin my day in this way. I am learning to slow down and readjust my schedule to take time for others.

My laptop is not working well. At times, the processor will grind to a halt. Sometimes it shuts down unexpectedly. It is frustrating. One day a particular program I was using was conflicting with my calendar program. I called the Customer Care line and learned they were aware of the conflict and were working on a fix. I was on the phone with the agent for over an hour while we tried to fix the issue. During a slow reboot, we had time to talk. I learned the agent had been a youth pastor. I asked him to tell me about his relationship with God. He shared with me the various ways he was serving in his home church. I listened for a few minutes.

Then I said to him, “So far you have told me what you are doing for God, but you still have not told me about your relationship with him.” There was a pause on the line. After a moment he replied, “That is very insightful.” As we continued to share, it occurred to me that this was a moment I had prayed for that morning. This moment was an opportunity to disciple someone, even though I did not personally know him. I shared with him about learning that ministry can become an idol. I shared my own story with him about learning to enjoy sitting on God’s lap and focusing on my relationship with him instead of the pressures of ministry.

Because that morning I had prayed for the opportunity, I was aware of the moment when God showed up. It occurred to me that when I pray this way, by default I give God full control of my calendar. If he wants to cause my laptop to fail so I will spend time with someone on a tech call, he has the right. Surprisingly, it gave purpose to what I would generally consider a delay. I had plenty of items on my to-do list for the day. God cleared all of them away so he could use me to minister to someone else. When we live with intention, it gives purpose to the mundane moments.

What would happen if daily we intentionally looked for opportunities to share Jesus with those who do not know him? What would happen if daily we intentionally looked for opportunities to disciple other followers of Jesus? Would our lives look different? Would it affect our schedules? What would happen if we made it our intentional daily goal to love God with abandon and selflessly love others? Would we give away our resources to meet the needs of others? Would we use our resources to minister to the poor in our communities? How would our world change?

I ask these questions because it seems like these are elements missing in many churches today. We seem comfortable to attend church, sit when it is time to sit, stand when it is time to stand, sing when it is time to sing, listen to someone teach, and then return home and live lives that are pretty much the same as the lives of anyone else in our neighborhood. There is an uneasy disconnect between what we do on Sunday and how we live Monday through Saturday. This disconnect is why I repeatedly call for an authentic relationship with God. If our relationship with God does not affect our lives and the lives of those around us, then maybe we should question if we are actually in a relationship with him.

In the end, I want to follow Jesus intentionally. I’m not content to hope it will happen by osmosis. I want to live a life of abandon, willing to give all to see others come into a personal relationship with God. I want to do whatever it takes to see others grow in that relationship. I want to share my faith intentionally. I want to disciple others intentionally. I want to grow in my relationship with God, intentionally loving him with abandon and selflessly loving others.

Will you join me? Will you live a life of intention? What would God do through you if daily you asked him to give you opportunities for sharing Jesus and discipling others? It just might change your life and your world.

I always enjoy reading your comments. Feel free to post your thoughts below.

The Challenge of Change

I don’t know about you, but I really do not like change. I like things to stay the same. Even if something is not working right, at least it is predictable that it is not going to work right. At some level, I just prefer things to stay the same.

This morning one of the apps on my phone notified me that there was an update available. I use this particular app on a daily basis, so I accepted the permission requests and downloaded the update. When the download was complete, and the app had updated, something strange happened. The icon was missing from where it normally shows on the screen. I went to my complete list of apps and looked for it, but the app was gone. That was odd. How could an app update and then disappear? I finally found it in another area. It had a new name and a new icon. That was weird.

My frustration began when I opened the app. Remember, I do not like change. But in this app, everything had changed. Even though it was an update from the previous version, in reality it was a completely new app. The name was different, the layout was different, the colors were different, even the way it worked was different. I missed the old version. I missed the predictability. I was not a happy camper.

It reminds me of the way I sometimes feel in my relationship with God. I like things to stay the same. I like predictability. But that is simply not the way God works. God is always changing me. He is always working to conform me into the image of Jesus Christ. Therefore, change is inevitable. But to be honest, sometimes I like the changes, and sometimes I don’t.

The problem is that whenever we change, we must let go of what was once familiar. It is just the nature of change. This is true if you change jobs, change your relationship status, change where you live, change your diet, change your routine, etc. When we change, we have to adjust to a whole new set of circumstances.

Consider what happens when we first make a commitment to follow Christ. Everything changes! Paul, in his second letter to the church in Corinth wrote this: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17. ESV). We read this, and we celebrate the work that God does in our lives. Thank you Lord! But while we rejoice in this, I think we also have to accept the challenges that come with this kind of change.

At some point in your life, as you follow Christ, you will have to let go of something in order to take hold of the new life he is giving to you. Paul acknowledges that this process of change is not easy. Here is how he describes it in his letter to the church in Philippi:

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…” (Philippians 3:8-9a, ESV).

Notice the phrase, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things….” This is an important truth that we can easily overlook. Paul realizes how much better his life is in Christ, but in order to change from the man he was into the man that God wanted him to be, he “suffered the loss of all things.” Ouch. Did you get that? He suffered. The key is to understand that what we are gaining is so far superior to what we are giving up. Again, notice what Paul said in this phrase – “For his sake….” It was because of what he was gaining that he was willing to suffer the loss of all things. He was gaining Christ himself! Wow!

You and I face similar circumstances every day. God invites us into the same kind of relationship with him that Paul enjoyed. Part of that relationship is an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ. He is constantly changing us. My problem is that I often resist his work in my life because changing means I have to let go of something familiar. Remember, I like predictability. Even when something isn’t working right, at least it is predictable. I hold onto what is familiar with an iron grip. When I do, it hurts because God has to pry my fingers apart in order for me to let go of what I am holding onto. You see, I can never take hold of what God is offering me if I am continually clinging to the past.

My friend, perhaps you are like me. You may find yourself facing a choice. God wants to change your life in amazing ways, but you are afraid to let go. I understand. I’ve been there. Looking back, it seems silly that I would desperately hold onto something if I understood what I would gain by letting go. So let go. Let God change you into the image of Christ. Right now you may be suffering, as you consider all that you are leaving behind. God understands. Lift up your eyes and consider what you are gaining as a result. I think you will find there is no comparison. With Paul, we will then be able to say, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8, ESV).

After a time, I begrudgingly had to admit that the new version of the app on my phone was in fact better than the version I had before. I let go of how it used to work, and I am embracing the improved version. Maybe this morning you woke up and discovered that God has an update waiting for you. Like that phone app, he has prepared a new life for you that is so much better than what you’ve had before. Give the Holy Spirit permission to make the changes he longs to make in you. Let go of the past version of yourself, and take hold of the new version he has prepared for you. In the end, you’ll find his new version of your life is always better than what you have right now.

This article was originally published in the July 2015 Newsletter.