Most people want to know the magic formula for integrating into the life of a church. They desire to feel known, to grow, and to move from an outsider to an insider.
While a hospitable church will provide on-ramps for assimilating people, my experience has taught me that fully integrating into the life of a church ultimately falls on the individual. Are they willing to take an intentional step or two to get involved, or do they watch from a distance, staying in the crowd without ever trying to get into the game?
Continue reading Seven Simple Ways to Grow through Your Church
Children are a gift from God. We love and treasure them. Children are also sheep needing shepherded. Parents must know, feed, protect, lead, and care for their kids.
But did you know the Bible also describes children as arrows? “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth” (Psalm 127:4). This metaphor gets at the missional aspect of raising a child. God wants us to love and enjoy them but also to train them so they can be missionaries wherever they go. God doesn’t want us to hoard them or shelter them but to release them. Parents think about their kids in terms of what they mean to us or what we want from them and for them, but we often neglect what God intends to do in them and through them.
Continue reading Your Children Are Arrows
Before discussing what God’s love looks like—and I’m looking specifically at how God loves us with as our father—I want to briefly consider a few reasons why “love” might lack clarity or even be unhelpful today.
Continue reading Seven Features of God’s Fatherly Love
It can be difficult to grasp God’s love for us. For many, the love of Jesus comes through loud and clear, but God the Father often seems distant or looming. God’s attributes—including love—aren’t like human traits that strengthen or weaken nor are they like moods that come and go. God is all of his attributes perfectly, all the time. And yet, we still struggle to believe it can be true, that this great God can love us messy and stumbling sinners. Sometimes we don’t feel his love on a day-to-day basis like we desire, so walls of doubt begin to shut him out. Other times we unwittingly read the Word not through the lens of his love and grace to us in Christ, but through tinted lens of condemnation and guilt.
Continue reading Reasons We Struggle to Experience God’s Love
Jesus’ Beatitudes in Matthew 5 describe the kind of life he calls his followers into. It’s not what the religious people of his day or our day expect. What Jesus calls a “blessed” or “flourishing” life isn’t the kind of stuff that will make on the #blessed pics on Instagram. This picture of true vs false disciples becomes even more clear—and scary—when we read it alongside of his woes against the Pharisees in Matthew 23. While Matthew 5 paints a picture of true religion, Matthew 23 exposes false religion for what it is. We need to read both the beatitudes and the woes of Jesus to see the kind of disciples Jesus does and doesn’t want us to be. Together, these passages clue us in to what costly, compassionate, and Christ-honoring discipleship truly looks like.
Continue reading Disciples or Pharisees: The Beatitudes vs the Woes of Jesus in Matthew
“Our habits incline us to act in certain ways without having to kick into a mode of reflection; for the most part we are driven by an engine that purrs under the hood with little attention from us.” James K.A. Smith
“Without planning, we’ll practice our Bible memory just once or twice and then no more. We’ll do lots of good things, but only a couple of times. One of the great strengths of good traditions in our lives is the repetition—not something done once, then something else, then another thing altogether—but good things done regularly, dependably, until they become habits.” Noel Piper
Continue reading The Power of Habits
We’ve all had something in our life that we wanted to change, or knew we needed to change, but we never pulled the trigger. Or, we gave it a shot but gave up after a couple of days. That might be eating healthy or going on a new diet, an exercise routine, wanting to stop a behavior or pattern of behaviors, curbing spending and sticking to the budget, practicing a spiritual discipline such as Bible reading or prayer, or even just wanting to respond different than we have recently, like not responding in frustration or anger to those around us.
“Brokenness precedes usefulness.”
Despite our failures, weaknesses, and weariness, despite what was done to us or what we’ve done, and despite hard seasons that feel like we’ve been put in the garage because we’re no longer useful, God uses broken people. In fact, God often walks us through a season of suffering or humility to make us usable.
Continue reading The Broken are the Useful
One of the NT paradigms so helpful in growing or maturing as a Christian (sanctification) is that we live out our new identity in Christ. We are a new creation in Jesus, with our old self dying and a new me rising to life with him (Col. 2:11-13; 3:1-4). From this foundation of our new status as God’s forgiven, remade, and beloved children, and from this new identity where who I am is integrally connected to my union with Jesus, we then put to death sin and put on Christ. We say “out with the old and in with the new” when it comes to those desires, thoughts, and behaviors that aren’t fitting of me now in Jesus or are fitting. Unlike how our clothes become out of fashion every few years, the virtues of Christ we’re to put on (Col. 3:12-15) are unchanging. They are attractive, fitting clothes in every season and through the ages.
Continue reading Out With the Old, In With the New: Put Off & Put on in Colossians 3:5-15
Discipleship is essentially following Christ for the purpose of maturing in Christ-likeness. Disciples rediscover and then faithfully live in light of their identity in Christ. Or to say it differently, discipleship is the process whereby we’re remade and we regain who we were created to be as image-bearers of God by being transformed into the image of Christ.
If believers have a new identity in Christ why don’t we live it out? Obviously layers of answers could be offered here related to doctrines of sin, sanctification, and glorification so let me narrow the question. What are a few identity issues that keep Christians from understanding and living out the reality of who we are as a new creation in Christ?
Continue reading Three Identity Struggles
There are things we take for granted until we really need them. Like windshield wipers. I vividly remember driving down the interstate in a downpour. Rain pounded my car. As I flipped my wipers into high-speed, they suddenly caught on one another. Not good. I pulled over to the shoulder, jumped out of the safety of my dry car, and got soaked as I separated the wipers like two fighting children. After a quick rendition of “Jesus Take the Wheel,” I returned to the road, exhaling a deep, grateful breath.
Continue reading Windshield Wipers and Confession of Sin