The Imitation of Christ

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of ur lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another. Galatians 5:24-26

Whenever something goes wrong, many times the first words out of our mouthes are, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” So we shouldn’t be surprised when we hear the same words come out of the mouths of our children or grandchildren. It’s funny how they even put the same emphasis on the word got as we do!

Children are imitators. They learn by watching the people around them, especially the authority figures closest to them. What we say as parents may be important, but it’s not nearly as important as what we do. When our actions are inconsistent with our words–and kids will notice because they are uncannily perceptive–kids will almost always ignore our words and follow our actions.

True obedience is not just a matter od words but of action and follow through. That’s not only true of obeying God; it’s a fact in every area of life, especially our leadership. And it’s never more true in our leadership than in our relationships with our kids. Words are powerful, but actions speak much, much louder and have much more influence on their behavior.

There’s no doubt about it: our children are watching. If you tell your son it’s important to treat women well but are consistently rude to your wife, guess which message will sink in? But if you teach your kids about the importance of honesty and then show how that plays out in your life–by letting the cashier know she gave you too much change, for example–your words and actions line up to send an even more powerful message. Your values, your motives, and your ethics will be passed on to your kids not through your words, but through your actions. Demonstrate who you want them to be, and that’s who they will most likely become. The most effective lessons you teach are the ones you live before others.

Lifeguard

A lifeguard saw a man struggling in the water and dove in to help. Each time he got close to the man, he was met with flailing arms and was pushed away. Finally, as the man fatigued and gave up trying to save himself, the lifeguard was able to reach the drowning man and rescue him.

Similarly, in our lives, we believe that we can save ourselves. We don’t need help. We push away or don’t turn to the very person who was sent here by the Father to save us. We should know by now that our lives are unmanageable without Jesus. If we profess to believe in Jesus, then why don’t we rely on him in everything we do? Why is it that so often we only give it up to him when we absolutely have nowhere else to turn? God sent his Son to save us and can only do that when we stop trying to save ourselves and let him do what he was sent here to do.

Years ago, the company I worked for started a quality “process”. One of the underlying themes was that quality wasn’t something we did or thought about once our regular work was done, but rather something that needed to be integrated into every process performed throughout the organization. It wasn’t an “add-on”, but instead a philosophy that was to permeate everything we did in order to produce quality products and services.

In like fashion, Christianity isn’t something that works if your only involvement is every Sunday for two hours. We are called to live our lives as Jesus did, every day, all day, involving everyone. Christianity isn’t a part time thing. It asks us to perform every action with purpose; good, Christian purpose. It should be who we are and what we do without question or hesitation or forethought. 

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Riding Above the Storm

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

“Conditions are beginning to deteriorate.”

It’s a warning you often hear on the radio or television as a storm begins to roll in or a hurricane gets closer to landfall.

In those moments, when we find ourselves powerless to do anything to stop the storm or fix the condition–when we have absolutely no control–the psalmist suggests that we stop, take a deep breath, and turn our eyes toward God who is above everything. In the midst of chaos, “Be still.” Really.

When we have an eternal perspective–which our relationship with Christ assures us–He is forming the picture we will eventually see. It’s the big picture of our lives in the scheme of eternity, written during the storms we face now.

We’ve all been in the eye of a storm, and I know many of you are there now. But conditions deteriorate, and then we’re blindsided. One moment our dad is eating lunch and the next he suffers a massive heart attack. One moment you’ve received a great review, the next you get a dismissal notice. another moment the phone rings and you hear the words, “There’s been an accident.” Someone you can’t live without isn’t going to make it.One moment all is calm and under control, and in a matter of minutes, everything breaks loose.

“Conditions are beginning to deteriorate.”

Yet through it all, God remains a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need Him. That’s the big picture. When conditions begin to deteriorate and everything seems to be spinning our of control, God offers the eternal, everlasting calm that quiets our hearts and buoys up our spirits.

He is always there, calm and in control, when we’re not and can’t be. And in the big picture of eternity, conditions are fine. Actually, conditions are glorious and heavenly.

Forgiveness

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” Matthew 18:21-22

Forgiveness is hard. I mean, we can forgive some things. “Sure, Lord, I can forgive him or her. There are a lot of things that have happened that I know he didn’t mean to happen. I know he’s sorry.

But what about the big things? The things she did that really cut deep and still hurt? The things she said about me to others right in front of me? The times I was made to feel small and worthless? You obviously weren’t there to hear them, otherwise You would understand that I can’t forgive.

And then there are all those hurtful things, repeated over and over again by the same person. Are says he’s trying to do better, but it doesn’t feel like it. I don’t see any change. Do I still need to forgive him, even then?”

I know it’s hard sometimes, especially in a marriage. Some of you may have experienced that as well.

Peter thought he was being overly generous when he proposed seven acts of forgiveness per person to Jesus; after all, the rabbis taught that forgiving threee time fulfilled the requirements of the law. But Christ said no, not seven—seventy times seven. Instead of being patted on the back, Peter learned that a follower of Chris needs to be willing to forgive without keeping track of the number of times it’s done. That describes God’s forgiving mercy to us–limitless and free, and beyond anything we deserve.

Whom do you need t forgive today? If you’re anything like me, you probably have a list of people. What do you need to do to forgive them? How will you go about doing it? What if the people who wronged you don’t say they’re sorry?

Maybe the real question you need to ask yourself is who is really set are when you forgive someone else? Maybe the answer is the truth that Christ wants to get across in the first place.

Don’t Waste Words

A small rudder makes a huge ship tuen wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark canst a great forest on fire. James 3:4-5

Words are powerful. According to the apostle James, they can turn the course of life like a rudder turns a ship or provoke a conflict like a spark starts a forest fire. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “No man has a prosperity so high or firm, but that two or three words can dishearten it; and there is no calamity which right words will not begin to address.” Whether good or bad, words can have a deep and lasting impact.

That means what we say to each other—especially to our kids—is extremely important. Our families can live in peace or be filled with conflict all because of a few well-timed or poorly timed words. words can inspire wonder, kindle hope, or provide direction; or they can tear down, dampen spirits, and destroy initiative. That applies to anyone, but especially to kids who are still looking for affirmation and significance from the people they look up to. They need to be affirmed and guided. They need encourgement, counsel, and love. Their lives need to be filled with positive expressions about who they are and what their potential is . Like all of us, the need to hear good things from those who love them.

Resolve to use your words to build people up. If you need to say something negative, phrase it in such a way that it has some element of encouragement and hope. When you commit to encouraging, comforting, and strengthening others with your speech, you are not only making their lives better, you’re also making yours better by surrounding yourself with people who are affirmed and encouraged. Words can bring peace, forgiveness, restorations, instruction, and strength to all your relationships. Make sure you communicate openly and lovingly with everyone–especially those closest to you, and especially your children. Your words really can change lives.

Regular Exercise

Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things…He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. But Peter…began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “this will never happen to you!” Matthew 16:21-22

Anywhere you look in the Gospels and find Jesus, you will usually find the disciples. Once Christ left His home in Nazereth and set out to fulfill His earthly ministry, he selected a group of twelve men to accompany Him, teaching them with parables and by his example.

Over the next three years, Jesus talked with them and they talked with Him. With each conversation, each shared experience, He gave them an opportunity to find out more about him and each other. It was all preparation for what He wanted them to do with Him then and eventually through his power.

The group ate together, traveled together, and spent time learning and teaching others together. Most days were busy, but there were quiet times too. Christ made time for his disciples and for others, and they made time for Him. Not a bad example for each of us to take to heart in our daily lives with the people most important to us.

Are you ready to implement this? When did you last spend time talking with your spouse about whatever he or she wanted to talk about? I don’t mean when you’re in the car headed to the movies or a ball game or at the checkout at the grocery store. I mean sitting down with each other, one-on-one, all alone, listening to what your spouse has to say, whether it is what happened that day or the day before. Be prepared, you may be in or a marathon conversation because you have a lot of catching up to do.

Try it. I predict that those moments spent together will be cherished for a long time. And maybe what is said will have far-reaching impact. After all, the impact of the disciples is still being felt throughout the world today.

Impact, Not Ego

John told them, ” I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandals.” John 1:26-27

Though many aren’t into eating locusts, dipped in honey or not, there was certainly something appealing about John the Baptist. I would have loved to have him on my staff over the years. Here was a guy who had his own followers, yet he was always clear about his mission – pointing people , including his own followers, to someone else, Jesus Christ.

To John, getting the credit was not what motivated him. Getting the result that God intended was his sole mission. That’s the type of person you want as a leader, role model, mentor.

When Jesus began His ministry, He first saw John waist-deep in the water of the Jordan River. Matthew tells us in his Gospel that John wore skins of camel’s hair tied together with a leather belt around his waist and really did eat locusts and honey. From outward appearances, there was not a lot of basis for him to have a big ego, despite his voice that must have sounded like thunder and had an uncommon authority, as if he had a message from God.

Large crowds gathered, excited with expectation. John’s words resonated wherever the people gathered. Words that were clear and compelling and passionately delivered….

  • Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near…
  • Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming!
  • Clear the road for him! (Matthew 3:2-3)

And for those who came, he baptized them in the Jordan River, saying, “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am – so much greater that I am not worthy to be his place and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Matthew 3:11

And through all of that, it is remarkable the way John was able to keep to himself out of the way without a word of complaint. It was clear to him that it was not about him.

It often seems that the greater impact you have, the smaller your ego.

You will be most effective for Christ, when you realize that life is not about you, but all about Him. We all need to look and determine if there is something about ourselves that we need to change to reflect that.