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.

Our Children

Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do…if you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. Ephesians6:1, 3-4

Paul takes both parents and children to task in these verses. “Parents” (“father” in verse 4) he says, “don’t mistreat your children to make them angry, and children, honor your father and mother by obeying them,”

Neither of these directives seems easy at times. Our oldest daughter once said that what we were saying to her didn’t make much sense when she was a teenager, but once she was out on her own, everything we had been telling her began to make sense. As we get older, we can see both sides more clearly now.

When was the last time you talked with your children about God’s promise that if they honor their father and mother “things will go well for them, and they will have long life on earth”? I wouldn’t exactly call it bribery; after all, it IS in scripture. But, it may open their eyes to look out for those things that will go well for them in the coming days and years. After all, it’s what God promises.

We live in a world today where our children and families are under attack in new ways. The assault comes at them through social media never thought of 5, 10, or 20 years ag0-and the assault is fast, furious, and potentially devastating to them and to the entire family structure.

Our children need a fresh touch from God in our families. That touch from parents and response from our children must be one of love. Love is the most powerful force available to penetrate the evil and temptation around our children and families. Sometimes it needs to be “tough love,” but it always needs to be love.

Jesus is my Lord

The question for discussion in last night’s Re:gen meeting was “Who is Jesus to you?” The question was easily answered by some and with more difficulty by others. The most prevalent answer was “He is my Lord and Savior.”

As I listened to the other men relate their answers to the group, I thought to myself that while their answers weren’t necessarily wrong, many of them missed the point of the lesson. From my viewpoint, the answer needed to come from a little deeper place, but, I had a bit of an advantage since this is my second time through 🙂

I shared some of my personal experiences. For many years, as many of you know, I was a believer, but not a follower, not a true Christian. Up until last year, Jesus was more or less a figurehead to me. Today, he is everything! I know what it means for him to be my savior, my comfort, my teacher.

For many years, I had a recurring thought that would give me extreme anxiety and fear. Terrified. Sometimes, as laid in bed trying to go to sleep, my thoughts would stray to the end of times. Literally. As in, sun explodes and destroys the entire solar system. My fear came from the thought that if there is no heaven, no afterlife, then when the sun goes supernova, there will be nothing left to say we were ever here. That being the case, why are we even here? The thought of there being nothing after this life gave me the cold sweats and kept me from falling asleep quite some time. Obviously, the root cause of all of this was that my faith in God and Jesus Christ was far from where it needed to be.

Last year, I read The Case For Christ. I watched Left Behind. I was in a place far from righteous. I needed to change my path. I turned to Christ, opened my heart, and left the Holy Spirit in.

After watching Left Behind, the thought of my family going on without me was not an option I was willing to chance. After reading about the punishment Jesus took upon himself for me (and all of us) in The Case For Christ, I was completely humbled. I know that my parents have such an unconditional love for me that they would take a bullet for me, and that’s exactly what Christ did for us and for the same reason. How could you not love someone back in the same unconditional way?

Since then, when I think about eternity, I feel comforted. The anxiety is gone. The fear is gone. I do not fear death. I know that my family and I will forever be together with our Heavenly Father. Jesus is now my everything.

3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for the sake of His name. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  Psalm 23:3-4

The Choice

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you wold know who my Father is. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him!” John 14:6-7

There you have it-a positive and negative promise for all eternity. Jesus clearly laid out what would happen by choosing either direction–eternal heaven or eternal hell. Every human being will be going one way or the other. The key is which way. It is an essential foundational decision that must not be overlooked by anyone, something that needs to be discussed and built upon in families.

A family recently lost their daughter in a car accident. At the funeral, everyone had a chance to see how the family handled their grief through there strength of the Lord.

The girl’s father spoke at the memorial service and his comments were poignant yet blunt. He noted that while he and his family were grieving, they took solace in knowing that they would se her again in heaven. And then he said, “But for those of you who don’t believe in Jesus, you have seen her for the last time.” He then urged each person there to enter into a relationship with Christ.

We need to stop for a moment and be certain of one essential matter in our lives. We can be the greatest man or woman, the best boss, the nicest customer. We can buy our spouse the most thoughtful gifts or be the best friend ever. We can constantly be considered outstanding parents by our children and regularly encourage them so they always know how loved and precious they are to us.

But if we don’t know Jesus Christ, we’re simply going through the motions for a few days out of eternity. We may be nice people, but we are still not going to spend our lives with Him forever. The only thing that matters to Him is how we answer the question, Are you a child of the living Lord or not? Have you shared, taught, and ingrained that within your family so that each of them is a child of the living Lord?

Make sure that you are. Make certain that you do.

Recognize that you are a simmer and separated from God, thank Christ for what He did for you on the cross so that you can have an eternal relationship with God through Christ, and commit to follow Him as Lord in your life. In other words, put Him first.

If this is something you need to take care of, now’s the time for you and those whom you love.