Monday, August 30, 2010

Offering Leftovers

In Chan's next sub-section, entitled Offering Leftovers, he makes two statements that give me great pause: one due to conviction and the other due to perception... okay, maybe both due to conviction.

"For years, I gave God leftovers and felt no shame. I simply took my eyes off Scripture and instead compared myself to others. the bones I threw to God had more meat on them than the bones others threw, so I figured I was doing fine.

"It's easy to fill ourselves up with other things and then give God whatever is left... A mumbled three-minute prayer at the end of the day, when we are already half asleep. Two crumpled-up dollar bills thrown as an afterthought into the church's fund for the poor. Fetch, God!" p. 91

For me, this brings up two issues. First, I'm not giving God our "first fruits," if you will. Because things are so tight, financially, I'm lucky if I can pay all the bill and still have enough money for groceries. If there is enough money, THEN I will give to God. (With my mouth, I say that God comes first; however, my actions say that the bills come first!). The second thing actually plays off the first. BECAUSE things are so tight tight now, I'm taking matters into my own hands. When my husband was bringing home a sizable paycheck, the first thing I did every pay day was set aside money in our tithing account... yes, we have a tithing account! (But, we haven't used it much lately.) Each pay day, I would set aside 10% into this account. And we used this money for whatever we felt God leading us to do. It was the first time in my life when I truly had a joyful heart when giving. When the money was there, we gave freely. But now, because there isn't as much money, we are holding on to whatever we have... not exactly a Biblical principle, is it?

The second thing that Chan said was this:

"Leftovers are not merely inadequate; from God's point of view (and lest we forget, His is the only one who matters), they're evil. Let's stop calling it 'a busy schedule' or 'bills' or 'forgetfulness.' It's called evil." p. 92

The reference to evil stems from Malachi 1:8. In those times, the priests would keep the best animals for themselves, sacrificing the less desirable animals to God, based on the WRONG assumption that God would simply be pleased that they were sacrificing something... They were mistaken! But, regardless, evil just seems a little harsh. When I think of things that are evil, I think of murders, child pornographers, satanic cults... I don't think of people, like myself, that might not give my best offering up to the Lord. I mean, there has to be some sort of hierarchy for evil, right? There's no way God would lump me in with "those other people," right? Well... I don't know the answer to that question... but I can't help going back to the issue of sin when I hear this. I've always believed that sin is sin... period. My "small" seemingly harmless sin is no less hurtful to God than someone else's "huge" society-shunning sin. So, what if the same applies to this issue of "evil"? Definitely something to think about!
Today, I really feel the need to give abundantly to the Lord. Not necessarily with money, but maybe with time, or service. Try to give your BEST offering unto the Lord. Feel free to make your offering financial... but you can also give your best in other ways: Spend some incredible quality time with your kids, surprise your spouse with an special dinner or bring home some flowers, make some muffins or a pie for a neighbor... maybe even do a couple of those things! Serve God by showing His love to others.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Are You A Poor Rich Person?

I know it's been said before, but here it is again: We are rich. Many of us refuse to believe it... and we'd use our checking account balance sheets or our 401 (K) statements as proof. But, when we look at the bigger picture, the truth is evident. Looking at the world as a whole, we are exceedingly rich. Chan gives us something to really think about in the book:

"If one hundred people represent the world's population, fifty-three of those would live on less that $2 a day. Do you realize that if you make $4,000 a month, you automatically make one hundred times more than the average person on this planet? Simply by purchasing this book, you spent what a majority of people in the world will make in a week's time.
"Which is more messed up- that we have so much compared to everyone else, or that we don't think we're rich? That on any given day we might flippantly call ourselves 'broke' or 'poor'? We are neither of those things. We are rich. Filthy rich." p. 89.

This morning, I woke up at 3:43 am. It's actually been happening a lot lately. So, I've been trying to use my time wisely... spending it in prayer. I've been praying a lot lately. In fact, I've prayed more this past summer than I have in my entire life. There always seems to be this debate of whether or not prayer is effective. And, in an effort to not deviate from today's subject too much, I will say this: I do believe that God answers prayers and I do believe that prayer also strengthens our connection with Him. But, for me, my time in prayer this summer has truly opened my heart and my mind to what God wants for my life... BUT, that doesn't mean that I'm on the same page as God... but I'm getting there.

On this particular morning, my prayer time was focused on two things: my ministry and my lifestyle. Right now, I feel like God is wanting me to focus my ministry, especially at church. So, I'm asking Him to show me where I should be. With my lifestyle, I'm begging Him to reveal to me the things of THIS world that I'm holding on to... those things that are keeping me from a deeper relationship with Him. All I can say is this: If you pray this, make sure you're ready to let go of these things. There are a few things that I feel God telling me right now: #1- I AM RICH... which means He was talking to me when He said that the rich WILL NOT inherit the kingdom of heaven. #2- I'm letting things in this world form my perception of reality... meaning that, or course, compared to Donald Trump, I'm not rich.

Yes, my husband and I have a hard time paying our bills right now. His new job has sliced our monthly income by a third. And, yes, I'm ashamed to admit that both of us CONSTANTLY refer to ourselves as being broke, or poor... and compared to Donald Trump, we are poor. But, we are anything but! We live in a nice house, we drive nice cars, we vacation every year for two weeks at Disney World. This morning, my husband and I spent about 20 minutes talking about today's blog... what I was going to write, what I felt God has been revealing to me, and I will share with you what I said to him:

I feel as if, being raised in this society, it's exceedingly more difficult to remove the yoke(s) of this world, especially the hold that money has on us. Difficult... but not impossible! For us, the journey started two years ago. During this time, through my husband's job, God graciously revealed that prestige and money really mean nothing, especially when they come at the expense of spending time with your family. Because of this lesson, my husband now has a job that pays significantly less... but we see him so much more! Now, God is truly pressing upon us that this sacrifice is not complete until we change how we live our lives. I'm not sure what that looks like now, but I have no doubt that God will reveal it. He wants nothing more than for us to align our hearts with His. If nothing else, pray for that and see what He reveals!


Spend some time this weekend having an honest conversation with yourself, and with your spouse, if you have one... about whether you are "rich." Where does your definition of rich come from? Do you consider yourself "poor" or refer to yourself as "broke?"... at least before reading this! Start the conversation... and definitely invite God to sit in!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Are You a Liar?

That's a pretty bold question, isn't it? Have you ever thought about it... as it relates to your faith? Now, it goes without saying, I'm specifically asking each of us to look at our own faith... making a judgment as it pertains to YOU... NOT SOMEONE ELSE! (Let's focus on that plank in our own eye before we worry about the splinter in someone else's!) Chan asks us to look at two Scriptures as we begin to dissect our own willingness to follow Christ:

"You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that- and shudder." James 2:19

"We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, 'I know him,' but does not do what he commands is a lair, and the truth is not in him." 1 John 2:3-4

So, in those two Scriptures, we have a potential comparison to demons AND a possible label as a liar... not exactly reassuring, is it? But, I think we need to look at this from a different perspective... instead of beating ourselves up over whether or not these "apply" to us, we should be using these Scriptures as road maps, if you will... commands on how we should live.

In James 2:19, we see, in black and white that BELIEVING IS NOT ENOUGH! (That is, of course, assuming that you DON'T think that demons will be joining you in heaven!) So, from this Scripture, we know that we are called to do more than believe. In 1 John 2:3-4, in my opinion, it is very clear that being a Christian ("The man who says, 'I know him,'...") requires more from us than a proclamation of faith... IT REQUIRES ACTION ("... but does not DO WHAT HE COMMANDS is a liar, and the truth IS NOT in him.")

So... here's what I get from this: Believing IS NOT ENOUGH. Confessing our faith IS NOT ENOUGH. What is required is our belief, our confession AND our proof of both... through our actions. Chan goes on to reference two additional Scriptures:

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." Matthew 16:24-25

" Any of you who does not give up everything he can not be my disciple." Luke 14:33

Chan concludes this section with the following statement: "Some people claim that we can be Christians without necessarily becoming disciples. I wonder, then, why the last thing Jesus told us was to go into the world, making disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that He commanded? You'll notice that He didn't add, 'But hey, if that's too much to ask, tell them to just become Christians- you know, the people who get to go to heaven without having to commit to anything." p. 87

The logical question for each of us is this: Have we actually committed ourselves to Christ?

Think about this example: Many of us have committed ourselves in marriage. We professed our love to our spouse in front of a room full of people. Many of us wear rings, showing the world that we are committed to one person. But does that exchange of vows, or the fact that we wear wedding rings, really indicate whether or not we are faithful to our spouse? Of course not... it's our daily actions towards our spouse: respect, integrity, faithfulness, love, admiration... that confirm this.

So, do your actions confirm your faithfulness to Christ?


We've seen this video before, but today's topic warrants another look. Take it to heart:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Doing Just Enough... or Blatant Disobedience?

Today, I want to focus on Chan's questions regarding the parable of the soil. In the book, he states: "For years I struggled with the parable of the soils. I wanted to know if the person representing the rocky soil is saved, even though he has no roots. I then wondered about the thorny soil: Is this person saved since he does have root?" p. 85 (For those that might not be familiar, the parable of the soils is found in all three of the synoptic gospels: Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-34 and Luke 8:4-18.)

In this parable, the seed represents the Word of God. The rocky soil represents those of us that receive the Word with joy when we hear it, but it never takes root. We might believe for a while, but we fall away in times of temptation. The thorny soil represents those who have heard; however, as they go on their way, they are choked with the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life... bearing no fruit. So, I guess what begs the question here is whether the simple acts of HEARING and ACCEPTING are enough. There are as many opinions on this subject as there are Books in the Bible... probably more. I have my own opinion, but quite honestly, my opinion doesn't matter... (please, don't tell my husband that I admitted this!) I think Chan has the right idea. Each of us needs to read the Gospels over... or maybe for the first time... with a new set of eyes... paying attention to the life Jesus calls us to live.

Chan goes on to make a very interesting observation: "We're willing to make changes on our lives only if we think it affects our salvation. This is why I have so many people ask me questions like, Can I divorce my wife and still go to heaven?" p. 86. Here are some of the other questions: Do I have to be baptized to be saved? Am I a Christian even though I'm having sex with my girlfriend? If I commit suicide, can I still go to heaven?... This one is the most convicting to me: If I'm ashamed to talk about Christ, is He really going to deny knowing me? But, let's take it a step further. How many of us hold on to some sin... whether it's something we actively do or something we hold in our heart (hatred, unforgiveness)... using the excuse, that we aren't perfect, to rationalize our unwillingness to let go of whatever is keeping us from having a closer relationship with Christ? I'll admit that I'm doing that exact thing right now! I have some pretty harsh feelings towards my husband's family right now... and harsh is a severe understatement. My husband asked me this weekend to be the better person and in a very subtle way, asked me to "get over it." Now, the right response would have been for me to spend time in prayer, asking God to soften my heart. But, what was my response... "Just because I'm a Christian doesn't mean that I'm perfect... and if this is my imperfection...sobeit!" Nice, huh?

So, getting back to Chan, does this mean that I'm not a Christian? Of course not! It does mean that I'm not perfect... and none of us are. But, more importantly, it means that I am being blatantly disobedient to what God has asked of me. I think the difference here is that this is only one aspect of my life... a life that, for the most part, is constantly moving towards Christ... even if it's only baby steps sometimes. While this disobedience could be seen by some as hypocritical... or lukewarm... it does not define my entire walk in faith... thank you, Lord! HOWEVER... this doesn't let me off the hook either. I am accountable for all of my action, all of my thoughts, despite my imperfections. (Which means I'll need to spend some time in prayer about my in-laws!) For the purposes of this segment, I think Chan wants us to look at our motives. Are we verbally confessing our lives to Christ simply for the promise of SOMETHING after this life... life fire insurance. Or are we committing our lives to Him, His teachings? Confessing and committing are two different thing... and in order to truly follow Him, we MUST do both!


Spend some time the next couple of days reading over the Matthew, Mark, Luke or John... or maybe all of them! Approach it with fresh eyes. What does Christ reveal to you?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

All or Nothing

One of the things Chan's is truly adement about in this chapter is that you NOT take his word for ANYTHING. He readily admits that his opinion is just that... HIS opinion. But, what he does ask each of us to do is read the Gospel with a fresh pair of eyes to see what Scripture says. In his own words, he states: " Before you discount or ignore what I am about to say, read these passages objectively, without preconceived opinions staunchly in place." p. 83

The first Scripture Chan references is the one that started the whole "Lukewarm" conversation: Revelations 3:15-18.

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold not hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm- neither hot nor cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see." p. 84

There's a lot to digest here. Chan starts with trying to explain what Jesus meant when He said that He would spit us out of His mouth. Chan notes that this is the only time in the New Testament that the word "spit" is used. He also tells us that there is no gentle way to share Jesus' feeling on the matter. The word spit means "gagging. hurling, retching." In reading this, a natural question arises in my mind, and Chan poses it to all of us:

"When you read this passage, do you naturally conclude that to be "spit" out of Jesus' mouth means you're part of His kingdom?"

Well, do you? For me, the answer is a resounding "NO!" Now, of course, I don't have all the answers, but when I read this, I envision a time of judgment... when I come before the Lord... and Jesus speaks on my behalf before His Father. When I read this Scripture, it makes me wonder if Jesus will will say that He never knew me... hence the spitting out. How can this be possible? Again, I can only revert back to what I know... examples that I can relate to. So here's an example for you. How many of you know people that pretend to be something they aren't. In mixed company, they put on a good show, but behind closed doors it's a completely different story? How do those people make you feel? Take an honest account of your heart. What do you find?


Chan writes that after he objectively read the Gospels for himself, he came up with one conclusion: Jesus wants all or nothing. "All or nothing" is easy to say... but not necessarily easy to give. Today, I want you to listen to my favorite song right now. It really speaks to this issue of giving ALL of ourselves to Christ. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Serving Leftovers to a Holy God

The title of today's blog is also the title of Chapter 5. As I started re-reading the chapter this weekend, I decided that I should really start off this segment a few pages into the chapter... but, not to worry, I'll go back and address many of Chan's comments from his opening remarks in the days to follow. Chapter 5, in my opinion, starts out with a very bold assumption: There truly is no such thing as a Lukewarm Christian. Chan calls it an oxymoron, or a contradictory term, meaning it's impossible to be both lukewarm and a Christian... which leads to a very troubling reality, if you agree with Chan's logic. Chapter 5 really delves into this possibility and its implications to people like me... and, I dare say, you. As I reviewed these somewhat hard to read pages over the weekend, I quickly realized that many of us could read these words and not only become convicted by their implications, but also become downtrodden by our inherent fallibility. The reality is that we're ALWAYS going to fall short. This might come as a disdainful thought for many; however, the sooner we embrace this reality, the sooner we can move forward in this journey.

Chan says the following, about five pages into Chapter 5:

"I do not want true believers to doubt their salvation as they read this book. In the midst of our failed attempts at loving Jesus, His grace covers us.
"Each of us has lukewarm elements and practices in our life; therein lies the senseless, extravagant grace of it all. The Scripture demonstrate clearly that there is room for our failure and sin in pursuit of God... I'm not saying that when you mess up. it means you were never really a genuine Christian in the first place. If that were true, no one could follow Christ." p. 87-88
As we move forward, from this point on, I want to make sure that each and every one of us... no matter how long we've been a Christian... keeps this fresh in our minds. This only further substantiates the fact that we are not perfect (and we will NEVER achieve perfection here!) Chan goes on to state that our focus (instead of the unattainable perfection) should be about obtaining "a posture of obedience and surrender, where a person perpetually moves towards Christ." p. 88 I recently compared my journey in faith to a life-long road trip. Some days make life seem effortless... blue skies, no traffic and no screaming kids. Other days seem to be crammed with torrential rains, flat tires and "potty-stops" every 20 minutes.... but the overwhelming majority of the days fall somewhere in between... THANK GOODNESS! Our journey in faith is just that... a journey. The culmination occurs when we leave our life here and are joined with Christ in Heaven. It's time we start focusing and preparing for the journey. There's a lot to learn... and just like any educational experience, we're not expected to know everything (Remember: Perfection is not obtained here!) Embrace the fact that we will all make mistakes... the key is to learn from them!
A little comic relief for today. I found this a few months ago. It's a spin on the ever present PC v. Mac commercials. A little food for thought! There are quite a few different versions out there... and some of them are pretty funny!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Giving Him Our All

This is it... we're finally finishing up Chapter 4! At the very end of the chapter, Chan gives a very good example of a perceived expectation and a subsequent (calculated) response:

"When I was in high school, I seriously considered joining the Marines; this was when they first came out with commercials for 'the few, the proud, the Marines.' What turned me off was that in those advertisements, everyone was always running. Always. And I hate running.
"But you know what? I didn't bother to ask if they would modify the rules for me so I could run less, and maybe also do a fewer push-ups. That would've been pointless and stupid, and I knew it. Everyone knows that if you sign up for the Marines, you have to do whatever they tell you. They own you." p. 80.

So, the obvious question here is why does this same logic NOT apply to our faith? Like the Marines, we know what is required of us. However, unlike the Marines, we wrongly assume that giving "just enough" of ourselves is acceptable. Well... I think the answer is as obvious as the question. When it comes to the Marines, there are people constantly present, making sure you stay in line... that you live up to your responsibilities and obligations. Plus, if you can't hack it... you're out! That's not the case with Christianity... thank goodness! Secondly, free will means very little (if anything) in the Marines. But, it means everything in our faith. I've said it before: Free will is a double-edged sword. It's our free will that allows us to each, personally, accept Christ as our Savior... and it's free will that allows us to hang on to those things that inhibit our growth as Christians. We want the luxury of being "saved," but that doesn't necessarily mean that we want to put in the hard work that is required to follow Christ! AND THESE TWO THINGS ARE NOT NECESSARILY MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE!

I think, if we're honest with one another, we would have to question why our rationale for "membership" in our faith (for lack of a better phrase) is not the same as it might be for the Marines. And as I sit here at my computer and really dissect my heart, I would be lying if I didn't admit the truth that resides in the places only known to me and God. I'm resting on the hope that what I'm giving... which is definitely not my best... is good enough! Even as I sit here and type, I am ashamed of the truth I'm living... the excuses I use. Sometimes I've even questioned whether I'm truly following Him, or not. God deserves my best... your best... so why don't we give it to Him?


I know Chapter 4 was difficult for some of you. Having said that, I want to prepare you for Chapter 5. For me, this chapter was much more difficult; however, this is also the chapter that started turning me around, so to speak. Watch the video for Chapter 5. Then spend some time asking God to prepare your heart for what He's about to reveal to you!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Great Expectations

As we start to close out the remainder of Chapter 4, I want to spend the last two entries focused on Chan's closing remarks. Today, we will spend time looking at the expectations we place on ourselves, as well as those we might place on others. Chan eagerly reminds us of this:

"The profile of the lukewarm is not an all-inclusive definition of what it means to be a Christian, nor is it intended to be used as ammunition to judge your fellow believers' salvation. Instead, as 2 Corinthians 13:5 says, it is a call to 'examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves."

When reading through some of the lukewarm characteristics these past weeks, how many of you immediately thought of other people? I'll be honest, when I would read something convicting, a lukewarm characteristic that could easily apply to my life, I was eager to find someone else that would also be defined by that certain characteristic... misery loves company. Right? I think this is one of our biggest obstacles as we move forward. In fact, I think it can be sub-divided into two obstacles: not falling into the trap of comparing our walk in faith to the walks of others AND learning to encourage the growth and development of someone's faith... even when you THINK it is surpassing yours!
We live in a VERY competitive society. Sadly, I have had to end a few friendships over the years because of unhealthy competition. We've all had those people in our lives... the friend that constantly points out what she has and what you don't have, the neighbor that always interrupts by saying, "Well, if you think that was bad, listen to this," or the play-group mom that insists on telling you how her one year old is taking Chinese, water ballet and origami classes because he shows a natural talent for those things...before he can walk! However, when it comes to our faith, our belief in Christ, there is no competition... at least, there shouldn't be! We should all be focused on the same thing: following Christ... and because of that, encouraging one another... not trying to "top" one another. This is REALLY hard for some of us because we've been hard-wired with an extremely selfish mentality... it's counter-intuitive to our social conditioning. BUT, it's not impossible to overcome. It just takes persistence, perseverance, and dependence on God, because, ultimately, He is the one with the power to transform our lives. Just remember that WE ARE ALL A WORK IN PROGRESS! No one will achieve perfection in this life... even if they think they have!
Spend some time today thinking about your heart. Is it open to giving and receiving encouragement? Or, in the back of your mind, are you constantly comparing yourself to others...good or bad? Have an open and honest conversation with God about where you are in your walk of faith. If you struggle with this, ask for His help. He's more than willing to give it!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Sanitized Life

Last one...

"LUKEWARM PEOPLE probably drink and swear less than average, but besides that, they really aren't very different from your typical unbeliever. They equate their partially sanitized lives with holiness, but they couldn't be more wrong." p. 79

I'll be honest and admit that I've been vacillating on how to tackle this characteristic. Drinking, I've come to find out, can be a rather sensitive subject for many Christians. For every person that is ardently against the consumption of alcohol, there seems to be another citing scripture as their defense. I'm not quite sure where I fall in this landscape yet. My husband and I aren't "regular" drinkers, by any stretch of the imagination; however, there's usually a bottle of wine somewhere in the kitchen, or an imported beer in the fridge. Interestingly enough, I will have to say that we've been addressing this issue lately, with regard to our children... specifically when, or if, we will drink in front of our children and, more importantly, what we will say to them when they ask what we are drinking... and if they can have some. (We're not the type of parents that respond to a child's inquisitive "why" with a snide: "Because I said so." We have found, as annoying as they can be, those "why" questions can really be thought provoking... but, of course, we'd never admit that to our children.)

But, I really think the focus here should be on the second part of the characteristic: "They equate their partially sanitized lives with holiness, but they couldn't be more wrong." If you think about it, this is pretty much a slap in the face to God... saying that His holiness is only capable of partially sanitizing the muck in our lives...whatever that muck may be. The holiness of God, His magnificent grace, is more than enough to sanitize our lives... the problem resides in us... specifically our free will.

In my opinion, the gift of free will is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it puts the choice to accept Christ into our hands... it is not forced upon us. A curse because it puts the choice to follow Christ in our own hands... it is not forced upon us. I once told someone that the choice of accepting Christ was easy... the hard part was following Him. Maybe that's just me... but I don't think so! God, quite frequently, brings to my attention those things that are inhibiting my growth as a Christian... that are enabling me from following Him. I could tell you how many times, out of my own free will, I have chosen to ignore Him... but that would be far too embarrassing.

Of all the things I've learned in my faith as a Christian, this has probably been the most important: My relationship with Christ is not a one way street. It is not just for Him to give and me to receive. We must also give freely of ourselves... not just those things we are ready to give. We must also give those things we attribute with a false sense of comfort... those things we convince ourselves (through a worldly perspective) that we deserve. We must not let this world dictate what makes us happy, what makes us fulfilled, or what we "rightly" deserve... for the people and things of this world hold nothing to God... nor can they even begin to understand the happiness, the fulfillment or the righteous gifts that He bestows on us. Those things are not of this world... and that is why they are exceedingly better.


As we wrap up the Lukewarm characteristics, I'd like for you to look at Chan's overview of Chapter 4 again. See if this brings a little more clarity...or conviction!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Would Your Life Look Different If You Didn't Believe in God?

"LUKEWARM PEOPLE do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to. They don't have to trust God if something unexpected happened- they have their savings account. They didn't need God to help them- they have their retirement plan in place. They don't genuinely seek out what life God would have them live- they have life figured and mapped out. They don't depend on God on a daily basis- their refrigerators are full and, for the most part, they are in good health. The truth is, their lives wouldn't look much different if they suddenly stopped believing in God." p. 78

Do you know what I hate most about this characteristic? The last sentence: "The truth is, their lives wouldn't look much different if they suddenly stopped believing in God." Think about that. Now look at your life. When I started the Bible study at my church this summer, I opened the first lesson with a very specific scripture that addresses this exact issue.

"You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:20-24.

Through our acceptance of Christ and our faith in Him, there is to be a marked difference in our minds and our actions. We are no longer the same people. Put another way, their should be a tangible, noticeable difference that people sense when they are around us... they should sense Christ working in us... alive and well. But, I think what sometimes happens, is that we get caught up in the hope of a changed life. We think, "Great, I'm going to be dunked in water and come up a changed person." And maybe you are... if so, consider yourself lucky. For most of us, there wasn't this instantaneous night-to-day transformation. Truth be told, being baptized is where the journey begins in this life, not where it ends. There' s a lot of hard work that comes after this monumental occasion... but, ironically, I've never heard one pastor mention this after baptizing someone: "Welcome to our family in Christ. The journey can be long and painful, but now you have received the Holy Spirit. With Him, you can conquer all obstacles... and you will have many. Good luck. We're here for you!" That probably wouldn't go over too well, would it? It kinda takes the wind out of your sails, so to speak. But, isn't it the truth?

My point here, and I know I'm straying a little off the subject, is that so many of us, especially in this society, associate out faith in Christ with baptism, church attendance and the occasional bean supper. There really is no tangible difference in how we think or how we act. But there should be, if only for this simple reason: Before we accepted Christ as our Savior, our priorities were different. When we accept Christ, He becomes our number one priority. Our life changes, or, at least, it should, to the point where He becomes the center, the focus. SO IT ONLY MAKES SENSE THAT OUR LIVES WOULD COMPLETELY CHANGE! We no longer hold ourselves as the priority, or Sports Center, nights out with the girls, our homes, our clothes, our cars. When Christ is the Center, everything else falls in line... and believe it or not... a lot of things just fall away. We don't consider them important anymore... because we've changed! That's the power of Christ.

So, has your life been profoundly changed like this? I can honestly say that I'm knee deep in the middle of it, right now. It's extremely hard, incredibly painful at times... but, without a doubt, undeniably worth it. Putting Christ at the center of your life and saying that He's there are two completely different things. When you just simply SAY He's there, your life might not look so different. When He IS there, right smack dab in the middle of everything, I guarantee that your life will be different, There's really no other options. His presence is profound and it changes who you are.


Take a really honest, hard look at your walk with Christ. Is He at the center of your life? If you stopped believing in Him today, would your life look any different? This is a really powerful question. Spend some time thinking and praying about this. Be open to what God reveals to you.