Tag Archives: Discipleship

Xtreme

Read Mark 1:29-34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:25 NLT)

ChristianLoveWhen I was a youth pastor, I attempted to write a weekly devotion that was directed toward teenagers. I called it, “Xtreme Faith”, because it was edgy sounding and it reflected well the reality of what it means to be a Christian, a person of faith, in today’s times. It also drew a parallel to the ancient church and what it meant to be a Christian in those times as well.

I decided to spell it, Xtreme, because X is the Greek letter in the word χρηστος, which transliterates to the word Christos (pronounced kr-eest-os), which translates in to the word Christ. X was often used as the shorthand for Christ in ancient Christian circles. (Side note: The next time you see Xmas instead of Christmas, don’t get mad, but rejoice because it means the same thing). So, I spelled the word Xtreme, because it pointed to Christ and how extreme following Christ can be in this culture.

I am not sure how successful that short-lived devotion was; however, I believe the name of it, as well as the fundamental message that was being conveyed is vitally important for us as Christians in an increasing secular, and even anti-religious, American world. What’s more, even many professing Christians choose to only halfway follow Christ in ways that are neglectful of, if not antithetical to, the Christian faith we claim to profess.

We don’t like to think of him this way, but Jesus of Nazareth was a pretty extreme individual. He called people to give up their careers and social status to follow him (Mark 1:16-20; 2:14). He told people that they were not worthy of following him if they did not forsake all things, including their parents, siblings and family (Luke 14:26). Jesus told people that if they wanted to be his disciples, they should deny their own hopes, dreams, and aspirations. That they should pick up their instrument of capital punishment and follow Jesus to their deaths (Matthew 16:24). I could go one with a plethora of other examples; however, I think the above three prove the point. Jesus was extreme.

Peter knew this to be true. I love the account of Jesus coming to Simon Peter’s home in Mark, because it shows exactly what was at stake for Peter and the rest of the disciples. They weren’t two-dimensional characters from a story book; rather, they were real, living, breathing human beings. Peter had a wife, he probably had children, he had an ailing mother-in-law, and a household to look after. When he chose to leave his career behind to follow this itinerant teacher from Galilee, he was giving up the only source of money he had, and that would affect his WHOLE FAMILY!

If you are still struggling with the idea that Jesus was extreme, let me ask you this: would you leave your ailing family members, your spouse, your children, your homes, and your careers to follow Jesus into the great unknown? Would you be willing to leave behind your cars, your boats, your lifestyles, and your dreams and hopes for the future to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth?

It takes and Xtreme faith to do that, and that is the kind of faith that χρηστος is calling you to. It may not mean that you leave your family as Christ did, but it means that you need to be willing to go wherever Christ is calling you. It means that, no matter what you are called to and no matter how politically incorrect it may be nowadays, a Christian is always willing to bear witness to their faith, to uphold Christ’s two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-40) even if it means standing up against the status quo, and to strive to not let any part of your life become a denial of Jesus’ Lordship over you.

Sounds Xtreme? Certainly! But then again, so were the lengths Jesus went to in order to show us how much we are ALL LOVED. So, be Xtreme for χρηστος and be one of the vessels who are bringing Christ’s transformative love into the world!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Being Xtreme does not mean being an extremist; rather, it means following Christ over and above the ways of the world, even if people end up thinking you are.

PRAYER
Lord, help me to be an Xtreme follower of Your way, an Xtreme speaker of your truth, and a witness to the Xtreme LOVE that leads to everlasting life.

Denial and the Cross

Read  Mark 8:34-38

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

REVDRMLKJRIf you are Christian you have, no doubt, come across today’s scripture reading before. In one fashion, or another, you have heard that following Jesus means that we need to deny ourselves and pick up our cross. Part of the problem of being a Christian is that, all of these centuries later, we hear Jesus’ words in ways that I believe he never intendeded them. For instance, when we come across today’s Scirpture passage we often interpret it in ways that both trivialize the cross and demonize ourselves into something less than valuable in the eyes of God.

An unhealthy understanding of Bible passages such as these can lead to an unhealthy, and perhaps damning perception of self, of neighbor and, ultimately, of God. So let me begin by stressing what this passage is NOT saying. First, this passage is NOT saying you should hate yourself or deny yourself your basic needs. It is not saying that at all! God created you and God does not create junk or rubbish. God created you, and all, with a divine and holy purpose in mind. Thus, Jesus is not telling us that in order to be his disciple we need to hate ourselves, look down upon ourselves, or neglect to take care of ourselves. To do such would be sinful and would not be in line with God’s will for us. After all, God calls us to be good stewards of God’s creation (in which we are included) and to go against that would be to go against God’s call.

Second, this passage is not intended to trivialize the cross. There is a TobyMac song called Irene, in which TobyMac sings “Pick up your cross and where it everyday.” This is both a reference to Luke’s parallel passage (Luke 9:22-25) and to the trinket people often where on a necklace fastened around their necks. But this is not what the passage is referring to at all. It’s not referring to a necklace, nor is it referring to a lamented obligation, or a personal challenge one has been going through; rather, Jesus is referring to the instrument of capital punishment he would be affixed to as a means of painfully and humiliatingly exterminating his life.

What Jesus is ultimately saying in this passage is that, if anyone wishes to be his follower, we must deny any part of us that would hold us back from following him. Regardless of what those things are (e.g. our sins, our hangups, our fears, our desires, our hopes, our dreams, etc.) we must be willing to put them aside and be willing to pay all costs for being associated with Jesus. Even if the cost is our very lives, we must be willing to give it all to follow Christ. It has nothing to do with self-loathing, though. It has to do with one’s identity! If one truly identifies as a Christians, and sees him/herself as belonging to Christ, then that will be the most important thing to him/her over and above anything else, including his/her own life.

There are numerous examples of people who saw Christ as being at the core of their identity. This week it behooves us to look at the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was a disciple of Christ who denied the fears and things that held him back from following Christ. Dr. King certainly picked up his cross, the burden of fighting for equality and freedom for all people regardless of their skin color, and ended up paying the ultimate price for doing so. When we look at Dr. King we see a man who certainly denied himself, picked up his cross and followed Jesus.

The question for us today is this, will we let our fears and our desires keep us from accepting Christ as our Lord? Will we refuse to pick up our cross because of the possible consequences? Will we deny Christ, or deny the parts of ourselves that keep us from accepting Christ? Will we be ashamed of Christ, Christ’s message, and the way of the Cross because it is more convenient for us to do so? Or will we deny our own convenience for the sake of Christ, for the sake of others and for the sake of God’s Kingdom? The choice is ultimately yours and I pray that your response is one of affirmation rather than one of denial and embarrassment. The world could use more disciples of Christ and the hope, healing and wholeness that such disciples bring in Christ’s name.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
When we deny the poor and the vulnerable their own human dignity and capacity for freedom and choice, it becomes self-denial. It becomes a denial of both our collective and individual dignity, at all levels of society. – Jacqueline Novogratz
PRAYER
Lord, I give me the strength to deny the things that hold me back from you, to pick up my cross, and to follow you at all costs. Amen.

Understanding Paul, part 1

Read Galatians 5:22-26

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived! (2 Corinthians 5:17 CEB)

St.-Pauls-GrottoWhen asked the question, “who is the most influential figure in the founding of Christianity?”, I think most people would answer that Jesus of Nazareth was. Actually, I would say that the most influential figure in the founding of Christianity is the Apostle Paul. Granted, I do not think that Paul meant for some of his letters to be interpreted as they have been; however, there can be little doubt that it was Paul’s letters and his work as a missionary that sparked the transformation of a little, obscure Jewish sect into the major world religion that it is today. The question is how many of us in the Church actually read Paul, let alone understand him? I just finished a devotion series on the Fruit of the Spirit and I found that, perhaps, some of Paul’s words, allusions and illustrations fall flat for many of us who are far removed from his time and his culture.

For instance, in Galatians 5:22-26, we read about the Fruit of the Spirit. Paul ends his listing of the fruit with this, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:24-26 NRSV) But what does he mean by this? What does it mean that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh?” Paul couldn’t possibly mean that the only way to follow Jesus is to be crucified like Jesus was, could he?

In order to understand this, one must understand Paul. Paul the Apostle was born as Saul of Tarsus and was raised as a pious and devout follower of Judaism. He was so devout that he actually studied and memorized the Torah and became a Pharisee. This means that Paul not only knew the Law of Moses and the Scriptures, but he was an authority on them. At first, Saul did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, and he did not agree with the new teachings of this supposed Messiah’s followers. So he hunted them down and persecuted them; however, that would all change when Jesus appeared to Saul and chose him to be an apostle to the Gentiles…meaning that he was to bring God’s covenant to the non-Jews.

Once Paul had that vision, he took his knowledge of the law, his belief in Christ’s death and resurrection, and his personal experience with the Risen Christ to the Gentile world. He preached to them, he lived with them, he built church communities with them and, on more than one occasion, he nearly died doing so. Saul of Tarsus, both metaphorically and spiritually speaking, had died. His hatred for the Christians along with all of his flaws had been, again metaphorically speaking, been crucified or put to death. He was now Paul the Apostle, chosen by Christ to be a servant-leader of the Gentiles.

As far as Paul is concerned, this is true for all believers. We are born and raised by our parents, we have our own desires and things that we want to grow up to be. We begin to live our lives according to what we see to be our future; however, at some point, God appears to us and shows us something greater than we could have ever imagined. When we experience that, we cannot help but be changed. When we experience that we cannot help but realize that the old has passed on and something new has begun. If you have yet to experience this, God is waiting for you to open yourself up to God’s presence. Once you’ve experienced it, there is no turning back and no telling the kind of signs of the Kingdom God will work in and through you!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.” – Billy Graham

PRAYER
Lord, show yourself to me. Reveal your purpose for me and transform me into a new creation. Amen.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Love

Read Galatians 5:22-26

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “The Fruit of the Spirit.”

FruitOsp_LoveTHE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Love. It was recently that I came to the realize that almost every song on the radio is about love. What’s love got to do with? Well, frankly, it evidently sells pretty well…that’s what. There are songs about falling in love, as well as songs about falling out of love. There are songs about love lifting you up to higher mountains, and songs about surviving the woes and despairs of falling out of love. There are songs about faithful, devoted love, as well as songs about getting revenge against a lover who wasn’t so faithful. There’s songs about a loving relationship defining who one is, and there are songs about a lover giving love a bad name. There isn’t a lot of originality or depth when it comes to love as it is played out on the radio

That’s just in the secular market. In the religious realm, a majority of the songs are related to love as well…especially worship songs. Those songs tend to be about God loving us so much that God came in the form of Jesus, took our sins, and died. There are also worship songs where we express our love of an awesome God, or a mighty Creator, or an irresistible Lord, or the air we breathe, or…well, place your Christian cliché here. These songs, while they go beyond romantic love, are also lacking in originality and depth.

Love is so much more than an emotion that causes us to feel all warm, fuzzy and gooey on the inside. Love is far more than worship the God that fits our image, the God who conveniently looks, feels, thinks, and acts as we do. I am not saying that to knock secular love songs or to knock contemporary worship songs. I am writing this to point out that LOVE GOES MUCH DEEPER THAN THIS. Love is not always pleasant, it is not always warm and fuzzy, and it most certainly is not always welcome. Love pushes to hold ourselves and others accountable. It pushes us to stand up against injustice, even when others wish we would remain silent. It causes us to do what’s right even when that equals making a hard decision regardless of the consequences.

Love is so much more than a God that fits who we think God should be. Love transforms us from who we think we are to WHO GOD WANTS US TO BE. It compels us to forgive, rather than hold grudges. It pushes us to treat others as we would want to be treated. It asks us to be humble and swallow our pride. It calls us to CARE, rather than be complacent. It calls us to be patient, gentle, kind, compassionate, faithful, hopeful instead of cynical, and strengthens us to endure through all circumstances. This is the kind of love that Paul is talking about. This is the kind of love that Jesus Christ is calling us to. This is the kind of love that is evidence of the Holy Spirit. Open your heart to it, be transformed, and bear that fruit.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“If I gave away everything that I have and hand over my own body to feel good about what I’ve done but I don’t have love, I receive no benefit whatsoever.” – St. Paul, the Apostle (1 Corinthians 13:3 CEB)

PRAYER
Lord, melt me, mold me, fill me and use me as your vessel of love. Transform me in your love so that I may more boldly love others. Amen.

15 Ailments of the Church #15: Competition

Read Philippians 2:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.” (James 3:16 NRSV)

beat-your-ecommerce-competitorsJamie Dornan, an Northern Irish actor known for his role as Sheriff Graham Humbert in the ABC series “Once Upon a Time”, is quoted as saying that “everyone likes a bit of competition.” In our Western society, and in world history as a whole, competition has been a driving force. There is a truth that we all love a bit of competition, as it breeds creativity, it pushes us to excel, it demands of us our very best, and it has propelled the human race forward throughout the millenia; however, at what cost? As a result of competition, and the desire to compete, some inevitably come out on top as the winners and many come out on the bottom as the losers. As much as competition has driven the human race forward, it has set many in the human race back. Just look at the results of competition including, but not limited to, abject poverty, famine, disease, lack of medical supplies, lack of natural resources, wars, etc. This brings us to Pope Francis I’s 15th ailment of the church.

Ailment of the Church #15: Competition. While Pope Francis named his 15th ailment of the church “seeking worldly profit and showing off”, I think this can best be summarized as competition. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ preached about the coming of the Kingdom of God and the reversal of competition, where the first would be last and the last would be first. This economy of heaven is supposed to be reflected by Christ’s church; however, the reality is that we find that the church is often the breeding ground of competition and that we much more reflect the kingdoms of this world far more than we reflect the Kingdom of God.

Throughout Christian history, the church has splintered and divided. Each splinter church has become its own denomination and each denomination has found itself competing against the next. Of course, those denominations ended up splitting over theological and, sometimes, socio-political differences, which is sometimes a necessary thing. Yet, it has also opened the door for competition between the denominations. Within communities, different churches strive to bring in the most members, in order to bring in the most money in, in order to have the most resources to do the most ministry. What’s worse is that there is competition within denominations for who can have the largest church with the most turnout. All of this to amass status within an organization that is not supposed to be viewing people as better or worse, but as unique parts with equal importance in the body of Christ.

For Christ, it is not about who is bigger or better or stronger or smarter or wealthier or most productive; rather, it is all about faithfulness. Faithfulness cannot be competed for, it cannot be measured in greater or smaller. One is either faithful or they are not. Faithful disciples will produce fruit for the Kingdom, unfaithful disciples will not. God does not care who has the biggest church with the largest congregation. God does not care who has the greatest praise band or who is somehow measured to be the most vital congregation. What God cares about is the lives of those he has created.

Each community is filled with such lives and the church is called to bring them the Good News of God’s presence with them, as well as God’s love for them. Rather than competing for worldly profit and/or status, rather than being show offs with nothing to show for it in the Kingdom of God, Christ is calling us to be faithful in bringing his Good News of hope, healing and wholeness to the communities we live in. Let us stop competing and start recognizing that in the Kingdom of God, we are all winners. It’s time to usher that reality in.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition.” – Indira Gandhi

PRAYER

Lord, help me to move beyond competition. Rather than striving to be better than others, help me to strive to be faithful in all that I do. Amen.

Calling it a Spade

Read Matthew 7:21-29

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Let anyone with ears listen!” (Mathew 13:9)

SpadeExcuses, excuses, excuses. This world is filled with them, isn’t it? And we don’t have to look too far to find a boat-full of excuses do we? The truth is that excuses flow from our mouths as much as they fill our ears. As a person, I have certainly made my share of excuses in my life. When I didn’t like a subject in school, I would come up with excuses as to why I COULD NOT succeed at it. In the past, I have excused myself for bad eating habits. I have excused myself for being in a bad mood, for having a bad attitude, for bad behavior and for a host of other things. It’s not that I am confessing something that would be surprising to anyone, whether they know me or not. If we are all to be completely honest with ourselves, everyone of us has made excuses for a variety of different things.

We Christians, it seems, are just as good at making excuses for ourselves as everyone else is. As someone who has both been in the church and has served the church in a host of different ways, I know the kinds of excuses that get made. For instance, when people are challenged to read the Bible more they will often come up with excuses such as, “I just don’t understand it,” or “Gee, I just don’t have the extra time to read it.” I hear excuses for why people can’t be a part of the life of the church, why they can’t lead in this way or that, why they can’t give more in one way or the other, and a whole host of excuses for not doing a variety of different things.

One excuse that really gets me is the one that people often make when it comes to living out the Gospel in their lives. It is quite clear when we read the Bible that Jesus called his disciples, and through them he called us, to live as he did. He calls us to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbors, including our enemies, as ourselves. Any preacher worth their weight in salt will most certainly preach that as one of the key components of the Gospel message and will challenge his or her congregants to answer that call; yet, when pressed, people will say, “Of course Jesus lived that way, he’s the Son of God. He was perfect…I’m not.”

I have always been one to call a spade a spade, and so I will be no different here. Not only is that an excuse, it is an affront to the Gospel and it goes against everything that Jesus taught and did. Jesus did not come to “show off” like some entertaining illusionist (though walking on water would be a neat trick to pull off); rather, Jesus lived the life that he was calling us all to join with him in living. In other words, Jesus does not buy our excuses and nor should we. We aren’t fooling God, even if we are fooling ourselves. I believe that, if we search deep down, we’ll find that we are not really fooling ourselves either.

Today’s challenge is to stop making excuses. Call things as they are. If God’s message of unconditional love, acceptance, forgiveness and compassion really move and inspire you, then start living that kind of life. Don’t excuse yourself for not doing it; rather, really start trying to live that way. It’s not about being perfect, but about being sincere. If you don’t want to follow God and live as God created you to, then just be honest and say it. Don’t excuse yourself, for that doesn’t change the fact that you simply don’t want to. If, on the other hand, you love God and want to live as a child of God, then start doing it. Persevere in holy living, in living that is set apart for God, and you will see yourself opened to the transformative power of God and to the hidden possibilities that God has for you.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” – Thomas Jefferson

PRAYER

Lord, you know all things including the things about me that no one else knows. You know the life I’ve led and the real reasons why I have led it in the manner I have. I am not perfect, but I trust that through you I am being perfected. Strengthen me to be honest with myself and spark the desire in me to live as you have called me to live. Amen.

Beyond the ‘L’ Word

Read John 14:11-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

QuoteIn our culture, we often romanticize what love is, do we not? When we hear the word “love”, we often think of bouquets of flowers, long walks along the shoreline in the moonlight, and romantic gondola rides through Venice. We often think of warm candlelight, nights with a loved one by the fireplace, and all of the warm and fuzzies that make our hearts flutter at the sound of “love.”

How can we help having such an image? Our culture is constantly feeding us with this understanding of love. Our supermarkets and bookstores are lined with romance novels, magazines with tips on having a better love life, cards that tell your significant others how much you love them and many other things that paint this particular picture of love. We are inundated with love songs that fill the radio airwaves and our mp3 players. Just try and find a song on the radio that is NOT about romantic love. They exist, but they are definitely hard to find. Romance also shows up in movies where characters are “in love” with people as well as monsters such as vampires, werewolves and, if you can believe it, even zombies.

If you were a visitor from another planet and you were trying to understand our language, you would come to the conclusion the word “love” mostly means “romance. Yet does that sufficiently describe the word love? Is romance all there is to the word love, or does love extend far beyond that particular definition. I am sure most, if not all, people know the answers to those questions; however, when love plays out in different ways in our lives we often don’t recognize it for the love that it is.

When I was a teenager, my parents loved me by not allowing me to do EVERYTHING I ever wanted to do. The loved me by not always letting me have my way. The loved me by allowing me to make mistakes and suffer the consequences. They loved me by holding me accountable to the expectations the set of me. They also loved me by letting me go to experience the world on my own terms. That last one is, perhaps, the hardest love for a parent to exhibit. Letting go, holding people accountable, allowing people to make their choices and reap the consequences, and saying “no” to people, often does not sound or feel like love. Yet, depending on the circumstances, it can and often is a form of love!

When Jesus called Peter to love and feed his sheep, he was not calling him to romance; however, he was calling him love in a much more profound and powerful way. He was called to love people as a brother, as a friend, and as a parent; however, Peter was also called to love beyond those classifications as well. He was called to love as GOD LOVES. He was called to invite those who wished to be invited and let go those who wished to be let go. He was called to guide and to lead; however, he was also called to step down and be led. He was called to live a life that brought hope, healing and wholeness to others, even if the cost of that would be his very life.

Christ calls us to do the same, we are not merely called to love our significant others. We are not called to get overly attached to the warm and the fuzzies; rather, we are called to exhibit the very LOVE of God. We are called to invite and to let go. We are called to guide and to lead, as well as to step down and be led. We are called to love our neighbors, and even our enemies, as we love ourselves. There is nothing that falls outside the breadth of God’s unconditional and unquellable love. Know that you are loved and BE LOVE in the lives of others. If God is love, and you are in God, then you are LOVE too!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Where there is love, there is life.” – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

PRAYER

Lord, lead me ever deeper into a life of love. Amen.

The Good News IS That GOOD!

Read Matthew 10:24-27

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand?” (Luke 14:31)

conformity-2aBeing different is not always an easy thing. In fact, I would say it is rarely an easy thing to be different. For whatever reason, humans strive to be like the people they around. It almost seems instinctual to conform. Perhaps it is, in part, a survival instinct. Perhaps it is intricately tied in with us being social creatures. Whatever the reason, people lean toward conformity.

I even find myself conforming to things without really giving it much thought. It just seems so natural not to resist the status quo, it seems so safe and comfortable. And, indeed, to not conform certainly ushers in unintended consequences. I have learned this, big time, as I changed my lifestyle regarding what I eat. Two years ago, as many know, I went from being an omnivore to an herbivore, meaning that I no longer eat meat or any products derived from an animal.

At first the reason I did so was for my health. Doctors, family, friends, and others had badgered me for years about losing weight. I had gotten as heavy as 315 lbs (though I was only 306.9 lbs when I started my juice fast) and people kept telling me I needed to do something for my health and for my family, especially for my wife and daughters. Of course, that’s easier said than done; however, finally, in January of 2012 I found something that worked. I had tried to lose weight before, but I would only lose so much and then gain even more back. But juicing for 60 days and then remaining vegan worked…and I felt healthier than I can EVER remember.

That’s good new right? So, naturally, that led me to want to share that good news with others! That’s what we WANT to do with good news when we receive it, right? We want to share it. The only problem is…people often don’t want to hear the good news. My non-conformity to the American lifestyle, and my sharing that with others, turned into a threat for some, and an annoyance for others. Some (not all) of the same people who initially encouraged me to lose weight, were now suddenly singing a different tune. I had stopped conforming to the typical American lifestyle and that bore some consequences.

Now, I am not sharing this to bemoan the consequences that have come with my being vegan. Quite the opposite. I am happy with my lifestyle changes! I am thankful for the people who challenged me to lose weight and I am glad I found a lifestyle that is TRULY healthy. The point of this, rather, is to say that there is a cost to being transformed. The Good News of Jesus is even more transformative, and even more non-conformist, to the Western culture we live in than my being vegan is. And, without any doubt, there is a definite cost to being transformed by that good news.

You will want to share it with others and not everyone will be very receptive to it. They may get annoyed, and many will even feel threatened by the Gospel because it is calling them to change from their conformity to the world. The Gospel calls us to be LOVE, to partake in social justice, to love GOD ABOVE ALL ELSE, and to become the SERVANT OF ALL! That is a large pill for many in our self-centered world to swallow and we need to be aware of that reality and prepare for that cost. Yet, the GOOD NEWS is just THAT GOOD and, if we are truly transformed by it, we will feel compelled to share it regardless of the cost. So today’s challenge is for you to count the cost, but don’t let that stop you from sharing the LOVE!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Conformity often bears with it the larger, more expensive cost.

PRAYER

Lord, guide me in your ways and fill me with your good news. If I must conform, let it me to your ways and to your will. Amen.