Passive Transformation

Hey Everyone. I want to start off by apologizing for not writing here for so long. I’ll understand if no one ever reads this because no one will ever come back to this site, thinking its been abandoned!

This morning I was reading in Romans 12. It’s probably one of my favorite chapters in the Bible and I learned that the verse (2) where we’re instructed to NOT be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….did you know those words “be transformed” were written in what is called the “passive voice”? That means that this is not something that we must struggle at, try harder at, or work at. It is something that we simply allow God to do within us as we love Him and follow Him faithfully.

And the fact that this transformation happens as our minds are renewed is certainly no coincidence. Think about a sin you’ve committed; something you did that you know wasn’t the right thing to do. That started in your mind. Even for a split second, it was a decision that you faced. So, to allow God to renew your mind takes the sin issue to the source! If you allow God to renew your mind, He will affect and change the way you view those tempting decisions when it would seem to fun, or cool, or popular, or vengeful, or interesting, or whatever to do the wrong thing–the thing that would pull you from His will. But a lot of times we think we need to really buckle down and try harder at changing our ways, our behaviors, and our words. The reality is that it is GOD who does the transforming in our minds–we just have to ALLOW Him to!

But how does that happen? I think it starts with the simplest of prayers:
“God, I welcome you in to my mind to renew it. Amen.”

Christians talk a lot about “asking Jesus into your heart”, but I think that concept is more of an invention of poeticism on our part then anything else. Don’t get me wrong, the Bible talks A LOT about our hearts (it’s “the well spring of life” and “from the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks”), but take a look at the description of the “armor of God” that is in the Bible, found in Ephesians 6:

13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

It is the HELMET that is connected to our salvation. The “Helmet of Salvation” guards your head, and your head holds your brain. Now, don’t misunderstand me–I know fully that surrendering to Jesus is a heart decision, but its not ONLY a heart decision and as we’ve pointed out, EVERY decision you make starts in your head. So, no wonder its the “Helmet of Salvation”.

So, what guards your heart, according to the armor of God? The “Breastplate of Righteousness” guards your heart. So, righteousness is another way of saying “right living” or “living right”. And how do we live right? By having our minds renewed by God, because that is what helps us make decisions that are right and pleasing to Him.

What do you think about all this? What is it in YOUR mind that gets in the way of God renewing it?

Based on a tree story

I have really good friends. I’ll just start off by saying that.

One of these really good friends owns a chainsaw and drove an hour to come and cut up some trees I had cut down with my hacksaw and to then cut down a tree that was too big for me and my sorry little hacksaw. It was a weeping willow tree (I know, I know…people love those). Well, it was weeping a little too much toward my house and I didn’t want to risk it eventually balling its eyes out, leaning on my roof. Thus, my friend David and his trusty chainsaw.

David lives out in the country and is one of the coolest people I know. The guy’s got his own bulldozer. I’m not kidding. So, you can guess that he’s been cutting down trees for years. He knows how to cut a notch so that the tree falls where he wants it to. But alas, my weeping willow tree was leaning too far for such things.

So, I thought, “No problem. I’ll just throw a rope around the tree about 10-15 feet up, and just pull it away from the house while David cuts the trunk.” Sounds reasonable, right?

I learned that I was essentially saying, “I can lift a tree.”

Not only that, but I didn’t have any rope. I did however have a really long orange extension cord. So, with extension cord high up around the tree, and me pulling hard, David started cutting. Things were going fine and he was even attempting the whole notch thing, in an effort to help it fall AWAY from the house. And with me pulling, well…what could go wrong?

One notch cut and things were looking fine. It was then that I realized that if my plan was in fact going to work, I was inviting a large tree to fall directly toward me. The buzz of the chainsaw on the second cut interrupted that trivial, silly thought.

But as David was midway through the second cut, the tree falling toward me would have been a welcome reality. With that cut, the tree’s weight had taken over and it had begun to fall DIRECTLY TOWARD the house. Remember when I thought I could use an extension cord to pull a tree away from my house?

David immediately saw what was happening, stopped the chainsaw, and pushed against the trunk of the tree, keeping it up and therefore keeping it from falling on the house.

And then we stared at each other. Me with my orange extension cord and he with his locked arms against the tree.

“Now what?!?” Indeed, a question asked countless times by men through the ages.

I saw my oldest son in the doorway of the house and I yelled, “Crews! Go get Mommy! Quick!”

In true superhero style, my wife appeared, joined me on the extension cord and together we were able to at least hold the tree there until David could join us. He wrapped the end of the extension cord around his waist and we did the ‘ol “1-2-3 PULL!” a half a dozen or so times until we finally realized that the tree was NOT coming back away from the house.

The compromise we negotiated with the tree was that we would allow the tree to stay on its current trajectory, BUT that it would allow us to lower it down in such a manner so as not to cause damage to the house. Turns out, it was a win-win.

What we didn’t mention to the tree was that as soon as we had lowered it down we were going to chop it into small pieces.

When dealing with an aged tree, hold your cards close to the vest.

I’ll publish this one.

I’ve been blogging pretty faithfully lately. But you don’t know that. That’s because the posts I’ve written are unposts–that is, unposted. I think they might just end up staying that way. I write for lots of reasons, and “me” is one of them.

But I just got back from an evening with a room full of friends who all love Jesus and we actually sat for a couple hours and talked about Jesus, us, life, parents, parenting, kids, the cross, and how it all goes together.

One of the questions we were sharing was “What’s the #1 thing that blocks your view of the cross?”

The cross of Christ is central to who I am. It was the reason Jesus came, so I find that more than enough of a reason for me to live. And not merely breathe, but live a life captivated by the wonder of the cross. To some who might read this it seems far too simplistic, even childlike, even naive or infantile. No matter. I’m simply entranced by a love so all-consuming that it blasts past my faults, my sins, my shortcomings, and meets me right here. Right now.

It is simultaneously elementary and yet incomprehensible. It is the juxtaposition of a freedom so profound that the only right response is for me to enslave myself to the One who gave it to me. I’m not a radical. A radical has a plan. I don’t have any plans. I’m just living my life staring at a cross. Not much of a plan, is it?

And yet somehow, the God who created me is also the God who uses me. I dare you to understand that. God uses my life to impact another life. Why? I don’t know. I told you I don’t have a plan, and now you know I don’t have as many answers as I do questions. And ironically enough, the questions only usher me into a deeper sense of mystery of the love of the Father shown in the person of Jesus.

No one disputes that Jesus existed. We all know He was a historical figure. But I have become convinced that He is not merely historical, but futuristic as well. Every person will meet Him. You will meet Him. Some briefly, some for eternity, but all will meet Him.

Is it any wonder why I think as I do of the cross of Christ? It is at the cross where my death was given to Him. My sin was placed on His head. My punishment was taken away from me and placed on the God who made me. I dare you to understand it.

Even I, as practically minded as I am, read all that is written above in this post and say, “Yeah. So?” Where does the rubber meet the road on this one? I guess that is up to each person. As for me, I’m staring at a cross.

I probaby shouldn’t write about this.

I share a pretty great relationship with my pre-teen daughter. We regularly have heart-to-heart conversations, usually initiated by her I’m glad to say. One such conversation took place last night after our youth program at church, while I was putting away the sound equipment.

I won’t share the specific details, but I can tell you that the conversation sprang from an observation she had made earlier that night, while hanging out with her friends. A comment was made about her (not by one of her friends) that was not true, and therefore hurtful. When she told me who had made the comment, I wasn’t surprised. I told her that I was sorry that comment was made and that she was hurt by it. We quickly moved on from there into a wonderful conversation on relationships, discernment, judgment, and healthiness.

All kids her age at her station in life are primarily seeking 2 things:

1. Identity that separates them from their parents. (Most parents hate this and can’t get past it.)

2. Who’s going to show them the most attention, welcome, and sense of being known and understood. (Whoever does that wins them.)

I’m not writing this to embarass my daughter, but just to point out that after nearly 15 years of ministry to students, I refuse to miss my God-given #1 priority: ministry to MY student. I love our relationship and I hope we’re always this close.

A Hard-Fought Salvation

This morning in my time with the Lord in His Word, He seemed to lead me from one passage to another–all throughout the Bible–that taught me that my salvation is something that is in large part up to me, especially after I have accepted the free gift of forgiveness made possible only by Christ’s death on the cross in my place.

As I read each passage, I was wrestling with the thought that I am called to live a life of faith and action that “overcomes”, that “endures” and that lasts until the end. If I do not, then I cannot rightfully expect God’s mercy to usher me into eternity with Him. Further, not living a life that is daily engaged with Him is like grabbing the boarding pass He purchased, walking away, and yelling over my shoulder, “I’ll see you on the plane!” while going off through the terminal of a selfish life, all the while thinking that my ticket secures my seat.

Based on the graciousness of God, heaven will likely be more crowded than I might guess.
Based on the holiness and justice of God, heaven will likely be not nearly as crowded as I imagine.

While reading the Bible this morning, I read that the new earth will not have oceans. My first thought was “Where am I supposed to surf?” I’m so selfish sometimes. I then began to surmise that God will probably give me my own surf pool with one of those perfect wave makers. How in the world did I get to the point where I think that God’s eternity is centered on me?

I can so easily fall into a self-centered attitude about life and even about God. But being reminded that God actually expects things from me as a child of His is sobering and re-aligning. And my life surrendered to Him is not one of perpetual cowering, trembling in fear that I’m doing it wrong, but it is a response to a love so magnanimous that it would dare to reunite the sinner with the sinless, the created with the Creator, the wrong with the right.

That is, as Francis Chan puts it, “Crazy Love”.

And so my salvation, just as it has been hard-fought by Christ to the cross, is now hard-fought by my life seeking to surrender so fully to God that you can’t tell where He begins and I end. Or perhaps it is better said that you can clearly tell where I end so that He begins. This, in my estimation is the hard-fought salvation. Not hard-fought in such a way that I must work to acheive His love and favor, but hard-fought in a way that daily seeks to surrender myself to Him, His will, His ways, and His wonder. As Dennis Kinlaw wrote, “The ways of the world are never the ways of God, and the people of the world are never the people of God.”

I’d like to know your thoughts on this.