Wednesday, August 24, 2016

W.W.J.D.


W.W.J.D

This was once the “it” phrase in church youth groups around the country. When I was younger I had bracelets in various colors that had these letters printed or sewn on them. Other children my age had t-shirts that proudly displayed the acronym. Unfortunately, many of us wore these items as Christian fashion statements instead of allowing the question to penetrate our hearts and lives.

As I grew a bit older I realized the importance behind the letters. You see, W.W.J.D. stands for “What would Jesus do?” During my senior year of high school, I selected this acronym to mark one side of my class ring. Why? I realized that I would be making life changing decisions after high school. It was, and is, my opinion, that the way to make those decisions was by asking the question, “What would Jesus do?”

Isn’t it sort of cheesy? Wasn’t it a bit overdone in the 90’s? Perhaps, but the power of the question is not diminished by its popularity. The question, “What would Jesus do?” is significant and powerful regardless of how many times it was printed on a coffee mug, sewn on a t-shirt, or tattooed on an arm.

How significant can it be? It’s not scripture. But, the concept can be derived from scripture. Ephesians 5:1 says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”

Did you grow up with a sibling? Do you remember copying them? You did and said exactly the same as your brother or sister. You imitated them.

The word, "imitate" is a verb and means: “Take or follow as a model. Copy.”

Scripture tells us to be imitators of God. We are to “take and follow” Him “as a model.” We should be copying Him, doing what He does. Therefore, each moment of our day should be filtered through the question, “What would Jesus do?”

Whether this acronym is a blast from the past or new to you, I challenge everyone to remember W.W.J.D.

When you’re on Facebook – What would Jesus do?
When you’re shopping in Walmart – What would Jesus do?
When your husband says something hurtful – What would Jesus do?
When your wife disrespects you – What would Jesus do?
When you’re at church – What would Jesus do?
When you’re all alone – What would Jesus do?

Perhaps you’re asking, “Why are you writing a blog so simple and basic?

Well, in my life I struggle to look like Jesus each day. I have yet to receive a perfect score on my "Did you act like Jesus today?" exam. I need to ask myself, "What would Jesus do?" every day so that I can make the choice to imitate Him. To have compassion like Him. To pray, have faith, and love like Jesus. To be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). 

What would happen if we, the body of Christ, started imitating Him?

I can think of a few things...

Our families would change.
Our churches would change.
This world would change.

How do you know that? Take a look at the New Testament and observe the difference Jesus made in the world. Then notice the impact His followers had. We can have the same impact and it all starts by asking, “What would Jesus do?”

However, our transformation will not be complete if we only ask, “What would Jesus do?”

No, you and I must move on to the second step.

You and I, through the power of the Holy Spirit, must choose to do whatever it is Jesus would do. No matter what situation we find ourselves in we must be obedient. And, if we are obedient then:

We will speak as He speaks (to those we like and those we dislike).
We will move as He moves (when we do and do not want to).
We will go where He goes (no matter if the location is rich or poor).
We will do what He does (whether it is culturally acceptable or not).
We will love how He loves (unconditionally; with truth and grace).
We will serve as He serves (all of mankind). 
We will live as He lives (submitting to the Holy Spirit's work in us, so that we might be holy as Christ is holy).

We will be imitators of God.

And the world around us will change. Because of us? No, because of Christ within us. 

It all starts with one question, “What would Jesus do?”

You see, it is so much more than a bracelet... 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Craving Something Salty...

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I love food. My three most favorite times of the day are breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m not picky. Whatever makes its way onto my plate will inevitably find its way to my stomach. I really enjoy sharing a meal with people – my husband, family, or dear friends. When I share a meal with my family, my grandmother never fails to cover her food in salt and pepper. Most of the time she won’t taste the food before smothering it in seasoning. She adores the flavor of salt and pepper, especially salt. In her opinion, it makes everything better. Her meal is not nearly as satisfying without salt.

Salt has been important throughout history. You can go on Amazon right now and purchase a book on salt and the influence it has had on mankind for centuries. Salt often symbolized wealth since it was a frivolous extra. Then it became a necessity for preservation.  Meats were salted and vegetables stored in a brine so that their shelf life would extend through barren winter months. Now it has returned as a delicious extra on our tables; used to add pop and zing to certain items like corn on the cob in the summer time.

Have you noticed that after you ingest salt you crave liquid? This is true for me. After I enjoy a box full of hot Chick-Fil-A waffle fries that have been perfectly salted, I can’t help but take a long sip of my half-sweet/ half-unsweet iced tea. Salt makes us thirsty.

This is why Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth…” in Matthew 5:13. You, as a follower of Jesus, have been placed here to make people thirsty.

Thirsty for what?

Thirsty for living water – a supply that never runs dry.

It is the water Jesus told the Samaritan woman about in John 4: 13-14. “Jesus said to her, ‘“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”

Thirsty for Jesus.

We are called to be the salt that causes people to want a drink of everlasting life.

This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Jesus knew that. That is why He continues in Matthew 5:13 saying, “…but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.”

What do you do with salt that has gone stale while sitting in your seasoning cabinet? You know the kind, you finally need to use it but it has developed a salt rock inside the container that refuses to separate. You attempt to use it but upon tasting it you realize it is bland. 
Regretfully, because you hate to waste, you dispose of this salt. It cannot be used on the meat as a rub, or in the soup as part of the broth; it is purposeless. Why? It has lost its flavor. And what is salt without flavor?

That’s what Jesus is communicating in Matthew 5. Salt without flavor has no purpose. Salt without flavor is not going to lead anyone to drink the living water.

So let’s take away the example for a moment. As a Christian, your purpose is to lead other people to Jesus Christ. The problem is that our salt has lost its flavor.

How did that happen?

Well, are we any different than the rest of the world? What about you is unusual to someone who doesn’t claim Jesus as their Savior and Lord?

Are you just as negative?

Are you just as worried about the state of our world?

Are you angry? Do you lose control and fly off the handle at work?

Do you gossip with the girls during mani/pedis?

Do you accept sin because you don’t want to be alienated for believing in Scripture? Have you accepted sin in your own life by excusing it as a personality trait?

When we do these things, our salt becomes less flavorful. It becomes useless.

Why? Well, who would want more of what you have if it is exactly like what they have?

People look for something different – something salty.

I may sound like a broken record to those who read this blog often, but this is the truth. We must strive to look more like Jesus every day. We do not have time to be flavorless. We must become salty again so that men and women in this world will want to take a drink from the water that brings everlasting life – Jesus Christ!

So what can one do to become more flavorful?

First, you ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart. Ask Him to reveal what does not belong; what is causing your salt to be flavorless.

Second, through the power of the Holy Spirit, commit to removing those things that do not belong in your life. Disengage from sinful behavior and thinking. Allow Him to form you in a way that reflects the image of Christ daily. This will revive your salt and bring back its usefulness.

Third, you must share your relationship with Jesus with everyone you know. If salt is not being sprinkled, it does not transform what is around it. By sharing your story, the Gospel, with others around you, through word and deed, a thirst develops in this world for what you have – Jesus Christ.

So, remember my friends, “You are the salt of the earth…”


Be flavorful today.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Four Reasons to Praise God

I am often drawn to the book of Psalms when I am in need of encouragement or inspiration. It is a mine rich with gemstones. Beautiful nuggets of praise, worship, and truth come out of this book no matter where I am in life. 

This week, I would like to walk through chapter 111 of the book of Psalms with you.

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

The psalmist begins by declaring to those listening and reading that he is thankful – with his whole heart. 

Our praise to God cannot be a half-hearted action. It must be intentional. When you come to praise God, whether in your room or the sanctuary, give your all. Forget your to-do list, the cell phone, which song is playing on the radio, and praise Him with your whole heart. Hold nothing back for later. Give Him all praise and thanks.

Why?

Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.
Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
the Lord is gracious and merciful.


The first reason is that God has done great works.

Look at the creation around you. When I sit in my “corner” I can look out a window and see gorgeous pine trees, beautiful green grass, adorable squirrels, birds of every shape and size, a sky as blue as cotton candy, a sun so bright it hurts my eyes to look at it, clouds so shapely that they look like cotton balls, and soon that sky will be midnight blue, the sun shining behind a full and pale moon while stars dance around. As I type this I breathe in a deep breath, exhaling carbon dioxide and inhaling the invisible substance of oxygen that my body would die without. All of this happens and exists on a sphere that is perfectly balanced in a solar system in constant motion.

Who is worthy of praise if not God who created all of this from nothing? And, not only has He created it, but has sustained it so that thousands of generations could enjoy this life surrounded by beauty.

The psalmist recognized this as a reason to praise.

He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant forever.


The second reason to praise God is this: He provides our essential needs on daily basis.

If you do not know me personally than you have yet to discover how much I enjoy food. I love it! Breakfast, lunch, dinner… I’m not picky. I love it all. Sweet, salty, good or bad for me – it doesn’t matter. I’ll gladly pick up a fork and dig in. Too often I take for granted that every morsel of food that tantalizes my tongue is a miracle from God. It is a reason to give Him praise. Do not be mistaken. You may have paid the grocer for those items but without God where would they come from and how would you even exist to work for the money in order to purchase those items? I’ll give you the answer: the food wouldn’t exist (because He created it) and neither would you (because He created you) therefore, there would be no breakfast, lunch, or dinner without God.

The fact that we have food to eat and water to drink is a miracle from God. It testifies that He is worthy of praise.

He has shown his people the power of his works,
in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy;
they are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.


The third reason is that God keeps His promises. He will never go back on His Word. The psalmist tells the people that God showed His power by making the way possible for them to enter and enjoy the land of Israel and keep it. He declares that the Words of the Lord are trustworthy. His words are true, they last forever, and He is faithful to keep them.

The fact that God keeps His promises to those He has created is amazing. This, quite honestly, blows my mind. It is definitely a reason to praise Him.

He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name!


The fourth reason is my personal favorite. God is worthy of praise because HE HAS REDEEMED US. Jesus came and died on a cross so that we might live free from sin and death. He purchased our forgiveness with His blood. He offers us His righteousness in exchange for our filthy hearts. He makes us pure. He makes us new. He restores us. Jesus offers us a second chance at life. We are free because of Him!

My heart leaps within me and joins with the psalmist saying, “Holy and awesome is his name!”

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!


The psalmist concludes saying “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” By fearing the Lord, we reverence Him. We recognize His greatness. We have a “fear” – a sense of awe – at His power. God is so powerful that He created all we know by simply uttering words. Everything is subject to Him. We are to tremble at such an omnipotent being. Doing so is the beginning of wisdom. Why? Who would stand in defiance of such a God other than one who… shall we say, “lacks wisdom.”

I felt it was important to share this Psalm because I have witnessed too many Christians indifferent about the way they praise and worship God. I am not talking about a physical response, but a heart response. Do not become indifferent. Do not let praise become routine. There are so many reasons to praise God. Did you drink a cup of coffee today? Eat? Drive to work? Arrive at work? Earn a pay check? Sleep under a roof? Talk to a friend? Read the Bible? Hug your spouse? Talk to your children? Play with your dog? See a tree? Watch the sunset? All of these experiences are because of God – they are reasons to praise.


If you cannot think of any other reason to praise Him – praise Him for saving your life. No matter how many times you have thanked God for forgiving you, it is never too often. If someone saved your life from death, would you ever stop thanking that person? I don’t think so. You would say it over and over until they got sick and tired of the praise. The good news is God will never become sick and tired of your praise. So praise Him with your whole heart because He deserves it.

What a fantastic Psalm! I hope reading Psalm 111 caused praise to bubble up inside of you and that this blog will help add fuel to your praise this week. All I can say is, "Praise to the God that has done great works, provided all of our needs, keeps His promises, and forgiven us of our sins! "Holy and awesome is His name!”

Wave Walker and Saltwater Guzzler

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