Paul's Ponderings

Thoughts about following Jesus

Page 20 of 165

Experience Transformation

the journeyEach new year brings with it a sense of hope. We have this hope because the new year is blank slate, and that means it is full of possibilities. This is what the future is for us – a collection of possibilities.

For many of us, we look at these possibilities with optimism, because we believe we can finally experience the life we want to live.

In spite of this hope, many years do not live up to our expectations. We fail to make the changes that we want to make and we don’t do the things we want to do.

Too often we find ourselves stuck in the current of life, as we are swept away in the expectations, crises, and responsibilities that fill our days. We never seem to get around to transforming our lives.

In his book Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard focused on spiritual formation, the way Christians can experience true transformation in their lives. Willard wrote that there is a pattern the brings about transformation. This is true for physical, emotional, as well as, spiritual transformation. This pattern can be summed up in the simple acronym VIM. VIM stands for vision, intention, and means. (p. 85)

I have found this acronym helpful as I have taught on and pursued transformation. Many of us benefit from having a strategy or a plan to help guide our steps, and that is what VIM gives to us.

What does it look like to have VIM a part of lives?

  1. Vision: This is where it all begins. We need to visualize the type of life that we want to have. How would our lives be different if we were physically fit? What impact would it make if we prayed daily? What would it be like to be out of debt? By visualizing what life could be like if these changes happened, we start to increase our desire to have that type of life. We also begin to understand the steps required to bring about transformation.
  2. Intention: The key to intention is moving from a want mindset to a will mindset. Many of us want to have our lives transformed. We understand how our lives would be improved if we lost weight, if we got out of debt, or if we prayed every day, but there is no plan for achieving them. Intention is saying, “I will do this,” and not, “I want this.” It is putting a plan in place to achieve our goals, it is making the choices that will make our goals a priority, and it is saying “No” to every thing that might get in the way of us achieving our goals of transformation.
  3. Means: These are the proper activities that will bring about the transformation that we seek. If we want to be physically fit the means are eating nutritionally and engaging in exercise. If we want to grow in faith the activities include the spiritual disciplines of fasting, prayer, giving, and service. Without the proper means we will fail to train our minds and bodies to behave in the ways we want them to.

How do we start this process?

Take some paper and a pencil and list the areas of change you want to see happen in your life. Pray over the list and begin to visualize what your life would like if those changes happened. The top two or three that seem the most appealing continue to visualize what that would mean for your life and then begin to change your language. Instead of saying, “I want this to happen,” begin to say, “I will do this.” The next step is to organize your life to allow for the appropriate activities to bring about transformation in your life.

Transformation doesn’t happen by accident. It takes work, and if we are not willing to engage in the work, then we will miss out on the full life that God created us to live. Live with VIM and experience the transformation God wants to bring into your life.

 

God’s Grace

God's Grace (1)

{Titus 2:11-14; NLT}

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.

God’s grace is the basic difference between Christianity and all the other religions in the world.

What is grace?

Grace is the undeserved kindness and favor. There is nothing that we have done to earn God’s love, salvation, or blessings. These things are all underserved, but because of His great love for us, God gives them to us. Grace comes from the love and initiative of the giver.

This is one of the reasons that grace is a powerful force. It tells us that God finds us valuable and He doesn’t want our lives to go to waste. That is Good News!

When we believe this reality, grace becomes the catalyst to change our lives. We know that God wants us to succeed, to overcome sin, and to find healing. Grace tells us that God wants us to have new lives. Lives that are made new because of His love, forgiveness, and blessing.

In Titus, the apostle Paul gives us three reasons why grace makes our lives new.

1. Our lives are new because God gives us new life. – Vs. 11

While many of the aspects of our lives will remain the same: we will have the same family, same job, and the same problems God gives us a new life which will extend into all eternity.

Salvation is ultimately the giving of new life. Sin brought the reality of death to all of mankind. Not only were our old lives slowly counting down to the day of our deaths, but they are also enslaved to sin.

Sin has a hold on us. Without the salvation provided for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus there would be no hope of breaking free from the power of sin.

This promise of a new life isn’t just about the wonderful life we will have in the Resurrection, enjoying an eternal relationship with God, but it is also about giving us a life right now that is is freed from the power of sin and empowered to do good.

God’s grace makes it possible for everyone to live a life of significance and of purpose.

2. Our lives our new because God gives us new limits. – Vs. 12

I know that limits doesn’t sound very appealing. We live in a culture that doesn’t want to be tied down to limits. We want to do what we want to do when we want to do it. We want to buy what we want to buy when we want to buy it.

Many of us view limits as restrictions to the “good life” we want to live. This is one of the great lies of the Enemy.

When we live a life without limits we allow ourselves to become slaves to sin. Being a slave to sin prevents us from living the life God created us to live. Even worse we are powerless to break free from the power of Satan, sin, and death. Therefore, we are hopeless.

In His amazing grace God provided us with limits which are designed to help us avoid sin and to live the lives that He created us to live. It is by living within these limits that we are able to become the people God created us to be.

3. Our lives are new because God gives us new longings. – Vss. 13-14

Our great desires are no longer limited to here and now.

Our dreams aren’t  about achieving the “American Dream” or fulfilling one of our selfish desires for success, but become tied to eternal things. Primarily our  dreams center on relationships: with God and with people.

We also begin to desire for the restoration of  creation to its original state. Many of us have grown sick of the evil and tragedy that dominates every aspect of our lives  and we long for the day when God will make all things new.

As we hope and long for this New Creation we put our time and effort into building for God’s Kingdom now as we wait for Jesus to return. That is the desire that dominates our hope.

God’s grace is amazing because it makes our lives new.

This new life is hard to explain to someone who has not experienced it, but for us who  have received it it has totally changed the way we live.

I hope and pray that we don’t take God’s grace for granted and that we will take time to praise Him for the difference He has made in our lives.

Thank You God for your amazing and wonderful grace.

Questions to consider:

  • How has God’s salvation made your life different?
  • Why does God care so much about people?
  • Why is grace such an important part of the Gospel?

 

LO$T: Back on Track

Money is something that everyone uses. We use it everyday to provide for our needs and our wants.

It is because money is a regular experience for us that we don't give it much thought. Our basic thought when it comes to finances is whether or not we can afford the purchase. If we can, and it is something that we want, we usually buy it.

This is why many Americans are lost when it comes to our finances. We make enough money, but we don't always use it wisely, which puts many of us into debt. Debt prevents us from being as generous with our resources as God desires us to be.

When we are lost and trapped in a mound of debt what we need, more than anything else, is a way out. We need to know that we can escape the pile of debt we are under, and be put on the road to financial health. That is what this sermon seeks to do. Listen to Back on Track.

Remember to like Paul's Ponderings on Facebook. If you enjoyed the sermon make sure to like Bethlehem Free Methodist Church on Facebook as well. Thanks for listening.

 

People of the Book

BiblesWhat is the source of truth in your life?

There are many things that are true, but not everything that is true is equally true. 2 + 2 = 4 is a much more important truth than the truth that I ate oatmeal for breakfast this morning. Math applies to everyone, and my eating habits are only an interest to me.

When we talk about truth we are not merely refering to things that are true or factual, rather are are talking about things that are eternal. In other words the things that put the rest of life into perspective.

C. S. Lewis wrote; “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” I think this is a good description of what truth is. Truth brings clarity to life.

The trouble is that when we use the word truth in this manner, it doesn’t mean that it is necessarily true. All the different religions prove this reality. Each one claims to have truth and to make sense of life, but the different religions makes contradictory truth claims. Every religion could be false, but they cannot all be true. This means even though a truth brings clarity to our life, that doesn’t make that claim a fact.

This is why it is important to know the source of the truth of our lives. We need to be able to evaluate these truth claims.

For Christians our source of truth comes from the Bible. We believe that the Bible is God’s written word to His people. To faithfully follow Jesus requires us to be students of the Bible.

The apostle Paul wrote this to his disciple Timothy:

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NLT)

In this passage Paul highlights three reasons why Christians should be people of the Book:

  1. The Bible teaches truth. If we want to know what truth is, then we need to be grounded in the Scriptures. The truth that we discover on the pages of Scripture reveals God to us. As we study Scripture our eyes are open to the character and purposes of God. It is through the Scriptures that we learn what is good, pure, noble, and right, and how these things apply to our lives. As we learn what is true we also discover the reality that we fall short of God’s purpose for our lives. God gave us the Bible to teach us the true way that He wants us to live.
  2. The Bible convicts us. The Bible not only holds up the truth, but it also convicts our hearts with the reality that we fail to live out that truth. I think this is one of the reasons that we avoid reading the Bible. We do not like to feel convicted and to have the sin in our lives pointed out to us. It is the same reason why I don’t like going to the doctor, I don’t want him to tell me that I need to loose weight. Yet, this is a foolish reason to avoid the Bible. Paul also reminds us that the Bible teaches us to do what is right. It points out the things that we should be doing. For life change to occur we need to know what we need to stop doing, as well as, those things that we need to start doing. I believe lasting change actually happens when we focus on what we need to do, and as we implement those things to our lives, we slowly push the sin out of our lives.
  3. The Bible prepares us. The purpose of our lives is not just to live a moral life. Yes, morality that flows out our love for God and love for people, is essential for our lives. God expects us to be people of love. Our purpose grows out of our love for God and people as we join God in bringing His Kingdom into this world. This includes making disciples of all nations, working for justice, and being good stewards of creation. The Bible equips us to do this. It shows us the way Jesus lived his life and it reveals what it means to be guided by the Spirit. These two lessons are essential in doing the ministry we have been called to do in a loving and authentic manner.

There are many books and religions out there that claim to have truth. For the Christian our source of truth is the Bible. We believe that the Bible is God’s written word to us, revealing what we need to know to live lives of faith. This is why we need to be people of the Book: people who take the Bible seriously in their everyday lives.

 

Heart Guard

Guard Your Heart

Staying healthy is an important part of our lives. From a Christian perspective, maintaining our health is part of being good steward of the life God has given us.

If this is true for our physical lives, it is certainly true for our spiritual lives. In fact, I would say the two are linked. At the core of our spiritual health is our heart. Erwin McManus wrote; “When your heart is sick, it can spread everywhere. Like a cancer, despair in the human soul can cause all kinds of malfunctions” (Uprising; p. 133).

This is why Solomon wrote guard your heart above all else. The condition of our heart is going to influence every other area of our lives. Our hearts determine our thoughts and our actions, so if something is wrong with our hearts, it will affect the rest of our lives.

How do we guard our hearts?

I think the apostle Paul provides us with an answer:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:6-9; NLT)

There are two actions we must take to guard our hearts.

  1. We live by faith. This isn’t just simply believing that God exists, but it is trusting God. The element of faith that Paul focused on in this passage is prayer. We are to turn all our worry, uncertainty, and our doubts over to God. In return God will grant us peace. This peace will guard your hearts and minds. Here Paul gave only one example to illustrate how faith guards our hearts. A life of faith will guard our hearts with hope, joy, and love in addition to peace.
  2. We think proper thoughts. The conversations we have with people, the videos that we watch, the podcasts that we listen to, and the blogs that we read all provide fuel for our thoughts. Bad fuel will make our hearts sick, because our hearts are the factories of our thoughts. This is why Paul emphasized that we are to focus on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Being vigilante about what we read, watch, and listen to will provide a healthy environment for our hearts.

God has blessed us with life. We have the responsibility of caring for this life, and that requires keeping our heart healthy. Guard your heart by faith and right thinking, and keep you heart healthy.

 

Questions to consider:

  • What is it like to have a sick heart?
  • Are there other ways we can guard our hearts?
  • What do you do to focus on the true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable things of life?

 

 

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