5 Easy Ways to Stay Exactly the Same

Change is hard, amen?  No one likes change and everyone bucks against it when it comes.

And it does come, sweet friends. There is nothing so constant as change. It comes in the weather, it comes in the seasons, it comes in the day-to-day decisions of life.  Jobs change, friends change, people change. We are in a constant state of growth and death, of renewal and rejection. In every moment, there are ways to choose the path of growth, of health, of renewal….or the path that leads to stagnation, death, decay. And friends, it is a choice. It takes a conscious decision to continue to move forward, even in the hard times, even through the pain, even through the dark nights of the soul.

Our spiritual lives, just as our physical lives, have cycles of change and rebirth, inspiration and darkness. But if you don’t want to grow or change? Well, here is 5 ways in which you can choose to remain the same….

cracked-ground

  1. Don’t pray.   Prayer leads to a deeper relationship with God, and richer relationships lead to….work. Renewal. Walking through the valleys and the peaks. All relationships take time and effort to grow them, and it is no different with God. A rich prayer life is how we communicate with our Savior, and how He communicates with us. As you deepen your relationship with God, love will overwhelm you and you will want to act out of that love. God will stir in you a desire to reach more people for the Kingdom. Just don’t do it if you want to remain where you are at!
  2. Don’t seek. Close your eyes and turn off your mind. Don’t read spiritual books, don’t allow inspiring speech to hit your ears, don’t let music touch your heart.  And above all else, don’t pick up a Bible!  God will continue to seek you out, in order to inspire you and teach you and grow you….but ignore it the best you can. Keep your eyes downcast and focus only on yourself so that you aren’t seeing the beauty and the tragedy in the world around you. Which leads to my next item…
  3. Be self-focused. Don’t invest in others. Worry about how your needs are being met only, and not about spreading the Gospel message to those who may have not yet encountered Christ. Do not become passionate about serving the outcasts of society. Never ask a relative or friend how it is with their soul. Never invite another person to join you at your local worship service. Someone sitting in your seat? Kick ’em out. Someone else making you feel uncomfortable with their questions or comments? Ignore them. Never engage those who may challenge the way you think or the way you do things. To do so may cause you to question and wrestle with your beliefs and traditions. Gasp! Who needs that stress?
  4. Be a cultural Christian. Be nominal in your faith. Sure, if someone asks you what your faith is, answer Christian, but never live out Christian witness. To do so may deem you a “radical.”  Show up for the occasional worship service (Christmas and Easter are your best bets.) Don’t spend more than exactly 60 minutes in a worship setting, and never cultivate deep friendships with other Christians where accountability matters. Don’t invest time in learning and growing in your faith. Spend all your free hours sucked up in the latest viral videos, or social media, or binge-watching Netflix. Pay more attention to the break-ups and hook-ups in Hollywood than you do to the heartbreak God has for His people. Romans 12:2 (NLT) states: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” But what do I know? It’s only scripture….
  5. Don’t risk. You read that right. Risk can equal rewards, but it can also lead to hurt and frustration. Risk can lead us down a path filled with glory and joy, but it can also lead to some pretty dark places as we join with Jesus in setting the prisoner free. Risk can lead us down into the valley of shadow and death, and if we aren’t clinging tightly to the Shepherd, we can fall in the pit. Let fear hold you hostage. Let fear keep you from living out a life of freedom in Christ. Without taking a risk, you never need to worry about growth or change.

All 5 steps sound easy, don’t they? It would be so much easier to be stagnant, to sit and just BE. And yet, God continues to pursue the hearts of His people. God continually invites us to grow and change and be transformed, not by this world, but by His grace, mercy, and love. God doesn’t want us to stay the same. God desires our hearts. God desires our willingness to be the clay as the Master Potter molds and shapes us into the image of the Savior.

I hope you read this as being light-hearted, if a bit snarky, but it really isn’t a light-hearted subject. The sad state is that these are not crazy things you’ve read. These are all attitudes I have had at one time or another, or things I have struggled with in my own hardened heart. These are words I have heard fellow Christians say. These are the actions (or non-actions, as the case may be) of many of our churches, by many of our people. This is the state of Christianity around us. And it breaks my heart. 

Friends, Jesus came to give us life, an abundant life. It is not a life of worldly abundance of riches and ease, but it is a rich, full life.  It is a life that is better when we walk along with one another, lifting each other’s burdens, carrying one another’s loads. It is a life better lived in community, and a life best lived when we are following our Shepherd, clinging tightly to His cloak. God will never leave us, nor forsake us, but will be beside us as we live into the life He has given us.

Risk it all, pray unceasingly, love the other, seek to find God in everything, and live a life where no one doubts whom you serve.

Embrace change.

 

Sitting in the Stands

My Facebook feed is blowing up this afternoon with football statuses. People cheering for their favorite team, cursing the opposing team, crying with every fumble or interception. The energy that people have for their favorite sports team is palpable, jumping off the computer screen.

Compare that to the morning’s activities. For many of us, we gathered with others at a worship service. We walked in, sat down, maybe said hello to a person or two around us. We read from a screen when prompted, sang a hymn or two, and listened passively to someone share Scripture and a message.  We said goodbye to that same person or two we originally greeted and walked out to our car, heading home to move on with our day. We put in our hour (or two) of “church time” and feel complete for the week.

I live in an area whose people, whose culture, are reserved, stoic, unemotional. Until, however, you start talking about their favorite sports (or arts, or activity, or Apple product…not picking on sports fans here!). When the conversation turns to that which they are passionate about, it is obvious in their expressions, their voice, their being. Their entire countenance changes when they begin to share their passion.

But I wonder, where is that passion when it comes to their faith?  For that matter, where is the passion in my faith?

 

bored-spectators

 

Passionate people engage. Passionate people will wait through rainstorms and snowstorms, will sit through thunder and lightning, will sleep outside overnight in a line, just to be one of the select few to get a ticket, or the newest iPhone, or the best concert seats. Passionate people will talk your ear off about their love. Passionate people spend their money and their time pursuing their love. Passionate people rearrange work schedules, vacation schedules, and life schedules to accommodate that which they are passionate about. You have no doubt about what they care about, where their loyalty lies, because their words, their actions, and their lives reflect it.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.                Ephesians 2: 1-9 (NIV)

Did you see that? We were dead in our sins, but now, through the grace of Christ we are alive. Saved.

Redeemed.

This right here is the Good News. And as believers, shouldn’t that fan the flames of passion? If we truly believed that we, undeserving, sin-scarred, unclean, deserving punishment and wrath, if we are saved through mercy, redeemed, made clean by the blood of Christ, by His sacrifice, by His love….then shouldn’t that spur us, compel us to share that same redemptive gift with each and every person we know? Why is it we share more about the awesomeness of our latest phone and not the awesome, compelling story of our freedom from sin and death and our new life in Christ?

Shouldn’t this Good News excite us more than any tangible thing of this earth?

In Luke 10: 1-16, Jesus sends out 72 disciples to go and prepare towns for his arrival. He sends them out in pairs with specific directions. Jesus tells them the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. He doesn’t sugar-coat their endeavor. He tells them that it may be hard, they may be unwelcome in some of the towns, they may be rejected. He does not hide the truth from them, but instead, equips and empowers them for the task at hand. They are few, and the harvest is great. The fields are ready. They must embrace their task despite the odds against them.

As disciples of Christ, we, too, are called to be workers in the harvest, not spectators to the salvation story.

Once we have given ourselves to Christ, once we call ourselves a Christian, we have no options but to participate fully in the midst of the harvest. Once we invite Jesus to be the Lord of our life, we become disciples, and we are commissioned to go into the world and share the Gospel.  We are not meant to just observe the world, sitting in the bleachers, passively watching. No, we are to engage the world around us, offering to others the truth, the grace, the freedom found in the Good News. The beauty of this is that we are all gifted in different ways, to participate in the redemptive work of Jesus and His church in our own unique way.

Our hands are not be used to applaud as a spectator would, but to labor. To engage. To participate in the life, in the ministries, of Christ’s church.  We become active participants in God’s redemptive story. We are not saved through our works, but we share the salvation story to others through the work of our hands, through our labors of love.

photographers

In this life that we are given, we cannot hide behind a telephoto lens, observing from a distance, safe from the messiness and brokenness of a hurting world. We cannot sit, spectators in the stands, watching the story unfold before us. No, friends, we put down our cameras and we wade into the mess. We offer a hand of helping, we offer arms to hold the hurting, we bring gifts of our presence and we share the source of our strength. We get dirty in the muck and the mire and we give our time, our energy, our love. We share the light of Christ in the darkness and we are there.  We are the church, passionate in our faith, present in our witness.

We are workers in the field.

We are there for the harvest.