Patterns of Life

veniceDo not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)

What healthy pattern is in your life right now?

What pattern do you need to tear out of your life?

How can tearing yourself away renew and transform you?

 

When we follow the patterns of this world, we anticipate what will happen by our own logic or patterns of experiences. We dread, expect, or claim what will happen. Conforming creates patterns. Sometimes, we need to tear ourselves away.

All patterns aren’t bad. Patterns can be positive and constructive. When we place standing stones to mark our experiences with and trust in God, the patterns that remind us how He has provided and guided in the past point into the future. We can trust He will provide and guide again…and again and again and again. However, we often cannot predict the specific direction.

When we are transformed, it becomes less about us and more about God. We acknowledge we don’t know the future and trust Him to prepare us for the situations ahead.

Preparation comes through transformation.

We’re not prepared today for what we’ll face tomorrow. We’re prepared to face today. And today mandates our full attention and participation in order to receive the preparation, the transformation, we need for tomorrow.

Prepare something today. It can be simple. Bake a cake or cookies. Make a simple craft or photo collage. What items or materials need to change through the process in order to complete what you’re making? How do you experience transformation in the process? Consider what this reminds you about the way God transforms you.

Worth Keeping

keepTrust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

What do you need to set aside?

What do you need to keep?

How much space in your life is filled or available for God?

What does it mean to keep something? Perhaps hoarding comes to mind, people keeping what they don’t need to keep. The television shows on hoarding serve as a reminder to all of us not to keep what is unnecessary. We don’t need to keep every piece of paper, every paper sack, every piece of mail. We need to keep what is worth keeping. We shouldn’t fill our lives with the unnecessary.

We don’t define what is unnecessary or necessary. God does. He decides how to fill our lives. He decides where space should exist and how and with what it should be filled. He defines what we keep, and it comes out of our love for Him.

To keep something is to continue having or holding something, to not return, lose, sell, give away, or throw it away. Because we love God, we keep what He says in our grasps, on our minds, and in our hearts. We keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments. We don’t let go. We’re singled-minded. We set aside our understanding for His.

To keep something also means to continue in a specified state, condition, or position. When we keep our relationship with God, we keep changing, keep loving, keep seeking, keep obeying, keep trusting. It’s a continual relationship. No more checkboxes that you can accomplish and move on.

 

Anytime a reminder or notification pops up on your phone today, remember your constant relationship with God. Staying in a relationship with Him is like having a notification or reminder light up your phone every single second. It’s constant. Be thankful today.

Should You Stay or Should You Go Now?

move-on-breakupIf anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town. (Matthew 10:14)

When have you had to walk away from a situation, at least for a season?

When have you been able to reconcile a strained relationship or misunderstanding?

When have you been hurt by rejection?

 

We often use today’s verse as justification for moving on, and moving on is important at times. When we are in an unhealthy situation, we need to move on. There are times, we get to go back, when we are healthy enough to deal with the situation with new coping strategies, but that’s not “going back” as much as “moving forward” with new tools.

In this verse, we often focus on the “if anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet,” leaving the rest of the sentence hanging. The word when stands out to me. It indicates that perhaps there is purpose in not leaving immediately at times. If we were always to leave immediately, wouldn’t it finish with “and go immediately from that house or town”?

Only God can help us discern when to stay and when to go. Again, it we’re being hurt or threatened, we need to move on and get to a safe place, but this situation is a little different. It refers to the situations in which we are trying to share Jesus’ story with others. It doesn’t say we try once and give up. It also clearly doesn’t say we stay an unlimited amount of time and keep trying. But when we discern the best time to leave, we shake the dust off our feet, which means we move on without any regrets or hindrances. We focus on the next house or town. Who is to say God won’t have us loop back to that house or town later, but for the season, we need to move on. There is something ahead that needs our focus, and if we live in the guilt and regrets of “what if I had said something differently,” we’ll miss out on our next opportunity. When we follow Him well, we do so with our whole heart, embracing when and for how long He tells us.

 

Set your phone alarm to every hour today. When it goes off, ask if you are where God wants you to be. Adjust as He guides throughout the day.

Hospitality Hugs

15a089398b9c839566337bb12bdb5d1aAbove all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. (1 Peter 4:8-9)

What do you have difficulty embracing?

How do you handle sin in someone else’s life? Does it differ from how you handle sin in your own life?

How hospitable without complaining are you?

 

Just as God wants us to love what He loves, He also wants us to know what is outside His intention and ideal. No matter what someone is doing, God doesn’t hate the person. Each person is His creation. God has purpose for each person, whether he or she fulfills it or not. He doesn’t want to lose a single person from eternal life with Him, but He gives us choice, and our eternal lives are impacted by those choices. God hates sin. He hates anything that comes between us and Him. We are made in His image, and He intends for us to become more like Him every moment as we pursue Him through faith. We need to know what He loves and what He doesn’t. However, it’s not about legalism. We cannot consider God’s justice without His grace.

We don’t carry the responsibility of God’s justice. We are not the moral police. He is the judge. There’s a difference between being the judge and jury and being a discerning believer who isn’t gullible enough to accept falsehoods or too proud to acknowledge or assume truth. As we become familiar with God’s will and He stirs the passions within us, He will let us know when we need to respond appropriately to something that angers Him. And He will equip us to confront, speak the truth, and love in His way. We don’t have to fix everything. We don’t need to convict someone. But we also don’t need to stand beside the road and ignore what is outside of God’s intention and ideal. The key is discernment, trusting God’s timing in every response of thought, words and actions. Just as Jesus did, we will often be prompted to embrace the outcasts, ill, and misunderstood.

Give a hug today. In fact, give as many as you can.

Unique You

uniqueWhat spiritual gifts do you believe you have?

Are you content with what gifts you believe God has given you?

How well do you fit and work together with others who are different but can complement your gifts?

 

God gives us instructions. He deals with us as a general group of people, yet He also communicates with and relates to us individually. He is personal. He keeps the whole in mind and intends for us to serve alongside each other, working together to accomplish His work; yet He gives each of us very specific gifts, instructions, and timing. He has certainly not created drones.

Life—and faith—isn’t about uniformity. It’s about unity in God’s will and conformity to Him. We live by the same standards, but we lead different lives. We have different struggles, personalities, and experiences. We have different relationships, abilities, and weaknesses. He knows the details of each of us, and He invites us to be unique in the ways He’s created us…but unified together for His purpose. He doesn’t want us to be the same with each other…just the same with Him. Of course, that means as we conform to Him, we will have many similarities. But we will never become drones that follow the exact same pattern of life.

As we follow God well, we have a lot of freedom. We don’t have to demand everyone else respond to the instructions in the exact same way that we do. We don’t need to copy or envy someone else’s work because we like it. We need to follow God and be creative. After all, He is creative, and He made us in His image.

 

As you walk behind or sit with someone today, try to carry yourself, walk, sit, and gesture in the same way as him or her for at least one minute. How uncomfortable is it? Celebrate your differences as well as similarities. Thank God for your uniqueness.

Curiosity or Fault-Finding

discernThe Pharisees and Sadducees approached, and as a test, asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them: “When evening comes you say, ‘It will be good weather because the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘Today will be stormy because the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to read the appearance of the sky, but you can’t read the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Then He left them and went away. (Matthew 16:1-4)

We need to be able to discern when people approach us with authentic curiosity and when they are only testing to find fault.

But notice how Jesus called them out. Here were people who were ready to recognize signs in nature, but look past the truth of Jesus right in front of them. That’s often the case today. People are willing to accept certain prophecies and signs and ideas that line up with their beliefs but can’t see truth in front of them. I suppose we’re all like that a bit. Our filters can get mixed up and clogged.

Hence, the need for discernment, which is sort of like keeping our filters clean and ready to sift through everything that comes our way.

 

The Persistence of Discipleship

68c6f121d80085251ee6a3da3699b6acThen Peter replied to Him, “Explain this parable to us.”

“Are even you still lacking in understanding?,” (Jesus) asked. (Matthew 15:15-16)

Even Jesus got frustrated and exhausted with discipleship. It’s a persistent process. Of course, Jesus stayed engaged. He worked through the difficult moments, because He knew how important the process was.

How committed are we to discipleship? How often do we walk away because of disinterest, misunderstandings, or frustrations? How ready and willing are we to explain, wrestle with, and listen to people as they grow?

It takes effort, patience, and humility.

And it is necessary and worthwhile.