Are You a Building Block or a Stumbling Block?

miami_package_feelthehealdetoxCome to the Lord Jesus, the “stone” that lives. The people of the world did not want this stone, but he was the stone God chose, and he was precious. You also are like living stones, so let yourselves be used to build a spiritual temple—to be holy priests who offer spiritual sacrifices to God. He will accept those sacrifices through Jesus Christ. The Scripture says: “I will put a stone in the ground in Jerusalem. Everything will be built on this important and precious rock. Anyone who trusts in him will never be disappointed.” This stone is worth much to you who believe. But to the people who do not believe, “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” (1 Peter 2:4-7)

In these verses, Peter is encouraging believers to be like the stones used to build a holy temple for God. In order for the building blocks to do what they needed to do to fit together with other building blocks, they needed to be carved, molded, and placed together. In order for believers to fulfill individual and collective purpose for God, we must be willing to let God shape us and place us where he wants us to be. That means we don’t decide who we sit alongside. We don’t decide our exact shape. We don’t decide how we serve within the building. We don’t get to decide how pretty our rough edges are or how smooth is smooth enough. God does all that. It’s not about us; it’s about God’s building. It’s about unity. However, in order to come together to make what God intends to make, each piece has to be worked on and fitted together. Each has to be yielding in order for the building to be sound and holy.

We have another option other than yielding. Instead of being building blocks, we can be stumbling blocks. When we don’t allow God to shape us into the right shape for the right fit into the building, we will become displaced. We’ll fall to a place we’re not intended to be and create a stumbling hazard for those around us.

You get to choose which you’ll be, so ask yourself, “Am I a building block, or am I a stumbling block?” Avoid quickly giving the Sunday School answer. Think about specific situations you’ve been involved in recently. Of course, we all want to believe we’re building blocks. We want to believe we’re doing exactly what God wants us to do, but are we…really? Have we checked with him before we’ve proceeded, or have we moved forward in the direction that makes sense, responding first, then asking him to bless the process once we’re in motion? The popular adage “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission” isn’t a biblical principle.

In order to fit well within a body of believers, you must invite God to shape you in order to fit where he intends you to fit. You don’t decide where you fit, then reason through why you’re such a good fit. You don’t decide you were made for such a time as this. God decides the time and place. He decides the process. You seek. You trust. You obey. You can certainly be stubborn about it, but when you don’t allow him to place you where you’re supposed to fit, you’re not just impacting yourself and your purpose. You’re impacting the body of Christ.

So, are you a building block or a stumbling block?

I beg you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that all of you agree with each other and not be split into groups. I beg that you be completely joined together by having the same kind of thinking and the same purpose. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

Repentance

images (1)Repentance.

It’s a word we either don’t like to hear, don’t understand, or simply ignore. Repentance requires acknowledge of something being amiss, and we don’t necessarily like to admit we’re wrong. It seems to indicates weakness, and weakness is…well, a weakness!

But it’s not.

When we repent, we admit where we are, not to get stuck, settle into a place of defeat, or give up. We repent, because we’re willing to move beyond where we are. We acknowledgement where we are isn’t where we should be. It doesn’t mean everything in our lives is bad. In fact, as we grow in faith and let God consume our lives more completely, we realize he challenges us to repent of even the slightest details of our attitudes and intentions, pruning the tiny weeds before they grow into trees.

There are no limits on repentance. It includes the big and tiny, the ongoing and momentary, the obvious and well-disguised.

We often respond in faith forgetting the importance of repentance. We ask for blessings, we praise God, we expect God’s promises…but we haven’t done a heart-check first. We need to ask ourselves if there’s anything between us and God as we approach him, and since we work toward developing an ongoing connection with him, we need to be adamant about consistently asking him to identify anything that’s creating any amount of distance between us. That also means we have to be willing to listen as he reveals the distance. We need to be willing to respond.

A lack of repentance impacts personal faith, and it also impacts community. Each person is responsible for his/her own repentance. Each person is also able to ask for repentance for the community. It must be done with a pure heart. We don’t ask for repentance because “that person” did something wrong. We ask for repentance because we did something wrong whether we personally offended or not. Going to God in repentance for our community assumes our association among that community. (See Nehemiah’s prayer in Nehemiah 1:1.)

Repentance isn’t a pit of guilt. It makes a way out of the pit of guilt. Get familiar with repentance. It’s a grace-filled gift from God.

God, be merciful to me because you are loving.
Because you are always ready to be merciful, wipe out all my wrongs.
Wash away all my guilt and make me clean again.

I know about my wrongs, and I can’t forget my sin.
You are the only one I have sinned against; I have done what you say is wrong.
You are right when you speak and fair when you judge.
I was brought into this world in sin. In sin my mother gave birth to me.

You want me to be completely truthful, so teach me wisdom.
Take away my sin, and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Make me hear sounds of joy and gladness;let the bones you crushed be happy again.
Turn your face from my sins and wipe out all my guilt.

Create in me a pure heart, God, and make my spirit right again.
Do not send me away from you or take your Holy Spirit away from me.
Give me back the joy of your salvation. Keep me strong by giving me a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:1-12)

Careless Words

broken-eggs-basket-diversifyI tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:36-37)

Careless words get us into trouble.

What exactly qualifies a word as careless? Anything we speak without giving sufficient attention or thought to avoiding harm or errors. It’s the words we speak without enough concern. And that concern involves so many aspects. Concern for truth. Concern for impact. Concern for motivation.

Motivation matters.

Just a few verses before, we find, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.” (Matthew 12:33-34)

Careless describes our words and our motivations. It also describes us.

When You Could Do More

“But I could do so much more.”

11.6.14 Bridges for Peace at WIZO (78)
©2014 PurePurpose.org

As we sat in my room the first night we served in Israel, we reflected on the day. After training, we slowly eased into serving and primarily painted murals on preschool walls. It was the simple kind of painting…sort of like paint by numbers. The artist mixed the colors and told us where to paint.

We were minions.

But not really.

Once someone make the comment, “But I could do so much more,” there was a brief pause before the discussion of other perspectives began. We talked about what joy the colorful walls would bring to the teachers and young children for years to come. We talked about how closely we were able to serve among the school staff and children, which meant they would see our sacrifice. They would notice our attitudes and joy as we served. Maybe we weren’t minions after all. When we thought about the responsibility of serving in God’s name, we felt honored and humbled.

We often think we can do “more,” but what if the “more” is in the service we’re facing right now? How often do we miss out on the impact we can have with what is right in front of us because we think of other opportunities?

We want to be important, but God wants us to be willing. What seems important to us doesn’t usually match God’s criteria for importance. We do what is most important when we focus on knowing and serving God.

Maybe you think you could do more, but are you pouring your everything into what is right in front of you? It’s what God is giving you today. When you serve Him well, your efforts are multiplied through Him. You may never know the ripples effects of your sacrifice, but you can be certain God will use your humble willingness beyond your imagination and beyond your understanding.

Serve Him well. Give Him your all. It’s the most you can do.

The Soundtrack of Your Life

soundtrackRecordings run in the back of your mind at all times. You might find yourself exhausted even though you don’t have busy days, but you have that pending doctor’s visit or looming financial deadline you don’t notice in the front of your mind, and the thought easily pushes its way to the forefront anytime your mind is otherwise quiet. It’s not just “wants” coming down the road in your life that can affect your energy and focus. You might have repetitive messages you heard in past experiences and relationships. You might have current issues that impact you on a moment-by-moment basis.

It’s as if a song is playing on loop in the background of your mind. You continue to live out your daily life, many times not even acknowledging something other than what you’re focused upon exists in your mind, yet you catch yourself humming along with the background tune. You wonder why that tune—or thought—continues to pop into your mind.

While everything in your life impacts you in some way, not everything in your life needs to be recorded and saved, not to mention repeatedly replayed on a loop. Some things need to be deleted or downplayed or mixed with other experiences in order to give it the context it needs. You won’t be able to perfectly mix the soundtrack of your life. You don’t know all the available sounds and experiences of life, and you especially don’t know how everything can mix, compare, and complement. God does. He knows what you need to incorporate as a bass line or chorus and what needs to be compressed, cut, or diffused. God knows. Only he has the perspective you need. The soundtrack of your life changes, but he knows how to best transition from one verse to another. Trust him to record, and re-record, every note.

Dig Into God’s Word…

Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well. (Matthew 6:33)

So prepare your minds for service and have self-control. All your hope should be for the gift of grace that will be yours when Jesus Christ is shown to you. Now that you are obedient children of God do not live as you did in the past. You did not understand, so you did the evil things you wanted. But be holy in all you do, just as God, the One who called you, is holy. (1 Peter 1:13-15)

So you must stop telling lies. Tell each other the truth, because we all belong to each other in the same body. (Ephesians 4:25)

You are my rock and my protection. For the good of your name, lead me and guide me. Set me free from the trap they set for me, because you are my protection. I give you my life. Save me, Lord, God of truth. (Psalm 31:3-5)

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. (John 8:32)

Live It Out Loud…

What song seems to move you every time you hear it? It comes to mind easily and is difficult to stop singing or humming. Play the song in its entirety, listening and soaking it in. Notice the details of transitions, background sounds, and repeated words you might not have noticed before. As you finish listening to the song, commit to letting God reveal to you the details of the recordings you’re playing in your life. Let him begin to re-record the perfect soundtrack of your life.

Lessons from Josiah: Reaching One

josiah5Following the faithful life and leadership of Josiah,

The people of Judah chose Josiah’s son Jehoahaz and made him king in Jerusalem in his father’s place. Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king, and he was king in Jerusalem for three months. Then King Neco of Egypt removed Jehoahaz from being king in Jerusalem. Neco made the people of Judah pay about seventy-five hundred pounds of silver and about seventy-five pounds of gold. The king of Egypt made Jehoahaz’s brother Eliakim the king of Judah and Jerusalem and changed his name to Jehoiakim. But Neco took his brother Jehoahaz to Egypt. Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he was king in Jerusalem for eleven years. He did what the Lord his God said was wrong. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon attacked Judah, captured Jehoiakim, put bronze chains on him, and took him to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar removed some of the things from the Temple of the Lord, took them to Babylon, and put them in his own palace. (2 Chronicles 36:1-7)

Josiah was the last king who did what was right according to God’s will before God’s people, the Israelites, were taken into captivity. Throughout the Scriptures chronicling the kings of God’s people, it seems the Israelites were fickle to the leadership of each season. If the king followed God’s ways, so did the people, but when a king did not follow God’s ways, neither did the people.

We think we’re much different today. We will easily rebel against leaders we don’t believe are leading us well, but are we guided by what is right or are we guided by what we believe are our own rights and preferences? We’re certainly following someone…but “who?” is the question. Who do you listen to and respond to with the most assertive support? How active are you when listening to people you respect and those you don’t? Do you seek God’s truth despite who is speaking?

It is tempting to look for that which affirms what we most want to hear so that we can easily set aside someone’s opinion when we have little respect for the person or easily accept someone’s opinion when we have respect for the person. We need to listen to God, and that means respecting people enough to listen, trust God to filter what is being taught, and proceeding with caution against untruth and boldness into truth.

We need to not be like the Israelites in the way they responded with “group think” and responded with spiritual blindness. Despite the way we’ve been raised, the people who surround us, or the situations we find ourselves in, we can be impacted and guided by God and we can impact others for God.

Jeremiah, a great prophet, came out of Josiah’s leadership. After Josiah’s death, “Jeremiah wrote some sad songs about Josiah. Even to this day all the men and women singers remember and honor Josiah with these songs. It became a custom in Israel to sing these songs that are written in the collection of sad songs.” (2 Chronicles 35:25) The Lord spoke his word to Jeremiah during the thirteenth year that Josiah son of Amon was king of Judah. The Lord also spoke to Jeremiah while Jehoiakim son of Josiah was king of Judah and during the eleven years that Zedekiah son of Josiah was king of Judah. In the fifth month of his last year, the people of Jerusalem were taken away as captives. (Jeremiah 1:2-3)

God can speak to and reach us no matter what the situation by which we are surrounded. There can be no more “if only” excuses of our life circumstances. God is more intimate with our life circumstances than we are. He is able to do all things…even when we cannot see the way.

Jesus answered, “The things impossible for people are possible for God.” (Luke 18:27)

What are you “excusing” in your life? What do you see as impossible?

Are you ready to accept the possibility of your impossibilities? It’s time!

Are You Not Bad Enough?

“There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” (Proverbs 31:29)

The Bible is full with redeemed people. We’re touched by people who went from the depths of sin and despair to encountering God in a life-changing way. The worse the person’s reputation, the more amazing the story of transformation seems to be. The woman at the well in John 4 had multiple husbands, yet her encounter with Jesus spurred her to share her changed life with many. Rahab was a prostitute but “was shown to be right with God by her actions.” (James 2:25) Perhaps you can recall stories of people you know or have heard or read about whose lives were drastically changed from bad reputations to beautiful reflections of God.

shoesWhat happens when you didn’t have such a bad reputation? You’ve lived a good life – not perfect by any means, but you certainly wouldn’t be identified as the black sheep of your family or voted Most Likely to Serve Prison Time by your high school classmates. Having a good reputation can be a blessing, but it can have downsides as well.

  1. A good reputation can make us question the impact our story has on others. Our stories can seem too boring. Remember, God doesn’t need drama to shine a spotlight on himself. Your consistency, quiet struggles, and gradual growth are important themes in the story he’s telling through your life.
  2. A good reputation can cause us to be insensitive to what needs to be pruned. Because we’re seen as “good” by so many around us, we can rationalize some of the small steps we’re taking away from God, because “at least we’re not…” doing what the person next to us is doing. Remember, God doesn’t measure your spiritual growth against anyone else. He is the standard of measurement and the one who does the measuring.
  3. A good reputation can pressure us to wear masks. We can feel pressured to keep up the image of our good reputation and end up leading lives of charades. Remember, God wants you to be authentic. He wants you to be transparent with him and those around you, because when you are, he shows through more completely.

Thank God for where you’ve been, where you are, and where he’s taking you. Celebrate with a mini-party today. Treat yourself to an ice cream cone or a long walk in the park. Buy a balloon to place in your work station or home to remind yourself of the blessing of God’s reputation, the keeper of all promises for your life!