What will I allow to shape me in 2018?

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 29-30, 2 Corinthians 6, Proverbs 10

The wise in heart accept commands,
but a chattering fool comes to ruin.

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.

Whoever winks maliciously causes grief,
and a chattering fool comes to ruin.

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

Hatred stirs up conflict,
but love covers over all wrongs.
 

Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning,
but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense.

The wise store up knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.

Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life,
but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips
and spreads slander is a fool.
 

Sin is not ended by multiplying words,
but the prudent hold their tongues.

Proverbs 10: 8-14, 17-19

I once read a quote from Charlie “Tremendous” Jones 15 years ago that “you will be the same person in five years except the people you meet and the books you read”. I thought this made a lot of sense and I could see some real truth in that within my own life. Fast forward to 2018 with the incredible rise of the information age and our easy access to the internet, television news, radio & podcasts, social media, etc. and I think we would have to edit that statement to say that “you will be the same person in five years except the people you meet and the media you consume”.

I have seen so many people I love and care about over the last 10 years that I lost touch with for a year or two and then can hardly believe the things I see them saying in person or on social media when we reconnect. It breaks my heart when I see people, that I truly believe to be good people at their core, parroting things that they heard over and over again but go against so many things I know they once believed.

We truly are shaped by the people we surround ourselves with and the media we consume. So what are we to do as Christians?

I love the wisdom in Proverbs today.

Here is my challenge for Christians throughout America in 2018, let’s all strive together to be discerning. Let’s all strive to consume less and think more. Let’s have more in depth conversations and not stray away from important topics. Let’s collectively increase each other’s wisdom. I want to grow and I hope everyone reading this would like to grow in 2018 as well.

In 2018 when you are watching TV, reading an article, listening to a radio or podcast, or consuming information in some other way; run it through God’s filter. Run it through the lens of Proverbs above. Is this person I am listening to spreading hate, lacking integrity, refusing to listen, causing grief consistently, and ultimately behaving like a “chattering fool” as described in Proverbs?

In 2018, as Christians, let’s stop following these people. Let’s stop giving a platform to leaders in churches, politics, and the media that will profess to be Christian and yet behave the opposite.

We are going to be the same person as we are today when we are about to enter 2019, a year from now, other than the people we surround ourselves with this year and the media we consume. It is time to turn the page and get back to wisdom. It is time we lean on God’s word again and not what television or radio personalities tell us to believe as Christians.

Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life,
but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

Let’s not collectively allow others to lead us astray this year that refuse correction, sew hate and discord, and use their power and platform to simply build themselves up. Let’s be a collective body of Christ that embodies the correct side of Proverbs in 2018 and seek after wisdom.

When 2019 rolls around in a year I want to look back at what I allowed to shape my personal growth over the last 12 months and see God’s fingerprints all over it!

Thought to ponder

If I have been subconsciously shaped over the last year by what I have consumed, what subtle ways might I have changed that are counter to the person I want to be and how can I rectify that in 2018?

Throwing out your mismatched socks

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 27-28, 2 Corinthians 5, Psalm 54

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 

I am sure I am not alone in the challenge that lay before me this past Sunday night. It was a monster a didn’t want to face, a personal challenge I had been putting off tackling, an ever present stress that resurfaced once or twice a week that I simply didn’t want to ever deal with…

It was our mismatched sock box.

At the point of writing this I have 3 daughters that are 9, 7 and 3 years old. Over the last nine years we have had lots of growing feet, fun patterned socks purchased, and mysterious disappearances. I need someone who lives on the conspiracy theory fringes of the Internet to prove for me definitively that this is undeniable proof that aliens exist and that they feast on socks. I frankly have no idea how else this happens!

In any case, every time we do laundry and a new sock exists without a match, into the box it goes. In theory there will be a day where we tackle this monster. Unfortunately, like most challenges we put off facing in life, the longer you put it off, the larger it grows.

Sunday I decided it was time to tackle it. After getting 100% of the laundry done, scouring the girls’ bedrooms for any strays that were tucked under dressers, lost in a corner, etc. I was confident I had 99% of the socks I would ever find ready to be matched. Then I went to battle.

By the end I had found an additional 45 matches between the five of us. Success!

And there were 91 socks left over…

What?!

First of all, how did we ever get to the point over nine years where we accumulated 91 unique socks between our entire family? Secondly, how could we possibly have lost 91 socks? Mind-boggling.

I gathered them up and finally did what I should have done a long time ago; I threw them out.

I started to think Sunday about how much less annoyance I would have experienced over the last nine years if I had been comfortable throwing away one sock a month when the pair came up missing as opposed to clinging to the lone remaining sock. Instead, every time a new sock was added to the box, I grew frustrated. I watched it grow and grow and felt like an idiot. How does this keep happening? And why am I hoarding these?

As I was lying in bed Sunday night I began to smile thinking about the fact that we tend to do that with almost everything in life as Christians.

In 2 Corinthians today, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 

Whatever struggles have existed in our lives, Jesus wants to wipe the slate clean and make us into a new creation. Whether these be self inflicted challenges and sin issues that we struggle with, or circumstances that occurred in our lives that we had no control over, Jesus wants to give us freedom. He wants to release us from the bondage. He wants us to walk out of that prison cell into freedom. He wants us to truly be a new creation and not just pay lip service to that notion. He wants us to genuinely turn these things over to him.

So much easier said than done, but worth fighting for!

I know that I personally find it hard to find that perfect balance in life when it comes to processing the things that have happened, considering why I am wired the way I am, and digging into these issues to understand myself better; and letting certain things go so that I can really embrace that the old is has gone and the new is here.

I think there is a healthy balance that can be struck.

I wish over the last nine years our sock box had a one-week limit. Throw it in the box temporarily and if the missing sock turns up over the next week as we do the rest of the laundry, great! If not, throw it out. Don’t be a slave to the thought that, “Maybe one day, the partner will return!”

I think the same general principle applies to giving things over to Christ. I believe it is critical to really process events that have happened in our lives, ask God to show us what lies we believe because of these events, what negative thought patterns arose because of them, and what habits we have formed as a result that keep us from living full lives with him. However, there are times where I think I have processed these things to death and it is just time to give it over to God and let it go.

It is time to throw out the socks. It is time to believe Jesus and trust that we really are capable of being a new creation. We don’t need to remain in bondage. We don’t need to fall into the same old habit pattern. There is freedom. The prison cell door is standing wide open. We really do have the ability to just walk out at any time if we choose to fully submit to him.

Again, easier said than done. However, I believe that one of the weapons of the enemy is telling you to hoard the socks. “Don’t let go of that event just yet. Don’t fully forgive that person for what they did. Don’t fully release yourself from the guilt and shame you feel over that decision you made and trust that the blood of Christ is enough to cover it. Plus, do you really believe you are a new creation? Save the socks. There might be a day where the other one shows up. Just tuck them away where you won’t see them all of the time.”

Unfortunately, when we refuse to turn things over to God, every time we lose another sock, we once again find ourselves confronting the entire box all over again. Every negative emotion, self destructive pattern, forgiveness we have been refusing to give, guilt, shame, frustration, anxiety, etc. comes flooding back immediately. They were just sitting there waiting in the closet waiting to remind us that, “we really aren’t a new creation”. They are sitting there telling us that we will never be enough.

Throw out the socks.

Jesus paid it all and freedom is waiting there.

If you have one more load of laundry to do in your life and you really need to dig into some issues that you have refused to deal with for the longest time, do the load. Don’t be afraid of what might come out of it. Get with a trusted friend, a counselor, a pastor, etc. and dig in. Let’s find whatever matches we can so that healing can take place and we can accept the free gift that Christ has given to us.

Then throw it away. Stop letting whatever it is control your life. You really are a new creation! Freedom has been waiting there all along. We just need to stop believing the lies that we still have a little more to fix in our lives before we can fully experience it.

Thought to ponder

What socks have I been hoarding? What laundry is there to still do in my life so that I can find some matches and then let it go?

“All of this is for your benefit”

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 25-26, 2 Corinthians 4, Psalm 53

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:8-18

There is power in our adversity.

Paul went through amazing hardships while sharing the gospel and yet his faith was never shaken. In fact he said to the Corinthians, “all this is for your benefit.” Paul knew the impact of fixing his eyes on the eternal was not just the power to survive these trials, but that it also had a massive impact on those who were in his sphere of influence as well.

When we see other people going through trials that we feel might cripple us, and yet they remain spirit filled, Christ focused, and optimistic throughout; we cannot help but stop and say, “I want whatever they have!”

“All of this is for your benefit.”

I am incredibly thankful to have seen this modeled throughout my life on so many occasions by some truly amazing individuals. The most impactful of these have been my father and mother. They did a fantastic job of modeling this mindset in general throughout our lives, but one particular story stands out above the rest for me.

Several years ago my Dad was diagnosed with brain cancer. His faith and optimistic attitude that God would see him through it never wavered. He went into brain surgery with a smile and his same fun loving attitude. When he had a hard time speaking clearly and one side of his face could barely move because of the surgery for the next several months, his smile stayed firm. When his two-year-old granddaughter that used to run full speed towards her grandfather whenever she saw him now approached nervously because Grandpa looked different, his attitude didn’t falter. He was focused on the eternal.

So was my mom. She was an absolute rock of support. At the time she was probably just trying to survive the emotions of this event. At the time, neither of them may have realized, or perhaps they did, but the example they set had power.

“All of this is for your benefit.”

My Dad has been cancer free for several years now, his speech is 100% recovered, the movement in his face is completely back to normal, and he is still the same fun loving father and grandfather he was prior to this encounter. The challenges have faded over time. The example he set, however, has not faded. The example he set will last a lifetime for me.

Three years later my wife and I needed that example when my daughter Sophie was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood cancer at two months old. We needed to be able to look back at the optimism of my parents and their belief that God was ultimately in control. We needed to pull from what we saw modeled for us and fix our eyes on the eternal and remember what Paul said, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Like Paul’s trials, my Dad’s cancer had the ability to bring others to Christ as well as deepen the strength of conviction of folks who already professed faith in Jesus. His faith had power. Not only for himself, but also for others.

So did Sophie’s cancer.

So does your sickness.

So does your messy divorce.

So does your accident.

So does your time spent in jail.

So does your loss of a job.

Our relentless optimism in the face of adversity has the ability to point others to a father in heaven that is faithful. It has the ability to help others remember that these troubles truly are momentary, but our faith is eternal.

This can be so challenging. I am not trying to say that this type of faith Paul speaks of is easy, but all things are possible through Christ. And if you are struggling to grapple with the challenges you find yourself in currently, remember that this is the true value of community. Reach out to others in your church family who may have experienced something similar. If you don’t know any, ask your pastor or other Christian friends.

Sometimes before we can be the models for others, we need to see relentless faith modeled for us. There is no shame in this. Though we already know that the ultimate war has been won, the battle still rages.

There will be days where we do a better job of keeping our eyes fixed firmly on him, and on those days we will provide a powerful example for others. And there will be some days where we need to desperately look around for the “Paul” in our lives that is facing challenges with bravery from who we can borrow strength.

That is the power of community.

Some days we are Paul and some days we are the church at Corinth. This is a journey. None of us are capable of having our eyes perfectly fixed on Christ. If we were capable of perfection in our own strength, Jesus would not have had to come in the first place. However, when we live authentically with others, in our moments of strength and in our moments of weakness, there is power.

“All of this is for your benefit.”

Thought to ponder

Are there areas in my life where I have faced challenges that I could share more openly with others so that they might draw strength from my example? Are there any challenges in my life currently where I need to find a “Paul” to be a battle partner for me that can help me refocused my eyes on the eternal?

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