Friday, July 25, 2014

Putting On A New Wardrobe

These couple verses have been at the forefront of my mind for the past couple weeks and here's what I've been learning as I reflect on them:

1. “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved...”

I love what this says. Before anything else, God wants us to know who we are. Before we take another step, before we take action, He wants us to remember that He chose us. We are not an accident. God didn’t settle for us. He wants us. He did, He does and He always will. We are holy. When we enter a relationship with Jesus, we are made new and set apart. We are dearly loved. And God doesn’t just say it, he put His love into action through Jesus.

God already determined who you are and, more importantly, whose you are -- before you did a single thing or said a single word. Chosen. Holy. Loved. Our actions do not define us -- God does. Our actions do not form our identity, they flow from our identity. 

2. “... clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience...”

Now that God has shown us who we are in Christ, we must respond. We have to exchange our old wardrobe of habits for a new wardrobe, complete with a new set of virtues.

I don’t know about you, but patience is not my default during inconvenient circumstances (Put me on the expressway in Miami during rush hour and try me!). It’s not easy to be compassionate when a friend lets you down. It’s not easy to be kind to the cable company call center guy who refuses to meet your simple requests (like this guy).

But yet, we are called to follow Christ’s example. That requires an intentional effort from the moment we get out of bed and out the door to the moment our heads hit the pillow at night to be compassionate and patient. Kind and humble. Gentle and patient.

There is no one who showed compassion better than Jesus, who healed two blind men desperate for healing even though the crowds told them to be quiet.

There is no one who displayed kindness and gentleness like Jesus, who extended grace, forgiveness and healing to people who normally would be afterthoughts during His time.

There is no one who modeled humility better than Jesus, who washed the feet of His own disciples and submitted to to the will of the Father even in the face of excruciating pain.

There is no one more patient than Jesus, whose disciples sometimes had a hard time “getting it” when it came to what Jesus was trying to teach them.

3. “... And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

But compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience are useless without one thing: love. Love is the string that ties all of these virtues together. It also binds us together, too. Love unites us and tears down the walls that divide us.

It was because God loved us that He sent Jesus to save us. It was because He first loved us that we are able to love others. God is love.

Without love, nothing else matters and every effort to live the life we are called to live would fall apart.

What do you take away from these verses?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Start Where You Are

The screens were off. The lights were dim. Everything was quiet. Everyone was gone.

Last Sunday, I stuck around a little bit later than usual after the last service at my church let out. Sometimes, I stay behind and sit in in the back row of the empty sanctuary.

I think many times we fear silence. We try to fill up our lives with noise and busyness just to keep ourselves distracted from what we’re dealing with or going through (I know I do sometimes). But it’s in the silence where we can hear God’s voice above all else. And I really, really just wanted to hear God’s voice in that moment.

I lowered my head, closed my eyes and poured out everything I had been holding back. That’s another thing I fear -- letting it all out. Becoming vulnerable before God. Thing is, He already knows what's going on with me. He just waits for me to come to Him. And I had been holding off for too long.

I was asking why I've been feeling so stuck lately? Why I feel like I'm going nowhere? That’s when two words finally surfaced that cut to the heart of everything:

I’m scared.

I’m scared of trying and then failing. I’m scared of trying to do something new and looking stupid while doing it. I’m scared of opening up myself and getting hurt. I’m scared of what I don’t know. I'm scared to start.

I’ve gotten comfortable -- too comfortable -- and I’m scared of getting uncomfortable. But being comfortable doesn’t lead to growth. Comfortable doesn’t change lives. Comfortable doesn’t leave a mark or make an impact. I’m not content with being comfortable; it’s not the ultimate goal.

So I’m stuck in the middle, wrestling with this tension between comfort and discomfort, action and inaction.

I’ve been paralyzed by lies I’ve chosen to believe about taking action: You have to do it all now. You have to do it perfectly. You have to have every single step mapped out.

It’s easy to get intimidated by big dreams and big goals and then deciding it’s not worth pursuing them.

But I don’t have to do everything at once -- it can be done one step at a time. It doesn’t have to be perfect -- it never was supposed to be, and that’s okay. And I don’t have to know the end before I begin -- if that were always the case, I’d never start anything.

In some ways I’m still scared, but if I wait until I’m not afraid to do what I know God has called me to do, I’ll never do it. So I’ll do it while I’m still scared of what I’ll find and unsure of how it’ll end.

God is still here. He never left and He never will. He’s here with me in my fear and He’ll be with me wherever He’s taking me. That’s all the assurance I need.

Start where you are.

Start with what you have.

Start even when you’re scared.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Don't Fight Spiders With Fire

Somebody watched Arachnophobia one too many times this week.

In what I’m sure was a justified act of self-defense, a Seattle man clearly afraid of creatures with more than four limbs went to extreme measures to try and kill a spider this week. Who hasn’t?

But here’s where he went wrong: instead of using standard bug spray or a shoe, his weapon of choice in dealing with this eight-legged intruder was an explosive combination of spray paint and a lighter.

One thing led to another and the makeshift blowtorch ended up setting the house he was renting on fire and causing around $60,000 worth of damage in his attempt to defeat the spider. But even more disheartening and frightening for the citizens of Seattle, it is “unclear if the spider survived,” which means it might still be out there. (I smell a sequel in the works as the spider plots its revenge.)

I think the moral of the story is this: Irrational fear, unbridled anger and unchecked emotions can turn small nuisances into huge disasters. Think before you act, and then respond accordingly.

Oh, and don’t try to kill insects with fire. That, too. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

5 Important Things To Learn While You’re Single

In four-plus years of singleness, I’ve learned a thing or two about being single. But one particular thing I’ve learned during this time (sometimes learned the hard way), is that perspective matters.

How you view God, yourself, others, relationships and singleness itself will affect not only your relationships, but how you interact with the world. Having the right perspectives are the foundation to healthy relationships and a fruitful life.

I wasted some valuable time that I’ll never get back because I was so busy lamenting my singleness instead of leveraging it to pursue God, serve others and get to know myself. A change of perspective, however, can change everything.

Here are five perspectives I’ve learned (and in many ways still learning) during my single years:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Keep Showing Up

An old baseball coach once told me slumps are like soft beds -- easy to get into, hard to get out of.

No one is immune to slumps. Even guys like Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Ken Griffey, Jr. went through them. They go through stretches when nothing seems to be working and confidence starts to wane.  

Yeah, it’s frustrating to go through a slump. Sure, it’s hard to keep moving forward when you’re just not “feeling” it. But the only way to get out of a slump is to keep showing up at the ballpark every day. The best players still take their swings in the batting cages. They keep watching game film and working with coaches to figure out what’s going on.

It might take a couple weeks. It could take a few months. But one day, sometimes without even noticing it, the slump will come to an end.

All it takes is a commitment to just keep swinging, keep working and, most importantly, keep showing up.