Tagged discipleship

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unpack your bags

[cross-posted to www.stepforwardtoday.com]

As part of my fun and curious quest to read the Bible chronologically, I recently read through the book of Leviticus. Quite honestly, I slogged through the book of Leviticus. The entire book is about all of the rules, sacrifices and procedures required to be clean before God — or make atonement for sin — and it completely sets the stage for the time when God would send Jesus to be the ultimate sacrifice for all sins, putting an end to the Levitical system.

I’m a very visual person, so as I was reading, all of these unwanted pictures about what was happening were running through my mind. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be the priest, and I thought about how fearful and dejected the people must have been: “Is this animal an acceptable sacrifice for my sin? Did I follow the right number of days or the right type of sacrifice to be purified?” Can you imagine the burden of living like that every single day?

Many times I asked myself, “Why am I reading this book?” because I was pretty certain God would be cool with me just skipping it. “God, I know you had a plan here, but really? Like this is what you came up with?” However, I knew if I kept reading, there was going to be some little gem in there that God was going to speak to me through. By the time I got to chapter 26, I was beginning to doubt that this gem existed in Leviticus, but then, there it was in verses 12 and 13:

“I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.”

What a great illustration of what God is doing in our lives TODAY. Maybe your response looks like mine: “Yes God! YOU walk with me daily. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit and by the grace and mercy shown me through Jesus Christ, I am no longer a slave to sin or any part of my past. Because YOU have broken the chains of my bondage, I am new…transformed before You.”

I encourage you to be fully free in Jesus Christ. And if you have a personal relationship with Christ but you’re hanging onto some stuff, I encourage you to take the baggage of your past hurts, disappointments, stress, lack of confidence, negative feelings, and root causes of your addictions and hand it all over to God. You can stand tall with your head held high (Lev. 26:13), knowing “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2).

Let me know how I can help you on your journey of being continually transformed. We’re in this together!

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unraveling = freedom

[cross-posted to www.stepforwardtoday.com]

The song starts, “You unravel me with a melody…”

While singing those words during worship last month, the word “unraveled” stuck with me. Various images came to my mind like when a hanging thread gets pulled and an entire seam comes apart, or when soft threads start to separate and create a hole in a favorite sweater. But we sang, “YOU unravel me” — YOU, God, unravel me. My trusty Google search produced this definition:

Isn’t that interesting? Let’s look at the first part of the definition: “undo” or “untangle.” The idea of unraveling is much more acceptable when we’re talking about fabric. We, as people, usually try to appear “put together” – not “undone” or coming apart in any form. But something beautiful happens in the purposeful unraveling of ourselves: like threads separating, unraveling creates space.

Loosening up the threads of our lives like our tightly wound personas, our impossibly busy schedules, our death grip on the things and people that are important to us, and our sin entanglements provides space for us to breathe…reflect…become free…and trust in God and experience Him more fully.

The second part of the definition reads “investigate, solve, explain, unscramble.” The action of unraveling ourselves and walking more purposefully with God draws us closer to Him. As we dive in deeper, He draws us closer and we achieve a greater understanding of His mystery, love, power and holiness.

So, how do we become unraveled? What does that look like? Here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Examine your schedule. Is every activity necessary? Why? What can you delete?
  • Examine your lifestyle. What is important to you? Who are you trying to impress? Why?
  • Examine your secrets. Are you willing to give them up? God already knows about the hidden sin areas of your life and loves you outrageously. Talk to God and reach out to a pastor for help.
  • What other areas can you look at?

Unraveling = freedom. Like threads separating, we too can create space in our lives to more fully experience God and share the outrageous love of Jesus with everyone around us.

Unravel with me!

did God make you a musketeer?

Last fall, I did the unthinkable: I became a binge-TV-watching couch potato, diving into all three seasons of the BBC adaptation of “The Musketeers” – and my newfound habit was supported by an entire global community of Twitter peeps hashtagging the same series. I was not looking for “God moments.” My only aim was to satisfy my curiosity about the love story between Musketeer Aramis and Queen Anne — and I did, and experienced all the brilliantly crafted stories, characters, action, costumes, and chivalry. It was a fantastic cinematic work, and surprisingly, peppered with quite a few “God moments” (just like God to show up when you least expect Him!).

I want to share with you one small moment in episode 1 of Season 3, so spiritually monumental that I couldn’t let it go — in fact, I rewound it multiple times because I was so awestruck by what was happening. [SPOILER ALERT!]

By the opening of the third season, Musketeer Aramis had been serving as a monk for four years, living up to the vow he made to God at the end of Season 2 that he would dedicate his life to God’s service for saving the Queen, and himself, from death for their treasonous affair. When the monastery comes under attack, Aramis is unexpectedly reunited with his Musketeer brothers —and reconnected with his purpose. After the monastery is secured, we find Aramis standing in the upper balcony of the chapel, talking to God, considering his future. He says:

“I thought I understood Your plan. Now You seem to be showing me another path. In the middle of all the danger and excitement today, You were closer to me than at any time in all my years here. I’ve never felt so… ALIVE. This is what You made me… [smiles in revelation]… a Musketeer.”

Stop! Was this character just standing there having a conversation out loud with the invisible God? And was he just in the middle of seeking and understanding God’s purpose for his life?

I love this scene because it points out very simply and beautifully how we can talk with God and how we can hear from God. I also appreciate this complex and imperfect character mirroring our own devotion to God, our own struggle with sin, and yet persevering to constantly seek God’s will. Let’s explore that for a second.

Aramis had been a conflicted character throughout the series. On one side he was a man of faith completely devoted to God, often seen praying or reading his Bible, and even his uniform reflected his minister status. He was loyal to the King’s service and his fellow Musketeers. He was merciful in battle and showed great compassion to the disenfranchised in need of justice, and even the criminals brought to justice by the Musketeer’s hand. And yet, on the other side, Aramis was drawn into forbidden romantic relationships, with Queen Anne being the most consequential and life-altering.

Conflicted, complex, imperfect Aramis represents Everyman (let’s just say Everychristian) because we, as Christians saved by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, are all imperfect, complex and often conflicted. Any one of us could complete this description:

[INSERT YOUR NAME _____________] is completely devoted to God, often seen praying or reading the Bible, loyal to friends and family, a fantastic employee, etc. and yet, drawn to [INSERT SIN STRUGGLE____________].

We can be shocked, dismayed, or judgmental about the choices made by Aramis, but if we’re honest, we are all struggling with vices, choices, and addictions that we need God’s help to overcome, whether in thought or action — and those struggles can be a stark contrast to our love for God.

Here are some points we can take away from Aramis’ prayer:

  • Prayer is just a conversation with God. Prayer takes on different methods and forms. I’m not an expert, but the big idea is to communicate with God daily. Whether you bow your head in a private place, speak out loud while you’re washing dishes, or end up on the floor in brokenness, God wants to hear from you. “The Lord is near to all who call on him…” (Psalm 145:18)
  • God has a mission for YOU. Since this is not 16th century Paris, God is probably not calling you to be a Musketeer, but whether it’s a nurse, doctor, architect, social worker, police officer, teacher, software engineer, janitor, chef, actor, or a million other roles, God’s mission for you is important, and it will encompass the skills and abilities that he has been preparing you to use. Much like Aramis rediscovered the joy and passion in serving God as the Musketeer he was equipped to be, God will equip you for what He’s calling you to do, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
  • You don’t have to be involved in ministry or be “spiritual” to be closer to God. Every day is an opportunity to nurture and deepen your relationship with God by spending time with Him, relying on Him, reading His Word and listening for His voice. If you can take a retreat week/weekend to spend extra focused time with Him, you may be surprised at how and what He speaks to you, but the most important part is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)
  • God’s calling for you can fulfill your deepest passions. It’s not God’s desire for you to sleep-walk through life. He created each of us with passions and abilities. Similar to Aramis realizing the point at which he felt most “alive” was relying on God in his role as a Musketeer, the place where your passions and abilities intersect with God’s plan for you (and meet the needs of His people!) is an unparalleled “sweet spot” that will allow you to experience God in a deeper, more passionate way. “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11)
  • God’s mission for you can change. God has a plan for you in all seasons of life. As Aramis said, “I thought I understood Your plan. Now you seem to be showing me another path…” God will show you His plans “when you seek Him with all of your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13), whether you seek him in the upper balcony of the monastery, the shower, or the middle of your living room floor.

If this article is sparking questions in your mind like “How can I hear the voice of God?” “How can I know what God is calling me to do?” “How do I know what I’m equipped for?” I invite you to begin a conversation with your pastor or ministry leader. None of us involved in ministry have it all together — it’s just our passion to come alongside you and help you discover God’s work in your own life.

Join me on the journey!