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Authentic Christianity

By |2021-07-21T09:06:02-04:00July 21st, 2021|

I applied for a position in a Christian organization years ago and was presented with a list of legalistic rules having to do with the use of alcohol, tobacco, and certain forms of entertainment. “We expect Christian behavior from our employees” was the explanation. I could agree with this list because I, for reasons mostly unrelated to my faith, didn't do those things. But my argumentative side thought, Why don’t they have a list about not being arrogant, insensitive, harsh, spiritually indifferent, and critical? None of these were addressed.

Following Jesus can’t be defined by a list of rules. It’s a subtle quality of life that’s difficult to quantify but can best be described as “beautiful.”

The Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3–10 sum up that beauty: Those who are indwelt by and dependent on the Spirit of Jesus are humble and self-effacing. They’re deeply touched by the suffering of others. They’re gentle and kind. They long for goodness in themselves and in others. They’re merciful to those who struggle and fail. They’re single-minded in their love for Jesus. They’re peaceful and leave behind a legacy of peace. They’re kind to those who misuse them, returning good for evil. And they’re blessed, a word that means “happy” in the deepest sense.

This kind of life attracts the attention of others and belongs to those who come to Jesus and ask Him for it.

The Tree Whisperer

By |2020-11-03T08:06:03-05:00November 3rd, 2020|

Some call him the “tree whisperer.” Tony Rinaudo is, in fact, World Vision Australia’s tree maker. He’s a missionary and agronomist engaged in a 30-year effort to share Jesus by combating deforestation across Africa’s Sahel, south of the Sahara.

Realizing stunted “shrubs” were actually dormant trees, Rinaudo started pruning, tending, and watering them. His work inspired hundreds of thousands of farmers to save their failing farms by restoring nearby forests, reversing soil erosion. Farmers in Niger, for example, have doubled their crops and their income, providing food for an additional 2.5 million people per year.

In John 15, Jesus the creator of agriculture, referred to similar farming tactics when He said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in my that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” (vv. 1–2).

Without the daily tending of God, our souls grow barren and dry. When we delight in the law of the Lord, however, meditating on it day and night, we are “like a tree planted by streams of water” (Psalm 1:3). Our leaves will “not wither” and “whatever [we] do will prosper” (v. 3). Pruned and planted in Him, we’re evergreen—revived and thriving.

How to Reflect Christ

By |2020-10-05T09:44:50-04:00October 1st, 2020|

Thérèse of Lisieux was a joyful and carefree child—until her mother died when she was just four years old. She became timid and easily agitated. But many years later on Christmas Eve, all of that changed. After celebrating the birth of Jesus with her church community, she experienced God releasing her from her fear and giving her joy. She attributed the change to the power of God leaving heaven and becoming a man, Jesus, and through His dwelling in her.

What does it mean for Christ to dwell within us? It’s a mystery, said Paul to the Colossian church. It’s one that God “kept hidden for ages and generations” (Colossians 1:26), but which He disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God revealed “the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (v. 27). Because Christ now dwelled in the Colossians, they experienced the joy of new life. No longer were they enslaved to the old self of sin.

If we’ve asked Jesus to be our Savior, we too live out this mystery of His dwelling in us. Through His Spirit, He can release us from fear, as He did Thérèse, and grow within us the fruit of His Spirit, such as joy, peace, and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23).

As we celebrate His birth, let’s give thanks for the wonderful mystery of Christ within us.

Fruit Juice

By |2020-03-27T16:28:00-04:00March 29th, 2020|

A thrift-store bargain, the lamp seemed perfect for my home office—the right color, size, and price. Back at home, however, when I plugged in the cord, nothing happened. No light. No power. No juice. No problem, my husband assured me. “I can fix that. Easy.” As he took the lamp apart, he saw the trouble immediately. The plug wasn’t connected to anything. Without wiring to a source of power, the “perfect” pretty lamp was useless...

Playing with Joy

By |2019-06-20T12:08:17-04:00June 24th, 2019|

One of our sons, Brian, is a high school basketball coach. One year, as his team was dribbling its way through the Washington State Basketball Tournament, well-meaning folks around town asked, “Are you going to win it all this year?” Both players and coaches felt the pressure, so Brian adopted a motto: “Play with joy!” I thought of the apostle Paul’s last words to the elders of Ephesus: “That I may finish my race with joy” (Acts 20:24 NKJV)...

Gentleness

By |2017-11-30T14:30:30-05:00December 17th, 2017|

The troubles of life can make us cranky and out of sorts, but we should never excuse these bouts of bad behavior, for they can wither the hearts of those we love and spread misery all around us. We have not fulfilled our duty to others until we have learned to be pleasant...

Clothes for the Climate

By |2017-09-27T08:40:12-04:00September 27th, 2017|

While removing the price tag from an item of winter clothing I had purchased, I smiled at these words on the back: “WARNING: This innovative product will make you want to go outdoors and stay there.”  When properly clothed for the climate, a person can survive and even thrive in harsh and changing weather conditions. The same principle is true in our spiritual lives. As followers of Jesus, our all-weather spiritual wardrobe has been prescribed by the Lord in His Word, the Bible. “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. . . . Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:12–13).

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