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Born and Born-Again

When my wife and I were having our first child, we determined that it was pretty important to make sure that she and our daughter were provided for if I were to die unexpectedly, so we researched the options and I took out my first life insurance policy. I set it to withdraw the monthly premiums automatically from my bank account and don’t think about it any more. The only time I thought about it was when I changed my bank account and received a letter from the company to make sure the premiums continued to get paid. I am concerned that this is a similar story to how many experience “praying to receive Jesus.”

We saw yesterday that the word “believe” is the central instruction on being “saved” from our condition of separation from our eternal creator. So, what is it to “believe”? It seems that in our times it is mostly understood as “think the right thoughts” or “know the right information” or “agree with a set of expressed truths”. But this is not what it is primarily about. “Believe” in the Bible comes from the verb form of the word for “faith”, but our English language doesn’t have a verb form of faith. To believe something is faithing. Active faith is belief. Certainly one must know something about the specific truth to believe it, but it is not merely knowing something, it is acting on our knowing. These actions can be big or small, but it is active.

The most concise chapter in the Bible about faith is Hebrews 11. Read how it begins: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the people…” and the whole chapter goes on to list action after action of people believing.

It is the orientation of one’s life and actions around the person of Jesus, his death and resurrection, and forgiveness of our sins. By the way, I think this is why baptism is mentioned so many times (though not always) with “believe”, it is active faith, a public proclamation. In an excellent, and exhaustive work on faith, Paul Tillich expresses this even more emphatically:

“Faith as ultimate concern is an act of the total personality. It happens in the center of the personal life and includes all its elements. Faith is the most centered act of the human mind. It is not a movement of a special section or a special function of man’s total being. They all are united in the act of faith. But faith is not the sum total of their impacts. It transcends every special impact as well as the totality of them and it has itself a decisive impact on each of them.” (Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith, 1957 ; p4-5)

Secondly, the Bible doesn’t instruct us to just say a prayer to receive Jesus and we are done. I have been wondering if people walk away from Christianity because they did the prayer thing and it has no further impact on their life. Like a life insurance policy, just make sure the premium gets taken out of the “bank” once a week by going to church (or at least twice a month). To be fair, I admit that this isn’t the teaching of most churches, but it has become too familiar in the action (belief) of peoples’ lives in American Christianity.

Furthermore, I am even more concerned about this in Christian believers’ households because the angst of many parents until their child “prays to receive Christ”, after which they stop the continual teaching, mentoring, and encouraging their child because “now they are ‘IN’ for eternity”. I celebrate BIG TIME when a child expresses faith in Christ, in fact one of my nieces took that step on Christmas Eve! But let’s treat re-birth (born-again concept from John 3.16) in the same way we treat birth. Could you image, parents give birth to their baby and then just let life happen, because now their born? Life wouldn’t “happen” very long and these parents would be in jail shortly after the baby’s life ends. After birth, we nurture new life, we continue this in such a way until they are able to live independently. This is a strong burden of mine after 18 years of working with teenagers, many of whom give a testimony of praying to receive Christ at a young age and yet are no different than their peers who have never had such an experience. Believers, we must disciple our children in a continual conversion process and a series of commitments at various life stages and crises.

It is reported that one of the greatest influencers of converts in recent history, Billy Graham, said, “Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ” (multiple internet sites attribute this saying to Graham, but I was unable to find any source citation) It is important to emphasize both an instantaneous conversion (although many times imperceptible) as well as an ongoing transformation.

Tomorrow I will bring this series to a close with an additional part of this point and a then bring it back around to where I started 9 days ago.





Addie_Fall_2008Fall is just around the corner and with that season come winds of change.  An exciting time, yet for many a time that represents the dying of the summer, and a movement into the dormancy of winter.  Each season brings profound change (especially living in the Northern part of the country) but each change of the season that is seen on the outside of creation is as a result of what is going on on the inside.  Leaves will chage colors as the tree internally prepares for winter.

In the Bible, God challenges us with these words through the writer Paul:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12.2)

Conformation or Transformation are both something that happens TO us.  Something that we can choose, but can’t completely direct.  Something that we can seek after, but can’t control exactly how either happens.  We can actively resist one, which ultimately leads us toward the path of the other.  Returning to the thoughts of the season’s change…a tree could resist the Fall transformation (if it could) but soon it would find itself conforming to the death that the climate that the winter freeze will bring.

I want to choose the path of transformation in my life!  This is the more difficult path immediately…it is so much easier to stay in what I know, in what is comfortable, in what is the norm that I see around me.  But in the end the more difficult path is truly the path of conformity as it leaves us barren, lifeless, stripped of true fulfillment of the deep desires God has put in us.

“…this is fundamentally what spiritual transformation is all about: choosing a way of life that opens us to the presence of God in the places of our being where our truest desires and deepest longings stir.  These discoveries are available to all of us as we become more honest in naming what isn’t working so that we can craft a way of life that is more congruent with our deepest desires.” (Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms)

If you are involved in my life, in my journey through this land, please ask me how I am putting myself in places of transformation!  Sometimes you will ask me at just the right time when I am drifting into conformity and away from true inner renewal transformation.

Also, share ways that you have experienced God’s transformation in your life so that we can encourage one another to live in and embrace “what is good and acceptable, and perfect.”!

Shepherding/Coaching The Inside

“…life will present us with hundreds of opportunities in a single week to take a look at our internal world, to walk with God there, to become more fully his.  Don’t let your internal life go unshepherded.” – John Eldredge, Walking With God (p. 192)

The tendancy in our society/lifestyles is to only check the internal world when something is seriously wrong, but whatever is going on in the internal world is what drives or controls that which we do on the outside.  How I deal with my kids is a result of what’s going on inside, how I respond to the “idiot” driver at the intersection is a result of what is going on inside, what I say when I feel threatened by someone is a result of what’s going on inside, and how I plan my schedule is a result of what’s going on inside.  As Eldredge said so well, we have so many opportunities daily to do a quick or deep internal check.

I have realized that the analogy of shepherding doesn’t really help most of us, because we have never had sheep, been on a sheep farm, been to a petting zoo, or even worn wool!  BUT we have all had or been coaches…a coach seems to be the closest common analogy to a shepherd.  A coach encourages, resources, challenges, celebrates, and even gets in our faces from time to time.  A coach identifies things that we need to do differently as well as put us in positions to let our strengths shine and be used for the greater good.

Are you coaching your inner life on a daily/weekly basis?  I am so thankful for friends of mine who help me coach my inner world, who push me to make the hard decisions and celebrate the strengths God has put in me.  Let me encourage you to not let your inner life go UNCOACHED so that you are more fully his, for the greater good!

InsideOut People

I have begun to be a contributor on a collaborative blog seeking to encourage conversation and life change in being authentic followers of Christ who are making a difference in their immediate community and the global community. I want to encourage you to go there and check out what the other contributors have to say, it is challenging on all levels.

We were asked to each give a perspective on what it means to be an inside out person. I want to share my posts here as well as encourage you to go there to read others.

“Full of It”

What are you filled with? What am I filled with?

At first that seems like a difficult or weird question to answer. But if I ask someone else to describe you or me, they are probably going to use some words that begin or end in “full”! And honestly on different days I might be described in different words…one day I may be described as “joyful” but another, “spiteful”, or “full of love”, or “playful”, or acting in “hurtful” ways, etc.

We describe each other like this because we see the things coming out of a person as what describes the stuff that is on the INSIDE. What’s on the inside COMES OUT, one way or another. We can pretend for awhile (and we all have done it), but the stuff in there will spill out. So what’s in there??

“…Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” -Colossians 1.27b-29

So the biggest concerns for me are…

first, is Christ in me and is he my hope?

second, is HIS energy working powerfully within me?

and third, HOW am I working and struggling with his energy spilling out of me to others?

If Christ is in me people should be able to call me “Christful”. Certainly it is less complex to say that someone is “joyful” rather than “Christful”. But the more you and I get to know the Christ of the story (the living Christ understood through the Scriptures), the more we become like his character, his thoughts, his heart, his everything! Are people seeing you and I spilling over with Jesus and describing us as full of Him? Are we living out the life of Jesus in other lives, with those who are hurting and those who are rejoicing?

This describes the basis for my understanding of being an Inside Out Person and describes my mission, my purpose, and my cause for my life and all the relationships in my life. I need others in my life to challenge me and encourage me to be living this way! So join us as we go through the ups and the downs of seeking to be Full of it!

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