"To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Colossians 1:27. NIV
Blackaby: Discipleship is Christ in You
My friend Cindy and I think of living missionally as being Jesus with skin on. The word "missional" is overused and misunderstood. Henry Blackaby, in his Experiencing God Day-by-Day devotional on January 19, writes what it means to live this way. He states, "Discipleship is Christ in You." (I love Blackaby's devotional. He writes simultaneously concise, deep and simple. As an author, I consider communicating deep truths clearly in three paragraphs an admirable feat. Blackaby delivers daily...)
Letting Jesus Live and Love Through Me
God has chosen to place His Son, Jesus, in every believer. Jesus' life becomes our life. Discipleship, according to Blackaby, is "learning to give Jesus Christ total access to your life so He will live His life through you." It's the essence of missional living...Christ in us and through us.
Blackaby concludes: "God wants to reveal Himself to those around you by working mightily through you. He wants your family to see Christ in you each day. God wants to express His love through your life. There is a great difference between 'living the Christian life' and allowing Christ to live His life through you."
It's a life long challenge to learn to let Jesus be in charge of our lives and fully live through us. People don't need us to be nicer. They don't need more of us. We cannot bring people to a saving relationship with Jesus. Only the Holy Spirit can and he often does that through Jesus' life in us. Only when we live our life stories with Jesus at the helm, will we demonstrate Jesus' love and power. Only when Jesus lives in us can we be missional—Jesus with skin on.
Are we allowing Christ to live his life through us today? What would that look like in our specific context? What are the implications for our thoughts, words and actions?
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds." James 1:2, NIV
In May 2013, I started a discussion group based on my book, The Story Lives. Six women gathered at Lucky Jack's Latte and we quickly decided not to plow through the material in eight weeks but take our time. We're still getting together weekly.
It's been a transformational experience for all of us. The book served as the platform to discuss our life stories and discover God's plans for our lives—together. By telling and exploring our stories we developed deep, transparent and life-long friendships. We've laughed, cried, and challenged each other through really hard trials, including: chronic pain, severe financial distress, serious illness, relational issues, and parenting drug-addicted children. (We're not the fluffy variety.) Based on our circumstances sad faces might be expected but you won't find any. When you see us you'd think we have it all! And we do...
We all have joy! Not just happiness or run-of-the-mill joy. We're discovering true, unending joy. It started blossoming when Lynn helped me through a challenging situation with a person I don't like. Lynn shared about a similar situation in her life and how God showed her to give thanks for everything, including a difficult person.
She shared this Bible verse with us:
"The joy of the Lord is your strength," Neh. 8:10.
With Lynn's encouragement, I started practicing giving thanks. It works! Since then joy has been an ongoing focus and we're all practicing giving thanks. Joy has been the inevitable result as we spur each other and encourage each other. We've all increased in joy.
It's changed us. Can you imagine having true joy while your child is a drug addict, or your loved-one is facing an uncurable disease, or you suffer chronic pain? Only God can make that happen! And he's doing it. It's available to all of us. It's a fruit that flows from his Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
God taught us to embrace trials and experience pure joy.
Every New Year's Day, I like to start off by spending time with God and writing in a new, blank journal. As part of my ritual, I record the year's non-negotiables:
Follow God absolutely and obey him
Trust Jesus fully—love and obey him
Practice the Holy Spirit's Presence and be filled with him, living under his control
Wait for the Lord in all things
Worship, praise and love God
Be strong and courageous
Rejoice in the Lord always
A word from God
As soon as I asked God, "Lord, please give me a word for the year... ", hope popped into my mind. At first I thought it meant to have hope in the midst of circumstances, or hope for the year. I wondered, "Why this word for 2014?" Today's Spirit 105.3 verse of the day was: Psalm 31:24, "Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD."
Why hope? God is inviting me to focus on him: God is my hope and my hope needs to be in him.
Verse for the year
I also asked for a verse for the year. This didn't come instantly. As I waited quietly, Psalm 91:1 came to mind. So I looked it up:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1, ESV
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1, NLT
I've been thinking about this verse every day. When things start to get stressful, I say this verse to myself, reminding me I can rest in God's shadow. He is the Most High, the Almighty. Nothing is too hard for him or beyond him. I imagine his shadow is HUGE! So I can just relax, exhale, lower my shoulders, and lean back into his care. He's got it and he's got me! I've been doing a lot of "resting" already but it works!!!
I choose hope in God and staying close to him so he can act on my behalf and I can rest. It's going to be a good year because God made it and he is good!
Image sources: * Non-negotiable from http://www.warrenbaptist.org/non-negotiable/ * Hope from http://ilifejourney.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/hope-in-focus.jpg