I got memed!


Or at least I think I got memed. Something I said got put on a picture and posted on the world wide web! I think that is a meme. I know I should not care. I know. I know. I know pastors are to have no ego whatsoever. I know I should not care about my quotes being status updates and tweeted and retweeted. I know.

But, I got memed! Ego aside, meaning when it is for pure purposes and not just about feeling better about myself as a man and preacher, I love seeing something I said shared. It means it hit home and helped someone. It means that the truth sunk in at such a level they thought it worth sharing with others.

Here is the meme. A day pushing with Jesus is better than any day coasting without him. This meme-worthy quote was a last minute thought describing a quote that illustrated a point I was making. No one memed the point. It did not make any status updates or tweets. It went unrepeated. And there is the point.

Faith is both personal and practical.
That was the point.

Tommy Nelson says this about romance, “Early on it was instinct to be romantic. Later it must become discipline.” Even romance is personal and practical. It has all types of feelings and emotions, but some times it is a discipline. You know when life piles up and kids push the pile. Romance is something you do practically. You plan it. You put reminders in your phone calendar to remind yourself that you went on your first date with your wife 17 years ago. Why? Because at this point I need the discipline to remember, but that does not make it not worth celebrating. I am so glad that was my last first date…even if I need an alert from my phone to remember. It is not what you thought would be meme-worthy but who cares…it was.

 Faith, love, grace, hope…these wonderful realities of life are personal and practical. They are from our deepest emotions and are at the same time our most practical decisions.

You love Jesus so you obey Jesus. Why? Jesus said so. “If you love me you will obey my commands.” It is not always uber-personal. Sometimes it is practical. You do the right thing because it is the right thing. But, at the same time it is personal. You do the right thing because you love God…who you love because he first loved you.

One such command comes in Philippians 4 when we are told to “Rejoice in the Lord always! Rejoice!” It is a command. Be Joyful! Right now. Do it! Sounds odd, but joy is a choice. It is personal and practical we choose it but we also feel it. We choose to feel it even when we do not feel like choosing it.

I want to give you some practical points to push forward toward the life God wants you to have. These practices are found in Philippians 4:4-9. These are personal and practical. So go do them. Go feel them. Do them when you feel them and when you don’t.

  1. Choose joy in Jesus.
    Joy in Jesus not from Jesus. When you want joy from someone and not in that someone you are dysfunctional. Jesus, himself, is the source of joy. Love him.
    2. Extend Grace to others.
    You cannot extend what you have not received. I have heard that food is for energy, not entertainment, but I prefer things that cause a party in my mouth. Entertainment food, however, never inspires feelings of a coming marathon but of an arriving coma. They do not provide the needed energy. Take in God’s grace and then you can give it.
    3. Pray about everything.
    Pray for general wisdom in life. Read a Proverb a day. Pray about things particularly and practically, that is how you pray personally. It might not sound romantic, but it is. I went on my first date with Wendy 17 years ago this past week. On that date I did not ask her if I had any clean underwear. I might ask her that tomorrow if I don’t see any. (Truth be told, I always have plenty because she rocks.) But I would ask her that without hesitation now. Why? Our relationship is way more personal than that, therefore, it is also particular and practical. Get real with God today in your prayers. If you need some underwear, ask.
    Little side note – this verse also says to be “anxious for nothing.” I know that verse makes some of you very anxious, but choose prayer as how you care instead of fear. Anxiety is nothing more than being afraid about what you cannot control. Prayer is better care than fear.
    4. Give thanks in everything.
    Give thanks in everything not for everything. You can be thankful in every season because you know what…you are here and so is God. Be thankful. Being thankful in a tough situation is not the same as being thankful for the situation. Thankfulness is never a fake shiny plastic people smile.
    5. Train your thinking.
    The renewing of the mind is a process. Train your thoughts. We not only have to tune into the right things we need to tune out the wrong things. Listen to truth and learn to reject the jargon this world is selling. Tuning into the right station includes turning the dial away from the wrong one.
    6. Do the good you know to do.
    Quit focusing on what you do not know and focus on what you do know. You will be amazed how much you will learn by doing what you already know. You know that relationship is sinful. Change it or end it…right now. You will be amazed what is on the other side of obedience. If we would simply do the good we know we would know more good to do, so get started.

Progress is a process we pursue from our position in Christ.

We must always remember salvation is not the destination push toward, but the foundation you push upon.  Do not confuse God’s grace for growth with God’s grace in salvation

Progress is, however, a process. When you give up on the process you give up on the progress. If you are dieting and want to quit, start weighing every day. You will give up on the progress because you are disrespecting the process.

If I want to be a better husband tomorrow than I was today, you know how I do that? I do the good I know to do today and I will be ready for more good tomorrow. It is how it works. It is personal and practical.

Life is not always romantic, but sometimes that is exactly what makes it romantic.

P.S. I got memed!

The Incredible Danger of Being Right

This week, we’re dealing with the ever-elusive goal of uprooting anger. Anger is a sneaky sin, often arising out of situations or relationships in which a legitimate wrong has occurred. Throughout my life and career I have come to term this “The Incredible Danger of Being Right.” 220px-Rage_faceThe fact that a wrong has occurred does not issue license to commit a wrong in response. Still, we see in Scripture that Jesus did respond in anger at times and that he clearly did not sin. So, is my anger sin or is it a form of righteous anger?

Robert D. Jones, in his book Uprooting Anger (P&R Publishing, 2005), has some helpful criteria to examine the righteousness of our anger. Here are some select excerpts from his book:

  1. Righteous Anger Reacts against Actual Sin

Righteous anger does not result from merely being inconvenienced or from violations of personal preference or human tradition. It responds to sin as objectively defined by God’s Word, including violations of both of our Lord’s great commandments (Matt. 22:36-40).

  1. Righteous Anger Focuses on God and His Kingdom, Rights, and Concerns, Not on Me and My Kingdom, Rights, and Concerns

Righteous anger focuses on how people offend God and his name, not me and my name. It terminates on God more than me. In other words, accurately viewing something as offensive is not enough. We must view it primarily as offending God.

  1. Righteous Anger is Accompanied by Other Godly Qualities and Expresses Itself in Godly Ways

Righteous anger remains self-controlled. It keeps its head without cursing, screaming, raging, or flying off the handle. Nor does it spiral downward into self-pity or despair…. Christ-like anger is not all-consuming and myopic but channeled to sober, earnest ends…. Rather than keeping us from carrying out God’s call, righteous anger leads to godly expressions of worship, ministry, and obedience. It shows concern for the well-being of others. It rises to the defense of oppressed people. It seeks justice for victims. It rebukes transgressors. Godly anger confronts evil and calls for repentance and restoration.

Too often, we take a personal offense against us and justify our anger by claiming some “righteous anger clause”. Jesus never responded in anger to criticisms or attacks against him. However, when the offense was against God the Father or the Kingdom that God is bringing, Jesus demonstrated anger (Mark 3:1-6; 10:13-16; John 2:13-17). Even in those times, though, Jesus’ anger was purposeful, controlled, and furthered the ministry of the gospel rather than hindering it. That last sentence by Jones is powerful, “Godly anger confronts evil and calls for repentance and restoration.”

When you are confronted with sin that is atrocious and disgusting and an affront against God, how do you respond? Are your words full of hatred, pride, and arrogance? Or do you approach the sin as a forgiven sinner who knows a hidden but now revealed truth – God’s ways are the best ways and they are possible through Jesus Christ? All of anger is an outflow of the heart, so be very careful of the incredible danger of being right. And, in your anger, do not sin (Eph. 4:26).

You talkin’ to me?!? A Church-wide view of the Great Commission

In the narrow experiences of my life, Christians I know have generally understood the words of the Great Commission to mean that Jesus is speaking to all Christians. The words are most familiar from Matthew 28:18-21 (HCSB):

Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Though obedience to this command is varied, most Christians I have known believe that the command is for every Christian. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin has even said, “Some of Jesus’ last words on earth were to go; so you better ask permission if you plan to stay.” Going. Making disciples. Baptizing. Teaching. Sermon upon sermon has tread on these topics to provoke obedience and faithfulness among the brethren.

But was this command actually intended for every believer or just Jesus’ disciples? Likewise, is the call for ministers of reconciliation and ambassadors of Christ from 2 Corinthians 5 a call to all who are “in Christ” or only those apostles who are writing the letter? Wouldn’t it be great if each Christian was not actually expected to personally evangelize, but only those who have been called to such a task? (Even writing that questions seems self-evidently unfaithful for many reasons.)

As best I can tell, those passages were written about the disciples (apostles) specifically. However, I also believe that the instructions apply to all who are in Christ. The following are some reasons:

  1. A popular observation regarding the Great Commission from Mt. 28:18-21 pertains to the instruction to teach all that Jesus commanded. That instruction to teach everything would surely include the command to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach everything. Therefore, though the commission itself might have only been spoken from Jesus to the 11 disciples, the inclusion of a re-instruction command would have immediately ignited a movement of disciple-makers.
  1. Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 5:18-21 are slightly more complex. Paul speaks in the same passage of anyone who is in Christ, his reconciliation to God, his ministry of reconciliation, and his ambassadorship on behalf of Christ – who is making His appeal through Paul, “Be reconciled to God.” But Paul doesn’t say “me”. Instead he says “us”. Does the “us” mean all who are in Christ or Paul and the people with him (Timothy is specifically mentioned in the introduction to 2 Corinthians)? Paul did hold an apostolic office by the authority of Jesus Christ, who came to Paul directly and set him apart for ministry. So the question then would be: Is the work of evangelism only a duty of the apostolic office?
  • We see some insight into the purpose of the apostolic office as the original 11 disciples of Jesus set out to replace their 12th – a position vacated by Judas’ death. Look at Acts 1:21-22, Peter says:

“Therefore, from among the men who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— beginning from the baptism of John until the day He was taken up from us—from among these, it is necessary that one become a witness with us of His resurrection.”

We see evidence here of a reason for the 12 apostles – they were eye witnesses of everything that had happened from the beginning to the end of Jesus’ ministry. There were no gospel books already written. Testimony of one or two would be discarded as biased or manipulated. But out of 120 people still gathered, the remaining 11 apostles were able to identify 2 who had been through everything with them. They chose Matthias to replace Judas as a witness. An apostle was a credible witness to the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ along with His teachings.

  •  Where the apostles the only ones who were spreading the gospel?

No. The account of the founding of the church at Antioch shows the extent to which anyone who was going out into the nations was also likely evangelizing. Look at the account from Acts 11:19-22:

Those who had been scattered as a result of the persecution that started because of Stephen made their way as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the message to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, Cypriot and Cyrenian men, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Hellenists, proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. Then the report about them was heard by the church that was at Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to travel as far as Antioch.

Who started the church among the gentiles? Barnabas? Paul? Nope, some Cypriot and Cyrenian men – not significant enough to be mentioned by name. Were they officially apostles? There is no indication that they were. Were they doing the work of an apostle by bringing credible witness to those who had never heard? Definitely. It’s as if at some point they were commanded to go, make disciples, baptize and teach.

  • What does that mean for those who now have documented Scripture?

A portion of the apostolic ministry was diminished with the documentation of the gospel letters as well as the other letters of Scripture. But the physical availability of the reliable witness does not completely exempt apostolic work. The documentation of Scripture should serve as a catalyst for evangelistic witness, not an excuse to stop speaking. Look at 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

If these powers are available in Scripture, for what purpose should Scripture serve? See how many of these are outward focused, away from the reader of Scripture himself – teaching, rebuking, correcting. Training in righteousness may be both internal and external. In the end, if you are in Christ and you have the credible witness of Scripture, then you are equipped for every good work. What work could possibly be better that serving as a minister of reconciliation?

These are just a few of the many, many calls for those who have been reconciled by God through Christ to do the work of reconciliation of other to God through Christ. I hope that you have found the passages to be clear. I hope that any disappointment in the realization that all Christians are evangelists might be brought before God and addressed at its likely root: fear of man. I struggle with this fear mightily. But let us be complete and do the good work of reconciliation as those who have hope.

When God does not save the day

thedayDo you trust God even when he does not “save the day?” My favorite verse in the Bible is Daniel 3 when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are about to be thrown into a fiery furnace for not worshiping a false idol. They tell the king, “we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

I love this quote. These 3 young men trust God, whether he saves the day or not. Now, God, in this situation, does save the day and deliver them. However, these 3 men trusted God whatever happened. It is easy to say we trust God when he saves the day. But God does not always save the day. Ask the friends of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Ask the followers of John the Baptist.

Today I want you to consider two very different points of one story. It is the story of Jesus’ journey through Jerusalem during the week leading up to his death. On Sunday, he rides into town and the crowds worship him and cry, “Hosanna, blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.” On Friday, the crowds yell out “Crucify him, Crucify him!”

Jesus walked the Narrow Road before us. He travelled the road that is small before he invited us to follow him down it. He had to face the tough realities of life firs. We learn a great principle from Jesus in his handling of these issues. Keep Walking! On the road to Jerusalem, Jesus received what he deserved (when people praised him.) On the road to Calvary, Jesus received what we deserve (when people mocked t killed him).

God is at work in every situation. God is at work in the good, but God often does his greatest work in the bad. It is when we go through the days God does not save that he works mightily within our lives. God did not save the day for Jesus on Good Friday. Jesus was not spared the brutality and hatred. Jesus trusted the Father. He trusted him so much that the night before he prayed so hard he sweat blood and asked “If there be any other way, take this cup from me, but not my will your will be done.” He trusted God. Do not stop when it all seems right, because staying still will cause it to begin to go wrong. Do not stop when it all seems wrong, because you miss out what God will do next.

Jesus knew the truth of what he was doing. Jesus could save himself or us, but not both. The choice to die, to give up his life, was Jesus’ choice. It was a decision of love. God did not save that day because in it God redeemed all the days. Our road is much like Jesus’ in that we have to make a choice between our way and the Father’s will. We can serve Jesus or ourselves, but not both.

Who are you serving? Keep walking!

Finished Yet

This is the question I want to ask anyone involved with the construction of the highway Fellowship Church is on. Finished yet?

Finishing is often difficult.

When I was 12 years old my uncle gave me his old 10 speed bike. I really wanted it, or so I thought. The bike was rusted. It needed to be torn down, repainted, and rebuilt. I quickly disassembled it. I painted it, poorly. Then, I spent more hours than I care to remember attempting to reassemble it. I worked on it for a week or two. I got frustrated and put all the parts into a garbage bag and set it to the side. Two years later, I threw it all away.

Why? A free 10-speed bike sounded great. The price of free, however, was more than I was willing to pay. The task was, honestly, beyond my mechanical abilities and most certainly beyond my experience. I found myself unwilling to do the work necessary to accomplish such a difficult, for me, task.

Paul ends Colossians with some final words of instructions and by mentioning several people by name to encourage them or to encourage the church to trust their leadership. These instructions, if heeded wisely, will allow a follower of Christ to finish. There are some things we practice in life that help us finish. Too often followers of Christ throw the work of Christ away, like I did that bike, simply because they are tired of the unfinished reality of His work in their life.

We finish because Jesus finished. The completed work of Christ is how we continue. We live out faith in difficult and wonderful times. The ups and downs of life do not rob of us of the ability to continue because we trust upon the completed work of Christ.

Here are the finishing practices Paul shares with us in Colossians:

  1. Pray continually. Prayer sticks when we stick with it. Scripture tells us “the prayers of a righteous man availeth much.” These prayers win. We typically do not stick with prayer because of impatience and arrogance. We believe we know better than God or that we simply do not have time to wait for God to move.
  2. Watch thankfully. We are thankful for what is ahead after we are thankful for what is at hand. It is difficult to be thankful towards the Lord you are asking for provision from in the future when you are ungrateful for the provision he has given you in the present. Start with now.
  3. Walk wisely. People who walk wisely see time correctly. I am currently reading a book titled Margins. It is a good read. Here are a few quotes. “All humans have physical, relational, emotional, and financial limits that are relatively fixed.” We do not like this because we are not all created equal in all ways. I simply do not have the same physical limitations as Drew Brees. He simply wishes he could do what I am capable of. “It is God the Creator who made limits, and it is the same God who placed them within us for our protection. We exceed them at our own peril.” Knowing your limits does not mean doing nothing. Do what matters like it matters.
  4. Speak Honestly. Speak words seasoned with truth and love. This is not always easy. Some times the truth a person needs to hear is hard to give with love because it is love they do not deserve. Thank God, he “demonstrated his love for us while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
  5. Act wisely. Wise people see the importance of people more than they need to be important to people. Paul sends out his brightest and best. Most people will never do that. I have, as the pastor at Fellowship. It is HARD. It is very DIFFICULT to give away your brightest and best to continue beyond yourself the work of the Gospel because it makes the work of the Gospel where you are more difficult to do. Wise people work hard so others might fulfill their own potential in the Kingdom of God.
  6. Live graciously. God’s grace is everything. Paul mentions Mark in this passage. This is the young man he and Barnabus broke up over. He would not take this quitter on another mission trip. Now he is sending him to the church in Colossae to help build them. God’s grace is everything. It changed Mark from a quitter to a servant and Paul from a punisher into a reconciler.

Is God’s grace everything in your life? I encourage you to ask Jesus to finish his work in you and not just through or for you. Seek the Lord that he would cause you to be a matured believer who can live out such high standards because you have a Savior that already lived them out on your behalf.

Put on Your Jesus Shoes


“As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” Colossians 2:6

Shoes matter. I am a runner, or at least I try to be one. Last week on a long trail run I paid a painful price for running. Reason? I need new shoes. Shoes matter because you cannot run or walk in what you are not standing in.

Walking in Christ, as you received him, has far-reaching ramifications. Jesus Christ came to you by grace so walk with him in grace. You came to Jesus Christ through faith so walk with him by faith. Too many followers of Christ understand grace and faith the day they come to Christ, but fail to see that same foundation everyday after. As means “in the same way.” In the same you way you received Christ walk in him. Walk in grace by faith.

I love to run because it helps me feel alive. Christians are alive, the problem is that too few are choosing to live like it. When I run I feel free. My mind clears. My spirit refreshes. My body renews. Too often we, who are religious, take the experience of freedom and see it as the avenue for freedom. I must remember…I am not alive because I run. I run because I am alive.

Colossians 2 gets into deep and significant imagery to describe life in Christ. The “saints” in Colossae were being taken captive by philosophy and empty deceit. There are 3 key areas in which people are led astray from truth: Tradition, Elemental Spirits, and Things Not of Christ.

Tradition ¹ Truth. This is a clear tenet during the Protestant Reformation. Just because you have done something a certain way for a certain period of time does not make it true, good, or useful. Telling your children every Christmas to be mindful of the “naughty and nice” lists does not teach them any truth concerning Christ’s birth we celebrate. Honestly, the tradition teaches the opposite of gifts of grace. Healthy traditions remind us of the truth we are free, they do not attempt to cause freedom or feelings of freedom.

Circumcision and Baptism are discussed in this passage as imagery of life in Christ. The circumcision of Christ reminds that our sin has been cut off in and covered over by the flesh of Christ. The Old Covenant command was an intentional picture of the truth that would mark us in Christ. Baptism is not a tradition, it is truth. Baptism illustrates 3 truths. Death. Burial. Resurrection. The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ are remembered in baptism. The death of self is confessed before baptism. Burial of the old life is seen when one goes under the water and the resurrection to new life is symbolized in the coming out of the water. This commanded confession of every believer is not a Baptist tradition. It is Biblical truth.

Elemental Spirits = Everyday Realities. Christians believe in the spiritual. God “is Spirit,” yet we functionally treat spiritual realities like myths. The basic spirits of the world are real. We believe they are. We must live like we know this and remember that “greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.” Victory is ours! My family and I experienced have experienced some very real moments of these spiritual realities. Once when I was involved in leading someone to Christ out of a cult. One of my children began having dreams that were very vivid and very to the point of the teaching of this cult, which my child had never heard. We prayed. I asked others to pray. We prayed through our house one day after three nights of these vivid dreams and never again have we experienced any influence. Why? Christ won…over 2,000 years ago. Live in it.

Not of Christ = Against Christ. Our culture does not like to see black and white. Our culture loves grey. (Or hates it these days…depends on your point of view.) The problem is that as often as we take things that are black and white in the Bible (like adultery for the purposes of entertainment) and make them grey; we also take things that are grey in Scripture (like entertainment and what it can and cannot be) and make them black and white. Too often, in religious and non-religious circles, people want to make rules in areas that are honestly disputable and ignore rules in areas that are more clearly right and wrong. Stop messing with grey and live true.

Jesus told his followers that if you are not with me then you are against me. I challenge followers of Christ to simply ask this question, “Is this of Jesus?” If the answer is no, then you probably need to not do it. Another good way to think about it would be, “If Jesus were with me, would I do this?” (BTW he is with you.) If not, don’t do it. I know Jesus is a friend of sinners and was not afraid to be in the midst of those committing sin. But we must remember that He lived with a focused and expressed mission to, “to seek and to save what was lost.” If you make a decision for the sole purpose of bringing truth, grace, and love into a situation, then you will begin to distinguish black and white out of grey. Some Christians will look down on your choices (get over their unhappiness and live free). However, if you are making that same decision for your own entertainment or happiness, then you may be using Jesus’ sacrificial lifestyle to justify your grey life choices.

So, just as we received him, we walk in him. Dear Christian, you are ALIVE…now go live. Live free from sin not free to sin. You are now free to live free from that which has others in bondage.

So put on your Jesus shoes. Walk in Jesus. And live free!

This blog post is a written and shorter version of Sunday’s sermon at Fellowship. If you would like more detail about what we believe about Baptism, tradition, and life in Christ please listen to the podcast at this link. http://www.fellowshipchurch.cc/media.php?pageID=6

Well Placed Art (And the Art of Stepping)

hicks.art                                 IMG_0491

Art impresses me.  I am amazed at the talent and the creativity.  The ability of an artist to see ahead of the blank canvas to the painting is a talent I do not understand.  Every piece of art takes action, talent, and work.  Paintings do not paint themselves.

Life is not that different.  Life is full of hope and potential like a blank canvas.  People hope their life will become something greater than it is.  They hope they improve and that beauty comes out of the ugliness and chaos they experience. Yet, we also give up on that. We grow frustrated, tired, and weary of trying to paint over and smooth out the same mistakes and problems again.

These experiences can cause us to say things like, “This year will obviously be no different than the last one. I mean, it is only January 19th and I have already blown it.” Have you?

What does God want this to be THE YEAR OF for you?” Romans 12:1-2 are powerful words of challenge, encouragement, and inspiration about experiencing real change.

First, we are called to view God’s mercy.  Every pleasing sacrifice begins with God.  It is his mercy that draws us to repentance.  God initiates the action.  (He demonstrated his love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Rom. 5:8)  We are challenged to offer ourselves as living sacrifices.  Every pleasing sacrifice responds to God.  We present ourselves fully to God.  We respond to God’s action.  We are then instructed to not conform to the pattern of the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.  A sacrifice that is pleasing to God is continually given to God.  This changing, however, is not fully our work, yet we must fully participate in it.  We actively participate in a passive work.

So, if we want to change we must be about the change, yet we also must know that we cannot start it, we cannot cause it, nor can we finish it, and at the same time, accepting the truth that it will not happen if we do not participate actively in it.  So, what in the world do we do?

Live Different.  Do not conform to the world.
If you never do different, you will never be different.  The comfortable life will always be the conformed life.
Be Changed.  Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
The frustrating part of this command is that it ends with a passive verb.  Be responsible for what you cannot be responsible for…cause to happen what you cannot cause to happen.  The work of transformation is God’s activity and our active passivity.

I want to come back to art for a moment.  Imagine you are the blank canvas, what must be true of your connection with the artist for change to happen.
Live in humble relation toward God.  You must be willing for God to paint what he wills and wants.  The Holy Spirit convicts of worldly conformity and calls us out of it.  Are you willing to hear what He says or have you learned to ignore his still, small voice?
Live in available position to God.  You must be willing for God to do what he desires with the work he creates.  The Holy Spirit renews right thinking in us.  He convicts, not only of what is wrong – sin, he convicts of that which should be right – righteousness.

Then you will be able to know God’s will and how good it is, how pleasing it is, and how perfect it is.  That road might seem like one you could never walk, but here is the key.

Start with a step and don’t stop stepping.
When my children learned to walk they fell often.  Over and over again.  You know what I never did.  I never yelled at them, belittled them, or gave up on them.  Why do you think your Heavenly Father is any different?  I helped them up.  I held their hands.  I showed them how.  I set them up in close enough relationship to the table so they could make it successfully.  God is at work doing the same thing.

So you already stumbled and fell in 2015?  Good.  Now Get up.  Take hold of your Father’s out-streched hands.  Tell him, “paint what you will and do with me what you want.”  And keep on stepping.  You might feel like it is already done, but graciously, God has just begun.

(The two paintings above are by Mark Hicks and Danny Moore as they helped us illustrate humble relation and available position at our 2 campuses.  Thank you men for sharing your passion and talent with us.)