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.)

The Forsake Challenge

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Experiencing healing and hope this year will require healthy action on our part. Each of us needs relationships that stir up faith and good works. We all need people in our lives that challenge, encourage, and exemplify Christ-following. This is only experienced through the actions of faithful participation and investment.

Growth will require some old things to die in us and will allow for new things to take root in our lives. We often hope that new things will take root in the same patch of that an old way is still rooted in. This will never work.

The Forsake Challenge is challenge to set priorities, to press in and to actively seek growth in Christ, knowing this will require forsaking things we know (and perhaps love or enjoy) for things we do not know (and, therefore, do not love or enjoy).

Here are some actions that exemplify not “forsaking the meeting together” and some ideas of what people might need to forsake to regularly and actively participate.

I will attend worship services regularly at Fellowship.
Potential Items to Forsake:
– My family will not participate in multiple travel ball teams.
– I will not pick up extra overtime on Sundays.
– If I already miss church regularly because of work schedule, I will make it a
priority on my weeks off, over sleeping in and having a family morning.
What are the things you are not forsaking that cause you to forsake the
assembling of the saints on Sundays?

I will participate in a life group regularly.
Potential Items to Forsake:
– I will not stay up on more than one television show.
– I will not choose a social club over my spiritual life.
– My children and my family will have a messy schedule one night per week.
– I forsake my ability to live a silently sinful life.
What are the things you are not forsaking that cause you to forsake the
assembling of the saints in small group?

I will serve on a church team.
Potential Items to Forsake:
– I will forsake the ability to decide to not go to church at the last minute.
– I will forsake making decisions without thought of Sunday responsibilities.
– I will forsake being served to serve.
What are the things you are not forsaking that cause you to forsake the
assembling of the saints in serving the Lord together regularly?

We must share in the crucifixion so that we might share in His resurrection. The death of self is necessary for new life in Christ. I encourage you to consider deeply and personally the things in your life that are presenting you from giving yourself fully to God. We have shared some of those possibilities about the corporate spiritual life (which every believer needs to deal with), but what do you need to forsake personally so that you might grow in Christ individually?

Are you willing to take the Forsake Challenge?

Can I really change?

change

In my last blog, I shared a quote from Brad Paisley that stated that New Year’s Day “is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” Blank pages, however, glorious they are full of hope and opportunity, are not the beginning of the story.

What does God want this to be THE YEAR OF for you?
God usually does not have the same answer to such questions that we do.

Romans 6:1-14 is a great passage. It begins with “What shall we say then? Shall we keep on sinning so that grace may increase?” Now for the majority of us, this is a wild question. I want God’s grace more, so should I sin more? The answer is an emphatic no, but the question has more weight than you might think. Romans 5 ends with where “sin abounds, grace abounds more.” More sin means more grace. The truth missed when one sees grace as something our sin increase is that grace works. Grace changes us.

Paul continues on and writes that if we are united with Jesus in his death then we are united with him in his life. People love to talk about the life Jesus gives, but less about the death of self that comes before it.

Change (healing) will not happen until we die to self. We must desire the death of old as much as we desire the life of new. We know that the old self was “crucified” so that it might be “brought to nothing.” Yet later in the chapter we are reminded to not ”let sin reign in our mortal bodies.” So the old self dies yet we must still be vigilant about it.

The death of self is both instantaneous and continuous.
We typically believe people change incrementally OR drastically.
In reality people change BOTH incrementally and drastically. The old self dies yet it is still dying. We are saved, yet we still work out (not work for) our salvation. Never begrudge incremental change. Accept and allow the dramatic and drastic change God brings through grace, but realize that the drastic change is the beginning of the journey, not the end of it.

Paul ends this passage with “sin will have no dominion over you.” What a glorious truth. Be careful, however, not to misunderstand what is being said. You do not have dominion over sin, but if you are in Christ, sin also does not have dominion over you. So who or what does have dominion? Jesus does.

Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead, “will never die again” because “death no longer has dominion over him.” “The death he died to sin he died, once for all, and the life he lives he lives to God.” Jesus has dominion over us. If Jesus has dominion over me (is Jesus the Lord of your life?) and Jesus has dominion over sin, then sin does not have dominion over me…Jesus does.

Healing (change) is not under our control. It is not a process we own. It is a process God owns. We, however, have the choice to participate actively in this work he does.

Death is necessary for new life.
Do you want to die?

I realize that is a strange question, but do you want the “old you” to die?

Here are 2 practical ways to experience the dying of the old you desire.
1. Identify your obvious offerings. (do not “offer your body to sin”)
Start with the obvious. Stop treating the symptom with spiritual Nyquil and get real.
2. Actively avoid your temptation triggers. (“Let not sin reign…”)
I need to eat better, badly. I better not go to an all- you-can-eat buffet because I am not going to the salad bar there.

Life is necessary for new death.
Do you want to live?

Here are 3 practical ways to experience the living of the new you desire.
1. Purposefully present yourself to righteousness. (present yourselves to God)
Choose to read the Word, pray, gather with believers in Bible study and worship.
2. Give yourself toward healthy drastic or dramatic change.
Go for it, in Christ. Be willing to experience quick change…just know it is not the end of the journey, but the beginning. Losing 10 pounds fast should motivate you to keep going through the slower pounds. Experiencing fresh romance in your marriage should motivate you to work through the issues that still exist. Go for it…now!
3. Be accountable with the incremental.
Get together with some other believers and be honest and real. Allow them the space in your life to hold accountable to the change you desire. You need people who love you when you fail, but call it sin and call it wrong…and love the sinner and the wrongdoer all the same.

If you desire 2015 to be the year of__________________________. First and Foremost, you must decide it is the YEAR OF the LORD, for him to do this or that.<a