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Is the Gospel Behavior Modification?

No. There are lots of great programs out there (i.e. Alcoholics Anonymous) that help you change your behavior. I don’t know many Believers who would claim that the Gospel is behavior modification. It’s not about trying to get us to just act a certain way. It’s the story about someone else, Jesus, who did everything for us so that we could become sons and daughters of God. Does our behavior change? Of course it does. When someone is born again they act different. When someone just starts “going to church” they might try to act different to fit in with the new church culture but just “going to church” will not change you on the inside. I know this stuff is fundamental. But personally, I love the basic principles of Christ. In a complex world like ours, it’s refreshing for me to meditate on simple truths like this. What we need is to have our hearts changed. We need to be awakened in our spirits. Yes, our minds need renewing but more than learning how to think “right thoughts” (which there’s nothing wrong with) we need to learn how to walk and live as new creations. The Word instructs (Col. 3:9-10) us to put off the old man and to put on the new man. I believe one of the greatest miracles of the Gospel is that we become new creations (not that we can think positive thoughts). We do not just become better versions of our old self. We don’t get an extreme heart makeover. No, we get a new heart. And that part (spirit) of us that was dead becomes...

How to Respectfully Disagree

I like to be right. So do you. I mean who really enjoys being wrong? In a world with so many of us believing we are right we are bound to have disagreements (this is especially true for people of faith). Imagine how many church splits could be avoided by simply learning how to respectfully disagree. And on a more personal level, how would learning how to respectfully disagree change your life? What if the next time you found yourself disagreeing with someone you were able to stick to your guns but also make the other person feel respected at the same time? In this article I will highlight three ways you can practice respectfully disagreeing with people. But before we do that I want to talk about why this social skill is important. If we don’t understand conflict and how to resolve it then we are a liability in our circle of influence instead of an asset. What I mean by this is that you can either be a peacemaker or someone who is constantly being offended and hurt by others. And I know it’s a cliché but it’s true – hurt people hurt people. If you want to be an asset to your spouse, family, friends, church and co-workers then I suggest practicing these three things: 1. Honor all people We know the Bible says to honor all people (1Peter 2:17) but how do we actually do this? Just like love, it’s easier to honor those who honor us. But God has called us to love and honor those who don’t deserve it. If you honor people...

What Does It Mean To Have a Hard Heart?

  “For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.” Mark 6:52 This verse grabbed my attention because of its context. We read about the disciples struggling at sea, getting scared when they see Jesus walking on the water and then jaws dropping when they realize it’s Jesus. Then all of a sudden verse 52 reads: “For they had not understood about the loaves…” When I read that I had to stop and read it again because it seemed out of place. So I have two questions: 1. What does the miracle about the loaves have to do with the storm? 2. Why were their hearts hard? Jesus said that they did not understand about the loaves because their hearts were hard. But what did they not understand? Was the feeding of the five thousand training ground for the miraculous? Was Jesus implying that they could have stood up and spoke to the storm instead of rowing in fear? I don’t know. As I read this I also feel like I don’t understand (and I even have the luxury of the written word to study). I’ve heard other preachers teach on this but I want to understand it myself. I’m concerned that too much of what I believe is only head knowledge. While I’m grateful for other people’s teachings and interpretation of scripture, I believe I must begin to learn more lessons directly from the Holy Spirit. I want a soft heart towards God as I bet you do too. But what does it mean to have a soft or a hard heart? I believe...

Cultivating our Ground, Part 3

The third type of ground in the Parable of the Sower is the thorny ground. In the last couple posts we learned about the importance of understanding the word and then how to get the word in our spirits. Now we will focus on the value of rest in our lives and how to break free from busyness. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. Mat 13:22 Out of the four types of ground this has got to be the most painful and frustrating. The word is not just snatched away quick and painlessly but instead it is slowly choked and suffocated. The pain is felt from the thorns and the frustration arises from the fact that the plant is actually growing but lacking fruit. We learn that the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches are the reasons why the thorny ground person does not bear fruit. It is no secret that most people are too busy. We know that stress and anxiety are responsible for a countess number of sicknesses and relational conflicts. Technology that was supposed to simplify our lives has become a double edged sword that has enslaved instead of freed us. Our schedules are full, are sleep is short and many people don’t even have time to think about why they are so busy – so the cycle continues. So how do we break it? You can start today by carving out just twenty minutes of “quiet...

Cultivating Our Ground, Part 2

In the last post we learned about the wayside soil and what happens when we lack understanding. Now we will look at the second type of ground, the stony ground and the importance of becoming people of substance. These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. (Mark 4:16,17) Jesus said these type of people receive the word with gladness but they are shallow people. They are not the marathon runners, they are sprinters. They get all fired up about Jesus for a while but the their lack of depth is their downfall. Something we can learn from this type of ground is the importance of becoming people of substance. After I had been saved for a year I had the blessing of being discipled by my friend’s parents. One of the first things they taught me was the importance of being a person of substance. In a nutshell a person of substance means that you have moved beyond being a shallow person and are a someone who has begun to mature spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. These are people who have a capacity for deep things – for the meat of the word. In the stony ground syndrome the person hears the word, gets really excited but because they have no substance or root in themselves, they fade away. You have probably witnessed this before, they are the sad stories we hear. It goes like...

Cultivating Our Ground, Part 1

If we do not understand the parable of the sower how do we expect to understand anything Jesus taught? That is essentially what Jesus asked the disciples in Mark 4:13. Here He tells a story about a sower (someone who seeds a field) but the focus of the story is not on the sower or the seed, instead it is on the different types of ground the seed falls on. So why is this important to us today? Because we are the ground that God’s word falls on. And if want the word of God to transform our lives we need to cultivate good ground so that it can grow and bear fruit. Let’s take a look at the four types of ground in this story and learn some practical ways to “till the ground”. The first type of ground we read about is the wayside ground. This is when someone “hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it (Mt 13:19).” We learn that when this happens Satan actually snatches away the word from our hearts. What we learn here is that understanding is a key ingredient in cultivating good ground. If the word goes in one ear and out the other then we may have just as well spent our time doing something else because it did not profit us at all. But if we can become people of understanding then Satan will not be able to steal the word from us. So how do we grow in understanding? Proverbs 4:7 says that “in all your getting, get understanding.” So understanding is something that we can...