Authenticity over production

I’m not a very “showy” type of Christian.

I prefer to pray in private rather than in large gatherings.

I praise Jesus but I don’t think it needs to be a big production with music and praise can be offered in many different ways.

I don’t tend to overspiritualize things in life. I believe that God is at work and He’s moving in me and all around me, but I try not to turn everything into a sign or something that needs to be taken from a spiritual perspective.

I believe that conversations are more effective than sermons and that speaking from the heart is more honest and powerful than giving a long, drawn out speech about the Bible.

This is new for me, really. It wasn’t always like this.

In the past, I saw all of these things as the measure of spiritual maturity. I had this belief that, to be truly mature in your faith, you needed to be able to show it in these ways.

One of the problems with this was that I so often felt like I was forcing it just so I could make myself FEEL spiritually mature. It never felt right to me, but I was driven by this conviction that I had to be public and showy with my expression of faith so I went along with it for a long time.

In my mind, my religious devotion – and my ministry “calling” – was demonstrated by how passionately I prayed, how well I preached, how loudly I sang, and how much I talked about my faith to others.

So what changed?

I began to understand that, while the Bible talks about a faith that is empowered and bold, it also talks about a faith that’s based on humility and genuineness.

I began to understand what an authentic faith was really about.

I became disenchanted by people who put on a good show of their faith, sounded really good, seemed really passionate, and talked much about their belief in God but whose lives and character didn’t really match what they were giving off.

I wanted something deeper than that. Something more real and authentic.

And I finally allowed myself to believe what I had always felt. That you don’t have to make a big show of your faith in order to be spiritually mature.

The book of James says this: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1:27 ESV).”

And Jesus says this in the Sermon on the Mount: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 6:1 ESV).” He then says this in verse 6: “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.”

And then there’s this. The prophet Micah gives this command in Micah 6:8: “He has told you , O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

All of these verses tell me this simple truth: authentic faith and spiritual maturity are about loving God, having a real relationship with Him, serving others, and living a godly life in this world.

That’s what God wants from us and for us.

It’s not always about how public or vocal you are or how often you demonstrate your faith. What really makes a difference is God’s people living genuinely, loving sincerely, acting like Jesus, and allowing their faith to drive every aspect of their lives.

That’s what makes us more authentic. And this authenticity is what the world needs more of right now.

Photo credit: Photo by Luis Quintero from Pexels

Sunday Devotional: Christ Who Lives In Me

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20 (ESV)

In the verses just before this one, Paul talks about the fact that no one can be justified before God by following the Law. Obedience to God’s commands – while to some a worthy endeavor – is not able to make a person righteous.

Paul was born and raised in the religion of Judaism, where it was taught that simply obeying all of God’s laws and commands and striving to be holy were enough to make a person justified and righteous and acceptable to God. And yet, Christianity taught something radically different.

The gospel taught Paul that only God could make a person justified, and that this was not a result of good works. It was a matter of faith.

Paul highlights the fact that, as a follower of Jesus, he has “died to the law” so that he might “live to God.” And how was this possible?

Because he had been “crucified with Christ.” It was no longer him who was living; it was Christ living in him that made him righteous and good.

Living by faith in the Son of God was the means to justification, the only way to be accepted by God and made right before Him.

And the same is true for us.

As Christians, this human, earthly life that we are living is not all that there is. If we have been united with Christ through believing in His death and resurrection – believing that He “loved us and gave Himself up for us” – then it’s not what we DO that matters. What truly matters is that Christ is living and working IN us to make us who God wants us to be.

Christ lives in us. Christ is perfecting us. Christ is leading us and shaping us and making us righteous before God. And that presence and work and power and perfection is ours, not because of our good works or our obedience to His commands, but because of faith.

So, because of faith and because of His love and because of His grace, we are fully accepted by God. And, out of that, we go on to obedience and good works. We strive to obey God’s commands and walk in righteousness, not because we are trying to earn something, but because His grace is fully alive in us and we have ALREADY received something.

How can you be more fully surrendered to God’s work in you this week? In what ways do you need to be reminded of God’s total acceptance and love for you? How can you live a more “crucified” life – one that is dead to sin, dead to works-based righteousness, and alive to grace?

For further study, read Galatians 2:11-21.

Walking and Living by Faith

The closer I get to Jesus, the more I understand that having clarity and following His plan for me is not always about having clear and definitive answers to my questions. Instead, it’s about faith. It’s about trusting God’s perfect plan. It’s about the confidence that, even when I don’t see the end of the path, God is actively leading my steps.

I stepped away from being a pastor a few months ago, after four years of serving in that role. It was a hard decision and one that my wife and I spent lots of time praying fervently about.

We talked to friends. We sought wise counsel. We had tons of discussions with each other, weighing the possibilities, asking each other what we were feeling and what we were hearing from God.

It took us months to finally decide to step away, and even when we did there was still a trace of uncertainty.

We still wondered if it was the best decision. We were afraid we would let people down. We wrestled with fear.

But, ultimately, here is what it came down to: we knew God was nudging us in this direction. We knew it was the right thing to do. And, while we didn’t have all the answers to our questions and there was still a little fear, we knew we had to act in faith.

What I learned through that process was that walking by faith means paying attention to the ways that God is stirring up your heart and your mind, the thoughts and desires that He is placing within you.

We’re called to walk by faith and not by sight. This means that we don’t have to have a clear understanding of how our decisions or steps will impact the next steps or how they will ultimately impact our lives down the road.

It means that we move forward with the things that we have received from God – stirrings, promptings, burdens, passions, interests – and we don’t let fear or worry or unanswered questions cause us to waver or freeze.

Right now, my wife and I are still waiting on God to reveal to us what He wants next for us as far as ministry and a church where we can serve. While we wait, we are learning to trust the process.

God’s process involves the wrestling with feelings and desires. It involves all the discussions about how we’re feeling led and the back-and-forth considerations of the different possibilities.

And in the end, if we are walking closely with Him and we are walking by faith, and we are paying attention to how He is moving within our spirits, then our steps can’t be wrong. We are going to follow His will. I know this because “He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

This is what it means to walk and live by faith.

Making Sacrifices To Achieve Our Dreams

I recently had to correct a financial mistake by making a bit of a sacrifice.

It was a necessary move based on the fact that my wife and I have begun a journey towards paying off debt and reaching financial freedom.

After not being very responsible in our early years, then having three kids and buying a house, we realized the need to take some bigger steps if we were ever going to be where we wanted to be with our money.

Continue reading “Making Sacrifices To Achieve Our Dreams”