disciple Posts

Love Letters

Love-Letters

Before Judy and I were married, we had a long distance dating relationship for a while, where Judy was in California and I was in Texas. We had to get creative, so we wrote letters – real hardcopy pen and paper letters – almost daily, and talked on the phone once a week. Even though we wrote daily letters, we didn’t always receive letters every day. Sometimes it would be three to four days between letters, and then I’d get several in one day.

No matter when I got a letter from Judy and no matter how many I received at a time, I always cherished them. I recall treating each one like a prized possession. I’d carry it from the mailbox to my apartment, put everything aside and prepare to relish every word on the pages I was about to open. The anticipation was always exhilarating.

I would take my letter opener and carefully open the top of the envelope to reveal the words on the pages that Judy had personally penned for me. I’d carefully pull the pages from the envelope and open them to reveal Judy’s heart and mind in ink – for me.

My mind and heart would race with anticipation of what I was about to read. Why? It was from Judy. A million different people could have written me a personal letter, but none of them would have steeped my expectancy like these words from Judy.

As I read the words on the pages, I savored every one. I analyzed each word and phrase. I wanted to make sure I drew out every nuance and meaning that Judy was thinking and feeling when she wrote this love letter to me.

I found myself pouring over the letter over and over again. I would read it again and walk away pondering the thoughts, the feelings, the meanings once again. There would always be a line or two that would particularly grab my heart or mind. I’d repeat it over and again in my mind. So many of Judy’s words spoke life to me, and gave me inspiration and determination to face the day ahead.

Today, Judy and I have been married for more than 44 years, but I will never forget those letters. And as I remember all that those letters meant to me – the anticipation, the pouring over them for meaning, the encouragement, the challenges, the words that spoke life and inspiration to me – I’m reminded of someone else who has written letters to me.

The God of the universe has spoken to me in the form of letters in the Bible. They are from the heart and mind of God to me – because He loves and cares for me. God did not put me here and say, “Good luck. I hope you can figure it all out.” He has given words of life. Do I cherish His words like I did Judy’s? Do I keep pouring over His words searching for meaning and intent? Do I long for the next time I can read His words? Do I keep rolling His words over and again in my mind?

If I truly love God as I have loved Judy, shouldn’t I treat His words to me with at least as much anticipation, joy, excitement and urgency as I did Judy’s letters?

How Not to Be an Authentic Disciple of Christ

Rick-Blog-Posts-10-07

  1. Pretend you’re perfect

It is human nature to want others to see the best in you. It’s the same reason you work so diligently to clean the house before company comes over. You want them to think your life is ordered and well maintained, but the junk drawers and hall closets of your spiritual life are still full of stuff you shoved in there to hide from your guests. It is all a façade.

Realizing others see parts of your life and make judgments about you, you may find yourself forcing it or faking things so you look like a Christian to others around you by doing seemingly compassionate things. People may be drawn to you at first because of your knowledge of the Bible, the good things you do and your generally confident demeanor, but over time most of them will gravitate away from you. They will experience the lack of heart development in you, and whether they can say why or not, they will know something is wrong.

  1. Act like a Christian should

In general, people do not believe human beings can truly change. You can train yourself to make different kinds of choices so you appear to have changed, but all that has changed is your outward behavior, not the essence of who you are.

Most Christians have applied this same unbiblical idea to Christianity and the church. You try to look different and act differently, like a Christian. The super disciplined find some success due to their internally motivated, rule following bias. However, they tend to only deal with the external behavior without necessarily dealing with the heart. While a few may experience short-term victory, they seldom experience true, long-term vibrancy in Christ. You might do things that seem generous or sacrificial on the outside, but down deep you do them for selfish reasons.

Yet God promised to make you a different person, not just make you appear as a different person on the outside.

  1. Add more to your calendar

Many pastors and religious authors convey that all you really need is more commitment. You need to get your priorities straight. You need to be more consistent, more passionate, more involved, more diligent, more devoted. So you fill your calendar with religious activities, hang out with religious people and read religious books, but never truly change.

For the most part, plans and programs will leave you empty and frustrated. Although they may include some good ideas, they never seem to have all the necessary components to really help you understand and take deliberate steps toward becoming more like Christ.

  1. Compare yourself to others

You give more than most. You attend church services more than most. You have higher morals than most Christians you know. You have had more church experiences than most people you know. You know your Bible better than most. You are more gifted than most. Or you volunteer more than anyone you know.

It is easy to view maturity like the world does and think you are better than most people you know, so that must make you mature. If that is the case, your measuring rod is just a relative comparison to other fallen people.

But God wants you to be truly mature. To Him, your maturity is measured by comparison to Jesus, not to other fallen people and not by your own standards. You need to focus on Jesus to attain “the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:13), so you can grow and become as mature as Him.

  1. When all else fails, try harder

Many Christians have replaced the felt need to be Humbly Submitted in their heart to God with self-discipline. There is nothing wrong with self-discipline, unless it is a cloaked substitute for humbly submitting your heart to Him as the Lord, the Master of your life. Through your self-discipline you can naturally drift into the illusion that you can do this, that you can live the maturing Christian life and make life work the way God intended, which just isn’t true. That is not humble submission. That’s delusional pride.

Doing things your own way will be increasingly frustrating and self-defeating. As long as you think and live as if it’s up to you, you will be hopelessly stuck in the whirlpool of do good, try hard and fail. If you are trying to change by your own effort, you are wasting your time and energy on the impossible. You are looking at yourself to effect ongoing life change. Until you let go of the idea that it’s all up to you, you are still trying to be your own functional savior and will never truly become like Christ.

The first thing you have to understand and believe if you are going to experience authentic life change, is that all genuine, authentic life change begins with God. Not you. He is the change agent. Not you. He has initiated a life change plan for you and He will never give up. He will never walk away in disgust. He will never quit on you, “for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).