Be a Transformer – The YouTruth in Romans 12:3

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

When we think of renewing our minds, we usually frame the activity as an intellectual exercise. Reading, studying, or taking classes are usually details of a mind-renewing plan. Accumulating knowledge and critical thinking skills seem to be effective building blocks to constructing a renewed mind. While this is all true, the flaw in our thinking on this subject, is that this is all there is. And by the world’s standards, that’s true. But as people of faith, we must understand that our brain is not the only organ involved.

Anything that is added to our mind directly from an outside source, even if that source is the Bible or a powerful sermon, will not result in the mind renewal that God so desires for us. Everything must pass through our Spirit-indwelt heart first, before it is passed on to our minds for thought, decision-making, and action. It is the direct involvement of the heart that will deliver the ability to test and approve what God’s will is. The facts alone can’t do it.

In order to achieve the huge payoff—God’s good, pleasing and perfect will—heart and mind must be tightly woven together with the thread of His Spirit’s wisdom, guidance and love. Without this, conformance to the world’s pattern is the only possible outcome. With this, all of the transformative benefits found in His perfect will await you. Conform you must, but conform to eternity instead of the world. When you do, not only will you begin to transform yourself, but you will help chip away at the pattern of the world around you, replacing it with pieces of His good, pleasing and perfect will. Now that’s transformation!

Be a transformer—a world-transforming, eternity-conforming transformer—today!

Giving God a Test – The YouTruth in Matthew 4:7

“Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Bartering with God. If we all are truly honest, we will remember times when we’ve done this.

“God, if you [fill in the blank], I’ll [fill in the blank].”

It usually happens in times of trial or struggle. If God will just get us out of this mess we’re in, we’ll vow to straighten up and never get ourselves into the same mess again.

Jesus led us by His powerful example with regard to testing God. Jesus was facing a battle greater than many we will ever face. After 40 days in the wilderness with nothing to eat, Satan shows up, with his remedy to Jesus’ hunger—he tells Jesus to use His superpowers! Then Satan ups the ante two more times with more temptations all designed to get Jesus to betray God. Jesus, of course, stands firm and does not give in to Satan’s plan.

Putting God to the test, is part of Satan’s plan for us too. He tells us to withhold praise until God does what we want. He tells us that God is a god of “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” He tells us to test God’s promises by demanding that they be delivered on our terms instead of God’s.

The main flaw in Satan’s plan is that we don’t have anything to offer God. God doesn’t need anything. He’s God. So, the whole testing and bartering thing doesn’t work. And think about this: God’s gift of grace is the gift of His infinite love for us. First, it is of infinite value, therefore there is nothing of finite value we could barter for it. Second, God’s grace is a gift. There is nothing we need to barter for it.

So when you face temptations, particularly those associated with tough times, don’t test God, just trust Him.

Whoever Publicly Acknowledges Me – The YouTruth in Luke 12:8

“I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.”

Do you publicly acknowledge Jesus before others? Sometimes we are reluctant to do this, for a variety of reasons. We may not feel it is our place. We may not want to experience the backlash of criticism that may come with it. We may not know exactly how to acknowledge Him. We may even face more significant consequences or even persecution for witnessing about Jesus.

Jesus knows this.

When Jesus was teaching His disciples in this passage, they would likely face severe penalties and they could even face death if they acknowledged Him publicly.

Jesus knew this.

Why would he teach, both then and now, that we should be willing to subject ourselves to this kind of unpleasantry?

Because Jesus is up to it.

You see, Jesus is the one being attacked when skeptics reject our testimony. Jesus is the one being scorned when we acknowledge Him as our Lord.

And He is up to it.

If we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we know He has already died for us and saved us for all eternity. Skeptics and critics, atheists and even aggressive objectors can’t kill Him (again) and take that away from us. No matter how hard they try or how convinced they are that we are crazy for believing in Him, He died for us. It’s done. We are eternally saved. So we can boldly proclaim Him, in love, whenever the opportunity presents itself. And we can know that He is already proclaiming us before the angels of God.

I Have Chosen You Out of the World. Watch Out! The YouTruth in John 15:19

“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

Ouch! What’s this about the world hating you? This seems like a horrible thing to face, but as it turns out, it is a blessing.

The world is a covetous, jealous, prideful place. When those of the world don’t have something they value, they are dissatisfied. In the world, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Relationships are ruined, strife is rampant. Wars are fought for the simple reason that one has what another wants and one will not give up what they have. And there you are, right in the middle of this mess. And the world hates you. Why? Two reasons:

First, you have something the world wants. You have been chosen out of the world and into the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom, insecurity and material desires are replaced by eternal hope and love. And the world desperately needs it.

Second, you play by a different set of rules. When the world wants something, it conquers those that have it. It outruns them, steals from them, hoards the desired things and builds up defenses around them. Not one ounce of the Kingdom’s blessings can come to those who use these tactics. You have secured your Kingdom blessings by doing the exact opposite. You have submitted to Jesus’ authority and allowed Him to conquer you. Through your humility, gratitude, contentment, and generosity toward others, the Kingdom is forever yours.

There is hope for the world! As you know, you were once of the world and found your way out of it. But until all find their way out too, there will be some who scoff, persecute and yes, even hate. It’s a weird way of knowing that you have gotten it right.

Allow the world to see what you have and how you have secured it today. While many will hate you for it, others will find their way out because of it. The Kingdom’s blessings far outweigh the world’s trouble!

Do You Not Know? Have You Not Heard? The YouTruth in Isaiah 40:28

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”

If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus, this passage may not seem to apply to you. Of course, you know! Of course, you’ve heard! But we have to remember that Isaiah was writing this verse to the believers of his time in Israel. So God must have something to say to believers today as well.

Isaiah is writing this verse to a tired, frustrated, complaining people. They feel like God has abandoned them because they feel this way. The encouragement from Isaiah is to shift their focus from what they are currently experiencing to who God is. When we get down, dejected or weary, the same approach can be powerfully applied.

Are you tired? God is not. He is completely rested and ready to hold you up.

Are you weary? God is not. He has the power to be your strength.

Do you lack understanding for your present situation? God does not. He completely understands what is going on.

As believers, our problem is not that we don’t know that the Lord is the everlasting God. Our problem is not that we haven’t heard that He never grows tired or that His understanding is unfathomable. We know this! It’s just that we allow the clutter, noise, pain, or discouragement of a present moment to crowd out what we know. When this happens to you, ask yourself these questions more specifically:

“Do I know, in this very moment, that the Lord is the everlasting God?

“Have I heard that, in this very circumstance, He will not grow tired or weary; that He completely understands?

The answer will come back as a resounding, “Yes!”

Clothe Yourselves As Chosen People – The YouTruth in Colossians 3:12

col 3-12 image“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

I’m sure you’ve faced your share of mean, insensitive, hurtful stuff in your life. Harsh, condemning words can pierce you like a knife and the wounds they leave can cause pain for long periods of time as they heal. Some of these wounds can cause permanent injuries that leave you limping for the rest of your life.

If only we had some kind of protective covering! How about a bullet-proof vest to stop the incoming bullets and sharp objects aimed at you? Well, God has it. His protective clothing is made of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. What is amazing about God’s protective clothing is that it defends you against more than just the attacks you face from others. It guards against those attacks you might inflict upon others as well.

Here’s how God’s protective vest works. Direct attacks of insensitivity and harm, are deflected by compassion and kindness, freeing you from the desire to respond in kind. If you are clothed in humility, the pride of others does not require a prideful rebuttal, but allows you to be gentle and patient in return. Remember, treating someone harshly hurts both the deliverer and the receiver. God, in his infinite wisdom, has created this garment with this glorious twofold purpose—to protect each of us from the harm of both outgoing and incoming nastiness.

So dress up today! Put on the protective clothing of His compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

Love, Perseverance, Direction – The YouTruth in 2 Thessalonians 3:5

2Thess3-5 imageThe YouTruth in 2 Thessalonians 3:5

“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.”

The old Beatles song told us, “Love, love, love, all you need is love.” Well, they got it wrong. It takes much more than that. You see, love without perseverance will wither quickly in the face of an unloving world, not matter how love-love-loving it is. That’s not to say that love is not needed, it certainly is. Perseverance without love always results in horrible outcomes. The work of [enter evil dictator’s name here] is resounding testimony to this fact. Love and perseverance must work together in order to be effective.

But that’s not all. Love, is an action. Actions take motion. Motion requires direction. For you, as a lover of Christ, direction requires that two things come together—God and your heart. While your hands and feet may set you in motion, your heart provides the direction. Allowing God to point your heart to the loving work He has for you is the final piece to the puzzle. Now, and only now, will you have all the necessary ingredients to love, love, love God’s way.

Your heart—provides the direction.

God’s direction—points your heart into God’s love.

God’s love—draw upon it. It is the love so deep that He sent His Son to the cross to save you.

Christ’s perseverance—for when the going gets tough. Tap into the perseverance of Christ, the very same perseverance that carried Him all the way through the pain and suffering at Golgotha.

Now you’ve got “all you need.” Go out into the world, and get after it!

Grace – This is Not From Yourselves

a-Eph 2-8 imageThe YouTruth in Ephesians 2: 8

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

There are so many areas of life that are tied to performance. Your job or career is certainly that way. If you perform well, you are compensated well. If you don’t, you may not be compensated at all. If you have children, you can face a lot of performance-related feedback as a parent. If your kids behave well, you may get praises. If they don’t, you may face judgment. Just about every area of life in the world can be pressure-packed by the need to perform well. Much of the stress you may face in life can flow from this phenomenon.

There is great news. Your relationship with God is in no way based on your performance. Let me restate that: You do not have to perform for God in order to secure a personal, eternal relationship with Him. The measure of God’s love that flows to you through your relationship Him is always turned on full strength. If you make mistakes, it still flows full strength.  If you fail Him at times, it still flows full strength. Even in moments when you are acting purely in His will, it flows just the same. Nothing you can do can affect His love for you. It is a gift. All you have to do is receive it through faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Nothing else is required.

There is more great news. You can carry this gift into every corner of your life in the world. This gift has great power to dissolve away the performance-related stresses you will face. If you have a bad day at work, God is still pouring out His love, full strength. If you lose your temper with someone close to you, God is still pouring. If your child acts out at the grocery store, you guessed it, God’s gift is unaffected.

Blessing, Keeping and Face Turning – The Lord’s Grace and Peace

a-Numbers imageThe YouTruth in Numbers 6:24-26

“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

What a powerful prayer this is! It is filled with so many good things, it’s hard to know where to begin!

You may recognize this as a benediction prayer used in many worship services to send the congregation forth after worship. It has been used in this way for thousands of years!

The imagery of God’s face in this prayer is powerful and is key to understanding how you can harness the stated blessings of grace and peace. In Old Testament times, the quality of your relationship with God was illustrated by whether God’s face was turned toward you or away from you. “Why have You turned Your face from me?” is a common cry in the Psalms. It is important to understand God’s perfect, unchanging nature in order to properly understand what was really happening. God would be right to  respond to such a psalmist’s lament with the same question, “No, why have you turned away from Me?”

This illustration can work for you today, too. When you seek after a closeness with God, He promises that you will find yourself in His light, face-to-face with Him. And when you do, you will be in prime position to receive the grace and peace He so longs to give you.

Seek His face today and receive the grace and peace He promises for doing so. (Don’t forget to pass on His bright-shining grace and peace to others, too!)

Yes, You Heard That Right – Love Your Enemies

a-Matt 5-43 imageThe YouTruth in Matthew 5:43

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’”

Loving enemies. Now that’s a hard one. Don’t you wish Jesus would quit teaching us to do all this hard stuff? And yet, here it is, plain and simple. So let’s see how we can pull this off.

Two shifts in perspective will be helpful:

Who is the enemy, really?

When we are dealing with enemies, it is important to understand that enemies are not who they seem to be. The Apostle Paul taught powerfully on this subject when he wrote in Ephesians 6:12:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

If we focus on people we may consider enemies, it is virtually impossible to love them. But if we understand that the true enemy is Satan, who has lured a person into the behavior of an enemy, then it is much easier.  This doesn’t mean that you have to put yourself in harm’s way, or that you have to consider the person a close friend. It just means that you pray for the person, extend kindness when there is a safe opportunity to do so.

What makes an enemy?

Conflict makes enemies of people. Without conflict, people cannot truly be enemies.  If your response to an “enemy’s” unkindness, is more unkindness, then you’ve made an enemy indeed. But if your response to an enemy’s mean-spirited action is forgiveness and love, the condition of conflict vaporizes. Just like it takes two to fight, it takes two to be enemies. If only one “enemy” is participating, then love can find its way into the situation, and perhaps, head off the whole enemy thing at the pass.