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!”

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!)

The Birthright – Seeing the Kingdom

a-John 3-3 imageThe YouTruth in John 3:3

“Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.'”

Nicodemus, a wise religious man, saw that Jesus was someone special, even if the ruling council, of which Nicodemus was a part, didn’t think much of Him. So Nicodemus came to Jesus alone, at night, to talk to Him. Before Nicodemus could even ask his first question, Jesus issued the statement above. Nicodemus was understandably confused. None of Nicodemus’ extensive religious training had prepared him to deal with such a profound paradox. We can only assume that Nicodemus left his conversation with Jesus with much to think about, paradigms to change, and new ways of understanding God’s Kingdom to process. Later in the book of John, we find out that Nicodemus, despite the ruling council’s severe objections to Jesus’ message, became a believer and follower.

We are all “Nicodemuses” in some way. And we can find great hope in Nicodemus’ story.

We live in a world that doesn’t entirely agree with Jesus’ message of grace and hope. It can beat us down at times. But we can know that we can come to Jesus, in the night if we have to, and ask Him about the Kingdom. And He will tell us profound, sometimes confusing, but always amazing things about eternal life.

We are all wise in our own way, and some of that wisdom will be off-target from the eternal perspective. But we can know that we can come to Jesus and ask Him which parts of our wisdom work, and which parts don’t. And He will tell us.

We may come away from these encounters confused or uncertain. But, as with Nicodemus, if we come to Him, with a yearning to understand, Jesus will leave that yearning intact and active, exactly what is needed to become deeper believers and truer followers of Him.

Oh, and by the way, Jesus wrapped up His explanation of the whole “born again” thing to Nicodemus in this way:

 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

When You Give a Banquet – Your Invitation List

a-Luke 14-13-14 imageThe YouTruth in Luke 14: 13-14

“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Not many of us are in the regular business of giving banquets. Huge lavish gatherings with hundreds of high-profile invitees and five-course meals don’t fill up the typical daily planner. Nevertheless, this passage has much to say to us. Whether we know it or not, we are all capable of throwing banquets on an incredible scale. We just have to understand banquets from the Kingdom’s perspective.

A man stands on a street corner with “Hungry, please help” scrawled on a piece of cardboard torn from an old box. You respond by buying an extra sandwich at the shop down the street and hand it to him. At that moment, that man has received his invitation to sit at Jesus’ banquet table.  You have ushered him into the banquet hall and shown him to his seat near the head of the table.

A women’s car is broken down on the side of the road. She has a crying toddler on her hip and a distraught look on her face. You respond by arranging for a tow truck, paying the towing fee, and providing some extra money to help with the repairs. That woman and her child have received their invitation to sit at Jesus’ banquet table. You have ushered them into the banquet hall and shown them to their seats near the head of the table.

You see, in God’s Kingdom, we can build our banquets one person at a time. And over time, the size of the banquet you give in Jesus’ name, can be far bigger than any lavish, celebrity event the richest of the rich could throw in this world. So have at it! Get your banquet invitations ready to deliver! God will put those in your path that He intends for you to invite.

The Guarding Peace – Do Not Be Anxious About Anything

a-Phil 4-6-7 image

 The YouTruth in Philippians 4: 6-7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

So many things can cause anxiety. I’m sure you can recount situations or circumstances that created anxiety for you. You may even experience anxiety today. God has a prescription for the ailment of anxiety that has three equally important ingredients—prayer, petition, and thanksgiving.

It starts with thanksgiving. This can be the hardest part when you’re feeling anxious! But this is what makes the rest of it work. The one thing you can know for certain is that God loves you immensely. He sent His Son to die for you after all. In this grand love for you, God is always working to bring about what is best for you. It’s always good to remember that God exists eternally outside of the confines of time. Therefore, in every case of anxiety you face, He has already worked out what is best for you in your current situation (and for every future situation you will ever face)! It’s already done!

Armed with a state of thanksgiving all that is left to do is to talk to God about what is happening. Don’t hold anything back! He can handle it! Ask Him for things. Ask Him to take the anxiety away. Ask, ask, ask, all the while thanking Him for already having it all worked out.

When using these three ingredients together, not only does God take away the anxiety, He does you one better. He replaces it with a piece of Himself—the  peace  of Himself. You will recognize it right away because, though you will experience it, you won’t be able to understand it. It will come directly from eternity and will deliver you to an eternal peace that is out of this world.

Are you feeling anxious today? Try God’s remedy right away!

Binding and Writing – Let Love and Faithfulness Never Leave You

a-Prov 3-3 imageThe YouTruth in Proverbs 3:3

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”

As Christians, we are commanded to make love and faithfulness an ever-present part of our character and witness. This is not news to most of us. We hear this throughout the Scriptures. There is also something implicit in the passage that must not miss. If we don’t do something to prevent it, love and faithfulness will escape from us. It is our job to recognize this and to know what to do to prevent it.

Thankfully, the verse immediately follows with the preventive measures. The instruction to bind them and write them on tablets seem a little obscure, but what they really are telling us is, start from the inside out.

Writing love and faithfulness on the tablet of your heart is, to Christian believers, turning areas of our heart over to the power and leading of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us. It is surrendering our attitudes or actions that are not loving or faithful to God and asking Him to transform us into His likeness in these areas. This is the cool thing about writing upon the tablet of a believer’s heart—we don’t have to do the writing ourselves! We can turn over the writing to God who is (let’s face it) far more qualified to do the writing than we are anyway.

Binding love and faithfulness around your neck is taking what God has written on the inside and moving it out in the open where all can see it. It is translating the loving, faithful desires of the heart into loving and faithful actions that bless those around you in His name. It is not just wearing a cross necklace around your neck, which would seem to meet the literal expectation. It is the outward demonstration of love and faithfulness that allows those around you to understand who Jesus is and how much He loves each of those you interact with every day.