Is Change Really Possible

photo credit: Nanagyei via photopin cc
photo credit: Nanagyei via photopin cc

Change, my friends is inevitable. Nothing is static in this transient world. Nothing! This is especially true in a world of rapidly evolving technology. Today’s new thing will probably be obsolete by the end of the week!

But when we ask if change is possible, we aren’t referring to change in the general sense—our real emphasis is on positive change. Faced with a steady barrage of negative news, sometimes we can’t help but wonder if things will ever turn in a healthy direction. Violence is prevalent. The economy sits on shaky ground. Our government finds itself immersed in gridlock. The church takes only faltering steps, most of which are in the wrong direction.

There is, however, an underlying question that seems to plague the common person. “Is change really possible in my life?” is the question that most of us ask. Sure, there are the narcissists who stand convinced that they have no need to change. In addition, we find the confident few who believe that, with a bit of hard work, they can become whatever they want. Still, I suspect that most of us have run up against powerful roadblocks in our efforts to become better people. We’ve tried moving forward, but always find ourselves being drawn back into our fears, our compulsions, and our dark thoughts. As a result, deeply-rooted doubts cloud any sense of hope that we once had for a better tomorrow.

photo credit: jessgrrrr via photopin cc
photo credit: jessgrrrr via photopin cc

The essence of the Christian gospel is about change. God was not content with the status quo of sin and death so He sent His much-loved Son to do something about the problem. And do something He did! Forgiveness of sin and guilt is a change we can’t live without.

Still, much more remains. God provided His Word as a roadmap to change and sent His Holy Spirit into our hearts as an agent of change. I’m not saying that transformation is easy by any means, but it certainly is possible—for every one of us.

photo credit: Matt Gruber via CreationSwap
photo credit: Matt Gruber via CreationSwap

Through my thirty-plus years as a Christian, I’ve researched, studied, and watched. My desire has been to find a Christianity that really works—not simply another humanistic or ineffective twist to an old religion. In that time, I’ve come to understand that the power of human sin runs deeper than any of us realize. But I’ve also come to grasp that the power of God’s grace is far greater than even the bonds of sin. The key, more than any other thing, is learning to continually draw upon the fullness of that life-changing grace.

Yes, change is possible for any of us as individuals. And if change is possible for the individual, societal change is certainly within our reach.  This confidence in God’s grace as realized through the gospel of Jesus Christ motivates me to press on in my Christian service, knowing full well that ours is a future founded upon real hope.

Speaking of change, we are still in the process of transitioning over to our new website which will continue to feature my blog. If you would like to remain subscribed to my “blogotional”, you can do so by entering your email in the subscribe panel on the right-hand side of the new website.

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Have You Seen God?

photo credit: Micah Boy via photopin cc
photo credit: Micah Boy via photopin cc

I’ve seen sunshine, rain, and snow, but in all my years I have never seen the wind. While I was hiking through the woods recently, a huge gust of wind picked up bunches of dry leaves along the trail and threw them swirling into the air. I’ve felt the wind and I’ve seen its influence; its presence is very real but the wind itself remains invisible.

None of us have ever seen God. Some would say that He does not exist. As with the wind, however, we can feel the presence of the invisible God and see various indicators that He is near.

photo credit: SJU Undergraduate Admissions via photopin cc
photo credit: SJU Undergraduate Admissions via photopin cc

The greatest evidence of God’s existence is that transformation that takes place in the lives of those whom He touches. The selfish become generous; the arrogant, humble; the insecure, confident; the hopeless, full of anticipation. When the Creator of the Universe touches a person’s life, those around can’t help but notice.

We dare not forget, however, that the fruit seen in the life of a professing Christian presents a two-sided coin. While a transformed life will attract others to God, an existence mired in the sins of the flesh will have the opposite effect—genuine seekers will be driven to unhealthy, and even dangerous, spiritual paths.

Hardly a week goes by when I don’t see or hear of someone being alienated from God’s love because a professing Christian, by virtue of ungodly behavior, called God’s goodness into question. Sometimes sharing my faith involves doing damage control more than it does speaking of the God’s goodness.

photo credit: Ryk Neethling via photopin cc
photo credit: Ryk Neethling via photopin cc

Grace is transformational, empowering us to rise above the corruption of this world to new heights in Christ. And how do we know when we are on the right track? The Bible provides us with guideposts along the way. By looking at lists of good and bad behavior found within the New Testament (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:16-24, etc.), we can get a general sense of what many of those around us already know—whether we are living according to the flesh or according to the Spirit. I’m sure that we’d all like to think that we are living according the Holy Spirit’s ways but the human heart is deceptive; we need the objectivity that the Scriptures provide.

We each have our struggles against sin and anyone can go through a bad stretch, but over the course of time, a person’s lifestyle should begin to align with his or her profession of faith. A transformed life, brought about by His life-giving grace, provides irrefutable evidence of God’s good presence at work in this world!

Addicted to Doubt?

Original Photo by earl53 - morgueFile

Faith! Faith! Faith! Why so much about faith? I know I’ve focused quite a bit on the topic through my last several posts, but not because I feel I am highly advanced in my ability to trust God. In many ways faith has never come easily for me and I continue to have my struggles in various forms. Don’t get me wrong—I have no trouble believing in the existence of God and resting in many of His promises. It’s just those certain few areas that I continue to find most challenging. Perhaps you can relate.

There was a time years ago when I suspected a high level of unbelief in my heart, but couldn’t bring myself to admit my addiction to doubt. Anything less than perfect faith would have been equivalent to weakness—the dreaded enemy of any red-blooded western Pennsylvania male.

It’s been said that most people embrace change only when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of change. Such was unquestionably the case with me. When I could no longer stand myself, I finally approached God’s throne of grace and confessed that I was a bag of unbelief.

Photo by bamagirl - morgueFile

Gazing into the rearview mirror of my life, I can’t see any dramatic fireworks at that given moment, but I can say that it was one of the most significant milestones I have ever experienced. Since that time I’ve discovered two very important truths: faith is integral to every aspect of Christianity; most people, especially those in the Western church, are Addicted to Doubt. Regardless of how much we profess to trust God, our innumerable struggles with fear and anxiety (and a whole host of sins) tell a different story.

From the outside looking in, it may appear to some folks that I’ve tried to convince myself that God can be trusted. Actually that approach never worked well for me. Instead I found honesty and a willingness to face my struggles to be a much more powerful vehicle for change. In other words, I simply put myself in a position where God could do the painstaking work of transformation in me. Honesty, transformation and trust—they all go hand in hand when it comes to breaking free from the chains that bind us.

Photo by Tedehur - morgueFile

Similar to trees, our branches go up and our roots go down, but the unseen growth of the roots is what seems to take so long. For me the pattern has been fairly consistent. A difficult situation arises in my life. I try to stand on God’s word and trust His promises, but struggle in the process. I present my shortcomings to Him, while still seeking to stand on His promises. In the end, my heavenly Father works out the details and bestows almost mystical blessings. I say “mystical” because I’m often at a loss for words when it comes to the depth of His work and the measure of His favor—all in spite of my weakness.

Armed with a deeper measure of trust, I lift my gaze and see a somewhat larger challenge appearing on the horizon . . . . The end result of this cycle is continued growth, but the process is rarely fast and never resembles a neatly wrapped fruit basket adorned with ribbons and bows. Growing in faith can be messy!

Congruent with the growth of my faith in God has been the development of both my practical and theological understanding of the importance of faith. Over the next few posts I plan to highlight what faith is and what it isn’t, and to share an understanding of several very real reasons why living by faith is non-negotiable when it comes to Christian living. It really is that important! In these tumultuous times we can no longer afford to be Addicted to Doubt!

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6 (NASB)

I Hate Hype!

By Daveynin - CC Attribution 2.0 Generic

Were you one of the 111,000,000 viewers who watched the Super Bowl on Sunday? I was. Not a bad game. Of course, it would have been better had the Steelers won, but overall we were entertained.

Professional football is now a multi-billion dollar business. Gone are the days of leather helmets and crumbling stadiums!  Let’s take a minute to peer into the reality of this football phenomenon.

As you read, please note that football is my favorite of all professional sports. I really do enjoy the games. My problem is that so many of us invest so much for such a small return.

How many hours of national media coverage do you suppose were devoted to Super Bowl XLV? How about local news time? How much money was spent on hats, jerseys and other paraphernalia? What did it cost the tens of thousands of fans who journeyed to Texas to watch the game? How many tons of shrimp, wings and nachos did those 111,000,000 million viewers consume? (I think I was personally responsible for eating about 50 pounds of shrimp!) Without question there was a massive amount of attention given to this GAME!

So what’s my gripe? All of the pregame glitter and hype promise the universe, but what’s left when the smoke clears?

From start to finish, a football game consumes about 3 hours of our time, but there’s an awful lot of filler involved. Did you know that the actual playing time amounts to only 11-12 minutes? Think about it! All of that time, money and effort for 12 minutes of Super Bowl action!

Hype promises us the world, but delivers little of substance. It’s all smoke and mirrors.

By theilr - CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

How does all of this relate to my current Harassed at the Border blog series? Opposition isn’t the only enemy to change. Deception and distraction are equally effective at hindering our journey toward transformation.

But hype isn’t limited to just the world of sports. Plenty takes place within Christian circles. Each next great fad promises to provide the answer that will fix our ills and restore the luster of American Christianity. Too often smoke and mirrors with no real or lasting substance!

Now, I didn’t write all of this simply to air my gripes, or to condemn football fans or to bad mouth the American church. My point is that hype distracts us from the real power of transformation—God’s grace.

Grace lacks so many attributes of hype, but delivers the substance of change and fulfillment like nothing else can. We can’t boast in the unmerited favor of grace, but we can be transformed. Grace carries with it the ability to do all that God has called us to do.

Our problem isn’t that the Gospel is flawed or somehow lacking. We have simply allowed the hyped-up fads of our day to divert and distract us from God’s everlasting power of transformation—grace.

Looking for real and lasting change? You’ll never find it in a game. Learn to abide in God’s amazing grace!

Watch my clip on Vimeo to learn more about grace.