Influence Inventory

influence

Ephesians 5:1-2

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.


Did you ever visit a place where the locals had a very different accent than your own? Maybe after a while you started to pick up on that Southern twang, Bostonian slang or British properness. When I was a kid, we would travel back to North Dakota to spend summers with my grandparents. My grandpa is Norwegian and it wouldn’t be 2 days before his accent would wear off on me and I’d be bursting forth with the “don’t-cha- knows” and the “oof-duhs.” If you’ve ever spent time in the upper mid-west, then you know what I mean.

In today’s passage, the Apostle Paul is instructing us through the book of Ephesians to imitate Jesus in his love and service. By my very nature, I am not very loving and I don’t enjoy serving other people most of the time. Although I would like to take credit for the good things that I do, the Bible throws it back on me and says, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isaiah 64:6). How in the world am I, with my filthy rags, to imitate a Holy God?

I’m not sure why, but we tend to become like the people we spend time with and that is what the Bible is teaching here. I don’t wake up in the morning with a mid-western accent, but put me in proximity to my grandpa and my accent changes. His cues trigger something in me and my vocal chords respond automatically. Same thing with God. We cannot imitate God without spending time in his presence. His glory wears off on us and we change because of Him. Anything else is just a lie we are trying to get ourselves to believe.

Thought for Today:

Are you spending time with Jesus daily? Is His love wearing off on you?

Are the people in your life pushing you towards God or pulling you away from Him?

These questions are supreme for the Christian life. Every day, we are becoming more like the people we spend time with. I urge you today to take an inventory of the influences in your life. Are they leading you toward being an imitator of God or something else?

Today’s Prayer: Father, thank you for wearing off on us. Thank you that we’re not left with our pile of filthy rags. May we be imitators of Jesus. May your light, love, and service permeate your Church through and through. May we be men and women lost in your presence, following your love and your service as beloved children – and may you receive all the glory. Amen!

 

Healing in Grace

healing

Ephesians 4:31-32

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.


One thing all people have in common is a past. Most people would likely agree that we all wish we could reach back into our pasts and help ourselves realize, adjust, and avoid things that have caused difficulty or hurt. But as helpful as that would be, unfortunately, we are not able to.

Being able to find freedom from bitterness, hurt, and anger requires us to deal with the pain of the past. That starts with admitting that something is wrong, and then surrendering it to Jesus. Tell God the ways you need him to bring healing. One of those ways is through others. Whether a small group, a close friend, spouse, or a friend from Celebrate Recovery – God gives us others to help guide us towards what’s best. When we do this, we’ll find that others have faced similar pains and, together, we can walk toward breakthrough. If you want to heal from your hurts, you have to deal with them.

Know that you’re not alone. We are all human, and all of us have been hurt or have hurt others throughout our life. The amazing thing about this is that God gives us the ability to find freedom from the pain of our past.

Thought for Today: If God gives us the ability to accept grace, he also gives those who have hurt us that same ability. Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for you and me. In James 1:19-20 it says “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” As you think through situations and people that have hurt you, try remembering that they, too, have made mistakes just like you. But that doesn’t mean God doesn’t love them. Try spending time in prayer and ask God to help you forgive them for the hurt they have caused.

Today’s Prayer: God, I ask you to help me truly understand the grace you so freely give to me and also those who have caused me hurt. Give me strength to forgive what they have done to me, and help me to let go of the bitterness and anger I have towards others. In your name I pray, Amen.

 

Fueled by Love

fueled

Ephesians 4:29

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.


Husbands and wives tend to have ups and downs with throughout their marriage. There are times when relationships seems so sweet and still others where couples aren’t “clicking” the way they’d prefer. Even when couples are making clear efforts to love each other, there are times when attitudes, words, and behaviors seem to suggest otherwise. As the stress of life, work, bills, and family pile on, our words can get a little quicker and sharper. At times, we end up having disagreements and being rude to one another.

Today’s passage in Ephesians reminds us about the power of our words. It cautions us to be smart about what we say. When the writer says, don’t let any “unwholesome” talk come out, he’s saying don’t let anything rotten or corrupt be spoken and instead say only things that are helpful for building others up. Doesn’t that sound so easy?

Most couples are familiar with this truth, but the hard part is doing what it says consistently. When relationships feels healthy and close, it’s usually because we are focused and careful with our words to one another. When we feel disconnected and frustrated with one another, it’s usually because we have stopped guarding the words we choose to say or not say. Much of this stems from our relationship, or lack of relationship, with Jesus. The closer we get to God the more He fills us up and the less likely we are to say hurtful things to our spouse.

Even though this example is about marriage, the truth in this scripture would apply to all relationships. The Bible is calling us to be men and women known for our words of encouragement.

Thought for Today: Who in your life needs to hear words of encouragement from you? Who in your life have you been unwholesome to? Maybe it’s your spouse, your parents, a boss, or your children. Jesus said that the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” The commandment to love our neighbors is really about everyone in our lives. May we allow this passage to penetrate our hearts and may we in turn show more respect and love for our neighbors – building them up instead of tearing down.

Lastly, we can’t do it alone. We need God and godly-others in our lives to help us see truth and to build us up. How’s your prayer life? Are you spending time with God regularly? Also, do you have people in your life who hold you accountable and encourage you? We need God and we need people. We can’t improve in these areas by doing the same things we’ve always done.

Today’s Prayer: Father, give us wisdom. Help us to recognize the needs that others have and may we be people known for our love for others. Help us to rest in you, and to build relationships that count with godly-others. May you receive all the glory. Amen!

 

The Way of Truth

truth

Ephesians 4:25

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.


A recent survey stated that 91 percent of us regularly tell some distortion of the truth. Pollster George Gallup reported that “church attendance makes little difference in people’s ethical behavior with respect to lying and cheating.” Further, 89 percent of all respondents stated they were “satisfied with their own ethics and character.”

Some of the most influential people in the Bible – Abraham, Moses, Rebecca, Jacob, David, Peter – are seen struggling to tell the truth at times. If we’re honest, we have the same struggle from time to time. Most of us justify this by trying to avoid hurting others, or maybe to impress somebody with a stretched truth about ourselves.

Paul teaches us to “speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15)

The Bible teaches us that we are children of the light. Following Jesus means, as we learn about the way He lived and how He loved others, we put great effort into doing the same in our own lives. This doesn’t mean that we have to be perfect, but part of saying “Yes” to Jesus is trusting that His way is better than our own. In the manner of speaking truth, today’s verse reminds us that we have a responsibility to each other to be truthful and honest. Sometimes, that means saying the hard, but helpful thing. Other times, that means we might need to own up to our own mistakes. Even if telling a “white lie” in the moment helps us avoid pain or awkwardness, not dealing with the truth now means we’ll likely have a bigger problem down the line.

Today’s Prayer: God, guard my heart from deceptive words and my lips from what is false. Teach me to speak in ways that bring your blessing, truth, and peace to those who hear my voice. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight. Amen.

 

Continued Renewal

renewal

Ephesians 4:20–24

But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.


On a weekly basis, millions of people watch reality TV shows that are centered around life-change, makeovers, or renovations. These stories inspire us. Watching somebody learn to care for themselves better through better eating and exercise habits, and, in turn, gain a renewed confidence and outlook on life causes us to want to make similar changes. Seeing a neglected home be transformed into a “dream home” board from Pinterest causes us to (haphazardly) wield power tools and bring home random garage sale finds because of their “potential”.

How disappointing would it be to see that home go back to being neglected, or that person who saw a physical transformation go back to old habits?

In the Bible, Paul had a unique opportunity to travel and see many people decide to have a relationship with Jesus. When he wrote this letter, he had noticed that some of his friends were beginning to go back to their old habits, beliefs, and ways of doing things. He wrote this as a reminder, not just about right and wrong, but that they were willingly going back to something after experiencing better.

Jesus came to give us abundant life. He gives us the power to find freedom from fear and pain, overcome addictions and insecurities, and find peace and hope in the midsts of the storms of life. Jesus came to give us the transformation we couldn’t manage on our own. Though we won’t always be perfect, by choosing to say “Yes!” and continue to take next steps of following Him, we’ll keep moving toward and experiencing the life He came to offer.

Thought for Today: Are there any areas of your life that you’re settling for less than what Jesus wants for you? This could be the way we spend our time, resources, energy, or emotions. What could your next step be in experiencing the “better” Jesus came to offer you?

Today’s Prayer: Jesus, thank you for bringing transformation to my life. Help me see the value in following you in every area of my life, and the strength to do so.

 

Daily Choices

daily choices

Ephesians 4:14–16

…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…


Witnessing the development of a child is a fascinating and powerful thing. Hitting the milestones of first words, first steps, and potty training are huge for both the kid and the parent. However, our development doesn’t end there. But what if it did? Imagine a courtroom scene filled with lawyers who have the vocabulary of a 3 year old… or NBA stars wobbling down the court in that head-first, always on the verge of falling, toddler run? Part of growing up is hitting physical, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones that all equate to maturity.

Spiritually, choosing to follow Jesus means that we’re choosing to grow in our relationship with Him. As we get to know Jesus, we’ll learn about ways to love and lead like Him in our lives. We’ll learn the importance of giving and serving. We’ll see that there’s value in being a truth-teller to those around us, but still being full of grace to those who miss the mark. Even though Jesus centered His life around others, the more we get to know Him, the more we’ll learn the importance of taking care of our own heart and soul like He did.

You can’t experience growth and change and stay the same. Part of growing up spiritually is choosing daily whether you’re going to take a next step of following Jesus more closely. We’ll never be perfect, but we should never grow content with staying how we are. There’s always a next step we can take in following Jesus.

Thought for Today: What is your next step in following Jesus? Is it saying “Yes!” or getting baptized? Maybe it’s serving in a way that best uses your gifts, or giving generously. Your next step might be taking the bold step of telling your neighbor, friend, or family member about how much Jesus has changed your life.

Today’s Prayer: God, thank you for loving me as I am, but loving me enough not to leave me here. Help me identify my next step in following you, and give me the courage to take that step.

 

Gifts for His Glory

gifts

Ephesians 4:11-12

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…


We need diversity. We need people to celebrate their unique differences and look for opportunities to join them in that celebration. If we are all the same, then we will find ourselves with lives that are not a rich as they could be. It is our differences that add value and richness.

This passage also points out that we need to remember that we need to see that we all have different gifts that God has equipped us with that add value to God’s Kingdom. We don’t have the same gifts, and that is a great thing. We all need to understand what gifts God has given us and then investigate how we’re doing at using those gifts.

In Ephesians 4:12 it says that the end goal of everyone using their gift is that the body of Christ is built up. In other words, the Church wins. Not specifically Sun Valley (although this is true for Sun Valley), but the Big “C” Church. Your gift matters, and God is inviting you to discover what that gift is and how you can use it for His Glory!

If you have never investigated what Spiritual Gifts you may have, consider taking a Spiritual Gifts Inventory. You can find one that you can take free online, or simply click this link to take one online for free.

This tool could help point you in the right direction when it comes to understanding what spiritual gift God has given you, and maybe even help you understand where you could most effectively use your gift!

Today’s Prayer: Jesus, thank you for diversity in how we look and through the different gifts we have. Help me see the uniqueness of each person, including myself, as a gift that you’ve given. Even if my gifts don’t look like somebody else’s, I ask that you help me find clear opportunities to make the most of the way you have wired me. Amen