Vital Signs

When we are concerned about a person’s physical life, we check their vitals. Do they have a pulse? Can we detect breathing? Do their pupils contract when a light is shined in their eyes?

When we are wondering about a person’s spiritual life, we can look for vital signs, too. Do their eyes light up with the joy of their Savior? Does their prayer life have a pulse? Do they constantly breathe out complaints and curses, or gratitude and hope?

When the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, he lights a fire in our hearts. Fire will always produce heat and light. Faith, like fire, will always produce its effects, too.

Just like you can’t have fire without heat and light, so you can’t have faith without producing the effects of faith — effects like joy, prayer, and gratitude.

That’s why Paul encourages the Thessalonians not to put out the Spirit’s fire. Without the fire, you don’t get the effects of the fire. And without faith, you also don’t get the effects of the faith.

Life. Fire. Faith.

They all work the same way. Snuff them out, and you also snuff out the effects they produce. But keep them going strong and healthy, and you will always get vital signs that reflect that strength and health.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ’s Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19, NIV).

Lord, I know that when I sin and fail to repent, or when I lose touch with your word and sacraments, I move closer to quenching your Spirit. Help me to live a life of devotion to word and sacrament, and to repent of my sins daily. These will keep my faith strong and healthy, and bring me joy, gratitude, and an active prayer life.

Our Bible reading for Monday, October 12, is Jeremiah 25:15 – 26:24, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-28 and Psalm 119:17-24.

Header image based on "Lubbock Heart Hospital, Dec 16-17, 2005" by Mark, CC By-SA 2.0

Changed Hearts = Changed Habits

Human change is often worked from the outside in. We set up rules and guidelines. It’s all about clarity of what the boss desires.

In contrast, Godly change works from the inside out. The good news of our salvation and forgiveness in Christ changes our hearts. This kind of change is all about clarity of how big God’s grace is, how much he loves us. And all that despite our sins.

Roman society was very prone to promote outside in change. They had accomplished a lot by using military force to impose the emperor’s will. The Jews, in particular the Pharisees, had taken the same approach to changing people, and had been somewhat successful with it. So when Paul writes to the Romans, he wants to emphasize that God’s change will come about in a different way.

After he became a Christian Paul realized that when God changes hearts, he also ultimately changes habits. In this way we become people of integrity. What we think and feel on the inside will be reflected by our words and actions on the outside. When we fail to act with integrity, we go to Jesus for forgiveness. When we want more power or authority to live with integrity, we go to Jesus and ask him to send his Holy Spirit. In this way, Jesus is the root of all true integrity.

“A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God” (Romans 2:28-29, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, July 15, is Amos 1:1 – 2:16, Romans 2:17 – 3:8 and Proverbs 17:5-14.

Lord, change my heart, so that my habits will also change. Give me integrity and a willing heart to obey you. When I fail and fall short, forgive me through Jesus’ shedding of blood. Allow me to seek praise from you, rather than from people.

Header image based on "lifted" by istolethetv, CC By 2.0


What kind of results are you hoping for in life? What measures “success” for you?

I think all of us have goals we would love to reach. We have dreams we’d love to see come true.

As Pastor of CrossWalk Church, I love knowing that people are becoming more fully-developed followers of Jesus Christ. That’s why yesterday’s confirmation service was really, really exciting for me. We celebrated the confirmation of 13 young people — teens ready to stand up before our God and our entire church and confess their faith in Christ.

Very cool!

The same goes for when we launch a new growth group semester and we get a large number of registrations, or when people sign up for a class system class, or when they enroll their children at CrossWalk Kids. It’s exciting because I know the journey — the adventure of faith — that these people are embarking on. I know they are on the right path to become “fully-developing followers of Jesus Christ.”

I also love knowing that we’re reaching new people with the gospel. We started our church 11 years ago as a “church for unchurched people.” So when a person without a church home comes in and begins to attend our church, I get really pumped.

Today, for instance, my wife Julie spoke to a lady who has been to our church just twice. And I also spoke with a young man who was visiting for his second time. Both sincerely expressed their interest to return and learn more about our church. Guests are “God’s gold” — because it means that the gospel of Jesus has an opportunity to establish itself in more people’s hearts through our church’s ministry.

Seriously. It just doesn’t get more thrilling than that!

Jesus promises that when we stay connected to him, there will be positive results. With him as our Source, fruit will be produced.

We can’t always say exactly how much, or what that fruit will look like. But it will happen. And Jesus promises it will happen abundantly!

Minds will grow in faith. Hearts will grow in grace. Churches will grow in new believers. Lives will grow in joy and peace. Compassion will grow and produce acts of kindness and generosity.

Stay connected to Jesus. And trust him. The results will come in his time. God’s grace and forgiveness are beautiful soil.

And Jesus is the right vine. With him we’ll have all the results we could ever want.

Without him we’ve got nothing!

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Monday, May 25, is 1 Samuel 16:1 – 17:37, John 15:1 – 16:4 and Psalm 67:1-7.

Lord Jesus, I want to stay connected to you. I cannot do that in my own strength. Send me your Holy Spirit, and the wisdom that comes from above. Show me your grace and mercy every day. Forgive my sins. And help me to remember that only as I stay connected to you can I produce the results that both you and I are looking for.

Header image based on "Grapevines" by Jason, CC By 2.0