Tag Archives: Jesus

Count the Cost

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?” Luke 14:28

When counting the cost of something, that may be our time, money, conveniences, etc. To live a life for Christ demands the sum of these. It’s all our material possessions, emotional comforts and physical well-being tossed onto the proverbial table. In our Scripture above, His analogy of building a tower is simple – Christ is not demanding anything of us. He simply instructs us to take inventory of what a life of service and discipleship will require, to ensure we can finish the job.

Imagine a road. Imagine its long and winding path, sheltered and encased by the branches of majestic trees, whose roots are deep with life. You are ready. Your eye is on the finish. With each step along the narrow path you’re drawn more forward by the longing in your spirit for the Greatness you know lies ahead at your destination. Along the way, you pick up weary travelers, lifeless in spirit. You tell them of this Greatness – that which can breathe life into them again, heal their wounds and satisfy any hunger. More and more follow. You assure them, where you’re going, there is plenty of room for all (John 14:2).

The journey is long and the bottoms of your shoes become worn. The night falls steadily, along with the hope that sparked your first steps. Your pace ceases as you find yourself staring dejectedly at the unexpected mountain before you. There is no way around this mountain. Only over it. To take such a journey of strength will require a lightened load and the use of your hands for climbing. This means abandoning all your possessions for the sake of the climb. Disillusionment creeps in as you are taunted by your own ill-preparedness. Fear tells you to turn around. In that moment, you’re faced with a choice that will impact not only your own life, but the lives of so many others.

In your weakness and fear, you turn. When you do, you are face to face with all the weary travelers who are following you, uncertain of why you stopped. As you pass through the sea of searching faces, your actions of retreat make words unnecessary. The travelers who were once filled with hope are now standing in silence, gazing back and forth between their retreating leader and the mountain before them. The cloaks of dejectedness and disillusionment are passed through the crowd as the vision of Greatness you spoke of fades with every step backwards you take. For many, hurt turns to anger and bitterness for leading them so far for nothing. They leave the path, never to return (2 Peter 2:21). Others ridicule you. For others, they continue to follow you, turning back to the place that took the life within them and made them weary in the first place.

But there is one. There is one who remains staring at the mountain. He takes his time to think about the journey and all it will require. When weighed against the reward of the Greatness that waits on the other side, there is no hesitation in his spirit (Isaiah 6:8). He gathers those who are still found motionless in the confusion and calls out to those who have already turned around to see if any will follow with him. They leave any unnecessary thing and, together, begin the climb.

Which one will you be?

Be blessed,
C.K.

Going Beyond

The Bible tells us we are to imitate Christ in all things. What about giving? I’m not talking about money. We are called to do that too, but the kind of giving I’m talking about today is the giving of ourselves to others.

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2

It can be really hard to die to self. We are born with a sin nature, and therefore we’re wired to think about ourselves first. Yesterday I went to the grocery store. I had a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it in, so I was in go mode. You know, that mode where your brain becomes a human scoreboard and winning means checking off all the boxes on your list. I typically perform exceedingly well in this mode. I’m focused. I have a plan. A good plan. I have things in my cart I didn’t even plan on getting and I’m still slightly ahead of schedule. There’s the checkout. And there’s a lane with the light on with no one in it. And it says, “We bag.” Jackpot.

Sometimes life throws elderly women at us.

I was making a quick bee line to the open lane when I saw her. She was coming from the opposite direction, and looking at the same open lane. My lane. And her cart was loaded.

Even though she was closer to it than I was, a quick round of mathematics told me I could easily make it there before she did. Train A is moving north at 4mph, at a distance of 30 feet from destination, while Train B is moving south at 2mph, at a distance of 15 feet and closing. If Train A increases speed to 5mph… you get the idea, and have now been made privy to the scarier parts of my thought processes.

I’m embarrassed to say I authorized Train A to increase speed. I was right. I did beat her to the lane, but there was no victory lap, for it was clear what I had done. I knew it. She knew it. The cashier knew it. The kid sitting in the cart one lane over, picking his nose, knew it. There was no relief. Only guilt and conviction. My cart got lighter as I unloaded it, but my heart got a lot heavier. 

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” Ephesians 3:20

Was that ridiculous and immature display of selfishness a good example of me doing immeasurably more? Definitely not. Not only was I selfish, but I was impatient too. We could probably throw a little bit of disrespect in there for good measure. It wasn’t even worth it because of how it made me feel. Selfishness never rewards as well as thoughtfulness.

You want to know what else bothered my heart after the fact? In addition to that just being plain rude, I found myself wondering if my doing what I did made her feel bad about herself. Did my actions cause her to feel slower than she should be or older than she wanted to be? I couldn’t help but wonder just what my actions caused her to feel. With a little patience, a smile, and a compliment, I could have made that moment feel very different for both of us.

We have opportunities all around us every single day to go above and beyond for people. My blog last week was about nature being a silent witness to the existence of God. So are our actions. As Christ followers, we are called to a higher level. Let an elderly person get in line in front of you. You could even help them lift something heavy out of their cart and onto the conveyer belt. There are a million little ways to go above and beyond if you’re looking.

This isn’t just for strangers. A great place to start is with the people we know and love. For example, how often do you go above and beyond for your spouse? Give them more than they ask for? My throw down for you today is to pray for an opportunity to do more for someone than they expect. It doesn’t have to be big. It could be as simple as helping a vertically challenged person (like me) get something off a high shelf, or paying for a stranger’s cup of coffee.

Let your actions be a silent witness. Do more. Be more. Why? Because Jesus was our example first.

Be blessed,
C.K.

Surrender

The following is taken from my new book, The Waiting Room, available for pre-order on Amazon. Only eBook is available for pre-order, but both eBook and paperback will be available for purchase when the book releases on June 18th.


“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.’” Matthew 16:24-45

I imagine the title alone may have sent waves of discomfort through you. It sure did to me for a number of years. As Christians, we like to sing about surrender, but walking that talk is a lot harder than it sounds on Sunday morning. If we look to Merriam-Webster to help us define surrender, we find the following:

“a: to yield to the power, control, or possession of another or b:to give up completely or agree to forgo especially in favor of another.”

When we surrender to God, we’re giving Him authority to exercise His sovereign judgment in our lives. To clarify, this isn’t God overruling our ability to have free will. It’s us giving to God what we think is best, in return for what He knows is best.

If you have kids, particularly teenagers, then you’re well aware of a thing I like to call the “Omni Effect.” The Omni Effect is the result of a child turning the age at which they know the answer to every question ever asked. They no longer need the wisdom of their parents because they’re smarter and far wiser in the ways of the world, despite experiencing only a fraction of what their parents have. They know what’s best, so they feel they should be able to do what they like. They believe the world has changed so dramatically, that we, as parents, couldn’t possibly be smart enough to guide and educate them.

Are you parents out there rolling your eyes yet? I thought so. This is a pretty easy concept for us to grasp, right? What if we applied this to our all-knowing God? News flash: we are those kids. We’re the ones who have experienced only a fraction of what God has. I don’t think we could even call it a fraction. That would be far too generous. He knows all because He created all. The Bible tells us every day was written before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). He’s the only One able to provide perfect guidance in perfect timing.

Perhaps the greatest testimony of surrender happens when we, amidst the charge of the enemy, lay down our shield, get on our knees, and lift our hands. It’s not a white flag we hold, but the offering of our will to God, whatever the outcome may be. To give yourself wholly and completely to the will of God, without regard to your own personal desires, is the epitome of surrender.

It’s also terrifying.

Why is it so scary? Why is there fear in surrender? We fall into the trap of fear when one of two things happen. The first is we believe the lies of the enemy. Satan doesn’t want you to be close to God. In fact, he wants nothing but misery and death for you (John 10:10). He’s going to whisper lies into your ear about why what God wants for you isn’t going to make you happy. He’s going to stir confusion and doubt. There’s a way to combat that. Fall on the Word. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Search the Scriptures on what God has to say about your situation and who He created you to be.

The second reason we fall into fear is because we don’t know, or choose not to rely on, the character of our God. Do you know Him well enough to know He loves you beyond measure (Ephesians 3:17-19); that He, Himself is love (1 John 4:8)? Do you trust His heart enough to know He longs to bless you and give you every good thing (Psalm 37:4, Matthew 7:9-11)? It’s impossible for God to lie and it’s impossible for God to do anything outside the character of goodness. For these reasons, you can trust Him completely.

It’s a spiritual truth that you can never out-give God. If God’s asking you to give Him something, don’t place such a high value on it and cling to it for fear of losing the joy or security you think it brings. When you surrender it to God, you’ll find He returns something of even greater value. As I’ve often told my daughter, doing what’s asked of us isn’t the extent of obedience. God desires our right attitudes as well. The attitude of surrender should be one of prostration in the presence of an all-knowing God, comforted in the assurance that He knows what you don’t. He’ll only ask of you what He knows will ultimately lead to both your blessing and His glory. In keeping with our spiritual truth, God will never ask you for something and then return something less than you gave to Him.

Surrendering doesn’t make you weak. It’s what you do when you are weak, so God can be your strength. However difficult this may be for you, take your treasure – your money, time, job, relationship, food, home, hobbies, whatever He’s asking for – and lay it at His feet. He’ll return what you never thought possible, including freedom. Don’t be bound in slavery to the things you refuse to let go of out of fear. It’s keeping you from a greater blessing and a beautiful display of His Glory.

“Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

Be blessed,
C.K.

Forget the Former Things

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19

We all have expectations and desires for our tomorrows, but we sometimes allow our yesterdays to get in the way. No matter what your current situation in life, I pray this leaves you excited about the great things our God has waiting for you, as well as a changed perspective about where you’ve been. I’m excited to look with you in Isaiah, where we’ll learn about the amazing power of transformation available to us, and how God encourages us to keep our eye on the prize.

Visualize a wasteland. Webster defines this as “an ugly often devastated or barely inhabitable place or area.” Imagine what would happen if a stream of fresh, clean water is planted right in the middle of that wasteland. Over time, the ground around it begins to absorb the water. As the water spreads farther into the ground, it’s the catalyst for new life. Slowly, the seeds that once fell on hard and dry soil now have soft dirt to cultivate in. In a matter of time, what was once ugly and barren is full of lush, green life. When you choose to call God the Lord of your life, you are choosing life itself. You are allowing His living water to be deposited into the deepest part of you.

Let’s look to a common scientific principle – water was meant to flow. As you read His Word and spend time with Him, increasing your understanding of who God is and His will for you, that repository of water begins to flow, not only into every part of you but, into the lives of those around you. That water changes you. It changes your heart and transforms your mind (Romans 12:2). Transforming your mind and heart will transform your life. 

What prevents us from embracing the change and walking in transformation? Often times, it’s because we’re too busy dwelling on our past. You know the phrase, “the best predictor of the future is the past.” There’s usually no shortage of people reminding us of our mistakes and shortcomings. After hearing these messages enough times, we begin to believe the limitations others set for us.

God takes a different approach on things. He’s telling us to forget the former things. One of the amazing gifts afforded to us through our relationship with Christ is the ability to wipe our slates clean. If you’re in doubt, look at Paul’s story (Acts 9), and the amazing works he was able to do for Christ afterthe years he spent murdering Christians. I sometimes wonder what self-deprecating thoughts Paul had to overcome after his own transformation. How many times did he have to tell himself God was bigger than his murderous rampage of the brothers that were now his?

I’m not saying it’s easy to forget our past, but we must reconcile the misgiving that our failures make us unworthy. Sweet One, our being human makes us unworthy, but the power of Christ’s death and resurrection created a way for us to forget the former things and set ourselves on a new path.

Don’t let Satan use your past as a means to limit your future.

Understand our mistakes only serve to glorify the One who can make all things new (Romans 8:28-30). I believe this glory comes in two forms. The first is simple – Jesus saves. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done – there isn’t anything the cross didn’t overcome. When Jesus hung on that cross, bloody and beaten, he bore the pain and shame of every sin ever committed and yet to be committed. Nothing was forgotten. No one was forgotten.

The second form of glory is more subjective, but equally valuable – your story. Think of survivor stories and how individuals use those to inspire and motivate others. In our Christian walks, it’s vital for us to relate to others in a way that makes faith real and even tangible. We do this through sharing our stories and triumphs of overcoming sin and hardship. People need to know and believe we’ve walked in their shoes before they will trust what we say to them.

Being real about who we were before Christ transformed us, and the ways we fall on our face amidst our Christian walks today, serves to fortify the hope available for those who choose to believe.

Dwelling on your past will lead you back to a drought. Don’t forget the lessons in them, but don’t let your past limit your future. We serve an amazing God – able to do immeasurably more than we could possibly ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). If God believes you can, shouldn’t you?

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? …. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31, 37-39

Be blessed,
C.K.

Extreme Home Makeover

Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. Psalm 127:1

Do you remember the old ABC hit show, Extreme Home Makeover? Ty Pennington and his team would travel the nation, rebuilding the homes of people whose lives had been marked with struggle, illness, or the death of their loved ones. The families would be excursioned off for a week while the makeover team demolished what was there and put something incredibly beautiful in its place.

As Christians, we should take inventory of our spiritual houses. When you stand at a central point looking at the walls around you, what do you see? Do you see a clean and beautiful structure or do you see cracked walls and rotting boards? What in your spiritual house needs to be demolished and rebuilt?

What was the pinnacle or turning point in the lives of the families on this show? They either asked for help or someone close to them made a plea on their behalf. Sound familiar? I hope so, because this, my friend, is prayer. Whether you’re crying out to God for help, or someone who loves you is interceding for you, God hears the prayers of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). 

Some of us have developed in our spiritual maturity, and just need God to come in and renovate a few problematic rooms. However, sometimes we have too much damage for mere renovation. Our walls might be crumbling and, just as we can’t pour new wine into old wineskins (Matthew 9:17), God won’t build a new home on top of a foundation that’s damaged. In these situations, we find ourselves surrendered and requiring all the trust we can muster as the walls are brought down around us.

Sweet one, I know all too well how frightening this can be. There was a point in my life when everything seemed to be crumbling down around me. Anything and everything that held significance to me seemed to get ripped away in some fashion. As I mentally and emotionally walked through the rubble, tears streaming over the broken items, it was then God picked me up and held me in His arms. He pulled me far enough away so my focus was no longer on the broken pieces, but on the crew that was waiting in the distance to clear away the rubble and rebuild. What I first thought was demise was, in reality, the hope for something better.

I love to redecorate rooms. I love finding one unique item and patterning everything else around it as a compliment. We all have rooms that need a little redecorating. As you allow God into those rooms, He places His Son Jesus inside as the unique centerpiece. Over time, He develops and adds pieces of your character that compliment your centerpiece. This is a life-long process that should never be stagnant.

If you were having guests over, would you be quick to make sure it’s clean? With your spiritual home, every time you interact with people, you’re inviting them into an open house. If it’s less than what God desires, I’d encourage you to see your cracks as opportunities to grow.

Take heart, for help is on the way! When you surrender your spiritual house to the Almighty Designer, He will come in and transform you room by room, until what’s left is your palace (Hebrews 11:10).

I’ll leave you with one more thought. Why did the families on Extreme Home Makeover trust the crew? They were familiar with the show and had seen the results time and time again. If these families can put their homes into the hands of a crew that existed for only a few years, then certainly, you and I can put our homes in the hands of an infinitely-existing, all-knowing, ever-present God, whose record of victories existed before time began.

Be blessed,
C.K.