God’s love and mercy for us comes free of charge. We can’t do anything to deserve it any more or any less. The fact is we don’t deserve it at all. Still, the love of God is such He gives it to us anyway. We cannot work harder to be more deserving or earn more favor. He has already given everything on our behalf. Regardless of what we do or don’t do, He sees us as having unsurpassable worth and loves us unconditionally.

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No matter how much we may want it to be otherwise, none of our efforts will change these facts. However, when it comes to our relationship with Christ, we have a very direct influence on how close we are and how much our lives look like Jesus to those on the outside looking in.

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Socrates once said a “life that’s unexamined is not worth living.” While he may not have realized it, his wisdom is wholly applicable and important to would-be disciples of Jesus. It’s much like the advice one receives when travelling on an airplane. In case of a loss of pressure in the cabin, we’re told to secure our own oxygen mask before attempting to assist others.

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If we aren’t living our lives in tune with God’s will, we won’t be able to help others appreciate its beauty. The only way to be certain we’re in step with Christ is to take regular periods where we examine our own walk with Him.

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Every disciple is consumed with the adventure of finding Jesus. We search for Him in this place, in this moment, wherever we may find ourselves. The search is made more difficult by the amount of disguise we’ve allowed to be placed on Jesus. For our entire lives, we’ve been told stories of who Jesus is. We’ve chosen to believe some of it, and discarded others as inconsistent with our understanding of the character of God.

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Along the way, we’ve painted a picture of Christ in our minds to help us see Him in our lives. The extent to which our picture of Jesus is accurate in relation to who He really is, determines how successful we will be in finding Him in our day to day lives.

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As I write this, it is only a few days until Father’s Day will be celebrated here in the United States. This holiday affects people in different ways, depending on their situation or upbringing, but few are emotionless about it. For those whose fathers’ have passed away, this day probably brings mixed emotions of joyful memories and sorrowful realities. Some never knew their father, and for these there can be an ever-present emptiness.

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Unfortunately, there are those who have fathers who were abusive in one way or another and, as a result, Father’s Day is a day of bitterness. To those like myself who had good fathers who are still with them, it is a day of celebration of years past. But to all who profess Jesus as their Lord, we have something even more important to celebrate: the love of our Heavenly Father.

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At least in the Western world, we tend to allow our lives to be defined by what we produce or consume. We measure our success in comparison to our friends and neighbors, whether it’s by how far up the corporate ladder we’ve climbed or how many toys we’ve collected. If our neighbor buys a new car, chances are good we’ll suddenly feel compelled to do the same.

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If our friend and coworker receives a promotion, we’ll likely tell someone else the reasons we deserved it more than they did. When our identity is defined in relation to someone else, it’s easy to let these kinds of ugly reactions occur in our lives.

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I was talking with a friend recently who was wrestling with figuring out “which Jesus” she should be in given situations. She was asking, should she be the gentle Jesus, the humble Jesus, or the Jesus who overturns tables? It’s a great question and one we all encounter regularly. Put more plainly, we must constantly ask ourselves, “How can I most look like Jesus in this situation?” The good news is there is only one Jesus.

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So regardless of our actions, as long as we are making our decision based on the character of Christ, we will look like Jesus in that moment. While this is good to know in theory, the challenge comes in determining how this plays out in practical ways in our day to day lives.

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One of my mentors, Jim Rohn, was known for saying, “For things to change, you have to change.” So many want a closer relationship with Christ, to move beyond Christianity into discipleship, but waste their lives waiting for the transformation to occur. We have a role to play in becoming a disciple. Put simply, discipleship is a choice, and it is up to each of us to decide if it’s worth it.

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If we believe in Jesus but aren’t pursuing a life of discipleship, we are valuing the things of this earth more than we value Him. I am troubled by anyone who professes Jesus with their lips but denies Him with their attitudes and actions. Jesus didn’t call us to a life of belief in Him; He called us to a radical abandonment of all things that are not Him.

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I have no doubt each of us has been put here to glorify and further the mission of Christ. Every one of us has been given a unique combination of skills, passions, and gifts. This unique combination of talents has been designed to accomplish specific work within God’s Kingdom. We get to choose whether we will do this work. If we refuse, God’s will won’t be thwarted; He’ll just give the job to someone else.

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He leaves it up to us to decide if we will spend our lives killing time or living on purpose. We can simply count the days until He returns, or do something with the time and gifts He has entrusted to us.

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In the United States, on the day this is being published, it is Memorial Day. It’s a day to remember the brave soldiers who have given their lives so those in this Country can live in freedom. Thanks to their sacrifice, we are free to worship as we choose, free to speak our minds, and free to do with our lives what we will. We can debate the travesty of violence and the suspect definition of a “just war” another time.

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For today, all those living in freedom would be well-served to thank a veteran and remember those who have passed away. With that said, none of this means anything if not for the ultimate sacrifice paid by one man over two thousand years ago.

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Disciplining yourself to do what you know is the right thing to do, at the right time, is a key to a flourishing relationship with God. How many times have you been tempted to do the wrong thing and, ignoring the warning bells going off inside, you give into the temptation? Every time we find ourselves at a decision point, we must ask ourselves how Jesus would decide in such a moment.

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When faced with a moral decision, the spirit of Christ within us informs us which way we should go. The problem is, the choice we know to be consistent with the character of Christ is often the more difficult path to walk. A narrow path is always more problematic to traverse than a wider one.

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