A New Beginning
We all need a fresh start from time to time. Maybe need a fresh start in your personal finances, or maybe you need a fresh start in your marriage, or maybe you need a fresh start in a relationship with a child or a parent, or maybe you need a fresh start in your health and well-being, or maybe you need a fresh start in your career. We all need a fresh start from time to time. And the beautiful thing is that our God is a God of fresh starts. Our God is a God of second chances. Our God is a God of new possibilities. And so God is always inviting us to a fresh start. But usually, in my life when things aren't making sense, it's because I've wandered away from God in some way. Small way or a large way, I've wandered away from God. And when we wander away from God, things stop making sense. Sometimes the danger can be to think, "Oh, I'm waiting for God. I'm waiting for God to give me clarity about this or that." But that's almost never the case. Usually, God's waiting for us. Sometimes we're waiting for God to get with our agenda, and of course, that's not going to happen. And at the same time, God's waiting for us to get with His agenda. Whenever things aren't making sense in my life, it's usually a good time for me to turn back to Jesus to get back to basics and say, "All right. What is Jesus calling me to, in my life right now?" Or, "What would Jesus have to say about this situation that I'm struggling with in my life right now?" It's time to rediscover Jesus because Jesus, He's the ultimate new beginning, He's the ultimate second chance, He's the ultimate fresh start, and we all need a fresh start from time to time.
Getting to Know Jesus
There's been a few moments in my life where I had this overwhelming sense that I didn't know Jesus anywhere near as well as I should. The most recent of those experiences for me was while I was developing Decision Point, a confirmation program for Dynamic Catholic. Me and a team worked on it for almost five years. And you've got this sense that you want to help these young people develop an understanding of the genius of Catholicism, and you know that giving them a personal encounter with Jesus is absolutely essential. I really asked myself, "Okay. Who is Jesus? And what does he want to say to us here, now, today? And what's he saying to me?" And Rediscover Jesus really emerged out of that experience. If you sit down and you write down everything you know about Jesus, you'd be amazed how quickly you run out of things to write, even though we've been hearing about him our whole lives, in all sorts of different environments, in all sorts of different contexts, some of them good, some of them bad. But when you really sit down and think about it, how well do you know Jesus? And a huge part, maybe the biggest part, of rediscovering Jesus is understanding that God, the Father, wants you to have an incredible relationship with Jesus. He wants you to have a deep, dynamic relationship with Jesus. And that's the invitation.
When you look around the world today, there's so much chaos. There's so much confusion. There's a real lack of order and clarity. Sometimes when you tidy up your office or you tidy up your room or you clean out your closet, you just feel differently because things are in their place. There's order, there's clarity, and you just feel differently as a result of that physical experience. You go and wash your car, you actually feel differently because your car is clean. Get it all clean on the inside, all clean on the outside. You actually physically feel differently. God loves order. God loves clarity. And God wants to bring order to your life. God wants to bring clarity to your life, but in order for him to do that, we've got to cooperate. We've got to allow him to clean out some of the trash from our lives. We've got to allow him to tidy up the mess in our hearts, in our souls, in our minds. I think most of us, we know something's missing. We know something's missing in our life, either in its totality or we know something's missing in one area of our lives, but we're wrong. Something's not missing. Someone is missing. And that someone is Jesus. That's why we're constantly being called to rediscover Jesus, because Jesus came to bring order and clarity to our lives, to our relationships, and to the world.
The Jesus Question
Jesus was walking down the road one day with his Disciples, and he asked them a couple of questions. He asked them, "Who do people say that I am?" The Disciples said, "Well, some say you're John the Baptist come back from the dead. Others say you're Elijah. Some say you're one of the great Prophets." And then Jesus asked his second question. He said to them, "Who do you say that I am?" I call out the Jesus question, and sooner or later everyone has to answer the Jesus question. You can't avoid the question. It's the unavoidable question about the inescapable God, and you have to answer the question for yourself. I can't answer the question for you. I can't answer the question for my kids. Your parents can't answer it for you. Your professors can't answer it for you. Your friends can't answer it for you. You have to answer it for yourself. When Jesus steps toward you and looks you in the eye and says, "Who do you say that I am?" That's the question that we all have to answer at different times in our lives. And you might have answered it at one point in your life. You might have said, "Well, Jesus is this or Jesus is that." Well, maybe it's time to rediscover the Jesus question. Maybe it's time to rediscover the inescapable friend who only wants good things for you. That's who Jesus is. He wants good things for you. He wants good things for you more than you want good things for yourself. That's an incredible friend, and we all need a friend like that.
The God Claim
In a modern secular culture, there's always these debates about who Jesus was and whether or not He existed and all these sorts of things, whether or not he rose from the dead, whether or not He did all these miracles. But when you really get into it, the evidence of Jesus is overwhelming and inspiring. We can argue about whether or not He rose from the dead or did all these miracles, but whether or not he actually existed is completely beyond dispute. Over and over in the gospels, Jesus refers to Himself as the son of man. You ever wonder what that meant? Do you ever wonder, okay, what was he referring to there? Ever wonder what's the significance of that? When Jesus said, "I am the son of man," what He was really saying was, "I am the one that Daniel spoke about. I have dominion and glory and kingship. Every nation will worship me. People of every language will serve me. My dominion is divine. Worldly dominion can be taken away, but my dominion is not worldly and it cannot be taken from me. My kingship is divine. The kings of this world can be murdered and overthrown. Their kingship and kingdoms can be destroyed, but my kingship is inseparable from who I am. It cannot be taken or transferred to anybody else. I am the one you have been waiting for." That's what he was saying. Jesus was saying, "I am the one you've been waiting for. I'm the one all your ancestors have been talking about. I'm the one you've been waiting for." And he says the same thing to you and me today. He's the one we've been waiting for. Whether we're aware of that or not, He is the one that we've been waiting for.
There Is More
Jesus claimed to be God. He claimed to be God, and then He went around proving his claim. He proved his claim by demonstrating He had power over nature. He proved his claim by demonstrating His ability to forgive sins. And Jesus said, "Well, to prove that I am God, not only will I forgive your sins, but I'll make the lame walk and I'll make the blind see. And I'll feed thousands of people with a couple of loaves of bread." So He made this God claim, and then over and over and over throughout his life, throughout his ministry, He proved the claim. There's so much more to Jesus. Have you ever read one Gospel just from start to finish? Just sat down in a big, comfortable chair one Sunday afternoon and read a Gospel from start to finish? Life-changing experience.
The Third Question
We talked about those two questions that Jesus asked his disciples on the road. "Who do people say that I am?" and, "Who do you say that I am?" But there's a third question that we all need to consider. There's a third question that we all need to spend some time reflecting on. And that question is, "Who does Jesus say that you are?" You see, we're constantly getting feedback about who we are. Our friends sort of share with us who they think we are. Our family are giving us input about who they think we are. Our colleagues. But what matters most is who does God think we are. What's God's opinion of us? Who does Jesus think you are? There's nothing that you might have done in your life that will cause Jesus to stop loving you. And so many people walk away from God, so many people walk away from church, so many people walk away from Jesus because they think they've done something that God can't get over. They think they've done something that has caused God to stop loving them. They think they've done something that has caused Jesus to stop-- there's nothing you can do that can cause Jesus to stop loving you. His love is bigger than any sin. His love is bigger than any mistake you can make, and he wants you never, never, never to forget that love.
Jesus Was a Radical
In the most positive sense of the word, Jesus was a radical. He turned things upside down in a really fabulous way. In fact, he turned things upside down to make them right side up. And wherever he went he tried to bring people closer to the truth, and he wants to do the same thing for your life. He wants to do the same thing for my life. It's so easy to lie just in a little situation where it just doesn't mean anything. It's just convenient. It's just more convenient to lie than to get into something. Jesus didn't have a casual relationship with the truth. He had a radical relationship with truth. He says, "I am the truth. I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life." We can wander away from the truth so easily. It always leads to misery. It always leads to unhappiness for us and for other people, but we keep doing it, right? We keep trying our way. You think about your life. You've been trying your way for a long time. One of the things that God is saying to us is, "Hey, are you ready to try my way?" And if we have the courage to do that, something incredible will happen.
The Greatest Teacher Ever
When you think back on your life, who is the best teacher you ever had? When was the moment that that teacher came into your life? What else was happening in your life at that time, and why did that teacher have such a powerful impact on your life? Was it because they helped you see life in a different way? Or was it because they taught you some practical skill that you became really, really good at, and your gratitude for them is tied up in that? Jesus was the greatest teacher that ever lived. His message has changed the world. His message has changed billions of people. And his message has the power to change your life and my life if we'll open our hearts and our minds and our souls, and let Jesus teach us. He was able to take really, really complicated stuff and make it simple. And simple's not the same as easy because the gospel is incredibly difficult to live. But the way Jesus presented it was simple. It was everyday. It was in ways that ordinary, uneducated people could understand. The world wants to complicate our lives. Jesus wants to simplify our lives. Jesus is an invitation to so many things, but one of the things Jesus is an invitation to is simplicity.
Jesus was teaching one day in the Synagogue, and one of the Pharisees asked him a question. He said to Jesus, "Which is the greatest of the Commandments?" And the question was an attempt, again, to trip Jesus up because they believed that all the Commandments were equally important and all the Commandments were interconnected, and he answered by saying, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest of the Commandments. And the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself." This is like a mini gospel. It's like a mini examination of conscience. It's like how well did you do that yesterday? I mean, if you just think about those 40 words, how well did you do with that yesterday, and how can you live that out more today? But the thing that really jumps out at me is this idea that our love of neighbor is connected with our love of self. In fact, Jesus actually assumes that we love ourselves. He says, "You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself." It's so often we fall into this idea of loathing ourselves even though God has this incredible, overwhelming, never-ending love for us, and we're so tempted to fall into self-loathing and to be down on ourselves. And God says, "No. No. I want you to love yourself in a really good, healthy way like I love you, and then I want you to love other people. Out of that position of strength, I want you to-- I want you to go out into the world, and I want you to love other people and serve other people powerfully." And I think that's an incredible thing. God wants you to love God. God wants you to love neighbor, and God wants you to love yourself in a really good and healthy way.
The Heart of the Gospel
Right at the heart of the gospel, we find this notion of radical generosity. Jesus displayed this radical generosity. Obviously, the ultimate expression of that was by laying down His life for us. But He was constantly displaying this radical generosity throughout His life in so many different ways, and He invites us to the same radical generosity. He says in the gospels, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none. And whoever has food must do likewise." And it's so easy to say, "Oh, that part of the gospel doesn't really apply to me," or "That part of the gospel doesn't really apply to me in that way." But there's lots of people in the world who need a coat. And there's lots of people who need food, and most of us have got plenty. Most of us have got more than we need. And a lot of us have got more than is good for us. The world looks at life and says, "Hey, whoever can get the most, whoever can amass the most, they're the winner." God invites us to look at life as a generosity contest. "Who can be the most generous person?" He wants us to be generous with our praise. He wants us to be generous with our appreciation. He wants us to be generous with our compassion. He wants us to be generous with our patience. How's God inviting you to be generous at this time in your life? How is God inviting you to be generous today?
The Soul of the Gospel
Another of the hallmark messages of the gospel is forgiveness. You see, Jesus wants us to experience this deep, really incredible peace and there can be no peace without forgiveness. Allen Hunt wrote a great book, it's called Everybody Needs to Forgive Somebody. What a fabulous title, Everybody Needs to Forgive Somebody. The reason it's such a fabulous title is because it is absolutely true. And not that many books are for everybody, but here's a book that is absolutely for everybody because everybody needs to forgive somebody. Who do you need to forgive? Who do you need to forgive? Who's that person in your life that God is calling you to forgive? Because if we don't, then we experience unforgiveness and we experience the fruits of unforgiveness. And unforgiveness robs us of that peace that God wants us to experience. I mean, just that incredible peace that God wants us to experience. And the joy that God wants to give us springs forth from that peace. And so as we make this journey together, rediscovering Jesus, one of the great steps in the journey is identifying, "Okay, who is that person in my life who I need to forgive right now?"
Who Is the Greatest?
When Jesus came into the world, everything and everyone only had value in as much as they could make the state great and powerful. So when the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Who's the greatest?" and Jesus said, "Unless you become like these little children, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven," He was turning their whole worldview upside down. I think about my own children, and I think about how, in a modern culture, it's so easy to become confused about our identity, to lose that understanding that we are children of God, in fact, so easy that many, many people never really fully develop that identity. Do you think of yourself as a child of God? When someone asks you, "Well, who are you?" or "What do you do?" or "What's important to you?" very often we say, "Well, this is what I do and this is where I live," but we don't necessarily think of ourselves as children of God. It takes a daily reminder to realize that we are children of God, to realize that we have great blessings because we're children of God, to realize that we have great responsibilities because we're children of God, and to realize that - you know what? - we can trust God. God's got a great plan for us. We can trust God, and sometimes we don't. In fact, often we don't. How much do we trust God? Because not to trust God is insanity, but very often, that's the position we take. And so, as we rediscover Jesus, it's an invitation to trust God in ways we never have before.
Purity of Heart
We talked about the idea that Jesus says we're free. Jesus came to make us free, and He wants to keep us free. And in order to keep us free, He wants us to be master of certain areas of our lives. And one of those areas is what we look at. The things we look at can really have a powerful impact on our minds. It can have a powerful impact on our relationships. Some things we look at truly elevate us. They bring us closer to God. They bring us closer to other people and they elevate our soul in a really beautiful way. You see a phenomenal sunset, or you walk into St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York or you walk into Notre Dame in Paris or look at the Sistine Chapel. Some things we look at, they raise us up to be who God created us to be. And other things we look at, they drag us down; they degrade us. They make us less than who God dreams of us being. There's messages and visual stimulation everywhere, and Jesus wants us to be master of our eyes because the eyes are the windows to our soul which is why custody of the eyes is such a powerful, important spiritual discipline.
Making Sense of Suffering
Part of the genius of Catholicism, the genius of the Christian worldview, is that Christianity is actually able to make sense of suffering. Most philosophies, most worldviews-- they don't know what to do with suffering. As Christians, we believe that suffering has value. And it's one of the points of distinction. It's one of the points of differentiation that sets Christianity apart from every other religion. We believe that Jesus' suffering had value, that it restored our relationship with God, and that it brought salvation to the world. And because Christianity is an all-encompassing worldview, because Christianity is a complete way of life, we believe that our suffering has value united to Jesus' suffering. The things that don't go our way, from incredible suffering down to just an inconvenience, we're called to offer it up. We're called to offer up that inconvenience. We're called to offer up that suffering. And we believe that by offering up that inconvenience, that suffering, we'll be perfected in a new way spiritually, and that that suffering-- whether it's a struggle with cancer or an inconvenience, we believe that suffering has value.
Do Not Judge
Jesus was abundantly clear about so many things in his teachings, and judgement was one of them. He said, "Do not judge so that you won't be judged." I mean, you can't get clearer than that. And yet we live in a hyperjudgemental society. We live in a massively over-opinionated culture. People have opinions about everything. We have opinions about everything. We have opinions about things sometimes that we don't even know anything about just because we saw some blurb on some TV show. And so God is trying to liberate us from all of this. God is trying to teach us acceptance rather than judgement. And it's a very, very, very difficult lesson, but that's the way God loves. How many times a day do you think you judge? How many times a day do you think you judge yourself? How many times a day do you think you judge other people? Here's today's challenge: count. Count. Count how many times today you judge yourself. Count how many times today you judge other people. Ask God to liberate you from judgement.
When you think about Jesus and his relationships, I think there's a couple of really powerful lessons. One is that he took these 12 guys, and He did life with them. But they did it together. They moved through life together in a really powerful way. And we need people to do life with. We need people to tell us, "Hey, you're kidding yourself." We need people to tell us, "Hey, you're not seeing this as it really is." We need people to say, "You're being too hard on yourself." We need people to say, "You're being too easy on yourself." We need people to say, "You're procrastinating." We need people to challenge us and to comfort us. We need people to do life with. God loves people. God loves relationships. God loves community, and God wants us to move through life in community. He wants us to have a group of people around us that we can do life with. Very often I think modern culture's very anonymous. You can move through life quite anonymously in the modern culture. But God doesn't want that to be the case. He wants us to know and be known. The other lesson that we learned from Jesus and his radical relationships is that Jesus was constantly, not occasionally but constantly, taking people on the very fringes of society and placing them right at the center of the gospel narrative. When I think about the people on the fringes of society, they don't cross my path that often, right? They probably don't cross your path that often. In most cases we have to go looking for these people. Jesus was on the lookout. He was constantly taking these people on the fringes of society, placing them right at the center of the gospel, making them the most important people in the gospel stories. And he invites us to do the same thing. He invites us to go to the fringes of society, go to the margins of life, and place these people in our narrative.
The Main Event
Without the resurrection, there'd be no Christianity. I mean, it is, the resurrection is the main event of Christianity. Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins. But if He hadn't risen from the dead, then all of His promises, everything He'd led people to believe would not have been fulfilled, and so the resurrection is the main event of our faith. I can't prove the resurrection of Jesus to you. I can prove that Jesus existed. I can prove that He walked the earth. I can prove that He actually existed, but I can't prove to you that He rose from the dead. I mean, there's lots of evidence that He rose from the dead, and certainly, it would be an astounding conspiracy if He hadn't risen from the dead. And if you think about sort of the explosion of Christianity around the world over the last 2,000 years, if he hadn't risen from the dead it would be an astounding conspiracy. But I think we know enough to know that such a conspiracy wouldn't be possible. Too many people would've known about the conspiracy. And so at some point, we have to look at the evidence that is available and we have to accept it and believe or reject it. In many ways, I think Jesus didn't want us to be able to prove the resurrection. If we could prove the resurrection, there'd be no room for faith, and faith is a great supernatural virtue. Faith is part of the human person, and faith is something that God wants us to express and experience and share with others.
We spend so much of our time sort of tweaking. We pray for tweaking. "Oh, dear God, please tweak this. And, dear God, please tweak that. And tweak my husband, God. And tweak my kids, God. And tweak their soccer coach. And tweak our pastor. And tweak the politicians. And tweak this situation. And tweak that situation." And then of course very often I think we wonder why doesn't God answer our prayers. The answer is really simple. God's not in the business of tweaking. God's in the business of transformation. God has a great, mighty, awesome, powerful transformation in mind for you, and a great, powerful, mighty transformation in mind for me. God is the King of transformation. And He desires transformation for us because He wants us to have an incredible joy. He wants us to have an incredible peace. He wants us to have an incredible happiness. One of the great challenges of our spiritual life is to switch from tweaking to transformation. Now, I think the sad truth is that most of us-- never once in our lives have we prayed a prayer of transformation. Most of us never once in our lives have come to God and said, "All right, God. Whatever You want. Everything's on the table. I'm 100% available. Transform me. Transform my life. Take what You want to take. Give what You want to give. I'll do whatever You ask me to, God." Want to see miracles in your own life? Pray that prayer, because I can promise you one thing. Never once in the history of the world did God not answer that prayer. God answers prayers of transformation every single time.
Somewhere deep inside, we know that Jesus wants to turn our lives upside down. And maybe not every aspect of our life, but certainly at least one or two aspects of our life. Truth is, Jesus wants to turn your marriage upside down. He wants to turn your parenting upside down. He wants to turn your family upside down. He wants to turn your work upside down. He wants to turn your career or your business upside down. He wants to turn your parish and your school upside down. He wants to turn your personal finances upside down. He wants to turn your health and well-being upside down. He wants to turn your ideas and opinions upside down. Jesus wants to turn your life upside down. If you let Him, you'll be happier than you ever thought possible in this lifetime. If you let Him. But that's the great challenge, is to allow Jesus into our lives. And I think sometimes we keep Jesus at arm's length because we don't want Him to get too close because we know he wants to transform us and transform our lives. The truth is, that's a scary reality. I think that frightens us sometimes. And that's okay and it's important that we acknowledge that so that we can get beyond it. The truth is, we're all the rich young man. Our wealth might not be worldly wealth, but we're all the rich young man in something, in some way. We all have riches and so we can identify with this young man. There's a number of things-- I think we've heard the story a thousand times, but there's a number of things about the rich young man that really strike me. One is that he proactively sought Jesus out. Jesus didn't come looking for him. The rich young man proactively sought Jesus out, which suggests to us that he wanted to be a good person. He wanted to strive, spiritually. He wanted to grow in his faith and he proactively sought Jesus out. I think the question that raises for us is, are we proactively seeking Jesus in our lives or are we just stumbling upon Jesus at different moments and different experiences of our lives?
I have this exercise I do at church on Sunday. After the priest reads the gospel or the deacon, I ask myself, if I just live this one gospel reading 100%, how much would my life change? I get the same answer every Sunday. Radically. My life would change radically. If I just live last Sunday's gospel 100%, my life would change radically. Not the whole Gospel, not the whole New Testament, not the whole Bible, not the whole catechism, not the whole church's teachings, but if I just live last Sunday's gospel 100%, my life would change radically. There's a gap between my life and the gospel, and it's a pretty big gap. And I guess the first thing to recognize is the gap. And then we can work on God to close the gap, and we come to church on Sunday to work on the gap. We spend time reading the scriptures to work on the gap. We try to do good deeds for other people to work on the gap, to close the gap. But it's a big gap. It's a pretty big gap. And when we measure our lives against the gospel, we discover that gap. The problem is that we tend to measure our lives against a lot of other things. And when we do that, I think one of the great dangers is we can fall into the trap of thinking, "Oh. I'm a pretty good Christian. I mean compared to that person or compared to my neighbor who's doing this stupid thing or compared to these people on TV, I'm a pretty good Christian." This is the sin of comparison where we compare ourselves to something else or someone else in order to feel good about ourselves. And the real problem with this comparison is that it stops us from growing. It stops us from accepting God's invitation to grow and be transformed, to change in the beautiful and incredible ways that God wants to grow us, to change us, to transform us into that incredible person He created us to be, that best version of ourselves.
Part of the genius of Lent is that it invites us to take another look at the self-denial, especially through prayer, fasting, almsgiving. In many ways, our ability to deny ourself is inseparably linked to our ability to succeed at anything. You can't have a great marriage, unless you're willing to deny yourself. You can’t be a great parent, unless you're willing to deny yourself. You can't be successful in sport, unless you're willing to deny yourself. You can’t be successful at work, in business, in your career, unless you're willing to deny yourself. You can't be successful in your personal finances, unless you're willing to deny yourself. We can’t be successful in our health and well-being, unless we're willing to deny ourselves. And so self-denial is central to Christianity, it's central to life, it's central to succeeding at any of the great many things that God wants us to succeed at. It's important that we look at it from time to time and say, "Okay. How good am I at denying myself? How often am I denying myself? Am I developing a habit of denying myself? Or am I only doing it when I really don't have a choice?" It can be in 100 tiny little ways each day. You want to have a Coke, your body's crying out for a Coke, you're craving a Coke, but instead you have a glass of water. Nobody sees that, nobody knows about that, but in that small self-denial, you're actually taking possession of yourself. And the truth is we only really develop that self-possession through self-denial.
The Prayer Process
When I first started speaking and writing, I had this old priest who was a great friend to me and guided me in so many ways. And I used to meet with him. And every time I met with him, he always asked me one question. He used to ask me, "How's your prayer life?" He understood that, if you get this one piece right, everything else is going to fall into place. If you get this thing right, everything else is going to be easier to deal with. And so he would keep coming back to this question, "How's your prayer life?" And so that's my question for you today. How's your prayer life? Nothing changes unless our prayer lives begin to grow and begin to transform. Prayer changes everything. And I think when we look at our church, or maybe look at our parish, we have great dreams. We have great hopes for our church, for our parish. And we have to be aware that nothing's going to change unless we really become a people of prayer, because the Christian life is simply not sustainable without daily prayer, without a few moments each day where we step back out of the crazy, noisy, busy world; we enter into the classroom of silence; we sit down with our God; we reconnect with our God; we reconnect with what our God is really calling us to, so that we can go out into the world and can be ambassadors of peace and ambassadors of clarity and ambassadors of Christ in the world. The Christian life is simply not sustainable without daily prayer.
I have four little kids now, and one of the things about being a father, I think, is that it changes the way you understand God. It changes the way you understand God's love for us. You realize that as a father, you just love being with them. It doesn't matter what you're doing. You just love being with them. My little boy, Walter, he'll come into my office at home and say, "You know, Daddy, I need to have a meeting." So he'll come in my office at home, he'll get up in his little chair, and he'll have his meeting. And he'll just talk about different things, what's happening in his day, or some question he's thinking about, or. It's just a delightful thing. Scriptures talk about how God delights in being with us. Just delights in being with us. He just delights. And God delights in talking to us. He delights in conversation. He delights in prayer. Because it is that conversation between a child and his father. It's a tremendously beautiful thing. So while we need a specific time in our day where we just have a few minutes of prayer, we have this great need just to be in spontaneous conversation with God. And He will share his delight with us the more we recognize his presence in the day and just communicate with him.
Dancing for Joy
I think we've gotten to the point now, where everyone knows that the world needs changing. I mean, everyone. There's nobody who says, "Oh, the world's in great shape. Let's just keep it on the track it's going on. Don't even touch it. It's working so well." No, everyone knows the world needs changing. And I think the people who know it best - who know it maybe most - are parents, because they're concerned about the world their children will grow up in. Or grandparents, because I think some of them are petrified about the world their grandchildren will grow up in. The uncomfortable truth, I think, is that if Christians behaved like Christians, the world would change very, very quickly. If Christians behaved like Christians, you would transform the world radically and quickly. And it would be a transformation of joy. In the Old Testament, we read about David dancing for joy before the Ark of the Covenant, which, for the Jewish people, represented the presence of God. So David was dancing for joy in the presence of God. In the New Testament, we read about the child, John the Baptist, dancing for joy in the womb of Elizabeth when Elizabeth hears Mary's greeting. Why? Because even the child, John the Baptist, realizes he was in the presence of God. Because at that moment, Mary is a living tabernacle. Mary is the first tabernacle, carrying the child Jesus. And so the response of even the unborn child, of John the Baptist, is to dance for joy in the womb of Elizabeth. We're called to dance for joy. The Christian life should be joyful. People should see joy in our lives. And that joy is contagious. And that joy is what the world is yearning for. It's our job to bring that joy into the world and into people's lives.
If we really want to grow spiritually, there's one uncomfortable truth that we have to come to grips with first, and that's the reality that we don't see things as they really are. I think that's part of the reason why we live in such a hyper-opinionated culture because everyone has an opinion about everything because everyone thinks they see things as they really are. The truth is we don't see things as they really are and the reason is because we’ve got blind spots. I need my wife to take me aside from time to time and say, "Matthew, you're working too much." I need my wife to take me aside from time to time and say, "Matthew, you were too hard on Walter today. You’ve got to remember he's only five." I've got all these past experiences. Most of them good, some of them bad. But out of all those past experiences, I've got biases. I've got prejudices. I've got blind spots. I've got fears. And then I see the future ahead and I've got hopes and dreams for the future and they give me blind spots too. And all these blind spots, they stop me from seeing myself as I really am. They stop me from seeing you as you really are. They stop me from seeing situations as they really are. I don't see everything as it really is and that becomes a point of humility. And out of that humility comes something that we don't talk about anywhere near enough and that is a docility. Docility towards the movements of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Allowing God to direct us. Allowing God to show us things as they really are and that humility is essential if God's going to lead us in powerful ways and God wants to lead you in powerful ways.
Delve into the Gospels
I think one of the problems we have when we sincerely try to rediscover Jesus is that the most comprehensive record of Jesus, his life, his teachings, are the Gospel. And we tend to be fairly familiar with them. And that familiarity can sometimes hurt us, because we tend to skip over things rather than really delving into things. Rediscovering Jesus requires us to delve into the Gospels in a way that we haven't delved into them before. We find Jesus in the Gospels, but we also find an incredible study of humanity in the Gospels. We find all sorts of personalities. We find all sorts of people striving to become the best version of themselves, or completely ignoring the quest to become the-best-version-of-themselves, or completely ignoring the quest to become the-best-version-of-themselves. We find people who are walking with God, and we find people who are struggling to walk with God. We find people who have been walking with God for a long time, and then the whole thing just sort of blows up. They turn away from God. I think the secret to rediscovering Jesus in the Gospels is to see ourselves in every person in the story, is to find ourselves in the Gospel, is to bring it into the present, into the now, to realize that it's not something that's far off in history. The Gospels are living. They're breathing. They're here. They're now. They're for you, like a letter from a father teaching his son or his daughter how to live a great life. And we can only fully discover it by putting ourselves in the scene, by being there, by imagining the dust on the road, by sort of seeing the sweat drip from Jesus' head, by seeing his sandals and seeing his clothes and placing ourselves there as one of the characters.
But also to read a story and then to go through every person in the story and say, "How am I like that person? How am I like that person? How am I like this other person?" or, "What can I learn from this person?" or, "What is this person in this scene, in this story which I've heard a thousand times before-- what is this person trying to teach me? What is God trying to say to me through this person at this moment in my life?" And in these ways the Gospels are always new. They're always fresh. They're always alive. And they always bring us lessons of transformation.
We all have this incredible yearning to be loved, to be loved unconditionally, to be accepted for who we are. Our yearning to be loved is a yearning for God. And life is a course designed to teach us how to love and to teach us to love more generously this year than last year, to teach us to love more unconditionally this year than last year. The ultimate expression of this self-giving, self-sacrificing, super-abundant, phenomenally-generous love is Jesus dying on the cross. And in turn, he calls us to lay our lives down. What are you laying your life down for? God calls us to get serious and say, "You know what? I will lay my life down for this, for my spouse, for my children. I will lay my life down for this ministry, for this mission." He calls us to that, that agape love, that unconditional love that says, "Yep. I'm willing to lay it all down. This is that important. I will lay my life down."
Miracles were a part of Jesus' everyday life. And I think it's easy for us to say, "Oh yeah, miracles are far off in some far off distant place or only in extraordinary circumstances," or that sort of thing. But we believe that Jesus is still with us. And if miracles are a part of Jesus' everyday life, if they're just a part of who he is, then miracles continue to abound today. We're constantly surrounded by miracles but, very often, we fail to see them. As we grow spiritually, we grow an awareness and we start to see things that were always there but we didn't see them before. And one of the things we see is these miracles happening around us, happening within us, and how God wants to use us to do extraordinary things in other people's lives. And there are lots of ways that that takes place but maybe one of the most extraordinary ways is forgiveness. God forgives us. He forgives us, even though in many cases he knows we'll do it again. It's hard enough to forgive somebody for doing something but if you knew they were going to do it again, would you be able to forgive? And that's the miracle of God's love every single day in our lives.
Jesus on Lifestyle
One of the things that Jesus is constantly trying to do for us is to rearrange our priorities. You can't rediscover Jesus and not have your priorities rearranged. It's part of the process. If you want to examine your priorities, take out your checkbook, take out your credit card statement, take out your calendar or your planner and just look at them. We give our time and our money to the things we value the most. We give our time and our money to the things that we consider to be a priority in our lives. As we rediscover Jesus, as we allow Jesus to rearrange our priorities, you're going to see real changes in your checkbook. You're going to see real changes in your credit card statement. You're going to see real changes on your calendar and your planner because he will bring a beautiful simplicity to our life, and with that simplicity will come a lightness, a joy, a peace, and those are things worth chasing.
About the Author
Matthew Kelly was born in Sydney, Australia. He has dedicated his life to helping people and organizations become the-best-version-of-themselves. Kelly is a New York Times bestselling author, an internationally acclaimed speaker, and a business consultant to some of the world’s largest and most admired companies. He is the author of more than thirty books, which have sold more than forty-five million copies and have been published in more than thirty languages.
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