I love seeing the God-given talent.
I find the socio-dynamics intriguing — often, as is true this year, there are a few Christian participants who have a chance to glorify God or confess when they haven’t.
I find the contrast this year between ex-judge Simon Cowell (who many thought made the show with his sarcastic negativity toward the contestants) and the new judge Jennifer Lopez absolutely fascinating. I have no idea where Jennifer is spiritually, except that she is Catholic, but she exudes grace and is a model of how to give constructive criticism so that these young people can receive, respond, and improve, becoming more of what they were made to be. In Ephesians it says to STOP tearing down and to START building up. Or we could say STOP being a Simon and START being a Jennifer. I listen to her to learn how to do it — for we are all called to speak to one another in love, helping one another be all God intended us to be. Because one of my idols is control, and because I have been too critical of others in the past, I so want to grow in grace. Simon would tear down these young vulnerable kids — making fun of them, marring God’s masterpieces, even, possibly, destroying them. Jennifer encourages the good, and often says, “I know there’s a little more in you — if you would just do this….you are so gifted, I want to see you be your best.”
It amazes me, but even on this seven week journey during Lent, I am seeing more grace in myself. The Stonecutter has been excising my idol, and I am sensing more of His presence. The fruit of that root is love, joy, peace — and definitely more grace toward others. Being more grace filled wasn’t my goal in the beginning. To be honest, I was weary of the pain my idols were bringing me and I wanted them gone. I am thirsting after Jesus, and am so much more aware of His presence. But replacing my idol with Jesus is producing fruit. Here is a small example from this week, a before and after picture:
BEFORE: Waiting is hard for me, and I have felt our local Christian bookstore is particularly slow. I have been irritable at the counter, though have tried to hide it, wearing a tense pasted on smile.
AFTER: Yesterday I debated about stopping at this store, because of past experience and feeling short on time. But a verse from Sara Groves song “Eyes Wide Open” came to me: “I’ve got layers of lies I don’t even know about…” I thought, “Help me, Lord. I know I need to let go of control. Come in, breathe life in me.” As I was walking across the parking lot, I was going over in my mind what I wanted. Even as I thought about it, I had to laugh at myself, because, as is typical of control freaks, it was a pretty demanding request. I wanted to find a Bible (in five minutes) and I wanted it to be:
2) ESV (or second choice, NIV)
3) Large Print
5) A neutral color (no pinks or purples or daisies!)
His Spirit was helping me laugh at myself when a a smiling young clerk said:
“Can I help you?”
I said, “You sure can — but what I want may not exist!” I laughed and told her the five things I wanted in one item. (But not the five minute part 🙂 )
She laughed too and said, “Well — let’s give it a try.”
It took a little while, and I ended up having to compromise — but not too badly. The only thing I didn’t get was large print (and I do have glasses) and it was in my favorite chocolate color and only $5! I was able to tell the clerk what a good job she had done, how helpful she had been — and she simply glowed. Jesus in me was helping her be the best she could be!
For you it may not be lack of grace you are seeing, but something else the Spirit is showing you must go. In visiting with Sara Groves about her song “Eyes Wide Open” she said she was feeling convicted about the lack of social justice in her life.
Whatever it is, He can cut the stones out and bring life, like the fresh spring leaves and flowers we are seeing all around.
How does change happen? How do we become kinder? How do we start caring about the things Jesus cares about? I thought back to a conversation I had with a godly man named Howard Dahl. He said that often Christians attempt to change by trying to be their idea of a good Christian (who witnesses, is kind, gives to the poor, doesn’t over-eat…) but that is much better to concentrate on being intimate with Jesus throughout the day and He will change you. I thought — that’s it.
I cannot make myself be as grace-filled as Jennifer Lopez, or as caring as Mother Theresa — but I can let go of my idols and let Jesus fill me, throughout the day, as I say no to self and yes to Him. And guess what? My rocks are replaced with soft green. I begin to have the fruit of the Spirit!
1. First, I told you a story from my life about how Jesus is changing me — do you have a story too?
2. According to Galatians 5:1, what is our calling? What warning is in this verse?
3. How have you been enslaved by your idols in the past? Be as specific as you can be!
4. Read slowly Galatians 5:13-15
A. Again, what is our calling according to the opening of this passage?
B. If your translation uses the word flesh in verse 13, substitute self, for flesh is not just the body. What must we not use our God-given freedom to do? What must we do instead with this freedom?
C. I want you to ask God to make you aware of your next opportunity today to use your freedom either to gratify yourself or to serve another. Tell us what happens. (KEEP YOUR EYES WIDE OPEN)
D.What, according to verses 14 is the positive command for walking in the Spirit?
E. What, according to verse 15, must we avoid and why?
5.Galatians 5:16 is HUGE. Remember to substitute self if your Bible says flesh, because we so often think of flesh as just the body.
A. What promise is given if you walk by the Spirit?
B. What does it mean to walk, moment by moment, by the Spirit?
6. Are you experiencing more of the fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5:22-23 in your life? If so, share! It encourages us all.
7. FOR AMERICAN IDOL WATCHERS: LET’S PLUNDER THE GOLD FROM THIS SECULAR SHOW, LIKE THE ISRAELITES PLUNDERED THE GOLD FROM THE EGYPTIANS
A. What can you learn from Jennifer about how to give constructive criticism?
B. What ways have you seen participants be honoring to God? Dishonoring?
C. What are the Christian values you’ve seen — the non-Christian values?
8. What’s your take-a-way this week?