Archive for March, 2013

I was sitting in our living room and decided to open the blinds. Our apartment overlooks a lake on about 250 acres of a wildlife refuge. In a matter of a few minutes one of the two bald eagles dove from a tree and sped along the water at about two feet. Then it was back to the tree. But next the juvenile eagle comes and repeats the lesson. They did this twice. What if I had not opened the blinds?

Jesus’ revolutionary perspective on life often clashes with the accepted American or Christian practices. We can easily keep the blinds closed and not take a hard look at what will bring us freedom and a joy in doing and not rationalizing what he said. Jesus was known for saying “you have heard it said, but I say…” These statements introduce us to a very radical challenge. Take for example Matthew 5:27,28 or 33-37 and then there is the suffocating old law of “hate your enemies” and Jesus’ “I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies” in verses 43-48. His take on leadership in Matthew 20:26-28 is also refreshing.

Are you willing to open the blinds and act on what you see?

Perspective gourmande ~ Greedy Perspective

Perspective gourmande ~ Greedy Perspective (Photo credit: twiga269 ॐ FEMEN)

real people

real people (Photo credit: the|G|™)

Haven’t you ever asked someone

a question about something and realized somewhere during their response you just wanted to get in a fast car and leave as quickly as you could? You just wanted to know about their weekend but instead you got the history of how their parents neglected them and the 15 things that were wrong with their kids.

And what if you asked someone in your community group what they really thought about how you handled an embarrassing question someone asked you during the group? And if they said that you were way too defensive and didn’t seem to want to let them into your life, what would you think about that?

If we are teachable and want to make a difference in someone’s life, we will not set boundaries on what questions are legal and others that are way across the line. We will also give honest input to others about our life or theirs. But who makes these kinds of commitments? Anyone determined to follow Jesus without reservation enters into meaningful accountable relationships with others. Of course some issues need to be discussed in private, but if we are serious about discipleship we put it all on the table.

Jesus did not hesitate to explain the hypocrisy of some religious guys in Matthew 23:27; and there’s Paul’s explanation of a confrontation with Peter in Galatians 2:11. In 1 Thessalonians 2:8 Paul also explained how he loved these people so much that he not only had a Bible study with them about the gospel, but he shared his life with them.

I remember a very painful time in my life in which I shared with several people what was going on and because of that, one person got with me the next week and told me that because I was honest with the group, he now felt he could tell me something about himself he had not told anyone else. What if I had a boundary that only allowed people so far into my life?

Do you have any boundaries that need to be erased?

Obstacles

Obstacles (Photo credit: drp)

A door can be used to either keep people out or allow them in. Have you ever thought about leaving your apartment door open when you meet with your “community” group? Or, what about meeting in the coffee shop or bar with the group? Wouldn’t it be noisy and wouldn’t you get distracted when that dude walks in wearing that? Well, you say “this group is for Jesus people only and we don’t need it interrupted with all kinds of questions and comments. And besides, the language they use might not be appropriate.” Maybe “community” should be removed from the title of the group.

Can you imagine a pagan checking out a Christian group on their own that meets in a building with a cross on it? It’s possible but unlikely. But if an invitation is made by leaving a door open in an apartment or everyone on the block has been invited to a bbq and discussion about life issues, an outsider might show up. Don’t isolate a group from genuine contact with people in the world.   

Listen to Luke 19:9 & 10 in the “Word on the Street” version. “Jesus, in his excitement says, Liberation makes house calls…I’m here to track down the missing persons and reintroduce them to life.” Or, John 17:15 “I’m not asking you to lift them out of the System. But surround them with forces that’ll keep the evil one off their case.” And then there is the party at Matthew’s house and I just bet Jesus did not just talk about how many fish were caught that day.

Jesus’ allowing everyone into his life and c ommunity Bible studies should help us to not construct any structure (obstacle) that makes it difficult for outsiders to figure out life and faith with us.

A good turkish coffee

A good turkish coffee (Photo credit: Maria Rosaria Sannino/images and words)

You may have never thought much about jumping out of a plane of any kind, at any elevation or at any time, but we all have a need that for the most part is unmet throughout our lifetime. Adventure, expedition and intimate friendships are a part of the fabric essential for making sense out of life and church. 

Taking a trip with Jesus as the tour guide would have been electric. For him however, it was normal. Traveling to another country with others for a few days and sharing life, while trying to introduce Jesus into conversations over Turkish coffee in a street cafe is thrilling. But it pales in comparison to hanging with other Jesus followers at a local Java cafe and developing meaningful conversations with strangers or acquaintances. Working with other Christians to teach English to Iraqi refugees and having meals together in your apartment can be as significant as traveling 6000 miles from home to do it.

The point is that we need to do these kinds of things together as church and then life becomes something you set your alarm clock for so you don’t miss it. We need to ask ourselves if church for us contains this adventure and connection with others.

The brochure Jesus has used for years to recruit followers stirs something in us that can’t be found anywhere else. It simply says “Come…and you will see.” John 1:39

Let’s do it together.

Las Vegas is a destination where people with high expectations of winning enough at the tables allows them to pay for the trip, the room and buy whatever while there. Losing is no option anyone wants to think about.

Jesus shows up and creates excitement everywhere, he feeds and heals people, tells riveting stories and challenges the religious types regularly. Who wouldn’t want to follow him? But as he gets closer to the finish line, he begins to define exactly what’s involved in trekking with him. There’s John 6 in which after he defines discipleship his way, most take off rather quickly. Some hang on till near the end when he talks about some cannibalistic stuff of exchanging your life for his and they bolt. Only a handful are left and he asks them a tough question-“You guys leaving too?”

Peter is right on it with “where would we go, we know you are the real deal.” At another time Peter made an impacting statement in Matthew 19:27 “We have left everything to follow you…” Peter, speaking for the rest of the gang had come to a place where they had nothing left to lose. This is when you know you are a revolutionary. 

But this is where we scratch our heads and wonder how this is possible today. Surrounded by many who claim to be Christians while holding on to houses, furnishings, right neighborhoods, quiet surroundings, multitudes of tech stuff (that you just can;t live without), or maybe a way of thinking that is contrary to Jesus’s expectations for discipleship, we could easily conclude that Jesus must not have been thinking about this generation. Matthew 16:25 must be quickly rationalized and explained for today’s culture because only revolutionaries  would live like this.

This is exactly what Jesus has in mind for those who would follow him today. Nothing has changed with Jesus but rather with us. Let him define what this looks like for you…if following Jesus is at the top of your priority list.

It’s not a movie, a video game or some clever title of a mission that we could come up with. It is our worst nightmare, our war from the day we first struggled for life and our greatest opportunity to participate in something that is beyond any adventure we could ever imagine. Pick up the story in Matthew 3 where Jesus walks into the lives of various onlookers. The heat is turned on in chapter 4 as our enemy crafts three desperate plots to gain the upper hand. He knows who Jesus is. “If you are…” could be translated “Since you are…” The enemy knows what’s at stake.

Jesus begins to unmask the evil in the religious life of his day as well as the culture owned by the enemy. He equips a few with the “zero dark thirty” strategy that will weaken the strongholds the enemy has cleverly introduced into life over the years. He has completed the final act on an ordinary cross and those he has equipped are prepared and then he leaves them staring into space. Look at John 17:4 & 6 along with Acts 1:6-11. The enemy will continue to fight but his defeat is certain.

The real issue for us is the role we have in this ongoing drama. Some are not aware there is a war going on at all. Just drive through a neighborhood and admire the large houses, sweet cars in the driveways and steaks grilling on the deck. But then there was the high school kid who shot another kid, and the girl who overdosed and who could forget what happened after that party. Are we aware and are we participating with Jesus in unveiling the enemy and helping our friends understand the point of life? Remember we volunteered for this war.

2 Timothy 2:3 &  4 in the “Word on the Street” version says “…trained combat teams don’t get sucked into the daily soap opera of normal life. No, the only thing that counts is the nod of approval from their officer in charge.”

The Last Enemy (autobiography)

The Last Enemy (autobiography) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In one aspect of life it is appropriate to ask someone “are you going to buy or rent?” Rent often implies temporary, even though it may go on for quite a while. In some aspects of our life it is ok to rent indefinitely. My wife and I are going to rent when we move in 3 months. We have no time frame on how long and in this case that’s ok.

However, there is another aspect of the life of a follower of Jesus in which renting might be ok for a short while but buying is not only preferred but expected. We must do more than rent the truth, we must own it. How do we know we own it? It is changing us.

We often have all kinds of reasons for not owning the truth that we say we believe. For example, we say “I need to really understand it first”, or “I’m not ready to change/give up that yet, I will but not yet”, or a classic ” I know what Jesus says but this is 2013 and he really wouldn’t expect that now.” If there was a class on “Developing excuses for not changing” most would signup for it. If we only think of the hardships and not the value in letting Jesus change us, we miss everything that matters. We want to play “a game of discipleship” but Jesus just reminds us of John 6.

A quick glance at Psalm 119:59 & 60 erases any excuse to not make the change now. And then there is Matthew 5:13-16; John 8:31 & 32 and James 1:22. It is critical to know what following Jesus really means.

bye bye, rent.

bye bye, rent. (Photo credit: theMaykazine)

Are you renting or buying?

"Look. I'm not going to discuss my privat...

“Look. I’m not going to discuss my private life with total strangers” (Photo credit: [Filhi][bahthi] photography ( with great hopes ))

You wake up during the night and wonder what that noise is you hear near the kitchen. You stumble down the stairs to find the entire floor covered in water that seems to be dripping from upstairs. You quickly realize there is a problem under the floor upstairs and water is leaking from somewhere. As soon as the sun is up, you call your physician and ask them to come take a look. Your spouse and kids look at you like-what the spank are you doing? “We’re floating in water, get the plumber out here” they say.

Sounds lame, but the way we carry out Jesus’ commands to make disciples and his vision, reveals we are using the wrong tools. We’re using the stethoscope rather than the wrench. How should we make disciples who make disciples in our generation?

A few thoughts-Mark 3:13, 14  We need to help people understand what it means to be with Jesus. He is not really interested in all the religious stuff we do , but is dying for us to just hang out with him. When was the last time you just spent time with Jesus without wanting him to do something for you? You just wanted to be with him.  We must help people develop a meaningful relationship with Jesus rather than getting them on the finance committee.

Acts 2:42-47  Our 2 hour event on Sunday morning and even the small group on Tuesday night are not coming close to what characterized the early church. They don’t demand anything, and certainly don’t reveal what we thought about last Friday night when we were alone. We must help people develop meaningful relationships with each other.

2 Timothy 3:10, 11  The only way Timothy could know these things about Paul was because he shared life with him. We must model what it means to share life together not just show up for events.

What does this have to say about how we do church?