Archive for July, 2013

English: Dictionary indents. Français : Marque...

English: Dictionary indents. Français : Marques-pages dans un dictionnaire. Deutsch: Daumenregister eines Wörterbuches. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a dream last night that woke me up. Not unusual you might say but for whatever reason this one stuck in my mind. I was with a bunch of people in a yard who were yelling at a guy in another yard. The volume kept increasing until one guy screamed “we’re gonna win.” Standing next to this guy I said “define win.” I felt like it was important to elaborate on just what “win” meant. Everyone got quiet and one gal even gave me the finger. I walked away and then woke up.

A lot of life seems to consist of repeating various mantra that neither we nor others have really checked out the validity or source of whatever we are repeating. We just keep on saying it over and over and most of our closer friends believe the same thing anyway. How could anyone have the audacity to suggest something different that would make our definition wrong?

Jesus was the top dog at challenging people’s reasons for belief, ways of living, and whatever he knew violated God’s intention for us. He did it not to show off but because he really did love every person on the planet and wanted them to live life to the max-God’s way. A look at Matthew 22:29 and John 10:10 show this.

So, one of the huge issues today is “church.” What is it? Who’s right? Many are yelling their opinion. Here’s one more. A church is a church when disciples are making disciples (disciple must be defined correctly), as it is challenging that part of the culture that is taking away from God’s purposes, when a framework or network is being developed where people can be real, and when it seen as a journey of people banded together committed to doing life God’s way rather than just showing up at an event. I believe Matthew 5:13-16 and Acts 5:42 capture some of what Jesus was looking for in our doing church.

Doing or being church is simple but unbelievable challenging.

Perfect match

Perfect match (Photo credit: emme-dk)

The guy on the street, the clerk in the store, the lawyer rushing off to build a winning case and everyone else in any profession is looking to make sense out of life. There are so many traps, dead ends and detours that most throw up their hands and forget the search and live a life that blends in with everyone else. They know there must be an answer to the ongoing riddle of what life is about. They have seen religious zealots carrying a Bible and shouting stuff that makes no sense as well as good intentional people do something on Sunday morning that really does not connect with their deepest needs.

But then one day they meet a guy or gal in a coffee shop or a bar who strikes up a conversation that makes more sense and they are curious. Over the next few weeks their curiosity goes to the next level as they hang out with this person over meals, on the golf course, and hiking in the mountains. They discover that this person’s belief and lifestyle are a perfect match. They are more than curious, they want what they see.

Our life either crosses out what we say or it underscores what we actually believe. It’s our choice but our neighbor, our co-worker, the guy in the bar or the waitress are all waiting to see if this stuff actually makes sense.

More match making thoughts can be found in: Ecclesiastes 3:11; Daniel 6:4 and 1 Corinthians 15:34.

Contrasting Realities

Contrasting Realities (Photo credit: Aaron Dieppa)

Most people in America prefer a life that is safe, comfortable and free from danger. Is there anything wrong with this? That depends on what God has to say on the topic. For instance, as you look at how Jesus did life, it is painfully obvious that he seemed to challenge the status quo and accepted cultural norms every day. Of course those participating in the various “self-centered” clubs of that day not only discouraged others from checking into Jesus but threatened them and Jesus in various ways. They might kick them out of their self-imposed “religious zones” they had created (the only places where God could be worshiped). Or worse they might have them removed from the planet.

To associate with Jesus was to be ready for whatever and it usually was not the picnic in the park by a lake watching swans. But on the other hand, since he had all the authority over life, it was the safest place to be. A want ad in the Nazareth Times might read “wanted: men and women willing to take a journey of a lifetime. Everything provided for an adventure filled with beautiful sights and consistently life-threatening events. Look for Jesus and follow him.”

Philippians 3:10 gives a glimpse of one who answered that ad. Paul said “…I’m up for showing solidarity with him (Jesus) by going through tough times, getting inside his head by facing death…I want the whole lot. I want to know him. Deep. The Word on the Street. And there is 2 Timothy 3:12 which stops many as it clearly points out that to really follow Jesus means you’re in for a lot of trouble. The encouraging word from Jesus himself in Matthew 28:18-20 is that he is with us 24/7.

Danger and safety-ready to respond to the want ad?

No Fear

No Fear (Photo credit: Cosmopolita.)

A couple of overseas trips stand out for me that were exhilarating but nearly scared the spank out of me. One was in the Czech Republic where I was alone and nearly robbed by two men and who knows what else could have happened. But the city…beautiful. The other in Croatia where I was walking with another man down a road while the war in the Balkans was underway. Two Croatian soldiers jumped out with guns and shouted “stop and turn around, there are snipers ahead.” What a great trip it was to Croatia as we helped a family rebuild a home destroyed in the war.

God intended our team to be in these places but it was not without risk. You do not have to leave your city or country however for God to invite you to join him in some unsafe places. You could be involved with the homeless, or recently released people from jail or with a former child molester. Even more frightening might be if God began to pull back the veil from how you view something in the Christian life and show you that there is a different and maybe more effective way to accomplish his purposes.

Jesus was completely in the Father’s will as he agonized in prayer in a garden outside of Jerusalem. I mean he knew he had agreed with the Father and Holy Spirit about this but really, this was tough. He also knew there was no other way to accomplish what they had agreed on. Check Matthew 26:36-39.

Where have you said “no way” when you sensed God saying something challenging to you? Why wouldn’t you do whatever God spoke to you about? Remember, He has already said “don’t be afraid.” Isaiah 41:10. He’s with you in the boat, in the alley, wherever. Venture out of the paralyzing comfort and learn who Jesus really is.

The Authority

The Authority (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I never get into watching this kind of show partly because I can’t relate and I would rather watch some travel show that highlights intriguing places to go to. But, I wanted to see why so many were hooked on this one. So I watched several episodes including the final one of “The Voice.” I mean really, how do you pick one out of all of these amazing talents?

Just like those contestants bidding for our vote, we have many choices as to what we listen to when making decisions about how to do life. But out of the myriad “authorities” that clamor for attention and claim to have it right, comes one who challenges everything in us. To believe this voice alters everything, reveals our insecurities, quickly humbles us but also gets to the core issues we so desperately want dealt with. Jesus never wasted words and if you heard or hear him talk you are left with few alternatives as what  to do with what he just said.

When Jesus walked around and started talking, people quickly realized and said “this guy’s different.” They never heard this before and they also saw that he was living everything he said. Check out Matthew 7:28 and 29. But John 6:66 reveals the heart of many of us. The more Jesus defined discipleship, the fewer were interested in hanging with him.

So, what gives Jesus the right to silence every other voice that claims to be right? In Matthew 28:18 Jesus says “God’s given me absolute first and last word in heaven and down here on earth.” Word on the Street version. He has absolute authority.

What part of Jesus’definition of discipleship do you have trouble with? Why?

change

change (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

I remember a time in my life when I would drive into the gas station and an attendant would come out and I would say “fill it up.” The attendant would proceed to fill my car with gas. Most of us can’t remember ever saying that.

Our culture increasingly entices us with the “must have” or “next thing” to fill or complete our life. We find ourselves saying without words, “fill me up.” Maybe we are fearful that if we spend more time thinking about God or reading the Bible He will do something in us that will change the lifestyle we have concluded is really normal and comfortable. So, without reservation we continue to buy in to the next gadget, something that will improve the appearance or our home or the latest fashion that is sure to turn eyes our way.

However, God is more persistent than we can imagine to continually pull back the veil from our eyes so we can see who He really is, what He expects and what is best for us. But just like a kid who challenges their parents who seem to have “unreasonable” expectations of them, we pursue what our culture presents to us in such an alluring way and we are not really convinced God is telling us the truth.

Psalm 46:10 and Isaiah 66:1 and 2 are a couple of verses that most of us might wish were not included in the Bible. Who has time to “be still” when “Widespread Panic”, “Sun Valley on Ice” or the endless Casino events are a short drive away. Oh, and the golf course is almost always open. Whenever God speaks to us something is going to change and we will avoid that by chasing something else that captures our focus. A lasting truth that has helped me is to realize that God always loves me and has my best interest in mind. Jeremiah 29:11 is still in the Bible.

Don’t tack on time with God, but build time with Him into the fabric of your schedule. It will change something for you but God knows what He is talking about.

Smorgasbord

Smorgasbord (Photo credit: toastforbrekkie)

We are not on the planet to focus our lives on whatever hobby, sporting event, music venue or shopping event massages our personal interest. But that is how most of us live. We have to work but just wait for the evening or weekend-it’s ours. But then, how do you think Jesus woke up every day? What was he thinking about? Oh, but that’s Jesus and he had a much larger agenda than we do.

When our diet consists of whatever we want , the result is often measureable, but is more likely very subtle. Physically  it shows up quite easily but internally it may take years to notice.

The cost to really follow Jesus is huge because it reaches into the way we think about the use of our time, how we spend our resources, where we live and more. But to settle for what we want to do, or how we want to spend our money or… means we are forfeiting everything God intended for us when he started the whole deal.

John 10:10 speaks about a thief who comes to kill and ruin everything. His focus is you and me. He tricks us with the facade of thinking we are a disciple when we show up at Christian events or by our cleaning up our language when we are there. He convinces us with “you can’t have pure thoughts all the time.” He trains our ears to hear the never ending message of a culture focused on the exact opposite of God’s never changing purpose for us.

“Debit or credit” the thief says. It doesn’t matter. It removes us from using our time and resources for what only matters.

It costs a church to make disciples but the cost not to raise up disciples who make disciples may look good from the size of the building or crowd but the culture yawns with complete disinterest.

Look at the rest of John 10:10, To do it Jesus’ way results in life better than we could ever imagine. But don’t forget Mark 8:36 and 10:17-31-a smorgasbord to remember.