Archive for September, 2013

Focus Into Blue

Focus Into Blue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most people work hard for 40-50 hours a week usually Monday-Friday and are ready to relax, take in a movie or watch any kind of sporting event on TV or in person. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. The issue is that this is usually our only thought because we are focused on ourselves. After all, we deserve it after the week we have put in.

What if we woke up on Saturday morning and asked God what his agenda was for us that day? What if the first or second thought we had was”I wonder who I can help today?” We justify almost anything else that helps us “relax” or “enjoy” our weekend. Maybe that is one issue to resolve-whose weekend it is.

2 Corinthians 5:17 clearly says that when Jesus is our life (we began following him) everything changed for us. That includes the opportunity to see where God is at work and join him. It means we look at a day differently from how we used to look at it. What a different way to go to bed Friday night or wake up Saturday morning. Paul looked at his life this way. In 1 Corinthians 3:5 Paul’s focus is clear-he saw himself in a different way. He was thinking about others first.

James 3:14-18 shows us that God talk without God action is a waste of space on our part. Part of the freedom and outrageous life Jesus promises us comes from being freed from our whatever we want to not taking a step without talking to Jesus about it.

Get with a friend who will join you in living differently next weekend.

In Joy and Sorrow-Pretending

In Joy and Sorrow-Pretending (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The year was 1956 and the group was the Platters. The song was “The Great Pretender.” It was popular in that year and unfortunately still popular today but there are different words. It may not be easy to detect in others but we recognize it in us. We know ourselves too well.

Jesus knew that the evil one would focus on wrecking our life if we got serious about following Him. He would use multiple strategies all of which were designed to steal the freedom and life Jesus gave us. Being more clever than we could ever imagine, satan throws many darts our way over the years and it becomes easier to give in to them and pretend and flash the same smile or serious look whenever it is necessary. In John 17:15 Jesus prayed for those in the first century and us today that we would be protected from the evil one. Some of that protection comes from other followers who love us enough to ask us hard but necessary questions to help us stay on track. We never outgrow the need for this.

Paul picked up on it in 1 Corinthians 15:58 and 16:13 saying we should stand firm and not to let anything knock us off of the road. These discomforts, heartaches or painful events are our teachers and there are many classes we must take to become the followers Jesus is after. We don’t have to pretend, we don’t have to give in to the junk satan has up his sleeve for us. He knows we are going to win the game but he puts up quite a fight.

Do you have someone in your life who will not let you get away with shallow answers to those questions that develop our life with Jesus and ministry with others?

Danger Ahead

Danger Ahead (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who wouldn’t want to go to Disneyland? think of the fun taking in all of the exhibits, rides and neat experiences not found in the everyday working world. We should be entitled to a break from the daily grind so we take out all of the travel guides and what do we choose? Disneyland type experiences rate near the top.

There are some others that are only found in one brochure. Not too many would buy ads for this travel guide. In  fact some travel agencies refuse to carry this one and if they have to, they rarely mention it or disguise what is in it. The travel agency is often the church that pulls out all the brochures about the trips that we can take that are filled with stuff that feeds our self-interests like: fun, cool, or relaxing.

If the tour guide is Jesus, the information contained in his brochure is quite different. The trip will be exciting for sure but it will include things like: danger, life threatening opportunities, huge risk, opportunities to face your fear and the most meaningful trip you will ever take.

A quote from Jesus might stir your interest or cause you to throw this brochure in the trash. Look at Matthew 5:10 and 11. Words like persecution, being put down by others, people speaking lies about you to discredit Jesus should be included only in the fine print and not headlined-right? Consider the source of these words. But there is someone else who has taken this trip  who is also quoted in this brochure, his name is Paul. His description of the trip might make us swallow hard. We can’t just casually pass off his travel tip as only for a few. Check out 2 Corinthians 11:23-27. This description of the trip is tough to swallow but waiting for the person who does not check with their insurance agency before signing up.

Are you thrilled with the opportunity or paralyzed by the lack of security and comfort that following Jesus might eliminate for you? Jesus challenges us to come and see!

Things Have Got to Change

Things Have Got to Change (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At first glance an ad that said “free…but don’t forget the cost” would probably be viewed for about one second. Jesus is always up front with us. We don’t have to ask “what’s the catch?” when Jesus offers us life that is more exciting, rewarding and fulfilling in ways we could never imagine. He does tell us we don’t have to jump through several religious hoops to get it nor do we have to perform various tricks to keep it.

But as Jesus begins to unpack what it means to follow him in becoming his disciple, we quickly realize there is a cost to say he is the boss. We begin to realize we are going to have to alter our life in ways that both excite and scare the spank out of us. We could never dream of the freedom that comes with doing exactly what Jesus tells us. He says along with other things, “Anyone who comes with me has to let me lead; No procrastination and no backward looks, you can’t put off God’s kingdom till tomorrow.” And the kicker “if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people and kiss it good bye, you can’t be my disciple.” Not convinced it is free yet expensive? Take a look at Luke 9:23. 57-62 and 14:33.

Do you want the phone number so you can contact the ad Jesus runs in every newspaper and on every web site every day? Or are you going to press the delete key? One is much easier to do but miss the party.

Why is it so easy to be occupied with the skin-deep issues of life? Issues like: “What was the final score?” “How many yards did he gain?” Is it going to be cloudy again?” Do you want onion rings or fries?” There is no problem asking these questions but why do we rarely ask “How would you describe your thoughts when you heard…?” or “What would it take for you to get serious about ending that habit?””What does our music today indicate about how life has changed over the past 50 years?” That’s too much for our brain to deal with.

We can become focused on religious things that parallel these first four questions very easily and never get to the heart of what Jesus’ focus was. For example, we easily get caught up in how many show up rather than being concerned if they really learned. And do we really know when someone is learning? These things make us think whereas making sure there are enough chairs is an easier deal.

We are to make disciples. How do we know when that is happening? Why is it crucial to know who is a disciple? How do we know we are doing church as God intended? Why is it necessary to understand how to make an application of scripture? All of these questions demand that we think and move beyond the skin deep responses that are much easier to repeat

Matthew 23:23-28 deals with shallow people Jesus confronted. He did it not to embarrass but to help them begin to understand what really matters.

So, what did you think about this week that you would rather no one know about? It is imperative for us to have others in our life who are serious about dealing with stuff like this and love us enough to risk asking us these kinds of questions.

I will be away for the next 8 days and will begin the blog when I return.

Thinking

Thinking (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn_BACK_FROM_ICELAND)

Big Questions

Big Questions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the guys who was intrigued by Jesus was Nicodemus (I’m sure we would call him Nick today). Jesus has just said some shocking stuff that might have caused Nick to wonder if Jesus had been smoking something. So, he asked Jesus a question that people everywhere ask every day when they meet someone’s who’s intimately tracking with Jesus. His question is phrased differently in various ways but goes like this: “how can this be?'” or “What do you mean by this?” or “How on earth can things like this happen?” Jesus had just said that to see God’s world you have to experience a new birth. The first 10 verses of John 3 introduce us to God’s story.

When God begins to direct and change our life, our focus is so radically different that even our best friends will find it a little freaky to listen to us. The world stresses things that make sense to them:about being ambitious, or getting even with people who  hurt us in some way or many other things that seem logical. But when Colossians 3:1-10 becomes our chosen lifestyle, our life doesn’t make sense to them.

Because the world is focused on safety and security, our living by the Spirit which invalidates the predictable and logical, causes them to ask questions like Nick did on that day he talked with Jesus.

Having spent 37 years either living in or driving through Wyoming I can tell you that the wind there is impossible to understand or describe to someone from just about any other state. I mean, who measures wind speed with a chain? In the same sense, when we listen to God, those around us will wonder, and we can’t completely describe our life to their satisfaction. Maybe they will be curious enough to ask us about it.

Is your life predictable? Are your decisions understandable by those not following Jesus? A most exciting life awaits us as we allow God to whisper to us “follow me…”

I remember my freshman year at Texas A&M. At that time it was an all-male military university. One day the commanding officer of our company lined all of the freshman up in the hall and had every 5th man stand. There were about 30 of us so 6 men stood. Then he said the most startling thing “this is how many of you will be here when you are seniors!”

Alone

Alone (Photo credit: JB London)

I graduated from college but from another university but I went back to visit when I was a senior. I believe there were 5 or 6 still in my company as seniors.

Why did most of us leave? I am sure there were many reasons but we left non the less. Throughout Jesus’ life he increasingly defined what it meant to follow him. More and more left and only a handful remained. And, as you and I travel this road, we begin to look around and many of our friends and others we know are nowhere in sight. Some refuse to let go of a habit or the many varieties of sin. Like Jeremiah says in Jer. 8:6 “…no one repents of his wickedness…each pursues their own course.” Most people look out for themselves with little concern for the stuff Jesus said. Check Philippians 2:21. Then in 2 Timothy 4:10 Paul mentions Demas who chased whatever was being advertised as “this will get you noticed.”

Whatever it is that began to cause some to follow Jesus are the same things that cause them to stop. It looked like a great adventure in the beginning but when Jesus said we had to go through that place where it was dangerous, some said “no way Jose.” The way Jesus responded to the opposition of his day challenged us but later as we faced opposition it scared us off of the road. The road Jesus expects us to travel is littered with exits everywhere and it is too easy to take them.

We must not get discouraged if we continue down that track and our buddies have bailed. Jesus is still on that road and says to us “you won’t believe what is just  over the next hill but you are going to love it.” Keep walking.