Archive for August, 2015

I have travelled to several different countries with different visas for most of them. Some of the countries were easy to get into while others required some thinking or strange maneuvering in order to enter. There are a couple of countries I would like to visit but only a certain number of visas are issued and I probably wouldn’t make the cut.

People everywhere are in search of life-a life that has purpose and meaning beyond what they typically find. Religious people who want a little of what Jesus offers while keeping the passing pleasures the culture offers, don’t find a satisfying life and continue the search. It is only the person who does not question Jesus and the Word and simply does what He says, who finds a life that connects with what God intended for us.

The Word on the Street puts it plainly in Ephesians 2:13-“your link with Jesus gets you up close and personal with God.” What that means is that a true relationship with Jesus where we take His words seriously by doing what He speaks to us about, gets us to what we are all looking for in life. That “close and personal with God” is the life we all want. Sometimes we avoid it because we think it might be dangerous to get that close to God. But, it’s the only life that makes sense. Take a look at Ephesians 2:11-13 in the Message translation for another view of it.

What this means: Is there a limit to what you will pay or sacrifice to have that “close and personal” relationship with God? What attitudes, perspectives or lifestyle choices do you have that need to be eliminated in getting close to God? Do you think it might be too risky or dangerous to really get close to God? Who do you know who has that kind of relationship with God? Why not hand out with them?

Some of us live spontaneously much of the time while others’ days seem highly structured. There is value in both, and adjustments must be made by each at times. Have you ever wondered if Jesus woke up and all of a sudden said something like “Hey lets go down to the river and see how far we can skip rocks.” Being alert to the Father did not mean Jesus had to keep a 15 minute schedule of everything he did. He didn’t live that way. Alertness to God means we are free to let God “interrupt” our routine and we don’t get bent out of shape with it.

However, we must be intentional with the direction of our life when it comes to being involved with people. We are here to skip rocks but not major on looking for lakes or smooth rocks. We are here to focus on eternal stuff and that is God, the Word of God and people. Jesus was very deliberate with his life. For example, in Luke 9:51 he firmly set out to go to Jerusalem. In Mark 1:38 Jesus wanted to go to the nearby villages so he could speak to those people. He added “That is why I am here.” He had to go through Samaria John 4 says.

How about you and I? Do we wake up knowing that one of our purposes is to find people God is at work in and hang out with them? We know we may run into someone we didn’t plan to and that’s OK because we’re focused on people regardless of where they live or how we got connected with them.

What this means: Who could help you be more deliberate in developing this kind of focus? Ask them to ask you about it every now and then. If you are a spontaneous person, how can you build some  intentionality into your lifestyle? If you are a structured person, how can you begin to loosen up and get excited about life without structure occasionally? Do you understand that God is dynamic and not static and that he can speak to you about how to listen for his voice throughout the day?

Responsive Listening Listening and responding to God releases what we can’t produce ourselves..

Do you have difficulty with procrastination? I have had to deal with this most of my life. I know something is important and I know when it has to get done. So, I jump on it immediately-NOT! I understand it and what needs to be done but I wait. This can be as easy as taking out trash or as challenging as fulfilling some important commitment I have made to my wife or someone whose best interest I say I have in mind.

We listen to God as he speaks to us in the Word and agree that it is absolute. We know Jesus has clout and this needs to get done but for whatever reasons we delay. Delayed obedience is really disobedience. Take a look at Psalm 119:60. David lived intentionally with a commitment to do what God spoke to him about. To delay would have meant several things but it would for sure indicate he didn’t care or believe what God said was that important.

We can easily delay doing what God clearly has spoken to us about. Often this really means we have other things on our mind or in our lives that are going to take priority. Oh, we will get to it, but later we say or think. If we intentionally live this way, we develop a habit of not taking God seriously. Loving others, making disciples, or being available to God’s agenda-we’re going to get to it but first…

What this means: Take a hard look at your life this week and write down a few things you know God wants you to do or focus on and examine your response to them. What do you think God could do in your life if you consistently responded immediately to what he says to you? Change your response to one thing this week that you know you always put off. Meditate a little on the word “first” in Matthew 6:33.

A Critical Decision Wanting and needing others in our life remains an ongoing choice we make daily..

There are times in our life we read a story of how God showed up powerfully in someone’s life or we read something in the Bible and are severely challenged. We know for sure that God wants to be this real in our daily life and yet it becomes easier to write it off as unusual or not practical for us. There are certainly other reasons (which are inadequate) to dismiss the story or scripture as irrelevant in our culture or situation.

We can easily remain ruggedly independent and believe this is a positive trait that is admired by others but knowing deep inside that it is not the way God built us. Acts 2:42-46 and 4:32-35 are familiar but our experience screams loudly that this is unreasonable in our day and time. There are so many things we want to do on our own or as a family, places we want to go alone, and we want to have the freedom to purchase what we want without interference.

Who in their right mind would look at bank accounts, stock portfolios and home furnishings as belonging as much to others as ourselves? We don’t understand that we need others in our life every day. This is an ongoing challenge when Christianity is increasingly defined as going to a place on certain days, at certain times and accepted as the norm for our day and busy lives.

But then we read Acts and…

What this means: What contributes to reading the Bible and dismissing the hard implications or dismissing it by rationalizing that we live in a different culture where it is impossible to do? How do our Christian friends contribute to this line of thinking? What if we did exactly what the Bible says? Along with another Christian, agree on one or two scriptures in which you will do exactly what the Bible says this week and talk about it later.

It may be far more convenient to meet with people once a week in a small group or church meeting but what we learn about them, what they  learn about us and how we are really able to help them learn to follow Jesus is very limited. Completing an assignment or being able to talk about a leader’s message or study only begins the process of discipleship.

But what if we worked in the yard, painted the garage, helped some homeless guy find something they needed or if we drove to a ski area and skied the day with others? The learning curve goes up exponentially as we do life together.

Jesus occasionally taught in the temple, some type of building in Jerusalem or on the side of a hill, but his most effective teaching and use of time was spent with the disciples walking, cooking or maybe telling jokes as they went to sleep somewhere. Paul picked up on this later as you see in 1 Thessalonians 2:8-12. He loved these people so much he was willing to share his life and not just teach them theology somewhere.They knew all about his character and were greatly encouraged by him. He worked hard and they saw it. He greatly impacted their lives.

What this means: How much time do you give to spending time with those you are trying to help become solid followers of Jesus? Is that time spent in the ordinary events of life or in just having a Bible study in someone’s house? How could you begin to change your lifestyle so you could include others in recreation, work projects, working on a car or anything they like to do? How about doing church this way? How or what do you think others would learn if you shared life with them?