Archive for the ‘challenges’ Category

We’ve all been part of  conversations  that never go anywhere, don’t resolve differences, often leave us frustrated, angry or confused. Many topics discussed are easily forgotten.

But a few conversations, statements made or questions asked remain in our thinking in a way that distracts us from thinking about anything else. We simply can’t get it out of our mind. Frances Chan made one of those recently-“As you get older, don’t buy more stuff for yourself, go out with a bang.” I will process that one for a while.

Another conversation I had contained this challenging question “Would you like sugar with that?” Guess how long I stayed up thinking about that one?

Jesus had some almost scary one liners. Check out some in Matthew 8-9. “Follow me and let the dead bury their own dead.” “You of little faith, why are you afraid?” “Do you believe I am able to do this?” How about “Why do you call me Lord and not do what I say?”

WHAT THIS MEANS: Examine your conversations this week. Do they provoke a deeper thinking in anyone? Get together with a few others and discuss how you were or were not challenged in some of your conversations. Why would you fear having one or two significant conversations with someone?

Walking through the narrow streets of Chiang Mai, Thailand can be exciting but also challenging as well as scary when you realize you have no idea where you are and, who you are going to ask where you are. Who can you believe and what can you believe when someone points you in a direction and maybe says “go that way?”

Life can get interesting real fast and become a confusing mystery when it comes up against something you thought you completely understood. Hebrews 13:8 encourages us to believe that Jesus isn’t going to change the map on us when we need direction in life. I mean, he’s always the same. Who he is and his love for us never does change, but if we’re to grow as a follower of Jesus, we better get ready to live with some things that perplex us on our trip.

For our faith to become stronger, we’ll have to go through some life events that will confuse us until we realize God is using this to further introduce us to who he is. Isaiah 55:8-9 in The Word on the Street is fun to read but do we really get it? “My thoughts are totally “other” compared to your thoughts. My methods are not in any of your manuals…” The mystery becomes magnetic, but it can draw us to God or cause us to get out of town now! It puts our faith on the witness stand.

WHAT THIS MEANS: Most of us like things to be clear and understandable but God often doesn’t work this way, especially when he wants us to go deeper in our relationship with him. How willing are you to live with wondering “what’s going on?” How do you know you have a faith that can take life without explanations from God?

 

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

A couple has been told they will have a new baby boy but everything changes when they have identical twins. Life just got complicated as they try to understand how they are going to know who’s who as the boys grow up.

No one likes to be confused about anything, especially when it comes to knowing God better. Once again however, God knows the teachers that open our hearts more completely to knowing him. Sometimes in life it seems God is changing the rules when in reality he is helping us understand events or situations that don’t make sense to us. We easily become confused.

It is easy during these times to want to run, hide or not deal with developing a more meaningful relationship with God. We played our best cards but the numbers on them seem to have changed and we’re totally confused. It’s hard enough getting to know God when life seems to cooperate.

Consider Job and his situation. Doing everything right, you would think it would be rewarded appropriately by God. But that’s not exactly the script God used in teaching something valuable to Job. And, that didn’t make sense to Job. Job 37:4 and 5 shows how God at times does things that “stagger our understanding” and can easily become confusing.

As confused as Job might have been, he comes to a completely different conclusion in Job 42:5. Consider The Word on the Street  “I’d heard rumors of your reputation. Now I have seen you with my own eyes, and I’m dying of embarrassment at my attitude. I take it all back, every question, every accusation. Sorry, it won’t happen again.”

The next time you have identical twins or just get confused by what is or is not happening in your life, remember “God’s methods are not in any of our manuals.”

It may be an important conversation or just getting ready for a trip but just when we think the conversation is over or we’ve finished packing, we hear “just one more thing” and cringe wondering what’s coming next. It could be good news or…

In Mark 10:21 is the climax of a conversation Jesus had with a man who in today’s terminology would be a wall street tycoon who bought a few thousand shares of Apple stock at $10 a share or a business executive who had a lot in several banks.

Jesus had just finished listing the Old Testament check list of the “Big Ten” and probably a few more and the guy was feeling good about this conversation. Then, the bomb-“one more thing you lack” Jesus said. Maybe the guy was beaming with excitement or somewhat confused, but when Jesus told him to sell everything he owned and give it away to the poor and then follow Him, well…The Word on the Street perhaps captures it like this-“The guy’s face shifts through the gears, from anticipation down to hollow. He walks off looking suicidal-he’s stinking rich.”

Just like when we get a cut on our arm and someone offers to help with it we say “don’t touch it!” because it’ll hurt. It’s the same with truth or the facts-it usually hurts to deal with it and we would rather not.

Is there “just one more thing” you know God has been pointing out to you to face or deal with? Why wait? Be a Psalm 119:60 kind of person.

Smíchov, Prague, the Czech Republic. "Pra...

Smíchov, Prague, the Czech Republic. “Praha-Smíchov” train station. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was 1994 and I was alone on a train going from Zagreb Croatia to Dresden, Germany. The route went through Prague, Czech Republic. The train was late leaving so I could not make my connection in Prague. It was however, night time and no trains were leaving until the next morning. A police officer was telling everyone to leave the station because they locked it up at night. I had a cup of coffee in my hand I had purchased and was allowed along with one other person to stay inside after the doors were locked. I slept with my arm locked to my backpack that night unsure what would happen. Risk and fear were present as I “slept” that night. But I knew God wanted me to make this trip so I trusted Him to come through.

Mathew 14:25-31 tells a story we often hope is in the video library of heaven so we could look at it at our leisure with a coke and popcorn. Sadly, this is as far as most people get with the journey of faith. We hear God speaking to us about something but then we think of how crazy risky it is and then our fear kicks in. We really believe God is talking to us but…

Most of us have a line we will not cross when it comes to doing what God talks about in the Word. Risk and fear are tattooed on our mind and we easily rationalize away the necessity of faith and never get out on the water.

Is there a seep of faith you need to take this week? Is there a relationship you need to mend in which you need to trust God with? Don’t settle for the comfortable journey.

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!

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.

Why do we avoid everything that makes us uncomfortable, forces us to look at life from a much different perspective than we have always had, drives us deep into our soul and is painful to consider differences? It is only when we are seriously challenged like this that we learn the heart of God, have the veil pulled back a little more and understand the depths to which God loves us and others.

On every overseas trip my wife and I have had we have been forced to look at how to do life with God in different ways. We h

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. S...

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. So if you’re feeling uncomfortable right now, know that the change taking place in your life is a beginning, not an ending. (Photo credit: deeplifequotes)

ave been stretched to see how God speaks to people in different cultures often in different ways. It has made us think and has greatly enlarged our understanding of the essentials of the Christian life.

In order to do church and experience the life God wants us to have we must embrace the tough things that force us to not look at life like a straight line but as a line with many dashes in it that often curves and in some cases looks blank. God knows exactly what it takes for each of us to experience and enjoy his life, so let’s get out of the leather boy chair Christian lifestyle and experience God in ways we could never imagine. He’s really for us.

A further look: Jeremiah 33:3; Acts 8:1-8; and 1 Corinthians 13:12