Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

My wife and I walked neighbor’s dogs for a while in order to get to know them better. One day we walked a dog that appeared to be calm but we changed our minds when he tried to attack a couple of dogs while we were walking him. An angry dog was on display and our peaceful walk was over. I wanted to cut the leash or let go and walk away. Separation from that dog was an urgent decision I wanted to make.

We can’t separate ourselves from every aspect of life, but there are decisions we must make to enjoy a more peaceful life.

In John 8:30 and 31 Jesus gives us a simple but way hard challenging two verses giving us a clue to a peaceful heart. Continue means to keep on with what we started. My Word means not the word of a psychologist, our culture or friends living contrary to scripture. Disciple-a person who has a relationship of trust with Jesus and who practices as a lifestyle, what he says. Truth-sometimes we want it and sometimes we don’t, but this is the only thing that matters. Truth aligns itself with reality. Free-freedom only comes as we act on the truth we know and break out of the jail of deception and lies we are daily fed by our culture and those not following Jesus. In John 10:9, Jesus calls himself the gate as he opens us up to new ideas that bring freedom.

It’s only as we make decisions to separate ourselves from whatever contradicts what God has told us in the Word that we experience a consistent peaceful life. And this does not mean the absence of hassels the enemy tries to trap us in, but rather means a settled peace in the midst of them.

What new ideas has God caused you to seriously consider regarding discipleship, what really matters, church,relationships…? If you experience a hesitation in changing your thinking or lifestyle, why do you think that is?

A part time job most often means that a person is probably committed to that job for a short time or until something better comes along. In a similar manner, we often focus on getting people to commit to a Sunday service, a small group and maybe a couple of times annually to do a service project. This usually is the determination in thinking of someone who is an active Christian.

Think about the implications of Acts 2:47. “They live in community, everything under common ownership, they sell their stuff and donate crazy amounts to the poor. Every day they are at God’s HQ reenacting Jesus’ symbolic meal, praying together, doing each other good, celebrating God. and the local’s love it!…God’s upping the numbers daily…” The Word on the Street

I know it’s practically impossible to duplicate the early church’s lifestyle. They did not have cars, internet and myriad distractions we have today; but what are we really doing to develop lifestyles that are not segmented to occasional interaction with believers and non-believers? Proverbs 14:31, 1 Corinthians 13:4 and James 1:22 further develop the direction our lives should take. This challenges the socks off of me!

It may have something to do with the compartmentalization of church as somewhere we go rather than something we do. If it is “part time involvement” we may discard it at some point. In fact, if we are really following Jesus, our few hours a week involved will be challenged by Jesus who was 24/7 involved with those he loved.

Ask God to make it absolutely clear what his agenda includes for you rather than pursuing the agenda you may have determined for yourself and your family.

There is nothing worse than repeating over and over the same thinking, patterns of response or lifestyle choices that always end up leaving us defeated. We say we want it to change and we think this time we mean it but…

What is harder for you to think about changing? Consider Luke 6:1-11. The disciples having learned from their religious teachers that some things were illegal on the Sabbath, must have wondered where this was going to lead to as Jesus began to break these rules. The religious leaders were torqued about it for sure. You had to follow the rules. They were comfortable with not having to think about the “why” of these rules and just did them. It was easier to do it this way.

Jesus always disrupted the laziness of coming to conclusions without really thinking about what was really on God’s heart or what his intentions were. Jesus knew his life would be a challenge to almost everyone he met but he also knew it was the right way to do life. He longed to bring freedom to the religious and non-religious but he knew that pain would have to be introduced into the equation. He knew people would have to come to a place of wanting to know the truth more than the traditions they were following.

It is possible to have a very intimate relationship with Jesus and it is possible to have the kind of connection with other followers of Jesus that resembles a close knit family. But the pain of not having either or both must become severe before we will change our inadequate and incomplete experiences of the Christian life most of us know.

Decisions

Decisions (Photo credit: _Hadock_)

Think about it-one day  too long ago for anyone to remember or understand, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit decided that Jesus would enter our planet disguised as a seemingly insignificant event to most people in that day (as well as ours). Much later, some of us made one decision to invite Jesus to start calling the shots in our life and we decided to follow Him. As time went on, God made it more clear to us what following Jesus really meant. Reaffirming this decision and meaning it, alters the course of our life.

One day King David decided to skip “war class” and stay at home. He then decided to check out the scenery from his roof and the rest of the story is stored in the Bible data base of 2 Samuel 11. His decision had dire consequences. Some decisions wreck more than we could ever imagine.

God also decided that one day He would reveal who He is through us when we asked Him to change our life. The only way we really know we have decided to follow Jesus is that other people don’t just hear us talk about it but really do see that we live differently. But this is a decision we must make not for one day but every day.

Punch the “enter” key and watch God change everything-your perspective, your relationships, your strategies about how to make life/ministry work. God has the file available for everyone. Hit the enter key and get ready. When we hit that key God’s power is released to not only change us but also to show others how they can experience “what they don’t know they need.”

Exercise

Exercise (Photo credit: sanchom)

We look in the mirror and say that something’s gotta change. However, there is no disappearing act for the extra 20 pounds we want to leave. So we commit to one day a week for 15 minutes to deal with it. It’s obvious to everyone (including ourselves) that we only think we want to get into the smaller size jeans.

But, we say we really do want to share our life with others who are dead serious about walking with Jesus. “I believe I could get together a couple of times a month for maybe an hour if it’s not Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday nights” we say, and we dive in to this life changing event.

Matthew 10:39 quickly separates those who have life changing stories to share from those who love to listen to others share these kinds of stories. There is no discovery without the loss of something else. In this case it is His life for ours. This is the “eat my flesh and drink my blood” seminar by Jesus in John 6. A wise man said in Ecclesiastes 7:8 “…endings are better than beginnings” and in 1 Kings 20:11 it says that it is easy to brag about being ready for a battle but another thing to listen to one who comes back from the battle.

There are people who have concluded that Jesus must have meant something more than what they are experiencing in their life with other Christians, and they are ready to make the commitment to find it with others. Is this something you wake up wanting more than anything else that might happen that day? Ask God to intersect your life with someone else who wakes up thinking that maybe this is the day they will meet you.

Focus (German magazine)

Focus (German magazine) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What if you found an old coin that was from some other country and since you could barely read it and definitely couldn’t spend it at any store, you tossed it into the trash thinking “what a useless piece of metal.” Then you read about someone finding that very coin, cleaned it up a bit and took it to a coin dealer who was so startled he almost fell out of his chair. The coin dealer knew this was a very valuable piece of metal that would allow someone to retire before reaching 50 years of age.

We frequently do this with a verse of scripture thinking either it has no applicable meaning for us today or it is just something too difficult to understand. What if this verse had some meaning we desperately need to understand and deal with in our culture?

Take for example Luke 9:58. We may have casually read the part that says “…the Son of man, has no place to lay his head” and quickly dismiss a significant statement that is pregnant with essential truth for us in this generation.

Jesus was homeless but always had a place to sleep. So why is this included in our Bible? We say we are following Jesus so where should our focus be if we are following a homeless man? The attractions of Jesus’ world were definitely different than ours but the truth is the same. This is not talking about selling our house and getting rid of everything in it (although it could), but rather it is talking about our focus in life that must be on what Jesus being homeless represents. Nothing in our culture will dominate our focus if we are following Jesus. If we are focused on our home, style of car, trips to take, a certain sports team, or the latest thing on sale we really don’t need, it can easily become idolatry.

We should not throw out scripture that doesn’t seem to relate to us, it may be more significant than we think. Don’t discard it when you really know that to act on it will change your lifestyle. Would we really want Jesus to show up to our small group and ask us if we wanted him to tell us what he had in mind for us and how we should be living today? Is that scary or exciting?

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Journey to the East: Route Map

Journey to the East: Route Map (Photo credit: premasagar)

I recently read a challenging verse in Genesis 46:2 in the Word on the Street. God stopped me cold on this one. During the night God downloaded a dream into Israel’s sleep and said : I’m God, your father’s God. Don’t panic; enjoy the journey down to Egypt.”

If it’s not today, it probably will be tomorrow but everyone usually comes to a place where you wonder if you got on the right bus. I mean, so much looks different while being the same. The people speak your language (most of the time), they drive cars like you do, trees are trees everywhere but for whatever reason you’re left wondering. I was thinking about this since our move to Boise. We did come with a blank page but there are only a couple of sentences and a photo now on the page while most of it remains blank.

Then God said “I’m God…don’t panic…enjoy the journey…” This was totally reassuring and I said ok. That day seemed different. I could relax and truly believe God was in control and therefore knew what he was doing. Boise is not Egypt but it is out there. It is the most remote destination city in the USA. While walking downtown that day I had an overwhelming sense of this being the place I want to be and that I can enjoy what God sees that I don’t yet. I actually thought that I enjoyed being here more than Boulder, Colorado and that is beyond bizarre. The beautiful walk on my way to the Java coffee shop could not have been improved in any way. I was meeting with a man to discuss what God was doing here. It was one of those electric moments where you just really knew…

Is there growing evidence in your life that shows you are walking away from the evidence the enemy presents as he details his distorted facts about God and his relentless love for you and I? We can enjoy the journey because God’s map is so much more exciting than any Google Map application.

We’ve heard it so many times that it hardly matters anymore. We know that when we became a follower of Jesus it was supposed to be different. Life as we know it was going to look different but as we looked around at others who said they also were following Jesus, we noticed there was not really much difference in their attitudes, perspectives and lifestyles than our neighbors who know the names of almost every bar tender in town.

The playbook says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that our old categories of what matters are completely different, our lifestyle of extravagance, our insatiable desires for the upgrades of everything, conversations and about everything else are to be checked out by the new coach. If there is no noticeable difference in how we live other than getting up at a different hour to head to the spiritual zone for a challenge that we have concluded is neat but impossible to live up to, no one is going to ask us to help them figure out life and faith. 

We can watch the “how to follow Jesus” training videos from the couch and think we are really up to speed on this but by the next day we are back with the same attitudes, culturally flavored desires, and left wondering if any of it is real. We may have been “genetically modified” which does not get at what Paul is telling us.

If we are living completely different, we experience a freedom from the chains that have imprisoned us and everyone we know. We need to decide today if we are going to live with the understanding of God being in control or really live

SuperLambBanana3

SuperLambBanana3 (Photo credit: Haversack)

that way. Oh, also check out James 1:22-25 on the subject.

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.

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.