Archive for the ‘Courage’ Category

What does Jackson like to do on Saturdays? Tell me about his strengths and weaknesses. Who is his favorite author? What ticks him off? Would you be able to answer any of these questions?

Hosea 6:6 in The Message puts it in part like this: “…I want you to know God, not go to more prayer meetings.” Is your relationship with God personal enough that you could describe Him to someone who only hears about God from a fan, after a referee’s poor call at an athletic event?

In a movie I watched recently, the words Jesus and Christ were used in two sentences as adjectives to describe a person’s irritation with something. Really?

In connecting with another, there are significant issues we must deal with. Will we be truthful or hide? Will we let fear of being known limit what we share about ourselves?

WHAT THIS MEANS: Are you willing to get real with God and deal with the cost involved to really know Him? Or are you ready to talk about your weaknesses and faults with  another? Can they ask you any question? Are you willing to honestly answer it?

There is no problem with talking with someone about the ball game, movie or the weather. However, it is far easier for “trivia” to become our middle or first name in another’s mind, if that’s what we focus on.

When we truly love someone, our conversation will necessarily include what serious matters we are passionate about. Our thought provoking ideas, vision or dreams become a consistent part of our vocabulary. When was the last time you told someone about an ache in your heart?

Check out how much Jesus loves us in Matthew 26:36-46.

WHAT THIS MEANS: What keeps you from sharing your heart with others? Tell someone this week something you have never shared with anyone. Be a person who deeply loves others.

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.

How would you like to carry around a 50 pound weight for 5 years? That weight might be a problem we know we have but won’t deal with. Why do we do this? Matthew 11:28 and 29 show us that we don’t have to carry this weight. Our greatest fear might be that God will show us the reason why we don’t deal with this and then we will have to change something in our life. But why are we unwilling to change when we know God has our best interest in mind? He promises real life and rest. We need to come clean as to why we hold on to the weight.

Some issues are so entrenched within us we can’t think of living any other way. And to change…well let’s just say the camel going through the eye of the needle would be easier. Jesus dealt with a well-meaning guy who was able to buy whatever car, house or gadget or chariot in his day because he was in the top 1% when it came to wealth. In Mark 10:21 Jesus puts a dagger in this guy’s heart-“sell it all, give it to those needing it and then come follow me.” Jesus knew this was the idol that kept him from following Rule 1-“no gods before me.”

Do we really want to know and learn how to deal with that problem that always keeps tripping us up? Why not take Jesus at his word and get rid of the weight?

Chess pieces – left to right: king, rook, quee...

Chess pieces – left to right: king, rook, queen, pawn, knight and bishop. Photo taken by Alan Light. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is challenging to play chess. It is really challenging to play with a timer. But it is beyond our loftiest expectations to let God into the game. We move chess pieces around trying to conquer or combat another’s move hoping to somehow grab the queen and take out the king. We sacrifice pawns like throwing away French fries (who could really do that?). But what if God was in control of the game? He would not always be focused on the next move but would often surprise us when he moves the chess board. How would you feel about that?

God really does have our best interest in mind and is more in control then we could imagine. We must learn to hold our plans with our hands open not clenched. Think about Paul-the guy always was focused on going into new lands to share good news. You know God was more excited about this than going to the wildest amusement park and riding the death spiraling rides. So Paul took off and God got out of his chair not to watch, but to change the route. Acts 16:6 captures this movement of the chess board for Paul and his buddies. No problem because Paul not only knew but also was thrilled with God taking him on a different route than Google Maps had given him.

Or think of the futility of telling your buds that you are moving to Bangor, Maine for a year or so and starting a chain of businesses and then you will be off to Chicago for the big time. But God whispers “take a look at James 4:13 and 14 before you pack the car.”

We carelessly attack every situation with our best ideas, plans and strategies. Why not do it the way God designed life to be lived anyway? He not only wants you and I to trust him with the chess pieces but to be ready for a change we could not imagine as he gently but firmly picks up the chess board.

Do you think you could let God completely determine your next move? How do you know?

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.

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?

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

Given the choice, most of us would prefer to drive a car with heated seats, is

Inconvenience

Inconvenience (Photo credit: futureshape)

extremely comfortable, never needs repairs…you get the idea. Why would we choose one that has a window that does not quite roll all the way up, whose heater occasionally works and has no air conditioning? That one can stay on the used car lot even if it was offered to us free.

When are we really a neighbor? If we move into neighborhoods that are protected by American Home Shield, it is likely we might meet those living around us because they are probably safe. I mean, when they moved in we didn’t see them unloading various knives or weapons we can’t pronounce. We could easily invite them over for a BBQ.

But a neighbor is one who gets excited about who just moved in next door or who they just met at the gas station because now they have the opportunity to show them just how much God really loves them. It doesn’t matter they wear a black leather jacket, don’t wear shoes most of the time, have hair the length of your sister’s or have a very interesting tattoo visible all of the time. And what if they just moved in from Somalia?

If we have concluded that God brought this person into our life to learn that Jesus is more than an exclamation mark in a conversation, then we can be the real neighbor.

Check out Luke 10:29-37. Given the choice, most people are never going to live in neighborhoods where they have to be inconvenienced by other’s needs. The possibility of an assault happening does not check one of their boxes. But the real neighbor is ready to love people that God intersects their life with anywhere and anytime. God knows who these people are and is thrilled to give them the opportunity to accurately define  neighbor.