Archive for the ‘Courage’ Category

Not everyone likes Starbucks coffee. Those who object say it is too bitter but those who disagree say it is bold and strong. But for sure it is not watered down and at every Starbucks coffee shop, it is almost guaranteed to be the same.

Our experience of Christianity can be as God intended or it can be compromised in some way that causes us to nap throughout our life and deceive us into thinking we are ok. And when our friends agree with the compromised version, our nap is extended indefinitely. Thoughts like Jesus being in the driver’s seat every day (deny yourself), or to not allow any relationship to have priority over Jesus, or to give up every right I have or give up ownership of everything can be quickly dismissed as good stuff Jesus said, but it must be translated into our culture today and for sure it will not carry those harsh implications. Before you water this down, check out Luke 9:23 and 14:25-34.

Jesus meant exactly what he said and even though compromise begins in small ways, it always ends up robbing us of the freedom and life we never dreamed possible by following Jesus. Look at John 10:10.

Think through how you may have begun to compromise what Jesus said and take back the life stolen from you by the enemy. “…don’t get blown off the road. Go for it 100%-you’re working for the Boss and you know it’s worth breaking sweat for. It’s not a waste of time. Hang in there.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 The Word on the Street

Green logo used from 1987-2010, still being us...

Green logo used from 1987-2010, still being used as a secondary logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In House Hunters International (TV show) I have noticed how often people in selecting a house make the same comment”I don’t like the neighbors being so close.” Disturbing our insatiable commitment to privacy keeps people at a distance. However, we can impress people from a distance but only impact them up close.

So who do we need in our life? And what needs to happen in us so we are the kind of people others need in their life? There is a word that describes this person. It is not popular, goes against the American steam of thought, and hardly ever comes up in conversation with Christians. The world is Brokenness. This describes people who are open about their sin, and protection and loss are not part of their vocabulary. 

These are people who know that to share where they get tripped up offends some but encourages others. these ar

Neighbors Know My Name

Neighbors Know My Name (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While volunteering at a homeless shelter I noticed that the people we served meals to had nothing to hide and they certainly had nothing to lose. It was totally refreshing. James 5:16 is such a strong verse that we usually avoid it at all costs. Some things are better not said so we don’t disrupt the group right? The truth is you can spot a person God has broken. They walk with a limp, have nothing to prove and are the most significant people we can have in our lives. Isaiah speaks about this in Isaiah 66:1 &2.

Share something in your life with someone that will be hard for you to speak about but will probably greatly encourage them.

real people

real people (Photo credit: the|G|™)

Haven’t you ever asked someone

a question about something and realized somewhere during their response you just wanted to get in a fast car and leave as quickly as you could? You just wanted to know about their weekend but instead you got the history of how their parents neglected them and the 15 things that were wrong with their kids.

And what if you asked someone in your community group what they really thought about how you handled an embarrassing question someone asked you during the group? And if they said that you were way too defensive and didn’t seem to want to let them into your life, what would you think about that?

If we are teachable and want to make a difference in someone’s life, we will not set boundaries on what questions are legal and others that are way across the line. We will also give honest input to others about our life or theirs. But who makes these kinds of commitments? Anyone determined to follow Jesus without reservation enters into meaningful accountable relationships with others. Of course some issues need to be discussed in private, but if we are serious about discipleship we put it all on the table.

Jesus did not hesitate to explain the hypocrisy of some religious guys in Matthew 23:27; and there’s Paul’s explanation of a confrontation with Peter in Galatians 2:11. In 1 Thessalonians 2:8 Paul also explained how he loved these people so much that he not only had a Bible study with them about the gospel, but he shared his life with them.

I remember a very painful time in my life in which I shared with several people what was going on and because of that, one person got with me the next week and told me that because I was honest with the group, he now felt he could tell me something about himself he had not told anyone else. What if I had a boundary that only allowed people so far into my life?

Do you have any boundaries that need to be erased?

Las Vegas is a destination where people with high expectations of winning enough at the tables allows them to pay for the trip, the room and buy whatever while there. Losing is no option anyone wants to think about.

Jesus shows up and creates excitement everywhere, he feeds and heals people, tells riveting stories and challenges the religious types regularly. Who wouldn’t want to follow him? But as he gets closer to the finish line, he begins to define exactly what’s involved in trekking with him. There’s John 6 in which after he defines discipleship his way, most take off rather quickly. Some hang on till near the end when he talks about some cannibalistic stuff of exchanging your life for his and they bolt. Only a handful are left and he asks them a tough question-“You guys leaving too?”

Peter is right on it with “where would we go, we know you are the real deal.” At another time Peter made an impacting statement in Matthew 19:27 “We have left everything to follow you…” Peter, speaking for the rest of the gang had come to a place where they had nothing left to lose. This is when you know you are a revolutionary. 

But this is where we scratch our heads and wonder how this is possible today. Surrounded by many who claim to be Christians while holding on to houses, furnishings, right neighborhoods, quiet surroundings, multitudes of tech stuff (that you just can;t live without), or maybe a way of thinking that is contrary to Jesus’s expectations for discipleship, we could easily conclude that Jesus must not have been thinking about this generation. Matthew 16:25 must be quickly rationalized and explained for today’s culture because only revolutionaries  would live like this.

This is exactly what Jesus has in mind for those who would follow him today. Nothing has changed with Jesus but rather with us. Let him define what this looks like for you…if following Jesus is at the top of your priority list.

Thomas and Sarah at The Ritz Hotel

Thomas and Sarah at The Ritz Hotel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One popular slang expression in the 1920’s was “putting on the Ritz” meaning to dress very fashionably and was inspired from the apparently very fine Ritz Hotel. We do like people to see us at our best, to think we are really some cool dude, or that we have it all together. But usually that is as deep as it goes. No way they are going to see what we just thought about while we were at that last party or the glance we just gave their spouse. We’re not taking off the Ritz!

For most of us, being close only equals showing up for the church group meeting or the small group. We might even contribute an idea that causes people to think we’re special. That really is what being real and authentic is about, right? Our intellect is on display for them but not our heart. If we only talk about how great our week went, we tend to be in competition with each other. But when we share how we really blew it last night, we have a chance to become part of a family.

James 5:16 in the Message starts off “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other…” It results in living together in considerably deeper water. Being real opens the door; consistently being real allows people to sit together on the couch  sharing things that really matter.

Are you sitting on the couch or standing by the door?  Is courage in your vocabulary?

Everyone enjoys eating out. No preparation in the kitchen, no agonizing over cooking the fish just right and of course no cleanup required. Jesus enjoyed eating out-in fact he did this almost every day. But one day he surprised his men and caused the religious types to show their real character.

Check out Matthew 9:9-12. Jesus had an important thing for his men to learn here. He knew those with unfounded religious rules would have a fit but then, that was part of his plan. The religious club needed to remove some things from their priority list. We must learn to engage our culture without compromise. Engaging means association with but does not mean shallow conversations. We should ask meaningful questions to help people think through their conclusions about life. And, we need to really listen to people even when we absolutely disagree with them.

1 Corinthians 9:22 in the Living version says in part “…trying to find common ground with non-Christians so as to tell them about Jesus and let Jesus save them.” 2 Corinthians 10:2-5 adds a dimension that is often overlooked.

Extra credit: John 2:1-11. We need to help people when we can. People have a lot of water but maybe not much wine. It is easy to live rather plain lives void of adventure. We may be able to help people with that. Also, 1 John 2:15,16 should help us not cross boundaries that would diminish our effectiveness with our culture. We do not have the right to do what we want to do, be who we want to be or have what we want to have if we are following Jesus.

Where are you having dinner tonight? How do you need to work on the compromising aspect?

Why would you be on either of these roads? Well you say “it depends on where you want to go.” There are many differences in these two highways but one of the obvious is that one is about 6 lanes going to San Francisco and 6 lanes going to San Jose; the other, well let’s just say you will have to wait for other cars to go through some of the narrow parts before you can. One is filled with cars and trucks almost all of the time and the other, you do now want to meet even one truck on this road.

Matthew 7:13 and 14 describe a couple of differences between narrow and broad that not only apply to roads but also our lives as Christians. To be clear, there are times you need the interstate but that narrow road has beauty not found with multiple lanes or many cars. We need to be careful we don’t substitute the size and speed of travel on the interstate with the reward of the narrow road.

Not many in the Western world have either time or courage to travel the narrow road as it relates to the Christian life. Churches are groups of Christians who are basically on one or the other of these ways of living the Christian life. For example, one road results in superficial change while the other is so real it is scary; one builds shallow community while the other is a tight knit family; one allows only those who are “like us” in while the other is often characterized as “messy”(you”re not sure what someone might say or wear or have pierced).

Let’s not present a revised or watered down version of church or how to live the Christian life.

Which road do you prefer? What would happen if you chose the other one?  It does really depend on where you want to go.

San Jose, CA freeway interchange 280 and 87

San Jose, CA freeway interchange 280 and 87 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mardi Gras Exposed

Posted: December 27, 2012 in Authentic, Courage, Fear, Honesty, Real, Superficiial
New Orleans Mardi Gras: Street costumers in th...

New Orleans Mardi Gras: Street costumers in the French Quarter, wearing elaborate flower costumes in the traditional local Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I grew up in New Orleans-spent 11 years there and in the time I was there went to 11 Mardi gras celebrations, riots or whatever you wanted to call them. One of the interesting aspects of it was how many people dressed either extremely weird or wore a mask of some kind. Either way you really did not know who they were. You could easily bump into a high powered lawyer who had black grease all over his body with moss hanging from his head and was carrying a giant bone of some kind in each hand. Fascinating to look at but he was not interested in sitting down at Starbucks with a coffee and talking about his life with you.

Mardi gras is celebrated in so many small groups-maybe not the wild decorated bodies but definitely with masks that seem to be permanently attached. What I want is to be a part of a band of brothers and sisters who are not going to pretend anything, will tell you what you might not rather hear because they value honesty so much, do not live in superficial hiding places and are so authentic that it makes everyone else remember they had an appointment somewhere else and have to leave now.

Following Jesus always exposes and severely challenges us but the freedom of being real is refreshing and what others long for also. Tim

othy saw Paul’s life up close and chose to be a part of his small group. Take a look at 2 Timothy 3:10 and 11.

Are you willing to let people be real with you? Are you willing to be real with them? Or do you prefer the Mardi gras group?

Over the years and especially for the last few I have come to several conclusions that are critical to keeping me from jumping out of a car at 60 mph. One such conclusion is that I am in a battle for my life but there are not many helping me in that fight. Thankfully there are a few willing to ask hard questions that keep me on the right track. There are many Christian groups/churches that seem to have interesting speeches and talks but they don’t often hit me where I live. How about you? Do you have someone or a group that is willing to risk it all or who is willing for you to put all your stuff on the table?

1 Peter 5:8 reminds us that our enemy does not want to curl up with us in bed but rather wants to devour us. Many strategies-same end in mind. He wants to ruin and destroy us. We need someone to watch our back, someone who will help us prepare for the race with the right training, someone who will encourage us to keep going when we are at mile 4 in the 10K.

We are challenged by Paul to be that person for others and make sure we have someone in our life who is dead set on seeing us finish the race. Check Romans 12:10 and 16:3,4 as well as Philippians 2:4 and 19-22. Where or from whom do you get training for what life throws at us?

What do you think of when you hear something like You crossed the line bro.”? You might think someone just said something they are going to regret later and if not, it is definitely going to keep two people from traveling together in a car across the country.

But wait…maybe the comment wasn’t offensive but alarmingly honest. Maybe the person making the comment was way more real than the other person expected. What if it was a question no one had dared to ask before?

Think about Proverbs 27:17…Does someone have your best interest in mind and are willing to risk everything to help you become all that God wants for you? Or, John 13:34,35…If someone really loves you they will sometimes show it with questions or statements that not only make you think but also cause you to want to change or correct something in your life.

Every statement Jesus made always had the other person’s best interest in mind even though it might hurt to hear. He was willing to cross the line and not settle for a shallow relationship.

Who do you have in your life willing to ask you hard questions or risk telling you the truth? Make it easy for them to cross the line. Are you willing to let someone be so real that you can’t play your “which shell is the pea under” game with them anymore?