Archive for the ‘Following Jesus’ Category

Every public place has an exit sign somewhere in case of some kind of potential danger. We don’t always look for the exit sign but we know it is there and are thankful there is a way out if there is a fire or something else that might happen to cause us to want to leave.

I find it easy to talk about following Jesus, having a radical faith or being a revolutionary like Jesus was during his day. But, I seem to always have several well marked exits just in case my lifestyle gets too challenged. If it requires “too much” financial investment, time that cuts into some ingrained routine I love, giving up my personal space, having to come clean rather than hiding a recurring thought, willing to live in a small minority with what I believe God wants my life to look like, eliminating living with “want” rather than “need” defining my purchases or requires an absolute commitment to putting others best interest ahead of mine, I too easily look for an exit.

This exit is a rationalization that more often reflects the Christian or secular culture. When I know I will probably be misunderstood by either of these groups, I can choose an exit so as to not stand out too much as radical.

In 2 Timothy 4:10 a man named Demas is mentioned as being in love with the world and abandoning Paul. Demas may have started out well but never completely made the break from the lifestyle that contradicted Paul’s and Jesus’. Their understanding of not being in love with the world seems incredibly too radical to be taken seriously thought Demas, and he saw an exit sign and went that way.

Psalm 73:25-after saying that only God mattered, David said “…nothing here on earth’s worth a second view.” The Word on the Street. What a challenging place to be in life. What a challenging trip to get there.

So, what will God have to bring into your life and mine in order to bring us to a point of making an absolute decision to live the life we were intended to live? God is always for us so he never gives up on us.

Dangerous Bonus Thought: 1 Corinthians 15:34

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?

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.”

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.

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.

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?

The Authority

The Authority (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I never get into watching this kind of show partly because I can’t relate and I would rather watch some travel show that highlights intriguing places to go to. But, I wanted to see why so many were hooked on this one. So I watched several episodes including the final one of “The Voice.” I mean really, how do you pick one out of all of these amazing talents?

Just like those contestants bidding for our vote, we have many choices as to what we listen to when making decisions about how to do life. But out of the myriad “authorities” that clamor for attention and claim to have it right, comes one who challenges everything in us. To believe this voice alters everything, reveals our insecurities, quickly humbles us but also gets to the core issues we so desperately want dealt with. Jesus never wasted words and if you heard or hear him talk you are left with few alternatives as what  to do with what he just said.

When Jesus walked around and started talking, people quickly realized and said “this guy’s different.” They never heard this before and they also saw that he was living everything he said. Check out Matthew 7:28 and 29. But John 6:66 reveals the heart of many of us. The more Jesus defined discipleship, the fewer were interested in hanging with him.

So, what gives Jesus the right to silence every other voice that claims to be right? In Matthew 28:18 Jesus says “God’s given me absolute first and last word in heaven and down here on earth.” Word on the Street version. He has absolute authority.

What part of Jesus’definition of discipleship do you have trouble with? Why?

A small group of people in a Bible discussion group are looking at some stuff Jesus said or what the practice of the early church was. They knew that to take Jesus at his word or believe the church was totally on target was going to alter their lifestyle both individually and as a church. So what did they do? Each one began to make suggestions about what Jesus probably meant. It became clear that no one was ready to take Jesus at his word or believe the early church could be a

Rationalizing...

Rationalizing… (Photo credit: gregoryperez)

model for how to do church today.

Slowly over the years we have deliberately minimized or explained away those aspects of following Jesus that disrupt the way we want to live or practice doing church with others. In so doing, we have depreciated what Jesus was all about. In our bent to be comfortable, we do not tolerate anything that is difficult or makes us think. Besides, we don’t know any of our friends who live like this. I mean, it is one thing to be a Christian but this is the 21st century and we have to make Jesus’ hard words fit into this culture. Really?

Does culture explain the gospel or does the gospel interpret what is right or wrong about cultureIn John 6 Jesus is intent on people knowing what he is after. He is coloring outside of their box and he doesn’t care if some are going to bail. He makes no compromises as to what a disciple (follower) is to be, what they are to do and how they are to live. Almost everyone leaves and Jesus watches them walk away. Some probably ran.

And the early church…check out Acts 4:32-35. How do we change this mark of the church to fit our lifestyle? When was the last time you saw this consistently happening?

Whatever else this all means, one thing is certain-Jesus underscores the simplicity of following him while reminding us of the cost.

English: Dzong (fort) in Punakha (a place name...

English: Dzong (fort) in Punakha (a place name) in central Bhutan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday I attended Refugee Day in Boise, Idaho. Along with having Ploff (a national food of rice, carrots, onion and other ingredients) from Uzbekistan, I witnessed about 20 refugees from various countries become citizens of the United States. Among them was a man from Bhutan. Most of us have no idea whether Bhutan is the name of a dog, a city in California or who knows what. It is however, a very secluded country in Asia. I have always thought about how much I would love to visit Bhutan and take in all of its wonders, hidden secrets and glimpses of ordinary life there. What an adventure that would be!

The difference between a few days in Bhutan or several trips on a roller coaster cannot be adequately compared, But then, how many people do you know who agree with Jesus and believe to a point that they might even show up at religious meetings or occasional conferences with well known speakers? These events can be exciting but adventure…not even close.

Following Jesus (aka obedience), is where it’s at. Excitement only opens the door but following Jesus shows us the entire house. John 14:21 speaks to this and also reveals something about our relationship with the owner of the house. James 1:25 also suggests that to believe in Jesus is like “catching a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God…” Message Trans. However, if we follow Jesus according to his definition, the adventure begins.

So, why are we satisfied with excitement when adventure is screaming at the top of its voice?

Party Time?

Party Time? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Quick Word   We moved from Loveland, Colorado to Boise, Idaho and I have been out of it for the last 8 days. We survived the Wyoming wind and are back on track.

I remember singing a song when I was about 6 or 10 years old with a phrase in it something like “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back.” What did that mean? I never asked the question and certainly wouldn’t have had a clue what it meant. But, I could sing it anyway right, because everyone else did.

It is so easy to talk or sing or shout about following Jesus without any clue as to what is involved. But what if just as you are thinking that this is really cool, Jesus shows up and says “strap on the parachute, you’re gonna love the view.” You are willing to take the plane ride but no way are you going to check out how gravity feels at 5000 feet.

Jesus isn’t going to play the card game “hand and foot” with you today. He is going to train you to fight against an enemy and it is going to cost you the secret sin in your thought life you thought no one knows. It will also mean dealing with the control issue you have with your spouse. It gets really hard when Jesus suggests you go with him next Sunday morning to a dynamite fishing spot that will take all day. How could you miss “church” to be with Jesus in the wild?

Why not let Jesus define what following him means rather than accepting definitions that come from who knows where? Maybe it should be like what a couple of gals in New York did-they said “let’s read the gospels and do everything Jesus said.” Simple…but at a price most are unwilling to pay. Take some extended time to think on John 6:47-59.