Archive for the ‘Lifestyle’ Category

8th Street on a summer Friday night in Boise, Idaho is filled with people. It seems everyone is having a great time together. Laughter, jokes, who’s going to win the game Saturday dominates conversations. No problem-there are friends you play games with and have fun with. These are sort of like artificial plants-nice but not real. But are there friends we share hard stuff of life with? Sometimes, we have a friend we do both with, but that is rare.

Imagine Jesus throwing a Frisbee and yelling to Peter “go longer.” I can see it; but then there is the ultimate rebuke to Peter in Matthew 16:23. Jesus and his “real” friends slept outside together many nights and ate countless meals in various places. They shared life together as friends.

Acts 15:25-26 gives a glimpse of the deep friendship Paul and Barnabas had with each other and Jesus. They risked their lives together.

WHAT THIS MEANS: Think about the people you know. Who do you really share life together with? Who can you talk with about the things that keep you up at night? Who can you flat out share your emotions with? Ask God to bring someone close to you like this.

Occasionally I see an old VW Camper like the one I used to drive. It is very distinctive and is not seen very often because most people trade their car for another one every 5 years or so. It definitely stands out as something we may long for but the new technology invented almost daily steals away our longing to drive such a distinctive vehicle without the newest technology.

Jesus and a true follower are also distinctive today. Colossians 2:8 speaks loudly that we are to be alert to not being taken captive by the empty and misguided data we are fed today. So much sounds right and good but this is a reason we must know what God says about life and what really matters.

An alive relationship with God where we really do hear him tell us how to live from his perspective is so refreshing but contrary to most of what vies for our attention.

What keeps you from standing out from others when you know what God expects of you? How can you begin to live more distinctively in the cultures that speak a language other than what God says in the Word?

 

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.

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

What does it mean to want something so bad that we will risk, practice or devote our self so completely to it that it even surprises us? If it’s worth it, we’re not going to even think about cost. We will do this for participation in or recognition in sports, music, our jobs or whatever we or others highly value.

But why do we chase the wind harder than the one who made it? We need to seriously examine our heart to see if we really want him. If we do, those hard decisions will become easier as we see the emptiness in chasing what God says will ruin us either slowly or all at once. We too easily live in ways that show that we don’t really believe God gets it.

Look at some of the words in Colossians 3:1-10: “Set your hearts, set your minds, put to death, rid yourselves…”These words indicate determination to focus on what pleases God. Paul challenges Timothy and us in 2 Timothy 2:3 & 4 to not get “sucked into the daily soap opera of normal life.” A warfare mentality gets nasty and crazy about eliminating everything that distracts from the commander’s orders.

David (a man after God’s heart and doing everything God wanted him to do-see Acts 13:22) said in Psalms 39:5 and 139:23 & 24 that our life is so brief that we should ask God to take a look at our life and tell us what he sees. This was a man whose focus was cleat and enjoyed life but put away the card games when a spear came his way. He wanted what God wanted and got rid of everything that kept him from that goal.

How does our prayer life reflect our commitment to experience God in an authentic way? Are we willing to be brave enough to ask God to show us what needs to go from our life? How about asking someone you trust to tell you what they see in your life that proves that you are serious about following Jesus or makes them wonder about it?

I am.” I  sure most of us have played the game “hide and seek.” I always like to hide because I could be clever in hiding but I quickly got bored looking for someone. Occasionally, Jesus would leave the crowds but that was to reflect and rest. It was never to hide-you never had to look very hard to find Him. All you had to do was look for the dust that a few demons made as they were exiting someone Jesus was having a conversation with. Often everyone’s attention was drawn to a hill or lake where Jesus just healed someone and the applause and yelling was so loud you had to go check it out-but you knew Jesus was in the house or on the hill.

Jesus lived with intentionality. He got up just like you and I but everything changed in a flash because He was talking with the Father about the day-where He should go and who He should talk with. He knew His conversations would alter someone’s vocation or scare the spank out of them but one way or another, they would not be the same. There were times He knew his match would light the dynamite in someone and they would put a contract on Him to eliminate the hard stuff He was talking about.

In Matthew 4:18 &19 Jesus challenged these guys to think about a new job. He aroused Matthew’s curiosity to such a place where he stopped focusing on the extra money he was going to get for that Mediterranean villa. Look at Matthew 9:9,

And then Zach was perched in a tree so he could see Jesus when he walked by. They had dinner together that night. Luke 19:1-6. And there were times that the mood of some of the listeners was so filled with hatred, that you wondered why Jesus was there. He never missed a beat-He always knew where He was going and who would be in the crowd. Matthew 12:22-37.

Jesus lived with intentionality. How does your day start? What would living with intentionality look like for you? It really depends on if your purpose is the same as Jesus’.

There are four men I have met in my lifetime who have altered the direction of my life. Two of these men you may have heard of and the others you probably have not. What was it in their life that caused me to pause and take a look at life differently? Talking with and hanging out with these men was like reading a different book. I learned from each of them by looking deeply into the story each of them was telling through their life.

Larry Hinson introduced me to Jesus as we played hand ball, shared chicken dinners together and walked around campus over a couple of years. His willingness to be in my life was a book I was unaccustomed to reading. Max Barnett’s life opened my eyes to how God could use anyone’s life and I discovered the word “vision” from him. I spent a week with Henry Blackaby in Saskatchewan and after that week I wanted to know God like Henry did. Hou wanted to learn to drive and study the Biible. We did both and then he asked me “can a communist become a Christian?” I told him yes and hes said “then I want to become a Christian.” God spoke to me at that point and told me I would be taking students the following summer somewhere overseas in a summer mission project. That was 1991. Since that time I have been able to take students into many countries to open our “life books” and the story of how Jesus can help them figure out life and faith.

What is your life telling others about: love, forgiveness, faith, the consumer culture…? People won’t usually believe God will work in their lives until they see Him in our life.

What is required for them to want to read our book? Being involved consistently with them, telling the truth about ourselves and God, and listening to them show we care and they want to turn the page for more.

Check these out: Matthew 6:19-21, 18:21-22, John 13:34-35, 2 Corinthians 2:14, and Hebrews 11:6.

books

books (Photo credit: brody4)

Why not begin to give the Christmas gift of letting others read the book of your life all year long?

Asking this question and answering it make sense if you are part of some kind of performance being presented to an audience. However, in thinking about sharing life and church it is not only irrelevant but dangerous to think of sharing life as part of church. Sharing life together is how church is to be defined and is the most relevant way those outside of the church will detect any truth to what Jesus is about.

Acts 2 and 4 are still in the Bible and we must find ways to do this in the midst of whatever culture we live in. Think of the freedom and refreshment of people who are trying to make life work without Jesus, when they step into lives meshed together in authentic community, serving one another, caring for one another and always available for each other. When we tell them this is “church” they have a bizarre look on their face and we know they have never seen it like this. This group of people go the pub together, play games, laugh frequently, listen to one another, help people rake their leaves, help raise each others kids, and are seriously working at following Jesus. They talk about the stuff at work but offer advice as to how to bring Jesus into the workplace in a way that makes sense.

The meaning of John 13:34 and 35 are more clearly seen in the living rooms, kitchens, garages and yards and people are attracted to Jesus. You don’t have to throw out the Sunday meeting but think about what an outsider sees with regard to the John verses in the Sunday context. Most of what they conclude is that we show up at a meeting on Sunday but there is no way to really observe how this works in real life.

Sharing life with one another is a better context to understanding church than any meetings we might attend.

310/365 Sharing

310/365 Sharing (Photo credit: cheesy42)