Archive for the ‘Risk’ Category

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.

Taking hikes in the Idaho mountains can provide some exhilarating experiences. I saw a documentary on some people climbing frozen waterfalls in Idaho, something I will probably never experience. Why wouldn’t I consider this adventure? I can think of several reasons but beneath every one of them is that it seems too risky for this older body. I’ll let them take a GoPro camera and watch it on U Tube.

There is a risk that has far greater implications and consequences in life. If we really want to know what God is about, it requires risk in many ways but if we don’t take that adventure, we not only don’t experience something hard to put into words but we miss out on the essence of life. It’s true Jess is with us but the places he goes are often anything but safe. He challenges us to think differently or really live by faith. It seems safer to just not believe in any of this stuff, but that can be like never having a Turkish coffee. You can’t believe what you missed.

Job decided to get after it with God but take a look at Job 40 and see if you would want to be in this conversation. Why take the risk? We don’t know all of what Job learned but we do know some things. Look at Job 42:2-6. Verse 2 and 5 in The Word on the Street say  it like this-“I know you can do anything and everything you like, when you like, how you like…not I see you with my own eyes…” How much was this worth learning?

What is God asking you to believe, to trust him for, or to think differently about? Join a small revolutionary minority and experience life as it was intended to be lived.

“Be careful little lips what you say” is an old time phrase used in a song sung to little kids a while back. In one sense, this is a powerful warning to set a guard on what we say. Psalm 141:3 speaks directly to this. And what we say is so powerful, it could be compared to being an arsonist. Look at James 3:3-6 for even more about how what we say can be highly destructive.

Yes, we need to exercise some caution when speaking. However, when you are involved in a conversation over a beer with Christian buds or with the top pagans in the city and you know you are about to introduce something into the conversation that probably will result in some unpleasant or confused reactions, what do you do? If God whispered in your heart and told you to say it because it is right, would that make a difference?

Jesus cared deeply about what was right and spoke truth into conversations even though He knew it would make people angry or confused but it was necessary. Jesus seemed to risk his reputation everywhere He went. Sometimes it was intentional and others it was the result of who He was.

One such instance in Matthew 12:46-50 is one of those. Think about just hearing this without the background you and I have with the Bible in our homes and apartments. Jesus stretched the understanding of everyone who heard Him or heard about this. Think about the implications of being connected to Jesus in this way. Believing the stuff Jesus said is one thing, but doing what He said is the indicator that you or I are Jesus’ brother or sister. Would He be able to speak to you or me as one of His brothers or sisters?

Learning by Doing

Learning by Doing (Photo credit: BrianCSmith)

In 1991 I took several students to Athens, Greece on an 8 week summer mission project to work with refugees from several countries. The main purpose was to help these students learn in real life and from challenging situations, some aspects of what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus. Tight sleeping quarters, strange food (for us), language barriers, major traffic (5 million live in Athens) all contributed to our learning.

We could have done a Bible study on selfishness or how to get along with people who don’t agree with you, while sitting at Starbucks in Denver but that would be an inadequate setting to really learn about these aspects of life. It is doing life together where learning intersects our biases and preferences. It disturbs our comfortable lifestyle when you want Mexican food but there are no restaurants of this nature in sight.

When Jesus called the potential disciples to “come follow me” in Matthew 4:19, his plan was to spend almost 3 years with them in situations that would have caused most of us to change the channel on our TV and continue continue eating our popcorn. But think of what they would learn and how they would be impacted forever. Or consider what Timothy learned from Paul as seen in 2 Timothy 3:10 and 11. This could not have adequately been taught in a sterile environment.

Implications: Messages delivered on Sunday mornings, Bible studies in a living room, teaching done in an auditorium are ok but fail to deliver the necessary visual aid that only happens as we share life together.

How can you begin to learn like this and help others learn by sharing life together?

Kingdom of Comfort

Kingdom of Comfort (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I didn’t mean it to go this far.” “If I had only known what I know now…” Common and too often statements made by someone who strolls leisurely through life with beautifully disguised traps placed by out enemy that suck us in and destroy our life. They vary, but the intention of the enemy is to disable us from enjoying God and focusing on things that matter most.

There is nothing wrong with being comfortable but when we are following Jesus, he has a way of leading us into conversations or situations that challenge us to take risks that are essential for a life that is directed by God.

Think about  David’s life as king. In 2 Samuel 11 David after sending his men into battle, is perhaps bored and just starts looking for something to do. Having spotted a woman who was stunning he knows his usual nap will be anything but usual. You can read the rest of the periilous story that not only wrecked his life but others as well.

We never know or believe what consequences are put into motion by our focus on living a comfortable lifestyle. Focus is the key word here because when we are committed to doing everything we can to escape any discomfort, we are in danger. David did recover from his sin and God even called him a man after his heart.(Acts 13:22)

Be careful to not make comfort, security, or safety a part of your definition of a meaningful or successful life. These are cleverly disguised traps to keep you and I from what God knows is best for us.

No Fear

No Fear (Photo credit: Cosmopolita.)

A couple of overseas trips stand out for me that were exhilarating but nearly scared the spank out of me. One was in the Czech Republic where I was alone and nearly robbed by two men and who knows what else could have happened. But the city…beautiful. The other in Croatia where I was walking with another man down a road while the war in the Balkans was underway. Two Croatian soldiers jumped out with guns and shouted “stop and turn around, there are snipers ahead.” What a great trip it was to Croatia as we helped a family rebuild a home destroyed in the war.

God intended our team to be in these places but it was not without risk. You do not have to leave your city or country however for God to invite you to join him in some unsafe places. You could be involved with the homeless, or recently released people from jail or with a former child molester. Even more frightening might be if God began to pull back the veil from how you view something in the Christian life and show you that there is a different and maybe more effective way to accomplish his purposes.

Jesus was completely in the Father’s will as he agonized in prayer in a garden outside of Jerusalem. I mean he knew he had agreed with the Father and Holy Spirit about this but really, this was tough. He also knew there was no other way to accomplish what they had agreed on. Check Matthew 26:36-39.

Where have you said “no way” when you sensed God saying something challenging to you? Why wouldn’t you do whatever God spoke to you about? Remember, He has already said “don’t be afraid.” Isaiah 41:10. He’s with you in the boat, in the alley, wherever. Venture out of the paralyzing comfort and learn who Jesus really is.

It’s not a movie, a video game or some clever title of a mission that we could come up with. It is our worst nightmare, our war from the day we first struggled for life and our greatest opportunity to participate in something that is beyond any adventure we could ever imagine. Pick up the story in Matthew 3 where Jesus walks into the lives of various onlookers. The heat is turned on in chapter 4 as our enemy crafts three desperate plots to gain the upper hand. He knows who Jesus is. “If you are…” could be translated “Since you are…” The enemy knows what’s at stake.

Jesus begins to unmask the evil in the religious life of his day as well as the culture owned by the enemy. He equips a few with the “zero dark thirty” strategy that will weaken the strongholds the enemy has cleverly introduced into life over the years. He has completed the final act on an ordinary cross and those he has equipped are prepared and then he leaves them staring into space. Look at John 17:4 & 6 along with Acts 1:6-11. The enemy will continue to fight but his defeat is certain.

The real issue for us is the role we have in this ongoing drama. Some are not aware there is a war going on at all. Just drive through a neighborhood and admire the large houses, sweet cars in the driveways and steaks grilling on the deck. But then there was the high school kid who shot another kid, and the girl who overdosed and who could forget what happened after that party. Are we aware and are we participating with Jesus in unveiling the enemy and helping our friends understand the point of life? Remember we volunteered for this war.

2 Timothy 2:3 &  4 in the “Word on the Street” version says “…trained combat teams don’t get sucked into the daily soap opera of normal life. No, the only thing that counts is the nod of approval from their officer in charge.”

The Last Enemy (autobiography)

The Last Enemy (autobiography) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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?

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?