In the last 3 years, I have had two angiograms and one resulted in placing three stints in an artery. I felt nothing as I was anesthetized with an injection and a U2 song I had requested to be played. It was great-no pain and successful surgery. The cost however, was a changed diet and consistent exercise.

Isaiah 58 sounds like many today who sometimes seem eager for more of God but with a different set of conditions. Maybe they wanted surgery without pain-they wanted anesthesia. Jesus’ formula is different-“no pain, no gain!” And he’s not talking about sporting events.

Check out Proverbs 14:12 in The Message “There’s a way of life that looks harmless enough; look again-it leads straight to hell. Sure, those people appear to be having a good time, but all that laughter will end in heartbreak.”

WHAT THIS MEANS: Real growth as a disciple comes with the surgical removal of aspects of our life that are contrary to the abundant life Jesus promised. This surgery is not without pain. Be careful of doctors/hospitals that provide painless remedies to life’s hard challenges.

Whether it’s camping or traveling, you can’t take everything you love from your closet or garage with you. It’s guaranteed to slow you down and cause issues.

Some of our old, yet comfortable ways of thinking about life have to be left to take the ultimate trip God has for us. 2 Corinthians 5:17 in The Word on the Street says: “Anyone with this God-link to the Liberator is a brand-new human being; not genetically modified-brand new! The old categories don’t work; it’s a whole new ball game.”

WHAT THIS MEANS: What’s your big fear of leaving something behind and going with what really matters to God? Maybe that’s where to start-“What matters to God?” Get some other opinions and not just from Believers.

We wake up at 4:30 AM and we don’t want our thoughts televised this morning. Around 10, the rest of the day is wrecked with what happened at work. We wonder what the spank is really going on anyway.

1 Peter 5:8 reminds us we have an enemy who doesn’t come up to us purring. This is a bigger cat. The Message puts it like this: “Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up.”

WHAT THIS MEANS: We often don’t remember that our enemy has one plan-to wreck our life. If we forget this we will never walk the tightrope of life. We’ll wonder how we fall off so often. Why not memorize 1 Peter 5:8 if you haven’t? And, share it with a friend.

What is it that causes you to hang on every word as you listen to someone describe a trip they took, an encounter they had, or something they’ve been thinking about? It raised questions or challenged old explanations you had held, but there was just something that caused you to think in a way you never had before.

Conversations Jesus had were not alarming for him, but for those hearing him, they were moved to anger or an alarming expectation that this is what they had been looking for, a long time. Check out Matthew 7:28-29 in the Message translation and John 7:45-46.

WHAT THIS MEANS: Our life and what we talk about should cause people to pause and consider what they are hearing and seeing in us. People around us are trying to figure out life. Give them something they’ve never thought about.

If you needed a tree cut down and the wood corded, it would make sense to look at the hands of those volunteering to help you. Smooth hands could help with some jobs, but you would want someone with rough hands that showed much difficult labor on them.

Faith can almost look sanitized rather than the kind that is seen in Hebrews 11:32-39. Is this rough kind of faith needed today? Maybe faith is more genuine when exposed to extreme challenging situations rather than some of the things that mark our prayers.

WHAT THIS MEANS: Examine your faith and then sit down with a couple of people in your church or small group and discuss what it would take to have a faith that not only challenges the status quo, but also stirs something in people to believe God for crazy hard stuff.

Maybe it’s a book you ordered that you couldn’t put down after two hours of reading or it could have been that conversation, you know the one you weren’t expecting, but it seems to have changed everything…for you!

What do you do when something you thought was true or right has been displaced in an instance and you never expected that? Somehow the disciples and others Jesus hung with had experiences like that and they almost seemed routine after a while.

Take Mark 4:35-41 for example. Jesus is out for an evening sail with the main guys and a storm threatens to keep them under water for a long time. Jesus is sleeping. The disciples are scared. The Word on the Street is beautiful here. “…Some of the team go down and shake Jesus. Boss, you not bothered if we drown or what?” Jesus gets up and says “…Whoa! Calm down, that’s enough! The wind holds its breath and the waves sulk like told-off toddlers.” The team wonders who this guy is. Everything is changing.

WHAT THIS MEANS: When is the last time you had a conversation with someone and afterwards you realized you had to make a real change in how you thought or how it would alter your perspective on life? When did your life or conversation do that with someone else? Something may seem strange but if it is biblical, you’ve got to deal with it.

Excitement often raises the volume, but it often has an effect of people wanting to get away fast. We may think that the louder you speak, the more you have to say and people should listen up. For sure, there are times we need to speak up to emphasize something, but we shouldn’t mistake volume for intelligence or truth.

The story is dramatic and the verses are 1 Kings 19:11-13. Elijah was ready to let God yell it out in no uncertain terms and sure enough a Wyoming wind tore through and shattered stuff. Then a California earthquake hit, then a fire, but God was absent in all this. Then…a gentle whisper “…what are you doing here Elijah?”

Life, pain, betrayal, reasonable, etc. all scream at us with explicit instructions on how to live, what’s important, when to move, who to believe… These are accepted by the majority, but when did majority overrule truth? Jesus was certainly in the minority for all of his life.

The deal is that we have to be in a quiet place to hear a whisper. It’s much easier to keep the music on, especially if it’s “Third Day” right?

WHAT THIS MEANS: The issue  is “how badly do we really want to hear what God says about how we’re living?” What reasonable explanations do you and I have for continuing to live like the majority? When Jesus said “follow me”, it changed everything for a few men. The word “minority” was introduced to them.

The two letters “i” and “n” can be powerful or insignificant, but if tacked on to the word “convenient”, everything changes. Convenient can mean close, agreeable, or easy. It usually implies comfortable.

Now, think about out obedience for a while. We like to use it to refer to kids listening and doing what a parent says. It’s a little more challenging to be the one in the focus. We have all kinds of ways of skirting around this word or issue when the focus is on us. We’re ok with going the mile required, but what about the second mile? Check out Matthew 5:38-48.

We don’t grasp the implications of the gospel if we define when obedience ends and inconvenience wakes up. Judges 21:25 in The Word on the Street says “These days, with no king to call the shots, everyone does their own thing, if it feels right, just do it.”

In the movie “Field of Dreams”, the challenge then was “go the distance.” Obedience defined correctly “goes the distance.” Barnabas and Paul and some other men were men who “risked their lives” to help others know Jesus. Check out Acts 15:26.

WHAT THIS MEANS: Never add conditions to obeying God. Don’t limit what God wants to do through your life by adding “in” to convenient when you think of living the gospel. Keep track of the “second mile” opportunities God gives you and get some better walking shoes.

The verses are Philippians 2:5-8. They are exciting to read, greatly encouraging and severely challenging, but essential to live by. Look at part of it in The Word on the Street “…he checked his global contacts list, walked off without his body-guards. He unplugged his airwave connection, left his precious star collection, He said,”I give it up.” And took up a new role-a role well below him. He became flesh and blood, skin and bone, and stepped down from his heavenly throne to his new earth home as a normal guy…”

This is great news, but also sets the bar high for us if we intend to make any difference in people’s lives God sets in front of us. We don’t mind inviting people to a church service (although that seems to be risky), but influencing people to consider Jesus is a whole new ball game.

Jesus’ time with people was “everyday.” Our waving a couple of times as we drive off to whatever, doesn’t quite measure up to influencing anyone to think about Jesus. Our Christian life should not be lived separated from daily life  with people. We need a little “gloves, mud and normal life ” with them.

WHAT THIS MEANS: How can you and I carve out time to really live and get to know what our neighbors had for dinner last night? Can we really get that close to them? Plan on talking with or having coffee or a glass of wine with a neighbor this week.

 

 

 

 

Maybe you’ve planted a garden, fertilized it and watered it, but you don’t see anything happening. Wait a while! Or, maybe you’re convinced he or she is the right one but they are cool to your trying to advance the relationship. Give it some time! We really don’t like to wait for much of anything. Technology has advanced our lifestyle to such a place where waiting is unnecessary, or so it seems.

We carry this way of doing life into our dealings with God in the same manner. We prayed once for whether we should stay or leave, we sent an email  to twenty people and two responded, we even offered our house for a bible study, but no one seemed interested.

We’re often ready to get after it and God seems to be taking an extra long lunch. What the spank is going on? As it turns out, much of life is one of waiting. We can easily run the risk of getting out in front of God in our decision making and that can lead to disappointment with God and our not believing this stuff is real or matters.

Acts 1:8 in the Message helps. “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be my witnesses…” The early followers of Jesus were ready, but if they had charged off the line without knowing the play, they would have been knocked out on the first play!

WHAT THIS MEANS: It’s uncomfortable to wait, but it’s the only way to see God do his thing and use us to impact people’s uncharted or wrecked lives.