Posts Tagged ‘Lifestyle’

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.

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?

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?

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.

Focus Into Blue

Focus Into Blue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most people work hard for 40-50 hours a week usually Monday-Friday and are ready to relax, take in a movie or watch any kind of sporting event on TV or in person. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. The issue is that this is usually our only thought because we are focused on ourselves. After all, we deserve it after the week we have put in.

What if we woke up on Saturday morning and asked God what his agenda was for us that day? What if the first or second thought we had was”I wonder who I can help today?” We justify almost anything else that helps us “relax” or “enjoy” our weekend. Maybe that is one issue to resolve-whose weekend it is.

2 Corinthians 5:17 clearly says that when Jesus is our life (we began following him) everything changed for us. That includes the opportunity to see where God is at work and join him. It means we look at a day differently from how we used to look at it. What a different way to go to bed Friday night or wake up Saturday morning. Paul looked at his life this way. In 1 Corinthians 3:5 Paul’s focus is clear-he saw himself in a different way. He was thinking about others first.

James 3:14-18 shows us that God talk without God action is a waste of space on our part. Part of the freedom and outrageous life Jesus promises us comes from being freed from our whatever we want to not taking a step without talking to Jesus about it.

Get with a friend who will join you in living differently next weekend.

Big Questions

Big Questions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the guys who was intrigued by Jesus was Nicodemus (I’m sure we would call him Nick today). Jesus has just said some shocking stuff that might have caused Nick to wonder if Jesus had been smoking something. So, he asked Jesus a question that people everywhere ask every day when they meet someone’s who’s intimately tracking with Jesus. His question is phrased differently in various ways but goes like this: “how can this be?'” or “What do you mean by this?” or “How on earth can things like this happen?” Jesus had just said that to see God’s world you have to experience a new birth. The first 10 verses of John 3 introduce us to God’s story.

When God begins to direct and change our life, our focus is so radically different that even our best friends will find it a little freaky to listen to us. The world stresses things that make sense to them:about being ambitious, or getting even with people who  hurt us in some way or many other things that seem logical. But when Colossians 3:1-10 becomes our chosen lifestyle, our life doesn’t make sense to them.

Because the world is focused on safety and security, our living by the Spirit which invalidates the predictable and logical, causes them to ask questions like Nick did on that day he talked with Jesus.

Having spent 37 years either living in or driving through Wyoming I can tell you that the wind there is impossible to understand or describe to someone from just about any other state. I mean, who measures wind speed with a chain? In the same sense, when we listen to God, those around us will wonder, and we can’t completely describe our life to their satisfaction. Maybe they will be curious enough to ask us about it.

Is your life predictable? Are your decisions understandable by those not following Jesus? A most exciting life awaits us as we allow God to whisper to us “follow me…”

Flirting with Disaster (film)

Flirting with Disaster (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes our relationship with God resembles someone who wants something on their own terms. It’s sort of fun to listen to worship music and then go to that movie you wouldn’t invite your grandmother to come to with you. The Tuesday Bible study group is great because it’s interesting discussion and they serve great snacks but you always forget where you put your Bible as you prepare to go the next week. What the spank is going on here?

We’re just flirting with God! But at least we’re showing up at the study and we have 3rd Day on our Pandora play list. God did not speak us into existence so we could check into him every now and then. Flirting is a common game played by people who really have no intention of developing a meaningful relationship with a person. It’s just fun we say. Flirting can lead to disaster between two people but what about with God? What happens when we occasionally give God some attention? This “beyond extremely shallow” relationship with God, like the game we play with people, will not give us the freedom and full life Jesus promises us.

The people showed up one afternoon to listen to Jesus, they might get a free meal, but what they got was a description of what it really meant to follow Him and all but a handful got out of there as quickly as they could. Seriously look at John 6:47-67 and 8:31&32 and think about whether you are flirting with Jesus. If we act on what Jesus says, then and only then will we know the truth about who God is, how we can make life work, and be set free from the traps of the enemy.

Flirting with God is like partial obedience, in which you are only willing to go so far. In 1 Samuel 15 there is the story of Saul and what his “flirting” resulted in. Don’t settle for anything less than an uncompromising relationship with God.

Success

Success (Photo credit: aloshbennett)

I imagine you have said it yourself or your kids have said it one too many times. You are only 30 minutes in the trip that is going to take several hours and you or they ask “are we there yet?” Our questions and thinking always reflect what we believe is important or how we are putting the pieces of the puzzle in the right places.

A church (which is made up of a bunch of people) is successful not when you can’t find a seat, or the new building is now completed or the number of programs has exceeded the number of days in a typical month. The criteria for evaluating success should not be how many but rather what kind. Are people learning how to be real (honest) with each other, involved in consistently sharing life together, and is their life arousing curiosity from those who intersect their life?

People all over the world are looking for people who will be up front with them, genuinely care about spending time with them and who are figuring out how to eliminate the attractive and myriad distractions that choke the life out of them.

The Thessalonians were impacting people all over the place. They had become the daily headlines in the newspapers. If it were today, word of their changed lives would have gone viral on the internet. Twitter wouldn’t have had enough room to list all of the tweets about how they were focused on what really mattered. Check out 1 Thessalonians 1:7-10 and 2 Thessalonians 1:3.

Get some coffee or a beer with someone this week and talk about this.

Perfect match

Perfect match (Photo credit: emme-dk)

The guy on the street, the clerk in the store, the lawyer rushing off to build a winning case and everyone else in any profession is looking to make sense out of life. There are so many traps, dead ends and detours that most throw up their hands and forget the search and live a life that blends in with everyone else. They know there must be an answer to the ongoing riddle of what life is about. They have seen religious zealots carrying a Bible and shouting stuff that makes no sense as well as good intentional people do something on Sunday morning that really does not connect with their deepest needs.

But then one day they meet a guy or gal in a coffee shop or a bar who strikes up a conversation that makes more sense and they are curious. Over the next few weeks their curiosity goes to the next level as they hang out with this person over meals, on the golf course, and hiking in the mountains. They discover that this person’s belief and lifestyle are a perfect match. They are more than curious, they want what they see.

Our life either crosses out what we say or it underscores what we actually believe. It’s our choice but our neighbor, our co-worker, the guy in the bar or the waitress are all waiting to see if this stuff actually makes sense.

More match making thoughts can be found in: Ecclesiastes 3:11; Daniel 6:4 and 1 Corinthians 15:34.